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

Six Graves. Angela Marsons

In the blink of an eye we’re at book 16

You would think that by now the series would be running out of steam, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.

The prologue hooked me in a way no other start to a book ever has.

In places the story had me holding my breath till I was turning blue.

And the last page left me Gob Smacked and reaching for a glass of Jack Daniels.

A family dead. Mom, Dad, and two children all shot and the mother is still holding the gun.

Surely this is a straight forward murder suicide.

DI Kim Stone’s not sure. As she starts to dig into the family history she starts to uncover secrets. Helen, the mother has history of depression., but is that enough to tip her over the edge.

The team dig deeper and the clues start to surface, but it’s not just clues which are surfacing, so is a face from Kim’s past.

She receives a threat to her life. Typically she shrugs it of but this one’s serious and it has her rattled. Rattled enough to send Barney away on a holiday for his safety.

As she continues to lead the team looking at the death of the family a psychopath that is getting close, metaphorically and physically.

I challenge anybody not to read this in one sitting. It’s a book that brings a new meaning to the word tense, there was no way I could put it down

Angela Marsons has a way of writing that has always engaged with me. One of the things that her writing has is a realism that I can associate with.

It’s not just that her stories are based where I live, it’s not just the fact the characters are so realistic. It’s the empathy I have with Kim Stone.

That empathy really hit home in this book.

In all the crime scenes I attended, in all the fires I investigate, there has only ever been one thing that got to me. It was the normality of the scene. The rooms that hadn’t been affected. The rooms where it looked like the people who lived there were about to walk in and start their day.

In this book Angela Marsons captures that through Kim Stone better than anybody has captured it before.

The bar just got raised again.

Pages: 425. Audio book length: 8:33. Publisher: Bookouture Available now.

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The Fossil Beach Murders. Rachel McClean

DCI Lesley Clarke is back for her 6th outing in the Dorset Crime Series.

An earth slip on the coast near Lyme Regis uncovers two bodies. They could have been there for days, weeks, years, even centuries. When the forensic teams start the examination it reveals they’ve been there about ten years, and that they were murdered.

What starts off as a routine investigation, into what appears to be a decade old crime, quickly starts to have ramifications today.

There has been a story winding through this series. The story of a Police Officers suicide, that Clarke is becoming convinced was anything but a suicide. The story of a local businessman who is anything but the straight and narrow pillar of the community they like to portray.

The exposure of the bodies during the landslide leads to an investigation that starts to bring the story to a head.

It’s a tense, unputdownable story. Clarke is carrying out the investigation in the shadow of veiled threats from her boss, and a possible parallel investigation into the suicide of her predecessor by a journalist.

Why is her boss being so cagey.

Political issues start to raise their head as a neighbouring force refuses to release information on the current case unless they are involved.

Why won’t they share their information with Dorset MIT

This is a six-out-of-five story. Utterly compelling and a must read for any crime fiction fan

Rachel McClean came in my radar last year and is now firmly one of my favourite authors

When I read a book I keep notes for my reviews, just a list of characters and a simple outline of the plot. It helps me with these reviews, and lets me go back and remember stories later on in a series.

It is a testament to this story that I wrote the title at the top of the page, then got so engrossed that I forgot to write another word.

Print length: 338 pages. Published by: Ackroyd Publishing. Available now. Search Dorset Crime on Amazon for the series and offer prices.

One Girl Missing. Carla Kovach

Gina Harte. Now that’s a name that we should be hearing on a TV Series.

Carla Kovach has really developed this character, to say she’s been through the mill would be an understatement, but she is one hell of a Police Officer.

This story sees the Harte storyline take another twist, and it’s a belter.

The main story is always the investigation into a crime, and this one opens a real can of worms.

Two women go out for a night. A man attacks them. One of the women disappears, the other is missing.

The missing woman’s 5 year old girl is at home waiting for her mom. When the Police find her she tells them a strange man had been looking in her window.

Then the book turns really dark.

What has life been like behind closed doors.

Every house, every flat, every apartment holds its own story. Most are happy, or just plain mundane, but a few hold dark secrets.

You can’t tell these fearful dwellings from the outside. Every now and then neighbours might hear arguments and banging, and have an idea something is going on, but the truly dark houses are silent. Hiding bad things in plain sight, in ordinary neighbourhoods.

What has been going on.

Why were the women attacked, and where is the missing woman

What a way to start a book.

This is 359 pages of fast paced criminal investigation rapped up in a psychological thriller.

Publisher: Bookouture. Available now

The Box Hill Killer & The South Bank Murders. Biba Pearce

The on going police series has now reached book 5. As I only discovered this series very recently I have been binge reading it. It’s a testament to how good these books are that I am gutted that I’ve got to wait until publication day for the next one.

The lead character, DCI Rob Miller is one of those lovely rarities, a cop with no issues. A happy family man. No vices, no irritations, just a man doing his job.

His team is ever evolving with a strong core of three or four , but with others rotating in and out of his team. Every one of them is well written and just right for the role they play in the Police, and in the story.

The villains and victims are also perfectly written and evoke just the right level of anger and empathy.

In these two books the team are on the tracks of more vicious killers, but one investigation is really personal.

The Box Hill Killer.

12 years ago four people were killed by, who the press dubbed, The Pentagram Killer. When a current murder investigation throws doubt on the original investigation, of the four murders, Millers team have the headache of a current, and a historic crime being linked highlighting a miscarriage of justice.

What they don’t expect is to find a body dump, but when a cadaver dog starts to indicate possible burials in a remote area of a park, that is exactly what they find.

A great story.

The South Bank Murders

Possibly the best book in the series, and it starts with a bang.

3 men are killed in a shooting in a restaurant. One of them as a retired Police Officer who was very close to Rob and his team. In fact he’d phoned Rob on the day he was killed and asked him out for a drink.

The team find themselves involved in an investigation that involves County Line Drugs dealings centred on a rough Council Estate.

The realism of the writing in this book is brilliant. The way young immigrants are exploited to run drugs and carry out burglaries. The way the gangs Cuckoo people on the estate. People who want nothing to do with crime having to be involved because they’re to scared not to be.

Trying to work out who is lying because they are guilty, and those who are lying because they are too scared to tell the truth.

Who can the team trust. The quandary of the modern day police where estates are run by gangs who hold more fear than the authorities.

This is not just the best book in the series, it’s one of the best books I’ve read. Stunning.

Publisher Joffe Books. Pages: 332 and 298. Available now.

A Life For A Life. Carol Wyer

Carol Wyer is one of those authors who I look for. When her books are out up for review I grab them as soon as possible.

There’s a reason for this. She ticks all of my boxes when it comes to crime fiction.

Great characters, great settings, realistic stories, gritty, and no guarantee of a happy ending.

The Kate Young series has been her best so far, and A Life For A Life just takes it to another level.

Kate is made SIO when a seemingly innocent, if somewhat irritating, young man is found dead on a train station platform. He’s been shot in the head with a stun bolt, like those used to kill animals in abattoirs.

But he’s only the first victim, there will be others.

Meanwhile Kate is still trying to expose the bent Senior Police Officer she believes is responsible for the murder of her husband.

Her husband was a journalist who had been investigating a story involving high profile men abusing underage youths, of both sexes, in a sex club.

One of the underage youths had been killed by an over zealous customer whilst The Senior Police Officer was abusing a young girl in the neighbouring room. Now that girl is on the run and Kate knows she’s the only person who will have information to help her nail the dirty cop.

How far will Kate go in her attempts to avenge her husband, and how much will it affect her ability to perform as a normal day-to-day SIO.

The continuing story of Kates attempt to get justice for her husband runs nicely in parallel to the core story of this book, the investigation into the murders.

There’s another parallel that binds Kate and the Killer, but I really can’t mention it without giving a big spoiler. However when you read the book you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about, and just how clever Carol Wyer has been to use it.

This is crime fiction at its very best. It also shows why U.K. Crime Fiction is so popular and successful right now.

Fast paced, realistic crime, that just grips the reader and takes them on one hell of a ride.

A brilliant read.

Print length: 363 pages. Audio Book: 10 hours 5 minutes. Publisher: Thomas & Mercer

The West London Murders and The Bisley Wood Murders by Biba Pearce

Books two and three in the brilliant London based crime series.

DI, or Acting DCI, Rob Miller is a great character. In his personal life he is the quiet man who seems almost shy. In his professional life he is thought of as the quiet but efficient background officer.

But in the first book of the series he was given a chance to be the SIO on what appeared to be a run of the mill murder. This turned out to be anything but run of the mill, and his ability as as leader, and as an investigator shone through.

It’s no surprise that he is given a second run at SIO in book 2, The West London Murders, when a man is stabbed to death in what appears a random attack.

As the investigation gets going it soon becomes evident that the National Crime Agency was aware of the man. Rob and his team are asked to lay of the main suspect as the NCA have him as one of their main targets in a County Lines investigation, which could lead to a major drug gang being taken off the streets.

When another death is linked to that of the first victim it becomes apparent that neither murder has anything to do with the drugs gang, and that a murder investigation is the Mets priority.

Rob is reunited with Jo Maguire, now working for the NCA, they both have their own priorities, Rob the murder investigation, Jo the drug gangs and their suppliers.

Can they play nicely and satisfy both of their bosses, can they solve the murders without jeopardising the drug investigation.

Just as intriguing, where will their own relationship go, now that Rob is in a very unstable marriage.

In the third book, The Bisley Woods Murders, Rob is made SIO when a young girl goes missing. A body is found but it’s not that young girl, it’s another one, and she’s been buried for years.

When the girl who Rob was initially tasked to find turns up safe and well it’s not the end of the investigation, because by this time a body dump has been found, and the team are looking for somebody who has been killing young girls for years.

How has this not been picked up before? It’s a testament to Pearce’s writing that I never asked that question. The flow of the story is brilliant, and realistic, it highlights how easy it is for mass killers to go unnoticed.

From the start the investigation is hampered in the most unexpected of ways. But this leads to the discovery of the burial sites. It also throws the investigation team down blind alleys in the investigation.

The frustration of the team is only added to when it becomes personal for one of their number.

Can the murdered in London be linked to The disappearance of Jo Maguire’s sister nearly 20 years ago.

I came late to this series, and I’m loving catching up.

It’s like that TV series you didn’t catch first time around and now you’re binge watching it.

It’s compulsive. The crimes are really well conceived and realistic. The setting, the London Suburbs is perfect for the story. Most importantly, for me, I can engage with the characters.

Rob Miller is brilliant, he is just an ordinary man, a bit shy and a little insecure in everything except his commitment to an investigation. His personal life is in turmoil. As the series starts he is engaged to a high maintenance girl who, in everyday terms is well above his punching weight.

By the second book they are married but in a very unstable relationship. In typical man style he ignores the situation at home to concentrate on his cases, but his home life is always on his mind.

And then there’s Jo. A career focused young woman who Rob finds solace with, and both of them would want more if he wasn’t married.

There are conundrums in the investigations and Robs personal life that keep these stories going at just the right pace.

A great series.

Publisher Joffe Books. Print Length: 266 & 338 pages. Available now

The Thames Path Killer. Biba Pearce

DI Rob Miller is somewhat of an anomaly amongst Police Detectives.

He comes across as shy and a bit insecure. Conversely, in his private life, he is engaged to an ex underwear model who now works on a beauty counter at Harrods.

When the body of a woman turns up on a secluded path Robs boss gives him his first major investigation as Senior Investigating Officer, all his other DI’s are busy.

But Rob is good, and the small team he gathers together are just as good, as well as being dedicated and supportive. Which is more than can be said for his fiancé. She hates him working outside “office hours”

The age old struggle between a detectives home life and their professional life is brilliantly portrayed in the interaction between the pair.

When another body is found it’s inevitable Rob will start to spend many late hours at work, but with pressure coming on him to solve the murders Rob is determined to see the case through as SIO.

The pressure mounts when a team from Lewisham MIT are drafted in to help and it has DCI who is taking charge of the case.

The DCI is a young woman, on fast track promotion, known to be the star in the eye of the Senior Ranks in the Met.

How will she and Rob work together, what will the dynamics of the newly formed team be.

This is a fantastic story by an author I have only just discovered. The book is the first in a series, and I’ve just downloaded the rest of the series onto my Kindle, and once I’ve reviewed a book I’m committed to reading next, I will read the rest of the series straight away.

I read in a review of this book that the rape murder scene was too explicit. That it could act as a trigger for victims of abuse.

I have no doubt it could be a trigger, and I would warn any reader that finds the subject difficult to skip the pages covering that part of the story.

But graphic, I don’t know, I’ve read a lot worse. Yes it is there, and it doesn’t leave the reader in any doubt about what’s happening, but if the one or two pages were taken out the book would lose a part of the story that gives it that psychological thriller hook.

The crime and the investigation is the main part of the story. But I love characters, you can have the best story in the world, but if the characters are weak, or poorly written, the story doesn’t work for me.

The story, and the characters in this book are great.

I can’t wait to read the rest of the series.

Print length: 210. Publisher Joffe Books. Available now