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

DI Zoe Finch Series. Rachel McLean

This blog isn’t about a single book in a series, but about the series itself.

It’s been a long time since I found a series, with so many books already published, that I hadn’t already read. The first 5 books are available with at least one other about to be released later in 2021.

I read the first two, Deadly Wishes and Deadly Choices, over a weekend and reviewed them in my last blog, since then I’ve downloaded the other three: Deadly Desires, Deadly Terror and Deadly Reprisal, and read them one after the other.

So why has this series got me hooked?

The locations of the crimes, the area that the stories are set in is very familiar to me, around Central and Western Birmingham, areas I worked in for years.

The realism of the policing. The fact that Rachel McLean has identified how the West Midlands Police works, the fact that the Major Investigation Team are based, as they are in real life, in Rose Road Police Station in Harborne.

The main character DI Zoe Finch his a highly strung single mother of a teenage boy. The boys father is a fellow Police Officer who Zoe did not know was a married, family man, when she was having a relationship with him, the difficulties this now brings as the son navigates relationships with his mom and father, and his fathers family.

Finch ishighly strung and at times difficult to get on with, but as a character in a book she is so easy to empathise with, and like. She is great at spotting the hidden detail and second to none at spotting inconsistencies in paper trails, documents, statements, and anything that is in print.

Her team is well balanced, and a great mixture of characters all of which fit nicely into the stories.

But what has me hooked more than anything else is the running theme of the series. There is at least one Police Officer who is bent, and is linked to a local crime boss, and Zoe has her suspicions that it’s not just one officer, in fact she has a Senior Officer in her sights.

It quickly become apparent that some officers are also under investigation by the Professional Standards department, and as the series progresses they, and Zoe get tantalising close to exposing the cop at the top of the pile of corruption.

McLean has come up with a great way of showing how the bent officers are paid without raising suspicion or leaving a trail. The stories in the books are interwoven so that each one is a great story on its own, but they also chisel away at the main running theme, of not only catching the Crime Boss, but also taking down the Corrupt Police Boss, or bosses.

To say this set of stories would make a great crime series would be underselling it. These books are really good.

My only gripe would be that if I had read them out of sequence, I would never have got the impact that I have by reading them in the right order. They could but the reader would be frustrated by the references to things which happen in previous books.

As a series this is definitely a five star plus, but because the continuing story is so important each individual book would be a four star read, even though the main central story for each book would deserve more.

Publisher: Ackroyd Publishing Books 1-5 available now

Deadly Wishes & Deadly Choices. Rachel McLean

The first two books in the DI Zoe Finch Series. So, why review two books in one blog?

Because as soon as I finished Deadly Wishes I picked up Deadly Choices and just carried on reading. They are that good.

Set in Birmingham Zoe Finch is a DI in Force CID working out of Harborne Police station, and that is the first tick, because that is where all serious crimes in Birmingham are Investigated from.

In Deadly Wishes Zoe is Acting DI and is the first Senior Detective at the scene of a murder. The murder of the Assistant Chief Constable, whose retirement function she had attended earlier in the evening.

The investigation is quickly taken out of her hands, as SIO, because of internal politics, but Zoe and her team are kept as part of the investigative team.

Her team start to uncover some uncomfortable truths about the dead ACC, he’s manipulated his wife, in an overbearingly controllable way, for years. There are home improvements that have taken place, on their already expensive house which cannot be accounted for by the families finance’s. There are expensive art works that there is no indication of legitimate purchase. Worse of all there appears to be a connection between the ACC and a child abuse ring that has recently been broken.

The problem is who to trust. Zoe has at least one other Senior Officer she suspects is corrupt and has connections to a local thug who was connected to the child abuse gang.

The story is brilliant in it’s realistic simplicity. The small cast of characters which are all interconnected either by being on the right side of the law, Zoe and her team, or the wrong side of the law. Villains and maybe the odd corrupt cop.

The first book in the series had me hitting Amazon to down load book 2 the second I finished it.

In Deadly Choices Zoe, who is now a substantive DI leads the investigation into the kidnap of two children who were on a day out at Cadbury World with their mom.

Although the murder of the ACC was solved in book one, there are still some underlying issues hanging over into this story. Zoe still suspects a senior officer is corrupt and in the employ of Underworld hard man Trevor Hamm, but now she also knows that Professional Standards are onto a Senior Officer in the West Midlands Police, and in this book the investigations are going to overlap.

The missing children are the step-children of a DS working for Local CID out of Kings Norton Police Station. Step dad Ian Osman acts suspiciously from the start. But he’s a cop whose kids have gone missing, he wouldn’t be expected to sit on his hands, he would be bound to think he can do a better job of investigating wouldn’t he? Or is there another reason he’s acting like he is.

Then Zoe notices the same home improvement company that carried out the work at the ACC’s house is working on the roof at the Osman home.

Another coincidence?

These books had me reading cover to cover over a weekend, and I will admit I’m now reading book 3, and it’s just as good.

Zoe is a great character. A single mom whose 18 year old son is the result of an affair with a fellow officer she didn’t know was married. She lives in a two-up-two-down terrace house in the middle of Selly Oak, bedsit country for Birmingham University.

She’s highly strung, which is not surprising as she’s a coffee addict. Her only real vice as she’s teatotal. She plays well with people she likes, her team, but is sharp and blunt with others.

Her forte is digging deep into documents, reading correspondence, looking at bank statements and receipts, spotting inconsistencies in peoples lives.

Her team have other talents and between them they are really good at carrying out investigations into the most serious of crimes that happen across Birmingham

And the city is the other star of these stories. I’m a Brummy and I’m always surprised just how few books are set in the City. We have Angela Marsons writing the brilliant DI Kim Stone series set in the Black Country, but never make the mistake of thinking Birmingham and the Black Country are the same place.

Just like Angela Marsons, Rachel McLean uses her knowledge of the local area to bring the books to life. Setting the stories in real locations, which are just right for each story.

Not just using places that are recognisable, but places where realistically that part of the story fits.

She catches the nuances of the characters perfectly. More ticks in the boxes for great reading.

As far as I can see there are 6 books in this series. I honestly can’t see me reading anything else until I’ve read them all.

Publisher: Ackroyd Publishing. Pages: Both Books just over 400 each. Available now

Last Place You Look. Louisa Scarr

Wow. Well this one had me hooked from start to finish.

A young single woman having an affair with a married man. A boringly normal man, but a lovely man, who is about to leave his with.

The young woman is Detective Constable Freya West. She has just been attached to work with Grumpy Sergeant, Robin Butler

Her first job is to meet Butler at an address where they have to tell a wife that her husband has died in a hotel room, the victim of an erotic auto-asphyxiation that went wrong.

But during the visit Freya realises that the dead man is the man she was having an affair with, Jonathan, and she’s convinced that there is no way he would have died like that.

Her first mistake is she doesn’t tell Butler, even when it becomes evident that he was having an affair and the Sergeant is actively looking for his mistress.

Her second mistake is stealing a vital bit of evidence before it’s found by her colleagues.

But she’s not the only one with problems. Butlers sister and twin sons were killed in a car crash years ago, and soon after his release, so was the driver of the car which killed them, in another crash. Now the second “accident” is being looked at again, and Freya has been asked to go behind Butlers back to re-examine the case.

Butler is already coming apart at the seams as he struggles with memories of his sister and the twins. He is perpetually grumpy, perpetually single, with the occasional one night stand or friend with benefits relationships. He’s scruffy and just the wrong side of unhygienic, and although it’s not affecting his work, it’s affecting the people he works with.

Meanwhile Jonathan’s death is highlighted as suspicious after all. People involved as witnesses are finding their story unravel. Freya’s tenacity means Butler becomes increasingly more concerned that he was murdered, but his main suspect is the missing girlfriend.

This is a cracking story. If we were allowed to fly long haul this year, this would be the book I’d recommend for a long flight, the time would pass in the blink of an eye.

The story has everything, great characters, a marvellous plot, and an intrigue that kept me second guessing all the way to the reveal.

That one innocent lie, Freya telling Butler she knows the victim, but only as a distant acquaintance, is the first roll of a small snowball in the snow. But as the story continues the snowball keeps getting rolled and it’s getting big. Meanwhile Butler has his own snowball rolling and the two are about to come together.

I loved this book and would recommend it to any crime fiction fan

Pages: 306. Publisher: Canelo Crime. Release date: 8th April 2021

E

When The Evil Waits. M.J Lee

Ridpath is back six months after the chilling end of the last book, yes this is the latest in a series, but it can be read on its own.

Suffering PTSD, and living on his own in a Police Service flat he is looking forward to getting back to work as the Police liaison officer for Greater Manchester’s Coroner

But, his Superintendent in the MIT has a job she wants him to do, and it’s going to rub his immediate boss up the wrong way

A young boy has been found naked and murdered in the woods. DCI Turnbull is an old school, by the book, black and white kind of detective, who at first is making no leeway into the case.

Detective Superintendent Trent doesn’t like the way the investigation is going so asks Ridpath, and a small team, to look over the investigation again, and in parallel with Turnbull and the rest of the team.

Did the DI miss anything, and when he does find out about Ridpath’s secondary investigation how will he react

Meanwhile a local hack is trying to make her name and is happy to write articles for the broadsheets and the gutter press, and the police are giving her plenty of opportunity to do both, and she is becoming a thorn in everybody’s sides

The investigation into the crime in this story is really good, a young boy killed. His brother and father estranged from his mother. Witnesses doing what witnesses do, and only giving half the story. “Lucky breaks” in the investigation being prompted by hard work, and the willingness to do more than just the basics. The story flies by in a heartbeat

But what really got my heart beating was Ridpath. His thoughts, and not just in relation to the job. His suffering and the way he is dealing with loss. The adjustments he has had to make in his life, and the relationship with his daughter.

I really like this series, and I really hope I’m wrong, because the last chapter really did feel like a last chapter. Is this the end of the series. I hope not. But if it is. It’s one hell of a way to finish

Publisher: Canelo Crime. Pages: 312. Published 25th March 2021

Dead Secret. Noelle Holten

A quick tease, and an advanced heads up, for a book that’s published later this year, I want to say more but I’m embargoed.

Dead Secret by Noelle Holten. Is, without doubt, the best crime fiction book I’ve read for a while, and I seem to be saying that a lot lately, but there has been some cracking crime fiction published over the last few months.

It’s one of those rarities in a series that can be read as a standalone so when I have to give it marks on a review site I can give it all of the stars.

If you are a fan of the series this is a great addition that will carry you along on the wave Holten has created. If you are new to the series it is surely going to make you want to read the others, so if this teaser triggers an interest maybe read the first three before this one is available

So why is it so good.

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 there 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.

A great read, I can’t wait to tell you more about later in the year.

So why put this out now. Just to give you enough time to read the first three, if you want to, before this comes out

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

Published by One More Chapter.

Silent Voices. Patricia Gibney

It starts with a flashback to a boy getting pushed into a quarry lake 9 years ago.

From there the pace of this book is relentless. The first murder victim is found with her face contorted in agony, she’s been poisoned. A very old fashioned way of murdering somebody, but as a statement, because of the obvious pain of the victim, it is horrific.

But, there’s more to follow. Two more, seemingly unrelated victims killed in the same way.

Detective Inspector Lottie Parker and her team take on the latest series of murders to hit Ragmullin, the small Midlands City in Ireland.

Coincidentally, Lottie’s fiancé, who is also her DS, Boyd comes across a teenage girl who is having problems with her bike. Being the Good Samaritan he helps her sort it out, only to find the girl is inexplicably linked to one of the murder victims.

As the investigation progresses the seemingly unrelated victims start to be connected, and there appears to be a spurious link to the death of a boy 9 years earlier in a quarry.

Running alongside the story of the crimes is the story of Parker’s pending nuptials to Boyd, but as we find out in the in the prologue Boyd doesn’t turn up. The wedding is several, days after the first murder, and when he doesn’t turn up Lottie finds a note which suggests he’s on an errand of mercy that may be linked to the crimes they are in the middle of investigating

Was that act of being a Good Samaritan Boyd’s ultimate undoing.

Will the Crimes get Solved

Will there ever be a marriage

Will Lottie Parker ever get a break and find some semblance of happiness in her life.

I love Patricia Gibney’s books. I can’t believe this is book 9 in the series, they have all been brilliant.

The thing that elevates her books is the multiple strands she manages to weave into each storyline. The crimes alone are complex without being confusing. The personal lives of victims, perpetrators, and witness, along with the people who invariably orbit an investigation, are so true to life and easily believable they make for a fantastic read.

The life of Lottie’s team, and her family are always incorporated into the plot with a great effect.

Most of all Lottie herself. What a character. I can’t believe that Gibney has invented this detective without knowing somebody, or some people, that she has amalgamated to create Detective Inspector Lottie Parker. In fact I won’t be at all surprised if there’s not a lot of Patricia in Lottie.

She has really got into the head of a successful DI. The sacrifices made at the expense of her family, although she would argue not; the bluntness of character, although she would say not, but most of all the loyalty she shows to those she cares for.

This book is a great addition to what is already one of the very best crime series being written today. And the good news, I recently read that Patricia Gibney has just signed up to, write more books in the series.

Pages: 460. Publisher: Bookouture. Published: Today.

The Bodies at Westgate Hall. Nick Louth

A love triangle.

Three people shot dead

A locked room mystrey

A suspect locked within a room within the locked room

Russian Oligarchs, and conspiracy theories

If that list is not enough to get you hooked maybe this book is not for you. It was definitely for me, what a stunning read.

DCI Craig Gillard is just getting ready for what he hopes to be a quite Christmas on call.

In the Surrey Millionaire belt, the richest of the rich, Alexander Volkov, is having a very noise, very bright, party which is annoying everybody in the neighbouring village.

When a patrol car is sent to see if they can bring an end to the noise they arrive just in time to witness the murder of three people locked in a huge library.

Two of the dead are Oligarchs and it doesn’t take long for the security forces to butt into Gillard’s investigation.

The investigation is run from Surrey Police’s putrid mobile incident room, which has been placed in the grounds of Volkov’s mansion, Westgate Hall

The locals hate the Russian, and his two children, the way they blatantly disregard the law, throwing money at any problem that arises and tearing around the countryside in their sports cars and utility vehicles.

The list of suspects range from the village council members to a Russian Government assassin. Gillard really has his work cut out.

As usual with Nick Louth’s books there are some brilliant characters. Alongside the recurring ones there are some truly brilliant ones. In particular there is Wolf, the marvellous comic Russian bodyguard learning English by watching Only Fools and Horses.

This book, just like the rest of the series, had me from the beginning. I started it on a Snowy Saturday morning and sat and read it all day. It really was a read from start to finish in one go.

I loved it, for the story, the characters, and the setting. Brilliant

Pages: 288. Publisher: Canelo Crime. Publishing date: 25th February 2021

The Darkness Within. Graeme Hampton

Before you read this review I have to say that I loved this book.

So why say that. Well I first published the initial review a few months ago, and I’ve just read it back, it does read a little negatively but it’s not meant to. I can’t emphasise enough how good this story is. I was hooked from the first page and enjoyed every twist and turn right up to the last page.

Here’s that original review.

Although this is the 3rd book in a series, and the first I’ve read, it didn’t seem like it. In fact I only realised it was when I came to the end and the authors previous books are listed

Is this a good thing, yes, because it means the book can obviously read as a stand- alone, but as much as I enjoyed it, I didn’t want to go and find the previous books to catch up with the back story.

And that’s where this is a conundrum of a book to review because I really enjoyed the story without engaging with the main characters, DI Matt Denning and DS Molly Fisher.

The story starts with somebody being recognised after 30 years, by somebody else who was a victim. The red mist comes down and……that’s where the prologue ends and sets up the mystery for the rest of the book.

Retired DCI Frank Buckfield is found murdered having lived the last few years of his life in squalor. Some officers remember him fondly but others remember him as a bully who got results any way he could. 

This is followed by a serious assault on an academic. The man had been reported missing by his sister over 20 years ago and had apparently never been found, so how could he have been working in a University so recently. One look at him shows he’s much younger than the man who was reported missing and must be somebody who’s assumed his identity. But why.

The connections between the two victims seems to point back to a major robbery, one that Buckfield had made his name by arresting the major players in. 

Meanwhile a historic child abuse ring starts to appear on the periphery of the investigation. High profile men, including a Judge, and MP and a Senior Police Officer had been abusing young homeless or vulnerable boys.

As the investigation gathers pace some current Senior Police Officers seem to be against some of the lines of inquiry.

Denning and Fisher continue with the investigation against the advice of these officers, and sometimes in isolation from each other.

But are the modern day crimes connected with the historic ones. Is their a serial killer stalking the streets, or is this an act of revenge.

I really enjoyed this book. I enjoyed the story and the way the author led me down the occasional cul-de-sac where I was convinced I knew who was responsible, only to have my hypothesis wiped out several times. 

I will read the future books when they come out, but not because I’ve engaged with the characters, which is usually what hooks me into a series, but because the story was so good.

Publisher: Hera. Pages: 288. Available now.

Salt Water Graves. B.R Spangler

I can’t believe so much happens in this book, and all in 276 pages.

Detective Casey White’s life is finally back on track, until the second page. She’s late, as she says not late as in for a meeting, late as in pregnant. She’s in love, with the father and they are about to move in together. He has a great job and is up for election to his old post.

Then the first body is found, and there’s a link to her boyfriend, Jericho Quinn. Coincidence?

Not when a second body is found which is also linked to him

Could it really be Jericho, the one person she has let into her life, the one person she really trusts, or is somebody trying to frame him, or undermine his run for Sheriff

So who can Casey trust.

Then things really start to unravel. If you haven’t read the first two books in the series the impact of the rest of the story might be a bit diluted, but without giving too much away to readers who have…..there is one hell of a twist in this story.

A twist that will have Casey reeling. The physical and mental trauma she goes through in this book are nothing compared to the emotional trauma she suffers.

Each of the books in this series end on a cliffhanger, but nothing before will compare to this one.

Spangler has a way of writing that combines the cosy, small town mystery, with the darkest of psychological thrillers.

The books are written in the first person with Casey White being the main narrator so the reader is aware of every thought, every doubt, and every emotion. It’s impossible to read these books and not feel empathy for her.

So when Spangler puts her through the mill, and he does, you go with her.

An excellent read in a wonderful series

Pages: 276. Publisher: Bookouture Publishing date: 14th December 2020