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

Where The Innocent Die M.J Lee

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This is the latest in a really good Crime Fiction Series. DI Thomas Ridpath is not your stereotypical fictional cop. He is a family man who is really good at what he does and is well liked amongst his peers. Where he is different is that he is a cancer patient in remission. With Senior Officers in the Police worried about his health when he returned to work, he has been temporarily deployed to Manchester’s Coroner as a Coroner’s Investigator.

This has given M.J Lee lots of leeway to put Ridpath into situations not usually encountered by Police Officers as he investigates how people have died. However in this book the streams are crossed and Ridpath finds himself right at the front of a murder investigation, and this time he will not be Mr Popular.

The death of a Chinese woman in a detention centre, the day before she is due to be deported, is found to be a case of suicide by the Police Officer who carries out the investigation.

The Coroner is not convinced. It’s the latest in a line of deaths in detention centres across the country, most of which have been recorded as suicide. This one has happened in Manchester, and there is no way the Coroner is going to let it slip by without proper investigation, and she tasks Ridpath with taking a second look at the circumstances surrounding the woman’s death.

Ridpath soon finds out that the Police Investigation was slipshod at best. Unfortunately, for him, it was carried out by a popular Detective Sergeant who is 3 months from retirement and stands to lose his pension if Ridpath is correct in his theory that the woman was murdered.

The discovery of another body only adds credibility to  Ridpath’s hypothesis and he is “invited” to lead the investigations into both deaths as part of the MIT.

The Coroner has made it impossible to carry out a deep investigation as she refuses to put back the date of the inquest, giving Ridpath less than a week to gather the evidence he needs to establish the woman was murdered and, if so identify the killer.

Meanwhile, understandably, Ridpath is working every hour available and his family are worried about the effects on his health.

This is a great book. In effect it starts as a “locked-room-mystery” but soon develops into something much more sinister.

At the end of the book Ridpath is left with a decision to make. I, for one, can’t wait to read the next book to see what he has decided.

 

Pages: 352

Publisher: Canelo

Publishing Date: 7th May 2020

POISON Jacqui Rose

This “Gangland” genre of fiction is getting more popular, so I thought I’d give it a go. Poison is not the first of the type I’ve read but it’s certainly the best.

Franny is in Prison on remand, she’s a hard woman who’s used to being the boss, but in prison she’s just another inmate who gets targeted by the hard knocks. There’s a hierarchy and as the book starts Franny is far from the top of it.

As the story unfolds we find out why Franny’s in prison. Not just the crime she’s alleged to have committed, but also the duplicity that has taken place to put her behind bars.

Meanwhile outside, the prison, the triangular relationship between a 16 year old drug addict who is trying to straighten out her life, a young drug addict father who is trying to pay back massive debts, and a Criminal who is a friend of both and is trying to look after them, is putting everybody in danger, including Franny.

Throw into the mix a very crocked Police Officer and this is one hell of a story.

Misplaced loyalties within the criminal fraternity provide some great twists and turns but all of the strands of the story run together in a very neat plot.

For crime fiction lovers this story is a diversion from the usual cop-hunts-criminal type of tale. It still holds intrigue, and poses dilemma’s, but from  a completely different side of life.

The things that most people would think are wrong, drug taking, drug dealing, prostitution, abuse, money sharking, are all part of day to day life for the characters in this book. It’s hard to find anybody in the book to actually class as the ultimate victim, as all the characters are victims of some type. For me that means that although I have no sympathy, or empathy for any of them, I can understand and tolerate their behaviour.

That made the book easy for me to read. I loved it.

Pages: 403

Publishers: Avon

Publishing Date: Available now

Oh How I’ve Changed

In July 2014 I decided to try writing a blog. I’ve been reading books since as early as I can remember, and have I to be the very definition of a bookworm. I can remember times in my life by what books I was reading, or what author or genre was my favourite. So I decided to share my thoughts on what I read.

That first blog was titled My Life In Books, and I used it as an introduction to show people who I was, and what I was reading at different points in my life.

I read that blog back recently and realised how much my views on reading have changed since I wrote it, and how my reading habits have changed.

So it’s about time for an update

One of the biggest things that stood out for me was how I said that I liked authors that only published every 18 months or so. I even said that authors who were publishing 2 or more books a year couldn’t be writing anything good.

HOW WRONG could I have been. My favourite author at the moment is Angela Marsons. Angela is a woman that has been writing for years, but like many, was having trouble getting published. Bookouture stood up and took a chance on her, and I was lucky enough to read the first DI Kim Stone book, Silent Scream, as soon as it was published in 2015. It was about a ballsy young woman who had had a terrible childhood. Her mother was abusive, her brother was killed, and she ended up being passed around foster families and children’s homes. As a young woman she joined the Police and now investigates major crimes across the Black Country. I have read and loved every book in this series and number eleven was published late last year. Yes that’s right, about 3 a year, and they are all brilliant. It just goes to show how wrong I was. Oh, and she’s just sold her 4 millionth copy, so I’m not the only one that likes them.

I mentioned, in that first blog, about how a Kindle let me find books by authors I had never heard of. Well writing this blog has taken that to a new level. In that first blog I said how much I enjoyed the Harry Potter books, but that I just couldn’t face reading anything that J.K Rowling had written under her pseudonym Robert Galbraith.  A woman called Sophie at The Crime Vault read this and sent me a copy of The Cuckoo’s Calling, the first in the Cormaran Strike books. I loved it and my second blog was a review of that book.

That is how it started, now I’ve reviewed well over 300 books, a lot of which have been sent to me by publishers as ARC’s or Advanced Readers Copy. I’m lucky to get books a couple of months before they’re published so that my review can be used as part of the publicity drive, if it gets a favourable review, and believe me not all of them do.

My work life has changed. I now lecture to people all over the UK and occasionally abroad. The increase in travel time has led me to listening to audio books when I travel, most of these books are factual accounts of events or biographies. The best of these, so far, has been Colin Sutton’s account of the investigation he lead into the arrest and conviction of Levi Bellfield. I’d seen the TV adaption and decided to listen to the actual book, Manhunt. It is stunning.

Another excellent audiobook is

Unnatural Causes by Dr Richard Shepard. An autobiographical account of a Home Office Pathologist and his work, which has included some of the most horrific murders, and disasters of the recent years. It pulled no punches in the way it described the scenes, but more significantly, it pulled no punches in describing the effects it had on Dr Shepard’s mental health, and the way it affected his family. These are two books that all crime fiction addicts should read, or listen to, to show the real consequences carried by the people who are involved in real world incidents and investigations.

My blog has also introduced me to a lot of authors, some I’ve built up a friendship with, even if it is only in the modern day way of social media. Some have come to me for advice when they’re writing scenes which include fires, and I’ve been in quite a few acknowledgements at the end of books.

The other thing the blog is helping me with is remembering what I’m reading. I love my Kindle but it opens to the page I’m on. I never see book covers anymore. So when somebody says what are you reading, I very often can’t remember the title, the author yes, the title no. The screen shot of the cover I put on the blog is my link to the book, and the way I remember it after I’ve read it. Kindle please show the book cover when I wake my device, then go to the last page I read.

The other thing that has changed is that I am getting ARCs from publishers for new authors who have written their debut book. It’s not often that a book has the impact that Noelle Holten’s Dead Inside did last year. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book that was written so well, with such a deep understanding and empathy of the crimes involved. It was my book of the year last year. I’ve just read the next in the series Dead Wrong, and it left me literally breathless at the end. It’s published soon so watch out for the review.

So in the last 5 years my reading habits have changed to include audiobooks, which I now wouldn’t travel without. I have come to understand authors better and lost my prejudice against authors that publish multiple titles a year. I’m on publishers lists to send advanced copies to, and post reviews that are read by people all around the world. I have authors contacting me for advice, I still can’t believe that, and love the fact that I help in a little way to bring a story to life.

The best thing though, the best thing by far, is this blog has taken my enjoyment of reading to another level. Books were never boring but I did have difficulty finding titles I wanted to read, because I was set in my ways. Now my horizons have been broadened and I am reading some great books I never would have even heard of before.