HIDDEN LAKE. 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 

Silent Scream. Five years anniversary

Five years ago today the first DI Km Stone book was published. I read that first book a few months later and immediately read the second.

I haven’t stopped reading them since, with book 12, Killing Mind, out soon I thought I’d look back at my first review which looked at both Silent Scream, book 1, and Evil Games, book 2

Silent Scream & Evil Games Angela Marsons

Two books one blog. There’s a reason for that. I read the last page of Silent Scream and immediately opened the first page of Evil Games.

I don’t like giving plots away so I’m not going to talk too much about the story line of each of these, I’ll just talk about the writing and main character.

I enjoyed these books more than most others I’ve read over the last few years. Angela Marsons has created a brilliantly complex character in Detective Inspector Kim Stone and hopefully we’ll have a few more outings with her and her team in the future.

Silent Scream introduces DI Stone in a tale centred on child abuse at a Local Authority Home. Are current day murders linked with abuse at the home? In todays society we are becoming more aware of these abuse cases and it makes the book relevant and up to date.

Stones own history mirrors that of the children who stayed at the home, and her back-story is slowly revealed as the book moves on.

The conclusion of the book is not as easy to predict as some stories of the same genre, and with twists and turn to the very end this book is a great read.

Evil Games follows on, but can be read separately, from Evil Games.

In this book Stone identifies the link between several serious crimes, including a murder. More of Stones back-story is revealed and the reader is given a greater insight into her psyche.

Along the way Stone comes into contact with her nemesis and an intellectual and psychological battle takes place that kept me enthralled right to the end of the book.

Twists and turns throughout show that Angela Marsons has a knack for complex plots without resorting to fanciful and unbelievable stories.

Angela Marsons has set these books close to where I live. Her descriptions of the places and people are perfect. It is a testament to her that at one time in the Evil Games I shouted out loud that she had something wrong, only to realise she was inventing a shop in which a suspect child abuser was working, maybe it is best to use a fictional premises in that case.

Further testament to her research skills is found in the derelict children’s home she uses in Silent Scream. It used to exist, it had a bad reputation amongst the locals, and it had a fire. I know this because I investigated it when I was still in the Fire Service.

I have a feeling that, like many other authors, Angela Marsons is only published locally.

One of the great things about e-books and companies like Amazon is it has allowed me to read books by people I would never have had access to by simply walking into my local shop.

So wherever you are in the world, get a copy of these books. Sit back and enjoy

The Body In The Snow. Nick Louth

The Body In The Snow Nick Louth

When a young, newly qualified, Forensic Scene Investigator goes out jogging in the snow the day before her first day on duty she didn’t expect to be a witness to a murder.

First on the scene she attempts to protect it from being destroyed by the victims dog, and preserve tacks that are being lost as the snow melts.

Her knight in shining armour arrives in the form of Senior Investigating Officer Craig Gillllard, one of Surreys Murder Investigation Team.

The victim is Tanvi Roy, the owner of a large Indian Cuisine Company and the matriarch of the dysfunctional Roy Family.

The family are Hindus and run their business, and their family affairs, in a traditional manner.

Mrs Roy’s husband had died before the story starts but his influences run right through the book. The multi-million pound fortune is tied up in a Codicil which sees unequal sharing of equities, with Sons, Grandsons, and even Son-in-Laws, being given much more value than, wives, daughters and granddaughters.

The unequal distribution of share holding’s means that it’s nearly impossible to get a group decision, and one rival company has been trying to buy the Roy’s business for years

This gives just about everybody in the family a reason to see Mrs Roy dead.

Throughout the investigation Gillard uncovers years of resent within the family.

I love a book that gives me new knowledge as well as entertains me. This book has done just that. I fell into a Google worm-hole that lasted for hours looking at Hindu family traditions, including Codicil Wills, arranged marriages and Castes.

Nick Louth has written a wonderful book. Some people will do as I did and research the Hindu faith, and I’m sure will learn they did not know as much as they thought.

I think this was a brave book to write. It looks at a religion and bases a family murder firmly in the way that people of that faith act. It looks at the differences between generations, and the conflicts between the older, first generation of immigrants, and their more westernised younger generations, and the problems that it can.

A wonderful book that kept me reading when I should have been doing other things.

Publishing Date. 31st January 2020

Publishers. Canelo

Stolen. Paul Finch

Any book with a character who is a homeless, drug addicted, ex-nun, who turns turns tricks to feed her habit, and continues to wear her gowns, has to be off to a flying start. You’ve got to read the book to meet Sister Cassie.

But she’s not the only reason to read this book. The lead character Detective Constable Lucy Clayburn is a firecracker of a character. She is relentless in her pursuit of criminals, but hides a dark secret from her colleagues, her dad is one of the leaders of Manchester’s biggest criminal gang, “The Crew”. Not that she’d ever exploit that, in fact she’s only just found out. So a constant throughout is weather she should commit career suicide by telling her bosses, or try to carry on and hope they don’t find out.

The start of this book is a bit of a tough read if you, like me, are a dog lover. Lucy busts an illegal dog fighting club, but amongst the dead and tortured animals she doesn’t find the ones she’s been looking for, the ones which have recently been stolen by somebody in a Black Transit Van.

What she does become aware of, thanks to Sister Cassie, is that some homeless people are also going missing, and the black van seems to be involved again.

Meanwhile there’s an internal dispute amongst the hierarchy of The Crew, including Lucy’s dad, that looks like it will lead to the gang imploding.

Whilst Lucy tries to find the Black Van, and what has happened to the people that were taken, her Dad becomes more embroiled in the infighting in The Crew. Inevitably the two storylines merge, but not in a way I anticipated, and father and daughter have decisions to make.

This is a belter of a book. Tough, and hard hitting, it is a story woven from several strands which knit together perfectly.

The characters in this book are stunning, but ultimately the ones I haven’t mentioned, the perpetrators of the crimes, are the ones that give it that real edge. I defy anybody to guess who they are, or what their motives are until they’re revealed, and then…..then it gets really scary.

Why?

Because they are way to realistic, and they really shouldn’t be.

Pages: 480

Publishers: Avon

Publishing date: Available now

TH!RTE3N Steve Cavanagh

It says on the cover that “The Seral Killer isn’t on trial, he’s on the jury”, that’s not a spoiler, and its not even half the story.

This is the story of a diligent defence attorney that’s not scared to chase the truth.

When Eddie Flynn is asked to take second seat on the defence table in the biggest murder trail the state has ever seen, which just happens to involve one of Americas up-and-coming movie stars, it’s not because he’s one of those vain celebrity attorney’s. It’s because he’s known to take on the NYPD, and because he can be sacrificed by the defence team if they seem to be losing the case.

Robert Solomon is the star on trial, all the evidence points to him being the only suspect in the murder of his wife, and his head of security, who were found in his bed.

As Eddie starts to dig into the evidence he starts to realise that the case against Robert is strong but there is one piece of evidence which is wrong, in fact it’s very wrong. That one piece of evidence is enough to get Eddie looking at who else might have committed the crime, and what he comes up with is shocking. Could there be a serial killer on the loose that nobody has yet identified.

As the cover of the book says the killer isn’t on trial, he’s on the jury. If you have committed the perfect murder how do you ensure that somebody else takes the blame for it. Does the ultimate frame include influencing the jury from within.

The story follows Eddie, before and after, he has taken on the second seat position. We listen in to his thoughts and watch as he starts to suspect that not everything in this case is as it seems.

The story also follows the serial killer, Joshua Kane. This is an unusual path for a crime book. The criminal is known to the reader from the start. Kane’s story unfolds as the story follows him over the days just before, and during, the trail. The big question is, will he get away with it?

This is one of the best court room-crime thrillers I’ve read for years. From the start the reader is aware of what is happening and can see who the bad guy is. So there’s no who-done-it.

The suspense that is built up in the court room scenes is electric and I had real difficulty putting this book down.

I don’t think I’ve ever come across this concept before, and that’s a rarity these days. 

But as strange as the concept may seem the story is very believable, and completely engrossing.

A great read.

Pages: 368

Publishers: Orion

Available now

Perfect Crime Helen Fields


Perfect Crime is the fifth book in the DI Luc Callanach, DCI Ava Turner series.

Luc is an ex-Interpol detective who transferred to Scotland when he was wrongly accused of assaulting a female partner.

He has found solace in the company of DCI Ava Turner, both on a professional level and as a friend, but he is still a bit of a closed book to everybody else. Respected for his work everyone on the team like him as a cop, but some of the men see him as a threat to their manhood.

In this book more of his back story comes to light in a way that puts him at the forefront of the suspects in a murder inquiry, and he finds out who his true friends are.

As the senior officers isolate him, from the investigation he is a suspect in, he carries on working with Ava on an investigation which is looking at the suspicious deaths of people with a history of depression and attempts at suicide.

The investigation against Luc puts the pressure on his relationship with the Scottish Police and even worse may compromise Ava professionally.

This series is really good Police Procedural with the undercurrents of a will-they-won’t-they relationship between Luc and Ava.

In this book that relationship is stretched to the limit. Maybe Luc isn’t the innocent man he has been portraying himself as.

The crimes investigated by Ava, looking at the deaths of people who had previously attempted to take their own lives, is compelling in its own way.

Helen Fields has found a group of vulnerable people who make ideal victims for a serial killer. She explores the reasons these people are depressed and what has led them to the place they now find themselves in.

She looks at the people that attempt to help them; and uncovers the nasty side, the people that pray on their vulnerability.

This book can be read as a stand-alone but I would recommend reading the first four in the series first. They are stunning crime novels, and once you’ve read this one you will want to read them anyway. So why not do it in order

Publishers: Avon Books UK

Publishing Date: 18thApril 2019

Dead Memories. Angela Marsons Pre-Review


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.

The Thin Edge. Peggy Townsend


Right from the off, I am going to say I loved this book.

I loved the main character, a journalist, Aloa Snow.

I loved the little bunch of old men she hangs out with, Tic, Doc and P-Mac, collectively known as the Brain Farm.

I loved the plot.

Right, so what got me so impressed with this book.

The story is based around the murder of a woman, a woman who lives a good life style with her husband, a paraplegic ex FBI Interrogator. 

A man has been accused, a University Professor who is a poet. A bit of a strange bod which every piece of the investigation points at as being guilty. But he has one person on his side, a man he’d rather not be there at all, his father.

His father just happens to be Tic from the Brain Farm. 

Tic and his friends decide to ask the unofficial forth member of the Farm to help them, Ink, aka Aloa Snow.

She is an investigative journalist and has worked with the Farm before.

This time the investigation takes her around San Francisco, where she is drawn into the world of drug users. This leads her into The Jungle, an area under the freeway where homeless addicts live in a tented village. Not a nice place but a place which has a code of ethics, a code which would usually keeps its occupants safe from the outside word. Usually.

She becomes involved with a strange Christian cult, The Church of the Sacrificial Lamb, a cult which would be unbelievable in most countries, but seems strangely believable in America.

The Police are convinced that Tic’s son is guilty and are busily building a case against him. Aloa is not immediately convinced of his innocence, but because of a feeling of duty to the Brain Farm she starts digging.

The deeper she digs the more convinced she is that the Poetry Professor is innocent. Not a nice man, but innocent.

This book is set in San Francisco during an unusual winter fog. The fog makes the city drab and unfriendly, and best of all, the ideal backdrop for the story.

Aloa is a great character, a bit off-the-wall in her methods, she takes chances and makes leaps of faith that would scare a cop, but she isn’t tied by staying on the right side of any procedures.

I think that’s what I liked about the book. Whilst Aloa does think outside the box, it is done in a way that I would like to think I would do it. Yes she puts herself in danger at times, but it’s never an anticipated danger, it’s just the next logical step, and she’s in trouble before she knows it.

I’m not sure how well known Peggy Townsend is in the UK, I have to admit this is the first book of hers I’ve read, and it’s the second in a series, but it won’t be my last. In fact I’ve just uploaded the first book, See Her Run,to my Kindle and it will be my next read.

If she isn’t that well known yet I have a feeling that once people start on this series she’s going to become one of our must read crime fiction authors.

Pages: 237

Publishers: Thomas Mercer

Publishing Date UK: 14thMay 2019