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

Silent Scream. Five years anniversary

Five years ago today the first DI Km Stone book was published. I read that first book a few months later and immediately read the second.

I haven’t stopped reading them since, with book 12, Killing Mind, out soon I thought I’d look back at my first review which looked at both Silent Scream, book 1, and Evil Games, book 2

Silent Scream & Evil Games Angela Marsons

Two books one blog. There’s a reason for that. I read the last page of Silent Scream and immediately opened the first page of Evil Games.

I don’t like giving plots away so I’m not going to talk too much about the story line of each of these, I’ll just talk about the writing and main character.

I enjoyed these books more than most others I’ve read over the last few years. Angela Marsons has created a brilliantly complex character in Detective Inspector Kim Stone and hopefully we’ll have a few more outings with her and her team in the future.

Silent Scream introduces DI Stone in a tale centred on child abuse at a Local Authority Home. Are current day murders linked with abuse at the home? In todays society we are becoming more aware of these abuse cases and it makes the book relevant and up to date.

Stones own history mirrors that of the children who stayed at the home, and her back-story is slowly revealed as the book moves on.

The conclusion of the book is not as easy to predict as some stories of the same genre, and with twists and turn to the very end this book is a great read.

Evil Games follows on, but can be read separately, from Evil Games.

In this book Stone identifies the link between several serious crimes, including a murder. More of Stones back-story is revealed and the reader is given a greater insight into her psyche.

Along the way Stone comes into contact with her nemesis and an intellectual and psychological battle takes place that kept me enthralled right to the end of the book.

Twists and turns throughout show that Angela Marsons has a knack for complex plots without resorting to fanciful and unbelievable stories.

Angela Marsons has set these books close to where I live. Her descriptions of the places and people are perfect. It is a testament to her that at one time in the Evil Games I shouted out loud that she had something wrong, only to realise she was inventing a shop in which a suspect child abuser was working, maybe it is best to use a fictional premises in that case.

Further testament to her research skills is found in the derelict children’s home she uses in Silent Scream. It used to exist, it had a bad reputation amongst the locals, and it had a fire. I know this because I investigated it when I was still in the Fire Service.

I have a feeling that, like many other authors, Angela Marsons is only published locally.

One of the great things about e-books and companies like Amazon is it has allowed me to read books by people I would never have had access to by simply walking into my local shop.

So wherever you are in the world, get a copy of these books. Sit back and enjoy

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.

 

 

Cyberstrike: London. James Barrington & Professor Richard Benham

This is a story of an attack on the City of London, not in the manner in which we have come to expect, no lone terrorist with a machete, no small group with backpacks stuffed with homemade explosives.

This time the people trying to bring down the City, and cripple the country is another country.

How do they manage this? They give one of the most feared and blood thirsty criminals they have one last chance, work for them and bring down a foreign power or die in a horrific way.

But how does a man who is used to using brute force manage to bring down a country.

Easy, he kidnaps a man who is in the right social circle, and gets information on all the main players in the city. Information that can be used to blackmail them into doing things that will cripple the City.

There is a group of people that work for the Government whose job it is to identify threats before the terrorists have chance to carry out an attack. One of them, Ben Morgan, is a cyber expert, but his job is usually to monitor trends in communications before an attack to identify who was involved and anticipate future attacks.

This time he’s at the forefront of the fight to stop the attack, or limit the effect it has on the country.

A new decade and a new type of crime, but in all honesty,  I read this thinking how easy it would be to carry out this attack, and how difficult it would be to stop it. A politician once said that the “security forces have to get lucky all of the time, the terrorist only has to get lucky once” .

I can’t help thinking that one day I’m going to be watching the news thinking, this was in that book.

A brilliantly written, origin plot, which has developed a cracking story.

Pages: 353

Publisher: Canelo

Publishing date: 9th March 2020

Perfect Kill. Helen Fields

Helen Fields has a way of writing things which take you just to the edge. Just to that point where you have had enough of the scenario to know what’s going to happen next, then cutting away to the next scene or the aftermath. This makes her books really good. Sometimes that little bit left to your own imagination can have so much more of an impact.

Perfect Kill is a perfect example of this with the description of some of the crimes being “peep-through-your-fingers” frightening, whilst maintaining a real believability.

In Edinburgh a young man is kidnapped and drugged. Waking up in a container he is soon swapped for a group of young women. Where is he being taken and what is in store for him.

In France a body is discovered minus its vital organs.

Back in Edinburgh a low level gang leader is running a bunch of brothels, using women that have been forced into the sex trade; but he has a side line that earns him much more money, and it’s not good news for some of the girls in the brothels.

In Scotland DCI Ava Turner takes the lead on the investigation into the kidnap of the young man. Meanwhile her partner DI Luc Callanach is back on his home turf of France acting as a liaison officer for Police Scotland and Interpol, and starts to investigate the the case of the man with the missing organs.

Inevitably the two cases are linked, and Turner and Callanach are thrown into a joint investigation.

This book is the 6th in the series. I’ve been on board from the start and I’m hooked. The characters in the series are amongst my favourites in Crime Fiction. Turner and Callanach have a unique relationship. Callanach has a past that has a lasting impact on him, he suffers from a form of PTSD that affects him in ways that can only be described as frustrating.

But he is a really good police officer, and after winning the respect of Turner, and her MIT, it all went wrong when part of his past came back to haunt him. This led to him being moved back to France, on a temporary basis, but now everybody wants to build bridges and get him home to Scotland.

This book is a roller-coaster of a story. Horrific in places, haunting in others, emotional throughout, but this just makes it readable. In fact I hardly put it down from start to finish.

Pages: 416

Publisher: Avon Books

Available 6th February 2020

The Waxwork Corpse. Simon Michael

Simon Michael’s books are up there with my favourites.

This series of legal thrillers set through the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s are fictional, but, and it’s a big but, each book is set around things that actually happened.

Readers will recognise some of the Gangland names that the Barrister Charles Holborne meets and deals with. They will recognise some of the periphery characters and will be aware of some of the crimes that took place, some of which are almost urban legend, some of which were national headlines.

In this case Simon Michael has used a less well known case and spun his own story around it, a story that so closely resembles the real life happenings that it is almost a documentary of the crime and the court case. There is even a nod to one of the main, real life protagonists,  in the name of one of the main characters in the book.

When the body of a woman is fished from the depths of Britain’s deepest lake it has the appearance of a waxwork dummy wrapped in plastic sheeting. What it actually is, is the remains of a woman that has been missing for over 10 years.

Her husband quickly becomes a suspect in her murder and Charles Holborne is asked to help prosecute the man.

Charles battles with the dilemma of sitting at the prosecution table, he usually represents the defendants, and the possible outcomes of prosecuting such a high profile defendant.

The case makes national headlines, as did the real one, and Holborne is thrust into the limelight. This brings someone from his past life, during the early years of World War Two, out of the woodwork. Somebody who Charles would rather not have to deal with.

In another reflection of true life Charles is battling anti-Semitism inside and outside of the court. As a “lapsed” practitioner of the Jewish Faith he is also battling with his own family.

Every page of this book brings something to the story.

The crime and trial are addictive reading on their own, but throw in all of the issues in Charles’ own life, and it moves to a whole new level of crime writing.

An absolutely stunning addition to what is already a brilliant series.

Pages: 336

Publishers: Sapere Books

Available now

See Them Run Marion Todd

See Them Run   Marion Todd

A new author and the start of a new series.

After years of mainly American Crime books on the shelves in bookshops and supermarkets there has been a resurgence of good British Crime over the Last few years. Series by people such as Angela Marsons, Graham Smith, Carol Wyer are best sellers, and are flying of the physical and e-shelves.

Marion Todd is going to be right at home with this crowd.

This book introduces us to DI Clare Mackay, who is working out of a Police Station in the golfing and tourist town of St Andrews. It’s a bit quieter than her old posting in Glasgow, as part of the Armed Response Team, but she’s settling in nicely.

Called out to an early morning hit-and-run should be a tragic, but routine incident, until it’s found that the man was hit by a car which then reversed back over him to finish the job.

During the scene examination a card with the number 4 written on it.

The next day the same again, this time with a card with the number 3.

There’s obviously a killer out there working their way through a list with at least two other victims out there, but how does Mackay and her small team identify them. First, they have to find the thing that links the first two victims, and they couldn’t be two more different people.

As the new-comer from the “Big City” Mackay is watched closely by her boss to see if she’s up to carrying out this high profile investigation, whilst at the same time having the full backing of her team.

Mackay has another thing niggling at her mind throughout the investigation. As a Fire Arms Officer she had shot and killed a man. Although it was cleared, by the Police, as a justifiable act the family of the man are looking to take out a private prosecution.

This is where Marion Todd has me hooked with her main character. The effect, on a Police Officer after they have been involved in a shooting, is often brushed over. The macho “it’s part of the job” attitude employed, by both sexes, is not real. Todd has done a really good job of looking at the effect it has on an Mackay.

I’m hoping this is going to be the beginning of a really good series, it’s definitely got off to a cracking start.

 

Pages: 292

Publisher: Canelo

Available now