The Skin Code. Stephen Williams

The cover says “An absolutely gripping crime thriller with an astonishing twist”. Well in my opinion, even that is understating what to expect.

This is an absolute cracker of a book, which I am hoping is the introduction to a new series.

I have to admit the first chapter almost left me cold. A woman is attacked by a gang in an alley in London. She’s saved by, what I mistakenly thought was going to be another vigilante. I am so glad I continued past those first few pages.

The woman who does the saving is Raine. A no nonsense ex-Police Officer, who is now a private detective, and she’s not doing vigilante work, she’s following the woman who was attacked. Her parents had reported her missing, but because she’s over 18 the Police aren’t concerned, so the parents have hire Raine, not to bring her home, just to see if she is ok, and find out what she’s doing.

Meanwhile a friend of Reine, and still a serving Police Officer, Mary Hume is the DI investigating a gruesome murder.

Hume and her DC Echo have been assigned the case when a man is found in his flat. He has been killed and mutilated. The mutilation came when he was still alive and in a conscious, but paralysed state, owing to a well mixed drug cocktail.

Londons Met Police are under staffed and some low level parts of investigations are outsourced. Hume hires Raine to look into the partner of the dead man.

In return Raine asks for information on Heather, the girl in the alley, who she has lost track of.

When Heather is murdered, that investigation starts to take a nasty twist.

But not as nasty as Humes murder investigation, because the bodies are starting to stack up.

And so begins one of, if not the best book, I’ve read this year.

This is a stunner.

Raine and Hume take equal billing as lead characters and they are fantastic. Echo the DC is just as good, and unique in his life style, all three are compelling to read about.

The story has a drug theme running throughout, and Williams describes it perfectly as the “closed circuit of hopelessness”

Raine is a great character. Living on a houseboat, a cafe connoisseur, a person who is on “extended leave” from the Police, a bit off-the-wall in her approach to life, brilliant.

Hume, a normal happily married middle age woman, who just happens to be good at her job, and just happens to have a sharpe sense of humour, brilliant.

The story is set in and around the London drug scene. Again brilliant.

The end of the book does carry a nice twist. Right there, in the last two paragraphs, of the last chapter, there is a plot twist that really makes me think their will be at least a sequel, but I’m hoping for many more in a long series.

Publisher: Joffe. Pages: 330. Publishing date: 9th June 2022

The Box Hill Killer & The South Bank Murders. Biba Pearce

The on going police series has now reached book 5. As I only discovered this series very recently I have been binge reading it. It’s a testament to how good these books are that I am gutted that I’ve got to wait until publication day for the next one.

The lead character, DCI Rob Miller is one of those lovely rarities, a cop with no issues. A happy family man. No vices, no irritations, just a man doing his job.

His team is ever evolving with a strong core of three or four , but with others rotating in and out of his team. Every one of them is well written and just right for the role they play in the Police, and in the story.

The villains and victims are also perfectly written and evoke just the right level of anger and empathy.

In these two books the team are on the tracks of more vicious killers, but one investigation is really personal.

The Box Hill Killer.

12 years ago four people were killed by, who the press dubbed, The Pentagram Killer. When a current murder investigation throws doubt on the original investigation, of the four murders, Millers team have the headache of a current, and a historic crime being linked highlighting a miscarriage of justice.

What they don’t expect is to find a body dump, but when a cadaver dog starts to indicate possible burials in a remote area of a park, that is exactly what they find.

A great story.

The South Bank Murders

Possibly the best book in the series, and it starts with a bang.

3 men are killed in a shooting in a restaurant. One of them as a retired Police Officer who was very close to Rob and his team. In fact he’d phoned Rob on the day he was killed and asked him out for a drink.

The team find themselves involved in an investigation that involves County Line Drugs dealings centred on a rough Council Estate.

The realism of the writing in this book is brilliant. The way young immigrants are exploited to run drugs and carry out burglaries. The way the gangs Cuckoo people on the estate. People who want nothing to do with crime having to be involved because they’re to scared not to be.

Trying to work out who is lying because they are guilty, and those who are lying because they are too scared to tell the truth.

Who can the team trust. The quandary of the modern day police where estates are run by gangs who hold more fear than the authorities.

This is not just the best book in the series, it’s one of the best books I’ve read. Stunning.

Publisher Joffe Books. Pages: 332 and 298. Available now.

The Thames Path Killer. Biba Pearce

DI Rob Miller is somewhat of an anomaly amongst Police Detectives.

He comes across as shy and a bit insecure. Conversely, in his private life, he is engaged to an ex underwear model who now works on a beauty counter at Harrods.

When the body of a woman turns up on a secluded path Robs boss gives him his first major investigation as Senior Investigating Officer, all his other DI’s are busy.

But Rob is good, and the small team he gathers together are just as good, as well as being dedicated and supportive. Which is more than can be said for his fiancé. She hates him working outside “office hours”

The age old struggle between a detectives home life and their professional life is brilliantly portrayed in the interaction between the pair.

When another body is found it’s inevitable Rob will start to spend many late hours at work, but with pressure coming on him to solve the murders Rob is determined to see the case through as SIO.

The pressure mounts when a team from Lewisham MIT are drafted in to help and it has DCI who is taking charge of the case.

The DCI is a young woman, on fast track promotion, known to be the star in the eye of the Senior Ranks in the Met.

How will she and Rob work together, what will the dynamics of the newly formed team be.

This is a fantastic story by an author I have only just discovered. The book is the first in a series, and I’ve just downloaded the rest of the series onto my Kindle, and once I’ve reviewed a book I’m committed to reading next, I will read the rest of the series straight away.

I read in a review of this book that the rape murder scene was too explicit. That it could act as a trigger for victims of abuse.

I have no doubt it could be a trigger, and I would warn any reader that finds the subject difficult to skip the pages covering that part of the story.

But graphic, I don’t know, I’ve read a lot worse. Yes it is there, and it doesn’t leave the reader in any doubt about what’s happening, but if the one or two pages were taken out the book would lose a part of the story that gives it that psychological thriller hook.

The crime and the investigation is the main part of the story. But I love characters, you can have the best story in the world, but if the characters are weak, or poorly written, the story doesn’t work for me.

The story, and the characters in this book are great.

I can’t wait to read the rest of the series.

Print length: 210. Publisher Joffe Books. Available now

The Next Victim Helen H. Durrant

DCI Rachel King has a problem, she once had a fling with a man that would turn out to be one of the gangsters that runs Manchester. In fact, the fling is still a bit of a dirty secret as she still harbours feelings for him.

That itself is a problem. An even bigger problem is that his name has come up as a suspect in a murder investigation.

The first body to turn up is that of a gay man who has suffered a horrific death after apparently being tortured.

When King and her team start the investigations they follow the evidence that is left at the scene, but is it reliable or is somebody playing them.

When a second body is found it looks like it is linked to the first by location, but there is a totally different manner of death.

When a third body is found, in similar circumstances as the first, the team begin to think that the second body wasn’t connected after all, but are they right.

This is a complex story weaving numerous plot lines together in a way that the reader is left in no doubt as the difficulties facing the investigation team.

At the same time the reader follows the struggle in Kings personal life. Divorced from her husband, who now lives next door, and bringing up two teenage daughters, she has her dirty secret to consider during the investigation.

Does she tell her team, and her family, about the tryst with the gangster. Where will it leave her professionally, and what will it do to her family life.

I liked this book. The crime plot is original and compelling, but what really makes the story is the issues that surround King and her secret fling.

Pages: 195

Publishers: Joffe

Available now on Amazon

Their Fatal Secrets Janice Frost

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Another new author to add to my list of must reads. Janice Frost kept me captivated with this book from the moment I read the first chapter. What I enjoyed, and found different to a lot of the books I’m reading is, it wasn’t heavily weighted to the Police side of the investigation.

The book starts with a body being fished out of a canal by two drunk students. The body is quickly identified as Leanne Jackson, a good girl turned bad, and then turned good again. The biggest part of the investigation is working out why this girl has been murdered.

However, it’s not the Police investigation that the book follows. Jess Stokes watches the Police Divers searching the river. Before Leanne had gone off the rails she used used to protect Jess from bullies when they were at school. Twice since Jess had seen Leanne as she got into trouble with the Police but ignored her. She had also ignored an email from Leanne asking for help. Now she is dead, and Jess feels guilty enough to try and work out what happened to her.

The Police team investigating the death start to make slow headway and Jess always seems to be one step in front of them. When Jess, and the 2 other women living in the flats in the same house as her, start to make disturbing discoveries, she starts to think she is being warned off. Is she putting herself in danger, should she stop.

There is a wonderful juxta-position between the naive Jess and her neighbours, and the Police Investigating team.

Ava Merry is the DS on the team, she is a fit extrovert who doesn’t mind partying. Ava and Jess have a passing acquaintance as early morning swimmers at the local pool and Jess reaches out to Ava to gauge how the investigations going.

When things at Jess’s house start to take a nasty turn Ava starts to become worried for her safety. Will it stop her digging.

This book is based in a town with a canal and marina. The murderer is shown straight away, as is the crimes he is committing, so there is no mystery. The man works in partnership with other criminals to get young girls onto a canal boat.

The tension in the book is all about Jess’s welfare, her investigation, and the Police’s investigation.

A real page turner the outcome is not clear right up to the last couple of pages.

I have often wondered why more crimes aren’t set on Canal Boats. They have free roaming rights across the country. As far as I’m aware there is not much in the way of surveillance on canals, and nobody takes any notice of them.

I once investigated an arson where the fire setters had used a canal boat to get into a remote car park on an industrial estate and start a fire which destroyed a factory before making their 3mph get away. Meanwhile the Police closed the roads of around the incident.

When you think about it a lot could be going on in those boats.

Pages:241

Publisher: Joffe Books

Available on Amazon