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

When The Past Kills. M.J Lee

Book 5 in the DI Tom Ridpath series. Those of you who have read the earlier book will know that Ridpath has had a tough time. The first book saw him returning to work following months of extensive treatment for cancer.

Unable to return to full duty he was sent to work for the Greater Manchester Coroner as her main investigator and Police liaison officer.

This has allowed The author some leeway in the way he approaches crime, and the crimes he approaches.

In this story Ridpath is transitioning back into the MIT, but he’s seen as a bit of an outsider who doesn’t necessarily work well in a team. He certainly doesn’t get on with the newly appointed DCI, although there is a degree of empathy from the Superintendent.

I would only usually recommend a book in a series when it can be read as a standalone, but in this case this book really does need to be read in its place in the series.

The story revolves around cases Ridpath has been involved in, or have been covered, in the previous stories.

A man who was wrongly convicted, who was caught by Ridpath on his first day in uniform, the same man that Ridpath exonerated when he put the real killer behind the bars, is now a free man.

Somebody is working their way through a list of people involved in putting him away, somebody is extracting revenge in the worst way.

Ridpath connects the first 2 revenge crimes quickly but with the DCI ridiculing him at every opportunity he finds it hard to convince the MIT that they are connected to the old case.

The story looks at Ridpaths attempt to re-establish his place in MIT and stop a killer before everybody involved in the convictions fan “innocent” man are killed, including himself.

So, am i recommending this book. Too right I am. But you really should read the other 4 first to get the most out of it.

Pages: 302

Publisher: Canelo

Publishing date: 24th September 2020

Where The Silence Calls M.J Lee

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DI Ridpath is not your usual cop-character. Recovering from cancer he had been living a single life when his wife and daughter moved out in frustration of his lack of self-care.

Now they are back at home, Ridpath is in remission, and he’s back at work, but on restricted duties. In short life is good.

Working as a DI in the roll of Coroners Officer Ridpath is out of the day-to-day life of a Police Officer, it’s not his job to investigate crimes, it’s his job to gather evidence for the Coroner, to help identify bodies, to pass on the unwelcome news to relatives, but he does miss being at the coal front of an investigation

So when two men are found dead, in a short space of time, in different Police districts, their bodies badly burned, Ridpath’s detective antenna starts to nag at him.

Both Police departments are running at their limits due to cut backs, and when Ridpath tries to show that they may have linked cases, neither are interested. Why would they be, there is no post mortem results yet, and both look like accidental fires, except for one thing, and that’s what gets Ridpath hooked.

As Ridpath struggles to get the Police to take him serious he runs the risk of upsetting the Coroner, and with both Police and the Coroner, looking to cut manpower he could be backing himself into a sticky corner.

Then another burnt body is found.

This is another cracking novel in a great series.

M.J Lee uses the metropolis of Manchester as a great canvas to paint his crime stories. In Ridpath he has given us a character that is different enough from the usual troubled cop to engage in. Ridpath’s personal circumstances run through the series like a vein taking blood to all the important parts. In short Lee went out on a limb with this character, but its paid off, boy has it paid off.

Pages: 351

Publisher: Canelo

Publishing date: 23rdSeptember 2019

Where The Truth Lies M.J Lee

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The story starts  in 2008 with new constable, PC Tom Ridpath, taking part in a vehicle stop which leads to the arrest of a man who is wanted for the kidnap of a prostitute. When the man runs off Ridpath follows him to a lock-up unit where he is in for a nasty surprise.

Ten years later and Constable Ridpath is now probationary DI Redpath. Returning to work after a serious illness Ridpath is tasked to work as the Coroner’s Liaison Officer.

The job as the Coroners Officer is not one Ridpath wants but he is given very little choice by the Senior Officers of the Manchester MIT. Take it or take a job somewhere else. If he can stick it out without any health relapses, then he can return to MIT.

What he, the Coroner, and the MIT don’t realise is the first case he is asked to deal with will bring everybody into conflict.

A recent spate of murders has the MIT baffled. Somebody is taking vulnerable women of the streets and killing them in some horrific ways before dumping the bodies.

The conviction, of the man Ridpath caught in 2008, has been brought into doubt and the Coroner reopens an inquest into the death of the one person they charged him with murdering.

Ridpath is a pariah to his old colleagues when he acts on the Coroners requests. They see him as an outsider for  bringing doubt on the original investigation, but there is one young DS who starts to look on Ridpath as a voice of reason.

As the two investigations inevitably head for a head on collision a truly captivating story unfolds.

This is the first book I have read by M.J. Lee, and to be honest I cannot understand why I haven’t heard of him before.

This book had me drawn in from the beginning. The character Ridpath is flawed. Like most people that work in the Police he is target focused, to the point that his family come a distant second priority.  His wife is driven to distraction by his attitude towards his ongoing treatment, and check-ups, following his illness.

He is split between wanting to do the right thing by the Coroner and doing what his ex-colleagues expect, which will allow him back onto the Major Investigation Team.

The murders that take place in this book are brutal, but are written in such a way that the narrative cuts away just when it’s getting too bad. M. J Lee has struck the balance perfectly.

The crimes and the investigations are multi-layered but not beyond comprehension. In fact the story is woven together brilliantly, and at no time are there any of those “I don’t believe it” moments.

I really enjoyed this book. It’s another one that is listed as “Book 1” so I’m hoping it’s the beginning of a series. If it is, what a start!

I can’t wait to read what happens next, especially after the last chapters little cliff hanger.

Pages: 352

Publisher: Canelo

Available now.