The Silent Suspect. Nell Pattison

The opening chapters in this book contained the best narrative of a house fire, from a civilian witness point of view, I have ever read.

Paige Northwood is a hearing British Sign Language interpreter. When she gets a video call from a client, who is frantically signing at her to phone the Fire Service, because his house is on fire and his wife is missing, she calls the brigade and runs around the corner to where the fire is taking place.

Paige works a Deaf Social worker Sasha, and helps her with clients. It’s one of these clients who’s house is on fire

Lucas is nowhere to be seen when Paige arrives, but is soon pulled out of the building by fire crews, he’s alive but as he sits on the back of an ambulance his wife is pulled out dead.

Hours later Lucas is charged with her murder. Sasha and Paige can’t believe he did it and start to carry out their own investigations.

What follows is amateur sleuthing at its best. Showing a real confirmation bias towards proving Lucas innocent they blunder their way along, and in Paige’s case, from one disaster to another, in a desperate attempt to find out who really killed Lucas wife.

As they start to uncover the truth about what Lucas is really like Paige starts to have doubts.

Running alongside the main story are short flashback chapters that cover the last few hours before the fire

The two main threads intertwine, just as the reader is led down one thread by Paige’s investigation, they are diverted by something that happened just hours before the fire.

This is a great story with great characters.

Pattison uses italics when one of the characters is signing, and somehow manages to get real emotion into the conversations.

Unlike many modern fiction books where murder follows murder she has kept it real with the one main crime, but of course there are a lot of less serious crimes orbiting it. People just don’t get murdered for no reason, most of the time.

I’ve said before how I love a book that gets me researching, and this one did just that. How many of us have given any thought to how deaf people use mobile phones, apart from texting and using the internet.

I got the sneaky feeling that this wasn’t the first book in the series when I was reading it, but I waited till the end to check. It’s book 3 in the Paige Northwood series.

I have to say it reads great as a standalone, but I’m definitely going back to read the first two.

I loved this book for the stubborn, yet naive, way Paige got involved. It was almost like going back to my childhood reading when The Hardy Brothers stumbled across some injustice they wanted to right.

Don’t get me wrong, this is a very grown up book that deals with real emotions in a modern world, there’s even a touch of romance, and do you know what, I enjoyed it.

Pages: 400. Publisher: Avon. Publishing date: April 29th 2021

Who Took Eden Mulligan. Sharon Dempsey

Who took Eden Mulligan could easily be Who Is Eden Mulligan.

This is a belter of a crime novel that is so much more than just a murder investigation.

The book starts with a bloodied and injured young woman staggering into a Police Station, in Northern Ireland, and saying that “they’re all dead” and confessing to killing them before she passes out

The “them” she’s talking about are her 4 best friends and the police quickly find them all in a remote house. 3 are dead, stabbed to death and posed on a bed, the other is clinging to life.

Painted on the wall is a message. Who Took Eden Mulligan

That is where this story can take a massive turn that it couldn’t do if it was set anywhere else in the U.K.

Eden Mulligan went missing from her Belfast home during the troubles.

Since the Northern Ireland Peace Agreement most of us have forgotten what the people of the Country went through, but this book looks at the way the troubles still effect the people of Belfast and the small towns around it

Chief Inspector Danny Stowe is working on cold cases, looking at unsolved murders. When the woman staggers into the Police Station Danny is asked to lead the murder investigation, it’s his way back into Major Investigations. On the same day his best friend from University visits him, and he ropes her in to help the investigation

Dr Rose Lainey is only home for her mothers funeral. She works in England as a Criminal Psychologist and at first is loath to help, but she needs answers herself, especially when they find out who Eden Mulligan, was and when she went missing.

Mulligan was a young attractive woman bringing up her 5 children alone in Belfast whilst her husband worked in England.

Lainey was from the same area, The Markets, and her mother brought up her family alone after her husband was killed. Lainey always thought her mother was part of the paramilitaries, sneaking out at night and being secretive. Lainey had run away from home after her last college exam, away from what she saw as an overbearing mother, and had never returned until she had a phone call to say her mother had died.

Mulligans disappearance was never solved, in fact the police never really took it seriously.

This story looks at The Disappeared of Northern Ireland. People that went missing during the troubles. People taken off the streets by paramilitary snatch squads, taken across the border, tortured and killed. People who’s bodies were never found.

It looks at the effects the troubles are still having on families today, as well as the sectarian violence that was taking place till only a few years ago.

This book could not have been set anywhere else in the U.K.

I’m ashamed to say I’m old enough to know more about the troubles than I did before I started reading this book. I disappeared down a Google worm hole for hours reading about “The Disappeared”

The relationships between Lainey and her estranged family, and her friendship with Stowe, is a brilliant sub plot. In fact both the lead characters in this book have a great story to tell and hopefully there will be more to follow.

Pages: 368. Publisher: Avon. Available: August 2021

Their Frozen Graves. Ruhi Choudhary

The second book in the Detective Mackenzie Price series.

The first book in this series, Our Daughters Bones was one of my favourite reads last year, and it ended on one hell of a cliff hanger.

This book starts where that one left off, with Price opening the door to the surprise of her life.

A thread that starts there runs through the book as a sub plot that was worthy of a book of its own.

At the same time as she’s dealing with that Price has to deal with one of the most original murder investigations I’ve come across for years.

Two bodies are found in melting ice, where a river meets a lake at a local beauty spot. Both women have died from stab wounds, and look so alike that the team speculates whether they are twins.

When one of women is recognised by a police officer, Mack (Mackenzie) and her partner go to talk to the husband, only to have a shock. The woman they thought was dead is at home ill, and yes, she does look a lot like the dead woman.

The post-mortem reveals further shocks as one of the women is found to have undergone cosmetic surgery to make her look like the other dead woman, and they both look like the woman that was ill at home.

The investigation leads the team to the dark web where somebody is putting adverts out for women who look similar to specific other women, and the people who answer adverts are going missing.

The story of the investigation is brilliant, and the backdrop of the book only enhances the story, and adds to the tension.

Lakemore, a town in Washington State was already run down, but it thrives on its college football team and the money brought in by the big games. But that team was wrecked during a previous investigation. Now there is unrest on the streets, and people blame the police for their latest downturn in fortunes, and the loss of their team

Outside of the town the huge wild woodlands, lakes, rivers, mountains, and strange communities, contrast the town and hold many secrets. A stunning and perfect setting for a crime series.

Just as the last book ended with a cliffhanger that had me waiting for this ones publication, Ruhi Choudhary has done it again. Now I’m desperately waiting for book 3

Pages: 381. Publisher: Bookouture. Available now

She Said. Three Said. David B. Lyons

There have been a few authors try to take us into the jury room to look at how a jury have come to a verdict. In this book Lyons explores the dynamics of the jury and the influence stronger characters can have.

At the same he gives the reader a unique look at the crime by narrating it in the first person from 4 peoples points of view

The Victim Sabrina, a young, attractive, well dressed woman who was out working when she bumped into the three defendants

The 3 defendants: Jason a soon to be retired international footballer, and his two life long best friends. Li, a nice young man of Korean decent who seems to be the voice of reason. Zachary, the mouthy arrogant one of the three.

Sabrina has accused the three of rape, a charge they all deny.

The jury have heard the evidence and discuss their thoughts on who is telling the truth about the night of the crime, and the validity of the evidence given by the 4

The reader gets to see the night unfiltered from all four of the main characters. What they said, what they did, and how the interpreted what was happening.

And that’s where the unique part comes. By letting each of the characters tell their own story, letting the night of the crime unfold, the reader is left to make their own decision about what happened.

The jury reaches their verdict, and in the very last few lines the reader finds out and and if they, along with the jury, got it right.

A clever book which deals with the jury room as well as any book I’ve ever read.

Pages: 314.

Ask No Questions. Claire Allan

One of the best books I’ve read this year.

25 years ago an eight year old girl goes missing during a Halloween night out.

3 days later 10 year old twin brothers Niall and Declan Heaney find her face down in a lake.

The families of the small Northern Irish town of Creggan are devastated and scared.

Ingrid Devlin was two years older than the missing girl and lived in the same town, now she’s a journalist who has written a couple of true crime books, so it’s natural that she is asked to do an anniversary piece on the murder, for the local paper.

What starts out as just a look at the victim, her family and the community, and how they have been affected takes a swing when James Harte, the man convicted of the murder, who was released 7 years ago, contacts Ingrid proclaiming his innocence.

The paper publishes the anniversary article, but Ingrid’s Editor refuses to run anything inflammatory from Harte. In fact the editor orders Ingrid to stop looking at the case. She decides that there is good material for a book and continues her investigation.

It’s not long before intimidating tactics start to persuade her to stop. That just makes her dig her heels in and carry on, but she’s scared, very scared, by what’s happening around her.

This book has a fantastic storyline. The tenacity of Ingrid’s investigation is underpinned by the effect it starts to have on her. How, as evidence starts to sway her thoughts away from what she has accepted as the truth since she was 10, she becomes scared.

The dynamics of the families involved in the incident, the girl’s mom and dad, the twins who found her and their parents is brilliantly written.

The tension in the book ramps up all the way until the last few pages, and in all honesty, I didn’t predict the end. Which is just how I like my crime fiction.

It wasn’t a surprise when I researched Claire Allan and found out she graduated with a Masters in Newspaper Journalism before becoming a renowned reporter in Derry. This book couldn’t have been written this well if the person writing it, hadn’t lived the life of a reporter in that area.

Did I save the best till last. This is certainly in the top 3 books I’ve read this year. So yes I think I did.

Publisher: Avon Pages: 336 Publishing date: January 2021

The Fine Art of Invisible Detection Robert Goddard

Where do I start with this one. The first half of the book is like two helix twisted together with the two main characters of the story spiralling around Japan, England and Iceland, chasing the same goal for different reasons until they come together to form an amateur partnership looking to bring down a shady global conglomerate.

Wada is an assistant to a Private Detective in Tokyo. When a woman comes to the office and says she needs somebody to go to London and pretend to be her Wada is an easy choice, as she is fluent in English.

The reason for the trip is to identify a mystery man ho might throw light on her husbands alleged suicide.

At the same time Nick, a teacher in London is about to find out the man he thought was his father, and who had died before Nick knew him, was not his father. A man who hung around with his mom, and her lesbian partner, in a group house for peace activists, appears to be his real father and he wants answers.

A man has told Nick he’ll meet him to give him information about his father, but he doesn’t turn up

Meanwhile Wada is also in London, to meet a man who says he has information on a man in a photo from the 70’s who will help in her quest. He doesn’t turn up either.

The same man, in both cases, has let two amateur sleuths down and set a chain of events in place that will uncover a plot that stretches across decades and continents.

This is a fantastic read. The main characters of Wada and Nick are perfect for this story.

Both are unassuming but tenacious. The two characters have their own story, and a long proportion of the book sees their paths crossing, and whilst both are aware of each other, and that they are looking for the same person, they don’t meet for a frustratingly long period. However when they do there is fireworks

A lot of stories come along with good plots which rely on improbable situations, that need the reader to suspend reality. In this case everything is not only probable, but also very, very believable

A great read. I just hope it’s not a standalone, I’d love to read more of Wada and Nick, and there’s an opening right in the last few lines that hints they’ll be back.

Pages: 384. Publisher: Bentham Press. Release date: March 2021

Salt Water Graves. B.R Spangler

I can’t believe so much happens in this book, and all in 276 pages.

Detective Casey White’s life is finally back on track, until the second page. She’s late, as she says not late as in for a meeting, late as in pregnant. She’s in love, with the father and they are about to move in together. He has a great job and is up for election to his old post.

Then the first body is found, and there’s a link to her boyfriend, Jericho Quinn. Coincidence?

Not when a second body is found which is also linked to him

Could it really be Jericho, the one person she has let into her life, the one person she really trusts, or is somebody trying to frame him, or undermine his run for Sheriff

So who can Casey trust.

Then things really start to unravel. If you haven’t read the first two books in the series the impact of the rest of the story might be a bit diluted, but without giving too much away to readers who have…..there is one hell of a twist in this story.

A twist that will have Casey reeling. The physical and mental trauma she goes through in this book are nothing compared to the emotional trauma she suffers.

Each of the books in this series end on a cliffhanger, but nothing before will compare to this one.

Spangler has a way of writing that combines the cosy, small town mystery, with the darkest of psychological thrillers.

The books are written in the first person with Casey White being the main narrator so the reader is aware of every thought, every doubt, and every emotion. It’s impossible to read these books and not feel empathy for her.

So when Spangler puts her through the mill, and he does, you go with her.

An excellent read in a wonderful series

Pages: 276. Publisher: Bookouture Publishing date: 14th December 2020

The Darkness Within. Graeme Hampton

Although this is the 3rd book in a series, and the first I’ve read, it didn’t seem like it. In fact I only realised it was when I came to the end and the authors previous books are listed

Is this a good thing, yes, because it means the book can obviously read as a stand- alone, but as much as I enjoyed it, I didn’t want to go and find the previous books to catch up with the back story.

And that’s where this is a conundrum of a book to review because I really enjoyed the story without engaging with the main characters, DI Matt Denning and DS Molly Fisher.

The story starts with somebody being recognised after 30 years, by somebody else who was a victim. The red mist comes down and……that’s where the prologue ends and sets up the mystery for the rest of the book.

Retired DCI Frank Buckfield is found murdered having lived the last few years of his life in squalor. Some officers remember him fondly but others remember him as a bully who got results any way he could.

This is followed by a serious assault on an academic. The man had been reported missing by his sister over 20 years ago and had apparently never been found, so how could he have been working in a University so recently. One look at him shows he’s much younger than the man who was reported missing and must be somebody who’s assumed his identity. But why.

The connections between the two victims seems to point back to a major robbery, one that Buckfield had made his name by arresting the major players in.

Meanwhile a historic child abuse ring starts to appear on the periphery of the investigation. High profile men, including a Judge, and MP and a Senior Police Officer had been abusing young homeless or vulnerable boys.

As the investigation gathers pace some current Senior Police Officers seem to be against some of the lines of inquiry.

Denning and Fisher continue with the investigation against the advice of these officers, and sometimes in isolation from each other.

But are the modern day crimes connected with the historic ones. Is their a serial killer stalking the streets, or is this an act of revenge.

I really enjoyed this book. I enjoyed the story and the way the author led me down the occasional cul-de-sac where I was convinced I knew who was responsible, only to have my hypothesis wiped out several times.

I will read the future books when they come out, but not because I’ve engaged with the characters, which is usually what hooks me into a series, but because the story was so good.

Pages: 288. Publisher: Hera. Publishing date: 13th January 2021

Force of Evil. Simon Michael

Every now and again a book comes along that could have been written just for you. For me that book was the first one in this series. Now, all of a sudden we have book six, Force of Evil, and like all of its predecessors it’s raised the bar again. It is stunning.

Charles Holborn is a London Barrister. A man from a strongly Jewish family who has mixed with the wrong people, not always his fault, since he was a child.

Born between the wars he worked as a Lighterman on the Thames at the start of the war, before joining The RAF when he was old enough to fight. He spent a lot of his youth and early manhood in the boxing gyms of 1940s London. Where he started to mix with some of London’s most notorious thugs.

Against the odds of his religion, his upbringing, and the people he has mixed with he gains his law degree, then faces the anti-Semitism which was rank amongst the Law Firms of the 50s and 60s. All of this is laid out in the first five books of the series which have been written around actual occurrences without rewriting history. In fact a lot of the characters in these books will be familiar to most readers, including the Kray’s

So all of that and I haven’t even mentioned this books plot.

Force of Evil see’s Holborne take on one of his most formidable foes yet. When he and a friend, Sloane, stumble across an innocuous incident on a rail siding it quickly escalates and leaves his friend in hospital with a fractured jaw. Sloane is a DS in the Met who has recently been transferred out of Vice, for being one of the only honest cops working in the squad, and is now working under a cloud of suspicion from his fellow officers.

The problem is, the more Charles try’s to find out how the man who hit Sloane got off Scotch free, the more interference Police Officers put in his way.

When another man is killed, and RAF Sergeant, who was looking into crime at a Ministry of Defence stores it starts to become apparent the two cases are intertwined.

There is a lot more to this story than just the investigation into theft form an RAF base. The story looks at the corruption that was rife in some parts of the Police in the 60’s. It looks at the dubious methods employed by some officers in gaining an arrest, and ensuring anybody they wanted out of the way could be sorted out by foul play.

It looks at the influence gangs had on the community, and the effect their “interference” could have even in places that should be sacrosanct.

And as usual there is the story of Charles’s private life. In a twist a lot of people will be familiar with Charles and his brother start to become increasingly worried about the behaviour of their parents.

Balancing his legal work, trying to do the right thing for his client, and trying to appease the gangland, whilst trying to stay in one piece, and on the right side of the law, is challenging for Charles. But it makes an absolutely brilliant story for us to read.

Pages: 404. Publisher: Sapere Available now.

The Thursday Murder Club. Richard Osman

I am so glad I downloaded this as an audio book because Lesley Manville brings a great atmosphere as the narrator of this brilliant story by Richard Osman, yes the big fella off the TV.

Tongue in cheek, or deliberately written as a comedy, I have no idea but I got a lot of strange looks walking down the road, with my earbuds in, laughing out loud.

Cosy Crime is not my usual genre, and by the nature of the characters and the setting, this can’t be classed as anything else, but it is a tremendous listen.

Elizabeth, Joyce, Ron, and Ibrahim, all in or close to their 80’s, live in a care community in the leafy south east of England. Every Thursday they meet up and try to solve cold case murders, in a very Miss Marples type of way, but always around the table.

A visit by a local Police Officer, Donna DeFraites, I think that’s how it’s spelt ( the problem with audio books ) is boring to the residents, they’ve had enough advice about window locks, so they ask for juicy stories.

A few days later there is a real murder, right on their doorstep, and the four pensioners swing into action. Which is more than Donna can do because as a junior uniform, and dare I say it female officer, she’s just tasked with making the tea.

Until the murder club hatch a plot to get her bosses to let her take part in the investigation. Their only real motivation being they need an inside source because they are going to investigate a real murder.

What follows is a cross between an Agatha Christie story and something from the pen of the writers of the Vicar of Dibley, and it’s is hilarious.

Osman writes the way a lot of people think. There are times when he makes little connections and send the characters mind or mouth rambling around a subject.

He gets away with some borderline political incorrectness because, actually it’s not incorrect, it’s what most of us think.

I hope this is the start of a new series. The characters are great, and the setting will allow peripheral characters to drift in,a new out, or inevitably fill the void left by those that “ move on “