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

HIDDEN LAKE. 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

RECOVERED by Rob Gallaty

Recovered. Rob Gallaty

From the off I have to tell you that I may have looked at this book from a different angle to which the writer would like. I am not religious, in fact I’m the very definition of an Agnostic.

I was intrigued by the fly cover information for the book. So I thought I’d give it a go, and I’m really glad I did

Rob Gallaty is today a successful pastor. His path to getting there is amazing

Rob narrates the book from his point of view, but I suspect he has had to ask for help in remembering some of the times he talks about, because for a lot of his teens and twenties he was lost in a chemically induced fog.

Raised in a happy Catholic family, in New Orleans,  he was diagnosed with ADHD and ADD but his parents shied away from the route of putting him on medication. From the start he admits his own flaws. He was the class clown that had to be the centre of attention and often found himself in trouble with his teachers.

Typically of somebody who suffered ADHD he threw himself headlong into anything he was good at or enjoyed, but quickly got fed up and bored with it.

As a teenager he played Basketball for his school, , standing at 6 foot 6, he was an imposing presence on the court, and enjoyed the adulation.

But when he went to college he was just another tall guy and his identity was lost, he was not the centre of attention he craved.  He also started to find the drug scene.

His final dive into the murky waters of drug taking were not actually his fault. Injured in a vehicle accident, that was not his fault, he became hooked on pain killers, but not just taking them, he found that by selling them he could make money.

Rob was good at everything he turned his attention too but always managed to press the self destruct button because along with his ADHD and ADD he has a highly addictive personality, and although in the early stages of drug use he considered himself a functioning addict, he soon spiralled down to his lowest point.

In fact after interventions and rehab he relapsed, and like a bouncing ball had highs and lows each good experience short lived as the bounce lessened.

But eventually he found his way out of the fog. Not as a Catholic but as a Baptist Pastor

His upward spiral is nearly as spectacular as the downward one

He has ups and downs but always with a focus. But unlike his other focuses in the past, this one never got boring, he never lost his interest. He relates to the bible, he relates to God, and as he looks back at his history he is convinced that somebody has been looking over his shoulder and protecting him.  After all many of his friends are dead form over doses, and many are in prison for dealing, but Rob is recovering and he has a clean police record.

Why did I say at the start that I looked at this boom from a different angle.  I admire Rob for what he has achieved. For me the story is more about survival and growing up. His determination to make something of himself shines through throughout the book.  If it wasn’t for that vehicle accident would he have gone down the drugs route, possibly.

If he hadn’t gone down the drugs route would his addictive personality led him to something else, alcoholism, gambling, possibly.

Would finding a focus have helped him avoid these things. I think not, because with most interests of this type there would have been a stress related to it, which may have led him down one of these paths.

What I think he found in the life he leads is a tranquility that no drug could give him.

A friend of mine often tells me that “ we get you all in the end”  referring to his religion. He is one on the nicest people I know. He is also one of the calmest and exudes  tranquility even at the most fraught of moments.

I’m glad “somebody” Got Rob Gallaty, and I’m glad he’s shared his experience. This is a tremendous account of survival.

THE SECRET ADMIRER. CAROL WYER

The Secret Admirer.      Carol Wyer

When I reviewed the last book in this series I asked, How is Carol going to top that.

Well she has, and she’s done it in style.

The start of the book picks up 3 months after the end of the previous one and finds DI Natalie Ward living on her own, in a small flat, getting ready to return to work for the first time since the shocking conclusion of Blossom Twins.

She’s not sure of how she is going to react to some of the scenes she knows she is going to have to attend, the first one couldn’t be much worse.

A young woman has had Acid thrown in her face and has died a horrible death.

When a second murder follows quit quickly afterwards it appears to be related.

With no time for a gradual reintroduction to work, and battling her own demons, Nat and her team are in a race against time to stop a killer who is quickly escalating.

This book, like all of Carol Wyer’s Books, had me gripped from the very beginning, but where Carols books differ from so many others is that she keeps me hooked with every chapter.

She recognises that many crimes affect small groups of people, and manages to find a way of engaging me with every character, in her small cast of characters

Natalie, herself, is one of the best fictional cops I’ve ever read about. Her story across the series has been fascinating, and at times heart breaking.

The occasional characters which make up her team, and her family, are stunningly written and add a depth to each book with their own intertwining story-lines.

But, in my opinion, the criminals and victims stories always give the books extra edge.

All of these combine in this book. Natalie and her ongoing emotional and mental struggles. The small community of characters involved in the crime, two houses full of students, and their families. The twist in the plot which sees Natalie’s husband come under suspicion.

At 413 pages this book is a bit longer than the average book released these days, but every page holds something. As the DJ’s of old used to say it’s “All Thriller and No Filler”

Could this book be read as a stand-alone? Yes

Should this book be read as a stand-alone. No, why would anybody want to miss out on the rest of the series.

A brilliant read from one of my favourite authors.

Pages: 413

Publisher: Bookouture

Available now.

Cemetery Road Greg Iles

Greg Iles is without doubt my favourite American author. His Penn Cage series, which included the Natchez Burning Trilogy, are some of the best books I’ve ever read.

So when I picked up Cemetery Road, I was expecting a good read, and I wasn’t disappointed.

Marshall (Goose) McEwan is a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist working in Washington DC. But he returns to his hometown of Bienville, on the banks of the Mississippi, to run his ailing father’s newspaper.

Whilst he’s there he renews his “acquaintance” with a local attorney, who just happens to be married to the sun of one of the Beinville Poker Club. An Old Deep South Club that owns and runs everything in the town.

The poker club have also been instrumental in bringing Chinese investment to the town, in the form of a paper mill, money that will resurrect a dying economy.

The problem is they want to build the mill on ground that is thought to be of significant historical interest. One of McEwan’s friends, the historian-archaeologist Buck Ferris is murdered the night before the ground breaking ceremony.

Ferris had been like a surrogate father to McEwan, who’s drunken father had largely ignored him for over 30 years, and against much of the towns wish starts to investigate his friends murder.

What follows is a story of duplicity, in which the Poker Club try everything to stop McEwan, and his few ally’s, from finding the truth. With tens of millions of dollars at stake, as well as the freedom of the members of the club if the authorities ever find out the long list of laws they have broken, they are prepared to do anything to stop him.

This is a brilliant story from a master storyteller, and I love his books; but I should warn some of you that some people may find his writing a bit near-the-knuckle. There is sex and violence in this book, as there is in all of his books. But it’s there for a reason, it’s in context, it adds to the story. In fact the story wouldn’t work without it.

I have described Iles in previous blogs as being John Grisham without filters, and in my opinion that is why he is better than Grisham, and I love Grisham’s books.

Pages: 618

Publisher: UK, Harper Collins

Available now

Silent Scream. Five years anniversary

Five years ago today the first DI Km Stone book was published. I read that first book a few months later and immediately read the second.

I haven’t stopped reading them since, with book 12, Killing Mind, out soon I thought I’d look back at my first review which looked at both Silent Scream, book 1, and Evil Games, book 2

Silent Scream & Evil Games Angela Marsons

Two books one blog. There’s a reason for that. I read the last page of Silent Scream and immediately opened the first page of Evil Games.

I don’t like giving plots away so I’m not going to talk too much about the story line of each of these, I’ll just talk about the writing and main character.

I enjoyed these books more than most others I’ve read over the last few years. Angela Marsons has created a brilliantly complex character in Detective Inspector Kim Stone and hopefully we’ll have a few more outings with her and her team in the future.

Silent Scream introduces DI Stone in a tale centred on child abuse at a Local Authority Home. Are current day murders linked with abuse at the home? In todays society we are becoming more aware of these abuse cases and it makes the book relevant and up to date.

Stones own history mirrors that of the children who stayed at the home, and her back-story is slowly revealed as the book moves on.

The conclusion of the book is not as easy to predict as some stories of the same genre, and with twists and turn to the very end this book is a great read.

Evil Games follows on, but can be read separately, from Evil Games.

In this book Stone identifies the link between several serious crimes, including a murder. More of Stones back-story is revealed and the reader is given a greater insight into her psyche.

Along the way Stone comes into contact with her nemesis and an intellectual and psychological battle takes place that kept me enthralled right to the end of the book.

Twists and turns throughout show that Angela Marsons has a knack for complex plots without resorting to fanciful and unbelievable stories.

Angela Marsons has set these books close to where I live. Her descriptions of the places and people are perfect. It is a testament to her that at one time in the Evil Games I shouted out loud that she had something wrong, only to realise she was inventing a shop in which a suspect child abuser was working, maybe it is best to use a fictional premises in that case.

Further testament to her research skills is found in the derelict children’s home she uses in Silent Scream. It used to exist, it had a bad reputation amongst the locals, and it had a fire. I know this because I investigated it when I was still in the Fire Service.

I have a feeling that, like many other authors, Angela Marsons is only published locally.

One of the great things about e-books and companies like Amazon is it has allowed me to read books by people I would never have had access to by simply walking into my local shop.

So wherever you are in the world, get a copy of these books. Sit back and enjoy