THE INNOCENT GIRLS. B.R Spangler

The Innocent Girls. B.R Spangler

Earlier this year I read the first book in the Detective Jane Casey series, and since then I’ve been desperate to get my hands on the next one. So when The Innocent Girls dropped into my inbox I couldn’t wait to get started, and I wasn’t disappointed, what a cracking book.

Jane is now a permanent fixture in Outer Banks North Carolina. The ex big city cop decided to stay as she’s convinced she is getting closer to finding her missing daughter Hannah. She’s also fallen for Ex sheriff Jericho Flynn and is enjoying life as a small town cop, life is ticking along quite nicely

Then a 13 year old girl witnesses the vicious murder of her parents in a motor home, but after she escapes she runs off to a cult like church without reporting the murder to the police.

When the bodies are discovered Casey’s team start to investigate. One of the bodies has a strange pattern carved into their chest and various theories take the team down different avenues.

When a second murder scene is found, with more carvings on the body, the team also realise another young girl is missing.

The two cases have to be connected and Casey soon makes a connection to a strange Cult-Preacher and his pop-up church.

What follows is an investigation into a series of murders that is intriguing in its complexity.

Murders carried out in a vicious manner, mysterious post mortem wounds inflicted on the bodies, links to children in the families, who never seem to be hurt, and as the team try to make sense of it the murders get a bit too close to home.

The story is brilliant. It’s just complex enough to keep you guessing without crossing into the realms of improbability.

The story is made all the better by the team that Casey is  building around her, professionally and in her personal life. There are some great characters that are going to be fun to watch develop.

This series has started out with two of the most addictive stories I’ve read for a long time , the very definition of “ page-turners” I really am excited to read what comes next.

Publisher: Bookouture

Publishing Date: 3rd September 2020

THE SILENT DOLLS. Rita Herron

The Silent Dolls Rita Herron

Rita Herron is a new author to me, but she shot straight to the top of my list of must read authors after reading this book.

But it was so nearly a different story. The first chapter in this book sets a scene that makes it seem like this book is going to be like a rural Lethal Weapon with the main character being a female Riggs. How wrong was I.

Thank god I went past that chapter because this turned out to be the best US crime book I’ve read for a very long time.

If you like CJ Box and his Joe Pickett books for their settings you’ll love this book, set in the woods and mountains of the Appalachian Trail in Georgia

The main character, Detective Ellie Reeves, is scared of the dark. Why? Because she got lost in the woods on the Appalachian Trail when she was very young.

Now she’s a detective in Bluff County, the home of the starting point for the trail. So when a little girl goes missing it’s up to Ellie to look for her. What she uncovers during the investigation will send ripples all along the trail, and will have consequences close to home.

The girl that goes missing is not the first, but because the perpetrator has been moving along the trail nobody has put together the spasmodic disappearance of young girls in different jurisdictions, and it takes FBI agent Derrick Fox to highlight the link to Ellie.

The problem is Fox thinks two people close to Ellie, her father and a close friend, might be prime suspects.

This is a great story, set in rural, small town, America. It has everything to combine a great crime thriller with an great psychological thriller. A hunt for a missing child in the wild landscape is made harder by the approach of an in coming winter storm, a brilliant use of the occasional local radio weather reports really adds to the tension.

Ellie is a great character, amongst a cast of equally good bit part players, who hopefully will make appearances in future books.

Will there be future books, I hope so. This is billed as the first in a series, and it does end on a hell of a cliff hanger.

Pages: 366

Publishers: Bookouture

Publishing date U.K. 17th July 2020

THE CHESTNUT MAN. Soren Sveistrup

Nordic Noir is a genre I rarely dip into, but every time I do I always say I must read more of it. This book is an example of just why I should.

What a story.

Twelve months after a Government Ministers Daughter is kidnapped, and a man is convicted of killing her, her finger print turns up at a murder scene, and it won’t be the last time it does.

When Naia Thulin is tasked with investigating the murder she’s not happy. All she wants to do is hand her transfer request in, to get away from the murder team, and join the hot unit investigating Cyber Crime.

Her day gets worse when she’s partnered up with the man nobody wants, Garry Hess.

Hess has just been returned to the team from Europol where he’s under investigation for basically being a lazy waste of space who drinks too much.

All Thulin wants to do is solve the case and move on to her new role. Hess isn’t helping, when he’s there he doesn’t seem interested, and when he is all he does is rub people up the wrong way.

But then they stumble onto something. It doesn’t make them popular with the rest of the team, and even the bosses try to divert them from their lines of inquiry.

Although thinking the same way the two hardly function as a team a and keep coming to the same conclusions working independently of each other.

This gives the reader a real twisting plot to get their head around, and with every twist there’s a shocking revelation.

I loved this book. It’s dark, and like the best crime novels it’s a great psychological thriller.

Soren Sveistrup is a screen writer probably most famous in the U.K. for the Nordic noir thriller series THE KILLING. It shows in his writing, he paints the scenes, and builds the plots brilliantly. The characters in this book jump of the page.

A cracking read

Pages: 491

Publishers: Penguin

Available now

HIDDEN LAKE. RUHI CHOUDHARY

When she was 12 years old Mackenzie Price came home to find her mother had killed her abusive husband. Together they buried him in the woods.

Price is a fantastic character. Stuck in a prison cell created by her own mind, a Psychological Faraday Cage that refuses to allow her happiness, she suffers constant flashbacks of her childhood, and the abuse her mother suffered before her fathers death.

When the discovery of a body takes her deep into the woods close to her fathers shallow grave she’s worried that the crime will be uncovered and that her life and career will be ruined.

But it’s not her father, it’s the body of Erica, a girl that’s been missing for a year. The high school princes daughter of a rich family there have been posters of her up around the city since she disappeared. Everybody knows her face.

At the same time her body is discovered her Best Friend Abby goes missing, the daughter of a single mother, a mother who works as a waitress in a local strip club, she doesn’t get anywhere near the attention that Erica did.

That annoys Mackenzie, what annoys her even more is she is convinced the two cases are linked, but the senior officers in her department seem determined to keep the two investigations separate, concentrating the majority of their efforts on a girl that’s been dead for a year, instead of on a girl that’s only just gone missing and could still be alive.

What’s more Mackenzies only real friend in the Department, Nick, who is leading Erica’s murder investigation is being alienated by her, and now he’s the only one who seems to be thinking along the same lines as her. Eventually they will have to work together but at what cost.

This is a very simplistic outline of the start of a brilliantly complex plot that had me hooked from the start.

As the story expands, and Mackenzie’s story unfolds, her character becomes addictive. Emotional on the inside but steely on the out, she won’t allow herself stimulants like coffee, or cigarettes. Yet she ploughs through the day fuelled by little but fresh air. It has to take its tole.

Not only has Ruhi Choudhary created, a great character she has created a great scene, a fictional city on the brink of despondency. As she says, it’s a city people are escaping from more than they are being attracted to. Hopefully it’s a Canvas for her to paint many more pictures on as we see Mackenzie fight her demons as much as the city’s crime.

Without doubt she is now one of my must read authors, and I can’t wait to see what happens next.

Pages: 409
Publishers: Bookouture
Publishing Date UK: 19th August 2020

DEAD PERFECT. NOELLE HOLTEN

Dead Perfect. Noelle Holten

The third book in the Detective Constable Maggie Jamieson series.

Maggie is one of those cops that gets things done, in her own way, and sometimes to the detriment of her relationship with her colleagues, and her friends. She rubs people up the wrong way most of the time but she gets things done. So basically she is what we all want to be. She says it as it is, ignores advice, and ploughs her own farrow.

But she is fiercely protective of her few friends, and one of those friends is Criminal Psychologist Kate Maloney. Kate is another anomaly from the norm, an Irish Goth who specialises in Criminal Profiling. She’s also one of my favourite fictional characters.

So when when a body is found that is dressed, and made-up, to look like Dr Kate, Maggie is both scared that her friend is in danger, and determined to solve the murder.

It’s not until a second body, dressed and made-up, in the same way turns up that people that other people, including Kate, start to share Maggie’s concerns

What follows isn’t just a crime thriller, or a police procedural, it’s a cracking psychological thriller.

Noelle Holten has a way of writing that makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. The suspense she builds is enough to have me turning the pages well into the night, in fact her books are the very definition of “I couldn’t put it down”

Then there’s what is becoming her trade mark. The last page twist, the last page cliff hanger.

Just when you think the story is ending, and you turn the last page. WHAM!!!

She smacks you in the face and hooks you into the next book.

Absolutely Brilliant.

This book isn’t out until October, so if you haven’t read the first two, Dead Inside and Dead Wrong, you have time. Believe me you won’t be disappointed

Pages: 400
Publishers: One More Chapter
Publishing date: 16th October 2020.

KILLING MIND. ANGELA MARSONS

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I have been lucky enough to be in to this series since it started, and here, in book 12, we have the best one yet.

Where Angela Marsons manages to pull new, original, and gripping plots from, whilst keeping us engaged in her cast of central characters, is a mystery but long may it continue.

Detective Inspector Kim Stone works out of Halesowen Police Station. A perfect place to set a crime series as it sits right on the edge of the Black Country and the rambling countryside, giving Angela plenty of scope to have realistic crimes in real areas.

This book stretches across both. Vulnerable people are being recruited around Dudley and introduced to a “retreat” at the remote Unity Farm.

That alone wouldn’t come on Kim’s horizon but, when a girl is found dead that does. At first inspection it looks like a suicide but something pricks at Kim’s mind and she looks a bit deeper. Before long she is convinced the girl has been murdered and that the scene has been staged.

Why did the girls social media footprint end 3 years ago.  Why are her parents behaving suspiciously when they talk to the Police.

Meanwhile more bodies are found and some tenacious work by one of the team manages to link the finds with people who went missing under dubious circumstances

Eventually Unity farm becomes the focus of inquiries but how can the team penetrate the façade that the owner puts up of an innocent retreat.

I’m not taking this any further because I don’t want to give the plot away. Needless to say it’s a gripping story, and for those of you who have read the other books you know that nobody is safe and that not all of the books have a happy ending.

This made this book even more suspenseful. There were time when I caught myself holding my breath. There were other times when I exclaimed out loud, prompting raised eyebrow from my wife.

Did I enjoy the book? Hell yes!!

Pages: 430

Publisher: Bookouture

Available now.

 

 

Waters Edge. Gregg Olsen

Waters Edge.   Greg Olsen

This is the second book in the Detective Megan Carpenter series, and having just read the first, Snow Creek, I can say I thoroughly enjoyed it.  The problem is I don’t think it would read so well as a stand-alone story. A lot of the plot is a continued thread from the first book, and is Megan’s back story told in back-flashes or from Megan listening to recordings that were made when she was in therapy.

She was in therapy because Megan, hasn’t always been Megan. It’s an identity she has adopted because of the infamy of her previous self.

Her back story is full of Kidnap, subterfuge, and murders, lots of murders

With all of this the main crime in the story almost plays second fiddle, which is a shame because the plot, and the present day characters are really good.

Working as a Detective in a sleepy town, just outside Seattle Megan enjoys a certain anonymity but there is one person that knows all about her past, her boss the Sheriff, he likes her and is prepared to give her the lead in most cases, so when a body is found in a secluded cove Megan is sent to begin the investigation, but she has to take the “Barbie Doll” new reserve deputy, Ronnie, with her.

At first Megan doesn’t like Ronnie but she slowly starts to grow on her and the pair make quite the team, not so much good-cop-bad-cop more, good-hard-nosed-cop, and young-flutter-your-eyelids cop.

The dead body leads to a murder investigation which triggered more memories for Megan and at times she becomes unfocused, which nearly ends in tragic consequences.

The story is great, the book is great, the series is going to be brilliant.

I started by saying it does not work as a stand-alone story, I stick by that, but only because I think the reader would be missing out by not reading the first in the series.

Pages: 315

Publisher: Bookouture

Publishing date: 28th May 2020

I OWE YOU. RONA HALSALL

A great stand-alone thriller.

Sara and Matt are happily married with teenage twin daughters and a 4 year old son. Or that’s what everybody thinks.

Matt has been a bit off for months, and Sara doesn’t know why, so when she tells her sister she thinks Matts having an affair she suggests she follows him.

But Matt isn’t having an affair, he is made redundant on the same day he is followed.

What follows is a series of errors of judgement made in all innocence. Sara had invested her inheritance, against Matts advice and has lost the lot. Matt has a business idea, but he needs the money from the inheritance.

Sara can’t’ tell him she’s lost it so makes her second mistake.

And so the first two dominos are tipped, and the domino rally of bad decisions and the subsequent consequences rush through the book to its thrilling end.

This book carries a story that could so easily be true.

There is no greed involved, only ambition, secrets and lies, all of which are initially made in all innocence, all of which exasperating the situation.

This is definitely a case of things going from bad to worse, but who will be the casualties.

A great read

Pages: 328

Publisher: Bookouture

Publishing date: 5th May 2020, available to pre-order

THE BODY UNDER THE BRIDGE Nick Louth

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DCI Craig Gillard is a detective in the Surrey Police. As the main character in a series of books by Nick Louth I’ve come to enjoy the character, and like all series his story ticks along throughout. Unlike many other series though, they only play a minor part of the books, which allows each of them to be read individually without deterring from the main plot.

This instalment sees Gillard trying to crack an unfathomable crime. A young woman, the daughter of a German Cabinet Minister, has gone missing. She is not underage, nor does she appear vulnerable, in fact far from it. She is the lead violin in a string quartet and an accomplished performer on stage, she is also trained in self defense. But as the daughter of a foreign diplomat pressure is put on the Police to find her.

The strange thing is that the investigation uncovers images of her on a commuter train to London, then she just disappears between stops. Her phone coverage continues but when  it’s traced only leads to more confusion.

Meanwhile one of the Detective Inspectors under Gillard’s command finds out his wife is having an affair and takes his eye-off-the-ball during the investigation to uncover his wife’s infidelity. A distraction he, Gillard, and the rest of the team could do without.

As the investigation continues a storm hits the South East of England, and the ensuing floods lead to the discovery of more dead people, not all of who have died as a result of the storm.

This book is a great read. It rattles along at a hectic pace and just when you think you have it sussed, it wriggles down another route, until the last few pages unveil a brilliant conclusion.

Nick Louth is the only author I’ve come across that has used the floods that the UK suffered in 2019 and 2020 as tool for his story, and it works really well. In fact it raised some good questions in my mind……but I won’t share them for fear of spoiling the book. Needless to say this is right up my alley and I spent hours navigating Google to see if anything like this has happened in the real world.

As I write this blog we are in week 3 of “self-solation” during the Covid19 virus outbreak. I wonder if this will feature in future books. If it does I wouldn’t be surprised to see Nick Louth being one of the first, and no doubt using it to great effect.

Pages: 288

Publisher: Canelo

Publishing Date: 30 April 2020, Available to pre-order on the usual sites.

HER LAST MISTAKE. Carla Kovach

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A wedding day in a nice Country House Hotel.

Holly, one of the Bridesmaids, is killed in her room.

It almost sound like an Agatha Christie plot. But Miss Christie never wrote like this, in fact I don’t think she would have stood a chance against some of the modern day writers.

Carla Kovach is one of the best of these modern crime fiction authors, and the thing she does best is line up a series of suspects, making each one very plausible. This turns each book into a proper who-done-it.

In this one there is the mystery boyfriend, the local drug dealer, and a childhood friend of the bride who has never forgiven Holly for taking her friend away from her all those years ago.

All this in the first 30% of the book. (I read it on a Kindle)

Every time I thought I knew who the killer was there a little twist that made me change my mind. Not the type of twist where you think “Crikey where did that come from” just a tiny nuance, or hint, just a little thing to lead my mind down a different path.

From there the story just gets better and better. It’s a fast paced book which takes place over a few days, and leads to a wonderful conclusion.

The characters in a book are as important as the plot as far as I’m concerned. DI Gina Harte is one of the best. Every book in this series could be read as a stand-alone but the Gina-plot, which runs through all of the books, is one of the best stories I’ve read. Her story alone would have made an excellent book.

Keep them coming Carla Kovach, I can’t wait to see what happens next.

Pages: 358

Publisher: Bookouture

Publishing Date: 11th May 2020