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.
Because they are way to realistic, and they really shouldn’t be.
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.
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
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.
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.
Two stories, one in the present, one a from few years earlier, both on collision course for an explosive finale.
Jassmine Gooch is a radio journalist working for the BBC. She presents a late night radio show about Potentially Dangerous People. Well she does until she’s sacked for an outburst unbefitting of the BBC.
Jassmine had been approached several times by a woman who is concerned about a missing friend, a friend she feels is being let down by the police who do not appear to be taking her disappearance seriously.
With time on her hands Jasmine decides to look into the missing woman, Cassie Scolari, and stumbles across a juicy mystery that has her considering a new career.
Meanwhile the story that is taking place years before involves Rowena. A girl who is in the care of social services, but who has fallen for a man that grooms her and pimps her out at parties.
Rowena’s story is tragic, a 13 year old girl passed around like a sex toy, but somehow, she is a survivor. She becomes mature before her time and battles to survive.
Meanwhile in the present day Jasmine has decided to turn her investigation into a podcast with the help of a stuttering intern at the BBC. Jitesh is a great character who uses social media to stalk people. He could turn out to be one of the best characters going if this story is the spark for a series.
Between them Jasmine and Jitesh are moving ever closer to finding out what happened to Cassie in a thoroughly enjoyable and very believable story.
It’s hard to review this book without including spoilers.
Deborah O’Connor has found a great character in Jassmine Gooch. A single lady of a certain age that is struggling with the menopause, struggling after losing her job, and struggling with her relationship to her teenage daughter.
Jitesh, a student who has been given an unconditional offer to join Cambridge University, but decides to take a gap year and work as an IT intern at the BBC, is just as good a character. Bullied at school, and suffering from a stutter, he shows a moral strength that leaves the reader no choice but to feel an empathy with him.
The story is original and takes place over a ten year spell. It incorporates the problems that have been uncovered over the last few years about underprivileged children being groomed by certain elements of the community, and the illicit actions of a celebrity.
The story is very on point, up to date, and spine tingling in its reality.
I have no idea if Deborah O’Connor has any intensions of writing more books involving Jessamine and Jitesh but I hope she does.
I will be right at the front of the queue to buy the next instalment.
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.