The Corfe Castle Murders. Rachel McLean

I would say this is the start of a new series but actually it’s more of a spin-off from McLeans “Deadly ….” series set in Birmingham

In this series DCI Lesley Clarke is seconded to Dorset, to recover from her injuries suffered during a Bomb attack in Birmingham

But if she thought she was in for a gentle introduction, to a quiet life, she would be very disappointed

24 hours before she is due to start her new duties she is the first Officer on a the scene when a body is discovered at an archaeological dig. This body is fresh, in fact it’s one of the team carrying out the dig.

The investigation into the murder takes Clarke and her new team into the world of academia, the murky ways of a wayward Professor, who has a liking for young ladies, and the money involved in funding major projects.

The crime investigation is a great story but the way McLean has used it to set up the next books in the series is brilliant.

Clarke herself is a great character, abrasive with a colourful approach to language. She is used to working her teams flat out in a busy metropolitan setting.

What she finds when she arrives in Dorset is a way more laid back approach, and her main man, her Sergeant, is something that she has never come across before.

DS Dennis Frampton is set to be one of the great DS’s in current crime fiction.

Frampton is a church going, throwback who seems to still think Policing is a mans job, and to Clarke’s horror, he employs a swear box in the office.

I think this is the first spin-off series I’ve ever read, and certainly the first I’ve commented on. It works. Clarke was a strong, if occasional, character in the previous series, and she certainly deserves an outing in stories of her own.

The move from writing stories based in a big city, to ones based in the slow pace of the Dorset countryside has also worked. The setting for this book is stunning and fits the story perfectly.

But perhaps the biggest gamble on Rachel McLeans part was hitting the right note when it came to integrating a successful City cop into a County Force. The obstacles that Clarke has to overcome, without being the big “I am”. The relationships she needs to form, especially with DS Frampton.

But that gamble is the reason the book has worked so well. McLean has dealt with it all perfectly. I can only hope this is the first in a long series.

Pages: 352. Published by: Ackroyd Publishing. Available now to preorder Published on 15th July 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

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