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

The Dangerous Kind. Deborah O’Connor

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.

Pages: 448

Publishers: Zaffre

Publishing date: 16thMay 2019

The Quiet Hours. Michael Scanlon

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. 

Will I be reading book 2. Yes definitely. 

Pages: 327

Publishers: Bookouture

Publishing Date: 8th February 2019

The Taken Girls G.D Sanders

I have to say that this book has really torn me.

The story is brilliant, the crime is committed in a way, and for reasons, I have never come across before.

Ten years apart two girls are abducted and held captive by someone for weeks. Then mysteriously they are found apparently unharmed their clothes cleaned and pressed, and saying there captive had treated them well.

When newly promoted DI Edina (Ed) Ogborne is transferred from the Met, under a cloud, to Canterbury she struggles to integrate into the small CID team. 

The most recent disappearance is her first case and as she struggles with the case, she also struggles with her team and her social life.

With the investigation going nowhere it’s a frustration when a local journalist gets a break in the case and publishes the story without conferring with the Police, another “X” in the column for Jo from her new boss.

The investigations continue and at least one other girl is taken, but why, and why return them unharmed and in apparent good health.

Canterbury is a small City and everybody seems to know everybody and there business. The investigation has a small town feeling in a small City.

To me this is where there is a problem with the story. There is never any urgency in the investigation. A series of kidnappings of teenage girls and there’s just a team of 4 looking at it almost on a 9-5 basis. With the SIO taking time out to go for meals and to fraternise with the locals, something she may come to regret

As much as I liked the story there were too many times when I thought “no, that would never happen”, or “stop faffing about and get on with the investigation”

There are some peripheral characters that take the reader down dead ends, and as entertaining as they are, I struggled to understand why some things happen in the story. Unless this is the building block for a series and the characters are going to reappear.

Would I read them if they did?

Yes, as frustrating as it was in places I actually really enjoyed the story.

Pages: 355

Publisher: Avon

Available now.

In Safe Hands J.P Carter


This book almost felt like I was reading it in real time. 

The main story revolves around the abduction of 9 children from a Playschool in London.

DCI Anna Tate is the SIO and most of the story is written from her perspective.

From the moment the abduction takes place Tate is at the scene and taking charge. The book only covers three days and for those three days we follow Tate, make her observations and listen in on her thoughts.

The sections seen from Tate’s points of view are occasionally interspersed by sections seen from the point of the parents of one of the missing children. Liam suffers from Cystic Fibrosis and his parents are rightly worried. His mom blames herself for the fact he was amongst the kidnapped, as he was only in the playgroup because she was going for a work interview.

For three days the case moves at pace and that pace makes it fly through to the final pages, and a stunning finale.

Carter has woven a brilliant story which takes place at a realistic speed. It examines the thought process of the SIO and looks at the guilt and anxiety of one set of parents.

This is a simple story, with not many strands to follow, and I’m going to borrow a line from all of those cookery competitions on TV 

If you do something simple it has to be done really well”

Believe me J.P Carter has done it really well

Publisher: Avon

Pages: 384

Publishing Date: 24thJanuary 2019

Her Pretty Bones Carla Kovach

Her Pretty Bones  Carla Kovach

If Carlsberg made Cops.

DI Gina Harte is back. She is probably the most troubled female Police Inspector on the shelves right now, and at the same time she is probably one of the best fictional cops on the shelves at the moment. 

When a young girl falls from the back of a van it quickly becomes apparent that she has been held against her will, she is undernourished and drug dependent, but who is she.

Harte’s teams first task is to identify the girl, then find out what has happened to her.

But this won’t be the last young girl found. Nor will it be the last one the team have difficulty identifying.

At the same time a mother is looking for her runaway daughter, could either of the two unidentified girls be her daughter, or could their story hold the key to finding her.

This book looks into the homeless runaways we see sleeping rough on our streets.

Not all of them come from unloving homes and many of them have families who are frantically looking for them, scared of every knock on the door in case its bad news.

Hartes team run their investigation without knowing about the desperate mom, are both looking into the same thing.

People on the streets tell their story to the mother, where they won’t talk to the Police. As a reader frustration builds when the two sides aren’t communicating. When the mother is left to walk the streets talking to people in the hope that she will uncover some clue to her daughters whereabouts.

The things she hears are hardly comforting, drugs, prostitution, shop lifting, abuse, assaults are day to day experiences for some of the rough sleepers.

This book made me stop and think more than many others have over the years.

Carla Kovach has written a wonderful story. Gina Harte is one of my favourite characters, but for me the star of this book is that Mom who is looking for her daughter.

I cannot begin to imagine what a parent would go through when a child goes missing. And yes I know what goes on, on the streets, but somehow it was all brought home in this book. The horrors of sleeping rough, making allegiances with people that can only bring danger, but in a weird way offer security.

This is a subject that I have read about in other books, but this is by far the best.

Pages: Kindle 2265KB

Publisher: Bookouture

Publishing Date: 17thJanuary 2019