Its not often I’m lost for words, but I’ve run out of superlatives to describe this series. Ten books ago Angela Marsons introduced us to a series of characters based in the Black Country.
The main character is DI Kim Stone. A DI in the Major Investigation Team in Halesowen Police Station in the West Midlands.
Halesowen is a small town on the outskirts of the urban sprawl that makes up the Metropolitan Borough of the West Midlands. Its right on the border of what most people would call the area of greater Birmingham, and the sprawling countryside of Worcester.
It’s actually in the borough of Dudley, one of the seven boroughs that make up the West Midlands, but more importantly it’s part of the Black Country.
That is what makes it such a special place to set crime stories.
Dudley has some of the most affluent parts of the West Midlands, close to the country, and some of the poorest parts where it borders Sandwell. It has rich gated communities, run down industrial areas, and some of the poorest social housing estates in the UK. Its population commute into Birmingham City Centre to sit in smart offices and high end retail shops, or work in the manufacturing, scrap meatl, or haulage business.
The black Country has a hard working history, and this ethic is seen daily in its population; but just like everywhere else there are the freeloaders who never intend to do a day’s work as long as the state will give them benefits.
Then there are the people who pray on both ends of the community. Drug sellers target the rich with designer drugs and well cut class A drugs, and at the same time pray on the vulnerable with less well, and dangerously cut, class A drugs and marijuana.
Addicts are addicts and once hooked will look to fund their next hit. The desperate will turn to crime.
Prostitution has been forced indoors over the last decade with sex being sold in private flats or thinly veiled massage parlours. This has led to illegal immigrants being forced into the sex trade alongside some desperate local people.
Illegal immigrants are also being used as slaves in retail and manufacturing.
Street kids are turning to violence.
Post code gangs are frequently a problem, fighting for territory to sell their wares, both human and chemical.
But most of its population are just your average family members trying to get along with their neighbours.
So, as you can see, Angela Marsons has chosen a great area to set her crimes. Just about anything that could make up a serious crime happens in the area, and so can be portrayed realistically in her books.
The characters she writes about are just as real as her crimes.
Kim Stone is epic. A kid-from-care made good.
In the first few books her character is established as one of the best cops in British Crime Fiction, her back story is slowly revealed showing how her life has evolved and how she has become the successful detective she has.
Her team also have good back stories. The ever reliant Bryant, her Detective Sergeant is every bit as fundamental to these stories as Lewis is to Morse, or Watson is to Holmes. He acts as her stabiliser and suffers the frustration of seeing Stone struggling through some investigations, but more significantly her personal life.
DC Stacy Wood, the quiet detective that is really good at information trawling and working on a computer, but not so good on face to face encounters. Watching her develop through the series, as she finds her confidence, and becomes a tour-de-force of a cop, is something that would not ever be achieved this well in a single book, or short series.
DC Kev Dawson, young, handsome, cock-sure, but an integral part of the team. His character changes as much as Woods, but in a totally different way.
Then there’s the fringe characters that keep recurring, Keats the pathologist with his love hate relationship with Stone. The Forensic Teams, and Senior Police Officers
Then there’s reporters. One in particular, that has a strange relationship with Stone, to say they use each other when they want something is an understatement. But they both know they need each other and their fraught working relationship is entertaining throughout the series.
Of course, there’s the criminals. A vast array of them over the ten books, all realistically written, all with back stories to help the reader engage with them. Some of them recurring through several stories; and for every criminal there’s a victim who is equally well portrayed, often eliciting as much empathy as sympathy from the reader.
That brings us back to this book. DEAD MEMORIES finds Stone and the team looking at some of their past investigations as a murderer appears to be using Stone’s history to set their crimes. Is it a message to her, or is it the prelude to an attack on her. Is somebody trying to ruin her reputation, her life, or kill her.
I love this series, and as I said at the beginning of this blog I’ve run out of superlatives to describe the books in this series.
Safe to say Silent Scream, book one in the series, was one of the best books I’ve ever read, and each book has just got better and better.
My review of DEADLY MEMORIES will be on-line in February as part of the Blog Tour, but if you haven’t found Angela Marsons yet get yourself on Amazon, or down to the bookshop, and treat yourself to what I think is the best crime series out there.