I don’t usually blog about a series of books but today is different.
18 months ago I had never heard of Marnie Riches. Now I wait for the publication of her books like a child looking forward to Christmas. But what has got me so engrossed.
For years I read books on spies and espionage, books by people like Robert Ludlum, Len Deighton, and Tom Clancy. Then I got into legal thrillers and Police Procedurals by the likes of John Grisham, Colin Dexter, Greg Isles and Patricia Cornwell.
Looking forward to each of these authors, and a few others meant that every weekend trip to a bookshop was filled with anticipation.
Pre the internet one of the highlights of any holiday abroad was going into a WH Smiths at the airport and picking up a paperback version of a book that was only available in hardback outside off duty free.
These days I’m lucky enough to get some books pre-publication so I can review them on this blog and one of the authors I look forward to reading the most is Marnie Riches.
What makes her books so special, and why do they standout in the crowded market of the crime thriller section of the bookshelves.
A few years ago the Millennium Trilogy by, Stieg Larsson took off and developed a huge following. Larsson Died in 2004 leaving a bit of a hole in popular fiction. Filled at times by other writers in the Scandinavian Noir genre, but nobody ever replaced his character Lisbeth Salander. Until George McKenzie came out of the computer of Marnie Riche.
The first book in the series, The Girl Who Wouldn’t Die came out in spring 2015 and introduced us to George McKenzie.
George is a rough character. From a broken family, and with a bit of a history on the streets of London, we first meet her in the streets of Amsterdam. She is now a Cambridge University student carrying out research in Amsterdam. Living in a flat above a marijuana café her neighbours and friends are either students or prostitutes, and suffering from OCD to a point where things need to be almost surgically clean
This alone allows Riches to put George into some great situations.
The story starts with an explosion at the University and a chance meeting between George and a middle aged Police Investigator, Paul van den Bergen. What can a small mixed race young woman from England and a Middle aged Dutch cop have in common. Not a lot at first but a relationship and trust starts to build as more incidents occur. Whilst van den Bergen carries out the official investigation George becomes more embroiled in her own helped by her closest friend and fellow student Ad.
The story includes more murders as the case expands, and I have to say Riches has found some new, and realistic, ways of murdering people. But are the incidents connected and if so how. Could they be related to the parts of the story that take place 5 years’ prior in London. Don’t try and second-guess the writer there are twists and turns all the way to the end.
In the second book. The Girl Who Broke The Rules George has returned home and is working to make ends meet as she researches for her PHD. Meanwhile Chief Inspector Paul van den Bergen is still working in the serious crime department in Amsterdam.
As George interviews a convicted violent sex offender in prison in the UK the dismembered bodies of sex workers start to be discovered in Amsterdam. Van der Bergen has not forgotten George since she left, in fact far from it, and the discoveries are an ideal opportunity to become involved with her again.
Van der Bergen is suffering his own demons and his ill health is not helped by his hypochondria. He needs to have George in his life not just to help him with the crimes that are taking place but also to get his life together.
George’s personal life is also a mess; her PhD mentor is over bearing in her control, her family is a dysfunctional group who skate along the edges of legality, and she is in a failing relationship with her boyfriend who still lives in Holland.
As the bodies pile up and George begins to work with Van der Bergen they find themselves conflicted with van der Bergen’s superior officer and a detective on his team. Who is making the right decisions George and Paul, or his boss and the detective?
The book rattles along a fast pace and every time I thought I had a handle on who was the culprit, and why they were doing it, I realized I hadn’t.
The third book is published today. The Girl Who Walked In The Shadows.
Georgina McKenzie is back, or should I say the now Dr Georgina McKenzie is back. About two years on from the end of The Girl Who Broke the Rules Dr George, a professional Criminologist is back in the UK interviewing prisoners who have a history of abuse and being abused.
Her mismatched lover, Chief Inspector Paul van den Bergen is still working in Amsterdam but has been moved to a department hunting for missing persons.
The Dr and the Chief Inspector are hitting a rough patch and their will-they-wont -they relationship, which had become a they-did, is back to will-they-wont-they.
Meanwhile a bitter chill hits Europe with deep snow and ice covering the continent and the UK. But the chill isn’t just in the weather, somebody is killing people in England and Holland. The killer, “Jack Frost”, uses the the elements to their advantage, which makes the investigation even harder.
With George in the UK, carrying out research into abused people being trafficked around Europe, Van den Bergen stumbles into a murder investigation in Amsterdam.
George notices a similarity between the drug dealer’s death in Amsterdam and a death in the UK.
Before long the two are working together, but is it going to be a harmonious or destructive relationship???
George’s family have been in the background of the previous two books and make an appearance in this one. George is staying with them but somebody else is watching. Is it something to do with Dr Georges research or something more sinister?
As more children go missing it becomes apparent that Dr George has an academic rival who is also researching child abuse and its relationship to organised paedophile rings and trafficking. A hassle that she could do without.
As in the two previous book there are no wasted words. Every paragraph of every chapter has a meaning and a direction. And that direction hurtles the reader to the end of the book, and I really do mean the end of the book.
Marnie Riches writes with a style that never makes the reader think anything is unrealistic. It might be uncomfortable for some people to think that the crimes, and criminals, in this book are real, but they are and Riches has them nailed in the characters and scenes in her books.
With children going missing, murders to investigate, personal problems with her family and her mismatched lover could things get anymore hectic for Dr McKenzie.
You’ll have to read The Girl Who Walked in the Shadows to find out. I promise you, its well worth it.
For me this is the best “The Girl Who….” Yet.
So what makes these books so good.
Well they are perfectly written. The characters, the locations, the scenarios all work brilliantly.
The situations McKenzie finds herself in are all too realistic. Riches plays on the readers fears of modern crimes. Some people will not want to admit are happening, but they are and we all know it.
George McKenzie is a character we would all probably cross the streets to avoid if we saw her walking down the road; but she’s also the person most of us would want to be. Tough, intelligent, moralistic, streetwise and sexy.
The perfect foil to her character is the Dutch Detective, Chief Inspector Paul van den Bergen, middle aged, grumpy, unfit, unfashionable, and a bit by-the-book. There really should not any common ground between the two but the chemistry is great through the whole series.
So three great books in about a year. I know its way too much to hope for this speed of writing and publishing to continue but I can’t wait for the next instalment.
Learn more about Marnie Riches at her own website
or on twitter @Marnie_Riches