Deadly Christmas. Rachel McClean

Rachel McClean came to my attention last year with the Deadly…. Series of books set in Birmingham.

Since then she has been writing the Dorset Crime series, which is a spin-off from the Deadly Series with one of the bit-part characters from the original series taking a the lead role, with another book set in Scotland also heavily featuring one of the characters from Birmingham

This book is a return to the Deadly series with DI Zoe Finch and her team from Force CID investigating the suspicious death of a man found in Birmingham’s German Christmas Market.

The investigation leads them into the different worlds, Birmingham’s Homeless and the war crimes of the Yugoslavian Conflicts.

The team are soon battling over ownership of the investigation with the Home Office taking over.

But that’s the least of Zoe’s problems. She needs a new DS and she doesn’t like, or trust, the one she’s given.

They have history and Zoe is not convinced it’s resolved.

DS Kaur had been part of the Professional Standards Team that had included Zoe in the investigation into corruption in the Force. She was completely innocent, and had even been helping to gather evidence against the corrupt officers but Kaur really pushed her buttons.

Now Zoe is suspicious of why she’s been placed in the team.

The Deadly……. Series has always had a “Line of Duty” vibe running through, it continues to run in this book. It’s an excellent undercurrent to an already brilliant story.

I would never have thought that such a prolific writer, over a relatively short time, could produce such good books, but these are some of the best books I’m reading at the moment.

Pages: 292. Publisher: Ackroyd Publishing. Available now

Hidden Scars. Angela Marsons

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Without exaggeration the best book I’ve read

It may be because it’s written by my favourite author.

It may be because it’s the latest in a cracking series.

But I think it’s probably because the author put a lot of emotion into what was written.

Kim Stone nearly died in the last book, Six Graves, this one starts several months later and finds her struggling psychologically and physically.

Her team has been in the hands of another DI whilst she recovered and she can see it being slowly destroyed by his incompetence as a Detective and as a boss, and his failings as a human being.

Will she recover to take the team back from him whilst it’s still intact.

It takes a nasty murder, which he is happy to pass off as a suicide, to tip her over the edge and try and bring the “old Kim” back.

Will she manage it.

This book looks at the roller coaster of recovery from serious injury. How Kim has to struggle internally to get herself in the right place to be effective. Her team is more than her team, it’s her family and they need her.

The crimes in this book are psychologically horrific.

Based on a centre that offers “Correction Therapy” to young gay people.

I’ve not lead a sheltered life but I had no idea this happened. I’m not kidding when I say I disappeared into a Google worm hole for hour’s researching it.

Angela Marsons has dealt with the subject brilliantly.

Every page in this book is gripping as Kim struggles to find her old self.

Her team are there for her every step of the way but it’s a struggle at times.

The dual stories of the investigation into these horrific crimes, and Kims struggles to find, and deal with, her new normality are breathtaking.

And the very last sentence. Wow

Pages: 356. Publisher: Bookouture.

Audio book length: 8 hours 39. Narrator: Jan Cramer

Behind Closed Doors. Carol Wyer

30 years ago Stacey was kidnapped.

Now she’s an investigative journalist missing a little finger and part of her ear. Reminders of a kidnapping she has forced deep into the “forgotten box” in her memories.

The one thing she does remember is the fact that her father refused to pay the ransom, even when bits of her were sent to him, and for that she’ll never forgive him.

When her ex-husband turns up on her doorstep to tell her that his daughter, her step-daughter, had been kidnapped; and that the kidnapper was demanding £500,000, whilst saying they would kill the girl if the Police were informed, Stacey’s memories start to bubble back to the surface.

But why has her ex husband chosen her to be his confidente, is it just her journalistic skills or does he have a more sinister motive.

This is more than just the story of a kidnap. It’s a story of emotions and betrayal, whether that betrayal is actual or just perceived, trust and the psychology of the memory.

It’s a cracking story full of twists and turns, more than once I was convinced my hypothesis were right, only to have them shattered in the next chapter.

Carol Wyer is good at this, it’s a trait of many of hers stories.

Her other traits are realism, believable stories, great characters that I can engage with, or take an instant dislike to.

All of these are right here in this book.

I enjoyed every page.

Pages: 335. Release Date: 6th December 2022

The Silent Dead. Marnie Riches

Detective Sergeant Jackie Cooke is not your average fictional Police Officer, but I think she’s probably one of the most realistic.

A newly separated single mother with twins boys, one of who is the “child from hell” and a few months old little girl.

She is battling her ex partner, who wants to take her for a much as he can, having contributed very little, and relies on her mother, who lives in a granny-flat in the basement, for child care.

When she’s at work she’s worried about her kids and the over reliance she places on her mom. When she’s at home she can’t stop thinking about her cases.

Her work is suffering because of her home life, and her home life is suffering because of her work.

The icing on the cake for Cooke is that she was a DI, but stood down when she became pregnant with her daughter, and the new DI is, in her opinion, inept.

So that’s the backdrop to the story and it really adds a touch of reality that helped me engage with Cooke.

When she attends a murder scene to find out that it’s an old school friend of hers who has been killed, she is caught slightly off guard.

When the investigation starts to take her into the world of, online dating, and seedy hook ups she wonders what her old friend had got herself into in the years they had been out of contact.

The fact that more murders show a similar MO, leads Cooke and her Sergeant into the murky world of on line hook ups.

I have come across the phrase Incel in a few books recently, but Marnie Riches seems to have hit the right balance of menace and desperation that people that fall into that category exude and suffer.

I love the main characters in this book.

The crimes are really well considered and fit the story perfectly.

A great read.

Pages: 325. Publisher: Bookouture. Publishing Date 1st November 2022

Sudden Death. Rachel Lynch

A sleazy MP and his “fixer” are on a helicopter flight over the Lake District piloted by two former RAF pilots.

It should be a safe journey. The helicopter is top of the range, luxurious, and relatively new.

So why did the tail rota come off.

The ensuing crash kills all on board and people on the ground who are taking part in a Fell Run

DI Kelly Porter is just finishing off in a high profile court case which has seen her pitched against her “ex” boyfriend.

When the call comes in about the crash they are thrown together by circumstance. She’s SIO for the Police investigation, and he’s part of the mountain rescue team.

Porter conducts her investigation and attempts to keep other agencies in line, whilst dealing with the inevitable political pressures which are brought to bear on the investigators.

The conundrum of which of the four dead people on the helicopter was the intended target is the major factor. They all have secrets in their past.

I really enjoy this series. Rachel Lynch gets the mix just right for me. The investigation takes centre stage, but the lives of the characters, and the ongoing story of Porters private life leads to great read.

The setting of the Lake District is perfect. Close enough to big towns and cities, but remote enough to cause the difficulties found in tackling rural crimes, and disasters in almost inaccessible places

Pages: 355. Publisher: Canelo Crime. Release date: 10th November 2022

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

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.