The Family Tree. Steph Mullin & Nicole Mabry

A clever concept for a storyline in more than one way.

A woman, Liz, receives an Ancestral DNA testing kit from her cousin, as a present. The results are not what is expected. Not only has she no similarities in DNA markers to who she thought was her family, she finds out her mother was a drug addict who spent time in prison

But that’s not the end of the surprises. When she uploads her data to another site she ticks the box that allows law enforcement agencies access to her test results. What she didn’t expect was to be contacted by two agents from the FBI

Meanwhile the story of a serial killer unravels over alternating chapters, but in a way I’ve never read before.

The killer started their spree 40 years ago with a single victim, and has gone on to kidnap and kill at least 22 other people, in pairs. The story of the killer is told in instalments, with each one progressing their methods. How they are taken, then in the next chapter how they are transported, in following chapters how they are treated in captivity. Each chapter using the next pair of victims.

And yes, there are two being held captive as the story is told.

I’m not giving anything away by saying that the DNA data uploaded by Liz, has similarities to some found at a scene connected to the serial killer, hence the visit by the FBI.

What follows is a story that I rattled through in two sittings. I was enthralled.

Both of the strands would have made a good story on their own, but they have been wonderfully woven together by two authors, and it has produced a great story.

I do wonder about author collaborations, and usually avoid them, but this one tweaked my curiosity.

I wonder if the authors wrote a strand each, and then used the alternative chapter system to weave them together

However they did it, they have combined to write one of the most original crime books I’ve read for a long time.

Pages: 412. Publishers: Avon. Publishing Date 10th June 2021

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

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

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The Good Neighbour. R.J Parker

This is a great example of one of those stories that starts with a complete fluke incident, which leads to a breathtaking series of events.

A quick kiss between strangers, a hope for more, but one of the strangers is a psychopathic killer, and the next 24 hours is going to be pure hell for the other. A series of decisions, all of them small, start to snowball, and that snowball gathers pace quickly as it rolls down the hill towards a brick wall that will violently smash it to pieces.

Stranger 1, Leah, is returning home late on Valetines day, to the house she shares with her estranged husband Elliot

As she rounds a bend she hits a deer and goes off the road. Heading to the nearest house for help the door is opened by a very pleasant man who helps her call for assistance and waves her goodbye, just after they share a fleeting kiss

Stranger 2 Martin, is the man who open ended the door and helped Leah, he felt a spark when they kissed. Unfortunately the owner of the house lies dead upstairs having being brutally murdered by Martin. Unfortunately for Leah, that is, because now he’s fixated on her

When Leah returns to the house the next day, with a bottle of wine, to say thank you, she finds the police swarming the house. She tells them that Martin had helped her and they are eventually convinced she was a damsel in distress, and not an accomplice to murder.

So why doesn’t she tell them about the texts that follow. Those texts lead to more, and Leah moves, one small step at a time, away from the safety of informing the police, and towards the danger of the stranger she met, by chance, on a dark cold night

Richard Parker has that gift for writing passages in his books that span a short time, but pack in loads of tension, all of which just keeps building and building.

There were times in this book where I was screaming, inside my head, for Leah to come clean with the police; but at the same time completely understanding why she doesn’t, after all once the snowball has started rolling down the hill it is hard to stop.

And, that brick wall it smashes violently against at the end of the story is drawn out, and breathtaking with tension

A great one off psychological crime thriller.

Pages: 299. Publisher: One More Chapter. Published on 18/3/2021

When The Evil Waits. M.J Lee

Ridpath is back six months after the chilling end of the last book, yes this is the latest in a series, but it can be read on its own.

Suffering PTSD, and living on his own in a Police Service flat he is looking forward to getting back to work as the Police liaison officer for Greater Manchester’s Coroner

But, his Superintendent in the MIT has a job she wants him to do, and it’s going to rub his immediate boss up the wrong way

A young boy has been found naked and murdered in the woods. DCI Turnbull is an old school, by the book, black and white kind of detective, who at first is making no leeway into the case.

Detective Superintendent Trent doesn’t like the way the investigation is going so asks Ridpath, and a small team, to look over the investigation again, and in parallel with Turnbull and the rest of the team.

Did the DI miss anything, and when he does find out about Ridpath’s secondary investigation how will he react

Meanwhile a local hack is trying to make her name and is happy to write articles for the broadsheets and the gutter press, and the police are giving her plenty of opportunity to do both, and she is becoming a thorn in everybody’s sides

The investigation into the crime in this story is really good, a young boy killed. His brother and father estranged from his mother. Witnesses doing what witnesses do, and only giving half the story. “Lucky breaks” in the investigation being prompted by hard work, and the willingness to do more than just the basics. The story flies by in a heartbeat

But what really got my heart beating was Ridpath. His thoughts, and not just in relation to the job. His suffering and the way he is dealing with loss. The adjustments he has had to make in his life, and the relationship with his daughter.

I really like this series, and I really hope I’m wrong, because the last chapter really did feel like a last chapter. Is this the end of the series. I hope not. But if it is. It’s one hell of a way to finish

Publisher: Canelo Crime. Pages: 312. Published 25th March 2021

The President’s Dossier. James A. Scott

The President’s Dossier.  James A. Scott

Fans of Ludlum, Demille, and David Baldacci, stop looking for the next to spy author, he’s here. If you love those authors for their full on international espionage thrillers this book is going to be right up your street.

Max Geller is a former CIA agent that left the Company when emails, disparaging to the US President, were found on his works account. If that sounds strangely familiar then the rest of the intrigue around President Walldrum is going to sound really familiar.

Gellar is sought out by a Lawyer representing a group that wants to discredit the President. There are rumours that a dossier has been put together which carries information on how Walldum is in President Putins pocket, and that he had help getting into office.

The Dossier allegedly contains information on how Wulldrum laundered money, took illegal payments, used hookers for rough and humiliating sex, and shows his connections to Putin through the Oligarch network.

So it’s not surprising the Lawyer is offering big money and a no limits expense account.

Gellar puts together a small but efficient team and the hunt for confirmation of the information contained in the  Dossiers starts.

Following the trail from America to the U.K, on to Europe and Russia, and back across the Atlantic, Geller goes full Jason Bourne. The story plot thickens as the body count mounts.

Everybody appears to want the information the team are uncovering, MI6, The CIA and the FBI, Oligarchs, and The Russian Security Services are all after Max and his team, and none of them are friendly.

Nobody can be trusted. Even Max’s closest allies in his team come under suspicion as the various agencies get way too close to Max

This book races around the world at a frantic rate, and had me turning the pages at the same speed.

It’s a real throwback to the spy stories that were popular in the 70’s and 80’, and I loved those books.

I mentioned a few authors at the start of this review and James A. Scott will sit comfortably amongst that group with this book.

If, like me, you’ve been waiting for a book like this, don’t plan on doing anything once you’ve started it, because you won’t put it down till you’ve finished it.

It’s an absolute stunner of a read and hopefully the first of many

Pages: 320

Publishers: Oceanview Publishing

Publication date U.K: 15 September 2020

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

THE BODY UNDER THE BRIDGE Nick Louth

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DCI Craig Gillard is a detective in the Surrey Police. As the main character in a series of books by Nick Louth I’ve come to enjoy the character, and like all series his story ticks along throughout. Unlike many other series though, they only play a minor part of the books, which allows each of them to be read individually without deterring from the main plot.

This instalment sees Gillard trying to crack an unfathomable crime. A young woman, the daughter of a German Cabinet Minister, has gone missing. She is not underage, nor does she appear vulnerable, in fact far from it. She is the lead violin in a string quartet and an accomplished performer on stage, she is also trained in self defense. But as the daughter of a foreign diplomat pressure is put on the Police to find her.

The strange thing is that the investigation uncovers images of her on a commuter train to London, then she just disappears between stops. Her phone coverage continues but when  it’s traced only leads to more confusion.

Meanwhile one of the Detective Inspectors under Gillard’s command finds out his wife is having an affair and takes his eye-off-the-ball during the investigation to uncover his wife’s infidelity. A distraction he, Gillard, and the rest of the team could do without.

As the investigation continues a storm hits the South East of England, and the ensuing floods lead to the discovery of more dead people, not all of who have died as a result of the storm.

This book is a great read. It rattles along at a hectic pace and just when you think you have it sussed, it wriggles down another route, until the last few pages unveil a brilliant conclusion.

Nick Louth is the only author I’ve come across that has used the floods that the UK suffered in 2019 and 2020 as tool for his story, and it works really well. In fact it raised some good questions in my mind……but I won’t share them for fear of spoiling the book. Needless to say this is right up my alley and I spent hours navigating Google to see if anything like this has happened in the real world.

As I write this blog we are in week 3 of “self-solation” during the Covid19 virus outbreak. I wonder if this will feature in future books. If it does I wouldn’t be surprised to see Nick Louth being one of the first, and no doubt using it to great effect.

Pages: 288

Publisher: Canelo

Publishing Date: 30 April 2020, Available to pre-order on the usual sites.

The Body In The Snow. Nick Louth

The Body In The Snow Nick Louth

When a young, newly qualified, Forensic Scene Investigator goes out jogging in the snow the day before her first day on duty she didn’t expect to be a witness to a murder.

First on the scene she attempts to protect it from being destroyed by the victims dog, and preserve tacks that are being lost as the snow melts.

Her knight in shining armour arrives in the form of Senior Investigating Officer Craig Gillllard, one of Surreys Murder Investigation Team.

The victim is Tanvi Roy, the owner of a large Indian Cuisine Company and the matriarch of the dysfunctional Roy Family.

The family are Hindus and run their business, and their family affairs, in a traditional manner.

Mrs Roy’s husband had died before the story starts but his influences run right through the book. The multi-million pound fortune is tied up in a Codicil which sees unequal sharing of equities, with Sons, Grandsons, and even Son-in-Laws, being given much more value than, wives, daughters and granddaughters.

The unequal distribution of share holding’s means that it’s nearly impossible to get a group decision, and one rival company has been trying to buy the Roy’s business for years

This gives just about everybody in the family a reason to see Mrs Roy dead.

Throughout the investigation Gillard uncovers years of resent within the family.

I love a book that gives me new knowledge as well as entertains me. This book has done just that. I fell into a Google worm-hole that lasted for hours looking at Hindu family traditions, including Codicil Wills, arranged marriages and Castes.

Nick Louth has written a wonderful book. Some people will do as I did and research the Hindu faith, and I’m sure will learn they did not know as much as they thought.

I think this was a brave book to write. It looks at a religion and bases a family murder firmly in the way that people of that faith act. It looks at the differences between generations, and the conflicts between the older, first generation of immigrants, and their more westernised younger generations, and the problems that it can.

A wonderful book that kept me reading when I should have been doing other things.

Publishing Date. 31st January 2020

Publishers. Canelo

The Goodnight Song. Nick Hollin

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This is one of the most original psychological thrillers I have ever read wrapped up in a very believable Police procedural story.

DI Katie Rhodes has an unusual partner, in all ways, in Criminal Psychologist Nathan Radley.

Katie and Nathan have been hiding away,  in an isolated cottage, since the end of the last case they worked on together.

They have no intension of coming back to the real world, until a blogger starts to put posts on line that implicate Nathan in a murder.

Nathan had a troubled childhood, and one of his coping methods was to write a journal. Years later the journal surfaced with a few pages missing. The pages with his darkest thoughts about murders he might commit.

It’s these pages that the blogger has found and is publishing. But where did they get them from.

And how is it that the techniques Nathan wrote about all those years ago are being used on victims today

This is enough to bring Katie and Nathan out of their self-inflicted isolation.

The investigation sees the relationship between the two stretched, even Katie is having trouble understanding how the murder can so closely resemble Nathans writings, although she knows he was with her when the murder was committed.

This is a story of doubt. Nathan doubts himself, as do just about everybody else.

Katie begins to doubt herself and wonder if she has been manipulated.

Nick Hollin has created two of the most compellingly unique characters in current fiction. In Nathan Radley he has introduced a mind that is more crazed-axe-man than cop.

In Katie Rhodes he has taken a normal enthusiastic cop and put her through a set of circumstances that has led her to be an introvert, who manages to doubt what she has achieved in the past, and wonder about the future, well at least at the start of the book.

If you like your books to make you think whilst you’re reading them. If you like a story that’s challenging, and if you like a plot that has you hooked from the first page to the last. Then this book is for you.

The Goodnight Song is the second in the series and can be read as a stand-alone, but I would suggest reading Dark Lies. A link for my review of which is below.

https://nigeladamsbookworm.com/2018/03/26/dark-lies-nick-hollin/

Pages: 283

Publishers: Bookouture

Available now