Twisted Lies. Angela Marsons

It must be hard coming up with inspirations for new stories in a long running series but Angela Marsons just keeps raising the bar and in Twisted Lies she’s done it again.

I don’t know where she gets the ideas, or what her Google history looks like, but the methods of death in the murders in this book are brilliantly original and gruesome.

At the start Kim Stone has to deal with her worst nightmare. Her not-so-favourite journalist, Tracy Frost, has been granted an all access day with Kim, a day that is going to have quite an impact on Frost in more ways than one

That day is cut short by the discovery of a body, but not before Frost has accompanied Kim on a visit to the family of a domestic murder victim.

And so opens up two strands of what is an absolute cracker of a story that had me hook-line-and-sinker from the first page right up till the last full stop

Frost is off trying to dig up the dirt on the abusive husband of the domestic murder victim. He’s media savvy and he’s trying to paint himself as the innocent man.

Kim and her team have the first of a series of gruesome murders to solve. But nothing in this case is as it seems and the team hit dead end after dead end.

As frustrating as the case is Kim’s team carry on relentlessly as the body count mounts.

The chapters in this book flew by a a breathless pace, and when the end arrived I though I could take a breath, until, the last few lines started with “you have a call” and the rest of the sentence had the hairs on the back of my neck standing up.

Now I have to wait till November to find out where that phone call will lead.

Angela Marsons fans will already know the characters in this book. Kim and her team have a great relationship with themselves and the readers.

I was trying to work out why this series sticks out, why it has remained my favourite series when there are so many good one out there.

The crimes, and the crime stories, are always stunningly well written, well described, well placed, and realistic.

The recurring characters of Kim and her team, as well as the recurring occasional characters, such as Tracy Frost are so well written I’m half expecting to bump into them on the streets of the Black Country, where I live.

But the fact that the characters that only appear for a couple of pages are just as well written, and described, as all of the main characters really lifts these books

This is not just a Police Procedural series, or a series of Psychological Thrillers, although it is both. This is destined to be one of the Classical Crime Series, the Classical Crime Series of our generation.

Angela Marsons and Kim Stone are what Colin Dexter and Morse were to the 1980’s and 90’s and Sue Grafton was to the 2000’s with her Alphabet books

Keep them coming Angela.

Pages: 414. Publisher: Bookouture. Available now

Bonds of Blood. Rob Sinclair

DI Dani Carter book #4, and they just keep getting better

Two people, a husband and wife, the husband is dreaming about another woman, when he wakes he is being viciously attacked, his dead wife lying next to him. Quickly they’re both dead.

The start of an investigation for Carter and her team, and what a route it’s going to take them on.

The dead man Terry Eccles is a property developer. Him, and his partners are hugely successful and on the surface all seem perfect.

But as the investigation begins the team start to find out what the family dynamics are really like.

Dani is also involved in the investigation of a second case. A slam dunk murder following a fatal RTC.

With this distracting her will she manage to stay focused on the murder of the Eccles family .

Then, of course, their’s her personal life. Things couldn’t really be more stressful

Rob Sinclair is a skilful writer who has chosen Birmingham to set this crime series. Clever, every book is set in just the right district. In this case the story revolves around the more wealthy areas of Sutton Coldfield and Little Aston.

Is not just the setting that’s right, the characters are spot on for the story. The almost incestuous relationship between the business partners and their families. The privileged offspring of successful businesses men, and it’s all so believable.

A great addition to a great series

Publisher: Canelo. Pages: 296. Publication date: 20 May 2021

An Eye For An Eye. Carol Wyer

Everybody say hello to my new favourite Detective.

DI Kate Young works for Staffordshire Police, and at the start of the book she’s on enforced leave due to mental stresses brought on by recent investigations, and the death of her husband.

So why would the force bring her back to take on a really nasty, high pressure case.

Is it because they want her to fail, and do they want her to fail because they want to discredit her and get rid of her for once and for all; or is there something more sinister going on.

The case she’s brought back for ticks all the boxes that play with even the hardest of cops heads. Murder, sex, drugs, all involving vulnerable young people.

The investigation would be hard enough for a fit Kate, but one who is suffering with PTSD, one who is still grieving, one who really shouldn’t be back at work, what chance has she got of solving it.

Some people, mainly her closest team, are on her side, some of the senior officers are keeping her at arms length, not wanting to be tainted by what must be her ultimate failure.

Carol is on familiar ground basing her crimes in the Staffordshire area, but where she found the storyline for this book I’ll never know. You can only guess at what runs through an authors mind when they are plotting things like this. Her skill is taking it right to the edge but still keeping it firmly in realms of the realistic.

The other thing you can guarantee with Carol Wyer is good characters, and Kate Young is her best yet. Flawed and vulnerable, whilst still being strong and intuitive. She is as close, in character, as I’ve come across in fiction, to some of the real SIOs I’ve met.

Then there are the recurring characters she has running through a series, there’s always one that brings that bit of quirkiness, and in this series she’s found a beaut, the flamboyant Ervin Saunders, Head of Forensics, who brings that little bit of lightness that every serious book needs.

It’s a brave author that brings to an end, or puts on hold a hugely successful series, to start another.

But, as they say, fortune favours the brave, and this book has me hooked into the series from the start, I can only hope Kate, and Ervin, and the team that come with them, are here for a long run

This book is up there with the best I’ve read, and left me desperate for the next instalment of the series.

An absolute cracking story that announces the start of a series that is destined for the best seller lists.

Pages: 426. Publisher: Thomas and Mercer. Available now

Their Frozen Graves. Ruhi Choudhary

The second book in the Detective Mackenzie Price series.

The first book in this series, Our Daughters Bones was one of my favourite reads last year, and it ended on one hell of a cliff hanger.

This book starts where that one left off, with Price opening the door to the surprise of her life.

A thread that starts there runs through the book as a sub plot that was worthy of a book of its own.

At the same time as she’s dealing with that Price has to deal with one of the most original murder investigations I’ve come across for years.

Two bodies are found in melting ice, where a river meets a lake at a local beauty spot. Both women have died from stab wounds, and look so alike that the team speculates whether they are twins.

When one of women is recognised by a police officer, Mack (Mackenzie) and her partner go to talk to the husband, only to have a shock. The woman they thought was dead is at home ill, and yes, she does look a lot like the dead woman.

The post-mortem reveals further shocks as one of the women is found to have undergone cosmetic surgery to make her look like the other dead woman, and they both look like the woman that was ill at home.

The investigation leads the team to the dark web where somebody is putting adverts out for women who look similar to specific other women, and the people who answer adverts are going missing.

The story of the investigation is brilliant, and the backdrop of the book only enhances the story, and adds to the tension.

Lakemore, a town in Washington State was already run down, but it thrives on its college football team and the money brought in by the big games. But that team was wrecked during a previous investigation. Now there is unrest on the streets, and people blame the police for their latest downturn in fortunes, and the loss of their team

Outside of the town the huge wild woodlands, lakes, rivers, mountains, and strange communities, contrast the town and hold many secrets. A stunning and perfect setting for a crime series.

Just as the last book ended with a cliffhanger that had me waiting for this ones publication, Ruhi Choudhary has done it again. Now I’m desperately waiting for book 3

Pages: 381. Publisher: Bookouture. Available now

Dead Perfect. Noelle Holten

A few months ago I was lucky to get my hands on an advanced copy of this book and put a review on my blog.

It’s the third book in the series, and it had quite a lot to live up to following in the steps of the first two. In fact I still think that Dead Inside was the best debut book I’d read.

Book two Dead Wrong was just as good, and continuing the theme Dead Perfect is just that, Perfect.

Noelle has created a character in DC Maggie Jamieson that is one of the most realistic “cop characters” that I’ve come across.

Her secondary character, the goth Criminal Psychologist, Kate Maloney, is brilliant in her uniqueness and in this book it’s her that is centre stage of the investigation. Here’s my review

Dead Perfect. Noelle Holten

The third book in the Detective Constable Maggie Jamieson series.

Maggie is one of those cops that gets things done, in her own way, and sometimes to the detriment of her relationship with her colleagues, and her friends. She rubs people up the wrong way most of the time but she gets things done. So basically she is what we all want to be. She says it as it is, ignores advice, and ploughs her own farrow.

But she is fiercely protective of her few friends, and one of those friends is Criminal Psychologist Kate Maloney. Kate is another anomaly from the norm, an Irish Goth who specialises in Criminal Profiling. She’s also one of my favourite fictional characters.

So when when a body is found that is dressed, and made-up, to look like Dr Kate, Maggie is both scared that her friend is in danger, and determined to solve the murder.

It’s not until a second body, dressed and made-up, in the same way turns up that people that other people, including Kate, start to share Maggie’s concerns

What follows isn’t just a crime thriller, or a police procedural, it’s a cracking psychological thriller.

Noelle Holten has a way of writing that makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. The suspense she builds is enough to have me turning the pages well into the night, in fact her books are the very definition of “I couldn’t put it down”

Then there’s what is becoming her trade mark. The last page twist, the last page cliff hanger.

Just when you think the story is ending, and you turn the last page. WHAM!!!

She smacks you in the face and hooks you into the next book.

Absolutely Brilliant.

This book isn’t out until October, so if you haven’t read the first two, Dead Inside and Dead Wrong, you have time. Believe me you won’t be disappointed

Pages: 400
Publishers: One More Chapter
Publishing date: 16th October 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

BROKEN SOULS Patricia Gibney

I’ve been with this series from the start and its one of the few that goes straight to the top of my to-be-read pile as soon as it becomes available.

Patricia Gibney has a wonderful talent for writing stories with multiple strands whilst keeping the character count down.

She uses the incestuous nature of criminals, and the vulnerability of victims, to make the books realistic and enthralling.

The main character is Lottie Parker, and those familiar with the series will be aware of the ups and downs of her life and the life of her family. Although the family are front and centre in most of the books, all of them can easily be read as stand-alone crime thrillers. Just as much detail is put into her team and their continuing story.

But as well as her family, and her team, the main threads of each story revolve around the crimes, and they are all brilliant.

Broken Souls starts with the discovery of a woman hanging in a bathroom, dressed in a wedding dress. Nobody thinks this is suicide but when another woman dies in similar circumstances everybody’s  worst  fears are confirmed.

But, there are more crimes taking place and Lottie becomes convinced that the life of a young girl is in danger.

Never one for sticking too closely to the rules Lottie goes a bit maverick in her efforts to solve the crime and locate the young girl.

In doing so will she put herself into danger.

This book is a real page turner, if I had the time it would have been a one sitting read, unfortunately things like work get in the way.

The story is addictive and fast paced. It’s not often a cup of coffee gets chance to go cold on me but I got so carried away towards the end of this book, one went stone cold.

An absolute gem of a series, and absolute gem of a book.

Pages: 446

Publisher: Bookouture

Available now

TAKE IT BACK KIA ABDULLAH

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I cannot remember who recommended this book, but whoever it was thank you.

The story is based around two main characters, Zara Kaleel, a gifted woman who finished top of Law School and landed a top job in good Chambers in London. Her life was mapped out for her, an arranged marriage, and a good job. Until she got rid of both the husband and the job, and took a job at a charity who looked after abused women.

The second character is Jodie Wolfe, a sixteen year old white girl with a severe facial deformity. The daughter of a single parent, an alcoholic mother, and living in a rundown house on a rough estate her life is not easy.

Jodie walks into Zara’s life when she accuses a group of four boys from her school of gangrape. The boys are all Muslim and from good families. They deny the accusation and give their own version of events.

Will anybody believe Jodie’s account over the four lads, and if they do, can they prove it beyond reasonable doubt.

This book is about so much more than just the rape of a young girl. It’s about attitudes, both preconceived, and actual, which are prevalent in today’s society.

The story itself is stunning. As a reader I was swayed in both directions. At different times I believed both Jodie and the four boys alternatively.

Some of the lads in this book lead a life of entitlement that their parents may have earned, but which they wrongly bask in.

The hatred that is extended to Jodie, by people who should be supporting her is unimaginable, but realistic in the way it is portrayed.

Worse still is the hostility extended to Zara by her own community.

Had the book been written by anybody else I don’t know how much emphasis I’d have put on the feelings that are running through the Muslim Community when it comes to the unwavering belief they have in the word of the young men, and the hold these young men have over their families.

I looked Kia Abdullah up on the internet, she is definitely qualified to right about this community in a way that most of us may never fully understand. But this book may go a long way to helping us.

This could have been a true story and it would not have had more of an impact on me. I felt like I was following a news story in fast forward.

It’s not often a book has me hooked as much as this one did. Thankfully I was in holiday so sitting reading all day was permissible, which was good, because once I’d started this, I was never going to put it down

Pages: 383

Publishers: HQ HarperCollins

Publishing date: 8thAugust 2019

Good Girls Lie. J.T Ellison

I don’t know if I’m the target audience for this book, but I have to say, I really enjoyed it.

Why would I not be the target audience, because it’s set in an all girls college, nearly all of the characters are female, because one of the two main characters is 16. So why did a middle aged man enjoy it so much.

Because it is one of the darkest psychological thrillers I’ve ever read.

Ash is 16, the daughter of a very successful finance manager in the UK, or she was, until she found both parents dead in their home.

Having already been accepted to the prestigious, all girls Goode College, in a small town in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Ash is looking for a new start. With the agreement of the Dean she changes her name and keeps her family history a secret. But is there more to this secrecy than just hiding her tragic past?

Outwardly a grieving, thoughtful, English teenager, Ash has the mind of someone much older, and way more experienced. Her introvert style soon catches the attention of the school cliques and she becomes a target. Her secrecy making her even more intriguing, and an obvious target for some high class bitchiness.

Her chief Nemesis is Becca, Head Girl and Queen Bee, a girl so ensconced in the schools traditions that she even has the ear of the Dean. A Dean who has inherited the post since her mothers removal, a post she doesn’t really want. A Dean whose eye is off the ball.

Ash’s life is miserable but it gets much worse.

Two sudden deaths in the school have the gossips pointing in one direction, then things get worse, much worse, but to say how would only spoil the book.

This book is a dark and twisted Psychological Thriller.

There is murder a plenty but the real shocking stuff is the way that the girls in the school prey on each other, how they think their entitled life makes them immune, not just to the rules and regulations, but also to the moralistic rights and wrongs of society.

There were times when I thought I’d worked the plot out, and how it was going to end. I hadn’t.

At 380 pages this would usually take me three or four days to read, but once I’d picked it up I wasn’t putting it down and had it finished in half the time

J.T Ellison is an American author. I’d never heard of her before, but a quick look on Amazon showed me that she has quite a catalogue. So, without hesitation, I’ve just spent some of my well earned money on 2 more of her books

What greater recommendation can I give.

Pages: 384

Publishers(uk):Mira Books

Publishing Date: 30th December 2019

The Birthday Carol Wyer Blog Tour

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Today it’s my turn on the blog tour which celebrates the publication of Carol Wyer’s THE BIRTHDAY, the first of a new series featuring DI Natalie Wood.

I blogged about the book when I first read it a couple of months ago and raved about it then. With the amount of books I read I would usually struggle to remember the plot of the book after that much time, and have to refer to the notes I made when I read it.

Not this time, I remember it as though I’d only finished it this weekend. It’s an original story that has introduced a great new character in Natalie Wood.

There was one thing in particular that struck me as showing how realistic this book was, and I mention it in my original blog. It’s how one of the characters is struck by the normality of a scene following a crime.

This just shows how much Carol Wyer knows about the people who investigate crime, and the thoughts and emotions they have.

It’s a great book and I am really looking forward to what faces DI Wood next

My Original Blog

2 years after she went missing the body of Ava Sawyer is found buried in the grounds of the Garden Centre she disappeared from during a birthday party.

DI Natalie Wood and her small team are tasked with finding answers the original team to investigate the disappearance didn’t.

But this is no ordinary missing persons/murder investigation. Now that the body has been found it acts as a catalyst for more crimes. More of the girls from the party start  to get killed and are left posed in public places.

The investigation very much becomes a race against time.

The team have to find a killer. There are so many suspects, each one looking like they could be the killer, but each of them ruled out as suspects.

Have the team missed the killer?

Natalie already blames herself for one child abduction and murder case, she worked on, being tragically unsuccessful. She wasn’t the boss on that investigation, but she is on this one.

Has she learnt from others mistakes?

The last case affected her mentally and emotionally. Can she hold it together through this case?

The characters in this book are just what you would expect to find in any police team. DI Wood is struggling to balance her work and personal life. How can she try to keep her marriage going and still conduct such a high profile and emotional case.

Her team are made up of a mix of characters who it are easy to associate with and I’m sure we will get to know as the series progresses. There are friendships and there is conflict, just like the real world.

The best thing about this story is the realism. Carol Wyer hits so many nails on the head with the observations she makes.

She brings to life the frustrations of a real investigation.

The amount of facts that come flooding in and need sorting.

Deciding on what takes priority, and the worry that the decision was wrong.

When is it right to send your team home for rest, when every minute is so vital and may literally mean the difference between life and death.

There is one passage in the book when Natalie is struck by the normality of ongoing life after a traumatic incident.

In my career the thing that always used to get into my head was the disrupted normality. A terrible fire in a bedroom that had claimed lives, yet breakfast places set in the unaffected kitchen downstairs. School coats, which would never be worn again, hanging over the backs of chairs.

Not many authors consider this, and even less describe the feelings and emotions so well. It is only a small passage in the book, but it shows the consideration that has been put into it.

This is the first book in a new series. I think it’s going to be stunning.

About Carol Wyer

Carol Wyer garnered a loyal following as an author of romantic comedies, and won The People’s Book Prize Award for non-fiction (2015). In 2017 she stepped from comedy to the “dark side” and embarked on a series of thrillers, featuring the popular DI Robyn Carter, which earned her recognition as a crime writer.

The Staffordshire-based writer now has more crime novels in the pipeline, although she can still sometimes be found performing her stand-up comedy routine Laugh While You Still Have Teeth.

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