The Last Thing To Burn. Will Dean

When I read this book I couldn’t help but compare it to Stephen Kings “Misery”

The story is much the same but with the woman Thanh Doa, being the captive, and the man Len, being the enforcer.

Thanh is an illegal immigrant in the UK, trafficked from Vietnam she has eventually ended up imprisoned on the remote farm of single, mommy’s boy, Len.

Lens mom is long dead and he makes Thanh not only take her name, but dress in her clothes, act like her, and even take her name.

In another comparison to Misery Thanh has been hobbled to make escape nearly impossible. To make matters worse, even though it controls the pain,Len has got her addicted to horse tranquillisers

This book is all about Thanhs suffering and it makes for a tough read. Abused, mentally and physically, she tries to survive each day, whilst looking for the impossible, a way to escape

In a nutshell that’s the essence of the story. This is a short book but it has an impact. The thing is you only have to watch the news to know this is actually happening in this country, and that makes this book very poignant.

Pages: 256. Published by Hodder and Stoughton January 2021

Little Bones N.V. Peacock

I’ve not read a book like this for a long time. It brings a whole new level to the psychological thriller genre.

I was convinced on so many occasions that I knew who was behind the crimes in his story, and every time I thought I had it, Peacock wrote a breath stopping scene that convinced me I was right; right up until the last second when I was proven wrong.

It is brilliantly written.

Cherrie has a live in boyfriend who is the father of her only child Robin.

At the end of the day Cherrie looks like any other mother in a modern, unmarried, family relationship, and although she’s in a retail job that’s under threat, all is well in her life.

Her new life that is.

Because nobody, not even her boyfriend are aware of her past.

So when a podcaster outs her as Leigh-Ann Hendy, the daughter of serial killer William Hendy, her life is turned upside down.

Not least because the reason she’s outed is because a young boy has gone missing from her neighbourhood. A young boy much like the ones her father killed, the ones he kidnapped and killed with her help.

Just when she is battling with the fact that everybody is going to know who she is, her son is taken. Is it an act of revenge against her, is it somebody who is playing out her fathers crimes, if you work it out before the reveal you are better than me.

This book is written from a unique point of view. Cherrie is the main character, she is a modern day victim, who was previously a perpetrator. The story s not just told through her eyes, it’s told through her thoughts, and not all of them make comfortable reading, but they do make compelling reading.

I have to say I’ve seen mixed reviews on this book. I’m not going to sit on the fence, I thought it was absolutely brilliant.

Publishers: Avon

Pages: 400

Publishing date: 31st October 2020

While You Slept. R.J. Parker

This is a book that evoked the emotions I used to have watching scary TV programs as a kid. The type you just had to watch but, before the days of fast forwarding through the scary bits on demand, you had to watch between your fingers.

Lily, a newly divorced single mother, has an alert on her phone. On her security camera a man is standing in her garden wearing a mask of her daughters face.

Rushing home to meet the Police Lily picks her daughter up from school. Maisie is scared by the policeman but soon settles down.

The next day Lily wakes up with a hangover, but that’s the least of her problems, she’s at home, in familiar surroundings, with all her possessions, except she’s not. Somebody has in prisoned her and Maisie within a complete replica of their own home, and there’s no way out

The only thing  that’s different are the photos in the family album. The ones that she and her ex, Ewan, took of Maisie have been replaced by ones taken at the same time, images that show Lily, Maisie and Ewan when the originals were taken.

When The mystery man from the security footage makes contact he tells Lily to obey his rules or she will be punished, and she is. The first time she annoys him he takes Maisie away for a night.

No more spoilers, this is an original and brilliant story.

If I was to liken it to any other writing I’d say it was like a cross between Stephen King and Dean Koontz at their best.

The story follows Lily as she tries to escape and tries to work out whose holding them. She examines her own memories dragging her thoughts back to things she’d rather forget.

I really did read this in two sittings, I really did read this holding my breath for way too long at times, but most of all, I really really did enjoy this book.

Pages: 257

Publishers: One More Chapter, Harper Collins

Publishing date: 24th July 2020

THE SILENT DOLLS. Rita Herron

The Silent Dolls Rita Herron

Rita Herron is a new author to me, but she shot straight to the top of my list of must read authors after reading this book.

But it was so nearly a different story. The first chapter in this book sets a scene that makes it seem like this book is going to be like a rural Lethal Weapon with the main character being a female Riggs. How wrong was I.

Thank god I went past that chapter because this turned out to be the best US crime book I’ve read for a very long time.

If you like CJ Box and his Joe Pickett books for their settings you’ll love this book, set in the woods and mountains of the Appalachian Trail in Georgia

The main character, Detective Ellie Reeves, is scared of the dark. Why? Because she got lost in the woods on the Appalachian Trail when she was very young.

Now she’s a detective in Bluff County, the home of the starting point for the trail. So when a little girl goes missing it’s up to Ellie to look for her. What she uncovers during the investigation will send ripples all along the trail, and will have consequences close to home.

The girl that goes missing is not the first, but because the perpetrator has been moving along the trail nobody has put together the spasmodic disappearance of young girls in different jurisdictions, and it takes FBI agent Derrick Fox to highlight the link to Ellie.

The problem is Fox thinks two people close to Ellie, her father and a close friend, might be prime suspects.

This is a great story, set in rural, small town, America. It has everything to combine a great crime thriller with an great psychological thriller. A hunt for a missing child in the wild landscape is made harder by the approach of an in coming winter storm, a brilliant use of the occasional local radio weather reports really adds to the tension.

Ellie is a great character, amongst a cast of equally good bit part players, who hopefully will make appearances in future books.

Will there be future books, I hope so. This is billed as the first in a series, and it does end on a hell of a cliff hanger.

Pages: 366

Publishers: Bookouture

Publishing date U.K. 17th July 2020

THE CHESTNUT MAN. Soren Sveistrup

Nordic Noir is a genre I rarely dip into, but every time I do I always say I must read more of it. This book is an example of just why I should.

What a story.

Twelve months after a Government Ministers Daughter is kidnapped, and a man is convicted of killing her, her finger print turns up at a murder scene, and it won’t be the last time it does.

When Naia Thulin is tasked with investigating the murder she’s not happy. All she wants to do is hand her transfer request in, to get away from the murder team, and join the hot unit investigating Cyber Crime.

Her day gets worse when she’s partnered up with the man nobody wants, Garry Hess.

Hess has just been returned to the team from Europol where he’s under investigation for basically being a lazy waste of space who drinks too much.

All Thulin wants to do is solve the case and move on to her new role. Hess isn’t helping, when he’s there he doesn’t seem interested, and when he is all he does is rub people up the wrong way.

But then they stumble onto something. It doesn’t make them popular with the rest of the team, and even the bosses try to divert them from their lines of inquiry.

Although thinking the same way the two hardly function as a team a and keep coming to the same conclusions working independently of each other.

This gives the reader a real twisting plot to get their head around, and with every twist there’s a shocking revelation.

I loved this book. It’s dark, and like the best crime novels it’s a great psychological thriller.

Soren Sveistrup is a screen writer probably most famous in the U.K. for the Nordic noir thriller series THE KILLING. It shows in his writing, he paints the scenes, and builds the plots brilliantly. The characters in this book jump of the page.

A cracking read

Pages: 491

Publishers: Penguin

Available now

The Pupil. Ros Carne

Mel and Natasha, two very different people at very different stages in their lifes.

Mel, a single mother of a hormonal teenage boy, a successful Barrister working out of a top London Firm.

Natasha, a young woman who lives beyond her means, shop lifts for fun, and strings her boyfriend along whilst carrying on affairs as her alter ego Lola.

Natasha has just become Mels trainee, on her second six months of training, and is hoping to be selected for a full time job, but can she curb her self destructive personality.

Meanwhile Mel is on a downward spiral, she’s struggling at work, making mistakes in court, and Natasha’s watching, not getting on with her son, and Natasha notices.

Using her alter ego, Lola, Natasha starts to flirt on line with Mels son, and at every opportunity undermines her at work.

And so it starts, a twisting turning plot of a psychological thriller.

I have to admit for the first third of the book I couldn’t make up my mind who to sympathise, or empathise with, which was really clever writing; because when the plot starts to unfold I was torn between which of the two characters I was rooting for, even though it was fairly obvious who was the good guy, and who was the victim.

I really enjoyed this book. It turned me upside down and inside out with my conscience being pulled like a tug of war rope. I love books that make me reach for google to research something. This was was different. It had me looking into my own mind. Clever, very clever.

Pages: 312

Publishers: Canelo

Publishing date: 6th August 2020

Our Daughters Bones. RUHI CHOUDHARY

When she was 12 years old Mackenzie Price came home to find her mother had killed her abusive husband. Together they buried him in the woods.

Price is a fantastic character. Stuck in a prison cell created by her own mind, a Psychological Faraday Cage that refuses to allow her happiness, she suffers constant flashbacks of her childhood, and the abuse her mother suffered before her fathers death.

When the discovery of a body takes her deep into the woods close to her fathers shallow grave she’s worried that the crime will be uncovered and that her life and career will be ruined.

But it’s not her father, it’s the body of Erica, a girl that’s been missing for a year. The high school princes daughter of a rich family there have been posters of her up around the city since she disappeared. Everybody knows her face.

At the same time her body is discovered her Best Friend Abby goes missing, the daughter of a single mother, a mother who works as a waitress in a local strip club, she doesn’t get anywhere near the attention that Erica did.

That annoys Mackenzie, what annoys her even more is she is convinced the two cases are linked, but the senior officers in her department seem determined to keep the two investigations separate, concentrating the majority of their efforts on a girl that’s been dead for a year, instead of on a girl that’s only just gone missing and could still be alive.

What’s more Mackenzies only real friend in the Department, Nick, who is leading Erica’s murder investigation is being alienated by her, and now he’s the only one who seems to be thinking along the same lines as her. Eventually they will have to work together but at what cost.

This is a very simplistic outline of the start of a brilliantly complex plot that had me hooked from the start.

As the story expands, and Mackenzie’s story unfolds, her character becomes addictive. Emotional on the inside but steely on the out, she won’t allow herself stimulants like coffee, or cigarettes. Yet she ploughs through the day fuelled by little but fresh air. It has to take its tole.

Not only has Ruhi Choudhary created, a great character she has created a great scene, a fictional city on the brink of despondency. As she says, it’s a city people are escaping from more than they are being attracted to. Hopefully it’s a Canvas for her to paint many more pictures on as we see Mackenzie fight her demons as much as the city’s crime.

Without doubt she is now one of my must read authors, and I can’t wait to see what happens next.

Pages: 409
Publishers: Bookouture
Publishing Date UK: 19th August 2020

DEAD PERFECT. NOELLE HOLTEN

Dead Perfect. Noelle Holten

The third book in the Detective Constable Maggie Jamieson series.

Maggie is one of those cops that gets things done, in her own way, and sometimes to the detriment of her relationship with her colleagues, and her friends. She rubs people up the wrong way most of the time but she gets things done. So basically she is what we all want to be. She says it as it is, ignores advice, and ploughs her own farrow.

But she is fiercely protective of her few friends, and one of those friends is Criminal Psychologist Kate Maloney. Kate is another anomaly from the norm, an Irish Goth who specialises in Criminal Profiling. She’s also one of my favourite fictional characters.

So when when a body is found that is dressed, and made-up, to look like Dr Kate, Maggie is both scared that her friend is in danger, and determined to solve the murder.

It’s not until a second body, dressed and made-up, in the same way turns up that people that other people, including Kate, start to share Maggie’s concerns

What follows isn’t just a crime thriller, or a police procedural, it’s a cracking psychological thriller.

Noelle Holten has a way of writing that makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. The suspense she builds is enough to have me turning the pages well into the night, in fact her books are the very definition of “I couldn’t put it down”

Then there’s what is becoming her trade mark. The last page twist, the last page cliff hanger.

Just when you think the story is ending, and you turn the last page. WHAM!!!

She smacks you in the face and hooks you into the next book.

Absolutely Brilliant.

This book isn’t out until October, so if you haven’t read the first two, Dead Inside and Dead Wrong, you have time. Believe me you won’t be disappointed

Pages: 400
Publishers: One More Chapter
Publishing date: 16th October 2020.

Cemetery Road Greg Iles

Greg Iles is without doubt my favourite American author. His Penn Cage series, which included the Natchez Burning Trilogy, are some of the best books I’ve ever read.

So when I picked up Cemetery Road, I was expecting a good read, and I wasn’t disappointed.

Marshall (Goose) McEwan is a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist working in Washington DC. But he returns to his hometown of Bienville, on the banks of the Mississippi, to run his ailing father’s newspaper.

Whilst he’s there he renews his “acquaintance” with a local attorney, who just happens to be married to the sun of one of the Beinville Poker Club. An Old Deep South Club that owns and runs everything in the town.

The poker club have also been instrumental in bringing Chinese investment to the town, in the form of a paper mill, money that will resurrect a dying economy.

The problem is they want to build the mill on ground that is thought to be of significant historical interest. One of McEwan’s friends, the historian-archaeologist Buck Ferris is murdered the night before the ground breaking ceremony.

Ferris had been like a surrogate father to McEwan, who’s drunken father had largely ignored him for over 30 years, and against much of the towns wish starts to investigate his friends murder.

What follows is a story of duplicity, in which the Poker Club try everything to stop McEwan, and his few ally’s, from finding the truth. With tens of millions of dollars at stake, as well as the freedom of the members of the club if the authorities ever find out the long list of laws they have broken, they are prepared to do anything to stop him.

This is a brilliant story from a master storyteller, and I love his books; but I should warn some of you that some people may find his writing a bit near-the-knuckle. There is sex and violence in this book, as there is in all of his books. But it’s there for a reason, it’s in context, it adds to the story. In fact the story wouldn’t work without it.

I have described Iles in previous blogs as being John Grisham without filters, and in my opinion that is why he is better than Grisham, and I love Grisham’s books.

Pages: 618

Publisher: UK, Harper Collins

Available now

DEAD WRONG. NOELLE HOLTEN

Two years ago DC Maggie Jamieson was a major player in putting mass murderer Bill Raven behind bars. Maggie had been the main interviewer as Raven confessed to chopping up at least 3 women, and although he named them, he didn’t say where their remains were, and they were never found.

Now he wants to retract his confessions, throwing doubt onto everything about the original conviction, including the in Jamieson’s integrity.

Then dismembered body parts start to show up. Forensic tests show that they belong to the women that Raven confessed to killing. The problem is he’s been in jail for 2 years, and the women have only been dead a matter of days. Where have these women been, and who is killing them.

The clock is ticking as Maggie tries desperately to solve the murders and tries and link Raven to them before he is released on appeal.

Maggie’s visits to interview Raven are a complete mind game. She knows it but is having trouble convincing her own colleagues, let alone the legal system.  So she turns to her friend, Dr Kate Maloney, to help with a psychological profile.

What a story. Noelle Holten is fan of Crime Fiction, and a skilled writer. This book played on every perceived conception I had as I was trying to work out who was the killer. She has written it in such a way that I was kept guessing right up to the end, and what an ending it is.

The characters are fantastic. Maggie is close to being insubordinate, yet insecure at the same time. Bill Raven is brilliantly written, as good a nemesis as I have ever come across.

This book will take your breath away more than once, but don’t relax, one of the biggest gasps comes right in the very last line of the book.

Pages: 432

Publisher: One More Chapter

Available now