The Body In The Shadows. Nick Louth

The latest in the DCI Craig Gillard series and another great read.

A series of events, including an attack on Gillard’s wife when she tries to intervene in a pick-pocket incident, starts to uncover rumours of a crime about to take place.

The consistencies in the rumours are only the date and the value of the gains £1.5 billion.

With not much else to go on several police forces become involved in the investigation into a crime that has not yet happened.

To say what that crime is would be a bit of a spoiler, as much of the first 3/4 of the book is taken up with the team identifying the players and what crime is about to be committed.

This is not a unique way of telling a story but it is less common these days and I found that I really enjoyed that aspect of the book.

Gillard and his colleagues build various hypotheses of what is about to happen, and each one of them is a possibility.

So if they know a crime is about to take place, and they have an idea of some of the people involved, what could go wrong.

Actually quite a bit. The problem is a minor crime, in comparison, is leading the team a bit of a dance.

This is a great story that I find it hard review without letting spoilers slip.

The basis of the story is great, the characters are brilliantly written, and the pace of it is perfect.

All in all, a really good read.

Publisher: Canelo Crime. Pages: 287. Publishing date: 19th January 2023

Their Burning Graves. Helen Phifer

Detective Morgan Brookes is back in the 8th instalment of this series.

One of the things I like about this series is the fact that the lead character is a DC and as such is unburdened by the management of an investigation. She is a cog in a machine that relies on all of the cogs working together towards the same cause, but only managing one line of the investigation.

The isolation of working that single thread, and taking her thoughts and findings back to the regular team meetings is what sets her apart.

Morgan is a huge crime fan, loving true crime documentaries and books, as well as some fictional crime.

She has a way of seeing the hidden meaning, the motivation for a crime, before most of her colleagues. It doesn’t mean she’s always right, but her hypothesis are fascinating, and if they are dispelled still aid the investigation by narrowing down the lines of inquiry.

In this book she’s the first investigator on the scene of a serious house fire. A family of three is dead inside, but not in one of the burned out rooms, in fact there isn’t even any smoke damage in the room in which they are found.

The fact that they are all sitting at the dining table, with plastic bags over their heads, and each with a hand missing, only adds to the intrigue.

Morgan and the rest of the team are soon embroiled in an investigation in a tight knit community within a small town.

Nobody can be ruled out, but he closer the investigation gets to identifying the killer the harder it’s seems to be.

I loved this book. The prologue chapter telegraphs the motive for the killing, but the link, and the identity, of the killer is cleverly hidden right up till the last couple of chapters

Morgan is a great character, as are the main recurring characters. It’s her addiction to crime documentaries and books that originally got me hooked, after all it could have been me that was being written about, but the books and the stories now demand my attention.

This is one of those series I now look out for. As soon as one’s available they go straight to the top of my to-be-read list and become my next read.

They never disappoint.

Pages: 265. Publisher: Bookouture. Publishing Date: 19th December 2022

In the interest of being transparent I must admit to having a vested interest in this book. I gave advice to Helen Phifer on the Fire Scene and the involvement of the Fire Service during the investigation.

I’d like to thank Helen for the generous mention in the acknowledgements section and the choice of name for the Brigade Fire Investigator in the book.

Blood and Money. Rachel McClean

This story is the first in a new crime series by one of my favourite authors. The start of a series of stories set in Scotland with the newly formed Complex Crime Unit.

But, I don’t know if it is the beginning of a new series, I think Rachel McClean is weaving a set of stories where the characters overlap, and I’m loving the trail it’s taking us along, and I really can’t wait to see where the final destination will be.

We’ve had the Birmingham Crime series. One of the, recurring characters, in that set of books, DCI Lesley Clarke was transferred to Dorset and became the lead character in the Dorset Crime set of books.

Now DS Mo Uddin another side character from the Birmingham books has transferred to Scotland and is now a lead character in the latest set of books.

None of the previous two sets have been finalised, with the latest in the Dorset set due to be published early next year.

Other characters are also brought into this latest set, which gives it a familiar feel, whilst opening up new possibilities.

This story is set around a murder in the wilderness around Loch Lomond. An American Billionaire, who come to his estate on the Loch to have isolated “thinking time” is out on a walk in the early evening.

He’s shot at long range, the bullet hitting just above the knee. It’s not a kill shot but it’s enough to allow him to slowly bleed out, or die of hyperthermia before he’s found. Either way it’s a slow and lonely way to die.

It’s the first case for the newly formed Complex Crime Unit, with its SIO DI Jade Tanner, and her newly acquired DS Mo Uddin, and their small team.

The Units boss Detective Superintendent Fraser Munroe has also insisted on a civilian team member. Criminal Psychologists Petra McBride, another side character from both previous sets of stories, but what is she really there for. To give her insight into the crimes the team investigate, or to analyse the team themselves.

This is a great standalone story, it’s also a great introduction to a new “series”; but for me it’s another thread in an incredible story that started in Birmingham, has threads in Dorset, and has spread to Scotland.

Pages: 348. Available now

The DI Declan Walsh Series Books 1&2 . Jack Gatland

I was browsing book sites looking for a new author when I found the first book in the series, Letter from the Dead being offered as a free book on Amazon.

Not one to turn down a cheaply I loaded it onto my Kindle, and I’m glad I did.

Letter from the Dead introduces DI Delan Walsh, an Officer who is on the brink of leaving the Police following two recent events, one disciplinary, the other the resolution of a case that saw him braking a corruption ring in his force.

The hatred from many other officers he can deal with, the fact that he punched a Priest has resulted in his suspension and possible dismissal.

But he’s approached by DCI Munroe. His team of City of London Officers are made up by people with similar issues to Walsh. His ethos is some problem cops are just to good at their job to be allowed to slip away. They specialise in old or cold cases.

So when new information is received about the apparent accidental death of a Politician’s nearly 20 years earlier the team investigate exactly what happened

What follows is a multilayered plot that takes in the possible murder and introduces recurring characters that will turn up in the series.

Politicians, Police Officers, Gangland criminals, all take major roles as do their friends and families.

The investigation of a historic crime, involving politicians has huge impact. 20 years on some have moved on from politics, and not all in a positive way. Ones homeless, by choice, one’s an internet preacher, and one has changed his political allegiances. But what are they running away from.

This is a story about manipulation and consequences, and it’s a great vehicle to start the series.

The second book, Murder of Angels, is one of the most complex stories I’ve read for a long time, but it’s a cracker of a read.

Parts of two Cities, London and Birmingham, are run by traditional, old school villains, but they are being slowly threatened by the younger gangs, youths that have less respect for people in general. In this case the problem is exacerbated by the fact that it’s the sons of the old gangsters that are trying to take over.

Declan and the team of misfits are spread thin covering crimes in both cities as part of a joint investigation.

The concept of this conflict is again historical. Things that happened 18 years ago having a huge impact on today, and it’s the mysteries of the past that the team need to get to the bottom of, to get to solve todays crimes.

As complex as the book is there is never any doubt of its credibility. The story is brilliant.

The characters in this series are really good. Walsh is totally engaging. His history, and his father’s history are going to have a huge impact on the series.

If you like multi-layered books with a compelling ongoing thread, this is definitely a series not to miss

I really can’t wait to read the next book, but I have commitments to other books, and I’ve got work to do so it will have to wait for a week or so.

The Guilty Girl. Patricia Gibney

If you are a parent that has had children who have already passed through teenage years, this book will bring back memories of all the fears and trepidations you felt.

Patricia Gibney is particularly good at tapping into raw emotions. Her books always seem to come from the heart, and be laid on foundations of experience that brings a reality which is unrivalled when it comes to the angst and emotions of the characters.

This book is no exception. In fact it stands out as a brilliant book, in what is already a brilliant series.

The angst of youth. Wanting to be a part of everything, whilst being torn between what is right and what is wrong.

The dangers some youths are exposed to in their hunt for acceptance, or their version of “the dream”

The vulnerability of youth, hidden by the false shield of the hard exterior.

Lottie Parker is called to a murder. A young girl held a house party at her parents house, the next day she is found dead amongst the detritus of the party.

Why was Lucy killed.

Another girl Hannah is hiding something, and Lucy seems to have found out about it.

Parker starts to uncover disturbing evidence that indicates that somebody is taking advantage of young girls.

Evidence starts to stack up, and then one boy, who should know better admits he was at the party, Parker is infuriated.

The story in this book is so current it’s frightening. It’s frightening to realise that things like this are going on. We all read about these crimes in the newspaper, online, or hear about them in the news, but Patricia Gibney makes them so much more relevant to us by adding the emotions of the victims, witnesses, and investigators.

I look forward to every book in this series and have never been disappointed. This one lifts the bar again, I can’t wait to see where she takes us in the next one.

Print Length: 507 pages (according to Amazon). Audio book 14 hours 38 minutes Narrator Michele Morgan. Published 15th June 2022

The Lost Ones. Marnie Riches

Well if you are looking for a detective with a difference this is the book to find it in.

Detective Sergeant Jackie Cook. A hormonal woman in the third trimester of an unexpected pregnancy who has: A waster of a husband who contributes nothing but dreams of being a rock star. Nine year old twin sons doing their best Fred and George Weasley impressions. A mother who lives in the basement with her David Niven like boyfriend. The occasional visiting bohemian artist father.

On top of all of that her colleagues blame her for letting the glory seeking, queen detective, DI Venables get the rank of Detective Inspector because she’d stood down from it.

Oh and there’s a series of gruesome murders to solve.

Cook and her partner David Tang are assigned to a murder where the limbless torso of a young girl has been posed in a beer garden.

It’s not the usual gang related murder the team are used to dealing with in Manchester, and it’s not the last body with bits missing that is coming their way.

The story develops as more bodies are found. Each either missing pieces, or being discovered as just one piece.

Cooke and Tang are under pressure, Venables is preening her feathers and wants a quick arrest of who she thinks is an obvious suspect. Cooke and Tang know she’s wrong.

This story is stunning, and has introduced one of the quirkiest characters I’ve read for years.

Cook is a force to be reckoned with, but she’s also a vulnerable woman.

She’s blunt, likes to give the occasional kick in the shin, loves her job, but has real problems balancing her work and home life.

As the story gallops on she finds herself having to merge both worlds, but the result is not what she expects, or is it.

A stunning start to what I hope will be a great series.

If you are a fan of Marnie Riches you are not going to be disappointed. If you are only just discovering her you are in for a real treat.

Publisher: Bookouture. Pages: 324. Audio Book 11 hours 6 minutes. Narrator Helen Duff. Available now.

Devils Chimney. Adam Lyndon

Billed as book one of the Detective Rutherford Barnes series, and hopefully it’s going to be a long series.

Two uniform PC’s are out at night looking for the person responsible for a series of burglaries. They come across a home which has been broken into and chase down the man they see outside.

The home belongs to one of the officers, Harriet Holden, a message scrawled on the wall is a direct threat.

The man is taken into custody and yells another threat “I know who you’re f….ing. No one’s going to miss you. You can jump into the fire but you’ll never be free..

Whilst the burglaries suspect is in custody Holden goes missing, and is later found murdered and mutilated.

Her partner on the night, the arresting officer, a young PC, Rutherford Barnes, is drafted into CID to help with the case, and is soon embroiled in a case that has many twist and turns.

The story is set in 2001 and it’s the perfect time period to start this series.

Technology is starting to race ahead but the era still has DNA in its earliest use, mobile phone tech at it’s basics, and policing still suffering some of the biases the police suffered before forces started to address them in the 90’s

Barnes is a strong character with a firm moral compass, and he needs it for this case.

Set on the south coast a criminal is forging his own “empire”. People come under his influence, people who should know better.

Barnes trusts people, but that naïvety soon gets eroded and a stronger willed copper develops

This is a great story. At over 450 pages is a long read by todays standards but, as they say, time flies when you’re enjoying yourself, and this book seemed to fly by when I was reading it.

Pages: 451. Published by: Joffe Books. Publishing date: 23/6/2022

The Binding Room. Nadine Matheson

This book is so much more than a crime novel.

Nadine Matheson has taken a cracking crime story and wrapped a clever plot full of politics around it.

The politics of race, family feuds, political interference and so much more.

A Pastor is murdered in his Church.

The SIO, DI Anjeclica Henley is looking around the scene when she finds a small locked room with the body of a young, white, man bound to a bed. Everybody thinks he’s dead until the Pathologist arrives and finds he’s alive.

The family of the Pastor have an overinflated view of his importance, and perceived celebrity.

The young man is unidentified.

The Pastors wife is infuriated by the fact that the Police appear to be putting more effort into identifying the man from the locked room, than into the murder of her “celebrity” husband.

The wife involves the local MP who sees an opportunity to attack the already stretched Police force, accusing them of racism.

What she doesn’t realise is that DI Henley is SIO and that she is Black. In fact by “rattling the cage” and insisting on a press conference she has the opposite effect.

Suddenly the Pastor has gone from murder victim to possible abuser, with is past life being dragged up by police and press.

All the time another person is being held captive, their bones are being broken, they are being denied food and drink. Is it too late for her to be saved.

A great read, as much for the personal and professional struggles some of the characters go through, as for the crime itself.

Pages: 512. Publisher: HQ Release date: 7th July 2022

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

When The Night Ends. M.J Lee

As a Coroner’s Officer DI Ridpath has different legal powers under the Coroners legislation.

In remission from Cancer, and on what some people see as light-duties, Ridpath is still attached to one of Greater Manchester Police’s Major Investigation Teams, whilst working for the Coroner.

So when an Inquiry is formed to look into a death in a custody cell everybody, including the Coroner thinks Ridpath might want to take a back seat, but he’s happy there is no conflict of interest and insists on carrying out investigations in preparation for the inquest .

But then the questions start. Why was the Post Mortem carried out so quickly, why was the body cremated before the toxicology results came back. Why were so many important witnesses ignored by the investigation carried out by the IPC, and why are some of those witnesses dying.

The Custody Sergeant on the night of the death was a good man, every copper liked him. He’s been cleared by two internal investigations of any wrong doing.

It’s a step too far for most of Ridpath’s colleagues in the MIT, another investigation of a good cop who has been left festering at a desk for three years.

I don’t know why this series flies under so many peoples radar. I often get asked who my favourite authors are and M.J Lee is always one of those I mention, which is usually followed by the answer, “Oh, I’ll look him up”

This is a great series. Ridpath is one of the great fictional Police Officers being written today.

His ongoing story, the moralistic conflicts he finds himself in are great reads

The fact he works to different legislation whilst also having a Police Warrant Card, gives murder and suspicious death investigations a different angle from most Police procedurals.

This is a great addition to a great series.

Pages: 403. Publisher: Canelo Crime. Publishing date: 9th June 2022