The Darkness Within. Graeme Hampton

Before you read this review I have to say that I loved this book.

So why say that. Well I first published the initial review a few months ago, and I’ve just read it back, it does read a little negatively but it’s not meant to. I can’t emphasise enough how good this story is. I was hooked from the first page and enjoyed every twist and turn right up to the last page.

Here’s that original review.

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.

Publisher: Hera. Pages: 288. Available now.

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

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

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

In The House Of The Night. Donald Levin

I’ve made a rookie error. I read this book, and loved it, and then found out it’s the latest in a series. Now I have to go back and read the others

It’s a testimony to Donald Levin that the book read so well, as a stand-alone, that I didn’t realise until I got to the section at the end where his other books are promoted.

So what made it so good a read. The characters, the settings, the story of the crime, everything

The story starts like an old joke, A Rabbi and a Priest walk into a detective agency……..

In this case it is the agency that ex Police Detective Martin Preuss works. A friend of theirs, a University Professor, has been murdered and the two don’t like the direction the Police Investigation is taking.

The murdered Professor, Charles Bright, was a peace loving man, and as much as Preuss digs he can’t find anybody with a bad word to say about him, which really does not fit with the way he died.

Then he finds a spurious link to a white supremacist group, but why would a mild mannered, piece loving old man, get caught up with this group.

I was into this story from the first page. The crime is a bit symbolic of some of the stories coming out of America at the moment, so it felt really current.

Even though Preuss is an established character his back story is explained throughout the book and he is a man that is easy to like and have empathy for.

The realism, which is one of my main hooks, is there throughout.

It was a pleasant surprise to find this is the latest in a series. I often say in reviews that I wish I’d only just discovered an author, whose books I enjoy, so I had the whole back catalogue to read. Well this time I am that reader and I can’t wait to get stuck into these books.

Pages: 336. . Available now

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

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.

Our Daughters Bones. RUHI CHOUDHARY

When she was 12 years old Mackenzie Price came home to find her mother had killed her abusive husband. Together they buried him in the woods.

Price is a fantastic character. Stuck in a prison cell created by her own mind, a Psychological Faraday Cage that refuses to allow her happiness, she suffers constant flashbacks of her childhood, and the abuse her mother suffered before her fathers death.

When the discovery of a body takes her deep into the woods close to her fathers shallow grave she’s worried that the crime will be uncovered and that her life and career will be ruined.

But it’s not her father, it’s the body of Erica, a girl that’s been missing for a year. The high school princes daughter of a rich family there have been posters of her up around the city since she disappeared. Everybody knows her face.

At the same time her body is discovered her Best Friend Abby goes missing, the daughter of a single mother, a mother who works as a waitress in a local strip club, she doesn’t get anywhere near the attention that Erica did.

That annoys Mackenzie, what annoys her even more is she is convinced the two cases are linked, but the senior officers in her department seem determined to keep the two investigations separate, concentrating the majority of their efforts on a girl that’s been dead for a year, instead of on a girl that’s only just gone missing and could still be alive.

What’s more Mackenzies only real friend in the Department, Nick, who is leading Erica’s murder investigation is being alienated by her, and now he’s the only one who seems to be thinking along the same lines as her. Eventually they will have to work together but at what cost.

This is a very simplistic outline of the start of a brilliantly complex plot that had me hooked from the start.

As the story expands, and Mackenzie’s story unfolds, her character becomes addictive. Emotional on the inside but steely on the out, she won’t allow herself stimulants like coffee, or cigarettes. Yet she ploughs through the day fuelled by little but fresh air. It has to take its tole.

Not only has Ruhi Choudhary created, a great character she has created a great scene, a fictional city on the brink of despondency. As she says, it’s a city people are escaping from more than they are being attracted to. Hopefully it’s a Canvas for her to paint many more pictures on as we see Mackenzie fight her demons as much as the city’s crime.

Without doubt she is now one of my must read authors, and I can’t wait to see what happens next.

Pages: 409
Publishers: Bookouture
Publishing Date UK: 19th August 2020

Somebody’s Daughter. Carol Wyer

Somebody’s Daughter. Carol Wyer

In about 6 weeks I will be taking part in the blog tour for the publication of SOMEBODY’S DAUGHTER by Carol Wyer, but having just finished it I thought I’d do quick, short, review to let people know just how good it is.

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.

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

DEAD WRONG. NOELLE HOLTEN

Two years ago DC Maggie Jamieson was a major player in putting mass murderer Bill Raven behind bars. Maggie had been the main interviewer as Raven confessed to chopping up at least 3 women, and although he named them, he didn’t say where their remains were, and they were never found.

Now he wants to retract his confessions, throwing doubt onto everything about the original conviction, including the in Jamieson’s integrity.

Then dismembered body parts start to show up. Forensic tests show that they belong to the women that Raven confessed to killing. The problem is he’s been in jail for 2 years, and the women have only been dead a matter of days. Where have these women been, and who is killing them.

The clock is ticking as Maggie tries desperately to solve the murders and tries and link Raven to them before he is released on appeal.

Maggie’s visits to interview Raven are a complete mind game. She knows it but is having trouble convincing her own colleagues, let alone the legal system.  So she turns to her friend, Dr Kate Maloney, to help with a psychological profile.

What a story. Noelle Holten is fan of Crime Fiction, and a skilled writer. This book played on every perceived conception I had as I was trying to work out who was the killer. She has written it in such a way that I was kept guessing right up to the end, and what an ending it is.

The characters are fantastic. Maggie is close to being insubordinate, yet insecure at the same time. Bill Raven is brilliantly written, as good a nemesis as I have ever come across.

This book will take your breath away more than once, but don’t relax, one of the biggest gasps comes right in the very last line of the book.

Pages: 432

Publisher: One More Chapter

Available now