DEAD INSIDE. Noelle Holten

 

IMG_3082

A few months ago I heard that one of the staff at a publishers I follow had written a book. In fact I began to hear a few mentions of DEAD INSIDE by Noelle Holten.

I had to read it, but I was worried, what if I didn’t like it. I talk to this woman a lot and do book reviews for some of the authors she’s responsible for. This could have been nasty.

Wrong, wrong, wrong. I should have known better. If you represent the authors Noelle represents, and write the reviews she puts on line of other books she reads, I should have known she loves the same type of fiction as I do.

But she’s gone one step further than me, she’s written a book, and what a book!

Dead Inside is going to be up there with this year’s top releases.

Noelle has written this book in a way that not many, if any, other books I’ve read have been written before. Although it is billed as “Maggie Jamieson Crime Thriller Book 1” there is no real lead character. Everybody seems to get equal billing and the story is brilliant for it.

I was trying to find a way of explaining this and eventually came up with the analogy that the books characters are like those from a TV soap, everybody is important to the story, when it’s their turn they are front and centre, but it’s the story that takes precedent. The plot is lead chronologically by the character that means the most at that time. So although Maggie is a thread throughout, she gets no more or less page time than anybody else. I really like this style.

So who is Maggie, well she’s a DC who has been moved from a Murder Investigation Team in Staffordshire Police to a new unit. Why has she been moved? Her back story indicates that she was heavily involved in a serial killer investigation, and that maybe she suffered a bit during that investigation.

The newly formed team is the Domestic Abuse and Homicide Unit, and is a multi-agency team set up to quell the growing problem of Domestic Violence, and the deaths associated with it, across Staffordshire.

When the team was set up I would imagine that they thought the Homicides would be mainly women who had suffered abuse at the hands of their partners. So on Maggie’s first day it’s a bit of a shock when the body of a man who was an abuser turns up.

The team start an investigation as the man was known to them and involve the Probation Service in their inquiry, as he was also known to them.

A big part of this story is a group of people that represent a section of society we all know exists but hopefully never have an involvement with.

Women, a lot with drink or drugs problems, gravitating to men with the same problems, or men who will exploit those women when they are at their lowest ebb. Women who get abused physically and mentally, and when they find the courage to move on, nearly always end up in another abusive relationship.

In this story one woman should not be in that category, she should know better, she works with women that suffer abuse, then she goes home and behind closed doors she becomes one of the abused. At times the sections of the story that looks at Lucy and her Husband are hard to read but compelling at the same time.

As the bodies start to pile up another character is introduced to the team. Dr Kate Maloney is a Criminal Psychiatrist, a young Irish woman who dresses in full Goth clothing and has a tongue as sharp as a knife. What a character.

Maggie works the case and introduces the rest of the team as the investigation continues. All of the team have their opinions, and as the book moves on their individual characters are laid open for the reader. Each of them is realistic and everybody who has ever worked in a team will recognise the dynamics, there are some we will love, and there are others who will infuriate.

The story continues with more violence in the almost incestuous community of abusers and victims.

The Police battle against the closed nature of the group and the absolute denial of some of the victims.

But somebody out there is doing something about it, and the way they’re doing it is murderous. Spine-tingly murderous.

So now the abusers are becoming victims will anybody have any sympathy for them. How will the investigating team deal with looking out for peoples safety, when they have been trying to take them off the streets for years.

This book had me hooked from start to finish. It had me holding my breath and making out-loud exclamations. It had me reading way past my usual bedtime and then waking up early to carry on and find out who was safe and who wasn’t.

I had sympathy for the victims of abuse, and at the same time I was frustrated by their lack of helping themselves, and their constant denial of there actually being a problem. Yes, it is very real.

Like all good books it ends on a cliff hanger. One that I really didn’t see coming, but which opens the door for Maggie Jamieson Book 2.

In a strange way I would love to have come across this book after 3 or 4 had been published so that I could have binge read them.

But I am really chuffed to have been in from the start. I hope I’m about to ride a wave that includes many a venture for Maggie and her team.

Noelle Hurry up and write the next one please.

Pages: 293

Publisher: Killer Reads

Publishing Date: 31stMay 2019….Just in time to buy for a the summer holiday books.

Bitter Edge Rachel Lynch

This book has the best opening chapter I have ever read. In that one chapter the story of a young fell runner with everything to live for, until she gets injured and becomes hooked on prescription drugs, which leads to her taking illegal drugs until she can’t take it anymore and kills herself, is laid out and sets the tempo for the whole book.

The book looks at the pressures put onto children at secondary schools and sixth form colleges. The on-line bullying, we all hear about, but more surprisingly the often ignored on-line peer pressure. The pressure that is not just put on impressionable youngsters by their immediate peers, but also by the new breed of celebrity, the “Influencers” on sites such as Instagram.

It looks at the boredom of the youths in smaller countryside towns and the way the drug dealers are moving into the countryside to target these kids.

Rachel Lynch has written some great books in this series. DCI Kelly Porter is a great charter and easy to engage with, but for me it’s the crimes and the locations which make these books so stunning.

Everybody would have an idyllic view of the towns around the Lake District, but I suspect that Rachel Lynch’s version is much closer to the truth.

In this book Porter investigates the sudden deaths of students from the same school. She is convinced that somehow the suicides are linked, and her and her team start to uncover a tale of bullying and drug taking. One teacher is suspended following a complaint by a student which leads to the discovery of some illicit images on his computer, but is he being set up.

The head teacher lives in ignorant bliss, whilst teachers are losing control of the school. Rumours are rife and the investigation is sent off in all directions, but is there any truth behind the rumours, they can’t all be lies.

As the investigation continues a girl goes missing and the team fear she is going to be the latest in the long line of suicides, or if Kelly is right, the latest murder victim.

As well as carrying out the investigation Kelly’s personal life is in turmoil following revelations about her mother and father. Her Mom is battling a terminal disease and trying to find peace in her life before it’s too late.

All of this takes place over Christmas which seems to give an added poignancy to the story.

I started this review by saying the opening chapter was the best I’d ever read. It had me hooked into the book straight away. 

The rest of the book? 

It certainly didn’t disappoint. There were times when I couldn’t put it down, and there were times when I had to put it down, and just take a breath.

This book could be read as a stand-alone.

It’s the 4thin the series and I would recommend reading the others first, just to get the full impact of this one. 

Pages: 296

Publishers: Canelo

Publishing date: 25thFebruary 2019

The Songbird Richard Parker

IMG_2984 2

DI Tom Fabin returns for the second instalment of this Police Procedural series.

Never Say Goodbye promised a lot from this series, The Songbird doesn’t disappoint, in fact, it raised the bar.

With his nemesis, the mass murder Christopher Wisher, in prison things are looking good for Fabin on the work front.

On a personal level he is separated from his wife and his daughter Tilly has just started University.

Things are running along quite smoothly until his boss sends him to visit Wisher in prison. Wisher hands him his journal and asks him to read it.

When Fabin starts to read the journal, he realises it starts on the day that Wisher was sent to prison.

The cryptic entries in the journal mean nothing at first. Then the murders start, all with the same MO and signature that Wisher employed. These details were never released so who is copying Wisher.

As the murders continue it becomes apparent that they are reflecting the entries in the journal.

The crimes start to add up and Fabin tries to make sense of the journal entries. Whoever is carrying out the crimes is escalating, and the end game is getting closer.

This is a brilliant book. Richard Parker has moved away from the stereotypical cop character. Yes, Fabins family life isn’t great, but there are a lot of broken marriages out there. He has created a cop that cooks as a form of stress relief, he’s not a big drinker, or a womaniser. In fact, he’s pretty normal, not boring, just normal

But that’s where normal ends.

The Songbird follows on from the first in the series, Never Say Goodbye, and I really would recommend you read that one first.

When I reviewed Never Say Goodbye, I said the last hundred words made the hairs on my arm stand up. Well he’s done it again and ended on another cliff hanger that has me impatiently waiting for the next instalment.

 

Bring it on Richard.

Pages: 264

Publisher: Bookouture

Publishing Date: 19thDecember 2018. JUST IN TIME FOR CHRISTMAS

A link to my review of  Never Say Goodbye

https://nigeladamsbookworm.com/2018/08/19/never-say-goodbye-richard-parker/

Where The Truth Lies M.J Lee

IMG_2979

The story starts  in 2008 with new constable, PC Tom Ridpath, taking part in a vehicle stop which leads to the arrest of a man who is wanted for the kidnap of a prostitute. When the man runs off Ridpath follows him to a lock-up unit where he is in for a nasty surprise.

Ten years later and Constable Ridpath is now probationary DI Redpath. Returning to work after a serious illness Ridpath is tasked to work as the Coroner’s Liaison Officer.

The job as the Coroners Officer is not one Ridpath wants but he is given very little choice by the Senior Officers of the Manchester MIT. Take it or take a job somewhere else. If he can stick it out without any health relapses, then he can return to MIT.

What he, the Coroner, and the MIT don’t realise is the first case he is asked to deal with will bring everybody into conflict.

A recent spate of murders has the MIT baffled. Somebody is taking vulnerable women of the streets and killing them in some horrific ways before dumping the bodies.

The conviction, of the man Ridpath caught in 2008, has been brought into doubt and the Coroner reopens an inquest into the death of the one person they charged him with murdering.

Ridpath is a pariah to his old colleagues when he acts on the Coroners requests. They see him as an outsider for  bringing doubt on the original investigation, but there is one young DS who starts to look on Ridpath as a voice of reason.

As the two investigations inevitably head for a head on collision a truly captivating story unfolds.

This is the first book I have read by M.J. Lee, and to be honest I cannot understand why I haven’t heard of him before.

This book had me drawn in from the beginning. The character Ridpath is flawed. Like most people that work in the Police he is target focused, to the point that his family come a distant second priority.  His wife is driven to distraction by his attitude towards his ongoing treatment, and check-ups, following his illness.

He is split between wanting to do the right thing by the Coroner and doing what his ex-colleagues expect, which will allow him back onto the Major Investigation Team.

The murders that take place in this book are brutal, but are written in such a way that the narrative cuts away just when it’s getting too bad. M. J Lee has struck the balance perfectly.

The crimes and the investigations are multi-layered but not beyond comprehension. In fact the story is woven together brilliantly, and at no time are there any of those “I don’t believe it” moments.

I really enjoyed this book. It’s another one that is listed as “Book 1” so I’m hoping it’s the beginning of a series. If it is, what a start!

I can’t wait to read what happens next, especially after the last chapters little cliff hanger.

Pages: 352

Publisher: Canelo

Available now.

The Silent Dead. Graham Smith

 

IMG_2813

Every now and again something stunning comes along, and now is that time.

In The Silent Dead I found a gem of a book.

Not only is the story original, and compelling, but the main character is one of the best fictional Police Detectives I’ve had the pleasure to be introduced to.

I’ll start with the detective. Detective Constable Beth Young is only 23 years old, but she’s already lived a full life. She had been a model, her boyfriend dumped her when she became a cop at the earliest age she could. He wanted a model girlfriend on his arm, not a Police Officer.

Her stunning good looks have been robbed from her by an errant broken bottle in a pub during a night out, and she now carries vicious scars on one side of her face. Does it hold her back? No. In fact she uses the way people react to the scars to help her gauge the type of person they are.

She is a puzzle solver, and has complicated puzzle books on her shelves next to the books on her other interest, serial killers.

She has a strange way of thinking, and uses logic to help her think outside the box. She emphasises with victims, and she understands perpetrators.

Her only problem is she has no filters, her scars redden when she’s angry, and at times there is no filter between her brain and her mouth.

I like this girl a lot.

Beth has just started in Cumbria’s Force Major Investigation Team. A small close knit team she is having trouble integrating into. The first case she works on is grim.

A bride spots a corpse in the grounds of the ruined mansion in which she is having her wedding.

The corpse has been posed and has suffered a horrific death. The investigation leads to the discovery of more bodies posed in the same manner. But the killer is not only escalating they are experimenting, until they have created their perfect murder.

Beth quickly has to find her feet in the investigation and uses her logic to start to piece together information from the different murder scenes. But as the young new detective, will the old hands take her seriously.

This is book has shot right into my top three of this year, and would be pretty close to one of my favourite books of the last 5 or 6 years.

I love the character Beth Young, and hopefully there is a lot of scope for Graham Smith to create a long series with her.

The manner of killing in this book is well written and without being overly graphic, is very gruesome. In fact it will live with me for a while.

A great book, just stunning.

Pages: 362

Publisher: Bookouture

Publishing Date: 30thNovember 2018.

Dead End Rachel Lynch

IMG_2720

This is the third book in the DI Kelly Porter series.

Kelly is one of the most realistic of fictional cops, and as such I find it really easy to empathise with her.

Coupled with the fact that I think Rachel Lynch is writing some of best crime fiction out there at the moment, means I was really looking forward to this book.

I wasn’t disappointed.

When the “Lord of the Manner” Xavier Paulus the second is found hanging by his grandson it appears to be nothing but a tragic suicide.

When the Police first look at the scene they tend to agree but somethings not right. As Kelly and her team start to look into the family, its history, and the strange relationships that seem to have been forged in the mansion, they become aware of its hedonistic past.

Meanwhile 2 girls go missing from a camp site in the Lakes. Kelly and her team also become involved in the hunt for them and start to find a history of girls, who look similar, also going missing.

As they investigate both cases a body is discovered, but who is it. With so many girls having gone missing it could be any one of them. It’s a surprise when they find out which one it is, and how long she’s been dead for.

Then there is always the red herrings that Rachel Lynch always writes into her stories so wonderfully. Find me a Police Officer who hasn’t gone barking up the wrong tree, I don’t suspect there are many around.

This book had me reading into the early hours. At times it’s a bit of a cosy read. Then just when you least expect it, it grabs you by the throat.

Can this be read as a stand-alone? Yes, but why would you want to miss out on the first 2.

Pages: 299

Publisher: Canelo

Available now

Last Night Helen Phifer

IMG_2559 2

Well here’s something you don’t come across very often, a prequel to a series. This is the book that tells the story of Lucy Harwin’s first case as a Detective Inspector, and what a gruesome one it is to cut your teeth on as the Senior Investigating Officer.

When a bunch of 13 year olds decide to go ghost hunting in a derelict church they get more than they bargained for. A woman is hanging upside down, on a crude crucifix made from burnt wood, with her throat cut.

Newley promoted Detective Inspector Lucy Harwin is sent to the scene as the duty SIO and meets up with her, DS Mattie Jackson.

It’s every Police Officers worst scenario, a brutal murder with no clues to work on, and a newly promoted Lucy finds it particularly frustrating. Her team are chasing around trying to identify the body and find any sort of evidence when a second body is found.

This second body brings with it another nightmare for every Police Officer and puts Lucy under even more pressure.

As the body count rises other factors start to lead Lucy and the team down some lines of enquiry that not everybody is comfortable with.

The first time I read one of Helen Phifer’s books I was taken aback by the way she writes, using the correct procedures and terminology, keeping the pace of the book up all the way through. Right up to the very end I was captivated by the pace of the story.

There’s more to her writing than that though. The stories are great, and just like the others this one kept me engrossed from start to finish.

From the first chapter I was sucked into a great scenario. Helen has chosen to use a once prosperous English seaside resort as her setting. I have recently worked in a couple of these towns and didn’t realise how much they had become run down. How they had become great places to set crime stories.

I would usually comment on whether a new book, in an already established series, could be read as a stand-alone.

Well, as this is a prequel the answer is obviously yes.

So, I’ll comment on whether people already reading the series will be disappointed by Helen going back to the start of Lucy Harwin’s career as a DI.

No, they most certainly won’t. What a great tool for giving us more of the back story to some of the key characters in the series, especially Lucy.

And what a tool for getting new readers hooked on a series that is already out there, because if this is the first DI Luck Harwin book you read, I can guarantee you will read the rest of the series and wait for the next instalment as eagerly as me.

Follow the links below for my reviews of the previous DI Lucy Harwin novels

https://nigeladamsbookworm.com/category/the-lost-children/

https://nigeladamsbookworm.com/2017/10/19/dying-breath-helen-phifer/

 

Last Breath Published by Bookouture on November 16th 2018, available to pre-order on Amazon now