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 Evil Waits. M.J Lee

Ridpath is back six months after the chilling end of the last book, yes this is the latest in a series, but it can be read on its own.

Suffering PTSD, and living on his own in a Police Service flat he is looking forward to getting back to work as the Police liaison officer for Greater Manchester’s Coroner

But, his Superintendent in the MIT has a job she wants him to do, and it’s going to rub his immediate boss up the wrong way

A young boy has been found naked and murdered in the woods. DCI Turnbull is an old school, by the book, black and white kind of detective, who at first is making no leeway into the case.

Detective Superintendent Trent doesn’t like the way the investigation is going so asks Ridpath, and a small team, to look over the investigation again, and in parallel with Turnbull and the rest of the team.

Did the DI miss anything, and when he does find out about Ridpath’s secondary investigation how will he react

Meanwhile a local hack is trying to make her name and is happy to write articles for the broadsheets and the gutter press, and the police are giving her plenty of opportunity to do both, and she is becoming a thorn in everybody’s sides

The investigation into the crime in this story is really good, a young boy killed. His brother and father estranged from his mother. Witnesses doing what witnesses do, and only giving half the story. “Lucky breaks” in the investigation being prompted by hard work, and the willingness to do more than just the basics. The story flies by in a heartbeat

But what really got my heart beating was Ridpath. His thoughts, and not just in relation to the job. His suffering and the way he is dealing with loss. The adjustments he has had to make in his life, and the relationship with his daughter.

I really like this series, and I really hope I’m wrong, because the last chapter really did feel like a last chapter. Is this the end of the series. I hope not. But if it is. It’s one hell of a way to finish

Publisher: Canelo Crime. Pages: 312. Published 25th March 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 Innocent Die M.J Lee

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This is the latest in a really good Crime Fiction Series. DI Thomas Ridpath is not your stereotypical fictional cop. He is a family man who is really good at what he does and is well liked amongst his peers. Where he is different is that he is a cancer patient in remission. With Senior Officers in the Police worried about his health when he returned to work, he has been temporarily deployed to Manchester’s Coroner as a Coroner’s Investigator.

This has given M.J Lee lots of leeway to put Ridpath into situations not usually encountered by Police Officers as he investigates how people have died. However in this book the streams are crossed and Ridpath finds himself right at the front of a murder investigation, and this time he will not be Mr Popular.

The death of a Chinese woman in a detention centre, the day before she is due to be deported, is found to be a case of suicide by the Police Officer who carries out the investigation.

The Coroner is not convinced. It’s the latest in a line of deaths in detention centres across the country, most of which have been recorded as suicide. This one has happened in Manchester, and there is no way the Coroner is going to let it slip by without proper investigation, and she tasks Ridpath with taking a second look at the circumstances surrounding the woman’s death.

Ridpath soon finds out that the Police Investigation was slipshod at best. Unfortunately, for him, it was carried out by a popular Detective Sergeant who is 3 months from retirement and stands to lose his pension if Ridpath is correct in his theory that the woman was murdered.

The discovery of another body only adds credibility to  Ridpath’s hypothesis and he is “invited” to lead the investigations into both deaths as part of the MIT.

The Coroner has made it impossible to carry out a deep investigation as she refuses to put back the date of the inquest, giving Ridpath less than a week to gather the evidence he needs to establish the woman was murdered and, if so identify the killer.

Meanwhile, understandably, Ridpath is working every hour available and his family are worried about the effects on his health.

This is a great book. In effect it starts as a “locked-room-mystery” but soon develops into something much more sinister.

At the end of the book Ridpath is left with a decision to make. I, for one, can’t wait to read the next book to see what he has decided.

 

Pages: 352

Publisher: Canelo

Publishing Date: 7th May 2020

Tightrope Marnie Riches

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It is easy to say things like “I  have loved all of Marnie Riches’ books” but I have. She writes in a style that I like to read. The stories always have a base in realism, with a hint of shock. She talks about things we know happen, but would really not like to acknowledge that they do.

So, with the start of this new series I was expecting just that, plus her usual scattering of loveable rogue characters. I wasn’t disappointed.

The book starts with a bang, or should I say gangbang. A young prostitute is choked to death as a group of men, wearing animal masks, use her for their pleasure. The death is filmed and later makes its way onto the dark net. But, far from forcing the man who killed her into hiding, it empowers his self-fulfilling prophecy of a man who holds power over women.

Meanwhile 30 year old Beverly Saunders is trying to dig her way out from under the debris of a divorce. Her husband is using her psychological issues to keep her from seeing her daughter. She is trying to establish herself as a Private Investigator, whilst attending group counselling sessions to address her addictions, more about those later.

When the wife of a Member of the Shadow Cabinet bumps into her, and asks for help proving that her husband is having affairs she has to accept, not because she needs the money, because she sees the bruises on the wife and knows she has to help her.

This job is way above the type of investigations she’s used to running, and as well as turning to observations and honey traps, she needs to hack his electronic life.

Enter Doc, a friend from the counselling sessions who is addicted to strong weed and Lego. Yes Lego, the toy, brilliant. He is also a computer geek of the highest order.

The investigation puts both Beth and Doc in danger, but how much of it is real, and how much of it is weed educed paranoia on Doc’s behalf.

To add to the illusions of danger somebody is playing with Bev’s head, using her OCD, moving things in her damp basement flat, not that anyone else would notice, but just enough to put doubt into her mind.

The story has many threads, all of them edgy, and all of them winding their way to a great climax at the end of the book. I can’t say more than that because, to do so, would ruin a good read.

I mentioned Bev’s psychological issues, and these are what makes her such a great character. She has OCD, she collects and makes origami figures, and she’s addicted to sex, often turning to a well know porn site for an afternoon of “stress busting”

She’s vulnerable, yet ballsy, she can be quite unsure of herself, yet she has a short fuse to a raging temper.

This series has legs, and I can’t wait to see which alley they take us down.

Pages: 384

Publisher: Trapeze

Publishing Date: 11thJuly 2019

Stolen. Paul Finch

Any book with a character who is a homeless, drug addicted, ex-nun, who turns turns tricks to feed her habit, and continues to wear her gowns, has to be off to a flying start. You’ve got to read the book to meet Sister Cassie.

But she’s not the only reason to read this book. The lead character Detective Constable Lucy Clayburn is a firecracker of a character. She is relentless in her pursuit of criminals, but hides a dark secret from her colleagues, her dad is one of the leaders of Manchester’s biggest criminal gang, “The Crew”. Not that she’d ever exploit that, in fact she’s only just found out. So a constant throughout is weather she should commit career suicide by telling her bosses, or try to carry on and hope they don’t find out.

The start of this book is a bit of a tough read if you, like me, are a dog lover. Lucy busts an illegal dog fighting club, but amongst the dead and tortured animals she doesn’t find the ones she’s been looking for, the ones which have recently been stolen by somebody in a Black Transit Van.

What she does become aware of, thanks to Sister Cassie, is that some homeless people are also going missing, and the black van seems to be involved again.

Meanwhile there’s an internal dispute amongst the hierarchy of The Crew, including Lucy’s dad, that looks like it will lead to the gang imploding.

Whilst Lucy tries to find the Black Van, and what has happened to the people that were taken, her Dad becomes more embroiled in the infighting in The Crew. Inevitably the two storylines merge, but not in a way I anticipated, and father and daughter have decisions to make.

This is a belter of a book. Tough, and hard hitting, it is a story woven from several strands which knit together perfectly.

The characters in this book are stunning, but ultimately the ones I haven’t mentioned, the perpetrators of the crimes, are the ones that give it that real edge. I defy anybody to guess who they are, or what their motives are until they’re revealed, and then…..then it gets really scary.

Why?

Because they are way to realistic, and they really shouldn’t be.

Pages: 480

Publishers: Avon

Publishing date: Available now

Where The Dead Fall M.J Lee

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DI Tom Ridpath is an unusual main character for a crime series.

Separated from a wife who still loves and cares for him, missing his daughter, and recovering from cancer. He has a strange job. Having had months off with his illness he has been seconded to the Coroner’s Office, and is tasked with investigating deaths which are suspicious in more ways than just the common murders encountered in most books.

This has brought him into conflict with his colleagues on the Major Investigation Team of Greater Manchester Police in the past, but he is determined to prove he is fit to return to the team.

Keeping in the spirit of originality the story has a cracking opening scene. As Ridpath is driving home through the early evening rush on the motorway a naked man runs out in front of him. Ridpath stops in time but the man is hit and killed seconds later.

Amongst the horror of the accident Ridpath sees a man on the hard shoulder holding a gun, but he is gone in an instance and no sign of him is left behind, and nobody else saw him.

Sticking to his guns Ridpath closes the Motorway at its busiest time and suffers the wrath of the traffic police.

All this in the first few pages.

What follows is a great story as Ridpath tries to identify the mystery man, if he ever existed, and find out why he was chasing the naked man onto a busy motorway.

It’s not long before another death occurs and puts Manchester on the edge of a gang war.

Working as a Coroners Officer Ridpath tries to engage his old team but not everybody wants him back.

This is a great story. Ridpath is a great character and MJ Lee has a really good way of bringing the story to life.

Ridpath’s frustrations at being side lined are almost palpable. The scenes are vividly described as are the victims and perpetrators.

Can anybody stop Manchester erupting into violence, not if they don’t start working together.

This is a really good read. Roll on the next book in the Ridpath series

Pages: 344

Publisher: Canelo

Publishing date: 11thApril 2019

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