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

Little Bones N.V. Peacock

I’ve not read a book like this for a long time. It brings a whole new level to the psychological thriller genre.

I was convinced on so many occasions that I knew who was behind the crimes in his story, and every time I thought I had it, Peacock wrote a breath stopping scene that convinced me I was right; right up until the last second when I was proven wrong.

It is brilliantly written.

Cherrie has a live in boyfriend who is the father of her only child Robin.

At the end of the day Cherrie looks like any other mother in a modern, unmarried, family relationship, and although she’s in a retail job that’s under threat, all is well in her life.

Her new life that is.

Because nobody, not even her boyfriend are aware of her past.

So when a podcaster outs her as Leigh-Ann Hendy, the daughter of serial killer William Hendy, her life is turned upside down.

Not least because the reason she’s outed is because a young boy has gone missing from her neighbourhood. A young boy much like the ones her father killed, the ones he kidnapped and killed with her help.

Just when she is battling with the fact that everybody is going to know who she is, her son is taken. Is it an act of revenge against her, is it somebody who is playing out her fathers crimes, if you work it out before the reveal you are better than me.

This book is written from a unique point of view. Cherrie is the main character, she is a modern day victim, who was previously a perpetrator. The story s not just told through her eyes, it’s told through her thoughts, and not all of them make comfortable reading, but they do make compelling reading.

I have to say I’ve seen mixed reviews on this book. I’m not going to sit on the fence, I thought it was absolutely brilliant.

Publishers: Avon

Pages: 400

Publishing date: 31st October 2020

Somebody’s Daughter. Carol Wyer

This is one of those blogs I write with a bit of trepidation.

The thing is I love the series. I love the tribulations that, the now DCI, Natalie Ward has been through, not just professionally but in her personal life.

So why do I write in trepidation, because this is the last in the series for a while whilst Carol Wyer concentrates on a new series, which by the way is brilliant.

So what can you expect from Somebody’s Daughter.

A fantastic story? Definitely

Good Characters? Most definitely

A defining end to suggest the end of the series? Most definitely NOT. The door is certainly left open for Natalie to return.

Yes it is the latest in a series, but this book can easily be read as a stand-alone, in fact it’s almost a fresh start for the main character as she has recently been promoted and is now Detective Chief Inspector Natalie Ward.

The star of this book is the crime and the victims. I try to never give spoilers and this all happens in the first few chapters so I’m not giving much away. Two young girls who fall for the wrong man, a drug addict who grooms girls, then forces them into prostitution to feed his habit, are murdered.

The investigation team is led by the newly promoted DI Lucy Carmichael, but with so many possible strands to the investigation where does she start. Is this case too big for the new boss.

The story looks at, family relations, bullying, grooming, sex work, drug taking, and that’s just the crime.

Then it looks at the problems caused by new dynamics. Lucy’s new dynamic of being the team leader and dealing with the petty jealousies of some subordinates, whilst worrying about what her superiors think.

Natalie’s new dynamic of being the DCI with a less hands on approach whilst mentoring Lucy through being in charge of her first major investigation. All the time dealing with her new dynamic at home.

The way Carol Wyer keeps it real has always let me enjoy her books more than most others.

So, not the end for Natalie Ward, just a break for a while.

I’m already looking forward to see how Carol Wyer reintroduces her. How long it will be till she come back, I don’t know, but it can’t come soon enough.

Pages: 329
Publisher: Bookouture
Publishing Date: 9th July 2020

THE INNOCENT GIRLS. B.R Spangler

The Innocent Girls. B.R Spangler

Earlier this year I read the first book in the Detective Jane Casey series, and since then I’ve been desperate to get my hands on the next one. So when The Innocent Girls dropped into my inbox I couldn’t wait to get started, and I wasn’t disappointed, what a cracking book.

Jane is now a permanent fixture in Outer Banks North Carolina. The ex big city cop decided to stay as she’s convinced she is getting closer to finding her missing daughter Hannah. She’s also fallen for Ex sheriff Jericho Flynn and is enjoying life as a small town cop, life is ticking along quite nicely

Then a 13 year old girl witnesses the vicious murder of her parents in a motor home, but after she escapes she runs off to a cult like church without reporting the murder to the police.

When the bodies are discovered Casey’s team start to investigate. One of the bodies has a strange pattern carved into their chest and various theories take the team down different avenues.

When a second murder scene is found, with more carvings on the body, the team also realise another young girl is missing.

The two cases have to be connected and Casey soon makes a connection to a strange Cult-Preacher and his pop-up church.

What follows is an investigation into a series of murders that is intriguing in its complexity.

Murders carried out in a vicious manner, mysterious post mortem wounds inflicted on the bodies, links to children in the families, who never seem to be hurt, and as the team try to make sense of it the murders get a bit too close to home.

The story is brilliant. It’s just complex enough to keep you guessing without crossing into the realms of improbability.

The story is made all the better by the team that Casey is  building around her, professionally and in her personal life. There are some great characters that are going to be fun to watch develop.

This series has started out with two of the most addictive stories I’ve read for a long time , the very definition of “ page-turners” I really am excited to read what comes next.

Publisher: Bookouture

Publishing Date: 3rd September 2020

THE SILENT DOLLS. Rita Herron

The Silent Dolls Rita Herron

Rita Herron is a new author to me, but she shot straight to the top of my list of must read authors after reading this book.

But it was so nearly a different story. The first chapter in this book sets a scene that makes it seem like this book is going to be like a rural Lethal Weapon with the main character being a female Riggs. How wrong was I.

Thank god I went past that chapter because this turned out to be the best US crime book I’ve read for a very long time.

If you like CJ Box and his Joe Pickett books for their settings you’ll love this book, set in the woods and mountains of the Appalachian Trail in Georgia

The main character, Detective Ellie Reeves, is scared of the dark. Why? Because she got lost in the woods on the Appalachian Trail when she was very young.

Now she’s a detective in Bluff County, the home of the starting point for the trail. So when a little girl goes missing it’s up to Ellie to look for her. What she uncovers during the investigation will send ripples all along the trail, and will have consequences close to home.

The girl that goes missing is not the first, but because the perpetrator has been moving along the trail nobody has put together the spasmodic disappearance of young girls in different jurisdictions, and it takes FBI agent Derrick Fox to highlight the link to Ellie.

The problem is Fox thinks two people close to Ellie, her father and a close friend, might be prime suspects.

This is a great story, set in rural, small town, America. It has everything to combine a great crime thriller with an great psychological thriller. A hunt for a missing child in the wild landscape is made harder by the approach of an in coming winter storm, a brilliant use of the occasional local radio weather reports really adds to the tension.

Ellie is a great character, amongst a cast of equally good bit part players, who hopefully will make appearances in future books.

Will there be future books, I hope so. This is billed as the first in a series, and it does end on a hell of a cliff hanger.

Pages: 366

Publishers: Bookouture

Publishing date U.K. 17th July 2020

Our Daughters Bones. RUHI CHOUDHARY

When she was 12 years old Mackenzie Price came home to find her mother had killed her abusive husband. Together they buried him in the woods.

Price is a fantastic character. Stuck in a prison cell created by her own mind, a Psychological Faraday Cage that refuses to allow her happiness, she suffers constant flashbacks of her childhood, and the abuse her mother suffered before her fathers death.

When the discovery of a body takes her deep into the woods close to her fathers shallow grave she’s worried that the crime will be uncovered and that her life and career will be ruined.

But it’s not her father, it’s the body of Erica, a girl that’s been missing for a year. The high school princes daughter of a rich family there have been posters of her up around the city since she disappeared. Everybody knows her face.

At the same time her body is discovered her Best Friend Abby goes missing, the daughter of a single mother, a mother who works as a waitress in a local strip club, she doesn’t get anywhere near the attention that Erica did.

That annoys Mackenzie, what annoys her even more is she is convinced the two cases are linked, but the senior officers in her department seem determined to keep the two investigations separate, concentrating the majority of their efforts on a girl that’s been dead for a year, instead of on a girl that’s only just gone missing and could still be alive.

What’s more Mackenzies only real friend in the Department, Nick, who is leading Erica’s murder investigation is being alienated by her, and now he’s the only one who seems to be thinking along the same lines as her. Eventually they will have to work together but at what cost.

This is a very simplistic outline of the start of a brilliantly complex plot that had me hooked from the start.

As the story expands, and Mackenzie’s story unfolds, her character becomes addictive. Emotional on the inside but steely on the out, she won’t allow herself stimulants like coffee, or cigarettes. Yet she ploughs through the day fuelled by little but fresh air. It has to take its tole.

Not only has Ruhi Choudhary created, a great character she has created a great scene, a fictional city on the brink of despondency. As she says, it’s a city people are escaping from more than they are being attracted to. Hopefully it’s a Canvas for her to paint many more pictures on as we see Mackenzie fight her demons as much as the city’s crime.

Without doubt she is now one of my must read authors, and I can’t wait to see what happens next.

Pages: 409
Publishers: Bookouture
Publishing Date UK: 19th August 2020

DEAD PERFECT. NOELLE HOLTEN

Dead Perfect. Noelle Holten

The third book in the Detective Constable Maggie Jamieson series.

Maggie is one of those cops that gets things done, in her own way, and sometimes to the detriment of her relationship with her colleagues, and her friends. She rubs people up the wrong way most of the time but she gets things done. So basically she is what we all want to be. She says it as it is, ignores advice, and ploughs her own farrow.

But she is fiercely protective of her few friends, and one of those friends is Criminal Psychologist Kate Maloney. Kate is another anomaly from the norm, an Irish Goth who specialises in Criminal Profiling. She’s also one of my favourite fictional characters.

So when when a body is found that is dressed, and made-up, to look like Dr Kate, Maggie is both scared that her friend is in danger, and determined to solve the murder.

It’s not until a second body, dressed and made-up, in the same way turns up that people that other people, including Kate, start to share Maggie’s concerns

What follows isn’t just a crime thriller, or a police procedural, it’s a cracking psychological thriller.

Noelle Holten has a way of writing that makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. The suspense she builds is enough to have me turning the pages well into the night, in fact her books are the very definition of “I couldn’t put it down”

Then there’s what is becoming her trade mark. The last page twist, the last page cliff hanger.

Just when you think the story is ending, and you turn the last page. WHAM!!!

She smacks you in the face and hooks you into the next book.

Absolutely Brilliant.

This book isn’t out until October, so if you haven’t read the first two, Dead Inside and Dead Wrong, you have time. Believe me you won’t be disappointed

Pages: 400
Publishers: One More Chapter
Publishing date: 16th October 2020.

BURIED ANGELS. PATRICIA GIBNEY

Buried Angels. Patricia Gibney

I always look forward to the release of the next Lottie Parker book. Set in the midlands of Ireland there’s always that feeling of a cross over between a big city and small village. The crimes are always big, and complex. The issues raised are always quite personal, whether it’s for the victims, perpetrators, witnesses, or the investigation team. In fact Patricia Gibney writes about the personal tortures better than just about everybody else.

This story starts with one of those personal tortures, a family conflict. A young woman is renovating a house left to her husband. When she breaks through a wall, into a boarded off alcove, she finds a skull, and she’s convinced it’s human. Her husband disagrees, and convinces her it’s a toy and that she shouldn’t call the police.

Meanwhile two boys are playing with a drone over a quiet railway line. When they spot something on the camera they soon realise it’s a body. When the police arrive they find it’s a headless body that has been frozen.

As more body parts start to be discovered the team find out that they are trying to put more than 1 jigsaw back together.

What starts of with a skeletal skull and a frozen torso soon escalates. Although the body parts are old somebody must be responsible for dumping the frozen torso, and other bits as they start to be discovered. It doesn’t matter when the murders took place, somebody today is moving things around. Why now.

Another thing Patricia Gibney is really good at is making complex plots with relatively small pools of characters. With crimes happening in a small town this has to be the case. There is not so much 6 degrees of separation as 2 or 3, and it works brilliantly. The way she weaves the strand of the plot you never really know what’s coming next. Revelations lead to revelations. Relationships are normal except when you least expect it.

Her biggest skill is always making you think. Where did that come from, followed quickly by, how did I not see that coming.

Everything works, everything is realistic, and just like the body jigsaws in this book, all the pieces fit together and you sit back and think, what an amazing picture that has painted.

Can you tell I loved this book.

Yes it’s book 8 in a series.
Yes it can be read as a stand-alone
Yes you should read the other 7, and if this is your first Lottie Parker book I’m pretty sure you’ll be getting your hands on them.

Pages: 451
Publishers: Bookouture
Available now.

Somebody’s Daughter. Carol Wyer

Somebody’s Daughter. Carol Wyer

In about 6 weeks I will be taking part in the blog tour for the publication of SOMEBODY’S DAUGHTER by Carol Wyer, but having just finished it I thought I’d do quick, short, review to let people know just how good it is.

Yes it is the latest in a series but this book can easily be read as a stand-alone, in fact it’s almost a fresh start for the main character as she has recently been promoted and is now Detective Chief Inspector Natalie Ward.

The star of this book is the crime and the victims. I try to never give spoilers and this all happens in the first few chapters so I’m not giving much away. Two young girls who fall for the wrong man, a drug addict who grooms girls, then forces them into prostitution to feed his habit, are murdered.

The investigation team is led by the newly promoted DI Lucy Carmichael, but with so many possible strands to the investigation where does she start. Is this case too big for the new boss.

The story looks at, family relations, bullying, grooming, sex work, drug taking, and that’s just the crime.

Then it looks at the problems caused by new dynamics. Lucy’s new dynamic of being the team leader and dealing with the petty jealousies of some subordinates, whilst worrying about what her superiors think.

Natalie’s new dynamic of being the DCI with a less hands on approach whilst mentoring Lucy through being in charge of her first major investigation. All the time dealing with her new dynamic at home.

The way Carol Wyer keeps it real has always let me enjoy her books more than most others.

Pages: 329
Publisher: Bookouture
Publishing Date: 9th July 2020

Waters Edge. Gregg Olsen

Waters Edge.   Greg Olsen

This is the second book in the Detective Megan Carpenter series, and having just read the first, Snow Creek, I can say I thoroughly enjoyed it.  The problem is I don’t think it would read so well as a stand-alone story. A lot of the plot is a continued thread from the first book, and is Megan’s back story told in back-flashes or from Megan listening to recordings that were made when she was in therapy.

She was in therapy because Megan, hasn’t always been Megan. It’s an identity she has adopted because of the infamy of her previous self.

Her back story is full of Kidnap, subterfuge, and murders, lots of murders

With all of this the main crime in the story almost plays second fiddle, which is a shame because the plot, and the present day characters are really good.

Working as a Detective in a sleepy town, just outside Seattle Megan enjoys a certain anonymity but there is one person that knows all about her past, her boss the Sheriff, he likes her and is prepared to give her the lead in most cases, so when a body is found in a secluded cove Megan is sent to begin the investigation, but she has to take the “Barbie Doll” new reserve deputy, Ronnie, with her.

At first Megan doesn’t like Ronnie but she slowly starts to grow on her and the pair make quite the team, not so much good-cop-bad-cop more, good-hard-nosed-cop, and young-flutter-your-eyelids cop.

The dead body leads to a murder investigation which triggered more memories for Megan and at times she becomes unfocused, which nearly ends in tragic consequences.

The story is great, the book is great, the series is going to be brilliant.

I started by saying it does not work as a stand-alone story, I stick by that, but only because I think the reader would be missing out by not reading the first in the series.

Pages: 315

Publisher: Bookouture

Publishing date: 28th May 2020