Agent in the Shadows. Alex Gerlis

Second World War stories were the books that were my staple when I first started reading. I’d wait for my dad to finish his latest paperback before taking it to my room and reading stories the likes of Douglas Reeman.

Later when I joined the Merchant Navy Sven Hassel became a favourite.


I’ve missed those books, there’s not so many written these days. So when one comes along it’s always going on my TBR list


Agent in the Shadows did not disappoint. A cracking story of espionage amongst the resistance fighters in France and the handlers of the duplicitous double agents.


It had never crossed my mind that there was an element of the French population that actually welcomed the Nazi occupation, and that they had their own “agents” amongst the French Resistance fighters.

This story is mainly set in the hot bed of the Resistance, Lyon. Herlis describes the labyrinth of alleys and cellars, in which a war-within-a-war took place.

It shows the importance of the Resistance in enabling the opening of the second front in Europe.

It is brilliantly told story.


This book not only had me hooked as a story, but had me hitting Google to research things I should already know about.

To my shame I have to admit this is book 3 in a series I’d never heard of. That’s changed. I’m off to the Kindle store to download the first two.

Pages: 376. Publisher. Canelo. Publishing Date: 9th February 2023

A Truth For A Truth. Carol Wyer

Carol Wyer

 

Wow. Where do I start.

This has been a great series from the start and its got even better with the addition of this book.

Kate Young has been trying to break the ring of abusers she thinks is responsible for her husbands murder. The problem is the ring includes at least one Senior Police Officer.

Throughout the series she has been driven by the voice in her head, that of her husband.

But now she’s killed somebody, somebody in power, somebody who was part of the ring.

The Police, and probably her team, will be asked to investigate his death.

But first they have to find the body, at first its just a missing persons case and Kate is doing her best to carry on as if she has nothing to do with the death.

Then there’s the bigger problem. Her husbands voice of reason is being fought against, and at times replaced, by another voice. The voice of the man she murdered, and he’s ridiculing her.

As much as this is a great crime story its also the story of a woman having a breakdown, she’s functioning but her mental health is really on the edge.

Can she keep her mind long enough to escape blame.

Can she break the ring and expose everybody involved.

The very last page made me gasp out loud.

There has to be another book. It can’t end there, or can it.

Pages: 411. Publisher: Thomas & Mercer. Publishing Date: 4th April 2023

Rich Blood. Robert Bailey

A great book for readers who like authors like John Grisham and Greg Iles, and American legal thrillers.

An ambulance chasing, personal injury lawyer, Jason Rich, has just been released from 90 days in rehab. He has turned to booze once to often and rehab was one of the conditions of him being allowed to carry on practicing.

But his troubles are nothing compared to his sister. They don’t get on, since childhood they have had a tumultuous relationship which has worsened since the death of their father.

So when he finds out she is desperate for his help he’s unsure what he will do.

Why does she need help? She’s being held in prison after being arrested for the murder of her husband.

Jana, the sister, is not easy to warm to. She’s an alcoholic, who also uses hard drugs. She’s had more than one affair and it’s alleged she withdrew $15000 dollars from her, and her husbands, joint account to pay a man to kill him.

She’s in debt to the local drug Lord and is paying him off in “favours” in lieu of the interest in the $50000 she owes him.

So as well as being in prison accused of murder, she is under threat from the drug Lord not to implement him, or trade information on him, for a lower sentence. With her in prison it’s her two young daughters that will pay if she goes against him.

So how will the alcohol dependent brother, who has never tried anything other than compensation cases, defend the alcoholic drug taking sister with no morals, against a murder charge.

This book was a bit of a bolt from the blue. I love this type of story, and I thought I was on top of the current authors writing this genre. How wrong was I. As soon as I finished this I downloaded Robert Baileys back catalogue.

U.K. Publisher Thomas & Mercer. Pages 379. Available now

Don’t You Dare. Jessica Hamilton

As far as dark psychological thrillers go, this is one of the best I’ve read for years.

A totally believable story. A main character that is both engaging, and at times, frustrating. A touch of “spice” but totally in context and not gratuitous. An ending that I just didn’t see coming.

Three friends spend their college years in a tight little group. They are a introverted group playing an ever increasingly dangerous game of dare and forfeit. But who is the manipulator, who is the one really stirring the pot

Years on Hannah is married with two girls, but she still hankers after her best friends Scarlett, who moved to the other side of the world, and Thomas who was her first love, and who she hasn’t seen since college.

Then Thomas returns and initiates a game of dare between just the two of them.

That is when things start to go wrong.

Hannah is the narrator of the story. She’s a functioning alcoholic, even if she won’t admit it. Her husband is at the end of his tether and their relationship is purely functional, for the girls sake.

When Thomas returns the old flame is ignited and she finds a new purpose.

Like before the dares get more dangerous.

Somebody is spying on Hannah and Thomas.

There is a prowler in her neighbourhood and somebody is sending her husband information about her relationship with Thomas.

Can she keep her marriage together, does she even want to.

More importantly can she survive an ever increasingly dangerous situation.

This book drips the story at a constantly steady pace. The tension builds from the first chapter like a dripping tap filling a sink to the point that it’s overflowing without you noticing one specific thing that’s raised the level.

It’s not often these days that a book holds me enough to read it in a day, but this one did. A genuine “I read it in a day” and I loved every page of it.

Pages: TBC. Publishing Date: 16th May 2023 Publisher: Crooked Lane Books

The Deptford Murder. Jez Pinfold

Detective Chief Inspector Bec Pope. A new Police Officer on the book shelves, and hopefully one here to stay.

The Deptford Murder introduces Pope in spectacular fashion.

The first body is found posed in a church, with a personal message to Pope, in the form of a formal invitation, placed neatly on the body.

The second body appears within hours, another message to Pope.

This is the beginning of a cracking story that had me turning the pages well into the night.

Pope is a great character. Typical of a Police Officer her job takes president over her family, even she admits it.

She works late, drinks when she gets home, has trouble sleeping. She lives with her husband and his kids, but it’s not an easy relationship.

As another attack takes place more pressure is put on Pope’s team, mainly born of her own professionalism, but they crack on and work long hours to find the killer before there are more victims.

Inevitable there is strain on family relations, and almost as inevitably there is a close bond between Pope and one of her colleagues. But will “that” line ever be crossed.

As the investigation, and the book, fly along, surprising connections start to be made and the final twist is a real surprise, without being out-of-the-blue, or unrealistic.

This is hopefully the first of a series. Pope, and her team in Londons Met, are really well conceived. As individuals there is great promise, as a team the scope for the stories to come is wide and I can’t wait to read whatever is to come

Print length: 302 pages. Publisher: Joffe. Published: 3rd December 2022.

The Body In The Shadows. Nick Louth

The latest in the DCI Craig Gillard series and another great read.

A series of events, including an attack on Gillard’s wife when she tries to intervene in a pick-pocket incident, starts to uncover rumours of a crime about to take place.

The consistencies in the rumours are only the date and the value of the gains £1.5 billion.

With not much else to go on several police forces become involved in the investigation into a crime that has not yet happened.

To say what that crime is would be a bit of a spoiler, as much of the first 3/4 of the book is taken up with the team identifying the players and what crime is about to be committed.

This is not a unique way of telling a story but it is less common these days and I found that I really enjoyed that aspect of the book.

Gillard and his colleagues build various hypotheses of what is about to happen, and each one of them is a possibility.

So if they know a crime is about to take place, and they have an idea of some of the people involved, what could go wrong.

Actually quite a bit. The problem is a minor crime, in comparison, is leading the team a bit of a dance.

This is a great story that I find it hard review without letting spoilers slip.

The basis of the story is great, the characters are brilliantly written, and the pace of it is perfect.

All in all, a really good read.

Publisher: Canelo Crime. Pages: 287. Publishing date: 19th January 2023

Their Burning Graves. Helen Phifer

Detective Morgan Brookes is back in the 8th instalment of this series.

One of the things I like about this series is the fact that the lead character is a DC and as such is unburdened by the management of an investigation. She is a cog in a machine that relies on all of the cogs working together towards the same cause, but only managing one line of the investigation.

The isolation of working that single thread, and taking her thoughts and findings back to the regular team meetings is what sets her apart.

Morgan is a huge crime fan, loving true crime documentaries and books, as well as some fictional crime.

She has a way of seeing the hidden meaning, the motivation for a crime, before most of her colleagues. It doesn’t mean she’s always right, but her hypothesis are fascinating, and if they are dispelled still aid the investigation by narrowing down the lines of inquiry.

In this book she’s the first investigator on the scene of a serious house fire. A family of three is dead inside, but not in one of the burned out rooms, in fact there isn’t even any smoke damage in the room in which they are found.

The fact that they are all sitting at the dining table, with plastic bags over their heads, and each with a hand missing, only adds to the intrigue.

Morgan and the rest of the team are soon embroiled in an investigation in a tight knit community within a small town.

Nobody can be ruled out, but he closer the investigation gets to identifying the killer the harder it’s seems to be.

I loved this book. The prologue chapter telegraphs the motive for the killing, but the link, and the identity, of the killer is cleverly hidden right up till the last couple of chapters

Morgan is a great character, as are the main recurring characters. It’s her addiction to crime documentaries and books that originally got me hooked, after all it could have been me that was being written about, but the books and the stories now demand my attention.

This is one of those series I now look out for. As soon as one’s available they go straight to the top of my to-be-read list and become my next read.

They never disappoint.

Pages: 265. Publisher: Bookouture. Publishing Date: 19th December 2022

In the interest of being transparent I must admit to having a vested interest in this book. I gave advice to Helen Phifer on the Fire Scene and the involvement of the Fire Service during the investigation.

I’d like to thank Helen for the generous mention in the acknowledgements section and the choice of name for the Brigade Fire Investigator in the book.

The Scarlet Papers. Matthew Richardson

A proper espionage book in the style of writers such as DeMille and Ludlum.

Like all of the best books that have a historical element Richardson has used factual events, and some strong rumours to weave a brilliant fictional tale.

The Cold War is over but the British Secret Services still feel the humiliation of the Cambridge Five. There have been rumours for decades that there was at least one other double agent working for the Russians.

So when the legendary Spy Master Scarlet Queen contacts Max Archer with information on the “6th Man” he is more than intrigued.

Max is a 42 year old, History Lecturer at the London School of Economics. He’s had books published on the history of espionage and specialises in the Cold War era.

The problem is his life is in crisis. His wife just left him and got pregnant, his Professorship isn’t materialising, his publisher is chasing him for his latest book.

When Scarlett contacts him he sees it first as the way to improve his life. Then he realises that to write and publish the book would be breaking the National Secrets Act and has a wobble about writing it.

At first Scarlett drips him information.

He demands more.

The Secret Services are aware of what’s happening and are in turmoils about if to stop the book being written, and if so how they are going to stop it.

A great read based in the modern day but with throwbacks to Scarlett’s career.

Twists and turns are scattered chapter by chapter. Spies, double and triple agents, duplicity, moralistic quandaries all add to the fascination of this story.

Publisher: Penguin. Publishing Date: 25th May 2023

Hidden Scars. Angela Marsons

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Without exaggeration the best book I’ve read

It may be because it’s written by my favourite author.

It may be because it’s the latest in a cracking series.

But I think it’s probably because the author put a lot of emotion into what was written.

Kim Stone nearly died in the last book, Six Graves, this one starts several months later and finds her struggling psychologically and physically.

Her team has been in the hands of another DI whilst she recovered and she can see it being slowly destroyed by his incompetence as a Detective and as a boss, and his failings as a human being.

Will she recover to take the team back from him whilst it’s still intact.

It takes a nasty murder, which he is happy to pass off as a suicide, to tip her over the edge and try and bring the “old Kim” back.

Will she manage it.

This book looks at the roller coaster of recovery from serious injury. How Kim has to struggle internally to get herself in the right place to be effective. Her team is more than her team, it’s her family and they need her.

The crimes in this book are psychologically horrific.

Based on a centre that offers “Correction Therapy” to young gay people.

I’ve not lead a sheltered life but I had no idea this happened. I’m not kidding when I say I disappeared into a Google worm hole for hour’s researching it.

Angela Marsons has dealt with the subject brilliantly.

Every page in this book is gripping as Kim struggles to find her old self.

Her team are there for her every step of the way but it’s a struggle at times.

The dual stories of the investigation into these horrific crimes, and Kims struggles to find, and deal with, her new normality are breathtaking.

And the very last sentence. Wow

Pages: 356. Publisher: Bookouture.

Audio book length: 8 hours 39. Narrator: Jan Cramer

The Soho Killer. Biba Pearce

The latest in the DCI Rob Miller series and it’s another cracker.

For some reason this series flew under my radar until earlier this year, but when I found it i binge read the series and have been waiting for this one ever since.

It didn’t disappoint.

Miller is called to an incident in Soho. It’s to a body which has been dumped in full public view. The victim is dressed in bondage gear, complete with a mask and ball gag. The terror frozen in the victims expression sears into Miller mind and he’s convinced from the start that this death is not the result of a sex game gone wrong.

Millers Superintendent wants the case closing quickly.

When another man is found in similar circumstances Miller is called to the scene by the SIO who is initially assigned the case.

It becomes apparent that the man is a high ranking official in the Secret Services and before the Police can even start the investigation it is taken off them by MI5.

For once Millers Superintendent shows a bit of fortitude and sides with her officers in her disgust at the way they are isolated and gives Miller the green light to carry on investigating this death in relation to the first murder.

I love books that teach me things I didn’t know I didn’t know. In this case it was a bit strange finding out that there are different codes of dress for different preferences in the gay bondage scene.

The story takes the investigation into the bay bars and clubs of Soho.

It looks at one person, within the Police teams, repressed sexuality and the internal struggle they have with themselves.

The main story is great, but it’s the stories within the story that makes this series as good as it is.

I really enjoyed this book, my only regret is I can’t binge read straight into the next one.

Pages: 314. Publisher Joffe Books. Publishing Date: 17th November 2022