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.

Amazon https://geni.us/B09RZZWN3Tsocial

Apple. https://buff.ly/3uCA7fJ

Kobo https://buff.ly/3GMyC12

Google. https://buff.ly/3oClxAW

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.

Letting go of a series before it finishes. When should an author say it’s time to end the ongoing story.

I read and review a lot of books on this blog. I never publish negative reviews as I believe personal taste should not negatively impact on somebody else’s writing.

If I don’t like a book supplied to me by a publisher I will contact them direct, with my reason for not liking the story.

This can be difficult when the books I am finding disappointing, are the latest in a series I’ve really liked.

The first time I gave up on a series I had previously enjoyed was Patricia Cornwell’s Kay Scarpetta books.

Back in 1991 Post Mortem was like a breath of fresh air to me. A cracking story, in my favourite genre, with a likeable and realistic main character.

But, by the time we got to Black Notice, in 1999, the stories were getting more fanciful, and although Cornwell ensured her main character’s procedures and techniques were current and realistic, the crimes were getting too fanciful.

The developing of Scarpetta’s niece, into a James Bond like character, spiralled the stories too far from credible for me to carry on reading the rest of the series.

Recently I have started to disengage with a series I’ve been reading for year’s. The first books in the series were great reads, then the author seemed to run out of ideas.

They recycle the same plot with different methods of murder but essentially keep retelling the same two or thee stories.

That got me thinking about other authors who write long series and why I don’t fall out with them.

My favourite series is now into the high teens in books. I’m finding it really hard not to name names as it would be unfair on the author who’s series I’ve fallen out with.

So why are those books still gripping me.

The main characters have remained largely the same since the series started.

There are recurring characters that have great background stories of their own, without being fanciful or undergoing unrealistic, or drastic changes in their persona.

There are some less often recurring characters that always add to the storyline. In fact I look forward to their appearances.

The crimes are always different in the way they are committed, but more importantly the circumstances around the crimes are always different.

I think one of the cleverest things this author did was unexpectedly kill a loved character in one of the books, which makes sure the reader is never going to take it for granted that there will be a happy ending to the stories.

So how long is too long.

I have no idea.

I always think of my first crime fixation, Sherlock Holmes. 4 novels and 56 short stories, and I never get fed up of reading them.

Originally many of the short stories were written as weekly series in a newspaper so Conan Doyle was probably working to a deadline.

That dispells one of my thoughts that maybe the modern author is publishing books too quickly, often two books a year.

Cornwell was publishing books every twelve to thirteen months and I fell out with her, so the time frame between books probably isn’t the issue.

At the end of the day it must just be down to personal preference.

The Lost Boys. Rachel Amphlett

The murder of a youth, at a fair leads, to a disturbing investigation

Why is a young teenager miles from where he should be?

Why has he been stabbed and left dead in an alley?

What are the pills found close to his body?

This story covers some of the more scary issues in today’s society. Homeless or desperate young men running County Boundary drugs, Gangs Cuckooing vulnerable people, scared young people making bad decisions.

Detective Sergeant Mark Turpin is part of the investigation team. Both himself and Detective Constable Jan were close-by at the time of the killing, and arrived on the scene quickly. Both are affected in different ways. Jan struggles with the psychological issues raised by the death of a youngster, but for Mark things get a lot more personal.

The story of the crimes, and the investigation, are brilliant, but for me, the thing that elevates this book is the look at how vulnerable Police Officers are. Not every cop becomes hardened by experience. Jan in particular is affected psychologically by the first murder in this book.

The other thing that made me smile was the research that went into the book. Yes I have a personal interest in that, but when I know an author has asked for advice, on what is a relatively small part of the story, and has used that advice so well to make just a few paragraphs realistic, I know that all of the rest of the book is also researched and realistic.

This is a great book in a great series, but it can be read as a standalone story.

Available now

Amok. Sebastian Fitzek

This book took me straight back to some of the best books I read as a young man. The way it is written, and the story that unfolds reminded me of great books like Rivers of Babylon and Cathedral by Nelson Demille, brilliant stories that hooked me into the crime thriller genre

In this book a desperate man takes over a radio station in Berlin during the breakfast show.

Jan is a Psychologist who is convinced his Girlfriend is alive, a year after a Policeman knocked at his door to tell him she’d been killed in a car crash.

To get everybody’s attention he takes hostages and plays an evil game where he changes the radio shows competition. Now people aren’t answering the phone to win a lot of money. They have to use the right phrase to save a hostage. If they don’t…………

Ira is a barely functioning alcoholic who is about to take her own life. That is until she is drawn into the hostage situation as the Police Chief negotiator.

What follows is an intriguing story with that many twists and turns at times I wasn’t sure who were the good guys and who weren’t, but that’s what made it such a good story.

Ira is brought in to take over the negotiations from another Officer, at Jan’s request, but why her. Ira is also a trained psychological but who is analysing who. The dialogue between the two is mesmerising.

There are some brilliant characters in this book, amongst them is the Masseuse, a gang boss with his own unique way of killing. Spine tingling reading.

The complexity of the story kept me gripped to the end. At no time in the book did I get who was going to be on which side of the law. But when the last page was turned it all made sense, and at no time did I get the feeling the story was unrealistic or deliberately misleading.

Sebastian Fitzek is a new author to me, but one I will be looking for in the future.

Pages: 464. Publisher: Head of Zeus. Published 11th November 2021

Cross My Heart. D.K Hood

I read on another review that this book had a very dark beginning. That was an understatement.

This is the 12th book in the Kane and Alton series and if you are a fan you will know that DK Hood can come up with some chilling storylines, but in this one she’s surpassed herself.

With her sidekick, partner, and protector Dave Kane away at a conference Sheriff Jena Alton is home alone, in her house, in the woods.

What she doesn’t yet know is that there is a man in the mountains, capturing women and teasing them, by allowing them to escape and then hunting them down like game animals. Until he gets fed up of them, then he………..I’ll leave that to your imagination but I’d bet you won’t come up with what.

As Jenna lies alone in bed with just Dave’s dog, and her cat for company a vicious storm hits, and during it somebody launches an attack on her house.

After the storm the a grisly discovery is made attached to her house, with a message.

The message, and the method of attack, lead the team to think of one man. The problem is he is prison, for life, and Jenna put him there.

What follows is a story that is a heady mix of CJ Box and Greg Iles. Box for the way the story leads to the mountain trails and into the woods, Iles for the unfiltered psychological edge. Stunning

Some of the scenes in the book are so well portrayed I found myself sweating for no other reason than the tension that was in the story.

It ticks all the psychological fears that are inherent in most people, storms, fires, being out in the woodlands on mountains in the dark, being stalked by somebody you just can’t get away from. Hood has written what many people see in their nightmares.

But it’s all well within the realms of believable realism and at no point did I think “no, that’s not going to happen”

A great book in a great series.

Does it need reading in the correct sequence, it would be better, but it could be read as a standalone.

Publisher: Bookouture. Pages: 290

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

10 Days. Mel Sherratt

10 days. That’s how long 4 women have suffered for. Taken off the street, kept in a locked room, physically and mentally abused, and then released without explanation.

What could be worse?

This could.

Journalist Eva Farmer has interviewed all of the women after they were released. She knows what the women went through. So when she is taken she knows what to expect, almost on a day to day basis.

Eva, like the police, couldn’t make a connection between the apparently random victims, but she’s about to learn there is one, and that she, like the others, is not a random victim.

Written from two points of view, Eva’s, and her captors, the story unfolds on a daily basis, with occasional chapters being made up of the reports Eva wrote after the interviews with the earlier victims.

But this story is not just about Eva whilst she’s being held, it’s about who she was, and things she’s done in her past.

Could her captive have known all along.

Then there’s her captor. They too have an interesting back story.

I loved this book. It’s gets more complex as it unfolds. There are so many strands that knit together perfectly.

The underlying tension built up by the fact that Eva knows what happened to the first 4 women is tangible.

The demons it brings into her head as she sits in a dark room with only her own thoughts, and memories, is frightening.

A brilliant story that kept me turning the pages until way into the night.

This is a great standalone read.

Pages: 284. Publisher: Bookouture. Available now

A Cut For A Cut

DI Kate Young is a brilliant detective. She gets investigations solved. She gets on well with her team, in the main. But she’s flawed, and I mean really flawed.

Her husband was murdered and she was one of the first cops on the scene.

Now she’s having trouble letting him go, in fact she’s talking to him, and she’s beginning to get caught by others and the excuses are running out.

Is she up to carrying out a major investigation. She’s about to find out.

The first body is found dumped by a reservoir. Killed, raped and has MINE carved into her back.

The method of killing is very specific and would require training in martial arts.

When a second body turns up with the same method used to kill them, and the same message carved into them, it is obvious that they have a serial killer in the area.

Kate starts to see links to a previous case, but is that just what she wants to see, is the voice in her head influencing her decisions.

The links she wants to see will implicate a Senior Officer in the death off an underage boy at a sex party.

Her husband was investigating corruption within the Police, and connections to sex parties.

Is reality blurring with whatever Kate has going on in her own mind.

There are connections but if Kate doesn’t get things right people are going to get away with hideous crimes.

The main investigation in this book is the series of murder rapes from which the book takes its title.

The running story of Police corruption bubbles along really nicely adding a great second dimension to the book.

But it’s the third dimension that lifts this book to the levels of must be read, best seller.

Kate Young is brilliant. She is battling demons in her mind. Carol Wyer has really got into her thoughts. At times you would swear Young is talking to a person that is in the land of the living, and then you realise she’s talking to her dead husband.

At times it’s like she’s trying to reason something out, but she’s using her husbands voice as the prompt or counter argument.

That gives this book a real edge.

At times I was concerned for Kates sanity, at other times I was impressed with her deductive reasoning, all the time she is on the very edge of sanity.

Her team are brilliant. They support her throughout but even they are beginning to have concerns.

I love Carol Wyer’s writing. Her books always hold me from page one, and that in itself brings me concerns. Every time I start one of her books I wonder if it’s going to be the one to disappoint. It’s never happened yet. She is the very definition of raising the bar with each story.

This series, is her best series yet. Her best characters, her best crimes, her best stories.

I can’t recommend this book highly enough.

But be warned, not all of Carol’s books have a happy ending, or an easy ride for all of the characters.

Pages: 365. Publisher: Thomas & Mercer. Available now

https://amzn.to/3pCnXyX

Dead Secret Noelle Holton

Dead Secret was published yesterday, and I’ve been chomping at the bit to tell everybody how good it is. Now its my turn on the reviewers blog tour, I can do just that

First of all this is book 4 in a series but it can be read as a standalone without losing any of its impact.

What makes this book so good?

The characters, the storylines, everything, are so well written. They are written by a person who has working experience with the people she writes about. That makes things very, very real

She also gets the incestuous nature of crimes, about how when major crimes happen, there is only a small group involved.

There is nobody better at writing about domestic abuse and the way it affects people, the way that if it’s not addressed things can spiral, yet the victim is often the one witness who doesn’t want to come forward.

In this story there’s a murder, a kidnap, and a domestic abuse crime, all, happening at the same time, and apparently unrelated. But are they?

The three crimes are all investigated in their own way, the paths of the investigation cross at times but isn’t it just coincidence?

The main character DC Maggie Jamieson is still mentally and physically exhausted from the last case. Her guard is down and a journalist, she actually fancies, is trying to worm her way into her affections.

But the journalist is also getting information from a source within the team, not Maggie, but everybody wants to know who, and suspicion is flying.

One of the crimes leads the team to a horrific, unbelievable, conclusion.

I started the book on Saturday night and would have read it in one sitting had I started it early enough in the day. As it was I didn’t put it down till silly o’clock in the morning, and picked it up with my first cup of coffee Sunday and sat till I’d finished it. 

I mentioned that this is the fourth book in the series. I’ve already reviewed the first 3.

#1 Dead Inside. #2 Dead Wrong. #3 Dead Perfect.

They were all good, but this one, for me, is the best so far.

I said something in a tweet when I first read this book, and I stand by what I said.

This book is destined for the top of the best seller lists