The Lost Children Helen Phifer

 

 

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I jotted something down in my note book really early into reading this book.

Refreshing, an author who knows current police procedures and terminology”

 That little note reflects why this crime thriller stands out from many of the others on the shelves today.

That and the fact that there is a full cast of excellent characters surrounding DI Lucy Harwin, work colleagues, family, and even the victims and their families, all add to the eclectic mix of people she encounters on a daily basis.

The opening to the book is going to be familiar to some readers. There have been a few books partially set in the care homes and institutes of the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s recently.

And why not, every year there seems to be another case of historic abuse associated with these establishments.

This book stands out though. Helen Phifer has written a thriller in more ways than one.

The main protagonist, DI Lucy Harwin, is a little bit out there. Dyed Red hair, tattoo’s, and an attitude. Divorced from her husband, estranged from her teenage daughter, and living alone. On forced gardening leave following her involvement in a tragic serious incident, we meet Lucy at her counselling on the day she is supposed to start back to work.

Unfortunately for her a gruesome murder is waiting for her on her return to the usually quiet seaside town of Brooklyn Bay. What a setting for a book, once a prosperous seaside resort, now struggling with the recession and lack of holiday makers.

Lucy has a good team, some of which we get to meet in detail, but others who play interesting little bit parts, hopefully they will start to build in future books.

Lucy’s mainstay, and probably her best friend is DS Mattie Jackson. They have one of those relationships where they both know a little bit too much about each other, care a little bit too much for each other, and act like an old married couple without actually ever being in a relationship.

As the murders start to stack up, the once happy seaside town starts to look like a dangerous place to live.

Lucy and Mattie, and their team, start to link the crimes. At about the same time the reader will start to link two or three characters with being the murder.

Helen has written this book teasingly well. Yes, I knew who the killer was early, well I thought I did. It was always one of the three people but gentle little shifts in the story had me moving from one to the another regularly. If I’m honest I didn’t actually positively identify who was responsible for the crimes until the last couple of chapters.

I recently wrote a blog about Angela Marsons DI Kim Stone books.

In that I said you don’t always need a cliff-hanger finish to make you eagerly await the next book in the series. The best series are those which have a cast of characters that make you want to read about them again. To look forward to seeing how they have fared since the last book.

That’s exactly how I felt at the end of this book. I loved the story. I loved the characters. I loved the setting. I loved the fact that it was written by somebody who works in the police, see the letter from Helen at the End of the Book, so all of the phrases and techniques are current and accurate. Most of all I’m looking forward to meeting Lucy, Mattie, Col and the rest of the Major Investigation team; Jack and Amanda the CSI team, and most of all the glamorous Pathologist Dr Catherine Maxwell again in future books. There is so much potential for these characters that each could take a turn at being the main protagonist, and the series would still move forward nicely.

I have a list, on my computer, that I call UK Lady Killer Writers. I look forward to each of their books coming out.

Angela Marsons

Marri Hannah

Marni Riches

Robert Galbraith (I know but we know who she is)

There is now a new name on the list. Helen Phifer.

What a night that would be. Sat around a table with  that little cohort drinking Red Wine or Jack Daniels, and nothing to do but talk about crime thriller plots.

An Honest Man Simon Micheal

 

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An Honest Man Simon Michael

Early 1960’s London.

A diamond heist and the death of a woman start this story. What follows is a brilliant story that has all the classic ingredients of a one set in this era,

Moral dilemmas

Family dilemmas

Dodgy policing

Sex and gangland violence.

If that isn’t enough to get you reading, this is a book which I would have read in one sitting if time would have allowed it.

Criminal Defence Barrister Charles Holborne is back. Months after being cleared of killing his estranged wife, he is now being ostracised by his profession. Rumours are abounding that he was responsible for her death even though he was never charged.

Now working in another firm Charles’s money is running low and he is getting no work. No solicitors are commissioning him, and he’s living off scraps given by the court.

After a chance meeting with a Legal Clerk from his old firm Charles gets retained to defend a solicitor who is being accused of aiding criminals.

From the beginning, it looks like the Solicitor has been hassled by the police and that he has been framed by them in revenge for them losing an earlier case.

The deeper into the case Charles looks the more convinced he is of the Solicitors innocence.

Meanwhile Charles’s personal life is taking its toll. His father is taken seriously ill and this affects Charles emotionally as well as financially.

When the case comes to Court Charles is not only faced with convincing the Jury of his client’s innocence, but also has to battle the prejudices of his legal colleagues who are still convinced he had a hand in the death of his wife.

Simon Michael has written a terrific story that could only be based in 1960’s London. Charles Holborne is from a Jewish Family and had to change his name so that the prejudice legal profession would take him seriously.

The crime in the story is simple and would have been so much more convoluted in the modern day.

Police “tactics” in the 60’s and 70’s lend themselves to this type of story.

Probably the most telling of all, is the code of conduct between the criminal fraternity which makes this era, the only time this story could have been set in.

I have given testimony in many Court Cases, mainly as an expert witness, so I have experience of watching a case unwind. I have also been privy to some of the pre case meetings, and sat in whilst legal team have argued amongst themselves about the best way to advance a case.

Simon Michael tells the most realistic story from within the Courtroom that I have ever read. This book had me transported back into the Court.

Best of all. I didn’t see the end coming.

I cannot wait for the next book in the series, because there must be one, this one finishes on a “oh good god” cliff hanger.

My Review of the first in the series, The Brief is found at the link below

https://nigeladamsbookworm.wordpress.com/2016/02/15/the-brief-simon-michael/

 

Everything but the Truth Gillian McAllistar

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Everything but the truth    Gillian McAllister

 

This is one of those books that has you shouting at the main protagonist, Rachel, at the top of your voice.

Just like watching a film when the young girl enters the dark lodge, in the middle of the woods, then decides to explore the basement, without a torch.

It’s been a long time since I got so immersed in a story that I shouted out loud, but I did, more than once, in this one.

Rachel is an ex-doctor who is now working as a researcher. She is pregnant and living with the man of her dreams, Jack, the big, bearded, Rugby player from the wilds of Scotland.

She hasn’t known Jack that long but moved in with him after becoming pregnant.

Is Jack too god to be true, Hmmm.

Rachel also suffers from memories, not quite the dreaded flashbacks of many recent books, about a young lad who she diagnosed and treated for cancer. The memories haunt her and she suffers silently as this part of the story unfolds whilst it intertwines with the main thread.

The main thread is one for the psychological thriller fan.

Rachel and Jack are living in Newcastle, where Jack is a journalist. All is going well until one morning Jacks IPad lights up in the middle of the night. Rachel picks it up and reads the message as its displayed on the lock screen. That’s when things begin to change.

Rachel has never visited Jacks Scottish home till this point, but she’s about to.

When she arrives, she realises that she doesn’t really know that much about Jack.

Why do his friends appear to be keeping a secret?

Why does Jack seem to have a nickname which occasionally slips out, but then everybody denies or makes up a bad excuse for?

As Rachel spends more time in the Scottish village the more warry she becomes, what is the secret, or is it just Baby-brain paranoia, because it wouldn’t be the first-time Rachel has fixated on a boyfriend and become paranoid about his behaviour and fidelity.

When in Scotland Rachel and Jack stay with his family, and they’re strange. In fact, everything about Jacks life in Scotland starts to look strange to Rachel.

Starting this book I was looking for reasons as to why Rachel would behave like she does, could she really be that naïve.

Then I went through a stage when I thought, it’s everybody else that’s normal and Rachel is just being paranoid and it’s her with something to hide.

These swings went on all the way to the end. Are we reading through the eyes of a victim, listening to her legitimate worries, or are we reading through the eyes of a paranoid young lady who is being protected from herself by people who care for her?

Is it Jack with the secret, or is it Rachel, or could it be both?

You’ll have to read this book to find out.

Some books can be a bit of bubble-gum for the brain. Some can take your brain for a ride in a tumble drier.

This one will take you for a spin.

If you work out the finish before you get there, well done, I didn’t

The Cleaner Elisabeth Herrmann

 

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What I love about e-books is that they allow me to find Authors from around the world and read their stories. Stories I would never have heard of, or had just been lucky to come across in an Airport bookshop.

The Cleaner by Elisabeth Herrmann came up as a book suggestion following another book I had read. A quick look at Amazon, and Herrmann’s own website, revealed that she is a well published novelist in Germany with many German Edition copies of her books available in the UK, but I think this is the first English copy.

That must change.

This is the story of a child victim of the Cold War, and the adult she became fighting to find out the truth.

1985 and a child is taken to a government run children’s home in East Germany, quickly swallowed by the system she suffers years of institutional abuse, which she extends into her private life as she gets older.

Her name is Judith Kepler, and after struggling with drugs, and self-harming, she gradually gets herself together and becomes a cleaner in the reunified Germany. Her specialism is cleaning crime scenes, moving in after the police and forensic teams have finished an investigation and making the building habitable again.

One such scene see’s Judith cleaning up after the murder of a woman, but she realises that she has a link with this woman and wants to know more.

Her investigations lead her into contact with agents working for the German Security forces, old and new. There is a secret out there that somebody doesn’t want discovering. Old allies are now on different sides, and old allegiances have changed, but this secret has to remain buried.

Who is the woman that was killed in the flat, the investigation leads Judith across Germany and Sweden. Judith’s life is put into danger but it only makes her put more effort into finding the truth.

Why?

Because until she finds out the truth, she won’t know who she is, why she was abandoned in the children’s home. One thing is for sure, what she knows now is false.

The book starts in 1985 and stays there for just the first chapter, moving on to the modern day the reader follows Judith’s actions as she fights to find out the truth. An ordinary woman battling against the power of agents from agencies with a profound interest in keeping the secret in the past.

As she digs deeper she begins to uncover a story of treason and double cross. She needs to know what would have set the wheels in motion that left her in the home; and what was worth so much, that so much subterfuge was used to hide the past

The characters in this book are good, and believable. Judith is one of us, and acting like one of us. She has no secret skills, she is no super hero, she is just getting on with life when things take a vicious turn. You will love her.

People who have read Marnie Riches’ the Girl Who……… series will love this book.

People who have read Ludlum at his best will love this book.

People who are looking for a new thriller author in the UK, this is your woman.

Most of all, anybody who likes a good story, will love this book.

 

The Missing Ones Patricia Gibney

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The Missing Ones        Patricia Gibney

Every now and then something good comes into your life.

This happened to me the other day. I requested a copy of The Missing Ones, a debut novel by Patricia Gibney.

The book was downloaded to my Kindle and I started reading what has turned out to be an absolutely, brilliant book.

Let me introduce you to the main character.

Detective Inspector Lottie Parker.

She is 43 years old, a widow who is struggling to bring up three teenage children, struggling with the death of her husband, struggling with alcohol, and struggling with the arrogance and ignorance of her Senior Officer Superintendent Corrigan.

I think it’s fair to say life a struggle for Lottie.

But Don’t feel sorry for her, all those things just add to a character you can’t help falling in love with. Whilst she’s battling just to keep her life on track, she is a good Police Officer in the midlands of Ireland, and this book could not have been set anywhere else.

There is a murder to investigate, historic child abuse by the clergy, corruption within the town council, good priests, bad priests, nice cops and functioning cops, all interwoven into one fantastic story.

The story is told with Lottie as the main protagonist. She is called to the murder of a 51-year-old woman in a Cathedral.  This is the first of a series off killings which take place over New Year 2014, in the middle of a snowy winter.

Anonymous flashback chapters tell the story of horrific happenings at St Angela’s Children’s Home in 1974. Good luck guessing who is having the flashbacks, it kept me intrigued up to the end.

Are the killings in 2014 connected with the happenings, of 40 years ago, in the now abandoned home?

Can Lottie solve the murders?

She will have to ignore her boss, rely on her team, and hope she can. Why? Because nobody is safe until the killer is caught. Nobody.

I said that every now and then something good comes into your life. Well in this case two things have.

Detective Inspector Lottie Parker and her team; and the author Patricia Gibney who has written a brilliant page turner of a Crime Thriller.

Let’s Hope we hear a lot more from both of them.

Witness Caroline Mitchell

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Another original concept for a psychological thriller by this brilliant writer.

I sat down with this book early on New Year’s Eve afternoon, and put it down when the fireworks were going off outside.

What a way to end a year.

This story has, at its core, an abusive relationship where a man keeps control over his girlfriend by demeaning her as a person; physically, emotionally and mentally.

The relationship ended 10 years ago and is recalled in a journal kept by the main protagonist Rebecca. Her nightmare came to an end when her abusive partner Solomon was jailed for a serious crime.

Becky, as she is now known, has started a new life in the wilds of the Welsh Countryside. She is married to a vet and has a lovely daughter.

Everything is good in Becky’s life until she finds a strange phone and starts getting texts on it. Solomon is out of prison and wants revenge for his ten years behind bars.

Becky is to witness a crime for every year he has been in prison. She cannot tell anybody about the crimes, she cannot tell the Police she has witnessed the crimes, and worse of all, she must choose the victims of the crime.

At first the crimes are petty but each is more severe and people start to get hurt.

This book explores the abusive relationship in 2005. It describes how Solomon targets a weak Rebecca at a time when she is most vulnerable, and how he uses his personality and charisma to embed himself in her life.

The parts of the book set in 2015 explore some moral dilemmas that are frighteningly realistic. This book explores how a person can choose which of the people they love to suffer over another. Would it be easier to substitute strangers for loved ones……….Could you use the Witness tasks to extract revenge???

Who will be the victim of the ultimate crime.

The story is great, it’s original, and it had me hooked from start to finish.

The writing is excellent. There was no point in this book where I “skipped over” any passages.

Save the best till last, as the saying goes. Well this was the last book I read in 2016, and I can’t think of a better read all year.

The Devils Prayer Luke Gracias

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The Devil’s Prayer        Luke Gracias

Stephen King meets Dan Brown, with a sprinkling of C.J. Sansom, in one of the best books I’ve read this year.

What genre is it?

Horror? Psychological thriller? Historical fiction?

Mix them up and you will end up with The Devils Prayer.

The book starts with a Nun running through secret passages, between an isolated convent and a hidden tomb, in an isolated area of Spain.

A short time later the Nun kills herself in front of 1000’s of people in a public square.

Meanwhile, Siobhan, a young journalist in Australia, has not seen her mother for 6 years. A knock on the door from the local police officer brings the news she has hoped never to hear. Her Mom is dead.

Siobhan makes a trip to Spain to see her mother’s grave, and find some closure into why she disappeared. She finds out her mother was the Nun who committed suicide so publicly and uncovers a journal her mother had left hidden for her.

The journal, called The Confession, describes a sequence of events starting in the mid 1990’s; including a horrific crime and the ramifications it has on the victim and its perpetrators, and explains what Denise has been doing since she went missing.

The Confession tells the story of Denise, a successful newsreader, a single mother living with her daughter, Siobhan, and her mother Edith. Following an accident in which Siobhan nearly drowns Denise’s life begins to change.

Some years later Denise gives birth to a second daughter Jess; but between the near drowning of Siobhan and the birth of Jess things have changed drastically for Denise.

Eventually Denise begins to realise that she is central to events which she now has no control over. When she is approached by a mysterious Monk, who offers her help to find a closure and put things right, she has no choice but to leave and start a journey through libraries full of ancient scripture in an attempt to save those nearest her.

Disguised as a Nun with a vow of Silence she is taken around Europe to read and translate ancient scriptures ultimately trying to find the lost pages of an ancient book. The pages are The Devils Prayer.

 This book is beautifully written and had me hooked from the start. I read it in 2 days and was left wanting more.

Luke Gracias eases between the two main protagonists as the main story is told with Siobhan, taking the lead character, reading her mother’s Confession, with Denise being the main character.

Gracias takes the reader through; family trauma, a horrific crime, and betrayal in Australia; to historical artefacts, ancient documents, Monasteries and Convents in Europe.

As the book raced towards the end I began to find myself thinking, “there’s not enough pages left to finish this story” I was right.

What a cliff-hanger.

Mr Gracias please don’t make us wait long till the next one please.