The Girl Who…. What a Series of Books

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I don’t usually blog about a series of books but today is different.

18 months ago I had never heard of Marnie Riches. Now I wait for the publication of her books like a child looking forward to Christmas. But what has got me so engrossed.

For years I read books on spies and espionage, books by people like Robert Ludlum, Len Deighton, and Tom Clancy. Then I got into legal thrillers and Police Procedurals by the likes of John Grisham, Colin Dexter, Greg Isles and Patricia Cornwell.

Looking forward to each of these authors, and a few others meant that every weekend trip to a bookshop was filled with anticipation.

Pre the internet one of the highlights of any holiday abroad was going into a WH Smiths at the airport and picking up a paperback version of a book that was only available in hardback outside off duty free.

These days I’m lucky enough to get some books pre-publication so I can review them on this blog and one of the authors I look forward to reading the most is Marnie Riches.

What makes her books so special, and why do they standout in the crowded market of the crime thriller section of the bookshelves.

A few years ago the Millennium Trilogy by, Stieg Larsson took off and developed a huge following. Larsson Died in 2004 leaving a bit of a hole in popular fiction. Filled at times by other writers in the Scandinavian Noir genre, but nobody ever replaced his character Lisbeth Salander. Until George McKenzie came out of the computer of Marnie Riche.

The first book in the series, The Girl Who Wouldn’t Die came out in spring 2015 and introduced us to George McKenzie.

George is a rough character. From a broken family, and with a bit of a history on the streets of London, we first meet her in the streets of Amsterdam. She is now a Cambridge University student carrying out research in Amsterdam. Living in a flat above a marijuana café her neighbours and friends are either students or prostitutes, and suffering from OCD to a point where things need to be almost surgically clean

This alone allows Riches to put George into some great situations.

The story starts with an explosion at the University and a chance meeting between George and a middle aged Police Investigator, Paul van den Bergen. What can a small mixed race young woman from England and a Middle aged Dutch cop have in common. Not a lot at first but a relationship and trust starts to build as more incidents occur. Whilst van den Bergen carries out the official investigation George becomes more embroiled in her own helped by her closest friend and fellow student Ad.

The story includes more murders as the case expands, and I have to say Riches has found some new, and realistic, ways of murdering people. But are the incidents connected and if so how. Could they be related to the parts of the story that take place 5 years’ prior in London. Don’t try and second-guess the writer there are twists and turns all the way to the end.

In the second book. The Girl Who Broke The Rules George has returned home and is working to make ends meet as she researches for her PHD. Meanwhile Chief Inspector Paul van den Bergen is still working in the serious crime department in Amsterdam.

As George interviews a convicted violent sex offender in prison in the UK the dismembered bodies of sex workers start to be discovered in Amsterdam. Van der Bergen has not forgotten George since she left, in fact far from it, and the discoveries are an ideal opportunity to become involved with her again.

Van der Bergen is suffering his own demons and his ill health is not helped by his hypochondria. He needs to have George in his life not just to help him with the crimes that are taking place but also to get his life together.

George’s personal life is also a mess; her PhD mentor is over bearing in her control, her family is a dysfunctional group who skate along the edges of legality, and she is in a failing relationship with her boyfriend who still lives in Holland.

As the bodies pile up and George begins to work with Van der Bergen they find themselves conflicted with van der Bergen’s superior officer and a detective on his team. Who is making the right decisions George and Paul, or his boss and the detective?

The book rattles along a fast pace and every time I thought I had a handle on who was the culprit, and why they were doing it, I realized I hadn’t.

The third book is published today. The Girl Who Walked In The Shadows.

Georgina McKenzie is back, or should I say the now Dr Georgina McKenzie is back.  About two years on from the end of The Girl Who Broke the Rules Dr George, a professional Criminologist is back in the UK interviewing prisoners who have a history of abuse and being abused.

Her mismatched lover, Chief Inspector Paul van den Bergen is still working in Amsterdam but has been moved to a department hunting for missing persons.

The Dr and the Chief Inspector are hitting a rough patch and their will-they-wont -they relationship, which had become a they-did, is back to will-they-wont-they.

Meanwhile a bitter chill hits Europe with deep snow and ice covering the continent and the UK. But the chill isn’t just in the weather, somebody is killing people in England and Holland. The killer, “Jack Frost”, uses the the elements to their advantage, which makes the investigation even harder.

With George in the UK, carrying out research into abused people being trafficked around Europe, Van den Bergen stumbles into a murder investigation in Amsterdam.

George notices a similarity between the drug dealer’s death in Amsterdam and a death in the UK.

Before long the two are working together, but is it going to be a harmonious or destructive relationship???

George’s family have been in the background of the previous two books and make an appearance in this one. George is staying with them but somebody else is watching. Is it something to do with Dr Georges research or something more sinister?

As more children go missing it becomes apparent that Dr George has an academic rival who is also researching child abuse and its relationship to organised paedophile rings and trafficking. A hassle that she could do without.

As in the two previous book there are no wasted words. Every paragraph of every chapter has a meaning and a direction. And that direction hurtles the reader to the end of the book, and I really do mean the end of the book.

Marnie Riches writes with a style that never makes the reader think anything is unrealistic. It might be uncomfortable for some people to think that the crimes, and criminals, in this book are real, but they are and Riches has them nailed in the characters and scenes in her books.

With children going missing, murders to investigate, personal problems with her family and her mismatched lover could things get anymore hectic for Dr McKenzie.

You’ll have to read The Girl Who Walked in the Shadows to find out. I promise you, its well worth it.

For me this is the best “The Girl Who….” Yet.

So what makes these books so good.

Well they are perfectly written. The characters, the locations, the scenarios all work brilliantly.

The situations McKenzie finds herself in are all too realistic. Riches plays on the readers fears of modern crimes. Some people will not want to admit are happening, but they are and we all know it.

George McKenzie is a character we would all probably cross the streets to avoid if we saw her walking down the road; but she’s also the person most of us would want to be. Tough, intelligent, moralistic, streetwise and sexy.

The perfect foil to her character is the Dutch Detective, Chief Inspector Paul van den Bergen, middle aged, grumpy, unfit, unfashionable, and a bit by-the-book. There really should not any common ground between the two but the chemistry is great through the whole series.

So three great books in about a year. I know its way too much to hope for this speed of writing and publishing to continue but I can’t wait for the next instalment.

Learn more about Marnie Riches at her own website

http://marnieriches.com/

or on twitter @Marnie_Riches

 

 

Maestra L.S. Hilton

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Maestra            L.S. Hilton.

The protagonist for this book is Judith Rashleigh.

Judith’s story starts with a glimpse further into the book with the first chapter ending with her asking the question, how did this all begin. The first half of the book is retro that point, but still narrated in the present first person tense. The rest of the book remains in the first person and advances the story.

The story is good. Judith a young woman with a passion for fine art, and qualifications to back it up, is working in one of the big auction houses in London. However, her lot there is not a good one. Working as an intern but treated like a dogs-body Judith watches on as a young pretty air-headed girl arrives at the house and is positioned into her place.

A chance meeting with a woman she used to go to school with leads Judith to a part time job as a Hostess in a London club. There’s a no touch rule but the underlying atmosphere is that of an establishment that sits just on the right side of legal. That’s OK with Judith because she has a secret.

Judith likes stranger-sex, in fact she likes rough stranger sex. L.S Hilton uses this as a tool to allow Judith to get into the situations that allows the story to advance.

Whilst still working at the Auction House she uncovers some elicit dealings but is sacked when she tries to expose the crime.

Judith’s moral is low and she allows herself to manipulate a client at the club into taking her on holiday. From then on her life changes.

As she tries to re-establish herself she manipulates, uses, men to make money. Drifting around the top upper-class resorts of the Mediterranean her moralistic code slips deeper and deeper allowing her to make choices and take actions that the Judith at the start of the story never would have.

Dealing in art, and the underworld leads her commit the most hideous of crimes, all the time seemingly justifying her own actions. Each crime gets worse but Judith’s morals seem to allow her to commit each one without conscience. As her crimes get worse so does the depravity of her actions in her sex life.

The book races through the story but the end is very open. Hilton uses the phrase “To be continued” at the end of the last chapter. I have to say it doesn’t feel so much of a cliff hanger as an anti-climax.

I have some issues with this book.

It is a great story, but, why do we need such graphic descriptions of the sex. I’m no prude and I enjoy a bit of sex in a book, but this is full on hard-core. I understand that the reader needs to understand that Judith’s behaviour is either escalating or spiralling downwards, depending on your point of view, but personally I would have been more comfortable with a little less eyes-on, and a little more insinuation.

For me the sex scenes distract from the story. It felt like they were deliberately there to shock, and that may be Hilton’s intention, but they were out of place with the rest of the writing.

The book is set in some of the nicest places in Europe, amongst people wearing fashionable and expensive clothing, all beautifully described. As is the art, Hilton obviously has a passion for the art world and has found a nice outlet for a good tale. It is almost as if two people wrote this book, or is it just a really good author showing the split personality of her main character. If it is, she has done a very good job of it.

Who would I recommend this book to. Anybody with an open mind, male or female, there’s something in this for everybody.

If you’re easily offended steer clear.

The Girl Who Walked in the Shadows Marnie Riches

The Girl Who Walked in the Shadows       Marnie Riches

Georgina McKenzie is back, or should I say the now Dr Georgina McKenzie is back.  About two years on from the end of The Girl Who Broke the Rules Dr George, a professional Criminologist is back in the UK interviewing prisoners who have a history of abuse and being abused.

Her mismatched lover, Chief Inspector Paul van den Bergen is still working in Amsterdam but has been moved to a department hunting for missing persons.

The Dr and the Chief Inspector are hitting a rough patch and their will-they-wont -they relationship, which had become a they-did, is back to will-they-wont-they.

Meanwhile a bitter chill hits Europe with deep snow and ice covering the continent and the UK. But the chill isn’t just in the weather, somebody is killing people in England and Holland. The killer, “Jack Frost”, uses the the elements to their advantage, which makes the investigation even harder.

With George in the UK, carrying out research into abused people being trafficked around Europe, Van den Bergen stumbles into a murder investigation in Amsterdam.

George notices a similarity between the drug dealer’s death in Amsterdam and a death in the UK.

Before long the two are working together, but is it going to be a harmonious or destructive relationship???

George’s family have been in the background of the previous two books and make an appearance in this one. George is staying with them but somebody else is watching. Is it something to do with Dr Georges research or something more sinister?

As more children go missing it becomes apparent that Dr George has an academic rival who is also researching child abuse and its relationship to organised paedophile rings and trafficking. A hassle that she could do without.

As in the two previous book there are no wasted words. Every paragraph of every chapter has a meaning and a direction. And that direction hurtles the reader to the end of the book, and I really do mean the end of the book.

Marnie Riches writes with a style that never makes the reader think anything is unrealistic. It might be uncomfortable for some people to think that the crimes, and criminals, in this book are real, but they are and Riches has them nailed in the characters and scenes in her books.

With children going missing, murders to investigate, personal problems with her family and her mismatched lover could things get anymore hectic for Dr McKenzie.

You’ll have to read The Girl Who Walked in the Shadows to find out. I promise you, its well worth it.

For me this is the best “The Girl Who….” Yet.

Well done Marnie Riches 3 brilliant books in a fantastic series

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Ghosts of the Past Harry McCillion

Ghosts Of The Pasts       Harry McCallion.

I’m going to start this review with a quote from one of the characters in the book.

“A mysterious Russian Countess – a sinister killer – and two dead diplomats – It sounds like something out of a novel”

Well it is something out of a novel. It’s out of this one, and being as this is said within the first couple of chapters it’s not even a spoiler.

This book is great. McCallion has used the mid-nineties era to set a book in a very unstable world.

Different factions of the Irish terrorist organisation of the PIRA are at war, some in favour of peace with England others definitely not.

The Soviet empire has crumbled since the knocking down of the Berlin Wall and the coming of independence of some of the soviet states.

In England the mysterious Countess Natasha Romanov is in a bitter battle with Ukrainian Mafioso in an attempt to capture the lucrative drug trade in Europe.

In Ireland the IRA are fighting amongst themselves and all the time a lone assassin ties the factions together but whose side is he on.

London Met Police officers, aided by DI Nevin Brown of the Royal Ulster Constabulary are investigating murders across the capital. Are they all connected to the feuds being played out between the groups from the ex-soviet nations and the feuds between the warring factions of the Irish Terrorists.

Whose side should the Police take, is there any friendly faces amongst the different factions.

MI5 seem to be standing back and letting things play out, much to the detriment of the investigating officers and their safety.

This book starts of like a sprinter coming out of the blocks and doesn’t slow down all the way to the end.

One of my favourite authors of all time is Robert Ludlum. Well for me Harry McCallion is every bit as good.

I will be looking out for more of his books in the future.

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The Brief Simon Michael

The Brief   Simon Michael

To use a sporting term this is a book of two halves, and both of them are really good.

The first half of the book is set in 1960 introduces the reader to the main protagonist Charles Holborne, a Barrister in a London Chambers. As the only criminal barrister amongst chambers full of corporate law and civil court barristers he is not the most popular person.

In fact Charles is not the most popular person amongst most of the people in his life. His wife is from English gentry and his marriage is on the line as she increasingly turns to her parent’s circle of friends leaving Charles alone at home or working late.

Whilst he’s at work he is constantly fighting the closure of the criminal work and hence his removal from chambers. Simon Michael, paints a great picture of a law chambers in the early 1960’s and the people that work in it, with Holborne having few friends and many enemies.

Charles is from a strong Jewish family and has changed his name to help him get along in a largely anti-Semitic profession. However it was marrying his wife Henrietta that was the final straw and his family have disowned him since the wedding.

The first half of the book sees’ Holborne representing one of two armed robbers tried with job in London, and is a good story in itself, but is no more than a prelude for the action in the second half.

The second half of the book is set in 1962.

Two years later and Charles and his wife are drifting further apart and the other barristers in Chambers are increasing their attempts to drive him out.

With his life in general reaching a tipping point Holborne becomes the suspect in a vicious crime. One of the characters introduced in the first half of the book is Detective Inspector Ronal Henry Wheatly. Wheatly is not crooked but he does like to make the evidence fit the person he is after. He is known to get results, even if he has the wrong person.

When Holborne realises Wheatly considers him a suspect he knows he has to take matters into his own hands, go on the run, and try to solve the crime himself.

The story sits nicely in the sixties allowing Simon Michael to weave a tale that wouldn’t sit correctly in the modern day.

It seems right that the world in which he works is full of anti-Semitic upper class snobs; its right that his wife’s family look down on him; we except that policing was “different” in those days. It wouldn’t have been right to set in in this day and age.

Michael has written a tale that is easily believable and very enjoyable. I hope this is the first of many, hopefully in the same era.

A great book I would recommend to anybody who enjoys a good legal who-done-it.

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Hold Still Tim Adler

Hold Still     Tim Adler

A fascinating fast paced thriller.

Kate Julia is in Tirana with her husband, Paul, for the funeral of one of his family.

Back in their hotel room Paul receives a text. At the same time Kate takes a picture of him on her phone. Seconds later he is lying dead on the ground, a long way below their penthouse balcony.

In a foreign country, where she doesn’t speak the language Kate, is left to answer the local police’s questions. Looking at the photograph she took of Paul just before his death Kate thinks she can see somebody on their balcony looking through the curtains, but will the police believe her.

Returning home to England with her husband’s ashes Kate becomes even more convinced that her husbands death is suspicious especially when she see’s the picture message that he received immediately before his death.Tirana is run by Mafioso type gangs involved in drugs, gun running and human trafficking. Was Paul involved with the gangs. If he was, was his death related to them and is Kate safe.

There is no doubt that the gang has members in England but who are they, where are they, what are they involved in, and how was Paul involved?

The story follows Kate’s quest for the truth.

Who can she trust, is anybody who they say they are?

This book is a great psychological thriller. Tim Adler has managed to find a country, Albania, in which he can realistically set a great story.

A country that is run on corruption and fear, a country who’s gangs are beginning to surface in the UK.

Kate’s plight is so believable, that at it makes the book fly by.

It would be a bit cliché to say there are twists-and-turns on every page but there are in every chapter. This book full of them, but the plot still flows at a pace that makes it almost impossible to put down.

Tim Adler has a great talent of ending a chapter in such a way that it makes you want to start the next. Which is probably why I was still reading it a 2.30 in the morning.

A great read I would highly recommend. Just make sure you have nothing pressing to do when you start, because this one is nigh-on impossible to put down.

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Follow Me Angela Clarke

Follow Me       Angela Clarke

 

This is another one of those books that turned up as a suggestion based on what I have read before, and Thank God I listened.

Follow me is Angela Clarke’s first crime novel, although she is an established writer as a journalist with a published memoir and playwriting experience, and it shows.

Follow Me is one of the most original plots for a crime thriller I’ve read for a long time.

The main protagonist is Freddie Venton. Freddie is a young woman in her early twenties. A university graduate she works as a barista in a London coffee shop whilst trying to break into the world of journalism. She is not immediately the most likable character, she’s goby, smokes, doesn’t appear to be overly keen on personal hygiene, lives on a sofa in a shared flat, and has a tendency towards using casual sex as a copping mechanism for any stress she has.

Freddie has been writing an anonymous, unpaid column for an online newspaper but struggles to find a paid job. One of the pieces of advice she is given is find the big story, be in amongst it, have a perspective nobody else has.

That chance is presented to her when she is taking a timeout from her job at the coffee shop. Having just been given a rollicking by her manager for fighting off the amorous advances of a drunk she is brooding outside the shop, having a cigarette, when she sees an old friend she hasn’t seen since school.

Detective Sergeant Nasreen Cudmore is everything Freddie isn’t, tall, slim, confident-without being cocky, and apparently successful in her chosen career.

From the instant they meet it is obvious that the two women have history. As the story develops the reader discovers that the two were best friends at school but that something happened that drove them apart. This little sub-plot is good at establishing the relationship between the girls, but unlike some books doesn’t take up great swathes of the story or act as a distraction.

Freddie is a social media and app freak. She is into everything and when she meets Cudmore she manages to sign her onto a social media app that allows Freddie to follow Cudmore via her phone. Realising that Cudmore is in the Police and is about to go on some kind of early morning raid, or investigation Freddie uses the app to follow her. What happens next is for the reader to enjoy and not for me to spoil but Freddie ends up working for the Police as a Social Media advisor.

Why?

Because the Police have a murder on their hands and its been played out on Twitter. The murder has their own account, and the un-savvy police haven’t got the first clue when it comes to the protocols and habits of twitter users.

Freddie has already annoyed the investigating team, led by DCI Moast, and including DS Cudmore, when she is asked to consult on the case by Superintendent Gray. At first it appears to be a “tick-in-the-box” political correctness ploy by Grey but Freddie soon proves her worth and the team reluctantly accept her.

DCI Moast is one of Freddie’s biggest haters but that is because he suffers from Confirmation Bias during the investigation. The condition that a lot of investigators suffer from, Jump to a conclusion then make the evidence fit the theory.

After all Moast and his team are dedicated and experienced Police Officers. Freddie is just a scruffy little coffee shop girl with a big mouth what could she possibly know that they don’t.

When the murders start to stack up more of the team start to think Freddie is getting it right.

This book is one of the best I’ve read for a very long time. It’s told from the point of view of a civilian that is thrown into a Police Investigation.

Freddie encounters crime scenes at their worst. Angela Clarke gets into Freddie’s head brilliantly for this. It’s not glamorous and it can have lasting effects on people, Clarke describes it as if it has happened to her.

She also describes the feeling of an outsider trying to get her convictions across and the frustrations of being treated as an inconvenient sideshow thrust upon the investigation team by a Senior Officer. Whilst also struggling with the emotions of a lost friendship with Cudmore.

The end of the book is great. One of the best things about finding a new author is you are never sure how things will end. Are they a Happy-ever-after writer, or are they a Cop-for-this-shocker writer.

Do you know what? You’ll have to make your own mind up. Right up to the last line of the last page I was hooked.

Who would I recommend this book to?

If you like Marnie Riches you will love this book

If you like Marri Hannah, Angela Marsons or any other British Police Procedural writer you have to read this and see the story from a civilians point of view. You won’t be disappointed.

But most of all. If you love a good story, you’ll love this book.51U5fVAiqeL._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_