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.

Blood and Money. Rachel McClean

This story is the first in a new crime series by one of my favourite authors. The start of a series of stories set in Scotland with the newly formed Complex Crime Unit.

But, I don’t know if it is the beginning of a new series, I think Rachel McClean is weaving a set of stories where the characters overlap, and I’m loving the trail it’s taking us along, and I really can’t wait to see where the final destination will be.

We’ve had the Birmingham Crime series. One of the, recurring characters, in that set of books, DCI Lesley Clarke was transferred to Dorset and became the lead character in the Dorset Crime set of books.

Now DS Mo Uddin another side character from the Birmingham books has transferred to Scotland and is now a lead character in the latest set of books.

None of the previous two sets have been finalised, with the latest in the Dorset set due to be published early next year.

Other characters are also brought into this latest set, which gives it a familiar feel, whilst opening up new possibilities.

This story is set around a murder in the wilderness around Loch Lomond. An American Billionaire, who come to his estate on the Loch to have isolated “thinking time” is out on a walk in the early evening.

He’s shot at long range, the bullet hitting just above the knee. It’s not a kill shot but it’s enough to allow him to slowly bleed out, or die of hyperthermia before he’s found. Either way it’s a slow and lonely way to die.

It’s the first case for the newly formed Complex Crime Unit, with its SIO DI Jade Tanner, and her newly acquired DS Mo Uddin, and their small team.

The Units boss Detective Superintendent Fraser Munroe has also insisted on a civilian team member. Criminal Psychologists Petra McBride, another side character from both previous sets of stories, but what is she really there for. To give her insight into the crimes the team investigate, or to analyse the team themselves.

This is a great standalone story, it’s also a great introduction to a new “series”; but for me it’s another thread in an incredible story that started in Birmingham, has threads in Dorset, and has spread to Scotland.

Pages: 348. Available now

Stay Awake. Megan Goldin

It might sound a familiar plot, woman wakes with no memory and is in the middle of a murder mystery, but it is much better than anything along similar lines that I have ever read.

To start the amnesia is not the common forgot everything type.

32 year old Liv Reece wakes up tipsy in the back of a taxi. When she gets home she finds it occupied by strangers. Catching herself in a mirror she realises she has long hair several shades darker than the short hair she thought she had.

On the back of her hand, her wrist, and up her arm are scribbles in pen.

Stay Awake, Remember to wake up, Don’t sleep, I forget everything when I sleep.

There’s also the address on a nightclub. People know her there but she doesn’t remember them.

As she starts to put things together she realises the last thing she remembered, taking a phone call at her work desk, was actually over 2 years ago.

Waking up on a park bench the next day her memory is gone again, all she remembers is everything that happened in her life up till the phone call at her desk.

A murder takes place and New York Detectives Halliday and Leville are assigned. A man with a stab to the heart and slashed feet lies naked on a bed. The words Wake Up! Written in blood on the inside of the window, backwards so the can be read correctly from the outside.

Liv sees this on the news and realises she must have had something to do with it. But why.

The story is brilliant, Liv’s fear and frustration as she tries to piece together her life, and work out if she killed somebody.

Halliday and Leville investigating a stranger murder with a suspect who appears to have fallen off the grid over two years ago.

The plot twists around will the Police Investigators find Liv, whilst Liv is going through psychological torture, and trying to stay any awake is only increasing her pain.

As both parties creep closer to the truth, and each other, it become a breathtaking ride of a story that you found myself deeply engaged by.

A great book by a new author to me.

Print Length: 353 pages. Publisher: Canelo. Publishing date U.K. 18th August 2022.

The Line. Rachel Lynch

A cracker of a book that I had no idea was the second in a series, but I’ve now downloaded the first.

The holiday island of Cyprus has series of key military establishments, including a listening station that picks up communications across the Middle East.

So when it becomes apparent that their is a leak, and that somebody is giving an arms dealing, warlord, tip offs that are allowing him to escape being killed by American Drones, an investigation is launched.

Four low ranking soldiers are placed under house arrest and a military investigator is sent to look into the leak.

When the investigator is killed, in an apparent diving accident, Major Helen Scott is sent to the island to continue his investigation, and also to look at how he died.

What follows is a story that examines temptation. The temptation of young soldiers to hit salubrious bars where drinks, drugs and possibly worst of all, prostitution, are all freely available.

The temptation of people to make a quick penny, or get a quick lay, bringing a risk to national security.

But who is responsible. Could four low ranking soldiers really have the ability to gain the information, let alone pass it on in a timely manner.

Why was the original investigator killed, and by who. What was he getting too close to.

Major Helen Scott is a great character but as much as she’s the main one, she’s almost a narrator of the plot. Other characters nearly take up as many pages, and they add to the credibility of the plot.

The setting is great, I actually wish I’d waited to read this book until I was on holiday. So good is Rachel Lynch at taking the reader to Cyprus, that I wanted to be on a beach, or by a pool.

The plot is fast paced and doesn’t let up on the action from page one.

A great story and hopefully, now I know there was a previous book, there will be many more to follow in the series.

Publisher: Canelo. Pages: 328. Publishing date. 28 July 2022.

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.

Tuesday Falling. S. Williams

When three things collide and bring something good into your reading.

One. I’ve been looking for a new style of writing. I love crime fiction but it can have a habit of sticking to the same one or two formulas.

Two. A few weeks ago I reviewed a book by Stephen Williams, The Skin Games, it was brilliant.

Three. A comment by another reader, after they’d read my review, included a link to Tuesday Falling by S. Williams. Why didn’t Amazon suggest this, I thought The Skin Games was his first book.

So when I clicked the link, and read the synopsis I thought I’d give it a go.

I was hooked from the start.

Tuesday is a young, emo-goth, or that’s the appearance she wants to portray. Homeless, living off the grid, below the streets, in the labyrinth of tunnels, service ducts, basements and the underground infrastructure, of London.

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. She’s on a killing spree. In fact she’s about to wage a very smart war on the drug dealing, people smuggling, woman abusers that make up the lowlife of some of Londons sink estates.

Which Williams perfectly describes as “sink estates with no Government money spent on them, but rich in drug money”

The gangs are run by powerful men who have long left the estates behind and rely on their young impressionable gang members, again brilliantly described as “clone-drones”.

They rely on the gangs reputation, the threats of, and actual violence, to intimidate already scared residents, and pick on the vulnerable, mainly young women and girls.

So when a young girl, with high intelligence, and a driven motivation, decides to start reaping havoc, the gangs don’t stand a chance.

The problem is Tuesday is breaking the law just as much as the gangs, and not only does she have the gangs on her tail, she also has the police, or was that the plan all along.

This is a really clever story with brilliant characters.

The violence is only really hinted at with Williams taking things to the edge, and leaving the reader in no doubt about what has happened, without going overboard on the gore.

The story touches on aspects of life in, and amongst, some of the most underprivileged of society. It handles it well and although poetic licence lets Williams exaggerate some things, it’s not by much, and the reader doesn’t need a huge leap of faith to understand this story is realistic in its settings and crimes.

A great read.

Publisher: Killer Reads, Pages: Unspecified. Available now on Amazon

Devils Chimney. Adam Lyndon

Billed as book one of the Detective Rutherford Barnes series, and hopefully it’s going to be a long series.

Two uniform PC’s are out at night looking for the person responsible for a series of burglaries. They come across a home which has been broken into and chase down the man they see outside.

The home belongs to one of the officers, Harriet Holden, a message scrawled on the wall is a direct threat.

The man is taken into custody and yells another threat “I know who you’re f….ing. No one’s going to miss you. You can jump into the fire but you’ll never be free..

Whilst the burglaries suspect is in custody Holden goes missing, and is later found murdered and mutilated.

Her partner on the night, the arresting officer, a young PC, Rutherford Barnes, is drafted into CID to help with the case, and is soon embroiled in a case that has many twist and turns.

The story is set in 2001 and it’s the perfect time period to start this series.

Technology is starting to race ahead but the era still has DNA in its earliest use, mobile phone tech at it’s basics, and policing still suffering some of the biases the police suffered before forces started to address them in the 90’s

Barnes is a strong character with a firm moral compass, and he needs it for this case.

Set on the south coast a criminal is forging his own “empire”. People come under his influence, people who should know better.

Barnes trusts people, but that naïvety soon gets eroded and a stronger willed copper develops

This is a great story. At over 450 pages is a long read by todays standards but, as they say, time flies when you’re enjoying yourself, and this book seemed to fly by when I was reading it.

Pages: 451. Published by: Joffe Books. Publishing date: 23/6/2022

Trick of the Night. Joy Ellis

It wasn’t until I looked the author up that I realised I was reading the fifth book in the series. Not that it mattered because it was reading well as a standalone novel.

I loved the story. At last, it wasn’t the dog walker finding the body. In this case a young student, studying photography at university, is out taking nighttime urban scenes.

When he gets back to his flat and uploads his images he realises that he can see a face in a window. A window in an old, void building, and she looks terrified.

Along with a friend they go to have a look at the building and find no sign of life. But when they return to the flat his computer has been taken and a threatening note left behind.

What follows is an intriguing crime story that covers a lucrative small town crime scene. The old gang, of “honest rouges” is facing a new threat to its territory, a new twist on old crimes, and they can’t keep up.

Retired Police Officers Matt Ballard and Liz Haynes find themselves on the edge of the ongoing turf and trade wars. They have been approached by a grieving mother who is convinced her son and his friend were killed, and didn’t die accidentally as the police investigation found.

It really is a good story.

Yes, there is a but coming.

The but is, the style of writing. It’s all to polite and almost gentrified.

I felt like I was reading a story written today by a person from the thirties or forties. Imagine Agatha Christie writing in her own style but in todays settings.

Another but.

But I really, really enjoyed it.

Publisher: Joffe. Pages: 381. Publishing date: 16th June 2022

The Binding Room. Nadine Matheson

This book is so much more than a crime novel.

Nadine Matheson has taken a cracking crime story and wrapped a clever plot full of politics around it.

The politics of race, family feuds, political interference and so much more.

A Pastor is murdered in his Church.

The SIO, DI Anjeclica Henley is looking around the scene when she finds a small locked room with the body of a young, white, man bound to a bed. Everybody thinks he’s dead until the Pathologist arrives and finds he’s alive.

The family of the Pastor have an overinflated view of his importance, and perceived celebrity.

The young man is unidentified.

The Pastors wife is infuriated by the fact that the Police appear to be putting more effort into identifying the man from the locked room, than into the murder of her “celebrity” husband.

The wife involves the local MP who sees an opportunity to attack the already stretched Police force, accusing them of racism.

What she doesn’t realise is that DI Henley is SIO and that she is Black. In fact by “rattling the cage” and insisting on a press conference she has the opposite effect.

Suddenly the Pastor has gone from murder victim to possible abuser, with is past life being dragged up by police and press.

All the time another person is being held captive, their bones are being broken, they are being denied food and drink. Is it too late for her to be saved.

A great read, as much for the personal and professional struggles some of the characters go through, as for the crime itself.

Pages: 512. Publisher: HQ Release date: 7th July 2022