The Girl In The Grave Helen Phifer

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Introducing Forensic Pathologist Beth Adams. A woman in her mid-thirties who carries the physical and mental scars of an event that happened 7 years ago.

Beth is a great character, she is living in a big house on a lake, in solitude, avoiding unnecessary contact with strangers. The house has the best of security systems and even a panic room. As the main story unfolds a second story describing the events of 7 years ago are told explaining why Beth is so introvert and reclusive.

Having said that she is beginning to come out of herself with the help of a few trusted friends, and one of her best friends is DS Josh Walker.

So when Beth is sent to the scene of an exhumation of a recently buried woman, where a second body has been found underneath the coffin, she is glad to see Josh is there as the head of the Police team.

The investigation into the death of the young woman found in the grave gives Beth a chance to flex her brain, and ignoring her fears, she starts to look at the girl’s death and how she ended up in the grave.

This leads to a closer working relationship with Josh, and Beth actually starts to feel normal again for the first time in years.

Just like all crime thrillers this peace of mind doesn’t last long. Somebody is stalking Beth and starts to leave her little surprise presents.

This story runs along at a cracking pace. It’s a Police Procedural, with Josh and Beth, being the lead characters. It’s a psychological thriller with the stalking of Beth, and the pressure put on her by the crimes which take place during the investigation.

It’s also an introduction to a series which I can’t wait to develop.

The character of Beth is brilliantly written as a vulnerable yet determined woman.

The story that Josh brings is just as enthralling. I had a lot of empathy for this guy.

There seems to be more crime series than ever on the shelves at the moment, and I have to admit to yearning for more one offs where I could just read-and -forget.

But, there is plenty of room on my shelves for Beth Adams, not only will she always be welcome, but I’m looking forward to meeting her again.

Pages: 264

Publisher: Bookouture

Publishing date: 16thJuly 2017

Tightrope Marnie Riches

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It is easy to say things like “I  have loved all of Marnie Riches’ books” but I have. She writes in a style that I like to read. The stories always have a base in realism, with a hint of shock. She talks about things we know happen, but would really not like to acknowledge that they do.

So, with the start of this new series I was expecting just that, plus her usual scattering of loveable rogue characters. I wasn’t disappointed.

The book starts with a bang, or should I say gangbang. A young prostitute is choked to death as a group of men, wearing animal masks, use her for their pleasure. The death is filmed and later makes its way onto the dark net. But, far from forcing the man who killed her into hiding, it empowers his self-fulfilling prophecy of a man who holds power over women.

Meanwhile 30 year old Beverly Saunders is trying to dig her way out from under the debris of a divorce. Her husband is using her psychological issues to keep her from seeing her daughter. She is trying to establish herself as a Private Investigator, whilst attending group counselling sessions to address her addictions, more about those later.

When the wife of a Member of the Shadow Cabinet bumps into her, and asks for help proving that her husband is having affairs she has to accept, not because she needs the money, because she sees the bruises on the wife and knows she has to help her.

This job is way above the type of investigations she’s used to running, and as well as turning to observations and honey traps, she needs to hack his electronic life.

Enter Doc, a friend from the counselling sessions who is addicted to strong weed and Lego. Yes Lego, the toy, brilliant. He is also a computer geek of the highest order.

The investigation puts both Beth and Doc in danger, but how much of it is real, and how much of it is weed educed paranoia on Doc’s behalf.

To add to the illusions of danger somebody is playing with Bev’s head, using her OCD, moving things in her damp basement flat, not that anyone else would notice, but just enough to put doubt into her mind.

The story has many threads, all of them edgy, and all of them winding their way to a great climax at the end of the book. I can’t say more than that because, to do so, would ruin a good read.

I mentioned Bev’s psychological issues, and these are what makes her such a great character. She has OCD, she collects and makes origami figures, and she’s addicted to sex, often turning to a well know porn site for an afternoon of “stress busting”

She’s vulnerable, yet ballsy, she can be quite unsure of herself, yet she has a short fuse to a raging temper.

This series has legs, and I can’t wait to see which alley they take us down.

Pages: 384

Publisher: Trapeze

Publishing Date: 11thJuly 2019

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

The Dancing Girls. M.M Chouinard

Lieutenant Jo Fournier originally from New Orleans but now working in small town Oakhurst is freakishly clean and well organised. She is also a bit of a terrier, and once she’s on to something, she won’t let go.

So when Jo picks up a murder inquiry it’s not surprising that she digs deep to uncover everything she can.

At first she is drawn to the husband of the victim, he seems like a nice guy until you talk about money. This guys tight, but is that enough reason to murder.

Meanwhile the real murderer is looking for his next victim, but it’s not his second, there have been others.

When another woman is found dead, her wedding ring missing and posed in a strange dancing pose Jo decides to dig deeper and look at some cold cases.

Her bosses think she’s wasting her time, but that terrier instinct kicks in and she won’t let go, but at what cost, and will she find the killer?

Jo Fournier is the latest Detective to hit the shelves, and it’s quite a crowded market place.

I like her, she’s newly promoted and is having doubts about if she did the right thing taking the job, she knows she can do it but it should mean less time in the field. If this outing is anything to go by that seems unlikely.

She’s a clean freak almost to the point of having OCD, she’s obsessively organised, and she can be a bit blunt, but yes I really really liked her.

There are some good side characters in this story that I’m really looking forward to seeing develop in the next, and hopefully more, books

Pages: 322

Publisher: Bookouture

Available now

REWIND Catherine Ryan Howard

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The front cover of the book has the words Play. Pause. Run. REWIND. Not just words, 4 words that conjure up a lot of possibilities in the world of crime fiction, but the more you read the book the more significant they become, not just in the story as it unfolds, but also in the way the story is narrated.

When Dublin Instagram Influencer Natalie disappears nobody is really worried. After all she had posted that she was going off line for a few days, but why did her husband, Mike,  not report her missing until she had been gone for a week?

Audrey is a wannabe journalist. Actually she’s already a journalist on an online newspaper, but to her dissatisfaction she is an entertainment journalist working on the “sidebar-of-shame” looking for clickbait stories.

Her ambition is to move upstairs and work with the serious journalists on real news. So when her boss offers her a job, a bit of a crossover story, she doesn’t hesitate. The rumours of Natalie’s disappearance have started to circulate, and reports are reaching the news desk that her husband has reported her missing. Audrey is given the job of looking to see if there is more to the story than an Insta-celeb going off in a huff or looking for publicity.

What she doesn’t realise is that she is about to start a journalistic investigation which is always half a step in front of the Police. It’s just that neither, she, or the Police, know exactly what they are investigating.

Play, pause, run, REWIND is exactly how this story is narrated.

It is no spoiler to say that a murder has taken place and that somebody has caught it on a webcam, but who has been murdered, by who, and why? All these usual questions asked in a crime thriller, are laid out in the ways of the command on a video recording

Having set the scene of the murder the story rewinds to before it to set the scene, runs ahead of the murder to look at Audrey’s investigation, and pauses at all points in between.

Each chapter is set either before, during, or after the murder and is written in such a way that the end of most chapters are cliff hangers that don’t get resolved until the story returns to that piece of the timeline. There is so much suspense in this book that it is impossible to put down.

Catherine Ryan Howard is a new author to me but looking at Amazon I can see she has written two previous books, and if they are as good as this one, I have no idea how she has been off my radar.

Usually a book that jumps backwards and forwards chronologically would have me giving up on it within the first 50 or 60 pages; but REWIND had me hooked within the first 20 and kept me there all the way till the end.

2019 is turning into a stela-year for crime fiction. So far this year I have read some of the best books to be published for years. This one is right up there with the best of them.

 

Pages: 300

Publishers: Corvus

Publishing Date: 5thSeptember 2019

City of Windows Robert Pobi

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Where do I start with a book as good as this?

The storyline is brilliant.

The main character is unique in modern writing.

The settings are, well its New York City so it’s anything-goes and its believable.

Let’s start with the story. A sniper is making impossible shots in New York. Firing from distance, from height, through almost impossible gaps in the tower blocks. The first person they hit is a federal agent, so is the second. Is that a coincidence? No of course not. Are these agents being selected at random or is there a connection.

Then there’s the main character, Lucas Page. Lucas is a University Professor, or he is now, he used to be something very different, but that cost him an arm and a leg, literally, and an eye. Fitted with prosthetics and a false eye he is happily(ish) teaching at a University until the sniper makes his first hit. Then his ex-colleagues need his speciality, because Professor Page is a maths genius. He sees things in numerical blocks and can calculate distances and angles in an instant. In fact he can reverse engineer the factors needed to identify the most likely location of the snipers nest before the forensic scientists can get their equipment out of their cars.

Lucas is happy in his new world of teaching, its safe and he goes home at night. His wife is happy as well, because he comes home at night and acts as a father to their ever increasing brood of fostered children.

So when Luke is told he has to go back neither he nor his wife are happy, but it’s not long before he’s bitten by the bug and is immersed in the investigation.

The  FBI are convinced they know the identity of the killer and all they have to do is find them. Lucas is less convinced.

Battling against some of the brass within the FBI who are sceptical in his abilities, and are target focused on the man they think is killing their agents, Lucas finds an ally in Special Agent Whitaker, the tall woman who has been assigned to be his chaperone during the investigation.

This is a clever story. Snipers in the big cities of the world is already one of the threats that have law enforcers worried. To us one in a story like this shows how random the attacks can be, the effect it has on the community, and just how difficult it would be to catch a well prepared marksman.

Robert Pobi has just gone to the top of my list of back catalogues to read, and any future books will be read as soon as I can get my hands on them.

Pages:  400

Publishers: Mulholland Books

Publishing date: 6thAugust 2019

THE DARE Carol Wyer

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What would you do if your daughter went missing?

What would you do when she turned up after 48 hours and stated she had been taking part in a social media craze?

What would you do if your daughter went missing for 48 hours, and you were hoping she was taking part in the craze, but was then found murdered?

Social media is responsible for a lot these days and teenagers are particularly vulnerable to the trends, or should I say they are influenced.

What a concept to set a murder story around, and Carol Wyer has pulled it off to perfection.

The first girl to go missing, and later turn up dead is Savannah, and her mom will always blame herself for not being home when she should have been.

This is where DI Natalie Ward and her team start the investigation. An investigation that will be hindered by the social media trend, some of the girls going missing are simply hiding away for effect. Others are not so fortunate.

So, is somebody using the missing for 48 hour game to find their victims, or is there a murderer who is targeting random teenage girls.

As Natalie and her team carry out the investigation they uncover the secret lives that teenage girls keep from their parents, and I couldn’t help but think how realistic that is.

Shop lifting and dating older men are just two of the things these girls have been up to, and the perceived loyalty of their friends in keeping secret their slightly nefarious activities is hindering the Police’s investigation.

As girls go missing, and bodies start to be found, the team are in a race against time to identify the killer.

But has this killer found the best way yet of putting the Police of their scent. Not every missing girl ends up dead, but they all need investigating and its taking time. Time the Police can’t afford to waste on false leads.

Natalie is very aware of the lives of teenagers as she is the mother of two of them, and receives very little support from her husband in bringing them up.

In fact Natalie’s home life is slowly going down the pan and its beginning to distract her at a time when she least needs distracting.

Will she keep her mind on the game? Will she and her team, identify the killer before the body count gets out of hand?

This is book three in the DI Natalie Ward Series. All three have been brilliant stories, and have all had very original plots. The story of Natalie hooks me as nearly as much as the crimes she’s solving.

As a character Natalie Ward stands out as being one of the most realistic. Her problems are everyday problems, her family is a normal family, but her husband has got a problem and its driving a wedge between them.

The thing I find about these books is how on point they are. The issues with social media are very current and are most parents nagging worries with their teenagers, and Carol Wyer exploits that fear in this book.

The problem her husband has is one of Britain’s growing problems, he’s a gambler, and a again Carol explores the problems with living with somebody who’s gambling in a brilliant manner.

Yes this is book 3 in the series, but it can be read as a stand-alone.

My recommendation would be read all three, in fact if you are looking for some books to read around the pool, or on the beach this summer, get all three and save them to binge read. You won’t be disappointed.

Pages: 378

Publisher: Bookouture

Available: Now.