The Bodies at Westgate Hall. Nick Louth

A love triangle.

Three people shot dead

A locked room mystrey

A suspect locked within a room within the locked room

Russian Oligarchs, and conspiracy theories

If that list is not enough to get you hooked maybe this book is not for you. It was definitely for me, what a stunning read.

DCI Craig Gillard is just getting ready for what he hopes to be a quite Christmas on call.

In the Surrey Millionaire belt, the richest of the rich, Alexander Volkov, is having a very noise, very bright, party which is annoying everybody in the neighbouring village.

When a patrol car is sent to see if they can bring an end to the noise they arrive just in time to witness the murder of three people locked in a huge library.

Two of the dead are Oligarchs and it doesn’t take long for the security forces to butt into Gillard’s investigation.

The investigation is run from Surrey Police’s putrid mobile incident room, which has been placed in the grounds of Volkov’s mansion, Westgate Hall

The locals hate the Russian, and his two children, the way they blatantly disregard the law, throwing money at any problem that arises and tearing around the countryside in their sports cars and utility vehicles.

The list of suspects range from the village council members to a Russian Government assassin. Gillard really has his work cut out.

As usual with Nick Louth’s books there are some brilliant characters. Alongside the recurring ones there are some truly brilliant ones. In particular there is Wolf, the marvellous comic Russian bodyguard learning English by watching Only Fools and Horses.

This book, just like the rest of the series, had me from the beginning. I started it on a Snowy Saturday morning and sat and read it all day. It really was a read from start to finish in one go.

I loved it, for the story, the characters, and the setting. Brilliant

Pages: 288. Publisher: Canelo Crime. Publishing date: 25th February 2021

Their Frozen Graves. Ruhi Choudhary

The second book in the Detective Mackenzie Price series.

The first book in this series, Our Daughters Bones was one of my favourite reads last year, and it ended on one hell of a cliff hanger.

This book starts where that one left off, with Price opening the door to the surprise of her life.

A thread that starts there runs through the book as a sub plot that was worthy of a book of its own.

At the same time as she’s dealing with that Price has to deal with one of the most original murder investigations I’ve come across for years.

Two bodies are found in melting ice, where a river meets a lake at a local beauty spot. Both women have died from stab wounds, and look so alike that the team speculates whether they are twins.

When one of women is recognised by a police officer, Mack (Mackenzie) and her partner go to talk to the husband, only to have a shock. The woman they thought was dead is at home ill, and yes, she does look a lot like the dead woman.

The post-mortem reveals further shocks as one of the women is found to have undergone cosmetic surgery to make her look like the other dead woman, and they both look like the woman that was ill at home.

The investigation leads the team to the dark web where somebody is putting adverts out for women who look similar to specific other women, and the people who answer adverts are going missing.

The story of the investigation is brilliant, and the backdrop of the book only enhances the story, and adds to the tension.

Lakemore, a town in Washington State was already run down, but it thrives on its college football team and the money brought in by the big games. But that team was wrecked during a previous investigation. Now there is unrest on the streets, and people blame the police for their latest downturn in fortunes, and the loss of their team

Outside of the town the huge wild woodlands, lakes, rivers, mountains, and strange communities, contrast the town and hold many secrets. A stunning and perfect setting for a crime series.

Just as the last book ended with a cliffhanger that had me waiting for this ones publication, Ruhi Choudhary has done it again. Now I’m desperately waiting for book 3

Pages: 381. Publisher: Bookouture. Available now

The Fine Art of Invisible Detection Robert Goddard

Where do I start with this one. The first half of the book is like two helix twisted together with the two main characters of the story spiralling around Japan, England and Iceland, chasing the same goal for different reasons until they come together to form an amateur partnership looking to bring down a shady global conglomerate.

Wada is an assistant to a Private Detective in Tokyo. When a woman comes to the office and says she needs somebody to go to London and pretend to be her Wada is an easy choice, as she is fluent in English.

The reason for the trip is to identify a mystery man ho might throw light on her husbands alleged suicide.

At the same time Nick, a teacher in London is about to find out the man he thought was his father, and who had died before Nick knew him, was not his father. A man who hung around with his mom, and her lesbian partner, in a group house for peace activists, appears to be his real father and he wants answers.

A man has told Nick he’ll meet him to give him information about his father, but he doesn’t turn up

Meanwhile Wada is also in London, to meet a man who says he has information on a man in a photo from the 70’s who will help in her quest. He doesn’t turn up either.

The same man, in both cases, has let two amateur sleuths down and set a chain of events in place that will uncover a plot that stretches across decades and continents.

This is a fantastic read. The main characters of Wada and Nick are perfect for this story.

Both are unassuming but tenacious. The two characters have their own story, and a long proportion of the book sees their paths crossing, and whilst both are aware of each other, and that they are looking for the same person, they don’t meet for a frustratingly long period. However when they do there is fireworks

A lot of stories come along with good plots which rely on improbable situations, that need the reader to suspend reality. In this case everything is not only probable, but also very, very believable

A great read. I just hope it’s not a standalone, I’d love to read more of Wada and Nick, and there’s an opening right in the last few lines that hints they’ll be back.

Pages: 384. Publisher: Bentham Press. Release date: March 2021

Salt Water Graves. B.R Spangler

I can’t believe so much happens in this book, and all in 276 pages.

Detective Casey White’s life is finally back on track, until the second page. She’s late, as she says not late as in for a meeting, late as in pregnant. She’s in love, with the father and they are about to move in together. He has a great job and is up for election to his old post.

Then the first body is found, and there’s a link to her boyfriend, Jericho Quinn. Coincidence?

Not when a second body is found which is also linked to him

Could it really be Jericho, the one person she has let into her life, the one person she really trusts, or is somebody trying to frame him, or undermine his run for Sheriff

So who can Casey trust.

Then things really start to unravel. If you haven’t read the first two books in the series the impact of the rest of the story might be a bit diluted, but without giving too much away to readers who have…..there is one hell of a twist in this story.

A twist that will have Casey reeling. The physical and mental trauma she goes through in this book are nothing compared to the emotional trauma she suffers.

Each of the books in this series end on a cliffhanger, but nothing before will compare to this one.

Spangler has a way of writing that combines the cosy, small town mystery, with the darkest of psychological thrillers.

The books are written in the first person with Casey White being the main narrator so the reader is aware of every thought, every doubt, and every emotion. It’s impossible to read these books and not feel empathy for her.

So when Spangler puts her through the mill, and he does, you go with her.

An excellent read in a wonderful series

Pages: 276. Publisher: Bookouture Publishing date: 14th December 2020

Force of Evil. Simon Michael

Every now and again a book comes along that could have been written just for you. For me that book was the first one in this series. Now, all of a sudden we have book six, Force of Evil, and like all of its predecessors it’s raised the bar again. It is stunning.

Charles Holborn is a London Barrister. A man from a strongly Jewish family who has mixed with the wrong people, not always his fault, since he was a child.

Born between the wars he worked as a Lighterman on the Thames at the start of the war, before joining The RAF when he was old enough to fight. He spent a lot of his youth and early manhood in the boxing gyms of 1940s London. Where he started to mix with some of London’s most notorious thugs.

Against the odds of his religion, his upbringing, and the people he has mixed with he gains his law degree, then faces the anti-Semitism which was rank amongst the Law Firms of the 50s and 60s. All of this is laid out in the first five books of the series which have been written around actual occurrences without rewriting history. In fact a lot of the characters in these books will be familiar to most readers, including the Kray’s

So all of that and I haven’t even mentioned this books plot.

Force of Evil see’s Holborne take on one of his most formidable foes yet. When he and a friend, Sloane, stumble across an innocuous incident on a rail siding it quickly escalates and leaves his friend in hospital with a fractured jaw. Sloane is a DS in the Met who has recently been transferred out of Vice, for being one of the only honest cops working in the squad, and is now working under a cloud of suspicion from his fellow officers.

The problem is, the more Charles try’s to find out how the man who hit Sloane got off Scotch free, the more interference Police Officers put in his way.

When another man is killed, and RAF Sergeant, who was looking into crime at a Ministry of Defence stores it starts to become apparent the two cases are intertwined.

There is a lot more to this story than just the investigation into theft form an RAF base. The story looks at the corruption that was rife in some parts of the Police in the 60’s. It looks at the dubious methods employed by some officers in gaining an arrest, and ensuring anybody they wanted out of the way could be sorted out by foul play.

It looks at the influence gangs had on the community, and the effect their “interference” could have even in places that should be sacrosanct.

And as usual there is the story of Charles’s private life. In a twist a lot of people will be familiar with Charles and his brother start to become increasingly worried about the behaviour of their parents.

Balancing his legal work, trying to do the right thing for his client, and trying to appease the gangland, whilst trying to stay in one piece, and on the right side of the law, is challenging for Charles. But it makes an absolutely brilliant story for us to read.

Pages: 404. Publisher: Sapere Available now.

American Sherlock. Kate Winkler Dawson

I had heard of Edward Oscar Heinrich, but in somewhat of an urban myth type of way.

I knew he was a real person, and his name seemed to crop up on the edges of research I had done whilst gaining Forensic Qualifications.

So when I saw this book was available to review I knew I was going to read it. Originally I was going to use it as a literacy pallet cleanser, reading a chapter between books. That went out of the window after the first chapter

If you don’t know who Edward Oscar Heinrich is imagine a mad Professor who approached the Police and said science can solve crimes. Now think this happened in the early 1930’s

A lot of his work has gone unrecorded for years, after some of his methods were called into doubt.

But after his death in 1953, at the age of 72, all of his files and equipment went into storage. In the late 1960s the collection was bequeathed to the University of California where it lay untouched for nearly 50 years until the author requested permission to look inside the boxes, and what a treasure chest she opened

Heinrich was integral in some of the most high profile cases of the 20’s, 30s and 40’s

The first case that brought him to attention was when he assisted police in Portland with a crime that had gone wrong. 3 men had tried to stop a train and rob it, a bit like the UK’s Great Train Robbery, only this one went very wrong

The men only succeeded in blowing the train up and killing 4 people.

Heinrich used science to establish what had happened and helped catch the perpetrators.

And so was born Forensic Scene Examination, and Forensic Science in American Law enforcement.

This book looks at some of his more notable, and in some cases infamous, cases.

This is more than a book, it’s a gateway, via Google, into some brilliant reading.

Whether you are a True Crime fan, a Crime Fiction fan, or just somebody who enjoys a good book, you will live this.

But be prepared, it’s going to lead to a lot of reading outside of the covers of this book.

Pages: 359. Publisher U.K: Icon Books. 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

Containment. Nick Thacker

A British family on holiday in Canada accidentally cross the boarder into the US. Picked up by a local cop for illegal entry they end up in a small town police station. Days later the adults are dead.

At first it seems they have picked up a deadly virus. But soon it becomes apparent that there’s more to it than that.

Internal politics in the US Immigration and Customs sees Director Derek Biggs need to find an outside source to help him get to the source of the contamination

Enter ex US Army, and ex Boston Police Officer, Jacob Parker, a loner living a life of solitude in rural Massachusetts.

Parker puts together a small team, Beau Shaw a serving Boston Detective, and a virus expert Eliza Mendoza.

As more people become affected by the virus the team become more suspicious as the breakouts are connected to remote immigration centres across America

Is this a naturally occurring disease, or is it some kind of terrorist attack.

The race is on, not everybody is in this to help, not everybody is playing the team game, but who is the odd one out.

A great modern day story that really does not need any big leaps of faith from the reader.

The relationship between the team and the government, the internal relationships in the team, are all part of the suspense.

Will the team find the source of the infections, and is there somebody who is trying to bring chaos to America, or is it a more personal target.

Or, is it just another virulent disease that could bring the country to its knees. Sound Familiar?

A good suspenseful read that had me enthralled for a whole weekend, and then had my mind racing for weeks.

Pages: 315. Publisher: Bookouture, Available now.

One Left Alive. Helen Phifer

Sometimes a book comes along that makes you just sit down and read, from cover to cover, with as few breaks as you can manage. This is one of those books.

I’ve tried to analyse why I enjoyed this book so much.

Yes it has a cracking story.

Yes the characters are good, easy to engage with, and very likeable.

But, I can say that about a lot of books that haven’t hooked me like this one did.

So without being too analytical, the only thing I can put it down to is, this is a bloody good story.

Morgan Brookes is a young PC on her first independent patrol. A call comes in and she is first on the scene at an “apparent” suicide, finding a teenage boy trying to support the weight of a woman who has hung herself from a tree.

The usually grumpy DS Ben Matthews arrives at the scene and takes over as SIO. He’s as much impressed with Morgan’s efforts as he is annoyed with an experienced PC‘s, and when his boss says he can take one of the uniform officers into a temporary CID post he makes the unusual decision to give Morgan a chance.

This, I think, is where the story finds that edge that had me hooked. As much as Morgan wants the CID job it brings with it challenges. She hasn’t had years of experience to become acclimatised to the worst of crime scenes. She still hasn’t really got the street smarts that let her judge the character of some of the people she meets, and of course, she meets some hostility from one of the uniform officers who believes he should have got the post.

As the investigation goes on, one thing that does become apparent, is that Morgan has a good analytical brain. She is tenacious in tracking down what she thinks is important, even if others dismiss her ideas.

The suicide turns out to be murder, but it’s not the only one. The story that follows could be straight off the front page of the papers. In fact strangely enough there has been something similar in the news over the last two weekends.

There is no “shark infested custard”, no illogical twists, no unrealistic moments, just a story that flows really well.

I always write that the books I enjoy most have to be realistic, and some will say that a PC would never be given the opportunity Morgan is given, but they would. That leads me to another thought.

Who will be the first author to write a story about the new breed of detective being employed by the police, the Police Civilian Investigator.

Whoever it is they will have to cover all of the issues Morgan faces in this book, but with absolutely zero Policing experience.

I loved this book, all I can hope for is it’s the beginning of a long series. The characters deserve it.

Pages: 332. Publishers: Bookouture. Published: 1st September 2020