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 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

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.

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.