The Art Of Death. David Fennell

This is so frustrating. The first part of the book had me instantly hooked.

The premise of the story is brilliant. A mystery artist going by a thoroughly modern name “@ nonymous” sets up an exhibition that will stun London. 3 homeless men killed, posed and sunk into clear cabinets full of formaldehyde. Videos put on line to show further victims before they are also found displayed in cabinets

A killer using social media to stalk his prey before catfishing them on dating apps.

A new, DI Grace Archer, who is taking over from a DI she arrested during a previous investigation, and suffering the wrath of his friends, whilst finding support in the few people that could see him for what he was.

So where does it become frustrating. The killer becomes obvious as soon as they come into the plot as a person, not as the first person narrator that is carrying out the killings.

But most frustrating is the inaccuracies that could have been sorted out by some easy research.

One of my pet gripes, and I know I am far from on my own, is authors who insist on calling forensics teams SOCO’s, there has been no such thing for over 15 years. All police forces have Crime Scene Investigation Teams, or Forensic Scene Investigation Teams or Forensic Support teams, the acronym SOCO has disappeared from modern policing

A section of the book involving an arson attack, where 2 men die, contains massive inaccuracies, the rank of the Fire Officer, the Fire Service Involvement, the interaction between the Police Officers and the Fire Crews are all completely wrong

The problem that leaves me with is a feeling that this book could have been so much better, all it needed was a bit of research

Pages: 432. Publisher: Zaffre. Publishing date: 4th February 2021

The Survivors Jane Harper

15 years ago 18 year old Kieran is in a seaside cliff, with his secret girlfriend, when a sudden storm hits the coast of the small town in Tasmania.

She escapes but he’s washed out to sea. His brother and a close friend die trying to rescue him.

Meanwhile a 14 year old girl goes missing and is never seen again

Today the boy Kieran is back in the town visiting, he’s moved out and now lives in Sidney with his wife, a young woman from the town and his daughter.

On their first night a woman’s body is discovered just down the beach. In almost the same spot the 14 year old girl was last seen during the storm

The investigation into the latest death is going to bring back old memories, but are all of them accurate.

The story relies on the Venn Diagram of relationships in a small town.

Everybody knows everybody. Secrets within secrets. Little white lies, all add to the story.

Everybody has a little secret, but those little secrets, and some of the lies that were told in good faith, have a way of hiding facts.

But why would people lie, and have those small ripples, that started years ago, turned into a tsunami wave all these years later.

I would call this a cosy-crime type of story, but the suspense it builds up is anything but cosy.

The central character, Kieran, struggles with the truth that is being unveiled, until even he has to admit the unthinkable.

The truth of the story crept up on me, I don’t actually know when I worked out what had happened, but I do know I got it wrong for a long time before the penny finally dropped.

A great story, a great read, and another new author to add to my must be read list.

Pages: 337. Publisher: Little Brown Books. Available: Now

The Drowned Woman. C.J Lyons

This book is what I would call a slow burner, but even slow burners can lead to infernos, and this one is definitely worth sticking with.

17 years ago a car drives off the road into a river, the driver a woman is killed. Before she dies she takes hold of her fiancée’s hand for comfort. But he’s not there.

Today that fiancee is now Detective Sergeant Luca Jericho, and he’s still grieving, and wondering why his wife to be drove of the road leaving him a on his own, when everything seemed to be going so well

Jericho is called away from the site of the crash, on the seventeenth anniversary, to a sudden death. An old lady is dead at the bottom of the stairs and her confused husband is in a panicked state.

Jericho calls in Dr Leah Wright, who’s husband was killed only a month before, to talk to the elderly husband.

But as part of her investigation she talks to an old lady in the same building. She has the unusual job of proof reading obituaries and she is convinced there’s a serial killer sending her false ones. Ones which report the accidental death of people before they die.

As soon as Jericho finds out about the false obituaries he makes the connection to his wife death. Is he clinging to a false hope, or will he have answers after nearly two decades.

As I said at the start this is a slow burner of a book. There’s not the usual hook at the beginning to get you into it. But as I also said even slow burners can lead to infernos, and this is one hell of a story.

What this story has got is suspense, and it’s got it in bucket fulls. I can’t quite remember gripping a book so tightly whilst I read it for a very long time.

Pages: 342, Publisher: Bookouture, Available now.

Wild Flower Graves. Rita Herron

Still struggling with her family secrets which devastated her in “The Silent Dolls” Detective Ellie Reeves is about to be pitched into another nightmare investigation

Just as Crooked County is getting over the fact that a serial killer had been stalking the Appalachian Trail, and that the much loved ex Sheriff, might have known about the killer for years, and done nothing about it, more bodies start to be discovered.

Ellie is pitched straight back into the deep end when the first body is discovered. A young woman has had her throat cut, been dressed, had makeup applied, and posed in a remote beauty spot on the Trail. Monday’s Child

With a section of the famous poem sewn into her mouth the victim is the first of potentially 7. When the next body is found the following day it becomes obvious that Ellie is in a race against time

Then the killer contacts her and she realises things are personal, and that the killer is taunting her, but it’s much more personal than that, he has already taken a good friend of hers, a fellow Police Officer.

Racing to find the killer Ellie finds two allies, one thrust upon her by her boss, the other a man she approaches herself. Both men are not her biggest fans

Ranger Cord McClain knows the Trail like nobody else but Ellie as good as accused him of being the serial killer in the previous case, she knows she needs his help but will he help her

Her boss calls in FBI Agent Derrick Fox, a man who helped with the previous investigation but who blew her family apart in his dogged pursuit of the killer who started by killing his little sister.

Not only does Ellie need to build bridges and restore relationships with the two men but she needs to act as a piece keeper, the men do not like or trust each other.

This story is outstanding. Earlier this year I reviewed Our Daughters Bones, the first in the series, and I raved about it. If anything this book is even better.

The setting of the Appalachian Trail is perfect for crime fiction. 2000 plus miles of wilderness walks stretching up the east of the United States, off grid communities, unique characters doted around a fantastic landscape, it’s perfect for intense storylines

Ellie Reeves is a character that it’s very easy to like, and emphasise with, but she can be frustratingly stubborn. Her professional relationships with Fox and Cord, the problems she has with the weird jurisdictional system of American Law Enforcement, and the hostile gossiping of much of the local community, following her family’s involvement with the previous killer, all add to the story.

The two books in the series so far, are amongst my favourite books this year. Can this one be read as a standalone? Yes it can, Rita Herron back refers enough to give the reader a full understanding of what happened in the first book.

But why miss out. Read The Silent Dolls first, then read this one. If you don’t you’ll kick yourself because you’ll definitely go back to it.

Pages 409, Publisher Bookouture, Publishing Date, 3rd December 2020

In The House Of The Night. Donald Levin

I’ve made a rookie error. I read this book, and loved it, and then found out it’s the latest in a series. Now I have to go back and read the others

It’s a testimony to Donald Levin that the book read so well, as a stand-alone, that I didn’t realise until I got to the section at the end where his other books are promoted.

So what made it so good a read. The characters, the settings, the story of the crime, everything

The story starts like an old joke, A Rabbi and a Priest walk into a detective agency……..

In this case it is the agency that ex Police Detective Martin Preuss works. A friend of theirs, a University Professor, has been murdered and the two don’t like the direction the Police Investigation is taking.

The murdered Professor, Charles Bright, was a peace loving man, and as much as Preuss digs he can’t find anybody with a bad word to say about him, which really does not fit with the way he died.

Then he finds a spurious link to a white supremacist group, but why would a mild mannered, piece loving old man, get caught up with this group.

I was into this story from the first page. The crime is a bit symbolic of some of the stories coming out of America at the moment, so it felt really current.

Even though Preuss is an established character his back story is explained throughout the book and he is a man that is easy to like and have empathy for.

The realism, which is one of my main hooks, is there throughout.

It was a pleasant surprise to find this is the latest in a series. I often say in reviews that I wish I’d only just discovered an author, whose books I enjoy, so I had the whole back catalogue to read. Well this time I am that reader and I can’t wait to get stuck into these books.

Pages: 336. . Available now

DARK FALLS. GREGG OLSEN

I wouldn’t usually start a review by saying “This is book three in a series”, but in this case I think I have to.

The first two Detective Megan Carpenter are brilliant, and this book is no different, but of all the series I’ve ever read this one has to be read in sequence.

The story picks up about a month after Waters Edge, the second book, ends; and it starts with a bang.

The opening few pages are some of the grisliest I’ve read as one of Megan’s friends, from her previous life, is killed.

Trying to keep her secret past, a secret from everybody who doesn’t know, and that’s just about everybody, whilst trying to investigate the murder of a person who was integral to it.

To protect her past she has to go back and investigate the murder of 3 people. But the more she digs the closer she comes to exposing her own secrets

What makes matters worse is the modern day killer is leaving clues to Megan’s link to victim and one of the historic murders.

This book is right at the top of the psychological thriller list. In fact this is more a thriller series than a cop series and for that reason it’s one of my favourite reads.

Megan is not the easiest character to like, as a person, but she’s growing on me as her hard ass personality starts to melt a bit.

The settings and the crimes are seriously some of the best in current fiction.

But, it’s the story across the series that has me hooked.

I hope there will be more to come.

Pages: 270 Publisher: Bookouture Publishing date: 4th December 2020

SILENCED GIRLS. Roger Stelljes

20 years ago twin sisters are growing up in small town Manchester Bay Minnesota. At 17 they are beginning to make the discoveries that all teenagers make. During the July 4th celebrations one sister goes missing, whilst the other goes off with a boy, a decision she will always struggle with.

The surviving sister, Tori, remembers her father “The Sheriffs” words to them “When a young girl goes missing, she’s never found”

That’s the case Jessie is never found

20 years later Tori is living in New York, and is an FBI agent. She left Manchester Bay just after her sister went missing and only returned for the Sheriffs funeral 18 months later. She has no intention of going back.

Until another girl goes missing in very similar circumstances, and Tori is sent a letter telling her to look at that case for similarities. The problem being the letter was sent the day before the new disappearance.

The old town has grown. Her father’s deputy is now Sheriff and welcomes her help as long as his lead investigator, Will Braddock agrees.

People are glad she’s back but somebody has invited her. Why? Is she now a target?

Some families have done well out of the towns growth. Others are still in shock from Jessie’s unsolved disappearance

Between Tori and Will the investigation starts to uncover some worrying threads and the story rattles along at a great pace. Until the end, but how will that end resolve the latest crime, and will it answer the mystery surrounding Jessie’s disappearance and give Tori some kind of closure.

This book is billed as being Agent Tori Hunter Book 1. I can only hope it is the start of a long new series. The story is brilliant.

The characters are addictive and I couldn’t help but get hooked on the relationships that Tori rebuilds, and how she works with Will and his team.

One of her old friends “ Steak” is now a cop and is working the case with his partner Detective Eggleston. Yes. Detectives Steak and Eggs. Any author that can dream up that little aside to put a bit of humour in the book is alright with me.

I really enjoyed this story . In fact I’d been going through one of those lulls when I was finding it hard to settle into a book and was having difficulty finding the enthusiasm to read. This book hooked me from the start and got me back into my reading. Brilliant

Pages: 478. Publisher: Bookouture. Publishing Date: 11th November 2020

Dead Perfect. Noelle Holten

A few months ago I was lucky to get my hands on an advanced copy of this book and put a review on my blog.

It’s the third book in the series, and it had quite a lot to live up to following in the steps of the first two. In fact I still think that Dead Inside was the best debut book I’d read.

Book two Dead Wrong was just as good, and continuing the theme Dead Perfect is just that, Perfect.

Noelle has created a character in DC Maggie Jamieson that is one of the most realistic “cop characters” that I’ve come across.

Her secondary character, the goth Criminal Psychologist, Kate Maloney, is brilliant in her uniqueness and in this book it’s her that is centre stage of the investigation. Here’s my review

Dead Perfect. Noelle Holten

The third book in the Detective Constable Maggie Jamieson series.

Maggie is one of those cops that gets things done, in her own way, and sometimes to the detriment of her relationship with her colleagues, and her friends. She rubs people up the wrong way most of the time but she gets things done. So basically she is what we all want to be. She says it as it is, ignores advice, and ploughs her own farrow.

But she is fiercely protective of her few friends, and one of those friends is Criminal Psychologist Kate Maloney. Kate is another anomaly from the norm, an Irish Goth who specialises in Criminal Profiling. She’s also one of my favourite fictional characters.

So when when a body is found that is dressed, and made-up, to look like Dr Kate, Maggie is both scared that her friend is in danger, and determined to solve the murder.

It’s not until a second body, dressed and made-up, in the same way turns up that people that other people, including Kate, start to share Maggie’s concerns

What follows isn’t just a crime thriller, or a police procedural, it’s a cracking psychological thriller.

Noelle Holten has a way of writing that makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. The suspense she builds is enough to have me turning the pages well into the night, in fact her books are the very definition of “I couldn’t put it down”

Then there’s what is becoming her trade mark. The last page twist, the last page cliff hanger.

Just when you think the story is ending, and you turn the last page. WHAM!!!

She smacks you in the face and hooks you into the next book.

Absolutely Brilliant.

This book isn’t out until October, so if you haven’t read the first two, Dead Inside and Dead Wrong, you have time. Believe me you won’t be disappointed

Pages: 400
Publishers: One More Chapter
Publishing date: 16th October 2020.

The Body on the Island. Nick Louth

This is a great story but fans of DCI Craig Gillard are going to be a bit disappointed to find he takes a back seat through this book.

The story revolves around a strange series of events, including murders, and what every police officer dreads, a series of coincidences.

The child murder Neil Wright has been given a new identity and is about to be released from prison after 30 years.

A man is found dead, floating in the Thames, with strange markings all over his body, his manner of death indicates he’s been subject to immense pressure.

Just before his body is found a splash is heard by residents on a small island on the river. At the same time a Chef, his girlfriend, and a friend are seen in a car on a bridge close to where the splash takes place.

Meanwhile several groups are plotting instant revenge on The Bogeyman, the tabloids name for Wright, and are intent on killing him

But there are others with links to him, others who will hinder the investigation just by being in the wrong place at the right time.

I enjoyed this book. Louth has a habit of making me think, or reach for google to do a bit of research.

In this case the first stop was google maps to search for the location of the murders, I had no idea these communities existed.

A Sven diagram of a plot where every part of the story has its own circle, the bits where the circles overlap are intriguing and show the problems faced by the police when circumstances combine to put a lot of miscreants, in the same place at the same time. Not all of them are deep into illegal activities, but are never going to tell the truth. Not all of them are connected with the worst of the crimes, but get implicated by their actions.

Untangling all of this is down to the police, in this case Gillard’s team , and it makes a fantastic story.

Pages: 280. Published by: Camelot Publishing date: 22nd October 2020

TROUBLED BLOOD Robert Galbraith

I have enjoyed every book in this series so far, and I’ve looked at a lot of very positive reviews for True Blood, so maybe it’s just me, but I found this book overly long and confusing

The main plot of the book is the historical disappearance of a GP.

40 years ago an ex-Playboy Bunny girl, who became a GP went missing at the height of the crimes committed by a serial killer. When he was finally arrested he refused to say if he had killed the doctor, and although there was evidence of his other killings, there was no evidence he killed Dr Bamborough.

Strike and Robin are retained by the Doctors daughter, who was one when her mother went missing, and given a year to find out what happened to her.

The initial investigating officer, Bill Talbot, had suffered a breakdown after 6 months of the investigation and had resorted to looking to the spiritual world, using tarot cards and astrology to help him solve the crime, whilst getting fixated on one suspect.

The second investigating officer hadn’t faired much better.

Strike and a Robin manage to get their hands on notes from both officers as well as the crime file and start their investigation

What follows is a investigation which is confused by the different ramblings, and notes of Talbot. I will say at this point I was reading this book on a Kindle and the replicated pages and drawings of Bill Talbots note books were illegible on that format, so it may have added to my confusion.

Several side plots of other investigations carried out by Strike, Robin, and their associates add a bit of humour and provided a relief from the brain ache of the main story.

What kept me reading this book was the story of Strike, who is in the middle of two emotional episodes in his life; and Robin, who is herself going through a stressful time, her divorce from a husband she found cheating with a friend.

Both of them are beginning to understand the dynamics between the two of them are shifting, and they separately struggle with the feelings they have for each other. Without the other knowing they both worry about the effect it would have if either came out about how they feel.

It is a good story, but for me it gets lost in the astrology, I can’t see that it brings anything to what would be a good story without it.

At 994 pages this is a long book. I read it in two parts, punctuating the middle by reading another book, before going back to read the second half of the story. If I hadn’t done that I may have struggled, and maybe would even have given in. If I had I would have missed out. It’s worth persevering with

Having said all that. Will I be waiting with baited breath for the next instalment. Yes, I will

Pages, 994. Publisher, Sphere. Available now