THE ESSENCE OF EVIL Rob Sinclair

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I loved this book, not because its set in my home city of Birmingham, not even because the main character is wonderfully flawed, or because the story is brilliant, even though all of those are true. I loved this book because it is at least three stories in one, all wonderfully woven together to make a story that will stay with me for quite a while.

DI Dani Stephens, what a character, is returning to work in the Homicide Team of the West Midlands Police after two years off following an injury.

Dani is returning after being attacked by a killer, who nearly took her life, and worse still it was her twin brother.

As she returns she is immediately involved in a murder investigation, one of the strands of the story, but she is teamed up with a friend as joint SIO. Is this part of her rehabilitation into the team, or is she just not trusted?

Talking about rehabilitation, that’s the second thread of the story. In flash-back chapters we find out how she was injured, and are taken through her two years of rehab, the first six months of which were in hospital as she recovered from a Traumatic Brain Injury.

The third strand of the story is how she received the injury, the relationship  she now has with her twin brother who is serving a life sentence for murders he committed.

Dani is a great character, fiercely independent to the point of pushing everybody away. Paranoid to the point of hysteria, and mucked up in the head by the medication she is still taking, even though she should be cutting back.

So when she develops a theory about the murder she’s investigating it’s not surprising that nobody takes her seriously.

As Dani carries on her investigation she starts to doubt herself, has the brain injury robbed her of the one thing she loves in life, the ability to do her job; or has she got it all right, and should everybody else actually be listening to her instead of doubting her.

This is a belter of a book.

I love complex, dark stories, that could all so easily be real, and this book sits firmly in that category.

 

Pages: 394

Publishers: Canelo Hera

Release date:  12thSeptember 2019

FEAR IN THE LAKES Graham Smith

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The beautiful DC Beth Young is back, and back with a sickening crime to investigate.

A man has been attacked in his home, nearly every bone in his body has been broken in a systematic attack. What is even more disturbing is the reveal of how the attack took place.

As the man fights for his life in hospital Beth tries to find his attacker, but the motive for such a specific attack is evading her and her small team, and it doesn’t help that the man’s wife knows nothing about his early life.

With such an unusual crime it is a surprise when another victim is found with similar wounds.

The team continue to struggle to find any leads until they get a break……but that would spoil the book, so I’ll leave it there.

Graham Smith has created a great character in Beth Young. I if you have read any of the previous books you will know that her beauty is mired by a wicked scar on one side of her face. It happened before she joined the police and the police never caught the person who bottled her in a pub, but she got a look at a distinctive tattoo on the neck of one of the men who was fighting when she got in the way and received the injury.

She’s been looking for that tattoo  since she joined the police. This has formed a great back story through the series, and the cliff hanger in the last book was she found her man. But what is she going to do about it?

This forms a brilliant backdrop to the main story in this book. How does a cop get revenge for a crime that happened to her years ago…….again no spoilers

This series is set in the Lake District, and area which most people consider a nice quiet area of countryside to holiday in. Graham Smith looks at it from another angle. Transient communities, big isolated houses, remote areas where nobody can witness crimes. It is an ideal place to set a crime series, and Graham uses it to its full extent.

Don’t be fooled by the setting. This is not some cosy-crime story. This is a full-on story of a terrible series of crimes that would rock any community. It is a terrific read.

Pages: 356

Publishers: Bookouture

Publishing Date: 12thJuly 2019

CHILDS PLAY Angela Marsons

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As if this series needed a hook to get you into a book. Yet Angela Marsons has started this one with the most original, and toe curling, murders of the series.

The book starts with a murder in a kids playground. It’s a bit of a mystery where this murder fits in as its set years before the main body of the book, but fit in it does, and it’s part of a brilliant mystery.

Moving forward to the present day Kim and her team are called to a murder in a local park (and when I say local its where I take my dog for a walk most days). The murder victim is posed and the murderer has left a signature, but what does it all mean.

Kim lets her team work to their strengths. Stacy is set to work trawling the internet, whilst Kim and Bryant hit the streets.

The newest member of the team, Penn, is called back to his old team, and the story that unfolds for him is every Police Officers worst nightmare. Has he put the wrong man in jail. This story alone would have made a great book.

Kim is also fighting the Brass in the Police force. Owing to recent reviews showing that officers are burning out, along with the constrictions of austerity, she is forced to make her team work the case on a 9-5 basis, she and they hate it.

To make up for the lack of Penn, and the lack of available work hours, Kim is given a new officer, a 24 year old PC called Tiffany, who is a bubble of energy and enthusiasm. At first Kim, and Stacy, try to reject the help but soon realise they are stuck with their new yappy (and for us from the Black Country Yampy) puppy of an officer.

As the bodies mount Kim’s team are stretched to the limit. Will burn out claim any of them?

Book 11 in the DI Kim Stone series and again Angela Marsons has given us a brilliantly crafted book.

It’s no secret this is my favourite series in the crime fiction genre. I do wonder sometimes if it’s because the books are set where I live, but then I read the blogs from other reviewers around the world, and realise that if they were set in Mongolia I’d still love the stories.

Angela Marsons has created a fictional team in a real world. The crimes she writes about are all too realistic. The worries and concerns of the Police Officers, the Victims, the Witnesses, and the Criminals are written in a way that lets the reader engage. Empathy and sympathy for some characters, and anger at others are emotions which each of the books evokes aplenty.

In my very first blog, about my life and how reading has been my companion, hobby, and at times escape, I recall how I read all of the Sven Hassle war books on my first ship. I wrote how when I’d finished the series I felt like I’d lost some friends. I don’t know when this series is going to end, I hope not for a while yet, but I have the feeling I’m going to miss Kim and her Team just as much, and probably a lot more.

 

Pages: 397

Publishing Date: 11thJuly

Publishers: Bookouture

The Girl In The Grave Helen Phifer

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Introducing Forensic Pathologist Beth Adams. A woman in her mid-thirties who carries the physical and mental scars of an event that happened 7 years ago.

Beth is a great character, she is living in a big house on a lake, in solitude, avoiding unnecessary contact with strangers. The house has the best of security systems and even a panic room. As the main story unfolds a second story describing the events of 7 years ago are told explaining why Beth is so introvert and reclusive.

Having said that she is beginning to come out of herself with the help of a few trusted friends, and one of her best friends is DS Josh Walker.

So when Beth is sent to the scene of an exhumation of a recently buried woman, where a second body has been found underneath the coffin, she is glad to see Josh is there as the head of the Police team.

The investigation into the death of the young woman found in the grave gives Beth a chance to flex her brain, and ignoring her fears, she starts to look at the girl’s death and how she ended up in the grave.

This leads to a closer working relationship with Josh, and Beth actually starts to feel normal again for the first time in years.

Just like all crime thrillers this peace of mind doesn’t last long. Somebody is stalking Beth and starts to leave her little surprise presents.

This story runs along at a cracking pace. It’s a Police Procedural, with Josh and Beth, being the lead characters. It’s a psychological thriller with the stalking of Beth, and the pressure put on her by the crimes which take place during the investigation.

It’s also an introduction to a series which I can’t wait to develop.

The character of Beth is brilliantly written as a vulnerable yet determined woman.

The story that Josh brings is just as enthralling. I had a lot of empathy for this guy.

There seems to be more crime series than ever on the shelves at the moment, and I have to admit to yearning for more one offs where I could just read-and -forget.

But, there is plenty of room on my shelves for Beth Adams, not only will she always be welcome, but I’m looking forward to meeting her again.

Pages: 264

Publisher: Bookouture

Publishing date: 16thJuly 2017

The Liars House Carla Kovach

 

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A murder involving a participant in a “partner swapping” party, but how and why did the victim end up walking home alone?

DI Gina Harte is faced with the questions, but this murder is also going to make her face her past, and hope that it doesn’t ruin her future.

Gina Harte has a secret that most of her team don’t know. She was the victim of domestic abuse at the hands of her husband, abuse of the worst most degrading type. Her husband has been dead for years but the memories will never go away.

When the team start digging into the lives of the people who attended the party they find that not everybody is a happy participant, and that’s enough to bring the memories of her past flooding back to Gina, but she can usually handle those memories.

Not this time. This time there’s a link to her past which will threaten Gina’s sanity, let alone her ability to act as the SIO for the investigation.

To make matters worse Gina has been using a dating app and has a very attentive man who just won’t take no for an answer.

Another party, another victim, and more pressure on Gina.

This book is not just the story of a murder investigation. This story looks at the effects domestic abuse has on people long after it has been made to stop.

It looks at the effects of a dominant partner coercing a spouse into doing things that they’d rather not, but end up doing to save a relationship.

It looks at the pressures put on Police Officers, who most people take for granted as they are “just doing their job”.

There is a lot going on in this book. To say I read it in one sitting would be a lie, but I didn’t get much else done from the time I first picked it up, till the last page was read.

This is the forth outing for DI Gina Harte. I really enjoyed the previous books but this one is the best. Can it be read as a stand-alone? Yes. It’s written so well that the back story is filled in so a new reader doesn’t miss out. But please read the others, its one hell of a series.

Pages: 337

Publishers: Bookouture

Publishing Date: 2ndJuly 2019

BOLD LIES. Rachel Lynch

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DI Kelly Porter is back for her 5th outing in this cracking series. This time the crimes aren’t just focused on her patch in the Lake District. This time the crimes are connected to London and Kelly’s old team are investigating.

Kelly has a close knit team covering the North of the Lake District, and she has a close knit series of friends who support her when she’s on, and off, duty.

So, when one of those friends finds the body of a man on a boat he has been restoring Kelly and her team start their investigation, little knowing how far reaching the investigation would be, and who would end up being involved.

As the body is found in the Lake District a hit is made on an underground chemistry lab in London, and 2 respected research chemists are killed. It’s not long before a link is made to the three deaths and Kelly’s Team start to work with their colleagues in London.

So what is the link between the three murder victims, what were they working on, and who wanted to stop them.

The Police are not the only ones investigating the crimes, a freelance journalist is also on to the story, and as Kate travels south to work with the London team, the journalist heads north to follow up on her lead.

As the investigations continue more people are put at risk. The high tech approach of the Met is shown in stark comparison to the hands on local investigation of the Lakes team. Can they, between them, identify the motive for the killing, and ultimately the killers.

Rachel Lynch’s stories are always well narrated around a central cast of characters and are set in a beautiful part of the country. By branching out and sending Kelly back to London in this book she has introduced a whole new dynamic to the books. And it’s not just the crimes and the countryside that’s different. A bit of Kelly’s previous life is coming back and trying to get to know her, making working life in London very unhappy, will it affect her work? Will it affect her relationships back home?

This book is about more than the murders at the beginning of the book. It’s about power, and influence. It’s about relationships, past and present. It’s about Kelly’s new life, and her old, and many other strands that make this book one that I didn’t want to put down.

Will the crime get solved, will Kelly’s old life return to ruin the new life?

This is a great read, the whole series is stunning. Can it be read as a stand alone. Yes, but some of the nuances of the story might be missed if you read this before reading the others.

Pages: 313

Publishers: Canelo

Publishing date: 27th May 2019.

DEAD INSIDE. Noelle Holten

 

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A few months ago I heard that one of the staff at a publishers I follow had written a book. In fact I began to hear a few mentions of DEAD INSIDE by Noelle Holten.

I had to read it, but I was worried, what if I didn’t like it. I talk to this woman a lot and do book reviews for some of the authors she’s responsible for. This could have been nasty.

Wrong, wrong, wrong. I should have known better. If you represent the authors Noelle represents, and write the reviews she puts on line of other books she reads, I should have known she loves the same type of fiction as I do.

But she’s gone one step further than me, she’s written a book, and what a book!

Dead Inside is going to be up there with this year’s top releases.

Noelle has written this book in a way that not many, if any, other books I’ve read have been written before. Although it is billed as “Maggie Jamieson Crime Thriller Book 1” there is no real lead character. Everybody seems to get equal billing and the story is brilliant for it.

I was trying to find a way of explaining this and eventually came up with the analogy that the books characters are like those from a TV soap, everybody is important to the story, when it’s their turn they are front and centre, but it’s the story that takes precedent. The plot is lead chronologically by the character that means the most at that time. So although Maggie is a thread throughout, she gets no more or less page time than anybody else. I really like this style.

So who is Maggie, well she’s a DC who has been moved from a Murder Investigation Team in Staffordshire Police to a new unit. Why has she been moved? Her back story indicates that she was heavily involved in a serial killer investigation, and that maybe she suffered a bit during that investigation.

The newly formed team is the Domestic Abuse and Homicide Unit, and is a multi-agency team set up to quell the growing problem of Domestic Violence, and the deaths associated with it, across Staffordshire.

When the team was set up I would imagine that they thought the Homicides would be mainly women who had suffered abuse at the hands of their partners. So on Maggie’s first day it’s a bit of a shock when the body of a man who was an abuser turns up.

The team start an investigation as the man was known to them and involve the Probation Service in their inquiry, as he was also known to them.

A big part of this story is a group of people that represent a section of society we all know exists but hopefully never have an involvement with.

Women, a lot with drink or drugs problems, gravitating to men with the same problems, or men who will exploit those women when they are at their lowest ebb. Women who get abused physically and mentally, and when they find the courage to move on, nearly always end up in another abusive relationship.

In this story one woman should not be in that category, she should know better, she works with women that suffer abuse, then she goes home and behind closed doors she becomes one of the abused. At times the sections of the story that looks at Lucy and her Husband are hard to read but compelling at the same time.

As the bodies start to pile up another character is introduced to the team. Dr Kate Maloney is a Criminal Psychiatrist, a young Irish woman who dresses in full Goth clothing and has a tongue as sharp as a knife. What a character.

Maggie works the case and introduces the rest of the team as the investigation continues. All of the team have their opinions, and as the book moves on their individual characters are laid open for the reader. Each of them is realistic and everybody who has ever worked in a team will recognise the dynamics, there are some we will love, and there are others who will infuriate.

The story continues with more violence in the almost incestuous community of abusers and victims.

The Police battle against the closed nature of the group and the absolute denial of some of the victims.

But somebody out there is doing something about it, and the way they’re doing it is murderous. Spine-tingly murderous.

So now the abusers are becoming victims will anybody have any sympathy for them. How will the investigating team deal with looking out for peoples safety, when they have been trying to take them off the streets for years.

This book had me hooked from start to finish. It had me holding my breath and making out-loud exclamations. It had me reading way past my usual bedtime and then waking up early to carry on and find out who was safe and who wasn’t.

I had sympathy for the victims of abuse, and at the same time I was frustrated by their lack of helping themselves, and their constant denial of there actually being a problem. Yes, it is very real.

Like all good books it ends on a cliff hanger. One that I really didn’t see coming, but which opens the door for Maggie Jamieson Book 2.

In a strange way I would love to have come across this book after 3 or 4 had been published so that I could have binge read them.

But I am really chuffed to have been in from the start. I hope I’m about to ride a wave that includes many a venture for Maggie and her team.

Noelle Hurry up and write the next one please.

Pages: 293

Publisher: Killer Reads

Publishing Date: 31stMay 2019….Just in time to buy for a the summer holiday books.