The Ink Black Heart. Robert Galbraith. An honest review by a fan

Like it says in the title of the blog I’m a fan of “Robert Galbraith” just like I’m a fan of J.K Rowling.

I’ve loved every book in the Strike/Ellicot series, so I hope everyone will understand that I am not jumping on a band wagon, or trolling with this blog.

It’s my honest opinion of the latest book in one of my favourite series.

The story is basically a murder, and attempted murder investigation.

Two people are attacked in a Cemetery, one is killed, the other left paralysed. They are the creators of a cult cartoon series. The cartoon had led to an unauthorised gaming app which acts as a chat room for fans.

It’s the chat room which the story revolves around. And this is where the problems start for the reader.

A lot of the plot is set out in the chat room format, with two or three conversations taking place at the same time, on the same page, in different columns. The spacing of each chat leaves large gaps and I was puzzled as to whether I should read each column in turn, each page in turn, or across the page to read each column in timeline order.

A short explanation by the publisher at the beginning of the ebook explains why the format on ebook is unchanged, and explains that it is then written in an ebook user friendly way after the original format. A note to them is, it isn’t in many places, in fact it isn’t in most places.

No explanation is given by the author as to how these sections should be read. I tried all ways to read it but found them frustrating and at times ambiguous.

One of the reasons I found them ambiguous is that, owing to the way chat rooms work each character has their own username which is unique to the room/game.

Getting used to these names is at times confusing. Adding to the confusion is that each of the people in the chat room are also active on Twitter.

Again there are long sections of the book written as Tweets or Twitter streams.

Each person on Twitter has their user @name plus their user name which is often not their actual name.

So now we have Strike and Robin investigating a case where all of the suspects, and there are quite a few, have at least 3 pseudonyms and a real name.

The problem being neither Strike, Robin, or the reader know who the characters are in the game compared to their Twitter names, or their actual name.

The basis of the story is that one character in the game chat room is bullying, cajoling, grooming, and generally being aggressive, and is thought to be responsible for the attack on the cartoons creators.

Strike and Robin are not investigating the murder, that’s down to the Police. They have been retained to find out who the online bully is.

This takes them into the murky world of the cartoon, it’s game/chat room, and it’s weird fans.

It takes them to places as diverse as an artistic commune and a Comic-Con Convention.

Just like all the other books in the series there are also other investigations taking place with Strike and Robin’s team being stretched to the limit and thankfully providing occasional relief from the main storyline.

The ongoing private lives of Strike and Robin, as well as their relationship also provides a relief within the story.

It pains me to say this, but this is not the best book I’ve ever read, nor is it the best book in this series. In fact, it it wasn’t part of the series I would have given in on it early on.

I did make it to the end, and in all honesty I’m still not one hundred percent sure I know exactly what happens or why.

Yes I know the identity of the killer but how we got there I’m still a little confused by.

Just after I started the book I started a thread about the format it’s presented in, on ebook, on a Crime Book Group I’m part of on Facebook. The general opinion was reflective of my thoughts that it was impossible to read in Kindle, an opinion that hasn’t changed.

A couple of interesting things came out of the responses.

People who were reading it in Hardback were also finding it confusing and frustrating.

Some people on there would not hear a thing said against Galbraith/Rowling.

I wonder how many people will buy this book and read it, like me, all the way to the end. How many people will either skip vast chunks of it, namely the chat room and Twitter streams, and just how many people will just give in on it.

Will this book become, what I call a “Lord of the Rings” book. Everybody’s has a copy, but not many have ever read it to completion., but many will claim they have.

As I said at the start of the blog, I’m a huge fan and I’m looking forward to the next book in the series. This one is just a bit…….. I don’t really know. I read it all, it was hugely frustrating, and a bit anticlimactic, but I read it all just in case something happened that I’d need to know in future books.

Print length: 1024 pages according to Amazon. Audiobook: 32 Hours 43 Minutes. Narrator: Robert Glenister

6 Ripley Avenue. Noelle Holten

A great standalone crime thriller, and I find that I’m saying that with less frequency than I’d like.

Why? Because most writers these days seem to stick with tried and trusted characters within a series.

The good thing about standalone books is you are never sure how they are going to end, which character will survive to the end, who will be left in a position that they can continue life in the way they were when the book started. It doesn’t have to have a happy ending for everybody.

The story in this book is like a locked room mystery with teeth.

The “locked room” is a hostel, rehabilitation centre, for serious offenders who have been released from prison. 6 Ripley Avenue.

When one of the inmate-guests is murdered in the middle of the night there are only so many suspects that can possibly have carried out the crime. Either other “guests” or staff

As the Police start their investigation a local, freelance crime journalist, Sloane starts her own.

Sloane has an advantage over the Police, she can listen to hearsay and gossip, the Police have to establish truth and relevance.

Sloane has a person on the inside, a volunteer cook who fancies herself as a bit of a Miss Marples, but she does tend to jump to the wrong conclusions at times. Does she help or hinder Sloane.

The Hostel is run by Jeanette. She is shocked by the murder but as the blame game starts, she begins to look at her staff differently. As Sloane’s investigation relies on gossip, Jeanette starts to realise some of it might have foundation.

This is a brilliant story. As with all of Noelle Holten’s books there is a depth of realism in her writing that can only be born of experience.

I’ve read mixed reviews of this book, and honestly, I don’t understand some of the criticisms. This is a fast paced thriller. A book that had me hooked from page one until the last full stop.

The characters are brilliantly written and I found myself having empathy with some, frustration with others, and engaging with all of them. Just as it should be.

The story is realistic, set in a tight community, limited suspects, Police frustrated by sticking to the rules, whilst the main characters carry on unrestricted by procedures and red tape.

That is another reason I loved this book. It’s not led by a Police Investigation, with a cop as the main character.

Sloane is a great lead, with a fresh way of looking into things.

Overall, in my opinion, one of the best books I’ve read this year.

Pages: 378. Publisher: One More Chapter Audio Book 10 hours 40 minutes, narrator TBC. Publication date: 27th September 2022

The Body In The Stairwell. Nick Louth

The latest in the DCI Craig Gillard series, and a great story. I just think that if you’re a Gillard fan you are going to be a bit disappointed, as although he’s the lead Police Character, he doesn’t actually appear much in the book.

The story is one of revenge. An English accountant has just served 6 months in an American jail for laundering drugs money for an American gang.

He got a short sentence compared to the gang bosses because he gave evidence against them. Now two of them are dead and one, the fiercest of all of them, has sworn revenge.

The Reptile, as he is known because of a skin condition, is out of segregation and plotting his revenge. Still locked in a maximum security jail in the middle of the desert he shouldn’t be a threat.

But he gets his hand on a smart phone, how hard should it be to find the English Accountant.

Meanwhile the Accountant is in serious financial difficulties. He had a life style funded by his cut of the laundered drug money and was living well beyond his means.

He has a wife and a teenage daughter, they both know, and are both trying to fly below the radar, staying off social media and out of the headlines.

The Reptile is determined and working with the slimmest slither of information starts to use his smart phone to track down the Accountant.

The story centres on the naivety of young teenagers and the information they share. The dogged determination of a desperate man, out for revenge.

Ultimately it’s a bit of an eye opener. It’s a psychological thriller based around internet stalking and grooming.

Young girls desperate for an internet presence, sharing hat they think is trivial information. All of this acting as a mosaic letting the Reptile gradually build a picture of a lifestyle and ultimately a location.

Then it’s time to wreak revenge, and he’s really going to make somebody suffer.

I really enjoy this series. Nick Louth brings a lot of realism to his books and although I mentioned Gillard is not in this book very much, it doesn’t distract from what is a very good story and a cautionary tail.

I wondered how easy it is to dig into a persons life, via social media, whilst I was reading this book. So I gave it a go. Believe me it’s scary.

Pages: 274. Publisher: Canelo Crime. Publishing date: 22nd September 2022

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 DI Declan Walsh Series Books 1&2 . Jack Gatland

I was browsing book sites looking for a new author when I found the first book in the series, Letter from the Dead being offered as a free book on Amazon.

Not one to turn down a cheaply I loaded it onto my Kindle, and I’m glad I did.

Letter from the Dead introduces DI Delan Walsh, an Officer who is on the brink of leaving the Police following two recent events, one disciplinary, the other the resolution of a case that saw him braking a corruption ring in his force.

The hatred from many other officers he can deal with, the fact that he punched a Priest has resulted in his suspension and possible dismissal.

But he’s approached by DCI Munroe. His team of City of London Officers are made up by people with similar issues to Walsh. His ethos is some problem cops are just to good at their job to be allowed to slip away. They specialise in old or cold cases.

So when new information is received about the apparent accidental death of a Politician’s nearly 20 years earlier the team investigate exactly what happened

What follows is a multilayered plot that takes in the possible murder and introduces recurring characters that will turn up in the series.

Politicians, Police Officers, Gangland criminals, all take major roles as do their friends and families.

The investigation of a historic crime, involving politicians has huge impact. 20 years on some have moved on from politics, and not all in a positive way. Ones homeless, by choice, one’s an internet preacher, and one has changed his political allegiances. But what are they running away from.

This is a story about manipulation and consequences, and it’s a great vehicle to start the series.

The second book, Murder of Angels, is one of the most complex stories I’ve read for a long time, but it’s a cracker of a read.

Parts of two Cities, London and Birmingham, are run by traditional, old school villains, but they are being slowly threatened by the younger gangs, youths that have less respect for people in general. In this case the problem is exacerbated by the fact that it’s the sons of the old gangsters that are trying to take over.

Declan and the team of misfits are spread thin covering crimes in both cities as part of a joint investigation.

The concept of this conflict is again historical. Things that happened 18 years ago having a huge impact on today, and it’s the mysteries of the past that the team need to get to the bottom of, to get to solve todays crimes.

As complex as the book is there is never any doubt of its credibility. The story is brilliant.

The characters in this series are really good. Walsh is totally engaging. His history, and his father’s history are going to have a huge impact on the series.

If you like multi-layered books with a compelling ongoing thread, this is definitely a series not to miss

I really can’t wait to read the next book, but I have commitments to other books, and I’ve got work to do so it will have to wait for a week or so.

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.