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

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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

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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.

HER LAST MISTAKE. Carla Kovach

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A wedding day in a nice Country House Hotel.

Holly, one of the Bridesmaids, is killed in her room.

It almost sound like an Agatha Christie plot. But Miss Christie never wrote like this, in fact I don’t think she would have stood a chance against some of the modern day writers.

Carla Kovach is one of the best of these modern crime fiction authors, and the thing she does best is line up a series of suspects, making each one very plausible. This turns each book into a proper who-done-it.

In this one there is the mystery boyfriend, the local drug dealer, and a childhood friend of the bride who has never forgiven Holly for taking her friend away from her all those years ago.

All this in the first 30% of the book. (I read it on a Kindle)

Every time I thought I knew who the killer was there a little twist that made me change my mind. Not the type of twist where you think “Crikey where did that come from” just a tiny nuance, or hint, just a little thing to lead my mind down a different path.

From there the story just gets better and better. It’s a fast paced book which takes place over a few days, and leads to a wonderful conclusion.

The characters in a book are as important as the plot as far as I’m concerned. DI Gina Harte is one of the best. Every book in this series could be read as a stand-alone but the Gina-plot, which runs through all of the books, is one of the best stories I’ve read. Her story alone would have made an excellent book.

Keep them coming Carla Kovach, I can’t wait to see what happens next.

Pages: 358

Publisher: Bookouture

Publishing Date: 11th May 2020

 

TAKEN FROM HOME. B.R Spangler

I have a confession, until I read this book I had not heard of B.R Spangler. Well I have now and I shall be looking forward to the release of his books, especially in this series.

When I see that a book is the first in a series I always think, “That’s a brave thing to say, what if it’s no good”.

There is no such worry with this book. The story and the characters are great and I have a feeling this one is going to fly off the shelves.

Detective Casey White is a cop on enforced leave following an incident in her own department. Casey’s daughter Hannah was taken from the road outside her house 14 years ago, and Casey hasn’t stopped looking for her. So whilst she’s on leave she follows up an old cold lead that she rediscovered when she was moving her stuff around on her home incident wall.

As she approaches her destination, a holiday town on the coast, she comes across a young woman in the road.

The woman has just escaped from her own hell and Casey rushes her to the nearest hospital.

Whilst she’s there she comes across one of the towns former Sheriffs, Jericho Flynn, who is now marine patrol officer.

It becomes apparent that the town has recently lost its detective and needs help investigating where the young woman had come from, and when a second, seemingly unrelated crime, occurs aboard a Super Yatch the towns Mayor, and Jericho convince Casey to stay and help.

What follows is a great story. Small town USA, a relatively sleepy place, becomes the national focus because of the story of the Super Yatch. Meanwhile Casey and Jericho are convinced that the story of the woman, found by Casey, and the Yatch incidents are unrelated and start a second investigation.

From there on the crimes start to increase, and at times the lines between the two investigations become blurred.

But, what a story.

This book is fantastic. The characters would stand out in any book, but as the start of a new series this is a great introduction.

I love it when I find a new author that I like. It’s even better when I find them at the beginning of a news series.

I’m into this one from the start, and I’m here for the long term.

Pages: 378

Publishers: Bookouture

Publishing date UK: 15th May 2020

Cemetery Road Greg Iles

Greg Iles is without doubt my favourite American author. His Penn Cage series, which included the Natchez Burning Trilogy, are some of the best books I’ve ever read.

So when I picked up Cemetery Road, I was expecting a good read, and I wasn’t disappointed.

Marshall (Goose) McEwan is a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist working in Washington DC. But he returns to his hometown of Bienville, on the banks of the Mississippi, to run his ailing father’s newspaper.

Whilst he’s there he renews his “acquaintance” with a local attorney, who just happens to be married to the sun of one of the Beinville Poker Club. An Old Deep South Club that owns and runs everything in the town.

The poker club have also been instrumental in bringing Chinese investment to the town, in the form of a paper mill, money that will resurrect a dying economy.

The problem is they want to build the mill on ground that is thought to be of significant historical interest. One of McEwan’s friends, the historian-archaeologist Buck Ferris is murdered the night before the ground breaking ceremony.

Ferris had been like a surrogate father to McEwan, who’s drunken father had largely ignored him for over 30 years, and against much of the towns wish starts to investigate his friends murder.

What follows is a story of duplicity, in which the Poker Club try everything to stop McEwan, and his few ally’s, from finding the truth. With tens of millions of dollars at stake, as well as the freedom of the members of the club if the authorities ever find out the long list of laws they have broken, they are prepared to do anything to stop him.

This is a brilliant story from a master storyteller, and I love his books; but I should warn some of you that some people may find his writing a bit near-the-knuckle. There is sex and violence in this book, as there is in all of his books. But it’s there for a reason, it’s in context, it adds to the story. In fact the story wouldn’t work without it.

I have described Iles in previous blogs as being John Grisham without filters, and in my opinion that is why he is better than Grisham, and I love Grisham’s books.

Pages: 618

Publisher: UK, Harper Collins

Available now

Buried Deep. SUSAN WILKINS


It seems to be the season for the start of new series in the Crime Book genre. This one will stand out as one of the best and I can’t wait for the next instalment.

Detective Sergeant   Megan Thomas has just transferred from the Met to Devon. Having spent the last 5 years as an undercover officer she is dreading going back to normal policing. Has she still got what it takes to be a “normal” detective. Can she deal with the PTSD that she suffers from following that undercover work. Will the team she is assigned to give her a chance.

What easier way to start with her new team than a murder, and a teenage rape, within a small community. As well as Megan doubting herself she has a fast-rising-star of a Detective Chief Inspector,  who is only interested in protecting her own career, as a boss.

The first body is found in a septic tank and Megan has a panic attack when she crawls inside to establish the position of the body and if it’s accidental or murder.

That’s not the only thing that triggers a reaction from Megan, and as her crisis of confidence escalates, Megan begins to question her future in the Police Force.

The settings for the crimes, and the characters in the story, are compelling. At times my empathy for Megan slipped but I enjoyed reading how she copped with her personal issues. The young DC’s who hold no bias against a Met cop coming into their team is a juxtaposition compared with the old hands who perceive her as a threat.

The fact that Megan is now fighting crime in a town where everybody seems to know every bodies business is also a complete contrast to her old work.  Town gossip is a hindrance and at time her ally but choosing when to use it becomes not just a police issue but also a family one.

Publisher: Bookouture

Pages: 325

Publishing date: April 6th 2020 available to preorder on Amazon

 

 

 

Knock Knock. Chris Merritt

 

The first of a new series in a crowded field. So how did it stand up to the competition.

I really enjoyed it.

The two main characters are easy to like and engage with.

DI Dan Lockhart is leading his first case as Senior Investigating Officer with the Mets MIT8. The team are tasked with finding the killer of a woman that has been tied to a chair and had a steel ball forced down her throat. The team soon link this to a previous murder but somebody is already in custody for that. So was the original investigation wrong, or is their a copycat killer

Dan is in therapy with Dr Lexi Green, but for once in this type of book it’s not work related. Lexi is helping Dan with psychological issues which she believes stem from the loss of his wife. Loss in this case being that she went missing whilst he was serving in the army and has never been seen since. Dans ongoing search for his wife is taking its toll

When another woman is killed Dan employs Lexi as a Criminal Psychologist, much to the disdain of his team.

As the bodies mount up everybody involved in the investigation seems to have their own theory on who the killer is. Tensions in the MIT are reflected by the tension that builds between Lockhart and Green.

There is a bit of an inevitably to the path the story takes towards the end but it has set up a fantastic story thread for future books.

The epilogue deceivers a great punch linked to a small section of the book I’d almost forgotten, but what an impact it had. I was already looking forward to the next book, now I’m desperate to get my hands on it

Publishers: Bookouture

Pages: 416

Publishing date: 17th March 2020