Under A Dark Cloud. Louisa Scarr

A closed room murder with a twist.

The room is a van, on top of a multi-storey car park, in Reading, in the middle of a storm.

TV personality, and Storm Chaser, Dr Simon Sharp lies multilateral in the van full of high-spec tech. With him, alive and unharmed is Dr Finn Mason. The van is locked from the inside and Finn is refusing to come out unless his best friend is called.

His best friend just happens to be DS Robin Butler of Hampshire Police.

Butler arrives and Finn is taken from the van. But what has happened inside. The local police think they have a nailed-on case of murder with Finn as the only logical suspect.

Butler admits that is the case, but still thinks it’s out of character for his friend, until he starts to dig, and then he realises Finn is not the person he thought he knew so well.

Meanwhile Butler’s side kick DC, Freya West is tasked to help new Acting DS Josh Smith with the investigation into the death of a homeless man found in an abandoned freezer the morning after the storm.

Whilst concentrating on her own case she worries about Butler and soon finds herself helping him try to work out why Finn might have changed so much, and why he might have killed a fellow scientist in such a grisly manner.

This is the second book in the DS Butler series, and just like the first, it’s original and intriguing.

The storyline had me coming up for the occasional breath between chapters. It’s simple, yet complex.

The frustrations Butler feels when he realises he doesn’t know his friend as well as he thought he did, and in some way has let him down, is really well written into the plot.

The relationships between Butler and Finns family is stretched. The building friendship with his DC, Freya, is addictive.

The story as a whole had me not must hooked, but left me wanting more. Always a good sign.

Pages: 297. Publisher: Canelo Crime. Published on: 9th September 2021

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

The Cliff Top Murders. Rachel McLean

The speed that Rachel McLean turns books out would usually be a red flag to me, but in this case I would be very wrong. Her books are not only good, they’re addictive, and as far as I’m concerned, the quicker she publishes them the better.

Her first series, set in Birmingham was brilliant. This, her second series is a spin off from that, and is just as good, if not better.

DCI Lesley Clarke is on a sabbatical from the West Midlands Police after sustaining an injury during a bomb attack in Birmingham. She has been seconded to a Dorset Police for a quite rehabilitation. The problem is there are murders that need solving even on the idyllic prehistoric coastline.

When the body of a young Lawyer is found at the foot of a cliff it’s not immediate clear if it’s the result of an accident, suicide, or murder. It soon becomes apparent it’s murder.

Still struggling to form relationships with all of her team Clarke is frustrated by their insular approach and the snails pace the local pathologist works at. But one relationship she has formed outside of work is going to become a problem on this case.

When a second body is found at the base of another cliff it throws up more questions. One of which is posed by one of her new colleagues, and it relates to the death of her predecessor.

In the Birmingham series one of Clarke’s DI’s uncovered police corruption on an epic scale, is it about to happen all over again in sleepy, but affluent Dorset.

Midsomer Murders meets Line of Duty but one hell of a lot better.

Please don’t read this as a standalone. Look through Amazon and pick up the first book in the series. The Corfe Castle Murders you will love it and get so much more from this one if you do.

If you want to spend a bit more money, and invest a bit more time, look for McLeans Birmingham Series starting with Deadly Wishes, it’s a cracking set of 6 books set in Birmingham and will give you a gateway into these Dorset books.

Pages: 342. Publisher: Ackroyd Publishing. Available now

A Cut For A Cut

DI Kate Young is a brilliant detective. She gets investigations solved. She gets on well with her team, in the main. But she’s flawed, and I mean really flawed.

Her husband was murdered and she was one of the first cops on the scene.

Now she’s having trouble letting him go, in fact she’s talking to him, and she’s beginning to get caught by others and the excuses are running out.

Is she up to carrying out a major investigation. She’s about to find out.

The first body is found dumped by a reservoir. Killed, raped and has MINE carved into her back.

The method of killing is very specific and would require training in martial arts.

When a second body turns up with the same method used to kill them, and the same message carved into them, it is obvious that they have a serial killer in the area.

Kate starts to see links to a previous case, but is that just what she wants to see, is the voice in her head influencing her decisions.

The links she wants to see will implicate a Senior Officer in the death off an underage boy at a sex party.

Her husband was investigating corruption within the Police, and connections to sex parties.

Is reality blurring with whatever Kate has going on in her own mind.

There are connections but if Kate doesn’t get things right people are going to get away with hideous crimes.

The main investigation in this book is the series of murder rapes from which the book takes its title.

The running story of Police corruption bubbles along really nicely adding a great second dimension to the book.

But it’s the third dimension that lifts this book to the levels of must be read, best seller.

Kate Young is brilliant. She is battling demons in her mind. Carol Wyer has really got into her thoughts. At times you would swear Young is talking to a person that is in the land of the living, and then you realise she’s talking to her dead husband.

At times it’s like she’s trying to reason something out, but she’s using her husbands voice as the prompt or counter argument.

That gives this book a real edge.

At times I was concerned for Kates sanity, at other times I was impressed with her deductive reasoning, all the time she is on the very edge of sanity.

Her team are brilliant. They support her throughout but even they are beginning to have concerns.

I love Carol Wyer’s writing. Her books always hold me from page one, and that in itself brings me concerns. Every time I start one of her books I wonder if it’s going to be the one to disappoint. It’s never happened yet. She is the very definition of raising the bar with each story.

This series, is her best series yet. Her best characters, her best crimes, her best stories.

I can’t recommend this book highly enough.

But be warned, not all of Carol’s books have a happy ending, or an easy ride for all of the characters.

Pages: 365. Publisher: Thomas & Mercer. Available now

https://amzn.to/3pCnXyX

In Dark Water. Lynne McEwan

I hope this is the start of a long series.

The main character DI Shona Oliver, known as Wee Shona but never to her face, is brilliantly fierce, tenacious, loyal, and has her own ethical compass to steer by.

So when, as a volunteer Lifeboat crew member, she helps recover a body from the Solway Firth, it’s no surprise that she wants to be involved in the investigation of how the young woman ended up in the sea on the border of England and Scotland.

Because the body is landed in England it shouldn’t have anything to do with her team, CID in Dumfriesshire, but they soon get involved in a cross border investigation.

Her boss has promotion ambitions, his wife has political ambitions, and he is leading a high profile, Scotland wide, drugs bust. The last thing he needs is Wee Shona and her small team mucking it, and his potential promotion, up. But is there more to it than just his professional integrity.

Another body.

Shona doing her best dog-with-a-bone act.

The boss getting fractious.

Something has to give

This is a great story to start what promises to be a great series. Shona is a strong character, and she needs to be. Her previous life as a DI in The City of London Police, gives her far more experience than most.

Her childhood in the roughest part of Glasgow, with a drug addict mother, gives her a hard edge.

Her family adjusting to moving from London to the Scottish Borders, and bringing their own secrets with them.

Her small but efficient team, with their own personalities and egos, needs managing.

All of which, along with a seriously impressive crime plot, make this a fantastic book.

Publisher: Canelo Crime. Pages: 274. Publishing Date: June 24 2021

Deadly Fallout. Rachel McLean

The last book in this Birmingham Crime series is an absolute stunner.

This whole series has been heading towards the final half a dozen chapters in this one book, and the suspense that builds up throughout this story makes that finale even better.

I only found this series about 6 weeks ago and read the first five just in time to read this one when it was published.

All six books have really good independent stories with DI Zoe Finch as the main character.

But the star of the series is the ongoing investigation into Police corruption, and the link between the corrupt officers and Gang Boss Trevor Hamm

In this story, as Finch prepares to give evidence against a corrupt ex colleague, a burglar makes a grim discovery in an empty house in a one of the posher parts of Birmingham, Sutton Coldfield

When the identity of the body is discovered Finch’s team gets pulled off the investigation

When another body is found, in one of the most deprived areas of Birmingham, Chelmsley Wood, her team are reassigned to that investigation.

Then the dominos start to drop, in lines, towards one central point where the last ones will all crash into each other with a hell of a bang.

Line one, Zoe’s teams investigation into the second murder.

Line two, the court case of the corrupt Officer

Line three, the Professional Standards Departments investigation into just how far the corruption goes.

Line four, the investigation into the death of the man found in the house.

Finally line 5, Zoe Finch’s private life. A single mom of a teenage boy, she lives in a two-up-two-down terrace house in the middle of all the student houses in Shelly Oak. She has a boyfriend she wants to be with, but because of his job in Professional Standards, can’t be, and an alcoholic mother , she doesn’t want to be with, but sometimes can’t avoid.

As the domino lines start hurtling towards the inevitable crash in the centre the book flies by so fast that the 403 pages seems to go in the blink of an eye

The book is brilliant, as are all of the others, but this is one of those series where, to quote Aristotle the “the whole is greater than the sum of the parts”

Loved the book, loved the books, loved the series even more.

Pages: 403. Publisher: Ackroyd Publishing

A Bad Bad Thing. Elena Forbes

Everything comes at a cost

DI Eve West is on suspension after her DS was killed during a botched raid on a house they should have been nowhere near.

She gets a lifeline from a very unexpected source, but it’s going to cost her. She has to prove a mans innocence, a man who has been in prison for 10 years.

So, an unexpected deal with an unexpected source of information, and that leads to an unlikely partnership.

Journalist Dan Cooper runs Journalists 4 Justice. He is about as close as you can get to gutter press as it comes, or so it seems when Eve first meets him.

The crime they have to investigate together is a murder, the murder of a young woman that worked amongst the horse trainers of Surrey, and what a world that takes us into.

The story is a complex, twisting plot, that ultimately leads to a breathtaking final few chapters.

I have to admit that I think this is the first Elena Forbes book I’ve read, and having looked her up that’s really surprised me. She has a long back catalogue, and every one of them are now on my to-be-read list.

In this book she struck the balance perfectly. The story is gritty enough to be a real page turner, yet it’s so realistic I would not have been surprised to read this in a newspaper, or true crime book.

The characters are perfect for the story, especially Eve. Enough remorse for the loss of her DS, enough arrogance to think she is being treated harshly, and ballsy enough to take an opportunity to work with people she would usually see as sitting on the other side of the fence.

This is the type of book that would have me sitting round the pool ignoring everybody around me on holiday. The type of book that would make long flights fly by, if this was a normal year.

If you are looking for a cracking crime thriller, this is for you, but warn the people around you they are going to be ignored for a couple of days.

Pages: 448. Publisher: Black Thorn. Out Now

20/20. Carl Goodman

DI Eva Harris is one hell of a character. 27 years old, a cybercrime specialist who is on rotation to get experience, but she already has a great back story.

Eva is special, in many ways, and if you can get past the fact she is a DI at such a young age you will love this book. Especially if you are a fan of the TV series Line of Duty.

There are multiple strands to this story. One of them is the fact that it’s not a coincidence that Eva is doing a rotation through the Surrey serious crime team. She’s been laced there to find a leak, a bent cop who is feeding organised crime syndicates information on ongoing investigations.

But that is one of the smaller storylines, the main one is the hunt for a murderer.

In the depths of Surrey there is a gated estate where the rich shy away from the public. The estate is the realm of successful business people, footballers, and increasingly rich foreigners.

When the first murder happens on the estate Eva is sent to investigate. A woman tied naked to a chair, her blood drained, her eyes removed with surgical skill.

Evas investigation will lead her to some strange places that may are the domain of the rich and bored. She encounters some tremendous characters.

Along the way the different strands of the story occasionally cross, but never confuse. There is a constant pace that makes the book hard to put down, and then there are the last few chapters.

No spoilers but they are brilliant.

I have to say that Carl Goodman has created one of the best new characters I’ve read for a long time. With her young age, and her tenacity, I can only hope that this is the first in a long series.

At the moment it looks like this book is initially only going to be available as an ebook and audio book, published on the 16th June. I really hope it gets a print run. If it doesn’t, and you haven’t got an ebook reader, it would be worth buying one just to read 20/20

Publisher: Hera. Publishing Date: 16th June 2021

Dead Secret Noelle Holton

Dead Secret was published yesterday, and I’ve been chomping at the bit to tell everybody how good it is. Now its my turn on the reviewers blog tour, I can do just that

First of all this is book 4 in a series but it can be read as a standalone without losing any of its impact.

What makes this book so good?

The characters, the storylines, everything, are so well written. They are written by a person who has working experience with the people she writes about. That makes things very, very real

She also gets the incestuous nature of crimes, about how when major crimes happen, there is only a small group involved.

There is nobody better at writing about domestic abuse and the way it affects people, the way that if it’s not addressed things can spiral, yet the victim is often the one witness who doesn’t want to come forward.

In this story there’s a murder, a kidnap, and a domestic abuse crime, all, happening at the same time, and apparently unrelated. But are they?

The three crimes are all investigated in their own way, the paths of the investigation cross at times but isn’t it just coincidence?

The main character DC Maggie Jamieson is still mentally and physically exhausted from the last case. Her guard is down and a journalist, she actually fancies, is trying to worm her way into her affections.

But the journalist is also getting information from a source within the team, not Maggie, but everybody wants to know who, and suspicion is flying.

One of the crimes leads the team to a horrific, unbelievable, conclusion.

I started the book on Saturday night and would have read it in one sitting had I started it early enough in the day. As it was I didn’t put it down till silly o’clock in the morning, and picked it up with my first cup of coffee Sunday and sat till I’d finished it. 

I mentioned that this is the fourth book in the series. I’ve already reviewed the first 3.

#1 Dead Inside. #2 Dead Wrong. #3 Dead Perfect.

They were all good, but this one, for me, is the best so far.

I said something in a tweet when I first read this book, and I stand by what I said.

This book is destined for the top of the best seller lists

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