THE INNOCENT GIRLS. B.R Spangler

The Innocent Girls. B.R Spangler

Earlier this year I read the first book in the Detective Jane Casey series, and since then I’ve been desperate to get my hands on the next one. So when The Innocent Girls dropped into my inbox I couldn’t wait to get started, and I wasn’t disappointed, what a cracking book.

Jane is now a permanent fixture in Outer Banks North Carolina. The ex big city cop decided to stay as she’s convinced she is getting closer to finding her missing daughter Hannah. She’s also fallen for Ex sheriff Jericho Flynn and is enjoying life as a small town cop, life is ticking along quite nicely

Then a 13 year old girl witnesses the vicious murder of her parents in a motor home, but after she escapes she runs off to a cult like church without reporting the murder to the police.

When the bodies are discovered Casey’s team start to investigate. One of the bodies has a strange pattern carved into their chest and various theories take the team down different avenues.

When a second murder scene is found, with more carvings on the body, the team also realise another young girl is missing.

The two cases have to be connected and Casey soon makes a connection to a strange Cult-Preacher and his pop-up church.

What follows is an investigation into a series of murders that is intriguing in its complexity.

Murders carried out in a vicious manner, mysterious post mortem wounds inflicted on the bodies, links to children in the families, who never seem to be hurt, and as the team try to make sense of it the murders get a bit too close to home.

The story is brilliant. It’s just complex enough to keep you guessing without crossing into the realms of improbability.

The story is made all the better by the team that Casey is  building around her, professionally and in her personal life. There are some great characters that are going to be fun to watch develop.

This series has started out with two of the most addictive stories I’ve read for a long time , the very definition of “ page-turners” I really am excited to read what comes next.

Publisher: Bookouture

Publishing Date: 3rd September 2020

THE SILENT DOLLS. Rita Herron

The Silent Dolls Rita Herron

Rita Herron is a new author to me, but she shot straight to the top of my list of must read authors after reading this book.

But it was so nearly a different story. The first chapter in this book sets a scene that makes it seem like this book is going to be like a rural Lethal Weapon with the main character being a female Riggs. How wrong was I.

Thank god I went past that chapter because this turned out to be the best US crime book I’ve read for a very long time.

If you like CJ Box and his Joe Pickett books for their settings you’ll love this book, set in the woods and mountains of the Appalachian Trail in Georgia

The main character, Detective Ellie Reeves, is scared of the dark. Why? Because she got lost in the woods on the Appalachian Trail when she was very young.

Now she’s a detective in Bluff County, the home of the starting point for the trail. So when a little girl goes missing it’s up to Ellie to look for her. What she uncovers during the investigation will send ripples all along the trail, and will have consequences close to home.

The girl that goes missing is not the first, but because the perpetrator has been moving along the trail nobody has put together the spasmodic disappearance of young girls in different jurisdictions, and it takes FBI agent Derrick Fox to highlight the link to Ellie.

The problem is Fox thinks two people close to Ellie, her father and a close friend, might be prime suspects.

This is a great story, set in rural, small town, America. It has everything to combine a great crime thriller with an great psychological thriller. A hunt for a missing child in the wild landscape is made harder by the approach of an in coming winter storm, a brilliant use of the occasional local radio weather reports really adds to the tension.

Ellie is a great character, amongst a cast of equally good bit part players, who hopefully will make appearances in future books.

Will there be future books, I hope so. This is billed as the first in a series, and it does end on a hell of a cliff hanger.

Pages: 366

Publishers: Bookouture

Publishing date U.K. 17th July 2020

HIDDEN LAKE. RUHI CHOUDHARY

When she was 12 years old Mackenzie Price came home to find her mother had killed her abusive husband. Together they buried him in the woods.

Price is a fantastic character. Stuck in a prison cell created by her own mind, a Psychological Faraday Cage that refuses to allow her happiness, she suffers constant flashbacks of her childhood, and the abuse her mother suffered before her fathers death.

When the discovery of a body takes her deep into the woods close to her fathers shallow grave she’s worried that the crime will be uncovered and that her life and career will be ruined.

But it’s not her father, it’s the body of Erica, a girl that’s been missing for a year. The high school princes daughter of a rich family there have been posters of her up around the city since she disappeared. Everybody knows her face.

At the same time her body is discovered her Best Friend Abby goes missing, the daughter of a single mother, a mother who works as a waitress in a local strip club, she doesn’t get anywhere near the attention that Erica did.

That annoys Mackenzie, what annoys her even more is she is convinced the two cases are linked, but the senior officers in her department seem determined to keep the two investigations separate, concentrating the majority of their efforts on a girl that’s been dead for a year, instead of on a girl that’s only just gone missing and could still be alive.

What’s more Mackenzies only real friend in the Department, Nick, who is leading Erica’s murder investigation is being alienated by her, and now he’s the only one who seems to be thinking along the same lines as her. Eventually they will have to work together but at what cost.

This is a very simplistic outline of the start of a brilliantly complex plot that had me hooked from the start.

As the story expands, and Mackenzie’s story unfolds, her character becomes addictive. Emotional on the inside but steely on the out, she won’t allow herself stimulants like coffee, or cigarettes. Yet she ploughs through the day fuelled by little but fresh air. It has to take its tole.

Not only has Ruhi Choudhary created, a great character she has created a great scene, a fictional city on the brink of despondency. As she says, it’s a city people are escaping from more than they are being attracted to. Hopefully it’s a Canvas for her to paint many more pictures on as we see Mackenzie fight her demons as much as the city’s crime.

Without doubt she is now one of my must read authors, and I can’t wait to see what happens next.

Pages: 409
Publishers: Bookouture
Publishing Date UK: 19th August 2020

BURIED ANGELS. PATRICIA GIBNEY

Buried Angels. Patricia Gibney

I always look forward to the release of the next Lottie Parker book. Set in the midlands of Ireland there’s always that feeling of a cross over between a big city and small village. The crimes are always big, and complex. The issues raised are always quite personal, whether it’s for the victims, perpetrators, witnesses, or the investigation team. In fact Patricia Gibney writes about the personal tortures better than just about everybody else.

This story starts with one of those personal tortures, a family conflict. A young woman is renovating a house left to her husband. When she breaks through a wall, into a boarded off alcove, she finds a skull, and she’s convinced it’s human. Her husband disagrees, and convinces her it’s a toy and that she shouldn’t call the police.

Meanwhile two boys are playing with a drone over a quiet railway line. When they spot something on the camera they soon realise it’s a body. When the police arrive they find it’s a headless body that has been frozen.

As more body parts start to be discovered the team find out that they are trying to put more than 1 jigsaw back together.

What starts of with a skeletal skull and a frozen torso soon escalates. Although the body parts are old somebody must be responsible for dumping the frozen torso, and other bits as they start to be discovered. It doesn’t matter when the murders took place, somebody today is moving things around. Why now.

Another thing Patricia Gibney is really good at is making complex plots with relatively small pools of characters. With crimes happening in a small town this has to be the case. There is not so much 6 degrees of separation as 2 or 3, and it works brilliantly. The way she weaves the strand of the plot you never really know what’s coming next. Revelations lead to revelations. Relationships are normal except when you least expect it.

Her biggest skill is always making you think. Where did that come from, followed quickly by, how did I not see that coming.

Everything works, everything is realistic, and just like the body jigsaws in this book, all the pieces fit together and you sit back and think, what an amazing picture that has painted.

Can you tell I loved this book.

Yes it’s book 8 in a series.
Yes it can be read as a stand-alone
Yes you should read the other 7, and if this is your first Lottie Parker book I’m pretty sure you’ll be getting your hands on them.

Pages: 451
Publishers: Bookouture
Available now.

Somebody’s Daughter. Carol Wyer

Somebody’s Daughter. Carol Wyer

In about 6 weeks I will be taking part in the blog tour for the publication of SOMEBODY’S DAUGHTER by Carol Wyer, but having just finished it I thought I’d do quick, short, review to let people know just how good it is.

Yes it is the latest in a series but this book can easily be read as a stand-alone, in fact it’s almost a fresh start for the main character as she has recently been promoted and is now Detective Chief Inspector Natalie Ward.

The star of this book is the crime and the victims. I try to never give spoilers and this all happens in the first few chapters so I’m not giving much away. Two young girls who fall for the wrong man, a drug addict who grooms girls, then forces them into prostitution to feed his habit, are murdered.

The investigation team is led by the newly promoted DI Lucy Carmichael, but with so many possible strands to the investigation where does she start. Is this case too big for the new boss.

The story looks at, family relations, bullying, grooming, sex work, drug taking, and that’s just the crime.

Then it looks at the problems caused by new dynamics. Lucy’s new dynamic of being the team leader and dealing with the petty jealousies of some subordinates, whilst worrying about what her superiors think.

Natalie’s new dynamic of being the DCI with a less hands on approach whilst mentoring Lucy through being in charge of her first major investigation. All the time dealing with her new dynamic at home.

The way Carol Wyer keeps it real has always let me enjoy her books more than most others.

Pages: 329
Publisher: Bookouture
Publishing Date: 9th July 2020

Waters Edge. Gregg Olsen

Waters Edge.   Greg Olsen

This is the second book in the Detective Megan Carpenter series, and having just read the first, Snow Creek, I can say I thoroughly enjoyed it.  The problem is I don’t think it would read so well as a stand-alone story. A lot of the plot is a continued thread from the first book, and is Megan’s back story told in back-flashes or from Megan listening to recordings that were made when she was in therapy.

She was in therapy because Megan, hasn’t always been Megan. It’s an identity she has adopted because of the infamy of her previous self.

Her back story is full of Kidnap, subterfuge, and murders, lots of murders

With all of this the main crime in the story almost plays second fiddle, which is a shame because the plot, and the present day characters are really good.

Working as a Detective in a sleepy town, just outside Seattle Megan enjoys a certain anonymity but there is one person that knows all about her past, her boss the Sheriff, he likes her and is prepared to give her the lead in most cases, so when a body is found in a secluded cove Megan is sent to begin the investigation, but she has to take the “Barbie Doll” new reserve deputy, Ronnie, with her.

At first Megan doesn’t like Ronnie but she slowly starts to grow on her and the pair make quite the team, not so much good-cop-bad-cop more, good-hard-nosed-cop, and young-flutter-your-eyelids cop.

The dead body leads to a murder investigation which triggered more memories for Megan and at times she becomes unfocused, which nearly ends in tragic consequences.

The story is great, the book is great, the series is going to be brilliant.

I started by saying it does not work as a stand-alone story, I stick by that, but only because I think the reader would be missing out by not reading the first in the series.

Pages: 315

Publisher: Bookouture

Publishing date: 28th May 2020

Silent Scream. Five years anniversary

Five years ago today the first DI Km Stone book was published. I read that first book a few months later and immediately read the second.

I haven’t stopped reading them since, with book 12, Killing Mind, out soon I thought I’d look back at my first review which looked at both Silent Scream, book 1, and Evil Games, book 2

Silent Scream & Evil Games Angela Marsons

Two books one blog. There’s a reason for that. I read the last page of Silent Scream and immediately opened the first page of Evil Games.

I don’t like giving plots away so I’m not going to talk too much about the story line of each of these, I’ll just talk about the writing and main character.

I enjoyed these books more than most others I’ve read over the last few years. Angela Marsons has created a brilliantly complex character in Detective Inspector Kim Stone and hopefully we’ll have a few more outings with her and her team in the future.

Silent Scream introduces DI Stone in a tale centred on child abuse at a Local Authority Home. Are current day murders linked with abuse at the home? In todays society we are becoming more aware of these abuse cases and it makes the book relevant and up to date.

Stones own history mirrors that of the children who stayed at the home, and her back-story is slowly revealed as the book moves on.

The conclusion of the book is not as easy to predict as some stories of the same genre, and with twists and turn to the very end this book is a great read.

Evil Games follows on, but can be read separately, from Evil Games.

In this book Stone identifies the link between several serious crimes, including a murder. More of Stones back-story is revealed and the reader is given a greater insight into her psyche.

Along the way Stone comes into contact with her nemesis and an intellectual and psychological battle takes place that kept me enthralled right to the end of the book.

Twists and turns throughout show that Angela Marsons has a knack for complex plots without resorting to fanciful and unbelievable stories.

Angela Marsons has set these books close to where I live. Her descriptions of the places and people are perfect. It is a testament to her that at one time in the Evil Games I shouted out loud that she had something wrong, only to realise she was inventing a shop in which a suspect child abuser was working, maybe it is best to use a fictional premises in that case.

Further testament to her research skills is found in the derelict children’s home she uses in Silent Scream. It used to exist, it had a bad reputation amongst the locals, and it had a fire. I know this because I investigated it when I was still in the Fire Service.

I have a feeling that, like many other authors, Angela Marsons is only published locally.

One of the great things about e-books and companies like Amazon is it has allowed me to read books by people I would never have had access to by simply walking into my local shop.

So wherever you are in the world, get a copy of these books. Sit back and enjoy

The Waxwork Corpse. Simon Michael

Simon Michael’s books are up there with my favourites.

This series of legal thrillers set through the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s are fictional, but, and it’s a big but, each book is set around things that actually happened.

Readers will recognise some of the Gangland names that the Barrister Charles Holborne meets and deals with. They will recognise some of the periphery characters and will be aware of some of the crimes that took place, some of which are almost urban legend, some of which were national headlines.

In this case Simon Michael has used a less well known case and spun his own story around it, a story that so closely resembles the real life happenings that it is almost a documentary of the crime and the court case. There is even a nod to one of the main, real life protagonists,  in the name of one of the main characters in the book.

When the body of a woman is fished from the depths of Britain’s deepest lake it has the appearance of a waxwork dummy wrapped in plastic sheeting. What it actually is, is the remains of a woman that has been missing for over 10 years.

Her husband quickly becomes a suspect in her murder and Charles Holborne is asked to help prosecute the man.

Charles battles with the dilemma of sitting at the prosecution table, he usually represents the defendants, and the possible outcomes of prosecuting such a high profile defendant.

The case makes national headlines, as did the real one, and Holborne is thrust into the limelight. This brings someone from his past life, during the early years of World War Two, out of the woodwork. Somebody who Charles would rather not have to deal with.

In another reflection of true life Charles is battling anti-Semitism inside and outside of the court. As a “lapsed” practitioner of the Jewish Faith he is also battling with his own family.

Every page of this book brings something to the story.

The crime and trial are addictive reading on their own, but throw in all of the issues in Charles’ own life, and it moves to a whole new level of crime writing.

An absolutely stunning addition to what is already a brilliant series.

Pages: 336

Publishers: Sapere Books

Available now

Whispers in the Night. D.K Hood

As a child what can be more scary than waking up in the middle of the night and seeing a stranger in your room

As a parent what can be more scary than your child coming into your room saying there’s a stranger in her room

What could be more scary than checking the room and finding nothing, only for the child to go missing

Or you could be the Detective that’s sent a video of the missing child and are told you only have a few hours to find her before she dies.

Detective Jenna Alton is the detective who receives the video, and assembles her team the start the search

Too soon another message arrives from the kidnapper, and it’s not what Jenna wants to hear

That is just the start to a book which had me engrossed from start to finish.

The stories in this series are set in Black Rock Falls, a large sleepy town that is growing in size by the month

The small Police Department runs well with the main Detectives Jenna Alton and her Deputy David Kane investigating some serious crimes involving serial killers

The series is like Midsummer Murders on steroids, and as well as the main characters there are some great bit-part-players, the best of which is the local Medical Examiner who doubles up as the Police Departments CSI, he’s even recruited his daughters to help him

I’ve read all of this series, and I’m always richly anticipating the next. Whispers in the Night didn’t disappoint. It’s is fast paced, without being frantic. It’s gritty, without being gory. It is far from a cosy Crime drama, but illicit a cosy read

I really can’t wait till the next one comes out

Pages: 355

Publisher: Bookouture

Available now

Stolen. Paul Finch

Any book with a character who is a homeless, drug addicted, ex-nun, who turns turns tricks to feed her habit, and continues to wear her gowns, has to be off to a flying start. You’ve got to read the book to meet Sister Cassie.

But she’s not the only reason to read this book. The lead character Detective Constable Lucy Clayburn is a firecracker of a character. She is relentless in her pursuit of criminals, but hides a dark secret from her colleagues, her dad is one of the leaders of Manchester’s biggest criminal gang, “The Crew”. Not that she’d ever exploit that, in fact she’s only just found out. So a constant throughout is weather she should commit career suicide by telling her bosses, or try to carry on and hope they don’t find out.

The start of this book is a bit of a tough read if you, like me, are a dog lover. Lucy busts an illegal dog fighting club, but amongst the dead and tortured animals she doesn’t find the ones she’s been looking for, the ones which have recently been stolen by somebody in a Black Transit Van.

What she does become aware of, thanks to Sister Cassie, is that some homeless people are also going missing, and the black van seems to be involved again.

Meanwhile there’s an internal dispute amongst the hierarchy of The Crew, including Lucy’s dad, that looks like it will lead to the gang imploding.

Whilst Lucy tries to find the Black Van, and what has happened to the people that were taken, her Dad becomes more embroiled in the infighting in The Crew. Inevitably the two storylines merge, but not in a way I anticipated, and father and daughter have decisions to make.

This is a belter of a book. Tough, and hard hitting, it is a story woven from several strands which knit together perfectly.

The characters in this book are stunning, but ultimately the ones I haven’t mentioned, the perpetrators of the crimes, are the ones that give it that real edge. I defy anybody to guess who they are, or what their motives are until they’re revealed, and then…..then it gets really scary.

Why?

Because they are way to realistic, and they really shouldn’t be.

Pages: 480

Publishers: Avon

Publishing date: Available now