Project Icarus. R.D. Shah

In the week the bond franchise announced they were appointing an author to develop stories involving new Double 0 agents, I can’t help thinking they should have looked no further than R.D Shah.

I never read any Fleming books but I used to love books by Robert Ludlum, and sadly haven’t really found an author who matched up, but I think that may have changed.

Project Icarus is one of those action books that sees the main character moving from one explosive situation to another, but unlike many it’s not over the top. It’s credible and makes the plot tick along nicely.

Icarus is a serial killer, but two of his kills have the security agencies seriously worried, they were agents of an agency that sees the Americans, British, and French security forces joined in hunt a specific world threat. The team is called DS5

British Police get lucky Icarus is cornered, but surprisingly he will only talk with Police Negotiator Ethan Munroe.

When Icarus escapes custody during a gun battle on a London Bridge it triggers a man hunt that starts in Europe, and in true Bond style, turns international.

Throughout the book, as Munro hunts down Icarus, there is a slow drip of information which opens up a clever, and believable plot.

Why is Icarus so determined to string Munroe along in his wake.

What is he trying to reveal to him, because it soon becomes apparent that Icarus’s agenda is not much different to Munroe’s but for very different reasons.

What links these two people that are so similar yet so different.

This is a cracker of a book. Which has opened up endless posters for future stories.

Pages: 323. Publisher: Canelo. Published Date: 18 November 2021

Under A Dark Cloud. Louisa Scarr

A closed room murder with a twist.

The room is a van, on top of a multi-storey car park, in Reading, in the middle of a storm.

TV personality, and Storm Chaser, Dr Simon Sharp lies multilateral in the van full of high-spec tech. With him, alive and unharmed is Dr Finn Mason. The van is locked from the inside and Finn is refusing to come out unless his best friend is called.

His best friend just happens to be DS Robin Butler of Hampshire Police.

Butler arrives and Finn is taken from the van. But what has happened inside. The local police think they have a nailed-on case of murder with Finn as the only logical suspect.

Butler admits that is the case, but still thinks it’s out of character for his friend, until he starts to dig, and then he realises Finn is not the person he thought he knew so well.

Meanwhile Butler’s side kick DC, Freya West is tasked to help new Acting DS Josh Smith with the investigation into the death of a homeless man found in an abandoned freezer the morning after the storm.

Whilst concentrating on her own case she worries about Butler and soon finds herself helping him try to work out why Finn might have changed so much, and why he might have killed a fellow scientist in such a grisly manner.

This is the second book in the DS Butler series, and just like the first, it’s original and intriguing.

The storyline had me coming up for the occasional breath between chapters. It’s simple, yet complex.

The frustrations Butler feels when he realises he doesn’t know his friend as well as he thought he did, and in some way has let him down, is really well written into the plot.

The relationships between Butler and Finns family is stretched. The building friendship with his DC, Freya, is addictive.

The story as a whole had me not must hooked, but left me wanting more. Always a good sign.

Pages: 297. Publisher: Canelo Crime. Published on: 9th September 2021

When The Guilty Cry. M.J Lee

Right up to date. Set against the political fallout of Greater Manchester Police being placed into Special Measures, a lack of Officers as we come out of the latest lock-down, and pressure on Officers, from those above, to perform beyond their time stretched capabilities, this is a cracking portrayal of today’s policing.

Ridpath is back, and he’s still working for the Coroner, but with MIT pushed to breaking point, and most of the team crunching numbers, it’s inevitable that he’s going to get drawn back to work for the Police.

When 3 severed hands are found in a backpack, in an abandoned Children’s Home Ridpath originally attends as the Coroners Officer. GMP see this as a no win situation, a cold case which appears to be unsolvable. Passing it off to Ridpath seems the ideal opportunity to get the investigation off their books.

At the same time a mother and father have applied for a Declaration of Death certificate for their daughter who has has been missing since 2009.

Last seen heading off to a Music Festival, the then 16 year old girl hasn’t been seen since. Her mother is close to death and wants closure before she dies.

The Coroner is sympathetic and decides to hold the inquest in an impossibly short time frame and tells Ridpath to investigate the circumstances of the disappearance within a week.

That is the starting point for a fast paced story that had me captivated from page one. And if you’ve ever read any of MJ Lee’s books you’ll know that you have to read to the very last sentence, this one is no exception.

The home where the back-pack was found is associated with child abuse, and the name Jimmy Saville just adds to the spin chilling presumptions of what happened their.

The hands provide a series of complex forensic issues, how old are they, can any fingerprints or DNA be recovered, whose are they? And where are the rest of the bodies they belong to.

MIT’s Senior Officer wants this case off her books, and she gives Ridpath the same time frame constraints as the Coroner, She wants it wrapped up or moved on in a week. Impossible!

I love this series. I recently read a post, on one of the book readers forums, that they were fed up with Detectives private lives intruding into Crime Novels.

I couldn’t disagree more, and Lee’s Ridpath is a prefect example of why.

Struggling to balance his work and being a single Dad, taking life advice from his young daughter, when he should be guiding her through life, and still grieving his wife’s death, he just carries on. Because that’s what people do. But the pages devoted to the relationship between him and his daughter are brilliant, and just add so much to an already great story.

This is one of the best books I’ve read this year. A great addition to one of the best Police Crime Series on the shelves today

Publisher: Canelo Crime Pages: 368. Publishing date 21st September 2021

The Body On The Moor. Nick Louth

Usual lead character DCI Craig Gillard takes a bit of a back seat in this book.

That’s because the story revolves more around the people that are involved in a crime from the civilian side.

A local head master is found beheaded in his car.

Who would target a man that is held in fairly high regard by most, but then we find out about the real man, and it seems there could be a few people who would be happy to see him dead.

Then there’s a Barrister who is really down on her luck, financially she is skint, her personal and professional life is stuck in a rut.

When she finds a young runaway living in her garden she finds that strangely the girl knows way too much about her life.

Dizzy, the runaway, has a terrible history, running away from home at 13, abused, by her “boyfriend” who got her addicted to drugs and then forced her into prostitution, working for one of the worst gang bosses in the country, she has escaped and is on the run in fear of her life.

So why chose Barrister Julia McGann’s garden to sleep in, and how does she know so much about her.

Gillard’s team are investigating the death of the headless headmaster, now that would have been a great title for a book. The more they dig into his life the more sleazy it looks.

The various affairs, the reluctant cuckold wife, the aggrieved students, the list of potential suspects seems endless, but the one woman they think most likely is proving impossible to identify.

This is one of those stories that had to be written from outside of the police prospective. It had to be written with Julia McGann as the main character. It is better for showing issues the police could not know about.

It’s a book about choices and the way one choice becomes the first strand of a spiders web, which when complete is a really complex structure.

That’s what this story is, a complex spiders web, and it’s brilliant.

Pages: 352 Publisher: Canelo. Available now

In Dark Water. Lynne McEwan

I hope this is the start of a long series.

The main character DI Shona Oliver, known as Wee Shona but never to her face, is brilliantly fierce, tenacious, loyal, and has her own ethical compass to steer by.

So when, as a volunteer Lifeboat crew member, she helps recover a body from the Solway Firth, it’s no surprise that she wants to be involved in the investigation of how the young woman ended up in the sea on the border of England and Scotland.

Because the body is landed in England it shouldn’t have anything to do with her team, CID in Dumfriesshire, but they soon get involved in a cross border investigation.

Her boss has promotion ambitions, his wife has political ambitions, and he is leading a high profile, Scotland wide, drugs bust. The last thing he needs is Wee Shona and her small team mucking it, and his potential promotion, up. But is there more to it than just his professional integrity.

Another body.

Shona doing her best dog-with-a-bone act.

The boss getting fractious.

Something has to give

This is a great story to start what promises to be a great series. Shona is a strong character, and she needs to be. Her previous life as a DI in The City of London Police, gives her far more experience than most.

Her childhood in the roughest part of Glasgow, with a drug addict mother, gives her a hard edge.

Her family adjusting to moving from London to the Scottish Borders, and bringing their own secrets with them.

Her small but efficient team, with their own personalities and egos, needs managing.

All of which, along with a seriously impressive crime plot, make this a fantastic book.

Publisher: Canelo Crime. Pages: 274. Publishing Date: June 24 2021

Bonds of Blood. Rob Sinclair

DI Dani Carter book #4, and they just keep getting better

Two people, a husband and wife, the husband is dreaming about another woman, when he wakes he is being viciously attacked, his dead wife lying next to him. Quickly they’re both dead.

The start of an investigation for Carter and her team, and what a route it’s going to take them on.

The dead man Terry Eccles is a property developer. Him, and his partners are hugely successful and on the surface all seem perfect.

But as the investigation begins the team start to find out what the family dynamics are really like.

Dani is also involved in the investigation of a second case. A slam dunk murder following a fatal RTC.

With this distracting her will she manage to stay focused on the murder of the Eccles family .

Then, of course, their’s her personal life. Things couldn’t really be more stressful

Rob Sinclair is a skilful writer who has chosen Birmingham to set this crime series. Clever, every book is set in just the right district. In this case the story revolves around the more wealthy areas of Sutton Coldfield and Little Aston.

Is not just the setting that’s right, the characters are spot on for the story. The almost incestuous relationship between the business partners and their families. The privileged offspring of successful businesses men, and it’s all so believable.

A great addition to a great series

Publisher: Canelo. Pages: 296. Publication date: 20 May 2021

When The Evil Waits. M.J Lee

Ridpath is back six months after the chilling end of the last book, yes this is the latest in a series, but it can be read on its own.

Suffering PTSD, and living on his own in a Police Service flat he is looking forward to getting back to work as the Police liaison officer for Greater Manchester’s Coroner

But, his Superintendent in the MIT has a job she wants him to do, and it’s going to rub his immediate boss up the wrong way

A young boy has been found naked and murdered in the woods. DCI Turnbull is an old school, by the book, black and white kind of detective, who at first is making no leeway into the case.

Detective Superintendent Trent doesn’t like the way the investigation is going so asks Ridpath, and a small team, to look over the investigation again, and in parallel with Turnbull and the rest of the team.

Did the DI miss anything, and when he does find out about Ridpath’s secondary investigation how will he react

Meanwhile a local hack is trying to make her name and is happy to write articles for the broadsheets and the gutter press, and the police are giving her plenty of opportunity to do both, and she is becoming a thorn in everybody’s sides

The investigation into the crime in this story is really good, a young boy killed. His brother and father estranged from his mother. Witnesses doing what witnesses do, and only giving half the story. “Lucky breaks” in the investigation being prompted by hard work, and the willingness to do more than just the basics. The story flies by in a heartbeat

But what really got my heart beating was Ridpath. His thoughts, and not just in relation to the job. His suffering and the way he is dealing with loss. The adjustments he has had to make in his life, and the relationship with his daughter.

I really like this series, and I really hope I’m wrong, because the last chapter really did feel like a last chapter. Is this the end of the series. I hope not. But if it is. It’s one hell of a way to finish

Publisher: Canelo Crime. Pages: 312. Published 25th March 2021

The Bodies at Westgate Hall. Nick Louth

A love triangle.

Three people shot dead

A locked room mystrey

A suspect locked within a room within the locked room

Russian Oligarchs, and conspiracy theories

If that list is not enough to get you hooked maybe this book is not for you. It was definitely for me, what a stunning read.

DCI Craig Gillard is just getting ready for what he hopes to be a quite Christmas on call.

In the Surrey Millionaire belt, the richest of the rich, Alexander Volkov, is having a very noise, very bright, party which is annoying everybody in the neighbouring village.

When a patrol car is sent to see if they can bring an end to the noise they arrive just in time to witness the murder of three people locked in a huge library.

Two of the dead are Oligarchs and it doesn’t take long for the security forces to butt into Gillard’s investigation.

The investigation is run from Surrey Police’s putrid mobile incident room, which has been placed in the grounds of Volkov’s mansion, Westgate Hall

The locals hate the Russian, and his two children, the way they blatantly disregard the law, throwing money at any problem that arises and tearing around the countryside in their sports cars and utility vehicles.

The list of suspects range from the village council members to a Russian Government assassin. Gillard really has his work cut out.

As usual with Nick Louth’s books there are some brilliant characters. Alongside the recurring ones there are some truly brilliant ones. In particular there is Wolf, the marvellous comic Russian bodyguard learning English by watching Only Fools and Horses.

This book, just like the rest of the series, had me from the beginning. I started it on a Snowy Saturday morning and sat and read it all day. It really was a read from start to finish in one go.

I loved it, for the story, the characters, and the setting. Brilliant

Pages: 288. Publisher: Canelo Crime. Publishing date: 25th February 2021

The Body on the Island. Nick Louth

This is a great story but fans of DCI Craig Gillard are going to be a bit disappointed to find he takes a back seat through this book.

The story revolves around a strange series of events, including murders, and what every police officer dreads, a series of coincidences.

The child murder Neil Wright has been given a new identity and is about to be released from prison after 30 years.

A man is found dead, floating in the Thames, with strange markings all over his body, his manner of death indicates he’s been subject to immense pressure.

Just before his body is found a splash is heard by residents on a small island on the river. At the same time a Chef, his girlfriend, and a friend are seen in a car on a bridge close to where the splash takes place.

Meanwhile several groups are plotting instant revenge on The Bogeyman, the tabloids name for Wright, and are intent on killing him

But there are others with links to him, others who will hinder the investigation just by being in the wrong place at the right time.

I enjoyed this book. Louth has a habit of making me think, or reach for google to do a bit of research.

In this case the first stop was google maps to search for the location of the murders, I had no idea these communities existed.

A Sven diagram of a plot where every part of the story has its own circle, the bits where the circles overlap are intriguing and show the problems faced by the police when circumstances combine to put a lot of miscreants, in the same place at the same time. Not all of them are deep into illegal activities, but are never going to tell the truth. Not all of them are connected with the worst of the crimes, but get implicated by their actions.

Untangling all of this is down to the police, in this case Gillard’s team , and it makes a fantastic story.

Pages: 280. Published by: Camelot Publishing date: 22nd October 2020

The Pupil. Ros Carne

Mel and Natasha, two very different people at very different stages in their lifes.

Mel, a single mother of a hormonal teenage boy, a successful Barrister working out of a top London Firm.

Natasha, a young woman who lives beyond her means, shop lifts for fun, and strings her boyfriend along whilst carrying on affairs as her alter ego Lola.

Natasha has just become Mels trainee, on her second six months of training, and is hoping to be selected for a full time job, but can she curb her self destructive personality.

Meanwhile Mel is on a downward spiral, she’s struggling at work, making mistakes in court, and Natasha’s watching, not getting on with her son, and Natasha notices.

Using her alter ego, Lola, Natasha starts to flirt on line with Mels son, and at every opportunity undermines her at work.

And so it starts, a twisting turning plot of a psychological thriller.

I have to admit for the first third of the book I couldn’t make up my mind who to sympathise, or empathise with, which was really clever writing; because when the plot starts to unfold I was torn between which of the two characters I was rooting for, even though it was fairly obvious who was the good guy, and who was the victim.

I really enjoyed this book. It turned me upside down and inside out with my conscience being pulled like a tug of war rope. I love books that make me reach for google to research something. This was was different. It had me looking into my own mind. Clever, very clever.

Pages: 312

Publishers: Canelo

Publishing date: 6th August 2020