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

An Eye For An Eye. Carol Wyer

Everybody say hello to my new favourite Detective.

DI Kate Young works for Staffordshire Police, and at the start of the book she’s on enforced leave due to mental stresses brought on by recent investigations, and the death of her husband.

So why would the force bring her back to take on a really nasty, high pressure case.

Is it because they want her to fail, and do they want her to fail because they want to discredit her and get rid of her for once and for all; or is there something more sinister going on.

The case she’s brought back for ticks all the boxes that play with even the hardest of cops heads. Murder, sex, drugs, all involving vulnerable young people.

The investigation would be hard enough for a fit Kate, but one who is suffering with PTSD, one who is still grieving, one who really shouldn’t be back at work, what chance has she got of solving it.

Some people, mainly her closest team, are on her side, some of the senior officers are keeping her at arms length, not wanting to be tainted by what must be her ultimate failure.

Carol is on familiar ground basing her crimes in the Staffordshire area, but where she found the storyline for this book I’ll never know. You can only guess at what runs through an authors mind when they are plotting things like this. Her skill is taking it right to the edge but still keeping it firmly in realms of the realistic.

The other thing you can guarantee with Carol Wyer is good characters, and Kate Young is her best yet. Flawed and vulnerable, whilst still being strong and intuitive. She is as close, in character, as I’ve come across in fiction, to some of the real SIOs I’ve met.

Then there are the recurring characters she has running through a series, there’s always one that brings that bit of quirkiness, and in this series she’s found a beaut, the flamboyant Ervin Saunders, Head of Forensics, who brings that little bit of lightness that every serious book needs.

It’s a brave author that brings to an end, or puts on hold a hugely successful series, to start another.

But, as they say, fortune favours the brave, and this book has me hooked into the series from the start, I can only hope Kate, and Ervin, and the team that come with them, are here for a long run

This book is up there with the best I’ve read, and left me desperate for the next instalment of the series.

An absolute cracking story that announces the start of a series that is destined for the best seller lists.

Pages: 426. Publisher: Thomas and Mercer. Available now

Me, my life, my reading

As you can tell from the name of my blog I am a bookworm. If you ask my wife she’ll tell you I’m like a chain smoker, as one book is coming to an end I have to have another ready to read, she’s right, maybe I should have called the blog the book addict.

I couldn’t begin to catalogue the books I have read, so I’m not going to try. What I am going to do is introduce you, to me, by telling you what I was reading, or more like who I was reading, as I made my way from what I call Senior School, or as the kids today call it High School, up to today and hopefully well into the future.

My first conscious memory of reading a book for pleasure, and not because a teacher told me to, was in my first year at Senior School, it was one of the Hardy Boy series by Franklin W. Dixon. I don’t know how I found it or if somebody gave it me. It was a story written about 2 brothers and their friends solving mysteries in America. If you can imagine a cross between Scooby Doo and the Secret Seven then you can imagine what the books were like. To an 11 or 12 year old from a Birmingham Housing Estate this book opened my eyes to the world beyond school and the boredom of home.

Believe it or not I had an evening and Saturday job (at that age) and looked forward to school holidays, and maybe the occasional illicit day off school, when I could catch a Bus into Birmingham and visit WH Smiths or Hudsons Bookshop.

It was on these visits that I started browsing the shelves and realised that there was quite a few books in the series, and so began a habit I still have today. I had to read the series but I had to read it in order. I can actually remember the sales assistant in Hudsons looking over the counter at me when I asked him if it was possible to order books. Looking at the list of these books now, at least 58, I don’t think I ever completed the set but I know I would have got all the ones available in the UK at the time.

My Dad was also a big reader and when I was about 13 I remember picking up one of his discarded paperbacks The Winged Escort by Douglass Reeman. I’m fairly sure it was the cover that attracted me, a painting of a Swordfish plane attacking a battleship, because it resembled the Commando Paperback booklet/comics I spent a lot of time reading.

My trips to Birmingham now resulted in me returning home with a Reeman Naval novel when I failed to find any Hardy Brothers books. I eventually read all of the Douglas Reeman books and think the ones I read before I left school had an influence on my choice of my first job.

The Hardy Boys and Douglas Reemans naval novels were not the only books I read when I was in school. When I wasn’t at school, working, or playing football with friends my nose was firmly in a book, with the radio on in the background. Unfortunately none of the books I read were on the reading list for my English exams, and those that were held no interest to me, so like the rest of my exams, English Literature was a bit of a failure.

I didn’t like school so I left at the earliest opportunity and joined the Merchant Navy just before I was 16. After 13 weeks at the training college (no qualifications required) in Gravesend I had a week at home before joining my first ship. Over the next five years I travelled the world with Shell Tankers UK Ltd on ships of all sizes.

What most people don’t realise about being on merchant ships is that the crews are small, often only 36 even on a Super Tanker. Each crew member has their own cabin and works 8 hours a day. I was a Deck Hand so my days were usually split into 4 hours on 8 hours off seven days a week, 6 months at a time. That’s a lot of down time.

Another thing people don’t know is that there was an unwritten agreement that whenever you joined a new ship you took at least 5 or 6 new paperbacks with you, and that once you had read them you put them in the ships “library”, usually a cupboard in the mess room, where they were picked up and returned by others until they were too tatty to read.

It was on my first ship, a gas tanker that ran backwards and forwards between North Africa and Northern Europe, that I found my next set of novels. Again I was drawn to a painting of a Second World War scene on the cover. Looking on the inside of the cover I found that the author had written a series of books and one of them was semi-autobiographical. I read that one first, The Legion of the Damned introduced me to Sven Hassel and his band of German Soldiers and their exploits during the war.

The ships library had copies of all of the books in the series and I remember lying in my cabin when I’d finished the last one thinking, “what am I going to do now”. The tankers had a great social life and I’d made some good friends, but when I finished the last book I missed the main characters as though they had been real people. Sad I know.

I drifted around the one off novels by people like Hammond Innes and Desmond Bagley. I remember Wilbur Smith and not being able to make up my mind weather I liked his work or not, but I read most of them anyway.

The next must read author I found was Robert Ludlum. The first book I read was The Matarese Circle, it was the first Cold War thriller that really got me hooked, and they stay one my favourite genre today. I managed to read his back catalogue at sea and bought his new books as they were released. Has anybody ever read a better trilogy than the original three Bourne books, I haven’t.

Unfortunately the latter ones by Eric VanLustbader just don’t measure up.

Somewhere along the line I discovered Len Deighton, via his novel Bomber. Although this was a storey based in the Second World War I enjoyed Deightons cold war books nearly as much as the Ludlum books.

One of the last Authors that I discovered whilst at sea was Nelson DeMille, via Cathedral, and By The Rivers Of Babylon, excellent books that introduced the subject of Terrorism into my readings.

So I left the Merchant Navy at the age of 20 and went straight to the Recruit Training Centre of the West Midlands Fire Service to start what would be a 30 year career.

The first 12 years I was in the Brigade I was at one of the busiest, if not the busiest station in the UK. It was a busy time in my personal life as well as wife number 1 came and went, maybe the least said about that the better. But then my second wife came along, followed shortly after by my lovely Daughter. We are still happily married after 30 years, and people said it would never last, and our daughter is now 29 and happily married herself.

During those 12 years I always had a spare time job, there always seemed to be something that needed paying for, but I was never without a book.

Stephen King books came and went. He’s one of those Authors whose books are like marmite to me; I either love them or hate them. Sometimes I’ve been enjoying his books but have had to stop halfway through, not bored but needing to read something else. I always go back and finish them off if I’ve got that far, but there are a few that have been dumped after the first 100 pages. My Favourite King books? Needless Things, Pet Cemetery, and, It, I still hate clowns following that. King wasn’t the first horror author I read.

I remember reading James Herbert’s Rats, and thinking every creak of a floorboard was a rat heading my way. King and Herbert are the only 2 horror authors I’ve ever really read, when they’re good, they are good; but when they’re bad, they really are bad. I just don’t think I’m very good at suspending reality.

So amongst lots of other books in the mid-late 80’s I discovered one of my all-time favourite writers, Tom Clancy. Like millions of other people around the world I read The Hunt for Red October, and I was hooked on the Jack Ryan series but this time I was in from the start and had to wait patiently for each new book, not something I’m good at.

Clancy’s books were the first ones I bought in Hardback as I couldn’t wait for the paperbacks to be published. As well as the Ryan books I enjoyed Red Storm Rising, a one off based on an escalating war which engulfs Europe and threatens to become a 3rd World War. I remember thinking, as I read it, this is uncomfortably close to becoming reality, it is still one of the best books I have ever read.

People often said that Clancy got very close to the truth, and some accused him of having some kind of inside information from the US Government agencies. In 1995 he released Debt of Honor ( I know but that’s how he spelled it, he was American) in which a Japanese Terrorist flies a Boeing 747 into the Capital Building in Washington DC. Again I remembered thinking that was one hell of a way to committee a terrorist attack on the States. We all know what happened on 11th September 2001 I hope Clancy’s book didn’t give somebody the seed of an idea.

Unfortunately I found all of Clancy’s spin off books, written in collaboration with others, the Ops Centre, and Net Force books to be disappointing and gave up on them after the 2nd of each series.

John Grisham is an excellent writer who introduced me to court room dramas. I found Grisham in the early 90’s. I had started to study and was taking Fire Service Exams and needed something to take my mind of the mind numbing lists which made up a lot of the study for those exams.

Grisham transported me to the Southern States to a racially charged murder in A Time to Kill. I have read every one of his books. Sometimes I read that he’s accused of “the same old, same old”, but I disagree. There are 2 things you can be sure of with Grisham; a cracking story, and an unpredictable ending. It’s not always happy ever after with John Grisham.

If you like Grisham I found a new author a few years ago, Greg Iles. He sets his books in the Deep South of the USA and his stories are like Grisham’s but without filters. Think of Grisham being a 12, in cinema verifications and Iles as being an 18

His Penn Cage series of 6 books, which culminates in the Natchez Trilogy are the best US Crime Thrillers I’ve read.

In the mid 90’s I started moving through the ranks in the Fire Service until, in 2000, I worked my way in to my dream post. I spent the last 12 years of my career as a Fire Investigation Officer. Basically, along with 5 other specially trained Officers, we investigated the cause of all; large fires, fires in which people died or were seriously injured, and all major arson cases, in the West Midlands and latterly Staffordshire. As you can imagine the studying got serious at this point as I gained Forensic Qualifications to sit alongside my Fire Service ones, and in that post research and learning never stopped.

I still found time for books but my choice of genre changed.

Considering I now had knowledge of Forensics, and British Police and Court Room procedures I surprisingly started to read books set in these fields. The first Author I found, who shared a Forensic background, was Patricia Cornwell.

Reading the Scarpetta series in order I enjoyed the first six or seven books, when she wrote mainly about the life and investigations of Kay Scarpetta. These were excellent books, the Body Farm, is another book that ranks amongst my favourites; but as her niece Lucy became more of a James Bond Figure in her books they started to lose some credibility with me. Like I said, I have difficulty in suspending reality.

I haven’t read the latest books she has written in the series. For me it’s a shame she moved too far away from reality but somebody must like them, she’s selling millions and good luck to her.

You will have noticed that most of the books I read appear to be by American Authors. I think it’s because more actually happens over there and you can actually imagine most of the stories because they are not far from actual occurrences.

Having said that in the early 2000s I sustained a back injury which tendered me bed ridden for three months before I had an operation to remove and fuse some discs. This was pre e-books and my wife was dispatched to buy my books, which I was getting through at a prestigious rate.

I had loved the Morse TV series since it started, and in an attempt to make things easy for her I asked her to get me Colin Dexters omnibus editions of the Morse Books. These were not only brilliant but in my opinion should be read by High School students to show how society, the Police, the way crime is investigated, and life in general changed through the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s.

It was fascinating to read about a pre computerised, pre mobile phone, society. No DNA, blood only matched by type, police officers smoking at crime scenes, officers openly racist and sexist. As the books progressed through the years it was easy to see Morse struggling to come to terms with this new world whilst his Sergeant, Lewis, attempted to keep him on track and in bounds. If I hadn’t read them all, one after another, I might have missed some of the nuances of this.

At the same time I was watching the TV news and was astonished to see that children and adults alike were queuing for nights awaiting the latest in a series of novels by somebody I’d never heard of, J.K. Rowling.

Curiosity got the better of me and I asked my long suffering wife to go back to the book shop and pick up the first of the series, at that time I didn’t even know what it was called, and so the children’s book Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone was dropped on my bed with a look of “really” written all over my wife’s face.

Well I was hooked straight away; my wife went and got me the others in paperback. The Goblet of Fire was purchased in hardback, as were the rest of the series as soon as they were released. Yes I was one of the adults standing outside my local Sainsbury’s to buy The Deathly Hallows on the day it was released.

I said earlier that I Had only read 2 horror authors, Herbert and King, that may not be true. Rowlings Harry Potter books got darker as the series progressed. In my opinion The Half Blood Prince and The Deathly Hallows, are much darker and scarier than anything else I had read to that time. As a series of books, despite what the critics say, and in agreement with millions around the world, I think it’s one of, if not, the best.

These days I’m at the front of the queue for the Strike books. Long, and rambling, but full of great characters with a brilliant running storyline throughout.

Over the next few years I drifted through several authors Sam Eastland’s Inspector Pekkala books, set against the second world war (again) a Russian detective who works on cases for Stalin.

David Downings Station Books, A series of espionage books about an Anglo-American in Germany at the start of events which led up to World War 2.

Jayne Casey and Sharon Bolton, both write excellent crime drama novels, strong and gritty with twists that take the plot down unexpected avenues.

My wife had been saying I should have an e-book reader for some time, but I was clinging to the fact that I liked books you could hold. I still think opening a brand new book is one of the best feelings; but Christmas 2011 she gave me a Kindle for Christmas. Ok I admit it I was wrong, I’m on my third one now and it goes everywhere with me.

What the Kindle, and the Amazon Store, have allowed me to do is find books and Authors I would never have found by browsing book shelves in any bookstore I happened to pass.

One such writer is one of my current favourites. C.J.Box. C.J.Box is an American author who has written a series of books about Wyoming Game Warden Joe Pickett. I read about Box somewhere online and found that all of his books are available for the Kindle. I downloaded Open Season and was instantly hooked.

Box’s storylines, his descriptions of the countryside around him and the subplots of his family make for excellent reads. He has also written some stand-alone novels, in which some familiar characters turn up. If you have never read one of his books, get your hands on Open Season, I’m sure you’ll end up buying the lot.

In 2012 after exactly 30 in the Fire Service I hung up my kit for the last time and walked out of my last Fire Station. I now work as a Fire Forensics Consultant and lecturer on Fire Forensics around the World, and travel time equals reading time.

I’ve also been lucky enough to have a few nice long haul holidays, I’m not a good flyer so plane time equals reading time, and we all know that there’s only one thing to do around the pool with a drink in your hand, read.

These days I’m really into crime fiction, especially U.K. and Scandinavian crime.

Mari Hannah and her Kate Daniels series was the first one that really hooked me. That led to one of my all time favourites, Angela Marsons and the Kim Stone series.

Kim’s books are great. They’re set in my local area, which brings a whole new dimension to my enjoyment of a book.

In turn my reviews of Mari Hannah and Angela Marsons led me to the book bloggers website NetGalley.

From there my reading really took off. I now read and review 3 or 4 books a month and have been lucky enough to make acquaintances, via social media with quite a few authors, and some of those have even turned to me for advice on fire scenes in their books.

So what am I reading these days. Crime fiction is still my favourite. Carol Wyer, Graham Smith, Patricia Gibney, are on my favourites to read list.

Most recently I’ve been captivated by Ruhi Choundhary and Noelle Holton, have captivated me and been put on the read-it-as-soon-as-possible list.

One of the up sides about using NetGalley is its saves me a fortune, but that pricked my conscience. Now I have a tin which gets a pound coin put in it every time I download a book from that site. Those coins go into RNLI and Poppy collection tins when I know they are around.

Well that’s me, a short very potted history, of me and my reading habits

She Said. Three Said. David B. Lyons

There have been a few authors try to take us into the jury room to look at how a jury have come to a verdict. In this book Lyons explores the dynamics of the jury and the influence stronger characters can have.

At the same he gives the reader a unique look at the crime by narrating it in the first person from 4 peoples points of view

The Victim Sabrina, a young, attractive, well dressed woman who was out working when she bumped into the three defendants

The 3 defendants: Jason a soon to be retired international footballer, and his two life long best friends. Li, a nice young man of Korean decent who seems to be the voice of reason. Zachary, the mouthy arrogant one of the three.

Sabrina has accused the three of rape, a charge they all deny.

The jury have heard the evidence and discuss their thoughts on who is telling the truth about the night of the crime, and the validity of the evidence given by the 4

The reader gets to see the night unfiltered from all four of the main characters. What they said, what they did, and how the interpreted what was happening.

And that’s where the unique part comes. By letting each of the characters tell their own story, letting the night of the crime unfold, the reader is left to make their own decision about what happened.

The jury reaches their verdict, and in the very last few lines the reader finds out and and if they, along with the jury, got it right.

A clever book which deals with the jury room as well as any book I’ve ever read.

Pages: 314.

Ask No Questions. Claire Allan

One of the best books I’ve read this year.

25 years ago an eight year old girl goes missing during a Halloween night out.

3 days later 10 year old twin brothers Niall and Declan Heaney find her face down in a lake.

The families of the small Northern Irish town of Creggan are devastated and scared.

Ingrid Devlin was two years older than the missing girl and lived in the same town, now she’s a journalist who has written a couple of true crime books, so it’s natural that she is asked to do an anniversary piece on the murder, for the local paper.

What starts out as just a look at the victim, her family and the community, and how they have been affected takes a swing when James Harte, the man convicted of the murder, who was released 7 years ago, contacts Ingrid proclaiming his innocence.

The paper publishes the anniversary article, but Ingrid’s Editor refuses to run anything inflammatory from Harte. In fact the editor orders Ingrid to stop looking at the case. She decides that there is good material for a book and continues her investigation.

It’s not long before intimidating tactics start to persuade her to stop. That just makes her dig her heels in and carry on, but she’s scared, very scared, by what’s happening around her.

This book has a fantastic storyline. The tenacity of Ingrid’s investigation is underpinned by the effect it starts to have on her. How, as evidence starts to sway her thoughts away from what she has accepted as the truth since she was 10, she becomes scared.

The dynamics of the families involved in the incident, the girl’s mom and dad, the twins who found her and their parents is brilliantly written.

The tension in the book ramps up all the way until the last few pages, and in all honesty, I didn’t predict the end. Which is just how I like my crime fiction.

It wasn’t a surprise when I researched Claire Allan and found out she graduated with a Masters in Newspaper Journalism before becoming a renowned reporter in Derry. This book couldn’t have been written this well if the person writing it, hadn’t lived the life of a reporter in that area.

Did I save the best till last. This is certainly in the top 3 books I’ve read this year. So yes I think I did.

Publisher: Avon Pages: 336 Publishing date: January 2021

One Left Alive. Helen Phifer

Sometimes a book comes along that makes you just sit down and read, from cover to cover, with as few breaks as you can manage. This is one of those books.

I’ve tried to analyse why I enjoyed this book so much.

Yes it has a cracking story.

Yes the characters are good, easy to engage with, and very likeable.

But, I can say that about a lot of books that haven’t hooked me like this one did.

So without being too analytical, the only thing I can put it down to is, this is a bloody good story.

Morgan Brookes is a young PC on her first independent patrol. A call comes in and she is first on the scene at an “apparent” suicide, finding a teenage boy trying to support the weight of a woman who has hung herself from a tree.

The usually grumpy DS Ben Matthews arrives at the scene and takes over as SIO. He’s as much impressed with Morgan’s efforts as he is annoyed with an experienced PC‘s, and when his boss says he can take one of the uniform officers into a temporary CID post he makes the unusual decision to give Morgan a chance.

This, I think, is where the story finds that edge that had me hooked. As much as Morgan wants the CID job it brings with it challenges. She hasn’t had years of experience to become acclimatised to the worst of crime scenes. She still hasn’t really got the street smarts that let her judge the character of some of the people she meets, and of course, she meets some hostility from one of the uniform officers who believes he should have got the post.

As the investigation goes on, one thing that does become apparent, is that Morgan has a good analytical brain. She is tenacious in tracking down what she thinks is important, even if others dismiss her ideas.

The suicide turns out to be murder, but it’s not the only one. The story that follows could be straight off the front page of the papers. In fact strangely enough there has been something similar in the news over the last two weekends.

There is no “shark infested custard”, no illogical twists, no unrealistic moments, just a story that flows really well.

I always write that the books I enjoy most have to be realistic, and some will say that a PC would never be given the opportunity Morgan is given, but they would. That leads me to another thought.

Who will be the first author to write a story about the new breed of detective being employed by the police, the Police Civilian Investigator.

Whoever it is they will have to cover all of the issues Morgan faces in this book, but with absolutely zero Policing experience.

I loved this book, all I can hope for is it’s the beginning of a long series. The characters deserve it.

Pages: 332. Publishers: Bookouture. Published: 1st September 2020

Japan Town. Barry Lancet

This book reminded me of the early Robert Ludlum books. Thrillers like Matarese Circle and the Gemini Contenders. Books that were fast paced and a bit out there, but were still believable.

In a sentence, it took me back to books I loved in the 70’s and 80’s but the type of which have been missing for years, with the odd exception.

Jim Brodie, is an Irish American hose father founded an Investigation agency in Japan. A big man who is fully immersed in the culture of Japan.

Brodie lives in America, where he runs an antique business, as well as being a partner in his late fathers business in Japan.

With his connections, and understanding of Japanese cultures and the language, it’s not surprising that he consults for the San Francisco Police Department

When a family is gunned down in Japantown he is called to the scene, where he finds a Kanji written on a leaf of paper. It’s an ancient form of script that is never used, it’s also the calling card for a band of killers.

Investigations lead to a small town in Japan and what follows is a mixture of violent encounters as a Brodie puts himself, his family, and his partners in danger. Not everybody will survive what turns out to be a fast and frenetic story with a stunning, and breathtaking conclusion.

This book had everything for me. A cracking story, great characters, and the ability to get me reaching for google. It entertained me and educated me. Brilliant

Pages: 417.

Double Agent. Tom Bradby

A follow up book to Secret Agent, released this time last year, this book picks up the story of senior MI6 Officer Kate Henderson.

Her husband, who has been identified as a Russian Agent is now living in Moscow, but Kate has managed to take their children to meet him on a trip to Venice. During the trip Kate is kidnapped by a Russian agent who offers her unassailable proof that the U.K. Prime Minister is working for the Russians and that a change of power in the Kremlin is taking place.

To give credence to this he also tells her about a ending revolution in Estonia, which is attempted the next day.

Back in the U.K. Kate takes the information to her boss. He’s keen to exploit the information and give in to the demands of the Russian agent who, in turn wants to defect with his family to England.but others in MI6 aren’t so sure, and neither are the politicians.

The story continues with Kate trying to authenticate the truth about the Kremlin and the evidence on the PM.

At one point in the book Kate’s son jokingly asks her if she’s a female James Bond. She is but the story is so much more than the usual all action espionage thriller. It looks at the effect the job has on Kate, her physical and mental health, and her family. The tension, the lack of sleep, the constant second guessing, not just her own decisions but those of the people around her, takes it out of her.

The story also looks at the complex political and personal relationships formed, and in places abused, in the hallow halls of parliament, and the insular offices of the “MI…” departments of the security services.

I enjoyed nearly all of this book but, and it’s a big but, with only a few pages left I was thinking how is this going to finish. I was reading on a kindle and even checked if I had fully downloaded the book.

The answer was it didn’t.

It did, the story finishes, as in there is an end to the book, but there’s no conclusion. It just feels like the end of another chapter. If it was meant to be a cliffhanger it didn’t work. Even if there is another book in the series I would have liked a less ambiguous ending to this one.

Pages: 368
Publisher: Bantam Press
Publishing date: 28th May 2020

KILLING MIND. ANGELA MARSONS

g6iycocw

 

I have been lucky enough to be in to this series since it started, and here, in book 12, we have the best one yet.

Where Angela Marsons manages to pull new, original, and gripping plots from, whilst keeping us engaged in her cast of central characters, is a mystery but long may it continue.

Detective Inspector Kim Stone works out of Halesowen Police Station. A perfect place to set a crime series as it sits right on the edge of the Black Country and the rambling countryside, giving Angela plenty of scope to have realistic crimes in real areas.

This book stretches across both. Vulnerable people are being recruited around Dudley and introduced to a “retreat” at the remote Unity Farm.

That alone wouldn’t come on Kim’s horizon but, when a girl is found dead that does. At first inspection it looks like a suicide but something pricks at Kim’s mind and she looks a bit deeper. Before long she is convinced the girl has been murdered and that the scene has been staged.

Why did the girls social media footprint end 3 years ago.  Why are her parents behaving suspiciously when they talk to the Police.

Meanwhile more bodies are found and some tenacious work by one of the team manages to link the finds with people who went missing under dubious circumstances

Eventually Unity farm becomes the focus of inquiries but how can the team penetrate the façade that the owner puts up of an innocent retreat.

I’m not taking this any further because I don’t want to give the plot away. Needless to say it’s a gripping story, and for those of you who have read the other books you know that nobody is safe and that not all of the books have a happy ending.

This made this book even more suspenseful. There were time when I caught myself holding my breath. There were other times when I exclaimed out loud, prompting raised eyebrow from my wife.

Did I enjoy the book? Hell yes!!

Pages: 430

Publisher: Bookouture

Available now.

 

 

THE BODY UNDER THE BRIDGE Nick Louth

IMG_0091

DCI Craig Gillard is a detective in the Surrey Police. As the main character in a series of books by Nick Louth I’ve come to enjoy the character, and like all series his story ticks along throughout. Unlike many other series though, they only play a minor part of the books, which allows each of them to be read individually without deterring from the main plot.

This instalment sees Gillard trying to crack an unfathomable crime. A young woman, the daughter of a German Cabinet Minister, has gone missing. She is not underage, nor does she appear vulnerable, in fact far from it. She is the lead violin in a string quartet and an accomplished performer on stage, she is also trained in self defense. But as the daughter of a foreign diplomat pressure is put on the Police to find her.

The strange thing is that the investigation uncovers images of her on a commuter train to London, then she just disappears between stops. Her phone coverage continues but when  it’s traced only leads to more confusion.

Meanwhile one of the Detective Inspectors under Gillard’s command finds out his wife is having an affair and takes his eye-off-the-ball during the investigation to uncover his wife’s infidelity. A distraction he, Gillard, and the rest of the team could do without.

As the investigation continues a storm hits the South East of England, and the ensuing floods lead to the discovery of more dead people, not all of who have died as a result of the storm.

This book is a great read. It rattles along at a hectic pace and just when you think you have it sussed, it wriggles down another route, until the last few pages unveil a brilliant conclusion.

Nick Louth is the only author I’ve come across that has used the floods that the UK suffered in 2019 and 2020 as tool for his story, and it works really well. In fact it raised some good questions in my mind……but I won’t share them for fear of spoiling the book. Needless to say this is right up my alley and I spent hours navigating Google to see if anything like this has happened in the real world.

As I write this blog we are in week 3 of “self-solation” during the Covid19 virus outbreak. I wonder if this will feature in future books. If it does I wouldn’t be surprised to see Nick Louth being one of the first, and no doubt using it to great effect.

Pages: 288

Publisher: Canelo

Publishing Date: 30 April 2020, Available to pre-order on the usual sites.