Twisted Lies. Angela Marsons

It must be hard coming up with inspirations for new stories in a long running series but Angela Marsons just keeps raising the bar and in Twisted Lies she’s done it again.

I don’t know where she gets the ideas, or what her Google history looks like, but the methods of death in the murders in this book are brilliantly original and gruesome.

At the start Kim Stone has to deal with her worst nightmare. Her not-so-favourite journalist, Tracy Frost, has been granted an all access day with Kim, a day that is going to have quite an impact on Frost in more ways than one

That day is cut short by the discovery of a body, but not before Frost has accompanied Kim on a visit to the family of a domestic murder victim.

And so opens up two strands of what is an absolute cracker of a story that had me hook-line-and-sinker from the first page right up till the last full stop

Frost is off trying to dig up the dirt on the abusive husband of the domestic murder victim. He’s media savvy and he’s trying to paint himself as the innocent man.

Kim and her team have the first of a series of gruesome murders to solve. But nothing in this case is as it seems and the team hit dead end after dead end.

As frustrating as the case is Kim’s team carry on relentlessly as the body count mounts.

The chapters in this book flew by a a breathless pace, and when the end arrived I though I could take a breath, until, the last few lines started with “you have a call” and the rest of the sentence had the hairs on the back of my neck standing up.

Now I have to wait till November to find out where that phone call will lead.

Angela Marsons fans will already know the characters in this book. Kim and her team have a great relationship with themselves and the readers.

I was trying to work out why this series sticks out, why it has remained my favourite series when there are so many good one out there.

The crimes, and the crime stories, are always stunningly well written, well described, well placed, and realistic.

The recurring characters of Kim and her team, as well as the recurring occasional characters, such as Tracy Frost are so well written I’m half expecting to bump into them on the streets of the Black Country, where I live.

But the fact that the characters that only appear for a couple of pages are just as well written, and described, as all of the main characters really lifts these books

This is not just a Police Procedural series, or a series of Psychological Thrillers, although it is both. This is destined to be one of the Classical Crime Series, the Classical Crime Series of our generation.

Angela Marsons and Kim Stone are what Colin Dexter and Morse were to the 1980’s and 90’s and Sue Grafton was to the 2000’s with her Alphabet books

Keep them coming Angela.

Pages: 414. Publisher: Bookouture. Available now

20/20. Carl Goodman

DI Eva Harris is one hell of a character. 27 years old, a cybercrime specialist who is on rotation to get experience, but she already has a great back story.

Eva is special, in many ways, and if you can get past the fact she is a DI at such a young age you will love this book. Especially if you are a fan of the TV series Line of Duty.

There are multiple strands to this story. One of them is the fact that it’s not a coincidence that Eva is doing a rotation through the Surrey serious crime team. She’s been laced there to find a leak, a bent cop who is feeding organised crime syndicates information on ongoing investigations.

But that is one of the smaller storylines, the main one is the hunt for a murderer.

In the depths of Surrey there is a gated estate where the rich shy away from the public. The estate is the realm of successful business people, footballers, and increasingly rich foreigners.

When the first murder happens on the estate Eva is sent to investigate. A woman tied naked to a chair, her blood drained, her eyes removed with surgical skill.

Evas investigation will lead her to some strange places that may are the domain of the rich and bored. She encounters some tremendous characters.

Along the way the different strands of the story occasionally cross, but never confuse. There is a constant pace that makes the book hard to put down, and then there are the last few chapters.

No spoilers but they are brilliant.

I have to say that Carl Goodman has created one of the best new characters I’ve read for a long time. With her young age, and her tenacity, I can only hope that this is the first in a long series.

At the moment it looks like this book is initially only going to be available as an ebook and audio book, published on the 16th June. I really hope it gets a print run. If it doesn’t, and you haven’t got an ebook reader, it would be worth buying one just to read 20/20

Publisher: Hera. Publishing Date: 16th June 2021

Widow’s Island. L.A. Larkin

Another new author for me, and another addition to my notifications on Amazon.

I have read a lot of good books this year, and this one is right up there with the best.

A middle aged University Professor, who has been recently widowed, relocates herself and her teenage daughter to a small island in Washington State.

For the first few months everything is going ok, but Professor Stephanie Miller is about to present a controversial document to a senate committee, and not everybody is happy about it.

A troll farm ( yes thee is such a thing, I had a pleasant hour reading about them online ) starts to run a campaign to discredit her.

As the misinformation turns to rumours the small island community starts to look at Stephanie and her daughter differently.

Meanwhile the island holds a secret. A murderer has been killing people in a very specific way for years, but his crimes are few and far between, and somebody different always seems to be in the frame for them, even if it’s never quite proved.

When Stephanie and her daughter start to get direct threats it’s not clear whether it’s the result of the trolling, or are they being targeted by a killer.

His is an intriguing story. It has elements that had me reaching for search engines on my computer, Puget Sound, in Washington State, with its collection of islands linked to the mainland by small ferries, is a great place to set psychological thriller.

The toll farms, I’d heard of them but didn’t realise just how much impact they have had over the last few years, a brilliant addition for any thriller where a persons head needs playing with.

Larkin has interwoven two compelling threads that had me second guessing myself all the way to the end of the book.

How much did I enjoy the book. As soon as I finished it I went onto Amazon and looked to see what else the author has written, my wallet was grateful there was only one other book to download, and it is now my current reading.

Pages: 396. Publisher: Bookouture. Publishing date: 3rd June 2021

Dead Secret Noelle Holton

Dead Secret was published yesterday, and I’ve been chomping at the bit to tell everybody how good it is. Now its my turn on the reviewers blog tour, I can do just that

First of all this is book 4 in a series but it can be read as a standalone without losing any of its impact.

What makes this book so good?

The characters, the storylines, everything, are so well written. They are written by a person who has working experience with the people she writes about. That makes things very, very real

She also gets the incestuous nature of crimes, about how when major crimes happen, there is only a small group involved.

There is nobody better at writing about domestic abuse and the way it affects people, the way that if it’s not addressed things can spiral, yet the victim is often the one witness who doesn’t want to come forward.

In this story there’s a murder, a kidnap, and a domestic abuse crime, all, happening at the same time, and apparently unrelated. But are they?

The three crimes are all investigated in their own way, the paths of the investigation cross at times but isn’t it just coincidence?

The main character DC Maggie Jamieson is still mentally and physically exhausted from the last case. Her guard is down and a journalist, she actually fancies, is trying to worm her way into her affections.

But the journalist is also getting information from a source within the team, not Maggie, but everybody wants to know who, and suspicion is flying.

One of the crimes leads the team to a horrific, unbelievable, conclusion.

I started the book on Saturday night and would have read it in one sitting had I started it early enough in the day. As it was I didn’t put it down till silly o’clock in the morning, and picked it up with my first cup of coffee Sunday and sat till I’d finished it. 

I mentioned that this is the fourth book in the series. I’ve already reviewed the first 3.

#1 Dead Inside. #2 Dead Wrong. #3 Dead Perfect.

They were all good, but this one, for me, is the best so far.

I said something in a tweet when I first read this book, and I stand by what I said.

This book is destined for the top of the best seller lists

Code of Silence. Phillip Jordan

When the troubles ended the violence didn’t

Whilst the paramilitary leaders turned politicians the foot soldiers found others to support

Gangs rule the streets running drugs, trafficking vulnerable women, and girls, they need muscle, and the old paramilitary muscle needs work

The younger generation, raised in an ambient atmosphere of violence, see punishment beatings, kneecapping, and murder, as nothing more than away of dealing out Justice.

So when DI Ronnie Taylor tried to take one of the highest ranking Gang Bosses of the streets, but was let down by the justice System, he thinks he’s made of Teflon and carries on bringing drugs into the country. Using his old paramilitary muscle as enforcers, and encouraging the new generation to distribute with menace.

But Ronnie is adamant she had her man bang-to-rights. The bosses agree but tell her he’s off limits for a while, because he’s quite the celebrity philanthropist, and not getting him convicted has led to bad press.

So when an apparent gang war starts up on the Belfast streets, and his name becomes linked, she has to tread very carefully.

As the investigation continues Ronnie starts to realise that there is something wrong, this isn’t gang on gang, this isn’t a war over drugs, or prostitution. This is somebody chipping away at everybody, this is somebody who either wants to start a huge turf war, in a very volatile environment, or somebody who is out to destroy the gangs and inflict pain on the leaders.

This is a cracker of a book. Set in Northern Ireland on the streets of Belfast. The only city in the U.K. where this story could have been set and still been realistic.

The troubles only ended, if they have really ever completely ended, a few years ago. There are generations brought up on violence, there is a younger generation who are still very much influenced by the stories of the recent past.

Mix that with the drug culture, and people trafficked into slave labour and prostitution, that is found in most big Cities, and you have one hell of a good backdrop to a story.

Then add Phillip Jordan’s story telling and you end up with a brilliantly book.

One of my favourite authors is the American Crime Thriller writer Greg Iles, I liken him to John Grisham without filters.

Phillip Jordan is the U.K. version of Iles. No punches are pulled. The gritty bits are very gritty, but it’s not gratuitous, it’s only ever in context.

Where the story needs violence it’s there, where the story needs to insinuate fear it does, and it all makes the 600 plus pages absolutely fly by.

After the epilogue, in the authors notes, there is a a paragraph made me grin from ear to ear. A paraphrase of what it said is, if you enjoyed the book you’ll be pleased to know that Veronica Taylor will return in The Crossed Keys and No Going Back.

Yes! At least 2 more in the series and I’ll be right at the front of the queue when they are published.

And I’ve found out there is a novella staring Ronnie, Behind Closed Doors, which is my next read.

I love it when I discover a new author. I love it even more when that new author excites me as much as this one did, and that’s only ever happened two or three times.

Pages: 624. Publisher: Five Four Publishing Available now

DI Zoe Finch Series. Rachel McLean

This blog isn’t about a single book in a series, but about the series itself.

It’s been a long time since I found a series, with so many books already published, that I hadn’t already read. The first 5 books are available with at least one other about to be released later in 2021.

I read the first two, Deadly Wishes and Deadly Choices, over a weekend and reviewed them in my last blog, since then I’ve downloaded the other three: Deadly Desires, Deadly Terror and Deadly Reprisal, and read them one after the other.

So why has this series got me hooked?

The locations of the crimes, the area that the stories are set in is very familiar to me, around Central and Western Birmingham, areas I worked in for years.

The realism of the policing. The fact that Rachel McLean has identified how the West Midlands Police works, the fact that the Major Investigation Team are based, as they are in real life, in Rose Road Police Station in Harborne.

The main character DI Zoe Finch his a highly strung single mother of a teenage boy. The boys father is a fellow Police Officer who Zoe did not know was a married, family man, when she was having a relationship with him, the difficulties this now brings as the son navigates relationships with his mom and father, and his fathers family.

Finch ishighly strung and at times difficult to get on with, but as a character in a book she is so easy to empathise with, and like. She is great at spotting the hidden detail and second to none at spotting inconsistencies in paper trails, documents, statements, and anything that is in print.

Her team is well balanced, and a great mixture of characters all of which fit nicely into the stories.

But what has me hooked more than anything else is the running theme of the series. There is at least one Police Officer who is bent, and is linked to a local crime boss, and Zoe has her suspicions that it’s not just one officer, in fact she has a Senior Officer in her sights.

It quickly become apparent that some officers are also under investigation by the Professional Standards department, and as the series progresses they, and Zoe get tantalising close to exposing the cop at the top of the pile of corruption.

McLean has come up with a great way of showing how the bent officers are paid without raising suspicion or leaving a trail. The stories in the books are interwoven so that each one is a great story on its own, but they also chisel away at the main running theme, of not only catching the Crime Boss, but also taking down the Corrupt Police Boss, or bosses.

To say this set of stories would make a great crime series would be underselling it. These books are really good.

My only gripe would be that if I had read them out of sequence, I would never have got the impact that I have by reading them in the right order. They could but the reader would be frustrated by the references to things which happen in previous books.

As a series this is definitely a five star plus, but because the continuing story is so important each individual book would be a four star read, even though the main central story for each book would deserve more.

Publisher: Ackroyd Publishing Books 1-5 available now

Deadly Wishes & Deadly Choices. Rachel McLean

The first two books in the DI Zoe Finch Series. So, why review two books in one blog?

Because as soon as I finished Deadly Wishes I picked up Deadly Choices and just carried on reading. They are that good.

Set in Birmingham Zoe Finch is a DI in Force CID working out of Harborne Police station, and that is the first tick, because that is where all serious crimes in Birmingham are Investigated from.

In Deadly Wishes Zoe is Acting DI and is the first Senior Detective at the scene of a murder. The murder of the Assistant Chief Constable, whose retirement function she had attended earlier in the evening.

The investigation is quickly taken out of her hands, as SIO, because of internal politics, but Zoe and her team are kept as part of the investigative team.

Her team start to uncover some uncomfortable truths about the dead ACC, he’s manipulated his wife, in an overbearingly controllable way, for years. There are home improvements that have taken place, on their already expensive house which cannot be accounted for by the families finance’s. There are expensive art works that there is no indication of legitimate purchase. Worse of all there appears to be a connection between the ACC and a child abuse ring that has recently been broken.

The problem is who to trust. Zoe has at least one other Senior Officer she suspects is corrupt and has connections to a local thug who was connected to the child abuse gang.

The story is brilliant in it’s realistic simplicity. The small cast of characters which are all interconnected either by being on the right side of the law, Zoe and her team, or the wrong side of the law. Villains and maybe the odd corrupt cop.

The first book in the series had me hitting Amazon to down load book 2 the second I finished it.

In Deadly Choices Zoe, who is now a substantive DI leads the investigation into the kidnap of two children who were on a day out at Cadbury World with their mom.

Although the murder of the ACC was solved in book one, there are still some underlying issues hanging over into this story. Zoe still suspects a senior officer is corrupt and in the employ of Underworld hard man Trevor Hamm, but now she also knows that Professional Standards are onto a Senior Officer in the West Midlands Police, and in this book the investigations are going to overlap.

The missing children are the step-children of a DS working for Local CID out of Kings Norton Police Station. Step dad Ian Osman acts suspiciously from the start. But he’s a cop whose kids have gone missing, he wouldn’t be expected to sit on his hands, he would be bound to think he can do a better job of investigating wouldn’t he? Or is there another reason he’s acting like he is.

Then Zoe notices the same home improvement company that carried out the work at the ACC’s house is working on the roof at the Osman home.

Another coincidence?

These books had me reading cover to cover over a weekend, and I will admit I’m now reading book 3, and it’s just as good.

Zoe is a great character. A single mom whose 18 year old son is the result of an affair with a fellow officer she didn’t know was married. She lives in a two-up-two-down terrace house in the middle of Selly Oak, bedsit country for Birmingham University.

She’s highly strung, which is not surprising as she’s a coffee addict. Her only real vice as she’s teatotal. She plays well with people she likes, her team, but is sharp and blunt with others.

Her forte is digging deep into documents, reading correspondence, looking at bank statements and receipts, spotting inconsistencies in peoples lives.

Her team have other talents and between them they are really good at carrying out investigations into the most serious of crimes that happen across Birmingham

And the city is the other star of these stories. I’m a Brummy and I’m always surprised just how few books are set in the City. We have Angela Marsons writing the brilliant DI Kim Stone series set in the Black Country, but never make the mistake of thinking Birmingham and the Black Country are the same place.

Just like Angela Marsons, Rachel McLean uses her knowledge of the local area to bring the books to life. Setting the stories in real locations, which are just right for each story.

Not just using places that are recognisable, but places where realistically that part of the story fits.

She catches the nuances of the characters perfectly. More ticks in the boxes for great reading.

As far as I can see there are 6 books in this series. I honestly can’t see me reading anything else until I’ve read them all.

Publisher: Ackroyd Publishing. Pages: Both Books just over 400 each. Available now

Last Place You Look. Louisa Scarr

Wow. Well this one had me hooked from start to finish.

A young single woman having an affair with a married man. A boringly normal man, but a lovely man, who is about to leave his with.

The young woman is Detective Constable Freya West. She has just been attached to work with Grumpy Sergeant, Robin Butler

Her first job is to meet Butler at an address where they have to tell a wife that her husband has died in a hotel room, the victim of an erotic auto-asphyxiation that went wrong.

But during the visit Freya realises that the dead man is the man she was having an affair with, Jonathan, and she’s convinced that there is no way he would have died like that.

Her first mistake is she doesn’t tell Butler, even when it becomes evident that he was having an affair and the Sergeant is actively looking for his mistress.

Her second mistake is stealing a vital bit of evidence before it’s found by her colleagues.

But she’s not the only one with problems. Butlers sister and twin sons were killed in a car crash years ago, and soon after his release, so was the driver of the car which killed them, in another crash. Now the second “accident” is being looked at again, and Freya has been asked to go behind Butlers back to re-examine the case.

Butler is already coming apart at the seams as he struggles with memories of his sister and the twins. He is perpetually grumpy, perpetually single, with the occasional one night stand or friend with benefits relationships. He’s scruffy and just the wrong side of unhygienic, and although it’s not affecting his work, it’s affecting the people he works with.

Meanwhile Jonathan’s death is highlighted as suspicious after all. People involved as witnesses are finding their story unravel. Freya’s tenacity means Butler becomes increasingly more concerned that he was murdered, but his main suspect is the missing girlfriend.

This is a cracking story. If we were allowed to fly long haul this year, this would be the book I’d recommend for a long flight, the time would pass in the blink of an eye.

The story has everything, great characters, a marvellous plot, and an intrigue that kept me second guessing all the way to the reveal.

That one innocent lie, Freya telling Butler she knows the victim, but only as a distant acquaintance, is the first roll of a small snowball in the snow. But as the story continues the snowball keeps getting rolled and it’s getting big. Meanwhile Butler has his own snowball rolling and the two are about to come together.

I loved this book and would recommend it to any crime fiction fan

Pages: 306. Publisher: Canelo Crime. Release date: 8th April 2021

E

The House of Killers. Samantha Lee Howe

Every now and then a book comes along and ticks all my boxes. This is one of those books.

Espionage and Crime Thrillers are my favourite genres of books, tick, tick

Robert Ludlum’s Bourne trilogy and Stig Larsons Millennium trilogy, are two of my favourite series with two of my favourite characters. Neva in The House Of Killers is an amalgamation of Bourne and Salander, Tick, tick

A cracking, believable story that keeps me hooked from start to finish. Tick, tick, tick.

Neva is a Bourne in reverse. She’s an accomplished assassin who feels no empathy for her victims, in fact she is void of any emotions, just like Larson’s Salander. But, something is happening to her, flashback memories to when she was a child. Flashbacks to being abused and trained in a merciless brutal way start to enter her mind, along with the occasional memory of innocent times before she was taken to “The House” to be trained by The Network

Meanwhile Michael Kensington is an MI5 agent who works for a shadowy department that is officially called the Archive Taskforce. A team that on the surface looks at cold cases, but whose main duty is to investigate murders that could be politically motivated assassinations.

Michael has been building a case against one assassin that he is convinced is responsible for a lot of the murders that he has in his system. A clinical killer that specialises in using a very sharp blade. But in recent kills the killer has uncharacteristically got a bit careless, has he found a chink, can he identify the killer.

When Neva kills, “retires” another assassin who works for the “Network” it triggers something inside her, when will it be her turn?

When she cracks and kills another member of The Network, of her own volition, she has to disappear, and she knows she needs help.

A chance meeting between Neva and Michael puts him on her track, but why doesn’t he tell the Archieve team everything, and why does he let her under his skin.

What follows is a very unlikely, but thoroughly believable hook up of the two main characters, but what a dance. Neither fully trusts the other, contact is lost and established at Neva’s behest, but still he trusts her, and in doing so puts his career on the line

This book is stunning. It’s that nugget of gold you spend hour panning a river for, the one that comes along every now and then. The last time I was this excited about finding a new author it was Tom Clancy.

The book had me hooked from the start. The characters are great, Neva is believable, but even in her coldest murderous moments there is something that attracts me to her as a character.

Michael is a typical security service Investigator, more Morse than Bond, reserved, lives alone, does his job, goes home. Just your everyday person doing a police job for a government agency. The perfect foil for Neva’s vicious uncaring character.

This story flew by. The plot runs at a prolific speed and the ending is one I just did not see coming. Usually this would mean the author had thrown in something that would be unrealistic in the plot, but not in this case. There’s a slow build up to it that is cleverly hidden in the plot, and when it manifested itself in the last couple of chapters I could see where it had come from, and I loved the fact that I had been caught by surprise by a brilliant twist.

2021 has given me some of the best books I’ve read for years, and this one is right at the top of the list.

Pages: 432. Publisher: One More Chapter Publishing Date 24th June 2021

A Serial Killers Wife. Alice Hunter

Beth has it all, a lovely daughter, Poppy; a loving husband, Tom; and the perfect village life where she runs her own coffee shop.

Then one day Tom’s late from work and by the time he gets home two police officers are waiting to talk to him. Taking him to the station he doesn’t return till late and he tells his wife he’ll explain everything the next day after work. But he doesn’t get the chance because he’s arrested, for the suspected murder of his ex girlfriend 8 years ago.

Life begins to unravel. She knows Tom likes to be a bit dominant in the bedroom but he’s no killer………is he

Dealing with the aftermath of Toms arrest in the village, the gossipy wives, the other kids at Poppy’s school, and the influx of journalists is making her life unbearable.

But not as unbearable as the elements of doubt that start to creep into her thoughts.

Written in the first person, from both Beth and Toms point of view, and occasionally a mystery 3rd person, this book is addictive.

The story isn’t as simple as it sounds, but to go any deeper would mean too many spoilers.

Beth is the kind of character that you can’t help but have empathy and sympathy for. Tom is a character you won’t trust from the start.

And who is the third person

Alice Hunter is great at building tension in the way she writes, even when the story is apparently taking a bit of a breather there is an underlying fizz of electricity.

Don’t get me wrong, this book never really takes its foot of the accelerator, and it goes no where near the brake, it just cruises along at just the right speed all the way through.

I really enjoyed this one.

Pages: 400. Publisher: Avon. Publishing Date: 27th May 2021