The Girl In The Grave Helen Phifer

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Introducing Forensic Pathologist Beth Adams. A woman in her mid-thirties who carries the physical and mental scars of an event that happened 7 years ago.

Beth is a great character, she is living in a big house on a lake, in solitude, avoiding unnecessary contact with strangers. The house has the best of security systems and even a panic room. As the main story unfolds a second story describing the events of 7 years ago are told explaining why Beth is so introvert and reclusive.

Having said that she is beginning to come out of herself with the help of a few trusted friends, and one of her best friends is DS Josh Walker.

So when Beth is sent to the scene of an exhumation of a recently buried woman, where a second body has been found underneath the coffin, she is glad to see Josh is there as the head of the Police team.

The investigation into the death of the young woman found in the grave gives Beth a chance to flex her brain, and ignoring her fears, she starts to look at the girl’s death and how she ended up in the grave.

This leads to a closer working relationship with Josh, and Beth actually starts to feel normal again for the first time in years.

Just like all crime thrillers this peace of mind doesn’t last long. Somebody is stalking Beth and starts to leave her little surprise presents.

This story runs along at a cracking pace. It’s a Police Procedural, with Josh and Beth, being the lead characters. It’s a psychological thriller with the stalking of Beth, and the pressure put on her by the crimes which take place during the investigation.

It’s also an introduction to a series which I can’t wait to develop.

The character of Beth is brilliantly written as a vulnerable yet determined woman.

The story that Josh brings is just as enthralling. I had a lot of empathy for this guy.

There seems to be more crime series than ever on the shelves at the moment, and I have to admit to yearning for more one offs where I could just read-and -forget.

But, there is plenty of room on my shelves for Beth Adams, not only will she always be welcome, but I’m looking forward to meeting her again.

Pages: 264

Publisher: Bookouture

Publishing date: 16thJuly 2017

Dead Inside, Noelle Holten, blog tour

A few weeks ago I wrote a blog about Noelle Holten’s book DEAD INSIDE. When I tweeted a link to the blog I said this is the best debut novel I’ve ever read.

It is, this is one hell of a book

I quite often say a book had me hooked, but never has the hook been so deep. I know people have different tastes, and that some people will read the book and have a different opinion, but if you like Crime Thrillers, which really are Thrillers; and if you like crimes that make you flinch and gasp out loud, you are going to love this.

My original review is below. Have a look, read the book, and join me at the start of this journey.

Dead Inside Noelle Holten

A few months ago I heard that one of the staff at a publishers I follow had written a book. In fact I began to hear a few mentions of DEAD INSIDE by Noelle Holten.

I had to read it, but I was worried, what if I didn’t like it. I talk to this woman a lot and do book reviews for some of the authors she’s responsible for. This could have been nasty.

Wrong, wrong, wrong. I should have known better. If you represent the authors Noelle represents, and write the reviews she puts on line of other books she reads, I should have known she loves the same type of fiction as I do.

But she’s gone one step further than me, she’s written a book, and what a book!

Dead Inside is going to be up there with this year’s top releases.

Noelle has written this book in a way that not many, if any, other books I’ve read have been written before. Although it is billed as “Maggie Jamieson Crime Thriller Book 1” there is no real lead character. Everybody seems to get equal billing and the story is brilliant for it.

I was trying to find a way of explaining this and eventually came up with the analogy that the books characters are like those from a TV soap, everybody is important to the story, when it’s their turn they are front and centre, but it’s the story that takes precedent. The plot is lead chronologically by the character that means the most at that time. So although Maggie is a thread throughout, she gets no more or less page time than anybody else. I really like this style.

So who is Maggie, well she’s a DC who has been moved from a Murder Investigation Team in Staffordshire Police to a new unit. Why has she been moved? Her back story indicates that she was heavily involved in a serial killer investigation, and that maybe she suffered a bit during that investigation.

The newly formed team is the Domestic Abuse and Homicide Unit, and is a multi-agency team set up to quell the growing problem of Domestic Violence, and the deaths associated with it, across Staffordshire.

When the team was set up I would imagine that they thought the Homicides would be mainly women who had suffered abuse at the hands of their partners. So on Maggie’s first day it’s a bit of a shock when the body of a man who was an abuser turns up.

The team start an investigation as the man was known to them and involve the Probation Service in their inquiry, as he was also known to them.

A big part of this story is a group of people that represent a section of society we all know exists but hopefully never have an involvement with.

Women, a lot with drink or drugs problems, gravitating to men with the same problems, or men who will exploit those women when they are at their lowest ebb. Women who get abused physically and mentally, and when they find the courage to move on, nearly always end up in another abusive relationship.

In this story one woman should not be in that category, she should know better, she works with women that suffer abuse, then she goes home and behind closed doors she becomes one of the abused. At times the sections of the story that looks at Lucy and her Husband are hard to read but compelling at the same time.

As the bodies start to pile up another character is introduced to the team. Dr Kate Maloney is a Criminal Psychiatrist, a young Irish woman who dresses in full Goth clothing and has a tongue as sharp as a knife. What a character.

Maggie works the case and introduces the rest of the team as the investigation continues. All of the team have their opinions, and as the book moves on their individual characters are laid open for the reader. Each of them is realistic and everybody who has ever worked in a team will recognise the dynamics, there are some we will love, and there are others who will infuriate.

The story continues with more violence in the almost incestuous community of abusers and victims.

The Police battle against the closed nature of the group and the absolute denial of some of the victims.

But somebody out there is doing something about it, and the way they’re doing it is murderous. Spine-tingly murderous.

So now the abusers are becoming victims will anybody have any sympathy for them. How will the investigating team deal with looking out for peoples safety, when they have been trying to take them off the streets for years.

This book had me hooked from start to finish. It had me holding my breath and making out-loud exclamations. It had me reading way past my usual bedtime and then waking up early to carry on and find out who was safe and who wasn’t.

I had sympathy for the victims of abuse, and at the same time I was frustrated by their lack of helping themselves, and their constant denial of there actually being a problem. Yes, it is very real.

Like all good books it ends on a cliff hanger. One that I really didn’t see coming, but which opens the door for Maggie Jamieson Book 2.

In a strange way I would love to have come across this book after 3 or 4 had been published so that I could have binge read them.

But I am really chuffed to have been in from the start. I hope I’m about to ride a wave that includes many a venture for Maggie and her team.

Noelle Hurry up and write the next one please.

Pages: 293

Publisher: Killer Reads

Publishing Date: 31st May 2019….Just in time to buy for a the summer holiday books.

The Liars House Carla Kovach

 

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A murder involving a participant in a “partner swapping” party, but how and why did the victim end up walking home alone?

DI Gina Harte is faced with the questions, but this murder is also going to make her face her past, and hope that it doesn’t ruin her future.

Gina Harte has a secret that most of her team don’t know. She was the victim of domestic abuse at the hands of her husband, abuse of the worst most degrading type. Her husband has been dead for years but the memories will never go away.

When the team start digging into the lives of the people who attended the party they find that not everybody is a happy participant, and that’s enough to bring the memories of her past flooding back to Gina, but she can usually handle those memories.

Not this time. This time there’s a link to her past which will threaten Gina’s sanity, let alone her ability to act as the SIO for the investigation.

To make matters worse Gina has been using a dating app and has a very attentive man who just won’t take no for an answer.

Another party, another victim, and more pressure on Gina.

This book is not just the story of a murder investigation. This story looks at the effects domestic abuse has on people long after it has been made to stop.

It looks at the effects of a dominant partner coercing a spouse into doing things that they’d rather not, but end up doing to save a relationship.

It looks at the pressures put on Police Officers, who most people take for granted as they are “just doing their job”.

There is a lot going on in this book. To say I read it in one sitting would be a lie, but I didn’t get much else done from the time I first picked it up, till the last page was read.

This is the forth outing for DI Gina Harte. I really enjoyed the previous books but this one is the best. Can it be read as a stand-alone? Yes. It’s written so well that the back story is filled in so a new reader doesn’t miss out. But please read the others, its one hell of a series.

Pages: 337

Publishers: Bookouture

Publishing Date: 2ndJuly 2019

Tightrope Marnie Riches

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It is easy to say things like “I  have loved all of Marnie Riches’ books” but I have. She writes in a style that I like to read. The stories always have a base in realism, with a hint of shock. She talks about things we know happen, but would really not like to acknowledge that they do.

So, with the start of this new series I was expecting just that, plus her usual scattering of loveable rogue characters. I wasn’t disappointed.

The book starts with a bang, or should I say gangbang. A young prostitute is choked to death as a group of men, wearing animal masks, use her for their pleasure. The death is filmed and later makes its way onto the dark net. But, far from forcing the man who killed her into hiding, it empowers his self-fulfilling prophecy of a man who holds power over women.

Meanwhile 30 year old Beverly Saunders is trying to dig her way out from under the debris of a divorce. Her husband is using her psychological issues to keep her from seeing her daughter. She is trying to establish herself as a Private Investigator, whilst attending group counselling sessions to address her addictions, more about those later.

When the wife of a Member of the Shadow Cabinet bumps into her, and asks for help proving that her husband is having affairs she has to accept, not because she needs the money, because she sees the bruises on the wife and knows she has to help her.

This job is way above the type of investigations she’s used to running, and as well as turning to observations and honey traps, she needs to hack his electronic life.

Enter Doc, a friend from the counselling sessions who is addicted to strong weed and Lego. Yes Lego, the toy, brilliant. He is also a computer geek of the highest order.

The investigation puts both Beth and Doc in danger, but how much of it is real, and how much of it is weed educed paranoia on Doc’s behalf.

To add to the illusions of danger somebody is playing with Bev’s head, using her OCD, moving things in her damp basement flat, not that anyone else would notice, but just enough to put doubt into her mind.

The story has many threads, all of them edgy, and all of them winding their way to a great climax at the end of the book. I can’t say more than that because, to do so, would ruin a good read.

I mentioned Bev’s psychological issues, and these are what makes her such a great character. She has OCD, she collects and makes origami figures, and she’s addicted to sex, often turning to a well know porn site for an afternoon of “stress busting”

She’s vulnerable, yet ballsy, she can be quite unsure of herself, yet she has a short fuse to a raging temper.

This series has legs, and I can’t wait to see which alley they take us down.

Pages: 384

Publisher: Trapeze

Publishing Date: 11thJuly 2019

REWIND Catherine Ryan Howard

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The front cover of the book has the words Play. Pause. Run. REWIND. Not just words, 4 words that conjure up a lot of possibilities in the world of crime fiction, but the more you read the book the more significant they become, not just in the story as it unfolds, but also in the way the story is narrated.

When Dublin Instagram Influencer Natalie disappears nobody is really worried. After all she had posted that she was going off line for a few days, but why did her husband, Mike,  not report her missing until she had been gone for a week?

Audrey is a wannabe journalist. Actually she’s already a journalist on an online newspaper, but to her dissatisfaction she is an entertainment journalist working on the “sidebar-of-shame” looking for clickbait stories.

Her ambition is to move upstairs and work with the serious journalists on real news. So when her boss offers her a job, a bit of a crossover story, she doesn’t hesitate. The rumours of Natalie’s disappearance have started to circulate, and reports are reaching the news desk that her husband has reported her missing. Audrey is given the job of looking to see if there is more to the story than an Insta-celeb going off in a huff or looking for publicity.

What she doesn’t realise is that she is about to start a journalistic investigation which is always half a step in front of the Police. It’s just that neither, she, or the Police, know exactly what they are investigating.

Play, pause, run, REWIND is exactly how this story is narrated.

It is no spoiler to say that a murder has taken place and that somebody has caught it on a webcam, but who has been murdered, by who, and why? All these usual questions asked in a crime thriller, are laid out in the ways of the command on a video recording

Having set the scene of the murder the story rewinds to before it to set the scene, runs ahead of the murder to look at Audrey’s investigation, and pauses at all points in between.

Each chapter is set either before, during, or after the murder and is written in such a way that the end of most chapters are cliff hangers that don’t get resolved until the story returns to that piece of the timeline. There is so much suspense in this book that it is impossible to put down.

Catherine Ryan Howard is a new author to me but looking at Amazon I can see she has written two previous books, and if they are as good as this one, I have no idea how she has been off my radar.

Usually a book that jumps backwards and forwards chronologically would have me giving up on it within the first 50 or 60 pages; but REWIND had me hooked within the first 20 and kept me there all the way till the end.

2019 is turning into a stela-year for crime fiction. So far this year I have read some of the best books to be published for years. This one is right up there with the best of them.

 

Pages: 300

Publishers: Corvus

Publishing Date: 5thSeptember 2019

City of Windows Robert Pobi

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Where do I start with a book as good as this?

The storyline is brilliant.

The main character is unique in modern writing.

The settings are, well its New York City so it’s anything-goes and its believable.

Let’s start with the story. A sniper is making impossible shots in New York. Firing from distance, from height, through almost impossible gaps in the tower blocks. The first person they hit is a federal agent, so is the second. Is that a coincidence? No of course not. Are these agents being selected at random or is there a connection.

Then there’s the main character, Lucas Page. Lucas is a University Professor, or he is now, he used to be something very different, but that cost him an arm and a leg, literally, and an eye. Fitted with prosthetics and a false eye he is happily(ish) teaching at a University until the sniper makes his first hit. Then his ex-colleagues need his speciality, because Professor Page is a maths genius. He sees things in numerical blocks and can calculate distances and angles in an instant. In fact he can reverse engineer the factors needed to identify the most likely location of the snipers nest before the forensic scientists can get their equipment out of their cars.

Lucas is happy in his new world of teaching, its safe and he goes home at night. His wife is happy as well, because he comes home at night and acts as a father to their ever increasing brood of fostered children.

So when Luke is told he has to go back neither he nor his wife are happy, but it’s not long before he’s bitten by the bug and is immersed in the investigation.

The  FBI are convinced they know the identity of the killer and all they have to do is find them. Lucas is less convinced.

Battling against some of the brass within the FBI who are sceptical in his abilities, and are target focused on the man they think is killing their agents, Lucas finds an ally in Special Agent Whitaker, the tall woman who has been assigned to be his chaperone during the investigation.

This is a clever story. Snipers in the big cities of the world is already one of the threats that have law enforcers worried. To us one in a story like this shows how random the attacks can be, the effect it has on the community, and just how difficult it would be to catch a well prepared marksman.

Robert Pobi has just gone to the top of my list of back catalogues to read, and any future books will be read as soon as I can get my hands on them.

Pages:  400

Publishers: Mulholland Books

Publishing date: 6thAugust 2019

THE DARE Carol Wyer

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What would you do if your daughter went missing?

What would you do when she turned up after 48 hours and stated she had been taking part in a social media craze?

What would you do if your daughter went missing for 48 hours, and you were hoping she was taking part in the craze, but was then found murdered?

Social media is responsible for a lot these days and teenagers are particularly vulnerable to the trends, or should I say they are influenced.

What a concept to set a murder story around, and Carol Wyer has pulled it off to perfection.

The first girl to go missing, and later turn up dead is Savannah, and her mom will always blame herself for not being home when she should have been.

This is where DI Natalie Ward and her team start the investigation. An investigation that will be hindered by the social media trend, some of the girls going missing are simply hiding away for effect. Others are not so fortunate.

So, is somebody using the missing for 48 hour game to find their victims, or is there a murderer who is targeting random teenage girls.

As Natalie and her team carry out the investigation they uncover the secret lives that teenage girls keep from their parents, and I couldn’t help but think how realistic that is.

Shop lifting and dating older men are just two of the things these girls have been up to, and the perceived loyalty of their friends in keeping secret their slightly nefarious activities is hindering the Police’s investigation.

As girls go missing, and bodies start to be found, the team are in a race against time to identify the killer.

But has this killer found the best way yet of putting the Police of their scent. Not every missing girl ends up dead, but they all need investigating and its taking time. Time the Police can’t afford to waste on false leads.

Natalie is very aware of the lives of teenagers as she is the mother of two of them, and receives very little support from her husband in bringing them up.

In fact Natalie’s home life is slowly going down the pan and its beginning to distract her at a time when she least needs distracting.

Will she keep her mind on the game? Will she and her team, identify the killer before the body count gets out of hand?

This is book three in the DI Natalie Ward Series. All three have been brilliant stories, and have all had very original plots. The story of Natalie hooks me as nearly as much as the crimes she’s solving.

As a character Natalie Ward stands out as being one of the most realistic. Her problems are everyday problems, her family is a normal family, but her husband has got a problem and its driving a wedge between them.

The thing I find about these books is how on point they are. The issues with social media are very current and are most parents nagging worries with their teenagers, and Carol Wyer exploits that fear in this book.

The problem her husband has is one of Britain’s growing problems, he’s a gambler, and a again Carol explores the problems with living with somebody who’s gambling in a brilliant manner.

Yes this is book 3 in the series, but it can be read as a stand-alone.

My recommendation would be read all three, in fact if you are looking for some books to read around the pool, or on the beach this summer, get all three and save them to binge read. You won’t be disappointed.

Pages: 378

Publisher: Bookouture

Available: Now.