Their Burning Graves. Helen Phifer

Detective Morgan Brookes is back in the 8th instalment of this series.

One of the things I like about this series is the fact that the lead character is a DC and as such is unburdened by the management of an investigation. She is a cog in a machine that relies on all of the cogs working together towards the same cause, but only managing one line of the investigation.

The isolation of working that single thread, and taking her thoughts and findings back to the regular team meetings is what sets her apart.

Morgan is a huge crime fan, loving true crime documentaries and books, as well as some fictional crime.

She has a way of seeing the hidden meaning, the motivation for a crime, before most of her colleagues. It doesn’t mean she’s always right, but her hypothesis are fascinating, and if they are dispelled still aid the investigation by narrowing down the lines of inquiry.

In this book she’s the first investigator on the scene of a serious house fire. A family of three is dead inside, but not in one of the burned out rooms, in fact there isn’t even any smoke damage in the room in which they are found.

The fact that they are all sitting at the dining table, with plastic bags over their heads, and each with a hand missing, only adds to the intrigue.

Morgan and the rest of the team are soon embroiled in an investigation in a tight knit community within a small town.

Nobody can be ruled out, but he closer the investigation gets to identifying the killer the harder it’s seems to be.

I loved this book. The prologue chapter telegraphs the motive for the killing, but the link, and the identity, of the killer is cleverly hidden right up till the last couple of chapters

Morgan is a great character, as are the main recurring characters. It’s her addiction to crime documentaries and books that originally got me hooked, after all it could have been me that was being written about, but the books and the stories now demand my attention.

This is one of those series I now look out for. As soon as one’s available they go straight to the top of my to-be-read list and become my next read.

They never disappoint.

Pages: 265. Publisher: Bookouture. Publishing Date: 19th December 2022

In the interest of being transparent I must admit to having a vested interest in this book. I gave advice to Helen Phifer on the Fire Scene and the involvement of the Fire Service during the investigation.

I’d like to thank Helen for the generous mention in the acknowledgements section and the choice of name for the Brigade Fire Investigator in the book.

Hidden Scars. Angela Marsons

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Without exaggeration the best book I’ve read

It may be because it’s written by my favourite author.

It may be because it’s the latest in a cracking series.

But I think it’s probably because the author put a lot of emotion into what was written.

Kim Stone nearly died in the last book, Six Graves, this one starts several months later and finds her struggling psychologically and physically.

Her team has been in the hands of another DI whilst she recovered and she can see it being slowly destroyed by his incompetence as a Detective and as a boss, and his failings as a human being.

Will she recover to take the team back from him whilst it’s still intact.

It takes a nasty murder, which he is happy to pass off as a suicide, to tip her over the edge and try and bring the “old Kim” back.

Will she manage it.

This book looks at the roller coaster of recovery from serious injury. How Kim has to struggle internally to get herself in the right place to be effective. Her team is more than her team, it’s her family and they need her.

The crimes in this book are psychologically horrific.

Based on a centre that offers “Correction Therapy” to young gay people.

I’ve not lead a sheltered life but I had no idea this happened. I’m not kidding when I say I disappeared into a Google worm hole for hour’s researching it.

Angela Marsons has dealt with the subject brilliantly.

Every page in this book is gripping as Kim struggles to find her old self.

Her team are there for her every step of the way but it’s a struggle at times.

The dual stories of the investigation into these horrific crimes, and Kims struggles to find, and deal with, her new normality are breathtaking.

And the very last sentence. Wow

Pages: 356. Publisher: Bookouture.

Audio book length: 8 hours 39. Narrator: Jan Cramer

The Silent Dead. Marnie Riches

Detective Sergeant Jackie Cooke is not your average fictional Police Officer, but I think she’s probably one of the most realistic.

A newly separated single mother with twins boys, one of who is the “child from hell” and a few months old little girl.

She is battling her ex partner, who wants to take her for a much as he can, having contributed very little, and relies on her mother, who lives in a granny-flat in the basement, for child care.

When she’s at work she’s worried about her kids and the over reliance she places on her mom. When she’s at home she can’t stop thinking about her cases.

Her work is suffering because of her home life, and her home life is suffering because of her work.

The icing on the cake for Cooke is that she was a DI, but stood down when she became pregnant with her daughter, and the new DI is, in her opinion, inept.

So that’s the backdrop to the story and it really adds a touch of reality that helped me engage with Cooke.

When she attends a murder scene to find out that it’s an old school friend of hers who has been killed, she is caught slightly off guard.

When the investigation starts to take her into the world of, online dating, and seedy hook ups she wonders what her old friend had got herself into in the years they had been out of contact.

The fact that more murders show a similar MO, leads Cooke and her Sergeant into the murky world of on line hook ups.

I have come across the phrase Incel in a few books recently, but Marnie Riches seems to have hit the right balance of menace and desperation that people that fall into that category exude and suffer.

I love the main characters in this book.

The crimes are really well considered and fit the story perfectly.

A great read.

Pages: 325. Publisher: Bookouture. Publishing Date 1st November 2022

Hidden Bones. Rita Herron

There is something about this series that has me really hooked.

It could be the main character, Detective Ellie Reeves, or the other recurring characters, all of who add massively to the stories.

It could be the setting, a small town at the start of the Appalachian Trail, with its unique inhabitants and visitors.

Or it could be the well thought out, well written crimes.

It’s probably a combination of all of those things.

This book starts like a Stephen King story. A flash back to 30 years ago, a little girl hiding whilst she witnesses her mother being murdered. The killer finding her and taking her away.

Back to today and it’s Spring Break and all the madness it brings. A group of teenagers carrying out a TikTok challenge to film themselves in an abandoned “haunted” house.

The house is an old Orphanage with a bad reputation. When something spooks them they make a run for it but one girl falls into a pit. The pit is full of human bones, but how long have they been there.

Unsure weather this is a historic case, or even if it’s a crime scene Ellie is moved off the case when a very recent murder victim is found.

A woman has been the victim of a horrific murder, and she has had rough sex recently. In another twist the team dig into her past and can’t be sure the rough sex and the murder are part of the same crime.

The story follows the investigations into both crimes, and more as they happen. Inevitably the investigators start to wonder if there’s a link.

If there is, how long has this killer been active, and how many victims are there.

Rita Herron is one of those authors I wait for. I’m lucky enough to be able to read the books before they are published. When the notification pops up to say one of her books is available it goes straight to the top of my TBR list and is always the next book to be read.

I think that speaks volumes.

Print length 460 pages. Audio book 8 hours 58 minutes Narrator Tanya Eby. Publisher Bookouture. Available now.

The Guilty Girl. Patricia Gibney

If you are a parent that has had children who have already passed through teenage years, this book will bring back memories of all the fears and trepidations you felt.

Patricia Gibney is particularly good at tapping into raw emotions. Her books always seem to come from the heart, and be laid on foundations of experience that brings a reality which is unrivalled when it comes to the angst and emotions of the characters.

This book is no exception. In fact it stands out as a brilliant book, in what is already a brilliant series.

The angst of youth. Wanting to be a part of everything, whilst being torn between what is right and what is wrong.

The dangers some youths are exposed to in their hunt for acceptance, or their version of “the dream”

The vulnerability of youth, hidden by the false shield of the hard exterior.

Lottie Parker is called to a murder. A young girl held a house party at her parents house, the next day she is found dead amongst the detritus of the party.

Why was Lucy killed.

Another girl Hannah is hiding something, and Lucy seems to have found out about it.

Parker starts to uncover disturbing evidence that indicates that somebody is taking advantage of young girls.

Evidence starts to stack up, and then one boy, who should know better admits he was at the party, Parker is infuriated.

The story in this book is so current it’s frightening. It’s frightening to realise that things like this are going on. We all read about these crimes in the newspaper, online, or hear about them in the news, but Patricia Gibney makes them so much more relevant to us by adding the emotions of the victims, witnesses, and investigators.

I look forward to every book in this series and have never been disappointed. This one lifts the bar again, I can’t wait to see where she takes us in the next one.

Print Length: 507 pages (according to Amazon). Audio book 14 hours 38 minutes Narrator Michele Morgan. Published 15th June 2022

The Lost Ones. Marnie Riches

Well if you are looking for a detective with a difference this is the book to find it in.

Detective Sergeant Jackie Cook. A hormonal woman in the third trimester of an unexpected pregnancy who has: A waster of a husband who contributes nothing but dreams of being a rock star. Nine year old twin sons doing their best Fred and George Weasley impressions. A mother who lives in the basement with her David Niven like boyfriend. The occasional visiting bohemian artist father.

On top of all of that her colleagues blame her for letting the glory seeking, queen detective, DI Venables get the rank of Detective Inspector because she’d stood down from it.

Oh and there’s a series of gruesome murders to solve.

Cook and her partner David Tang are assigned to a murder where the limbless torso of a young girl has been posed in a beer garden.

It’s not the usual gang related murder the team are used to dealing with in Manchester, and it’s not the last body with bits missing that is coming their way.

The story develops as more bodies are found. Each either missing pieces, or being discovered as just one piece.

Cooke and Tang are under pressure, Venables is preening her feathers and wants a quick arrest of who she thinks is an obvious suspect. Cooke and Tang know she’s wrong.

This story is stunning, and has introduced one of the quirkiest characters I’ve read for years.

Cook is a force to be reckoned with, but she’s also a vulnerable woman.

She’s blunt, likes to give the occasional kick in the shin, loves her job, but has real problems balancing her work and home life.

As the story gallops on she finds herself having to merge both worlds, but the result is not what she expects, or is it.

A stunning start to what I hope will be a great series.

If you are a fan of Marnie Riches you are not going to be disappointed. If you are only just discovering her you are in for a real treat.

Publisher: Bookouture. Pages: 324. Audio Book 11 hours 6 minutes. Narrator Helen Duff. Available now.

Six Graves. Angela Marsons

In the blink of an eye we’re at book 16

You would think that by now the series would be running out of steam, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.

The prologue hooked me in a way no other start to a book ever has.

In places the story had me holding my breath till I was turning blue.

And the last page left me Gob Smacked and reaching for a glass of Jack Daniels.

A family dead. Mom, Dad, and two children all shot and the mother is still holding the gun.

Surely this is a straight forward murder suicide.

DI Kim Stone’s not sure. As she starts to dig into the family history she starts to uncover secrets. Helen, the mother has history of depression., but is that enough to tip her over the edge.

The team dig deeper and the clues start to surface, but it’s not just clues which are surfacing, so is a face from Kim’s past.

She receives a threat to her life. Typically she shrugs it of but this one’s serious and it has her rattled. Rattled enough to send Barney away on a holiday for his safety.

As she continues to lead the team looking at the death of the family a psychopath that is getting close, metaphorically and physically.

I challenge anybody not to read this in one sitting. It’s a book that brings a new meaning to the word tense, there was no way I could put it down

Angela Marsons has a way of writing that has always engaged with me. One of the things that her writing has is a realism that I can associate with.

It’s not just that her stories are based where I live, it’s not just the fact the characters are so realistic. It’s the empathy I have with Kim Stone.

That empathy really hit home in this book.

In all the crime scenes I attended, in all the fires I investigate, there has only ever been one thing that got to me. It was the normality of the scene. The rooms that hadn’t been affected. The rooms where it looked like the people who lived there were about to walk in and start their day.

In this book Angela Marsons captures that through Kim Stone better than anybody has captured it before.

The bar just got raised again.

Pages: 425. Audio book length: 8:33. Publisher: Bookouture Available now.

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The Lighthouse Girls. B.R Spangler

Detective Casey White is called when the body of a girl is found close to a lighthouse on the outer banks.

A family report their daughter missing from a nearby town.

When Casey goes to give the unfortunate family the bad news she’s in for a shock. It is their daughter thats dead, but it’s not the one they reported missing.

And that opens the door to one of the most original plots I’ve read for quite a while.

I read a lot of crime fiction so it’s not often I come across a story that lets me sit back and think, “I’ve not come across that before”

Casey and her team are brilliant. The ongoing stories and recurring characters that sit of the peripheries are great, but what really steals the show in these books is the setting.

The Outer Banks of North Carolina is fascinating. I’ve spent hours on Google Earth looking at the area.

One of the pleasures in reading is that the book can take you to places you’ve never heard of. Now I’ve found one I really want to visit.

A massive area of linked islands forming a false coast on the Atlantic Coast of America. Some island inhabited, some deserted, some overgrown wildernesses. Small towns, on the mainland side of the lagoon that’s formed by the islands, with the usual mix of rich, poor and eccentric characters.

For U.K. readers this is a bit like Midsummer, on the coast, and on steroids.

White is a brilliant character, she’s made enemies, and friends. The small town attitude means that whenever anything goes wrong the newcomer gets the blame. But things have got as bad as they’re going to get and the town is now on the rebound. It’s making its way back.

Will Casey get the credit and recognition she deserves, I doubt it.

Will she solve the riddle that is the two sisters, one dead, the other missing.

The key to it is embedded in the small town community, this small town just happens to be fragmented over a few islands and inlets.

A great story, a great series. I can’t wait till we find out what happens next on the Outer Banks.

Publisher: Bookouture. Print Length: 283 pages. Audio book: 8hrs 25 minutes. Available now

One Girl Missing. Carla Kovach

Gina Harte. Now that’s a name that we should be hearing on a TV Series.

Carla Kovach has really developed this character, to say she’s been through the mill would be an understatement, but she is one hell of a Police Officer.

This story sees the Harte storyline take another twist, and it’s a belter.

The main story is always the investigation into a crime, and this one opens a real can of worms.

Two women go out for a night. A man attacks them. One of the women disappears, the other is missing.

The missing woman’s 5 year old girl is at home waiting for her mom. When the Police find her she tells them a strange man had been looking in her window.

Then the book turns really dark.

What has life been like behind closed doors.

Every house, every flat, every apartment holds its own story. Most are happy, or just plain mundane, but a few hold dark secrets.

You can’t tell these fearful dwellings from the outside. Every now and then neighbours might hear arguments and banging, and have an idea something is going on, but the truly dark houses are silent. Hiding bad things in plain sight, in ordinary neighbourhoods.

What has been going on.

Why were the women attacked, and where is the missing woman

What a way to start a book.

This is 359 pages of fast paced criminal investigation rapped up in a psychological thriller.

Publisher: Bookouture. Available now

The Hidden Child. Rebecca Griffiths

One of my often used phrases is “I love a book that gets me reaching for Google” and this is one of those books.

In fact it made me realise just how much I didn’t know about the Myra Hindley and Ian Brady murder spree that took place in the early 1960’s.

Maybe it was because the murders took place when I was two or three years old, maybe I thought I knew more about them because they have been in and out of the news ever since.

Rebecca Griffiths has taken those murders and woven a great story around them.

Ronald is a farmer, on Saddleworth Moor. He’s reclusive and keeps himself to himself.

It’s a solitary life and that’s what he wants. So when a couple start to appear on his land, he notices them straight away. When he starts to hear news reports about missing children he quickly realises what the mystery couple are up to.

But what can he do about it.

Go to the police, no way. Ronald has his own reasons for not wanting the Police snooping around his land.

Ronald is a great character, conflicted, would be the best way to describe him. But his story is tough and at times emotional.

Hindley and Brady, there victims, and the families of the victims are written about tactfully but grittily. In fact at times it’s a bit of a tough read when you realise that part of the story is factual

Books which weave fact and fiction can go both ways, really good, or really bad, this one is definitely in the really good category.

Rebecca Griffiths has used just the right mixture of fact and fiction, in fact it’s that good a mixture that I wouldn’t have been surprised if I hadn’t got to the end and found that I’d been reading a book bringing new evidence, and revealing new crimes. There have been rumours for years that there are more victims of Hindley and Brady, and that maybe there was another accomplice.

This book doesn’t open the door of another accomplice but it does open the door on other murders, and that’s where the fiction kicks in.

This is a great read. Weather you remember the Moors Murders, or as was my case, thought you knew a bit about them, I can guarantee that by the end of this book you will have used whatever research engines you have available to you, and learnt a lot more.

The story is great, the jump between what is present and what is past, within the story is sometimes a bit blurred and I got confused once or twice, but that may have been because I was reading it none stop. It hooked me from the start.

Print length: 361 pages. Audio book length: 10 hours 47 minutes. Publisher : Bookouture