Silent Voices. Patricia Gibney

It starts with a flashback to a boy getting pushed into a quarry lake 9 years ago.

From there the pace of this book is relentless. The first murder victim is found with her face contorted in agony, she’s been poisoned. A very old fashioned way of murdering somebody, but as a statement, because of the obvious pain of the victim, it is horrific.

But, there’s more to follow. Two more, seemingly unrelated victims killed in the same way.

Detective Inspector Lottie Parker and her team take on the latest series of murders to hit Ragmullin, the small Midlands City in Ireland.

Coincidentally, Lottie’s fiancé, who is also her DS, Boyd comes across a teenage girl who is having problems with her bike. Being the Good Samaritan he helps her sort it out, only to find the girl is inexplicably linked to one of the murder victims.

As the investigation progresses the seemingly unrelated victims start to be connected, and there appears to be a spurious link to the death of a boy 9 years earlier in a quarry.

Running alongside the story of the crimes is the story of Parker’s pending nuptials to Boyd, but as we find out in the in the prologue Boyd doesn’t turn up. The wedding is several, days after the first murder, and when he doesn’t turn up Lottie finds a note which suggests he’s on an errand of mercy that may be linked to the crimes they are in the middle of investigating

Was that act of being a Good Samaritan Boyd’s ultimate undoing.

Will the Crimes get Solved

Will there ever be a marriage

Will Lottie Parker ever get a break and find some semblance of happiness in her life.

I love Patricia Gibney’s books. I can’t believe this is book 9 in the series, they have all been brilliant.

The thing that elevates her books is the multiple strands she manages to weave into each storyline. The crimes alone are complex without being confusing. The personal lives of victims, perpetrators, and witness, along with the people who invariably orbit an investigation, are so true to life and easily believable they make for a fantastic read.

The life of Lottie’s team, and her family are always incorporated into the plot with a great effect.

Most of all Lottie herself. What a character. I can’t believe that Gibney has invented this detective without knowing somebody, or some people, that she has amalgamated to create Detective Inspector Lottie Parker. In fact I won’t be at all surprised if there’s not a lot of Patricia in Lottie.

She has really got into the head of a successful DI. The sacrifices made at the expense of her family, although she would argue not; the bluntness of character, although she would say not, but most of all the loyalty she shows to those she cares for.

This book is a great addition to what is already one of the very best crime series being written today. And the good news, I recently read that Patricia Gibney has just signed up to, write more books in the series.

Pages: 460. Publisher: Bookouture. Published: Today.

Passenger 23. Sebastian Fitzek

A quote from the book “An ocean going funfair of tourism and Murder. A floating city where you can get anything, except law enforcement”

Who has jurisdiction over crimes that happen on international cruise liners in international waters. I researched this question and I’m really surprised more books aren’t based on these ships. Basically it’s up to on board security to deal with any crime until the ship reaches port, or waters controlled by a nation, often only the 12 miles around the coast.

No forensics, no cops, people can get away with murder, and that is what this story uses as its foundation.

This is a really good story. Undercover Police Detective Martin Schwartz’s wife was on a transatlantic cruise with their son when they both went missing. The official inquest called it a murder suicide with the mother killing the son. Schwartz was never convinced and always held the ships captain responsible.

So when he gets a call to get onboard the same ship, and that somebody has information on a similar crime that may be related to the death of his family, he drops everything and joins the ship in Southampton just before it sails to America.

Two things surprise him. The person who made contact with him is an old, potty-mouthed, politically incorrect, lady, and that the Captain who was in charge when his family went missing is back in charge.

What’s even more surprising is why the old lady contacted him. She has seen a young girl, who’s mother has been missing for days, and both of who were thought to have suffered a similar fate as Schwartz’s family, has been found on board and his being hidden by the Captain

Schwartz only has a few days to find out what’s going on aboard the ship, because the owner can’t afford to have unsolved mysteries, with expensive loose ends to explain, when they arrive in the States.

What follows is an investigation that unravels a series of terrible crimes. Duplicity is rife, unexpected allegiances, are formed and broken and much more blood is spilled.

A mesmerising read

Pages: 416. Publisher: Head of Zeus. Available now

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 Darkness Within. Graeme Hampton

Although this is the 3rd book in a series, and the first I’ve read, it didn’t seem like it. In fact I only realised it was when I came to the end and the authors previous books are listed

Is this a good thing, yes, because it means the book can obviously read as a stand- alone, but as much as I enjoyed it, I didn’t want to go and find the previous books to catch up with the back story.

And that’s where this is a conundrum of a book to review because I really enjoyed the story without engaging with the main characters, DI Matt Denning and DS Molly Fisher.

The story starts with somebody being recognised after 30 years, by somebody else who was a victim. The red mist comes down and……that’s where the prologue ends and sets up the mystery for the rest of the book.

Retired DCI Frank Buckfield is found murdered having lived the last few years of his life in squalor. Some officers remember him fondly but others remember him as a bully who got results any way he could.

This is followed by a serious assault on an academic. The man had been reported missing by his sister over 20 years ago and had apparently never been found, so how could he have been working in a University so recently. One look at him shows he’s much younger than the man who was reported missing and must be somebody who’s assumed his identity. But why.

The connections between the two victims seems to point back to a major robbery, one that Buckfield had made his name by arresting the major players in.

Meanwhile a historic child abuse ring starts to appear on the periphery of the investigation. High profile men, including a Judge, and MP and a Senior Police Officer had been abusing young homeless or vulnerable boys.

As the investigation gathers pace some current Senior Police Officers seem to be against some of the lines of inquiry.

Denning and Fisher continue with the investigation against the advice of these officers, and sometimes in isolation from each other.

But are the modern day crimes connected with the historic ones. Is their a serial killer stalking the streets, or is this an act of revenge.

I really enjoyed this book. I enjoyed the story and the way the author led me down the occasional cul-de-sac where I was convinced I knew who was responsible, only to have my hypothesis wiped out several times.

I will read the future books when they come out, but not because I’ve engaged with the characters, which is usually what hooks me into a series, but because the story was so good.

Pages: 288. Publisher: Hera. Publishing date: 13th January 2021

Force of Evil. Simon Michael

Every now and again a book comes along that could have been written just for you. For me that book was the first one in this series. Now, all of a sudden we have book six, Force of Evil, and like all of its predecessors it’s raised the bar again. It is stunning.

Charles Holborn is a London Barrister. A man from a strongly Jewish family who has mixed with the wrong people, not always his fault, since he was a child.

Born between the wars he worked as a Lighterman on the Thames at the start of the war, before joining The RAF when he was old enough to fight. He spent a lot of his youth and early manhood in the boxing gyms of 1940s London. Where he started to mix with some of London’s most notorious thugs.

Against the odds of his religion, his upbringing, and the people he has mixed with he gains his law degree, then faces the anti-Semitism which was rank amongst the Law Firms of the 50s and 60s. All of this is laid out in the first five books of the series which have been written around actual occurrences without rewriting history. In fact a lot of the characters in these books will be familiar to most readers, including the Kray’s

So all of that and I haven’t even mentioned this books plot.

Force of Evil see’s Holborne take on one of his most formidable foes yet. When he and a friend, Sloane, stumble across an innocuous incident on a rail siding it quickly escalates and leaves his friend in hospital with a fractured jaw. Sloane is a DS in the Met who has recently been transferred out of Vice, for being one of the only honest cops working in the squad, and is now working under a cloud of suspicion from his fellow officers.

The problem is, the more Charles try’s to find out how the man who hit Sloane got off Scotch free, the more interference Police Officers put in his way.

When another man is killed, and RAF Sergeant, who was looking into crime at a Ministry of Defence stores it starts to become apparent the two cases are intertwined.

There is a lot more to this story than just the investigation into theft form an RAF base. The story looks at the corruption that was rife in some parts of the Police in the 60’s. It looks at the dubious methods employed by some officers in gaining an arrest, and ensuring anybody they wanted out of the way could be sorted out by foul play.

It looks at the influence gangs had on the community, and the effect their “interference” could have even in places that should be sacrosanct.

And as usual there is the story of Charles’s private life. In a twist a lot of people will be familiar with Charles and his brother start to become increasingly worried about the behaviour of their parents.

Balancing his legal work, trying to do the right thing for his client, and trying to appease the gangland, whilst trying to stay in one piece, and on the right side of the law, is challenging for Charles. But it makes an absolutely brilliant story for us to read.

Pages: 404. Publisher: Sapere Available now.

Deadly Cry Angela Marsons

The wait is over, DI Kim Stone is back. I really can’t say how excited I get knowing that the next instalment is due. Since book one this has been my favourite Crime Thriller / Police Procedural series.

Why, because Angela Marsons gets cop humour, and uses it to bring a bit of light into what are often very dark crimes stories, and she gets the community she sets the crimes in. I live right in the middle of Kim Stones patch and not once have I said, that’s not right, or that wouldn’t happen.

Most of all, I love the fact that not everybody is safe. She’s already killed off one of the central, and much liked, officers in the series. That means she might do it again, so there’s never the ease of sitting back and thinking “It will all be ok in the end” That alone makes every book suspenseful.

So, Deadly Cry, what is this story, and will everybody make it through to the end.

In a reverse to most crimes, a little girl has lost her mother in a shop on the local high street, but its not the girl that’s in danger, her mom has been killed in a lies dead just around the corner.

She is just the first victim, and it appears that the killer is trying to communicate with Kim, asking her for help to stop hurting people, and they are escalating, so time is of the essence.

Meanwhile there are two major distractions from the investigation. Stacy has been asked to look at Cold Cases rotated from other teams, and she thinks she’s found a serial rapist. As well as leaving Kim’s Team short handed, by going against Kims wishes and continuing her own investigation, is she putting herself in danger, again.

Kim herself is given the run around by her boss, who is insistent that she organises the Police protection of a Wag who is publishing her kiss and tell book, and is receiving threats from trolls on line. I have to say, that as serious as this story line is, there is one comment from Bryant that made me spit out my coffee with laughter when I read it.

So with all of these distractions it’s inevitable that something is going to get missed. There was a time in the story when I said out loud “make the connection” when a team meeting was taking place. My wife knew what I was reading and just looked at me saying “Its only a book” How wrong could she be.

As well as the crimes there is the ongoing personal stories. Kim and her team are so much more than just Police Officers, they have lives, families, emotions, all of which add to the stories. It’s a shame that so much more of our community can’t see past the uniform or warrant card, and realise there’s a human doing a job.

For those of you who have read the series, and or my reviews, you will know I loved the character Dr Alex Throne, a real psychopath, who was a recurring character in a few books. Well I think we may have another one making their first appearance in this book, and what a character they are.

Pages:415, Publisher: Bookouture, Available now.

Wild Flower Graves. Rita Herron

Still struggling with her family secrets which devastated her in “The Silent Dolls” Detective Ellie Reeves is about to be pitched into another nightmare investigation

Just as Crooked County is getting over the fact that a serial killer had been stalking the Appalachian Trail, and that the much loved ex Sheriff, might have known about the killer for years, and done nothing about it, more bodies start to be discovered.

Ellie is pitched straight back into the deep end when the first body is discovered. A young woman has had her throat cut, been dressed, had makeup applied, and posed in a remote beauty spot on the Trail. Monday’s Child

With a section of the famous poem sewn into her mouth the victim is the first of potentially 7. When the next body is found the following day it becomes obvious that Ellie is in a race against time

Then the killer contacts her and she realises things are personal, and that the killer is taunting her, but it’s much more personal than that, he has already taken a good friend of hers, a fellow Police Officer.

Racing to find the killer Ellie finds two allies, one thrust upon her by her boss, the other a man she approaches herself. Both men are not her biggest fans

Ranger Cord McClain knows the Trail like nobody else but Ellie as good as accused him of being the serial killer in the previous case, she knows she needs his help but will he help her

Her boss calls in FBI Agent Derrick Fox, a man who helped with the previous investigation but who blew her family apart in his dogged pursuit of the killer who started by killing his little sister.

Not only does Ellie need to build bridges and restore relationships with the two men but she needs to act as a piece keeper, the men do not like or trust each other.

This story is outstanding. Earlier this year I reviewed Our Daughters Bones, the first in the series, and I raved about it. If anything this book is even better.

The setting of the Appalachian Trail is perfect for crime fiction. 2000 plus miles of wilderness walks stretching up the east of the United States, off grid communities, unique characters doted around a fantastic landscape, it’s perfect for intense storylines

Ellie Reeves is a character that it’s very easy to like, and emphasise with, but she can be frustratingly stubborn. Her professional relationships with Fox and Cord, the problems she has with the weird jurisdictional system of American Law Enforcement, and the hostile gossiping of much of the local community, following her family’s involvement with the previous killer, all add to the story.

The two books in the series so far, are amongst my favourite books this year. Can this one be read as a standalone? Yes it can, Rita Herron back refers enough to give the reader a full understanding of what happened in the first book.

But why miss out. Read The Silent Dolls first, then read this one. If you don’t you’ll kick yourself because you’ll definitely go back to it.

Pages 409, Publisher Bookouture, Publishing Date, 3rd December 2020

SILENCED GIRLS. Roger Stelljes

20 years ago twin sisters are growing up in small town Manchester Bay Minnesota. At 17 they are beginning to make the discoveries that all teenagers make. During the July 4th celebrations one sister goes missing, whilst the other goes off with a boy, a decision she will always struggle with.

The surviving sister, Tori, remembers her father “The Sheriffs” words to them “When a young girl goes missing, she’s never found”

That’s the case Jessie is never found

20 years later Tori is living in New York, and is an FBI agent. She left Manchester Bay just after her sister went missing and only returned for the Sheriffs funeral 18 months later. She has no intention of going back.

Until another girl goes missing in very similar circumstances, and Tori is sent a letter telling her to look at that case for similarities. The problem being the letter was sent the day before the new disappearance.

The old town has grown. Her father’s deputy is now Sheriff and welcomes her help as long as his lead investigator, Will Braddock agrees.

People are glad she’s back but somebody has invited her. Why? Is she now a target?

Some families have done well out of the towns growth. Others are still in shock from Jessie’s unsolved disappearance

Between Tori and Will the investigation starts to uncover some worrying threads and the story rattles along at a great pace. Until the end, but how will that end resolve the latest crime, and will it answer the mystery surrounding Jessie’s disappearance and give Tori some kind of closure.

This book is billed as being Agent Tori Hunter Book 1. I can only hope it is the start of a long new series. The story is brilliant.

The characters are addictive and I couldn’t help but get hooked on the relationships that Tori rebuilds, and how she works with Will and his team.

One of her old friends “ Steak” is now a cop and is working the case with his partner Detective Eggleston. Yes. Detectives Steak and Eggs. Any author that can dream up that little aside to put a bit of humour in the book is alright with me.

I really enjoyed this story . In fact I’d been going through one of those lulls when I was finding it hard to settle into a book and was having difficulty finding the enthusiasm to read. This book hooked me from the start and got me back into my reading. Brilliant

Pages: 478. Publisher: Bookouture. Publishing Date: 11th November 2020

One Left Alive. Helen Phifer

Sometimes a book comes along that makes you just sit down and read, from cover to cover, with as few breaks as you can manage. This is one of those books.

I’ve tried to analyse why I enjoyed this book so much.

Yes it has a cracking story.

Yes the characters are good, easy to engage with, and very likeable.

But, I can say that about a lot of books that haven’t hooked me like this one did.

So without being too analytical, the only thing I can put it down to is, this is a bloody good story.

Morgan Brookes is a young PC on her first independent patrol. A call comes in and she is first on the scene at an “apparent” suicide, finding a teenage boy trying to support the weight of a woman who has hung herself from a tree.

The usually grumpy DS Ben Matthews arrives at the scene and takes over as SIO. He’s as much impressed with Morgan’s efforts as he is annoyed with an experienced PC‘s, and when his boss says he can take one of the uniform officers into a temporary CID post he makes the unusual decision to give Morgan a chance.

This, I think, is where the story finds that edge that had me hooked. As much as Morgan wants the CID job it brings with it challenges. She hasn’t had years of experience to become acclimatised to the worst of crime scenes. She still hasn’t really got the street smarts that let her judge the character of some of the people she meets, and of course, she meets some hostility from one of the uniform officers who believes he should have got the post.

As the investigation goes on, one thing that does become apparent, is that Morgan has a good analytical brain. She is tenacious in tracking down what she thinks is important, even if others dismiss her ideas.

The suicide turns out to be murder, but it’s not the only one. The story that follows could be straight off the front page of the papers. In fact strangely enough there has been something similar in the news over the last two weekends.

There is no “shark infested custard”, no illogical twists, no unrealistic moments, just a story that flows really well.

I always write that the books I enjoy most have to be realistic, and some will say that a PC would never be given the opportunity Morgan is given, but they would. That leads me to another thought.

Who will be the first author to write a story about the new breed of detective being employed by the police, the Police Civilian Investigator.

Whoever it is they will have to cover all of the issues Morgan faces in this book, but with absolutely zero Policing experience.

I loved this book, all I can hope for is it’s the beginning of a long series. The characters deserve it.

Pages: 332. Publishers: Bookouture. Published: 1st September 2020

Little Bones N.V. Peacock

I’ve not read a book like this for a long time. It brings a whole new level to the psychological thriller genre.

I was convinced on so many occasions that I knew who was behind the crimes in his story, and every time I thought I had it, Peacock wrote a breath stopping scene that convinced me I was right; right up until the last second when I was proven wrong.

It is brilliantly written.

Cherrie has a live in boyfriend who is the father of her only child Robin.

At the end of the day Cherrie looks like any other mother in a modern, unmarried, family relationship, and although she’s in a retail job that’s under threat, all is well in her life.

Her new life that is.

Because nobody, not even her boyfriend are aware of her past.

So when a podcaster outs her as Leigh-Ann Hendy, the daughter of serial killer William Hendy, her life is turned upside down.

Not least because the reason she’s outed is because a young boy has gone missing from her neighbourhood. A young boy much like the ones her father killed, the ones he kidnapped and killed with her help.

Just when she is battling with the fact that everybody is going to know who she is, her son is taken. Is it an act of revenge against her, is it somebody who is playing out her fathers crimes, if you work it out before the reveal you are better than me.

This book is written from a unique point of view. Cherrie is the main character, she is a modern day victim, who was previously a perpetrator. The story s not just told through her eyes, it’s told through her thoughts, and not all of them make comfortable reading, but they do make compelling reading.

I have to say I’ve seen mixed reviews on this book. I’m not going to sit on the fence, I thought it was absolutely brilliant.

Publishers: Avon

Pages: 400

Publishing date: 31st October 2020