Death In Kabul. A. Belsham & N. Higgins

The star of the book is its hotch-potch collection of characters that could only be put together in somewhere such as Kabul, a City suffering corruption following years of war and internal conflict.

Mac, the disgraced British Police Officer and his colleague Ginger, a former Para both now working for a private company training local Police Officers.

Major Jananga, an uncorrupted Police Officer who wants to stick to the rules, but those rules include torture and killing.

Baz Khan, and American journalist who is trying to expose a gang smuggling artefacts out of Afghanistan.

When a British soldier is murdered Jananga enlists Mac to help with is investigation.

Meanwhile Baz Khan is on the tail of the smugglers but doesn’t realise how much danger her journalistic enquiries are putting her in.

Gradually both investigations start to point towards a drinking den. The Lucky Star is a drinking den, gambling den, and brothel that could only exist so openly in a city like Kabul.

What a story. It would be wrong to say Kabul is portrayed as lawless, but it is portrayed as being under the Laws of whoever wants to make them up at the time.

There are moralistic angles incorporated into the plot that adds a different twist to a crime mystery set in Europe or America can realistically offer.

It’s also another of those books that had me hitting Google on numerous occasions. I love learning new things and this book certainly gave me the opportunity to do that.

A great read and one that is firmly on my Recommended List

Publisher: Canelo Action. Print Length: 413 Pages. Available now

The Corpse Flower. Anne Mette Hancock

2016, a man is butchered in his home. A woman walks out of the house and stands, covered in his blood, looking into a CCTV camera. Her name is Anna, she walks away and is never found.

2019, Anna starts to send letters to journalist Heloise Kaldan. Cryptic notes that have the journalist confused, a claim of a link between her and Anna.

At the same time a woman walks into a police station in Copenhagen and claims she has seen Anna in France. Detective Sergeant Eric Schafer, the Chief Investigator for the murder, doesn’t really believe her until, she shows him the picture she took of the woman

Anna contacts Eric and the two start separate investigations.

What they uncover is chilling, a history of abuse of the worst kind. An apparently untouchable criminal hiding in the mist of being a respectful and powerful business man.

But what is the connection to Anna.

Who is pulling the strings. Both Anna and Eric work separately but remain in touch. One of them is being played.

This is a belter of a story. Like most scandi- noir it has a bit of over description, but like most of scandi-noir it seems more in tune with the story than it does in any other form of crime fiction.

The pace of the story occasionally wallows but it gives the reader a chance to take stock.

I believe this is the first book by Anne Mette Hancock, and that a second featuring Eric and Heloise is due to be published in November 2022. If this is right I will be looking for it on the bloggers review sites in the hope of getting an early copy. If I can’t get it there I will be preordering and waiting anxiously for it to land in my Kindle in November.

Print Length: 331. Publisher: Swift Press. Available now

One Girl Missing. Carla Kovach

Gina Harte. Now that’s a name that we should be hearing on a TV Series.

Carla Kovach has really developed this character, to say she’s been through the mill would be an understatement, but she is one hell of a Police Officer.

This story sees the Harte storyline take another twist, and it’s a belter.

The main story is always the investigation into a crime, and this one opens a real can of worms.

Two women go out for a night. A man attacks them. One of the women disappears, the other is missing.

The missing woman’s 5 year old girl is at home waiting for her mom. When the Police find her she tells them a strange man had been looking in her window.

Then the book turns really dark.

What has life been like behind closed doors.

Every house, every flat, every apartment holds its own story. Most are happy, or just plain mundane, but a few hold dark secrets.

You can’t tell these fearful dwellings from the outside. Every now and then neighbours might hear arguments and banging, and have an idea something is going on, but the truly dark houses are silent. Hiding bad things in plain sight, in ordinary neighbourhoods.

What has been going on.

Why were the women attacked, and where is the missing woman

What a way to start a book.

This is 359 pages of fast paced criminal investigation rapped up in a psychological thriller.

Publisher: Bookouture. Available now

The Box Hill Killer & The South Bank Murders. Biba Pearce

The on going police series has now reached book 5. As I only discovered this series very recently I have been binge reading it. It’s a testament to how good these books are that I am gutted that I’ve got to wait until publication day for the next one.

The lead character, DCI Rob Miller is one of those lovely rarities, a cop with no issues. A happy family man. No vices, no irritations, just a man doing his job.

His team is ever evolving with a strong core of three or four , but with others rotating in and out of his team. Every one of them is well written and just right for the role they play in the Police, and in the story.

The villains and victims are also perfectly written and evoke just the right level of anger and empathy.

In these two books the team are on the tracks of more vicious killers, but one investigation is really personal.

The Box Hill Killer.

12 years ago four people were killed by, who the press dubbed, The Pentagram Killer. When a current murder investigation throws doubt on the original investigation, of the four murders, Millers team have the headache of a current, and a historic crime being linked highlighting a miscarriage of justice.

What they don’t expect is to find a body dump, but when a cadaver dog starts to indicate possible burials in a remote area of a park, that is exactly what they find.

A great story.

The South Bank Murders

Possibly the best book in the series, and it starts with a bang.

3 men are killed in a shooting in a restaurant. One of them as a retired Police Officer who was very close to Rob and his team. In fact he’d phoned Rob on the day he was killed and asked him out for a drink.

The team find themselves involved in an investigation that involves County Line Drugs dealings centred on a rough Council Estate.

The realism of the writing in this book is brilliant. The way young immigrants are exploited to run drugs and carry out burglaries. The way the gangs Cuckoo people on the estate. People who want nothing to do with crime having to be involved because they’re to scared not to be.

Trying to work out who is lying because they are guilty, and those who are lying because they are too scared to tell the truth.

Who can the team trust. The quandary of the modern day police where estates are run by gangs who hold more fear than the authorities.

This is not just the best book in the series, it’s one of the best books I’ve read. Stunning.

Publisher Joffe Books. Pages: 332 and 298. Available now.

The Hidden Child. Rebecca Griffiths

One of my often used phrases is “I love a book that gets me reaching for Google” and this is one of those books.

In fact it made me realise just how much I didn’t know about the Myra Hindley and Ian Brady murder spree that took place in the early 1960’s.

Maybe it was because the murders took place when I was two or three years old, maybe I thought I knew more about them because they have been in and out of the news ever since.

Rebecca Griffiths has taken those murders and woven a great story around them.

Ronald is a farmer, on Saddleworth Moor. He’s reclusive and keeps himself to himself.

It’s a solitary life and that’s what he wants. So when a couple start to appear on his land, he notices them straight away. When he starts to hear news reports about missing children he quickly realises what the mystery couple are up to.

But what can he do about it.

Go to the police, no way. Ronald has his own reasons for not wanting the Police snooping around his land.

Ronald is a great character, conflicted, would be the best way to describe him. But his story is tough and at times emotional.

Hindley and Brady, there victims, and the families of the victims are written about tactfully but grittily. In fact at times it’s a bit of a tough read when you realise that part of the story is factual

Books which weave fact and fiction can go both ways, really good, or really bad, this one is definitely in the really good category.

Rebecca Griffiths has used just the right mixture of fact and fiction, in fact it’s that good a mixture that I wouldn’t have been surprised if I hadn’t got to the end and found that I’d been reading a book bringing new evidence, and revealing new crimes. There have been rumours for years that there are more victims of Hindley and Brady, and that maybe there was another accomplice.

This book doesn’t open the door of another accomplice but it does open the door on other murders, and that’s where the fiction kicks in.

This is a great read. Weather you remember the Moors Murders, or as was my case, thought you knew a bit about them, I can guarantee that by the end of this book you will have used whatever research engines you have available to you, and learnt a lot more.

The story is great, the jump between what is present and what is past, within the story is sometimes a bit blurred and I got confused once or twice, but that may have been because I was reading it none stop. It hooked me from the start.

Print length: 361 pages. Audio book length: 10 hours 47 minutes. Publisher : Bookouture

A Life For A Life. Carol Wyer

Carol Wyer is one of those authors who I look for. When her books are out up for review I grab them as soon as possible.

There’s a reason for this. She ticks all of my boxes when it comes to crime fiction.

Great characters, great settings, realistic stories, gritty, and no guarantee of a happy ending.

The Kate Young series has been her best so far, and A Life For A Life just takes it to another level.

Kate is made SIO when a seemingly innocent, if somewhat irritating, young man is found dead on a train station platform. He’s been shot in the head with a stun bolt, like those used to kill animals in abattoirs.

But he’s only the first victim, there will be others.

Meanwhile Kate is still trying to expose the bent Senior Police Officer she believes is responsible for the murder of her husband.

Her husband was a journalist who had been investigating a story involving high profile men abusing underage youths, of both sexes, in a sex club.

One of the underage youths had been killed by an over zealous customer whilst The Senior Police Officer was abusing a young girl in the neighbouring room. Now that girl is on the run and Kate knows she’s the only person who will have information to help her nail the dirty cop.

How far will Kate go in her attempts to avenge her husband, and how much will it affect her ability to perform as a normal day-to-day SIO.

The continuing story of Kates attempt to get justice for her husband runs nicely in parallel to the core story of this book, the investigation into the murders.

There’s another parallel that binds Kate and the Killer, but I really can’t mention it without giving a big spoiler. However when you read the book you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about, and just how clever Carol Wyer has been to use it.

This is crime fiction at its very best. It also shows why U.K. Crime Fiction is so popular and successful right now.

Fast paced, realistic crime, that just grips the reader and takes them on one hell of a ride.

A brilliant read.

Print length: 363 pages. Audio Book: 10 hours 5 minutes. Publisher: Thomas & Mercer

The West London Murders and The Bisley Wood Murders by Biba Pearce

Books two and three in the brilliant London based crime series.

DI, or Acting DCI, Rob Miller is a great character. In his personal life he is the quiet man who seems almost shy. In his professional life he is thought of as the quiet but efficient background officer.

But in the first book of the series he was given a chance to be the SIO on what appeared to be a run of the mill murder. This turned out to be anything but run of the mill, and his ability as as leader, and as an investigator shone through.

It’s no surprise that he is given a second run at SIO in book 2, The West London Murders, when a man is stabbed to death in what appears a random attack.

As the investigation gets going it soon becomes evident that the National Crime Agency was aware of the man. Rob and his team are asked to lay of the main suspect as the NCA have him as one of their main targets in a County Lines investigation, which could lead to a major drug gang being taken off the streets.

When another death is linked to that of the first victim it becomes apparent that neither murder has anything to do with the drugs gang, and that a murder investigation is the Mets priority.

Rob is reunited with Jo Maguire, now working for the NCA, they both have their own priorities, Rob the murder investigation, Jo the drug gangs and their suppliers.

Can they play nicely and satisfy both of their bosses, can they solve the murders without jeopardising the drug investigation.

Just as intriguing, where will their own relationship go, now that Rob is in a very unstable marriage.

In the third book, The Bisley Woods Murders, Rob is made SIO when a young girl goes missing. A body is found but it’s not that young girl, it’s another one, and she’s been buried for years.

When the girl who Rob was initially tasked to find turns up safe and well it’s not the end of the investigation, because by this time a body dump has been found, and the team are looking for somebody who has been killing young girls for years.

How has this not been picked up before? It’s a testament to Pearce’s writing that I never asked that question. The flow of the story is brilliant, and realistic, it highlights how easy it is for mass killers to go unnoticed.

From the start the investigation is hampered in the most unexpected of ways. But this leads to the discovery of the burial sites. It also throws the investigation team down blind alleys in the investigation.

The frustration of the team is only added to when it becomes personal for one of their number.

Can the murdered in London be linked to The disappearance of Jo Maguire’s sister nearly 20 years ago.

I came late to this series, and I’m loving catching up.

It’s like that TV series you didn’t catch first time around and now you’re binge watching it.

It’s compulsive. The crimes are really well conceived and realistic. The setting, the London Suburbs is perfect for the story. Most importantly, for me, I can engage with the characters.

Rob Miller is brilliant, he is just an ordinary man, a bit shy and a little insecure in everything except his commitment to an investigation. His personal life is in turmoil. As the series starts he is engaged to a high maintenance girl who, in everyday terms is well above his punching weight.

By the second book they are married but in a very unstable relationship. In typical man style he ignores the situation at home to concentrate on his cases, but his home life is always on his mind.

And then there’s Jo. A career focused young woman who Rob finds solace with, and both of them would want more if he wasn’t married.

There are conundrums in the investigations and Robs personal life that keep these stories going at just the right pace.

A great series.

Publisher Joffe Books. Print Length: 266 & 338 pages. Available now

The Thames Path Killer. Biba Pearce

DI Rob Miller is somewhat of an anomaly amongst Police Detectives.

He comes across as shy and a bit insecure. Conversely, in his private life, he is engaged to an ex underwear model who now works on a beauty counter at Harrods.

When the body of a woman turns up on a secluded path Robs boss gives him his first major investigation as Senior Investigating Officer, all his other DI’s are busy.

But Rob is good, and the small team he gathers together are just as good, as well as being dedicated and supportive. Which is more than can be said for his fiancé. She hates him working outside “office hours”

The age old struggle between a detectives home life and their professional life is brilliantly portrayed in the interaction between the pair.

When another body is found it’s inevitable Rob will start to spend many late hours at work, but with pressure coming on him to solve the murders Rob is determined to see the case through as SIO.

The pressure mounts when a team from Lewisham MIT are drafted in to help and it has DCI who is taking charge of the case.

The DCI is a young woman, on fast track promotion, known to be the star in the eye of the Senior Ranks in the Met.

How will she and Rob work together, what will the dynamics of the newly formed team be.

This is a fantastic story by an author I have only just discovered. The book is the first in a series, and I’ve just downloaded the rest of the series onto my Kindle, and once I’ve reviewed a book I’m committed to reading next, I will read the rest of the series straight away.

I read in a review of this book that the rape murder scene was too explicit. That it could act as a trigger for victims of abuse.

I have no doubt it could be a trigger, and I would warn any reader that finds the subject difficult to skip the pages covering that part of the story.

But graphic, I don’t know, I’ve read a lot worse. Yes it is there, and it doesn’t leave the reader in any doubt about what’s happening, but if the one or two pages were taken out the book would lose a part of the story that gives it that psychological thriller hook.

The crime and the investigation is the main part of the story. But I love characters, you can have the best story in the world, but if the characters are weak, or poorly written, the story doesn’t work for me.

The story, and the characters in this book are great.

I can’t wait to read the rest of the series.

Print length: 210. Publisher Joffe Books. Available now

When Does Crime Fiction Become Historical Crime Fiction

I was recent.y looking through a book shop and found that Colin Dexter’s Morse books were in the Historic Crime Section.

Now, I’m not old, I’m sixty this year, and I read The Morse series in the early 2000’s. I didn’t consider them old, in fact I enjoyed the transition made in Policing and technology, and the way Morse struggled with it.

Maybe it’s because the first book in the series was published in the mid 1970’s. I left home and started my first job in the Merchant Navy in 1977 so I had lived the era Dexter had written about.

So. Is it because of that I don’t consider books from that era as being Historic.

My current reading dispels that. I’m reading The Final Shot, by Simon Michael, book seven in the excellent Charles Holborn series.

This series is predominantly set in the 1960’s in London. Holborn is a Barrister who, because of his Jewish background, has suffered bigotry from his fellow Legal professionals, whilst suffering generally because of his association with people in the London Gangland scene. Including the notorious Kray Twins.

This is a series set before I was born and into my infant years, an era I have no association with, yet I don’t consider it historic. Is this because it’s being written today?

My favourite series, which I would consider Historic, is C J Samson’s Shardlake books set during the reign of Henry VIII. Surely by definition historic, but being written today. So my opinion isn’t being swayed by when the book is written.

I tried to look back at books I’d read and consider when they were set, and when they were written.

I enjoyed the near the knuckle writing of James Elroy in his L.A Quartet set in the 1950’s. A harsh read about the decade before my birth. But I don’t consider it historic.

I’ve never been a big Agatha Christie fan, but I have read a few of her books, mainly set in the 1920s, Historic, no, more old fashioned.

In the end I decided on the great Arthur Conan Doyle and his Sherlock Holmes books as being the earliest books I would consider as being classed as true Historic Fiction. The series started being written in 1887 and was set in the same era.

That only left me one quandary. Can I really call everything set in the twentieth and twenty first century as Modern Crime Fiction.

That is a huge time span and the more recent modern crime fiction is set against a more scientific, and forensic, background that sets it apart from books that are written about times as late as the mid 1990’s.

In my mind I’ve now separated crime fiction into three groups, and this helps me to know what to expect of a story. It depends on when a book was set, and not when it was written.

Modern Crime Fiction, anything that is set in a time period post 1990.

Nostalgic Crime Fiction, anything set between 1900 and 1990.

Historic Crime Fiction, anything set pre 1900.

I’m sure that there are people who will have their own ideas and opinions, and my categories are purely for my own benefit, but Dexter’s Morse, Historic, I don’t think so.

Murder in the Neighborhood Ellen J Green

In 1949 a young man cracked. He had brought a machete and planned to cut his neighbours heads off, but because that took planning he had time to think about it and something inside him stopped him.

Then, on Labour Day he picked up a gun and went on a twenty minute walk down the street killing people that annoyed him over the years. Some others, a young boy, a man driving his car, we’re just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

In the end thirteen people lay dead.

The police knew who had done it and made a very quick arrest.

Howard Unruh was a bookish introvert who nobody though of as a threat. What made him flip, the vandalism of a back gate.

This is the story of that day, and the decades that followed. Researched deeply in the community.

Told through the story of survivors and people from the neighbourhood.

I had never heard of Unruh until I picked this book up. The first thing I did was hit Google.

He is thought by many to be Americas first “Mass Shooter” the first to pick up weapons and go on a shooting spree.

So why had I never heard of him. I’m a true crime fan. You would have thought he would have cropped up in my reading, or I’d have seen a TV documentary about the killings.

I think that is what I enjoyed so much about this book. I was new to this crime. Ellen J Green has done a marvellous job of tying together accounts and information from people who were there on the day or who knew the perpetrator and, or, his victims.

Most poignantly the accounts of Raymond, a young boy who witnessed the shootings and how he was affected by them. But most of all Unruh’s mother, who was left living in the small community he had wrecked havoc in, and how she had to live with his actions.

What drove a former model soldier, who had served in the later part of WWII, a man known for his love of the Bible to become Americas first mass shooter.

He was diagnosed to have severe mental health issues, but up until the shooting there doesn’t seem to be much of a worry about him.

He spent the rest of his life in a Maximum Security Hospital.

Did he get away with something there, was he as badly affected by mental health issues as he was diagnosed with.

I’ll let you decide.

Print length: 311 pages. Publisher: Thread. Publishing date: April 28th 2022