FIRST BLOOD. ANGELA MARSONS

First Blood.  Angela Marsons

 

For those of us who are already hooked by this series, this is a great prequal. For those of us who haven’t read any of the DI Kim Stone books, this is a great introduction to the best crime series on the shelves right now.

Either way this is a brilliant read which will have people turning the pages at a feverish rate.

First Blood takes us right back to the formation of Kim’s team, and her first day at Halesowen Police Station.

It’s a last chance scenario with Kim having made too many enemies to be accepted at most nicks in the West Midlands.

However she has an ally she knows nothing about, somebody who has known her for many years before she joined the force, and has kept an eye on her career since she joined.

This story looks at why Kim is a bit of a pariah in the force. She is definitely an acquired taste to work with, but her conviction rate should out-weigh that.

On her first day she meets her team. DS Bryant, a middle aged man who should be at least a DI at that stage in his career, so why isn’t he, and how will he react to a young DI.

DS Kevin Dawson, and I’d forgotten what a pain in the behind he was when the series first started. A man capable of disrupting even the most evenly balanced relationship, and certainly not a team player.

Brand new DC Stacey Wood, a shy almost naïve, young woman whose hidden talent is soon found to be “data-mining” from a desk. Not what DS Dawson considers to be real policing.

The first day should be an easy welcome session, but a body is found staked out on the Clent Hills. The body has been stabbed, decapitated and had the genitals removed.

Kim judges the team by how they react to the scene, and as the investigation goes on, she watches the dynamic of the team, how they work, how they bond, all the time sussing out their strengths and weaknesses. At the same time Bryant, Wood, and Stacey are doing exactly the same.

At times the team, and Stone, have as many questions about each other as they do about the case. One of the team decides to research Stone’s past and makes some startling discoveries. Will this affect the way she’s looked at?

The solving of the crimes is the main thread in this book; but just as enthralling is the thread that explores the team members and how they reacted to each other when they first meet, and during this first investigation.

I loved this book from cover to cover. It can be read as a stand-alone, or the first in a series, or as I look at it the latest in the best series there is.

The book fills some gaps and explains the relationship between many of the characters in the series, not all of them on the team.

There is a saying “There is only one chance to make a first impression” In this book we see those first impressions as the team is brought together.

But this book is a contrary to that saying. This is a second chance for those of us who follow the series to have that first meeting with Stone and the gang, and it’s absolutely brilliant.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dying Truth Angela Marsons

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What a way to start a book. The prologue see’s DI Kim Stone struggling with a broken leg as she tries to warn people not to enter part of a building where she knows they will be in mortal danger. But who are the people running into the building and what exactly is the danger.

Cut to chapter one, a few days before the prologue. The death of a young girl at a posh, private school.

It’s classical mystery writing technique but, I don’t think I’ve ever read it written in a better way.

As the story builds Kim is supported by all her usual crew, trusty Bryant, laddish Wood, and the quiet Black Country Lass Stacey. Will any of these be charging into danger at the end of the book.

The team are investigating a suspicious death at the private Heathcrest Academy. A private co-ed school, where the elite of midlands society send their children to study alongside sporting, and academic, high achievers.

Not surprisingly amongst the students there are secret societies that have seen generations of the same family pass through them. The societies employ horrific initiation ceremonies and even more horrific discipline methods.

When the body of the first victim is found, after she apparently committed suicide by jumping from one of the highest points in the school, Kim and Bryant are the first Officers on the scene.

Kim is not happy with the circumstances of the death and her suspicions are bourn-out when Keats carries out the autopsy and confirms that the girl was murdered.

The investigation is thwarted at every turn by the family, who are trying to hide their own secrets; by the school, whose principle will only entertain suicide as the cause, as murder would be bad for business; and by the students, who are either in one of the secret societies, or are scared of the pupils that are.

As the story unwinds Kim has to turn to an unlikely ally for advice, which itself holds dangers which I’m sure will hold recriminations.

As the body count begins to rise, and the climax of the book gets ever closer, the tension rises. Right up to the end it’s impossible to find out, or guess, who is running into danger, and how it will play out.

When the end comes it is no anti-climax. I had already read quotes on twitter where people said the they were left “broken” at the end, and that it was an “emotional ending”.

I thought I was ready for it, but no. It is emotional, and I was broken.

This is book 8 in the DI Kim Stone series. It can be read as a stand-alone novel, and it works well as one, but to get full impact read the others.

I was lucky enough to find Angela Marsons when the first Kim Stone novel was released, and have been onboard from the beginning.

I am a prolific reader and I can think of no bigger recommendation than, every time an new book in this series is made available, I put down whatever I’m reading and read what Stone and her team are up to. This one was the best yet.

Roll on Book 9

Pages: 399

Publishers: Bookouture

Publishing Date: 18th May 2018.

The Lost. Mari Hannah

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Marie Hannah has long been one of my favourite Authors. Until her Kate Daniels series I was not much of a fan of British Crime fiction, but once I read The Murder Wall she had me hooked.

Mari changed tack and started a new series a couple of years ago, with The Silent Room, and I was worried, until I read it, that it wouldn’t be as good as the Daniels books.

Now she is starting a fresh again. This time with the first book in the Oliver and Stone Series.

The Lost introduces us to DS Frank (Frances) Stone. The third generation of Police Officer in her family, following her father and grandfather. She is a no nonsense brash but likeable officer.

DI David Stone is a more complex character. Returning to his home county of Northumbria, after a successful career in the Met, he has taken a reduction of rank to move home. He carries a secret that haunts him to the point of distracting him. Moving up from London he has moved into his late grandmother’s cottage which can best be described as near derelict, but he shows no signs of renovating. Is he here to stay, is he punishing himself, is it an excuse to keep people at bay from his personal life.

Working with Frank Oliver keeping people at bay is going to be very difficult. She is fiercely loyal, but wants to know everything.

The first case they work together is complex. A young boy goes missing whilst his mom is on holiday with her sister. The boys stepfather is supposed to be looking after him. When the au-pair and stepfather both think the other is picking the boy up from football practice he goes missing, and the stepdad has no choice but to report it to the police.

It’s not a case Stone’s team would usually be involved with but Oliver convinces him to take it on.

What follows is a series of crimes based around the family. A family where nobody seems able, or willing, to tell the truth. The mother is a controlling figure who looks down on her business man husband. The husband is addicted to drink and drugs, and his business is going down the pan.

Even the au-pair is not what she seems and leads the investigation team up an avenue that includes blackmailing old clients.

So who is the target of the crimes. The family or the Au-pair.

Before the end of the book more than one life lies in ruins, and at least one person is dead.

This is the start of a great series. Oliver and Stone are fantastic characters and Mari Hannah is one of the very best writers out there. And by “out there” I don’t just mean the UK.

Pages: 416

Publishers: Orion

Available now

Kill Me Twice Simon Booker

 

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Kill Me Twice      Simon Booker

When this book popped up for review there was two things that immediately attracted me, the synopsis, and the authors biography.

The book did not disappoint.

I like books where the crimes and happenings are not seen from the Police point of view. The person outside the investigation, the witness, the victim, the person who discovers a crime and is affected by it, or is not believed, the wrongfully accused trying to clear their name. Some of the best books I have ever read have been narrated by, or had the main protagonist, that have come from one of those groups.

This book involves a few of those in its list of characters.

Morgan Vine is an investigative journalist who has succeeded in annoying most of the legal profession, including the police, by publishing a book about miscarriages of justice. So when she, and her 20 year old daughter, Lissa, are attacked whilst walk some cliffs it is safe to say she is not the Polices favourite victim. Strangely during the attack Lissa has her hair set alight with the attacker using a zippo lighter, so distinctive in sound, but so common in use.

A few days later Morgan visits a 27 year old single mother in the Mother and Baby Unit of the local prison. The woman, Anjelica Fry, is incarcerated for murdering her baby’s father and setting his flat on fire with the body in it; but she is adamant she is innocent and believes that Morgan can prove it.

As Morgan begins to consider the case her daughter becomes more and more withdrawn, and emotional. Dealing with the case and her daughter is stressing Morgan out.

When an incident occurs that makes Morgan and Lissa move out of their home on the beach, and into a local hotel, Morgan begins to believe Anjelica’s story.

As the investigation continues Morgan meets some fascinating characters.

Woman released from the prison who have secrets to keep, and babies to feed.

Prison Officers with secrets in their past

A Prison Governor purportedly running a clean and successful institute

A forensic Dental Odonatologist with a reputation second to none

A flirting Police Inspector

And a very handsome temptation in the way of Ben Garmiara a Fire Scene Investigator.

Without giving away too much of the plot Morgan begins to think that the body found in the fire is not Karl, Anjelica’s baby-father. How will she prove it when the top Odonatologist has given evidence in court identifying the body by his teeth.

Trying to convince the original investigating team is impossible. Morgan turns to the flirtatious DI Neville Rook, who has taken a shine to her since investigating the attack on her and Lissa on the cliff, though even he is underwhelmed by her thoughts

Lissa still becomes more withdrawn as Morgan’s investigations continue. Could she be involved in some way and is her mother’s blindness to this putting her in danger.

When a recently released prisoner and her child turn up at the same hotel as Morgan and Lissa are staying in things take a twist for the worse.

With seemingly nobody believing her Morgan carries on until she finds one ray of light. Ben the Fire Investigator, but is he too good to be true.

The end of this book is every bit as enthralling as the beginning, and there is not let up in pace and enjoyment through the middle either.

Simon Booker has written a great story that interweaves several strands all of which you know will come together, and they do.

As a Fire Investigator myself I was ready to suspend my own knowledge to read this book, but I didn’t have to. There are some points in this book which most people will take for granted, but there are a couple of little things in here that made me sit back and go, “WOW, he really does know what he’s on about”

It’s the attention to detail that makes a good story.

Simon Booker has more than created a good story, he’s created a credible story.

For me they are the best ones.

Pages: 448

Published by: Zaffre

Available on Amazon for pre order

Publish Date: 24th August 2017

BLOG TOUR THE LOST CHILDREN HELEN PHIFER

 

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Helen Phifer Blog Tour  The Lost Children

A few weeks ago, I was lucky enough to get an early look at this book. I admit until then I had never heard of Helen Phifer, but I will be on the lookout for her books in the future.

What made this book special?

Helen has managed to write a book which captivated me, not just with the story, but the characters in it.

So often in modern writing one is sacrificed for the other, or the book becomes overly long, not this one. It strikes the perfect balance. The story is a page turner from the start, but just as much as the main story-line, I invested in the characters.

From DI Lucy Harwin, the dyed-red-haired, tattooed single woman who is estranged from her husband and daughter; to the very glamorous Dr Catherine Maxwell, the Pathologist, all the Police charters are intriguing. In fact I think Dr Maxwell would make a tremendous protagonist in her own series.

The victims and perpetrator of the crimes are equally as enthralling, and mysterious. Helen has taken as much care about the characters on the peripheries as she has on the main ones, and that means there was no way of working out who the perpetrator was by the balance of the amount of time they got on the page.

The one thing that makes this book stand out is the correct use of terminology, and the believability of the Police Officers and the way they work and interact with each other. There is a letter from the author in the back of the book. In it she drops out that she works for the Police. I don’t know in what capacity but the fact that she is immersed in that world shows in her writing.

So, if you want a realistic, enthralling Police Thriller, with a cast of characters who you are going to want to meet again, then this is just the book.

I’ve put my original review below here. I’ve just read it again. I think my enthusiasm for this book, and the series to follow speaks for itself.

 

 

The Lost Children

I jotted something down in my note book really early into reading this book.

Refreshing, an author who knows current police procedures and terminology”

 That little note reflects why this crime thriller stands out from many of the others on the shelves today.

That and the fact that there is a full cast of excellent characters surrounding DI Lucy Harwin, work colleagues, family, and even the victims and their families, all add to the eclectic mix of people she encounters on a daily basis.

The opening to the book is going to be familiar to some readers. There have been a few books partially set in the care homes and institutes of the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s recently.

And why not, every year there seems to be another case of historic abuse associated with these establishments.

This book stands out though. Helen Phifer has written a thriller in more ways than one.

The main protagonist, DI Lucy Harwin, is a little bit out there. Dyed Red hair, tattoo’s, and an attitude. Divorced from her husband, estranged from her teenage daughter, and living alone. On forced gardening leave following her involvement in a tragic serious incident, we meet Lucy at her counselling on the day she is supposed to start back to work.

Unfortunately for her a gruesome murder is waiting for her on her return to the usually quiet seaside town of Brooklyn Bay. What a setting for a book, once a prosperous seaside resort, now struggling with the recession and lack of holiday makers.

Lucy has a good team, some of which we get to meet in detail, but others who play interesting little bit parts, hopefully they will start to build in future books.

Lucy’s mainstay, and probably her best friend is DS Mattie Jackson. They have one of those relationships where they both know a little bit too much about each other, care a little bit too much for each other, and act like an old married couple without actually ever being in a relationship.

As the murders start to stack up, the once happy seaside town starts to look like a dangerous place to live.

Lucy and Mattie, and their team, start to link the crimes. At about the same time the reader will start to link two or three characters with being the murder.

Helen has written this book teasingly well. Yes, I knew who the killer was early, well I thought I did. It was always one of the three people but gentle little shifts in the story had me moving from one to the another regularly. If I’m honest I didn’t actually positively identify who was responsible for the crimes until the last couple of chapters.

I recently wrote a blog about Angela Marsons DI Kim Stone books.

In that I said you don’t always need a cliff-hanger finish to make you eagerly await the next book in the series. The best series are those which have a cast of characters that make you want to read about them again. To look forward to seeing how they have fared since the last book.

That’s exactly how I felt at the end of this book. I loved the story. I loved the characters. I loved the setting. I loved the fact that it was written by somebody who works in the police, see the letter from Helen at the End of the Book, so all of the phrases and techniques are current and accurate. Most of all I’m looking forward to meeting Lucy, Mattie, Col and the rest of the Major Investigation team; Jack and Amanda the CSI team, and most of all the glamorous Pathologist Dr Catherine Maxwell again in future books. There is so much potential for these characters that each could take a turn at being the main protagonist, and the series would still move forward nicely.

I have a list, on my computer, that I call UK Lady Killer Writers. I look forward to each of their books coming out.

 

Angela Marsons

Marri Hannah

Marni Riches

Robert Galbraith (I know but we know who she is)

 

There is now a new name on the list. Helen Phifer.

 

What a night that would be. Sat around a table with that little cohort drinking Red Wine or Jack Daniels, and nothing to do but talk about crime thriller plots.

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Angela Marsons Kim Stones Series Looking forward to DEAD SOULS

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So, the latest Detective Inspector Kim Stone novel by Angela Marsons is available for pre-order on Amazon.

Why is this great news?

Because she is my favourite author, and not just mine. Within a couple of hours of her announcing it was available, on twitter and Facebook, the book was at number 16 on Amazons sales list. This was no surprise as it was recently announced that she has sold over 2 million books worldwide.

So, what makes Angela so popular. I can’t speak for everybody but here’s why I like her books so much.

The most important thing, to me, in a good story is its believability, it has to be real. Angela’s stories are. There is no over-exaggerated, unrealistic crimes. Everything you read is something that could, or has, happened. Yes, the crimes would make it to the front pages of the local paper and onto the local news, but there are no over-the-top, sensationalised, story lines which would have the general population in a panic over national news headlines.

Each story is self-contained, so the books can be read as stand-alone novels, but an outstanding cast of characters run through the them. I have found myself liking the most unlikely of people, getting conned into thinking some are nice, reliable people, only to find out they are the complete opposite, and actually hating others.

Characters that have bit parts in one book reappear in others.

All of the characters, especially Kim Stone and her team, are developing throughout the series. Books don’t always need cliff hanger finishes, they just need characters you want to meet again.

Every time I pick up a new book in this series I look forward to the character’s stories as well as finding out what crime has been committed and who’s responsible for it.

Then there is always the setting. The Black Country. I know some of the appeal in these books, for me, is that they are based around where I live. But that’s not the main thing, it’s the way Angela captures the places, and people of the region. You don’t have to live here to appreciate that. Greg Isles is also one of my favourite writers but I’ve never lived in Natchez on the Mississippi.

Why does the Black Country make a good setting? because it has everything. There are low social-economic housing estates and edge-of-the-country piles worth millions. There are every possible combination of nationalities, and the communities they develop. There are out of town shopping malls, and there are run down market towns. There are people who are the salt-of-the-earth and there are out and out scumbags, and everybody in between.

The possibilities are endless, as is Angela’s story telling ability.

The books are a testament to Angela Marsons and her persistence. She has been writing for years and suffered God knows how many rejections by publishers.  Now she is one of the UK’s top selling crime authors and is going from strength to strength.

 

How good are these books? Silent Scream, the first in the series, was published by Bookouture in February 2015. Now, in March 2017, we are eagerly awaiting DEAD SOULS, the sixth book in the series.

If a publisher is willing to bring that many books to the shelf in that short a time, the stories must be good.

So, if you haven’t read any of the books in this series yet, and you want to know why I Iike them so much.

I’ve put some links below to my reviews of the first five.

Treat yourself, you won’t be disappointed.

 

 

https://nigeladamsbookworm.wordpress.com/2015/07/26/silent-scream-evil-games-angela-marsons/

 

https://nigeladamsbookworm.wordpress.com/category/lost-girls/

 

https://nigeladamsbookworm.wordpress.com/2016/04/17/play-dead-angela-marsons/

 

https://nigeladamsbookworm.wordpress.com/2016/09/24/blood-lines-angela-marsons/

Witness Caroline Mitchell

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Another original concept for a psychological thriller by this brilliant writer.

I sat down with this book early on New Year’s Eve afternoon, and put it down when the fireworks were going off outside.

What a way to end a year.

This story has, at its core, an abusive relationship where a man keeps control over his girlfriend by demeaning her as a person; physically, emotionally and mentally.

The relationship ended 10 years ago and is recalled in a journal kept by the main protagonist Rebecca. Her nightmare came to an end when her abusive partner Solomon was jailed for a serious crime.

Becky, as she is now known, has started a new life in the wilds of the Welsh Countryside. She is married to a vet and has a lovely daughter.

Everything is good in Becky’s life until she finds a strange phone and starts getting texts on it. Solomon is out of prison and wants revenge for his ten years behind bars.

Becky is to witness a crime for every year he has been in prison. She cannot tell anybody about the crimes, she cannot tell the Police she has witnessed the crimes, and worse of all, she must choose the victims of the crime.

At first the crimes are petty but each is more severe and people start to get hurt.

This book explores the abusive relationship in 2005. It describes how Solomon targets a weak Rebecca at a time when she is most vulnerable, and how he uses his personality and charisma to embed himself in her life.

The parts of the book set in 2015 explore some moral dilemmas that are frighteningly realistic. This book explores how a person can choose which of the people they love to suffer over another. Would it be easier to substitute strangers for loved ones……….Could you use the Witness tasks to extract revenge???

Who will be the victim of the ultimate crime.

The story is great, it’s original, and it had me hooked from start to finish.

The writing is excellent. There was no point in this book where I “skipped over” any passages.

Save the best till last, as the saying goes. Well this was the last book I read in 2016, and I can’t think of a better read all year.