SEE HER BURN. Margaret Murphy

Set in Liverpool, in 2005, against the backdrop of an almost forgotten immigration problem, this is a stunning crime thriller.

When the body of an unidentified young woman falls from a rubbish bin, in the red light district, it starts a police investigation which uncovers the seedy underworld of the exploitation of people looking for safety in the U.K.

From youth gangs, to low level drug pushers and pimps, the investigation exposes greed and racism in all walks of life.

Detective Inspector Jeff Rickman is given his first SIO role and is appointed acting DCI to investigate the murder. His side kick is the politically incorrect DS Foster. But Rickman isn’t as squeaky clean as people think and his actions are tempered by guilt, a guilt only Foster is aware of. Together they sail very close to the wind and as the story develops so does the bond between the two

At times they think they are getting nowhere, they have a suspect but nobody is talking, and they need witnesses.

The book looks at issues as relevant today as they were in the early 2000’s. The characters in the book are brilliant, Rickman  is a strong man with a good moral compass that let him down once, and he now regrets it.

Foster is an old school DS in a young mans body, and his actions are cringe worthy but brilliant.

He people that steal the show are the bit part characters. The victims are hardly portrayed as characters because they are mainly dead before we meet them, but the investigation uncovers a tragic life. The witnesses amongst the prostitutes and street gangs are wonderfully written.

Just like the characters, the settings and the crimes, are perfect for the story.

A brilliant crime thriller

Pages: 404

Publishers: Joffe Books

Available now

Runaway Justice. Chad Zunker

Sometimes, just sometimes, a book comes along and makes you sit back and smile.

This is one of those. It’s not a complex story, it’s not a heart stopping story. It is a story that flows believably from one scene to the next. It is a story that makes you suddenly realise you’ve had your head in a book for hours, and that you’ve thoroughly enjoyed getting lost in it.

Parker Barnes is 12 years old and living on the streets of Austin Texas. Why? Because both his parents have died and he has run away from an abusive foster father. He’s not doing bad fending for himself and making friends amongst the homeless until he witnesses a murder. Then things start to go bad.

Arrested on another matter Parker finds legal representation in David Adams, an ex big company Lawyer who now runs a small business specialising in working with the vulnerable groups in society.

The problem is the person responsible for the murder wants Parker silenced. Permanently.

The FBI have also identified Parker and think he has something to do with the murder, and they want to talk to him. As you’d expect a young homeless person to be, Parker is scared of them and thinks they’ll frame nine or send him back into the system of abusive foster parents.

So at the first chance he runs.

The story of Parker trying to evade being caught by the FBI and the criminals is interwoven with the story of David Adams and his team trying to solve the original murder, they think it’s the only way to make Parker safe and bring him out of hiding, but is it. are they really putting themselves in as much danger as Parker.

This is a cracking story told at just the right pace.

A new author on my list of must reads, I’ve just read Chad Zunker’s Twitter feed. His pinned tweet says

“Three years ago I sat on this bench in the mall after reading another soul-crushing publishing email rejection. A twenty year journey already filled with over one thousand rejections. Today I sit here with the #1 book in the Kindle Store. Fight for your dreams!”

That is him talking about his first book An Equal Justice the first in the David Adams story, I’ve now uploaded it onto my Kindle and I’m going straight into this next.

What higher recommendation can I give.

So Chad, keep the dream alive, keep the books coming, you are one hell of a story teller.

While You Slept. R.J. Parker

This is a book that evoked the emotions I used to have watching scary TV programs as a kid. The type you just had to watch but, before the days of fast forwarding through the scary bits on demand, you had to watch between your fingers.

Lily, a newly divorced single mother, has an alert on her phone. On her security camera a man is standing in her garden wearing a mask of her daughters face.

Rushing home to meet the Police Lily picks her daughter up from school. Maisie is scared by the policeman but soon settles down.

The next day Lily wakes up with a hangover, but that’s the least of her problems, she’s at home, in familiar surroundings, with all her possessions, except she’s not. Somebody has in prisoned her and Maisie within a complete replica of their own home, and there’s no way out

The only thing  that’s different are the photos in the family album. The ones that she and her ex, Ewan, took of Maisie have been replaced by ones taken at the same time, images that show Lily, Maisie and Ewan when the originals were taken.

When The mystery man from the security footage makes contact he tells Lily to obey his rules or she will be punished, and she is. The first time she annoys him he takes Maisie away for a night.

No more spoilers, this is an original and brilliant story.

If I was to liken it to any other writing I’d say it was like a cross between Stephen King and Dean Koontz at their best.

The story follows Lily as she tries to escape and tries to work out whose holding them. She examines her own memories dragging her thoughts back to things she’d rather forget.

I really did read this in two sittings, I really did read this holding my breath for way too long at times, but most of all, I really really did enjoy this book.

Pages: 257

Publishers: One More Chapter, Harper Collins

Publishing date: 24th July 2020

Her Shallow Grave. D.K. Hood

Her Shallow Grave.  D.K. Hood

If I say “There’s another serial killer in Black Rock Falls” it sounds like I’m about to start a bad review, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Yes this is the 9th in the Kane and Alton series but it’s not a series that gets old. This book, just like all the others is a page turning crime thriller which crosses into the psychological thriller genre really nicely.

For those that haven’t read these books before Sheriff Jenna Alton is a former DEA Special Agent who is living under a new name to keep her safe. Her deputy, Dave Kane, is ex special forces, who is grieving for his wife years after she was killed by a car bomb.

In fact all of the small team that carries out investigations in Black Rock Falls have fascinating ongoing stories.

So when body parts are found arranged in a tree close to a popular ski resort the team are immediately in the thick of it.

Those body parts belong to more than one person, and as the story unwinds more weird body dumps are found, none stranger than the chimney scene, but no spoilers.

But why are no people getting reported missing, who are the victims and where are they coming from.

The team gets close a couple of times but the discoveries continue.

Meanwhile a young woman has been kidnapped and nobody has noticed she’s missing. We can all guess how she’s going to end up, but what is going to happen to her before she dies.

I’ve mentioned this before, but it describes this series perfectly for the British readers. Black Rock Falls is like Midsummer on crack.

A great series that just seems to get better with each book.

Publishers: Bookouture

Pages: 350

Available now.

The President’s Dossier. James A. Scott

The President’s Dossier.  James A. Scott

Fans of Ludlum, Demille, and David Baldacci, stop looking for the next to spy author, he’s here. If you love those authors for their full on international espionage thrillers this book is going to be right up your street.

Max Geller is a former CIA agent that left the Company when emails, disparaging to the US President, were found on his works account. If that sounds strangely familiar then the rest of the intrigue around President Walldrum is going to sound really familiar.

Gellar is sought out by a Lawyer representing a group that wants to discredit the President. There are rumours that a dossier has been put together which carries information on how Walldum is in President Putins pocket, and that he had help getting into office.

The Dossier allegedly contains information on how Wulldrum laundered money, took illegal payments, used hookers for rough and humiliating sex, and shows his connections to Putin through the Oligarch network.

So it’s not surprising the Lawyer is offering big money and a no limits expense account.

Gellar puts together a small but efficient team and the hunt for confirmation of the information contained in the  Dossiers starts.

Following the trail from America to the U.K, on to Europe and Russia, and back across the Atlantic, Geller goes full Jason Bourne. The story plot thickens as the body count mounts.

Everybody appears to want the information the team are uncovering, MI6, The CIA and the FBI, Oligarchs, and The Russian Security Services are all after Max and his team, and none of them are friendly.

Nobody can be trusted. Even Max’s closest allies in his team come under suspicion as the various agencies get way too close to Max

This book races around the world at a frantic rate, and had me turning the pages at the same speed.

It’s a real throwback to the spy stories that were popular in the 70’s and 80’, and I loved those books.

I mentioned a few authors at the start of this review and James A. Scott will sit comfortably amongst that group with this book.

If, like me, you’ve been waiting for a book like this, don’t plan on doing anything once you’ve started it, because you won’t put it down till you’ve finished it.

It’s an absolute stunner of a read and hopefully the first of many

Pages: 320

Publishers: Oceanview Publishing

Publication date U.K: 15 September 2020

Somebody’s Daughter. Carol Wyer

This is one of those blogs I write with a bit of trepidation.

The thing is I love the series. I love the tribulations that, the now DCI, Natalie Ward has been through, not just professionally but in her personal life.

So why do I write in trepidation, because this is the last in the series for a while whilst Carol Wyer concentrates on a new series, which by the way is brilliant.

So what can you expect from Somebody’s Daughter.

A fantastic story? Definitely

Good Characters? Most definitely

A defining end to suggest the end of the series? Most definitely NOT. The door is certainly left open for Natalie to return.

Yes it is the latest in a series, but this book can easily be read as a stand-alone, in fact it’s almost a fresh start for the main character as she has recently been promoted and is now Detective Chief Inspector Natalie Ward.

The star of this book is the crime and the victims. I try to never give spoilers and this all happens in the first few chapters so I’m not giving much away. Two young girls who fall for the wrong man, a drug addict who grooms girls, then forces them into prostitution to feed his habit, are murdered.

The investigation team is led by the newly promoted DI Lucy Carmichael, but with so many possible strands to the investigation where does she start. Is this case too big for the new boss.

The story looks at, family relations, bullying, grooming, sex work, drug taking, and that’s just the crime.

Then it looks at the problems caused by new dynamics. Lucy’s new dynamic of being the team leader and dealing with the petty jealousies of some subordinates, whilst worrying about what her superiors think.

Natalie’s new dynamic of being the DCI with a less hands on approach whilst mentoring Lucy through being in charge of her first major investigation. All the time dealing with her new dynamic at home.

The way Carol Wyer keeps it real has always let me enjoy her books more than most others.

So, not the end for Natalie Ward, just a break for a while.

I’m already looking forward to see how Carol Wyer reintroduces her. How long it will be till she come back, I don’t know, but it can’t come soon enough.

Pages: 329
Publisher: Bookouture
Publishing Date: 9th July 2020

THE INNOCENT GIRLS. B.R Spangler

The Innocent Girls. B.R Spangler

Earlier this year I read the first book in the Detective Jane Casey series, and since then I’ve been desperate to get my hands on the next one. So when The Innocent Girls dropped into my inbox I couldn’t wait to get started, and I wasn’t disappointed, what a cracking book.

Jane is now a permanent fixture in Outer Banks North Carolina. The ex big city cop decided to stay as she’s convinced she is getting closer to finding her missing daughter Hannah. She’s also fallen for Ex sheriff Jericho Flynn and is enjoying life as a small town cop, life is ticking along quite nicely

Then a 13 year old girl witnesses the vicious murder of her parents in a motor home, but after she escapes she runs off to a cult like church without reporting the murder to the police.

When the bodies are discovered Casey’s team start to investigate. One of the bodies has a strange pattern carved into their chest and various theories take the team down different avenues.

When a second murder scene is found, with more carvings on the body, the team also realise another young girl is missing.

The two cases have to be connected and Casey soon makes a connection to a strange Cult-Preacher and his pop-up church.

What follows is an investigation into a series of murders that is intriguing in its complexity.

Murders carried out in a vicious manner, mysterious post mortem wounds inflicted on the bodies, links to children in the families, who never seem to be hurt, and as the team try to make sense of it the murders get a bit too close to home.

The story is brilliant. It’s just complex enough to keep you guessing without crossing into the realms of improbability.

The story is made all the better by the team that Casey is  building around her, professionally and in her personal life. There are some great characters that are going to be fun to watch develop.

This series has started out with two of the most addictive stories I’ve read for a long time , the very definition of “ page-turners” I really am excited to read what comes next.

Publisher: Bookouture

Publishing Date: 3rd September 2020

THE SILENT DOLLS. Rita Herron

The Silent Dolls Rita Herron

Rita Herron is a new author to me, but she shot straight to the top of my list of must read authors after reading this book.

But it was so nearly a different story. The first chapter in this book sets a scene that makes it seem like this book is going to be like a rural Lethal Weapon with the main character being a female Riggs. How wrong was I.

Thank god I went past that chapter because this turned out to be the best US crime book I’ve read for a very long time.

If you like CJ Box and his Joe Pickett books for their settings you’ll love this book, set in the woods and mountains of the Appalachian Trail in Georgia

The main character, Detective Ellie Reeves, is scared of the dark. Why? Because she got lost in the woods on the Appalachian Trail when she was very young.

Now she’s a detective in Bluff County, the home of the starting point for the trail. So when a little girl goes missing it’s up to Ellie to look for her. What she uncovers during the investigation will send ripples all along the trail, and will have consequences close to home.

The girl that goes missing is not the first, but because the perpetrator has been moving along the trail nobody has put together the spasmodic disappearance of young girls in different jurisdictions, and it takes FBI agent Derrick Fox to highlight the link to Ellie.

The problem is Fox thinks two people close to Ellie, her father and a close friend, might be prime suspects.

This is a great story, set in rural, small town, America. It has everything to combine a great crime thriller with an great psychological thriller. A hunt for a missing child in the wild landscape is made harder by the approach of an in coming winter storm, a brilliant use of the occasional local radio weather reports really adds to the tension.

Ellie is a great character, amongst a cast of equally good bit part players, who hopefully will make appearances in future books.

Will there be future books, I hope so. This is billed as the first in a series, and it does end on a hell of a cliff hanger.

Pages: 366

Publishers: Bookouture

Publishing date U.K. 17th July 2020

THE CHESTNUT MAN. Soren Sveistrup

Nordic Noir is a genre I rarely dip into, but every time I do I always say I must read more of it. This book is an example of just why I should.

What a story.

Twelve months after a Government Ministers Daughter is kidnapped, and a man is convicted of killing her, her finger print turns up at a murder scene, and it won’t be the last time it does.

When Naia Thulin is tasked with investigating the murder she’s not happy. All she wants to do is hand her transfer request in, to get away from the murder team, and join the hot unit investigating Cyber Crime.

Her day gets worse when she’s partnered up with the man nobody wants, Garry Hess.

Hess has just been returned to the team from Europol where he’s under investigation for basically being a lazy waste of space who drinks too much.

All Thulin wants to do is solve the case and move on to her new role. Hess isn’t helping, when he’s there he doesn’t seem interested, and when he is all he does is rub people up the wrong way.

But then they stumble onto something. It doesn’t make them popular with the rest of the team, and even the bosses try to divert them from their lines of inquiry.

Although thinking the same way the two hardly function as a team a and keep coming to the same conclusions working independently of each other.

This gives the reader a real twisting plot to get their head around, and with every twist there’s a shocking revelation.

I loved this book. It’s dark, and like the best crime novels it’s a great psychological thriller.

Soren Sveistrup is a screen writer probably most famous in the U.K. for the Nordic noir thriller series THE KILLING. It shows in his writing, he paints the scenes, and builds the plots brilliantly. The characters in this book jump of the page.

A cracking read

Pages: 491

Publishers: Penguin

Available now

The Pupil. Ros Carne

Mel and Natasha, two very different people at very different stages in their lifes.

Mel, a single mother of a hormonal teenage boy, a successful Barrister working out of a top London Firm.

Natasha, a young woman who lives beyond her means, shop lifts for fun, and strings her boyfriend along whilst carrying on affairs as her alter ego Lola.

Natasha has just become Mels trainee, on her second six months of training, and is hoping to be selected for a full time job, but can she curb her self destructive personality.

Meanwhile Mel is on a downward spiral, she’s struggling at work, making mistakes in court, and Natasha’s watching, not getting on with her son, and Natasha notices.

Using her alter ego, Lola, Natasha starts to flirt on line with Mels son, and at every opportunity undermines her at work.

And so it starts, a twisting turning plot of a psychological thriller.

I have to admit for the first third of the book I couldn’t make up my mind who to sympathise, or empathise with, which was really clever writing; because when the plot starts to unfold I was torn between which of the two characters I was rooting for, even though it was fairly obvious who was the good guy, and who was the victim.

I really enjoyed this book. It turned me upside down and inside out with my conscience being pulled like a tug of war rope. I love books that make me reach for google to research something. This was was different. It had me looking into my own mind. Clever, very clever.

Pages: 312

Publishers: Canelo

Publishing date: 6th August 2020