The DI Declan Walsh Series Books 1&2 . Jack Gatland

I was browsing book sites looking for a new author when I found the first book in the series, Letter from the Dead being offered as a free book on Amazon.

Not one to turn down a cheaply I loaded it onto my Kindle, and I’m glad I did.

Letter from the Dead introduces DI Delan Walsh, an Officer who is on the brink of leaving the Police following two recent events, one disciplinary, the other the resolution of a case that saw him braking a corruption ring in his force.

The hatred from many other officers he can deal with, the fact that he punched a Priest has resulted in his suspension and possible dismissal.

But he’s approached by DCI Munroe. His team of City of London Officers are made up by people with similar issues to Walsh. His ethos is some problem cops are just to good at their job to be allowed to slip away. They specialise in old or cold cases.

So when new information is received about the apparent accidental death of a Politician’s nearly 20 years earlier the team investigate exactly what happened

What follows is a multilayered plot that takes in the possible murder and introduces recurring characters that will turn up in the series.

Politicians, Police Officers, Gangland criminals, all take major roles as do their friends and families.

The investigation of a historic crime, involving politicians has huge impact. 20 years on some have moved on from politics, and not all in a positive way. Ones homeless, by choice, one’s an internet preacher, and one has changed his political allegiances. But what are they running away from.

This is a story about manipulation and consequences, and it’s a great vehicle to start the series.

The second book, Murder of Angels, is one of the most complex stories I’ve read for a long time, but it’s a cracker of a read.

Parts of two Cities, London and Birmingham, are run by traditional, old school villains, but they are being slowly threatened by the younger gangs, youths that have less respect for people in general. In this case the problem is exacerbated by the fact that it’s the sons of the old gangsters that are trying to take over.

Declan and the team of misfits are spread thin covering crimes in both cities as part of a joint investigation.

The concept of this conflict is again historical. Things that happened 18 years ago having a huge impact on today, and it’s the mysteries of the past that the team need to get to the bottom of, to get to solve todays crimes.

As complex as the book is there is never any doubt of its credibility. The story is brilliant.

The characters in this series are really good. Walsh is totally engaging. His history, and his father’s history are going to have a huge impact on the series.

If you like multi-layered books with a compelling ongoing thread, this is definitely a series not to miss

I really can’t wait to read the next book, but I have commitments to other books, and I’ve got work to do so it will have to wait for a week or so.

Six Graves. Angela Marsons

In the blink of an eye we’re at book 16

You would think that by now the series would be running out of steam, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.

The prologue hooked me in a way no other start to a book ever has.

In places the story had me holding my breath till I was turning blue.

And the last page left me Gob Smacked and reaching for a glass of Jack Daniels.

A family dead. Mom, Dad, and two children all shot and the mother is still holding the gun.

Surely this is a straight forward murder suicide.

DI Kim Stone’s not sure. As she starts to dig into the family history she starts to uncover secrets. Helen, the mother has history of depression., but is that enough to tip her over the edge.

The team dig deeper and the clues start to surface, but it’s not just clues which are surfacing, so is a face from Kim’s past.

She receives a threat to her life. Typically she shrugs it of but this one’s serious and it has her rattled. Rattled enough to send Barney away on a holiday for his safety.

As she continues to lead the team looking at the death of the family a psychopath that is getting close, metaphorically and physically.

I challenge anybody not to read this in one sitting. It’s a book that brings a new meaning to the word tense, there was no way I could put it down

Angela Marsons has a way of writing that has always engaged with me. One of the things that her writing has is a realism that I can associate with.

It’s not just that her stories are based where I live, it’s not just the fact the characters are so realistic. It’s the empathy I have with Kim Stone.

That empathy really hit home in this book.

In all the crime scenes I attended, in all the fires I investigate, there has only ever been one thing that got to me. It was the normality of the scene. The rooms that hadn’t been affected. The rooms where it looked like the people who lived there were about to walk in and start their day.

In this book Angela Marsons captures that through Kim Stone better than anybody has captured it before.

The bar just got raised again.

Pages: 425. Audio book length: 8:33. Publisher: Bookouture Available now.

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A Life For A Life. Carol Wyer

Carol Wyer is one of those authors who I look for. When her books are out up for review I grab them as soon as possible.

There’s a reason for this. She ticks all of my boxes when it comes to crime fiction.

Great characters, great settings, realistic stories, gritty, and no guarantee of a happy ending.

The Kate Young series has been her best so far, and A Life For A Life just takes it to another level.

Kate is made SIO when a seemingly innocent, if somewhat irritating, young man is found dead on a train station platform. He’s been shot in the head with a stun bolt, like those used to kill animals in abattoirs.

But he’s only the first victim, there will be others.

Meanwhile Kate is still trying to expose the bent Senior Police Officer she believes is responsible for the murder of her husband.

Her husband was a journalist who had been investigating a story involving high profile men abusing underage youths, of both sexes, in a sex club.

One of the underage youths had been killed by an over zealous customer whilst The Senior Police Officer was abusing a young girl in the neighbouring room. Now that girl is on the run and Kate knows she’s the only person who will have information to help her nail the dirty cop.

How far will Kate go in her attempts to avenge her husband, and how much will it affect her ability to perform as a normal day-to-day SIO.

The continuing story of Kates attempt to get justice for her husband runs nicely in parallel to the core story of this book, the investigation into the murders.

There’s another parallel that binds Kate and the Killer, but I really can’t mention it without giving a big spoiler. However when you read the book you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about, and just how clever Carol Wyer has been to use it.

This is crime fiction at its very best. It also shows why U.K. Crime Fiction is so popular and successful right now.

Fast paced, realistic crime, that just grips the reader and takes them on one hell of a ride.

A brilliant read.

Print length: 363 pages. Audio Book: 10 hours 5 minutes. Publisher: Thomas & Mercer

The West London Murders and The Bisley Wood Murders by Biba Pearce

Books two and three in the brilliant London based crime series.

DI, or Acting DCI, Rob Miller is a great character. In his personal life he is the quiet man who seems almost shy. In his professional life he is thought of as the quiet but efficient background officer.

But in the first book of the series he was given a chance to be the SIO on what appeared to be a run of the mill murder. This turned out to be anything but run of the mill, and his ability as as leader, and as an investigator shone through.

It’s no surprise that he is given a second run at SIO in book 2, The West London Murders, when a man is stabbed to death in what appears a random attack.

As the investigation gets going it soon becomes evident that the National Crime Agency was aware of the man. Rob and his team are asked to lay of the main suspect as the NCA have him as one of their main targets in a County Lines investigation, which could lead to a major drug gang being taken off the streets.

When another death is linked to that of the first victim it becomes apparent that neither murder has anything to do with the drugs gang, and that a murder investigation is the Mets priority.

Rob is reunited with Jo Maguire, now working for the NCA, they both have their own priorities, Rob the murder investigation, Jo the drug gangs and their suppliers.

Can they play nicely and satisfy both of their bosses, can they solve the murders without jeopardising the drug investigation.

Just as intriguing, where will their own relationship go, now that Rob is in a very unstable marriage.

In the third book, The Bisley Woods Murders, Rob is made SIO when a young girl goes missing. A body is found but it’s not that young girl, it’s another one, and she’s been buried for years.

When the girl who Rob was initially tasked to find turns up safe and well it’s not the end of the investigation, because by this time a body dump has been found, and the team are looking for somebody who has been killing young girls for years.

How has this not been picked up before? It’s a testament to Pearce’s writing that I never asked that question. The flow of the story is brilliant, and realistic, it highlights how easy it is for mass killers to go unnoticed.

From the start the investigation is hampered in the most unexpected of ways. But this leads to the discovery of the burial sites. It also throws the investigation team down blind alleys in the investigation.

The frustration of the team is only added to when it becomes personal for one of their number.

Can the murdered in London be linked to The disappearance of Jo Maguire’s sister nearly 20 years ago.

I came late to this series, and I’m loving catching up.

It’s like that TV series you didn’t catch first time around and now you’re binge watching it.

It’s compulsive. The crimes are really well conceived and realistic. The setting, the London Suburbs is perfect for the story. Most importantly, for me, I can engage with the characters.

Rob Miller is brilliant, he is just an ordinary man, a bit shy and a little insecure in everything except his commitment to an investigation. His personal life is in turmoil. As the series starts he is engaged to a high maintenance girl who, in everyday terms is well above his punching weight.

By the second book they are married but in a very unstable relationship. In typical man style he ignores the situation at home to concentrate on his cases, but his home life is always on his mind.

And then there’s Jo. A career focused young woman who Rob finds solace with, and both of them would want more if he wasn’t married.

There are conundrums in the investigations and Robs personal life that keep these stories going at just the right pace.

A great series.

Publisher Joffe Books. Print Length: 266 & 338 pages. Available now

The Thames Path Killer. Biba Pearce

DI Rob Miller is somewhat of an anomaly amongst Police Detectives.

He comes across as shy and a bit insecure. Conversely, in his private life, he is engaged to an ex underwear model who now works on a beauty counter at Harrods.

When the body of a woman turns up on a secluded path Robs boss gives him his first major investigation as Senior Investigating Officer, all his other DI’s are busy.

But Rob is good, and the small team he gathers together are just as good, as well as being dedicated and supportive. Which is more than can be said for his fiancé. She hates him working outside “office hours”

The age old struggle between a detectives home life and their professional life is brilliantly portrayed in the interaction between the pair.

When another body is found it’s inevitable Rob will start to spend many late hours at work, but with pressure coming on him to solve the murders Rob is determined to see the case through as SIO.

The pressure mounts when a team from Lewisham MIT are drafted in to help and it has DCI who is taking charge of the case.

The DCI is a young woman, on fast track promotion, known to be the star in the eye of the Senior Ranks in the Met.

How will she and Rob work together, what will the dynamics of the newly formed team be.

This is a fantastic story by an author I have only just discovered. The book is the first in a series, and I’ve just downloaded the rest of the series onto my Kindle, and once I’ve reviewed a book I’m committed to reading next, I will read the rest of the series straight away.

I read in a review of this book that the rape murder scene was too explicit. That it could act as a trigger for victims of abuse.

I have no doubt it could be a trigger, and I would warn any reader that finds the subject difficult to skip the pages covering that part of the story.

But graphic, I don’t know, I’ve read a lot worse. Yes it is there, and it doesn’t leave the reader in any doubt about what’s happening, but if the one or two pages were taken out the book would lose a part of the story that gives it that psychological thriller hook.

The crime and the investigation is the main part of the story. But I love characters, you can have the best story in the world, but if the characters are weak, or poorly written, the story doesn’t work for me.

The story, and the characters in this book are great.

I can’t wait to read the rest of the series.

Print length: 210. Publisher Joffe Books. Available now

The Millionaire Murders. Rachel McLean

This is the series that I find myself waiting for more than any other at the moment.

Rachel McClean created a set of characters from the West Midlands Police in her first set of books, The Deadly…….series set in Birmingham.

One of those characters is the lead in this spin-off series set in Dorset.

DCI Lesley Clarke was seconded to the “quieter” force of Dorset to help her recover from an injury she suffered during a terrorist attack in Birmingham, but life has been far from quiet.

This is the fifth book in the Dorset Based …….Murders set and has some interesting cross-overs with the first set.

The main Crime in this book is a double murder in the Millionaires Row that is Sandbanks.

When a live-in cleaner returns home with her boyfriend she expects her boss to be away, she should have flown out on holiday, so she doesn’t expect to find the woman, and an unknown man dead, in a bedroom of the luxury house.

What starts of as a complicated crime is made worse when Clarke is told to split her already small team into two. A well known local journalist has gone missing and politically it turns into a must solve.

So with her Sergeant and two others investigating the murder, Lesley and one of her DC’s start to try and find the journalist.

What Clarke can’t share with her team is that the journalist was looking into the death of her predecessor, a death which had been recorded as suicide. A death that the head of forensics thinks was anything but suicide, and she’s convinced Lesley enough for her to have involved an old colleague from Birmingham to re-examine the case.

Why? Because she really doesn’t know who she can trust in her own team, or those above her.

Can her Sergeant and his small team solve the murder, and can Lesley keep her concerns about her predecessors death a secret in isolation from her investigation into the missing journalist.

That is a running theme through the whole of this set of books, and is an absolute cracker. It’s that, as well as the well conceived, well plotted stories in each book that keeps me checking for new release dates, and hitting the preorder as soon as they arrive.

I once wrote that Rachel’s books were like the TV series Line of Duty, I was wrong, they are so much better.

Print length: 366 pages. Publisher: Ackroyd Publishing

The Dying Game. Ruhi Choudhary

Do you want to play a game..a simple question with chilling consequences.

A beautiful woman murdered, a local man committed suicide leaving a note saying he had to killed her.

A open and closed case until another person is murdered.

Then the first clue, a letter. somebody is showing people how vulnerable a member of their family is. The question. Do you want to play a game. Kill the person I deliver to you or a member of your family dies. Your choice.

Detective Mackenzie Price is assigned the case, and immediately starts to send ripples through the small community she works in.

One of the families involved is old money rich, and they have influence.

But with more people going missing, and now knowing they only have a limited time to find them, she doesn’t care who she upsets, or what the consequences might be.

The way Ruhi Choudhary writes always grips me. She has a way of guiding the story down avenues that always make me think, I’ve got this, only to find it’s another clever plot twist.

But that’s what makes it so good. Real police investigation is all about building hypotheses, the investigators investing their theory, until it’s proven wrong and they have to back track and build another

It’s always about the clues you don’t see, often right in front of your eyes, the clue that only takes relevance when that one piece of the jigsaw falls into place, and you finally see the relevance of the picture.

This is where Choudhary is the master. She lets little things slip into the story that help build the final hypothesis. There’s no sudden revelation of a clue, or suspect who hasn’t been in the story until almost the end.

Everything is there in the build up, but can you spot it. I’m usually quite good at spotting it, but not till really late in these stories.

A great book in a brilliant series. Yes it can be read as a standalone. No it won’t ruin the earlier books if you choose to go back and read them.

Loved it.

Print length: 382 pages. Audio book running time: 10 hours 45 Publisher: Bookouture

The Body Beneath The Willows. Nick Louth

The fourth book in the DCI Craig Gillard series, but just in case you’re put off by that, this book can easily be read as a standalone without losing any of its impact.

For crime fiction fans I’d describe Gillard as a character similar to Lewis from the Morse spin-off series. Nothing is unusual about him. He’s an honest cop, a family man who is happily married, even if he has a mad aunty who occasionally gives him hassle on the domestic front. He just gets on with the job, and that make really comfortable read.

The Publishers Gumph

On the tree-lined banks of Surrey’s River Wey, a decaying corpse is dug up by workmen in the middle of an Anglo-Saxon burial site. His modern dental fillings show that this is no Dark Age corpse…

DCI Craig Gillard is called in, but the body’s condition makes identification difficult. One man, however, seems to fit the bill: Ozzy Blanchard, a contractor employed by the same water firm doing the digging who disappeared six months ago, his crashed company car found nearby.

But then an X-ray of the corpse throws the investigation into turmoil. A shard of metal lodged in his neck turns out to be part of an Anglo-Saxon dagger unknown to archaeologists. Who wielded this mystery weapon and why? Does the answer lie in a murderous feud between two local families?

The deeper Gillard digs, the more shocking truths he will uncover.

A totally original crime mystery that will keep you guessing until the very end, The Body Amongst the Willows is an absolute thrill-ride, perfect for fans of Michael Connelly, Ann Cleeves and Mark Billingham

What I thought

Nick Louth has created a great character in Gillard. The story clatters along at a great pace, and takes enough twists and turns to keep the reader guessing, without stepping into the realm of the improbable, or impossible. It’s very realistic.

There’s a clever thread running through the book that had me convinced I’d spotted who the murderer was, but no, I was wrong.

Gillard is written in such a way that you can feel his frustrations as the investigation seems to hit brick walls.

This is made even more realistic by the fact that Louth has fully embraced the way of the world today. He is the first author, that I’ve read, who has taken on the way the pandemic is affecting the country, the reduced number of Police Officers available, working from home, the mental effect of lockdown.

Nick Louth books are very much of the now, and I suspect in years to come people will read them and remember the period we’re going through. Hopefully as a distant memory.

Print Length 306 pages. Publisher Canelo Crime. Published 27th January 2022

Her Dying Wish. Carla Covach

I have to admit to a vested interest in this book. I have an acknowledgment in the back for some advice I gave to the author.

Carla is one of my favourite authors, and her DI Gina Harte is one of the best characters in modern crime fiction. So it was a privilege to be asked, but this is an honest review

What the gumph says:

Kerstin is wide awake. While her family sleeps around her, the devastating secret her husband just told her is spinning through her mind. Does she really know the man she married? And are her children still safe in this small town?

She jumps as she hears a sound from outside. Peering into the inky darkness, her eyes focus on movement at the bottom of the garden. Someone is out there.

She watches as the figure strikes a single match. Kerstin gasps at the sight of the face staring back at her, smiling, as if enjoying her fear.

A car door slams and the figure makes a dash for the trees, leaving something behind – a small memorial candle. As it flickers in the darkness, Kerstin knows exactly what it means. Someone is coming for her, and her family is in terrible danger…

As I was reading it I was making notes for my review, but unusually for me they were one word bullet points.

Manipulation, Murder, Deceit, Blackmail, Victims or Murderers.

The very last thing I wrote in my note was.

Certainly no Occam’s Razor in solving this one.

How Covach even conceived this story makes me wonder about the way an authors mind works. It’s brilliant.

Children are kidnapped, family homes are set on fire, people are murdered. And all this is connected to a small group of seemingly innocent people.

As a reader I am always trying to work out where a story is going to go, who is the next victim, who is the perpetrator, usually with great success.

Not with this book. I loved the crimes, the settings and the story. Did I work out who was responsible and why? Not a chance.

Even though I made a note half way through reading it, 50/50, because I thought the mystery had been solved. I was wrong. It was just another well designed, well written, turn in the plot.

This is a book that just keeps twisting and turning from the first house fire, to the final arrest this book had me hooked.

Print length: 367. Publisher: Bookouture. Available now.

The Monument Murders. Rachel McLean

Straight off I’m going to say this is one of my favourite series. I enjoyed the original books set in Birmingham, and these Dorset based books.

The Dorset books are neither a continuation of the Birmingham books, or a separate series, they are very much a spin-off with overlapping characters.

Rachel McLean has a way of making realistic, normal paced, modern policing exciting.

She has a great skill for a flamboyant murder scene which always puts a different spin on the scene examination.

But what I think she has mastered is the ability to take a very thin twine of a thread of a story, and weave it through all of her books.

As with the Birmingham series there is the hint of Police misdoings. A problem that is niggling away at DCI Lesley Clarke, a problem that her boss seems to want her to look into, but at the same time won’t acknowledge the exists.

In each of the Dorset series this thread is intertwined with the main crime to be investigated.

I mentioned flamboyant scenes. The first murder victim in this book is found spread eagled over the local landmark, the Swanage Globe.

An architect has had his throat cut and a note has been left with the body, Go Home, is written in his own blood.

The fact that the victim is black, and the words on the note, instantly raise the possibility of a race crime. But he’s an out-of-towner working on a controversial project, so the reference to going home may not be race based.

With the investigation team split between the two hypotheses cracks start to appear.

Can Clarke keep everything together, the team, the main investigation, the side investigation into a crime that may not even have happened, and her relationship with a criminal defence barrister who just happens to be representing one of her main suspects.

What a book, and what a clever ending………..

I can’t wait for the next one.

Pages: 352. Publisher: Ackroyd Publishing. Available now.