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

Where The Dead Fall M.J Lee

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DI Tom Ridpath is an unusual main character for a crime series.

Separated from a wife who still loves and cares for him, missing his daughter, and recovering from cancer. He has a strange job. Having had months off with his illness he has been seconded to the Coroner’s Office, and is tasked with investigating deaths which are suspicious in more ways than just the common murders encountered in most books.

This has brought him into conflict with his colleagues on the Major Investigation Team of Greater Manchester Police in the past, but he is determined to prove he is fit to return to the team.

Keeping in the spirit of originality the story has a cracking opening scene. As Ridpath is driving home through the early evening rush on the motorway a naked man runs out in front of him. Ridpath stops in time but the man is hit and killed seconds later.

Amongst the horror of the accident Ridpath sees a man on the hard shoulder holding a gun, but he is gone in an instance and no sign of him is left behind, and nobody else saw him.

Sticking to his guns Ridpath closes the Motorway at its busiest time and suffers the wrath of the traffic police.

All this in the first few pages.

What follows is a great story as Ridpath tries to identify the mystery man, if he ever existed, and find out why he was chasing the naked man onto a busy motorway.

It’s not long before another death occurs and puts Manchester on the edge of a gang war.

Working as a Coroners Officer Ridpath tries to engage his old team but not everybody wants him back.

This is a great story. Ridpath is a great character and MJ Lee has a really good way of bringing the story to life.

Ridpath’s frustrations at being side lined are almost palpable. The scenes are vividly described as are the victims and perpetrators.

Can anybody stop Manchester erupting into violence, not if they don’t start working together.

This is a really good read. Roll on the next book in the Ridpath series

Pages: 344

Publisher: Canelo

Publishing date: 11thApril 2019

The Next Victim Helen H. Durrant

DCI Rachel King has a problem, she once had a fling with a man that would turn out to be one of the gangsters that runs Manchester. In fact, the fling is still a bit of a dirty secret as she still harbours feelings for him.

That itself is a problem. An even bigger problem is that his name has come up as a suspect in a murder investigation.

The first body to turn up is that of a gay man who has suffered a horrific death after apparently being tortured.

When King and her team start the investigations they follow the evidence that is left at the scene, but is it reliable or is somebody playing them.

When a second body is found it looks like it is linked to the first by location, but there is a totally different manner of death.

When a third body is found, in similar circumstances as the first, the team begin to think that the second body wasn’t connected after all, but are they right.

This is a complex story weaving numerous plot lines together in a way that the reader is left in no doubt as the difficulties facing the investigation team.

At the same time the reader follows the struggle in Kings personal life. Divorced from her husband, who now lives next door, and bringing up two teenage daughters, she has her dirty secret to consider during the investigation.

Does she tell her team, and her family, about the tryst with the gangster. Where will it leave her professionally, and what will it do to her family life.

I liked this book. The crime plot is original and compelling, but what really makes the story is the issues that surround King and her secret fling.

Pages: 195

Publishers: Joffe

Available now on Amazon

Where The Truth Lies M.J Lee

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The story starts  in 2008 with new constable, PC Tom Ridpath, taking part in a vehicle stop which leads to the arrest of a man who is wanted for the kidnap of a prostitute. When the man runs off Ridpath follows him to a lock-up unit where he is in for a nasty surprise.

Ten years later and Constable Ridpath is now probationary DI Redpath. Returning to work after a serious illness Ridpath is tasked to work as the Coroner’s Liaison Officer.

The job as the Coroners Officer is not one Ridpath wants but he is given very little choice by the Senior Officers of the Manchester MIT. Take it or take a job somewhere else. If he can stick it out without any health relapses, then he can return to MIT.

What he, the Coroner, and the MIT don’t realise is the first case he is asked to deal with will bring everybody into conflict.

A recent spate of murders has the MIT baffled. Somebody is taking vulnerable women of the streets and killing them in some horrific ways before dumping the bodies.

The conviction, of the man Ridpath caught in 2008, has been brought into doubt and the Coroner reopens an inquest into the death of the one person they charged him with murdering.

Ridpath is a pariah to his old colleagues when he acts on the Coroners requests. They see him as an outsider for  bringing doubt on the original investigation, but there is one young DS who starts to look on Ridpath as a voice of reason.

As the two investigations inevitably head for a head on collision a truly captivating story unfolds.

This is the first book I have read by M.J. Lee, and to be honest I cannot understand why I haven’t heard of him before.

This book had me drawn in from the beginning. The character Ridpath is flawed. Like most people that work in the Police he is target focused, to the point that his family come a distant second priority.  His wife is driven to distraction by his attitude towards his ongoing treatment, and check-ups, following his illness.

He is split between wanting to do the right thing by the Coroner and doing what his ex-colleagues expect, which will allow him back onto the Major Investigation Team.

The murders that take place in this book are brutal, but are written in such a way that the narrative cuts away just when it’s getting too bad. M. J Lee has struck the balance perfectly.

The crimes and the investigations are multi-layered but not beyond comprehension. In fact the story is woven together brilliantly, and at no time are there any of those “I don’t believe it” moments.

I really enjoyed this book. It’s another one that is listed as “Book 1” so I’m hoping it’s the beginning of a series. If it is, what a start!

I can’t wait to read what happens next, especially after the last chapters little cliff hanger.

Pages: 352

Publisher: Canelo

Available now.