Mari Hannah The Kate Daniels series

Mari Hannah DCI Kate Daniels Series

The Murder Wall

Settled in Blood

Deadly Deceit

Monument to Murder

I am going to come out with it from the start, I love these books. Those of you who read my first blog will know that I rarely get into books based in England but I was hooked on these from the start.

When Deadly Deceit popped up on Amazon, as a recommended read, I read the review and liked what I saw. Several reviews later I had decided it was a book I wanted to read but, it was the latest in a series, and that meant I had to read the others in order first.

The Murder Wall introduced me to DCI Kate Daniels and her colleagues at the Northumbria Police Murder InvestigationTeam. The team is made up, as any such teams are, of a collection of individuals. Each individual has their own backstory which runs through the series of books. These sub plots add to the main story and help to keep the pages turning. The two young Detectives, who joined the team together, a woman with great computer skills and a man who is excellent at the tedious life of the observation specialist; the middle age detective with gambling problems who is trying to put his life back together; and another who loses the trust of the team; the crusty old hand Detective Sergeant who Kate relies on professionally and in her personal life; Kate’s mentor, and Boss, Detective Superintendent Bright, his own life in turmoil; and a myriad of bit part Police characters which drift in and out of the books always at the right time and in the right context.

Kate herself is struggling with the break-up of a relationship with Criminal Profiler Jo Soulsby, and throughout the series this relationship teeters on the brink of being totally destroyed whilst almost reforming. Kate suffers from what all high achieving Police Officers suffer, the “job comes first” and everything else just has to wait. We see Kate struggle with this, being torn between work and relationships with Jo, her father, and her friends. Needless to say the job usually wins.

The Murder Wall is set a year after Kate Discovered two bodies in a Church, an incident that is still playing on her mind, and a crime she did not solve. When the body of a man is found in a flat in Newcastle the crime is investigated by Jo’s team. It’s her first as Senior Investigating Officer, a chance she has been waiting for but is sullied by the fact that Jo appears to be tied into the crime. Her dedication to her friend conflicts with her professionalism and at times interferes with the relationship she has with her team and her mentor Bright. As the investigation unfolds it becomes clear that Jo, or the team, have an enemy close at hand who is hampering the investigation. The end of the book….. well it’s tense and it would be better if you read it. I hate spoilers in reviews.

Settled Blood. The team investigate the suspicious death of a young girl found dead in the middle of nowhere. The Police initially wrongly identify the girl as being the daughter of a local multi-millionaire who appears to own half the County. When he attends the hospital to identify the body he realises it’s not his daughter, but does identify the clothing she was wearing. This leads to a twisted story of kidnapping and murder. Kate retains the role of SIO and leads her team through the investigation uncovering an historic wrong doing by a senior officer which may have an effect on the case. In many other books writers look for extreme cases to convey this part of a story, but Mari Hannah has found a small indiscretion, which I am sure happened many times in the real world, which comes back to bite somebody on the bum, which I’m sure has also happened many times.  It fits the plot perfectly and aids in the mystery leading up to a suspenseful conclusion.

In this book Hannah introduces the Mountain Rescue Service, again completely in context with the story and the scene in which it is set. As with every other aspect of her books she has obviously spent time researching or working with the people she writes about. The use of the rescue team, and the interaction between them and the MIT, is just as it would be during a professional investigation. Again no spoilers so not much about the plot but believe me its good.

Deadly Deceit It’s not often I come across a completely original plot, I’ve been reading this genre of books for 40 years, but in this story Hannah nails a brilliant one. The book starts with a house fire and, in a separate incident, a multi-vehicle Road Traffic Collision. A man and child are killed in the house fire whilst several people die in the RTC. Kate is on route to the house, with her Crusty Trusty Sergeant, when they come across the RTC and have to stop to render assistance before carrying on to the house. The house fire is quickly diagnosed as being started deliberately and the MIT take over the crime, investigating the murder of a father and his son. It is soon discovered that one of the victims of the RTC was also murdered, after the crash. The investigation of the crash murder is also carried out by the team, although they are split over the two scenes stretching their resources. This one I’m definitely not going to spoil by going into the details of the story but I will say this. The characters are brilliantly portrayed well written and again perfect for the story.

Monument to Murder, so far the last in the series and every bit as good as its predecessors. This incident sees Kate’s team investigating when the skeletal remains of two girls are found in a beach dune. Again Mari Hannah intertwines a second case as the daughter of a friend goes missing in what appears to be a related incident. The friend is Emily McCann, a Prison Psychologist who is recently widowed. She and Kate share a mutual friend, Jo Soulsby who now works in the prison, and the relationship between the three forms a big part of this book.

The crime scene is close to the prison and a long way from Newcastle, forcing Kate to uproot her team and work from a remote Police Station, bringing her into close contact with Jo. A few will they-won’t they moments crop up but again they are all perfect for the story and not at all distracting.

Whilst investigating the murder Kate attempts to help Jo and Emma investigate the disappearance of Emma’s daughter. Neither the murder investigation, nor the investigation into the disappearance of Emma’s daughter can be called a subplot as they both command equal time in the book. At times it appears that the crimes are related, at others it seems obvious that they are not. It was not till the last few pages that I worked out whether they were or not. Again no spoilers you’ll have to read it for yourself.

I always have trouble with UK based Police procedural books, mainly because I have worked in that environment and always think things like; “that’s not right”, “that would never happen”, or “they would never act like that”. In none of the four books did any Mari Hannah  make any of those thoughts cross my mind, and as an ex Fire Investigation Officer in one of the biggest Fire Brigades in the country that takes some doing, especially in Deadly Deceit.

Every scene is realistic, sometimes in its simplicity; every character brings to mind people I have met; all the crimes are plausible, in short these books are the real deal.

For me, move over Colin Dexter, I have a new favourite British Crime Writer, and she’s brilliant.

The G File HÅKAN NESSER

The G File HÅKAN NESSER

I read this book knowing it was the last in a series and the big question is will I be reading the back catalogue?

The book is big, running to just over 600 pages; the first half is set in 1987, the second in 2002. I couldn’t help thinking that Nesser had two stories left to tell and put them both into the same book, although the same mystery runs throughout.

It begins with a young lady acquiring the services of Maarten Verlangen, a washed out ex-police investigator turned private detective, to keep watch on her husband. The inevitable murder soon occurs and forms the spine of the story that runs through the book.

The murder is officially investigated  by Police Officer Chief Inspector Van Veeteren. Van Veeteren has history with the main suspect, going back to when they were children. His investigation is marred by his feelings for the suspect and he proceeds on a personal campaign to prove him guilty. These feelings are based more on Van Veeterens guilt, with not having curtailed the suspect’s activities when they were in their youth, than any evidence for the current case.

The case remains unproved in 1987 but is revisited, by a now retired VanVeeteren, in 2002 when Verlangen disappears leaving a mysterious note.

I would be surprised if any crime fiction fan does not solve this murder pretty quickly, but you will have to plod your way through another 500 pages to confirm your thoughts.

The writing in this book reminds me of Colin Dexter, the backdrop and characters are beautifully described. All the way through I was reminded of the Morse series.

Some of the spoken word is a little old fashion and I couldn’t help but wonder if it was written in that way or was it as a result of a “direct translation”; or is it that actually Scandinavians use better English than the modern day British reader is used to.

I think I did suffer from not reading the other books first. This story feels like Nesser is retiring a much loved character, and many of his fans will probably enjoy it a lot more than I did.

So will I read any of the back catalogue. Maybe, but it will not be top of my reading list.

The Night The Rich Men Burned Malcolm Mackay

The Night The Rich Men Burned. Malcolm Mackay

 

This book falls into a new genre for me. It’s the first time I have read a book that’s written purely from gang member perspectives.

The book starts with two young friends, Oliver Peterkinney and Alex Glass, looking for work, any work. They live in a rundown area of Glasgow where legal work is hard to come by so they take on a money collection for a loan shark.

I won’t spoil the book by going into detail but the rest of the story revolves around their very different journeys in the gangland life. As one flourishes and moves through the ranks the other is outcast and becomes a victim.

Their lives intertwine throughout the book and it is interesting to see the way Mackay shows the scene through different eyes. The emotionally void morals of the loan sharks and the people who work for them; the fear and downward spiral of the people they prey on.

He describes the sparring leading to an inevitable war between different gangs. The way leaders manipulate situations using thugs but never get their own hands dirty. He describes the way money lenders sell their clients debts onto ruthless collectors, and shows some of the ways the debts are collected why alluding to others.

Inescapably the book leads to a tumultuous end as the gangs try to take over the city, with Peterkinney and Glass involved to the very end.

The story is fast paced, split into short chapters that had me thinking “I’ll just read one more chapter” It was never just one more I read the book in 2 nights.

This book is dark and gritty without being gruesome. It made me think about how easy it would be to become involved in the downward spiral of owing money to a loan shark.

Above all the book is very realistic. Those of us that have had to work in the aftermath of similar events that occur in this story will recognise how accurate this book is. Most people, I hope, will only visit the scenes on pages of books. If they do they will not find a more realistic account than this.

This is the first of Malcolm Mackay’s books that I have read. It won’t be the last

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Whom Evil Touches D.E. Royce

Whom Evil Touches  D.E.Royce

 

Early in this book Royce gives us the origin of the phrase “The real McCoy”, so was this book the real McCoy.

If I was browsing book shelves, or trawling through Amazon I might have missed this book. At 203 pages it’s a bit small for me, but it was recommended to me by somebody I had been talking to on Twitter so I gave it a go.

The prologue guides us through the natural history of the New England coast and neatly ties in the start of the story.

From the start it is hard to see who the main character of the book is; but that is not a problem, all the characters have equal billing and are only on the page when they are required. This gives a round balanced and refreshingly unusual angle to the narrative that lets you see the whole picture.

The Police characters are given brief introductions, to give them personality, but none are weighed down with the usual baggage; they are there to solve the crime not to give us moral dilemmas regarding their drinking, gambling, or current divorce, at last real people as Police Officers

The characters involved in the crime, are the type of people Law and Order Officers meet on a daily basis and their characters are well described without needless flamboyancy.  

The story is one of a missing woman, Judy, who it quickly becomes obvious is dead, and the mess she has been involved in.  As the story unfolds it is apparent that the Bank in which she worked is under investigation, and working out who was involved with the irregularities at the bank seems to become central to the murder investigation.

Judy is a complex character and had lived a life of lies; but to what end, and did they lead to her being killed. Everybody she is involved with seems to have a reason to be the one that killed her. Every time you think you know who the murderer is something happens to make you change your mind.

The end comes quickly and if I’m honest a little too quickly for me but it’s not a disappointment.

Comparing books to TV series, If you like programs like Luther or Whitechapel, this book might not be for you but give it a go it’s worth it. If you prefer Midsummer Murder, or Lewis then this book will be right up your street.

Was This book the “Real McCoy” for me Yes it was and I look forward to the next one, hopefully using some of the same characters.

The Axeman’s Jazz Ray Celestin

The Axeman’s Jazz Ray Celestin

Rarely do I pick up a book based on a true event that I have never heard of; this book sent me on a bit of a hike through the internet researching the facts of a series of crimes which took place in New Orleans just after the end of the First World War, The New Orleans Axe Killer Murders, for that alone the Axe Mans Jazz was worth reading, but that’s not the only reason, this book is brilliant.

Set in 1919 the story centres on the hunt an Axeman who is killing couples in the dead of the night, unsurprisingly with an axe.

Three separate inquiries are carried out by the central characters, all cleverly and logically woven together, bringing the book to an exciting end.

Detective  Michael Talbot leads the New Orleans Police investigation. Talbot is an outcast amongst his fellow officers and struggles with a personal secret.

Luca D’Andrea, an ex-detective who is released from prison at the start of the book and investigates the murders on behalf of the Mafia.

Ida Davis a young mixed race girl who works for a Detective agency, but takes on the investigation on her own, to prove to her boss she is capable. Ida has a friend who helps her, a young Jazz Musician called Lewis (Louis) Armstrong; and yes it is that one.

Ray Celestin has written an excellent book. He has taken known facts, including a letter purportedly written by the murderer and published in a local paper, and woven them into a story that held me captivated from the start. His description of New Orleans transported me to the city in the early 20th Century. At times he draws comparisons between 1919 New Orleans and Victorian London, and of course between these murders and those of Jack the Ripper.

His characters fit so well into the story, and are so right for the time it is set in; I wondered whether they were all based on real people. The Lewis Armstrong character is heavily based on the early life of the legendary Louis Armstrong and much of the book revolves around bars and boats where he played in his early career.

The book covers the uncomfortable issue of the racism of the time well. It is clever tool that Celestin uses by having white, black and mixed race characters as the spine of his story, allowing the reader to be taken to any quarter of the city.

Celestin uses a tropical storm to bring the story to an end, like the storm itself the last part of the book builds into an intense crescendo, and like a storm once it has gone a calm settles.

It’s clever, the real Axeman Murderer was never identified but the killings did stop following the storm. Celestin uses a bit of literary licence to let the storm tidy up some lose ends but nothing that distracts from the story.

This is Ray Celestin’s first novel. I’m looking forward to his next.

If you haven’t read The Axemans Jazz yet, I envy you. All I can say is pour yourself a bourbon, put Jazz FM on the radio and cancel any appointments you’ve got for a couple of days. You are going to love it

The Verdict

A story which starts with a first-hand account of a crime, or does it.

 

The Verdict Nick Stone

After the First chapter the novel is narrated by Terry Flint, a Law Clerk who is part of the defence team at the trial of a man accused of murder. The main storey centres on the defences investigation into the crime; but the real story is of the moral dilemmas faced by Terry when he realises his once best friend Vernon James is the accused. The friendship had ended badly years before the start of the book. Throughout Terry is doing his duty trying to find evidence which will clear Vernon, but why, and if he can establish Vernon’s innocence will he?

The characters in this book are well written, Terry is somebody everybody will like, and Vernon is instantly dislikeable. Ideal for the story.

There are some points in this book which might not sit well with people who understand Police and Legal procedures, but stay with it. The irregularities have been put early in the story to give the writer a licence to return to them later, and put them right. It might not happen like this in the real world, or we’d like to think it wouldn’t, but it does make for a good story

The book is typical English Crime Drama for the first three quarters of the story, but then goes a bit Robert Ludlum in the last quarter. I have to say I didn’t think it needed to go in that direction, and if anything it spoiled what was a good mystery.

At the close of the narrative the story is ended by a series of Newspaper Clippings which are supposed to tie up the loose ends. I have to confess I didn’t like this. It made me think that the writer was struggling to find an end.

Nick Stone has written a cracking story which, in my opinion, would have benefitted from leaving out the last 25% of the narrative.

Was this one of the best books I’ve read No.

Will I give Nick Stones next book a chance? Hell yes; because if it wasn’t for the last quarter of the story, it would have been one of the best books I’ve ever read.

 

Cuckoo’s Calling ???

The Cuckoo’s Calling ???

In my first blog I mentioned that although I loved J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books, I had not read any of her Robert Galbraith-Cormoran Strike Books.

Well the good people of The Crime Vault (www.thecrimevault.com   @TheCrimeVault) kindly sent me a copy of the Cuckoo’s Calling, the first of the series, and asked me to review it. So here is my first ever book review, I’m not going to give the story away by rambling on about the plot I’ll just tell you what I thought about it as a book.

The story introduces two main characters, Cormoran Strike, Private Detective, and Robin Ellacott, a Secretary from a Temping Agency.

I have to admit to a hint of dread when Strikes character was first described; the thought “oh no not another Detective with a stereo-type flawed character”; but although he’s got all the usual traits, from a broken family, recently out of a rocky relationship, homeless-sleeping in the office, and a new one on me, a false leg following an injury whilst serving in the army, I have to say I quickly took to the guy.

Robin, his side kick secretary, a plain-Jane who quickly shows her worth and skills for research, compliments Strike perfectly.

The story revolves around the death of a young Model/Socialite who’s famous for being famous. I think we can all think of people who fit into this category but being so soon after her own tragic death the only person I could think of was Peaches Geldof.

Galbraith (we know its Rowling but let’s respect the name on the cover) takes us to rough London pubs, a top fashion designers studio, and a multi-million pound property in Mayfair, each of which is described in such a way that you feel like you are there, and you belong.

She introduces a string of characters from an overly camp fashion designer, to a street girl with mental issues; from over-bearing lawyers to a drug addict who has lost her children. In each case the person is there for a reason, there is no writing for writings sake, each person has a role in the story and to be honest they are all perfect for the role. In my professional life I have met all of these people; they might not have the same names but believe me she has described people I have met, and she describes them well.

The story itself is mainly told from Strikes point of view but there are a couple of times the reader is kept in the dark about his thoughts. There is one scene where he asks Robin to look at a series of photographs, the reader is told what they are of, but they are not described. She is told if you look at them you will see the vital clue that leads Strike to solve the case, or rather explain a key part of it. I can see this being a big reveal if the books are ever made into a TV series, or films, but it was frustrating to have this one important part of the story being described vaguely, until it was explained much later in the book.

Did this spoil the book, no. I have read a lot of this genre and I have to say I can usually see the end coming from a mile away, not this time.

The story, unlike so many others, did not make it glaringly obvious from the beginning what the outcome would be. Nor did it, like many others, introduce a twist 20 pages from the end which would have made it impossible for the reader to guess the ending.  The plot starts with a death, and ends with it being solved. There is nothing in between to confuse the reader, the ultimate reveal comes as no surprise but I cannot quite work out when I knew how it was going to end.

The book meanders through the crime and opens up a few side stories, and characters, which I can see being revisited in later books,

Will I read any more Robert Galbraith books? The Silkworm, the second of the series, was on my Kindle before I’d finished The Cuckoo’s Calling.

I recently read that Rowling has stated that she has at least seven books in mind for Robert Galbraith to write. We all know what happened the last time she wrote a series of seven books. So whether she calls herself Galbraith or Rowling I will definitely be looking forward to the next release.

Did the Cuckoo Call???? Oh Yes!!!