When a couple of young women are flagged down to help a motorist stranded in a winter storm the nightmare begins.
One of the girls escapes and makes it to Black Rock Falls but the other wakes in what she thinks is a hospital. That illusion lasts as long as it takes her to realise that she is tethered to the bed and that the person in the next bed is being threatened with unspeakable pain an death.
Ella, the girl who has escaped, tries to convince the local police that they should take her seriously, but it takes more disappearances until they realise they have a serial killer on their hands
The investigation is headed by Sheriff Jenna Alton and Deputy Dave Kane. Both of these investigators have hidden pasts and are living new lives.
Jenna has given evidence against one of Americas biggest gang leaders and is living under a new identity, but has it been blown.
Dave is still recovering from injuries he sustained in a previous investigation and his budding relationship with Jenna is under threat as his recent memories are being overtaken by the grief he felt when his first wife was killed.
Against the backdrop of the investigation into the serial killer the investigators go on their guard against a possible attack on Jenna, and try to rebuild their relationship
As Jenna conduct the investigation she uncovers similar crimes in which young people go missing on the same stretch of road and are never seen again. The pure amount of missing people is astonishing and the evidence given by Ella is the only clue they have to what is going on.
This is a small community and somebody must know what is happening. In fact it’s that small there is every possibility that everybody knows the killer, they just don’t realise it is who it is.
This is a good book with at least 3 strands to a story that weaves its way to a climatic end.
There is no time to switch off. Even when they are at home off duty Alton and Kane have to be on guard.
There is no time in this book when somebody is not in danger.
I like stories like this, they keep the pages turning, in fact they kept the pages turning so much I read the whole thing over two days.
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.
Introducing a new Police Investigator, Detective Sergeant Finnegan Beck.
Newly demoted and moved from the busiest Police Station in Dublin, Beck finds himself in the small town of Cross Greg.
He is not quite what you would expect, although he’s had a bad time professionally, he still cares, even if he pretends not to.
So, when he turns up at his first crime scene, in his new town, to find a murdered woman lying out in the open with the SIO, Inspector O’Reilly, paying scant attention to procedures it rattles his cage a bit.
That is the first encounter with the old dinosaur of a detective that is O’Reilly, and things don’t get much better as the story unfolds.
He finds an ally in young Garda Claire Sanders who acts as his partner in the investigation and also covers for him when he has an occasional fall off the wagon. He’s not an alcoholic, he’s just not very good at saying no and has a low tolerance for booze.
The murdered girl is an opening into a sordid story of an underage relationship. But this is just the tip of the iceberg.
The small town has a criminal underworld. After all people in towns and villages have the same needs, and urges, as those in the city.
The thing is, just like every small town, everybody knows everybody else’s business.
As Beck starts to untangle the web of lies around the investigation he thinks he starts to identify a motive for the crime and is getting closer to the person who killed the girl.
His new colleagues don’t agree with him, and treat him as the Big City Idiot, but slowly they begin to see the merit in his thoughts.
It takes another death before people start to take him seriously but is it too late to stop another killing.
As the story continues we find out why Beck has been demoted and moved away from Dublin. We see him start to build a reputation in Cross Greg, but will he ever be fully accepted.
This is a great story that’s billed as being book one in the Finnegan Beck series.
DI Gina Harte is back. She is probably the most troubled female Police Inspector on the shelves right now, and at the same time she is probably one of the best fictional cops on the shelves at the moment.
When a young girl falls from the back of a van it quickly becomes apparent that she has been held against her will, she is undernourished and drug dependent, but who is she.
Harte’s teams first task is to identify the girl, then find out what has happened to her.
But this won’t be the last young girl found. Nor will it be the last one the team have difficulty identifying.
At the same time a mother is looking for her runaway daughter, could either of the two unidentified girls be her daughter, or could their story hold the key to finding her.
This book looks into the homeless runaways we see sleeping rough on our streets.
Not all of them come from unloving homes and many of them have families who are frantically looking for them, scared of every knock on the door in case its bad news.
Hartes team run their investigation without knowing about the desperate mom, are both looking into the same thing.
People on the streets tell their story to the mother, where they won’t talk to the Police. As a reader frustration builds when the two sides aren’t communicating. When the mother is left to walk the streets talking to people in the hope that she will uncover some clue to her daughters whereabouts.
The things she hears are hardly comforting, drugs, prostitution, shop lifting, abuse, assaults are day to day experiences for some of the rough sleepers.
This book made me stop and think more than many others have over the years.
Carla Kovach has written a wonderful story. Gina Harte is one of my favourite characters, but for me the star of this book is that Mom who is looking for her daughter.
I cannot begin to imagine what a parent would go through when a child goes missing. And yes I know what goes on, on the streets, but somehow it was all brought home in this book. The horrors of sleeping rough, making allegiances with people that can only bring danger, but in a weird way offer security.
This is a subject that I have read about in other books, but this is by far the best.
The second book to feature DI Natalie Wood, a middle-aged woman trying desperately to be a good wife, and mother, at the same time as leading a Major Investigation Team.
When the body of a woman is found brutally murdered in her bedroom suspicion is immediately placed on the husband.
The more the team look into him the more lies and untruths are uncovered but are they anything to do with the murder.
The victim was an entitled woman that thrived on playing people off against each other. The husband is an ex-con who has set up a gym in an underprivileged estate.
The investigation is set spinning in circles by the stories told by locals, and by the mixed messages they are receiving about the victim.
With the investigation going down one cul-de-sac after anther the team are getting nowhere. Then another woman is found dead in very similar circumstances and it becomes clear that it’s the same killer.
The investigation is still going nowhere quick until………you’ll have to read the book to find out.
This is a great story. The frustrations of the police are laid bare as they are sent on one false lead after another by people trying to protect their own back, or simply deciding they don’t want to help the Police.
The main character, Natalie, and her team are flat out. Carol Wyer writes about the affect their career has on their relationships better than any other writer at the moment.
She looks at the almost selfish attitude they have towards keeping the investigation going, usually at the cost of their nearest and dearest.
And the transient characters are equally as good
The first murder victim Charlotte is a woman that wants everything everybody else has, then once she’s got it, she gets bored and gets rid of it. The book could easily have been called Marmite Girl, because people in the book either love her or hate her.
Her Husband is a thug that makes it easy for the reader to want him to be guilty. The people he hangs out with are all rouges that think themselves above the law.
It’s not often that a Police Procedural is based around one murder, and although this one isn’t either, it very nearly is. And its brilliant. It allows the characters to be explored fully and develop. I have a feeling that some of them may make appearances in future books.
Samantha Hayes has a way of writing that gets the hairs standing up on the back of my neck, and has me turning the lights on at the first hint of darkness.
Imagine being in a desperately abusive relationship and finally having the courage to escape. That is what happened to Ella, and now she is building a new life.
Having dodged the dreaded works night out she is on her way home when she’s involved in a hit and run that leaves her in an induced coma in hospital.
When she wakes up she’s told how lucky she is to have such a wonderful husband as the man that’s been by her side since just after she arrived in hospital. The only thing is she has no recollection of being married, until she sees him. Her ex has the hospital staff wrapped around his little finger and is going to take Ella home and look after her.
If she tries to escape, or raise the alarm, he has a video of something from her past which he will give to the Police. She’s trapped.
All that in the first few chapters, and what follows is a fast paced psychological thriller of the finest order.
Ella needs to get away, her ex isn’t going to let her and if she does he’s going to ruin her. There’s one ray of hope. Liam, a person she has been working with in her new life, is missing her. But if he pokes around too much is he going to put himself and Ella in danger.
The story of what is happening now, is interspersed with events that lead up to what is captured on the video that Ella is being threatened with. Both make compelling stories on their own but woven together they are chillingly good.
This is book 4 in the Detective Josie Quinn series, my favourite American crime series of the moment.
Quinn is career Detective working in the Denton Police Department. Denton is a small City with a small Police Force, but enough crime to keep everybody busy.
Quinn picks up the worst of the cases, with good reason, she solves them.
But this case is going to tax her and her team to the limits.
One of the other detectives on her team is missing, and a young man has been found dead at her home, shot in the back.
As much as everybody wants to think Gretchen is innocent, and that there is a good explanation, nobody except Quinn is really convinced she is not responsible for the young man’s death.
When Quinn begins to look into the case she realises just how little she knows about Gretchen, even though she hired her, and she had become one of her closest confidants.
The investigation leads Quinn to New York where she finds out more about Gretchen than she imagined. The woman had lived a nightmare for years and nobody knew.
The investigation takes in historical murders, under-cover cops and outlaw biker gangs.
The threads of this web weave one hell of a story that gradually leads to an outcome that I never saw coming.
Lisa Regan writes great stories. I love the character Josie Quinn. She is tough but vulnerable. Her back story is laid out in the first 3 books in the series and I can’t recommend reading them highly enough.
It’s no secret that I love crime series books that have underlying stories for the characters. This is one of the best, and as usual when I finished it, I wanted to read what Quinn is up to next.