The Lost Children Helen Phifer

 

 

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I jotted something down in my note book really early into reading this book.

Refreshing, an author who knows current police procedures and terminology”

 That little note reflects why this crime thriller stands out from many of the others on the shelves today.

That and the fact that there is a full cast of excellent characters surrounding DI Lucy Harwin, work colleagues, family, and even the victims and their families, all add to the eclectic mix of people she encounters on a daily basis.

The opening to the book is going to be familiar to some readers. There have been a few books partially set in the care homes and institutes of the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s recently.

And why not, every year there seems to be another case of historic abuse associated with these establishments.

This book stands out though. Helen Phifer has written a thriller in more ways than one.

The main protagonist, DI Lucy Harwin, is a little bit out there. Dyed Red hair, tattoo’s, and an attitude. Divorced from her husband, estranged from her teenage daughter, and living alone. On forced gardening leave following her involvement in a tragic serious incident, we meet Lucy at her counselling on the day she is supposed to start back to work.

Unfortunately for her a gruesome murder is waiting for her on her return to the usually quiet seaside town of Brooklyn Bay. What a setting for a book, once a prosperous seaside resort, now struggling with the recession and lack of holiday makers.

Lucy has a good team, some of which we get to meet in detail, but others who play interesting little bit parts, hopefully they will start to build in future books.

Lucy’s mainstay, and probably her best friend is DS Mattie Jackson. They have one of those relationships where they both know a little bit too much about each other, care a little bit too much for each other, and act like an old married couple without actually ever being in a relationship.

As the murders start to stack up, the once happy seaside town starts to look like a dangerous place to live.

Lucy and Mattie, and their team, start to link the crimes. At about the same time the reader will start to link two or three characters with being the murder.

Helen has written this book teasingly well. Yes, I knew who the killer was early, well I thought I did. It was always one of the three people but gentle little shifts in the story had me moving from one to the another regularly. If I’m honest I didn’t actually positively identify who was responsible for the crimes until the last couple of chapters.

I recently wrote a blog about Angela Marsons DI Kim Stone books.

In that I said you don’t always need a cliff-hanger finish to make you eagerly await the next book in the series. The best series are those which have a cast of characters that make you want to read about them again. To look forward to seeing how they have fared since the last book.

That’s exactly how I felt at the end of this book. I loved the story. I loved the characters. I loved the setting. I loved the fact that it was written by somebody who works in the police, see the letter from Helen at the End of the Book, so all of the phrases and techniques are current and accurate. Most of all I’m looking forward to meeting Lucy, Mattie, Col and the rest of the Major Investigation team; Jack and Amanda the CSI team, and most of all the glamorous Pathologist Dr Catherine Maxwell again in future books. There is so much potential for these characters that each could take a turn at being the main protagonist, and the series would still move forward nicely.

I have a list, on my computer, that I call UK Lady Killer Writers. I look forward to each of their books coming out.

Angela Marsons

Marri Hannah

Marni Riches

Robert Galbraith (I know but we know who she is)

There is now a new name on the list. Helen Phifer.

What a night that would be. Sat around a table with  that little cohort drinking Red Wine or Jack Daniels, and nothing to do but talk about crime thriller plots.

Gallows Drop Mari Hannah

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Earlier this week I had one of those little red post cards from the Post Office telling me I’d missed a delivery.

I didn’t know what it was I’d missed so I went to the sorting office the following morning to collect it.

Little did I know that once I’d opened the envelope, and discovered the book inside, that I would be reading for nearly 20 hours, putting it down only to sleep. Mari Hannah’s writing is of the highest quality. Her scene and character descriptions are brilliant. Her story telling is excellent, and I always look forward to her books. But this one goes to another level, there are passages in this book that left me breathless.

I love The DCI Kate Daneils series and this, Gallows Drop, the sixth in the series, is the best yet.

From the very first page the story grabs hold, and from there on its journey through the investigation of a vicious murder and also the private life of Kate.

The story starts with Kate about to go on leave. Unfortunately, a body is found hanging in a remote part of Northumberland and Kates team are designated the investigation. Whilst at the scene Kate starts the process of the investigation knowing she will not be the SIO for the case.

However, when she finds out an ex-colleague of hers, a brutal bully of a man DCI James Atkins, is to take charge of the investigation she has her doubts.

The two clash immediately. Differing investigation, and management, styles lead to heated scenes as the team start to identify the killer.

The murder victim is soon identified and it is apparent that Kate had seen him the previous day, but does Atkins also know the victim. It’s a small town in a remote area and Atkins has lived around there.

Whilst the investigation continues Atkins makes his presence known and starts to rile the team. The friction between him and Kate starts to affect everyone around them.

The crime is not the only thing Kate has to worry about. As usual work has taken precedence over her private life, and her on-again-off-again relationship with Jo Soulsby is in trouble, and then there’s her father…..

With Kates mind being pulled in all directions will it affect the way she deals with the case in the days before she goes on leave.

To complicate matters Kate finds out that Atkins’ daughter, Beth, may be involved in the crime.

It is inevitable that the Kate and Atkins are going to fall out but when it happens it happens in style.

Kate is left rattled by her encounters with Atkins but vows to carry on.

This book is like an uneven fight where more than one person attacks another.

Kate Daneils takes one psychological blow after another from, Atkins, the crime, her relationship with Jo, the emergence of an old flame, her father and so much more.

Will the crime be solved, will Kate survive in one piece, physically or mentally, you need to read Gallows Drop to find out.

You won’t be disappointed.

I have been reading for a long time, and every now and again a very special writer finds their way into my reading list.

Everybody, who has ever read seriously, knows the feeling when you finish off the latest book by your favourite author and then have to wait for the next to be published.

The anticipation of the next story, especially if it’s the latest in a series. I’ve only ever had that feeling two or three times and have sat outside book shops on publication day waiting for them to open their doors.

Well there should be queues around the block on the 17th November when Gallows Drop gets published.

Killing for Keeps Mari Hannah

Killing for Keeps    Mari Hannah

Earlier this year I wrote a blog about the first four books in The DCI Kate Daniels series written by Mari Hannah. I said then that she was the best British Crime Writer I had read; this latest book confirms her place at the top of my reading list.

Killing for Keeps starts with a violent assault quickly followed by a gruesome murder. I wrote about Deadly Deceit that there was an original story line with one of the murders. In the first murder of this book Mari Hannah takes it up another notch. The description of DCI Daniels and her Crusty Trusty Sergeants arrival at the incident, and the scene they encounter, was so realistic I could imagine it being told by some of my old colleagues around a pub table. Again this murder was original to me in a book of fiction, but so well detailed I cannot believe that it hasn’t happened somewhere and that maybe Hannah has researched it, if not what an imagination.

The story brings back all of the characters in Daniels Team, although in this book they take more of a back seat with Daniels and Gormley taking the majority of the story-line. Along with the established members of Kate’s team and Jo Soulsby, her will-she-won’t-she love interest, we are introduced to a list of criminal characters from some old style “Family” gangs.

The book takes the reader from Newcastle to Scotland and on to Spain. Each destination is described perfectly and is there for a reason, you don’t get unnecessary padding in any of Hannah’s books.

The story is excellent. I was hooked from page one and finished it within 2 days. I will not put any spoilers in this blog which would give the game away but with families involved the plot obviously revolves around revenge, but for what, and by whom exactly. At one point towards the end of the book I actually caught myself not breathing. The suspense gets built up in several places and you fear the worst but when it comes, it comes out of nowhere.

I like to think that I can usually predict the ending of most books but I must have had about half a dozen different guesses at this one before getting to the end and finding out for sure.

What I Like most about Mari Hannah’s writing is that I never have to suspend reality. The subjects she covers are real; the procedures, or sometimes lack of them, are real; the main characters are realistic, as are their strengths and weaknesses; the criminal characters are as realistic as I’ve ever read.

I could happily recommend this book to friends who are in the Police and know that they will enjoy it for its realism as much as me.

I recently found out that Pan MacMillan have Mari Hannah contracted for another two books following this one. Please let it be more, and soon.

It has also been announced that a company has acquired the TV rights. If they stick to the storylines in the books, those programs will be brilliant

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