Widow’s Island. L.A. Larkin

Another new author for me, and another addition to my notifications on Amazon.

I have read a lot of good books this year, and this one is right up there with the best.

A middle aged University Professor, who has been recently widowed, relocates herself and her teenage daughter to a small island in Washington State.

For the first few months everything is going ok, but Professor Stephanie Miller is about to present a controversial document to a senate committee, and not everybody is happy about it.

A troll farm ( yes thee is such a thing, I had a pleasant hour reading about them online ) starts to run a campaign to discredit her.

As the misinformation turns to rumours the small island community starts to look at Stephanie and her daughter differently.

Meanwhile the island holds a secret. A murderer has been killing people in a very specific way for years, but his crimes are few and far between, and somebody different always seems to be in the frame for them, even if it’s never quite proved.

When Stephanie and her daughter start to get direct threats it’s not clear whether it’s the result of the trolling, or are they being targeted by a killer.

His is an intriguing story. It has elements that had me reaching for search engines on my computer, Puget Sound, in Washington State, with its collection of islands linked to the mainland by small ferries, is a great place to set psychological thriller.

The toll farms, I’d heard of them but didn’t realise just how much impact they have had over the last few years, a brilliant addition for any thriller where a persons head needs playing with.

Larkin has interwoven two compelling threads that had me second guessing myself all the way to the end of the book.

How much did I enjoy the book. As soon as I finished it I went onto Amazon and looked to see what else the author has written, my wallet was grateful there was only one other book to download, and it is now my current reading.

Pages: 396. Publisher: Bookouture. Publishing date: 3rd June 2021

Little Boy Lost. Ruhi Choudhary

Detective Mackenzie (Mack) Price is back for her third outing.

Just like the second book this one starts where the previous one finished, and yes that means that you really need to have read the previous books to get the most out of this one.

The continuing story of Mack’s childhood and her relationships with her mother, father, and step father plays a huge part in each book.

The standalone part of this story begins when three young boys go missing on a school field trip, when one turns up dead the similarities to a series of murders which happened 8 years previously are hard to ignore. Those crimes were investigated by Macks partner, Nick, and he is convinced he had the right man.

From his prison cell, lifer Jeremiah Wozniak taunts the investigation team. The kidnapper of the boys leaves a note with the dead boy saying “Find Jonnys killer or they all die”

Jonny was a victim of Wozniak, but he was only convicted of the killing when the death was tagged onto his crimes after he was caught, when the body was found bearing his trade mark kill signatures.

Could Nick have wrongly attributed this boys death to Wozniak, and if he’s innocent of this killing, was he innocent of all of them.

The lives of the other two boys hang in the balance, as does Nicks reputation as an investigator, as does the reputation of an already beleaguered Police Department.

Meanwhile new Detective Austin Kennedy is looking into Macks Fathers death, which is putting her under huge psychological pressure.

A great story in a great series, but to get absolutely top marks for me a book needs to be able to be read as a standalone, even if it is in a series.

I feel that I would have been confused by some of this book had I not read the previous two. However I would recommend reading the series as a great read.

Publisher: Bookouture. Pages: 365. Publishing date: 6th May 2021

Be Mine Forever. D.K Hood

Be Mine Forever by D.K Hood is the eleventh book in the Detectives Kane and Alton books.

A confession from the start of this blog. I’ve been on board with this series from very early on and have read all of the books in order. It’s not necessary to read all of them but I would suggest you read the first one or two before you read Be Mine Forever, as there is quite a back story involving the main characters that you might find a bit left out of if you dive straight into this one as your first.

And why would you want to miss out on the excellent earlier stories?

In this story the tightly knit team of law enforcers of Black Rock Falls are enjoying a cookout at Detective Jenna Altons house when a call comes in from a concerned father. His Cheerleader daughter has gone missing, along with her highly conspicuous car.

When the car is found, and there’s no sign of the missing girl the detectives start to worry that this is more than a father overreacting to his daughter staying out overnight

When it become obvious to Alton that not all is well at the girls home, the team begin to look at the familky demographics and the father doesn’t come out of it very well.

When a second Cheerleader goes missing the detectives start to realise that somebody wants to keep them quiet, but what about?

Then disaster for the team as one of them encounters the killer and the race is on for the rest of the team to find them before it’s too late.

The characters and the settings in this book are great, and the introduction of a new detective brings a new outlook to the team, or is he just too good to be true?

This is a great addition to a great series, and like the rest, it’s got me aching to see what happens next.

Publisher: Bookouture. Pages: 336. Available now

Silent Voices. Patricia Gibney

It starts with a flashback to a boy getting pushed into a quarry lake 9 years ago.

From there the pace of this book is relentless. The first murder victim is found with her face contorted in agony, she’s been poisoned. A very old fashioned way of murdering somebody, but as a statement, because of the obvious pain of the victim, it is horrific.

But, there’s more to follow. Two more, seemingly unrelated victims killed in the same way.

Detective Inspector Lottie Parker and her team take on the latest series of murders to hit Ragmullin, the small Midlands City in Ireland.

Coincidentally, Lottie’s fiancé, who is also her DS, Boyd comes across a teenage girl who is having problems with her bike. Being the Good Samaritan he helps her sort it out, only to find the girl is inexplicably linked to one of the murder victims.

As the investigation progresses the seemingly unrelated victims start to be connected, and there appears to be a spurious link to the death of a boy 9 years earlier in a quarry.

Running alongside the story of the crimes is the story of Parker’s pending nuptials to Boyd, but as we find out in the in the prologue Boyd doesn’t turn up. The wedding is several, days after the first murder, and when he doesn’t turn up Lottie finds a note which suggests he’s on an errand of mercy that may be linked to the crimes they are in the middle of investigating

Was that act of being a Good Samaritan Boyd’s ultimate undoing.

Will the Crimes get Solved

Will there ever be a marriage

Will Lottie Parker ever get a break and find some semblance of happiness in her life.

I love Patricia Gibney’s books. I can’t believe this is book 9 in the series, they have all been brilliant.

The thing that elevates her books is the multiple strands she manages to weave into each storyline. The crimes alone are complex without being confusing. The personal lives of victims, perpetrators, and witness, along with the people who invariably orbit an investigation, are so true to life and easily believable they make for a fantastic read.

The life of Lottie’s team, and her family are always incorporated into the plot with a great effect.

Most of all Lottie herself. What a character. I can’t believe that Gibney has invented this detective without knowing somebody, or some people, that she has amalgamated to create Detective Inspector Lottie Parker. In fact I won’t be at all surprised if there’s not a lot of Patricia in Lottie.

She has really got into the head of a successful DI. The sacrifices made at the expense of her family, although she would argue not; the bluntness of character, although she would say not, but most of all the loyalty she shows to those she cares for.

This book is a great addition to what is already one of the very best crime series being written today. And the good news, I recently read that Patricia Gibney has just signed up to, write more books in the series.

Pages: 460. Publisher: Bookouture. Published: Today.

Shadow Falls. Wendy Dranfield

A religious man Nate had left the process of becoming a Priest to get engaged to the woman he loved, but she was murdered and Nate was wrongly convicted of her Murder

After 17 years on Death row his conviction was overturned and he was released, with a very healthy compensation.

Now he’s making up for lost time. With a penchant for Colombian marching powder, and a love for the ladies he is now an unlicensed Private Detective.

So who else would ex Detective Madison Harper turn to for help.

Madison had been a successful cop, working her way up to being a Detective in Vice and working undercover.

Until she was framed for the voluntary manslaughter of a colleague.

Having served six years of her ten year sentence she was released penniless and without any hope. Working as a waitress amongst an area awash with the prostitutes she shares her accommodation with she has saved every penny she can to hire Nate to help her prove her innocence.

Nate doesn’t want to take the job, especially as Madison still can’t afford him, and her suggestion of working for him for free doesn’t fit in with his style of work, or life. Then there’s the fact that she’s and ex cop and he hates the Police

When a girl goes missing her grandmother contacts Nate to find her, because the local Police are not getting anywhere. So he takes Madison on for a trial period to help him

The first book in a new series rightly concentrates on the main character(s) and their relationship.

The case of the missing girl leads to an investigation that tests that, and their own convictions

Without giving spoilers there are subplots involving Nate and Madison that are going to run through the series, and will make people want to buy into it.

Can it be read as a standalone, yes, but I suspect that once you have read the first, you will want to find out more about this unorthodox and at times unlikely crime fighting team.

Pages: 391. . Publisher: Bookouture Available now

Dying To Be Her. Greg Olsen

When an entitled brat, Brianna Connor, has a Halloween Party whilst her parents are away things, surprisingly don’t seem to go to badly.

Unless, that is, you are the naive English exchange student that is inconveniently murdered in the hosts bedroom.

From the beginning of the investigation local Police Chief, Annie Garnett has problems with “This girl is a self centred, condescending brat” Brianna, and her thick-as-a-brick, and equally entitled boyfriend Drew.

In scenes similar to the immediate aftermath of the Meredith Kercher murder, Brianna and Drew, kiss and canoodle, and basically act in a flippant juvenile manner.

Spending more time on social media complaining about her ruined party, and visiting fancy lingerie stores, than helping with the investigation Brianna soon gets under everybody’s skin.

Meanwhile twin sisters Taylor and Hayley believe they have psychic abilities, and think they knew about the murder before the news broke.

When they receive a mysterious text with a case file number and “I know who killed her” written in it, they decide to go all Nancy Drew and try to solve the case.

As this is the first murder for over a decade in the sleepy town of Port Gamble they have just as much experience as Chief Garnett, and it shows.

What follows is two investigations twisting around each other, and often frustrating each other, before reaching a tense ending.

I love the characters and storyline in this book. A few years ago it would have seemed outrageous that teenagers could act in the way Brianna and Drew do, but today we see enough of them on TV to know that they exist.

Olsen has used this to his advantage. The teenagers in this book are despicable yet enthralling.

The Police Chief couldn’t be further removed from most fictional cops. A giant of a woman that finds it hard to buy fashionable clothes that fit her, investigating her first murder, with the main suspects spending more on knickers than she spends on her entire wardrobe.

The book drew me in by setting up my loathing of Brianna, and sympathy for Grant, but took me on a real rollercoaster of a trip right up to the very last page.

Pages: 300. Publisher: Bookouture. Published: 2nd February 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

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

Promises In The Dark

The Alton and Kane series is one of my favourite American crime series.

The settings, the characters, the crimes, everything adds ups to create great stories.

This one is no exception but it is so much darker than the others.

D.K Hood has created a great setting in the town of Black Rock Falls. In this book she has expanded the scene with the discovery of a series of caves, and without giving spoilers, the subterranean parts of the story are genuinely breath stopping.

The book starts with a kidnapping and a deadly fire.

A shocking start which gets more shocking with the discover of a body in a pool.

But what’s more shocking is Altons discovery that the family may have a link to somebody very close to her.

As the investigation gathers pace Alton and Kane go underground, literally, and that’s when things get dark, and not just in a luminosity way.

The caves have a way of bringing secrets out, secret fears, confessions, stories. But will “what happens in the caves, stay in the caves”

The pair are in a race to find the latest victim of a kidnap in the labyrinth of caves

This book takes the reader on a journey that will see the end of, or explanation to, one of the main series story threads, and it’s brilliant.

I really like these books. I always find the best books have strong characters, but quite often it’s just the lead character that stands out, and sometimes their side kick.

In this series all the characters stand out. As a reader I find I’ve invested in all of them, even the criminals, and in this book the criminal really stands out.

Please don’t read this as a stand alone. If you haven’t read any of the previous books in the series you’ve missed a treat, and this book will be all the better for reading the others.

Pages: 367. Publisher: Bookouture. Available now

Deadly Cry Angela Marsons

The wait is over, DI Kim Stone is back. I really can’t say how excited I get knowing that the next instalment is due. Since book one this has been my favourite Crime Thriller / Police Procedural series.

Why, because Angela Marsons gets cop humour, and uses it to bring a bit of light into what are often very dark crimes stories, and she gets the community she sets the crimes in. I live right in the middle of Kim Stones patch and not once have I said, that’s not right, or that wouldn’t happen.

Most of all, I love the fact that not everybody is safe. She’s already killed off one of the central, and much liked, officers in the series. That means she might do it again, so there’s never the ease of sitting back and thinking “It will all be ok in the end” That alone makes every book suspenseful.

So, Deadly Cry, what is this story, and will everybody make it through to the end.

In a reverse to most crimes, a little girl has lost her mother in a shop on the local high street, but its not the girl that’s in danger, her mom has been killed in a lies dead just around the corner.

She is just the first victim, and it appears that the killer is trying to communicate with Kim, asking her for help to stop hurting people, and they are escalating, so time is of the essence.

Meanwhile there are two major distractions from the investigation. Stacy has been asked to look at Cold Cases rotated from other teams, and she thinks she’s found a serial rapist. As well as leaving Kim’s Team short handed, by going against Kims wishes and continuing her own investigation, is she putting herself in danger, again.

Kim herself is given the run around by her boss, who is insistent that she organises the Police protection of a Wag who is publishing her kiss and tell book, and is receiving threats from trolls on line. I have to say, that as serious as this story line is, there is one comment from Bryant that made me spit out my coffee with laughter when I read it.

So with all of these distractions it’s inevitable that something is going to get missed. There was a time in the story when I said out loud “make the connection” when a team meeting was taking place. My wife knew what I was reading and just looked at me saying “Its only a book” How wrong could she be.

As well as the crimes there is the ongoing personal stories. Kim and her team are so much more than just Police Officers, they have lives, families, emotions, all of which add to the stories. It’s a shame that so much more of our community can’t see past the uniform or warrant card, and realise there’s a human doing a job.

For those of you who have read the series, and or my reviews, you will know I loved the character Dr Alex Throne, a real psychopath, who was a recurring character in a few books. Well I think we may have another one making their first appearance in this book, and what a character they are.

Pages:415, Publisher: Bookouture, Available now.