Dead Mercy. Noelle Holten

Right at the back of this book is an insight into why this story, and the series, is so good.

A modest Eleven lines under the title About the Author.

In those lines it relates Noelle Holten’s qualifications and experience.

A Senior Probation Officer for 18 years covering Domestic Violence and Abuse cases.

3 BA (Hons) degrees, Philosophy, Sociology (Crime and Deviance) and Community Justice, and to top it of a Masters in Criminology.

So Noelle is one of those rare breeds, a person that has experience to back her qualifications, and that really stands out and puts her way ahead of many authors.

The story sees DC Maggie Jamieson and the Staffordshire Police Major Organised Crime welcoming back Dr Kate Maloney to the team, and her Psychologist insights are going to be priceless.

When Maggie is called to the first murder scene she finds the victim has been bound, assaulted, and set alight.

Why would anybody do that to a person, is the fire part of the killers method of killing or is it an attempt to destroy evidence.

When a second body turns up under similar circumstances the phrase serial killer gets banded about but Maggie is quick to point out that you need three deaths before you can use that category. She spoke too soon.

As the body count mounts the team work their way through the investigation, building working hypothesis as they go. As in a real investigation suspects come to the fore, and hypothesis are built around the reasons for the killing; and as in a real investigation it takes time to get it right.

Although the reader gains an insight into the killers motives, through the occasional chapter written from their point of view, the Police are frustratingly chipping away at the edges without quite nailing it, until they inevitably put the pieces together, but how many people are going to die first.

They say never judge a book by its cover, and I would usually agree, but this book has a stunning cover and the story is every bit as good.

I mentioned Noelle’s qualifications and experience. She’s walked the walk, she has all of the t-shirts, and now she’s writing books about the things she knows.

If you want your crime fiction realistic, if you want the crimes, criminals, victims, and Police Officers to be truly reflective of the real thing, this book, and this series are what you are looking for.

Pages: 400. Publisher: One More Chapter, Harper Collins

The Crying House B.R Spangler

The book starts 30 years ago with a young boy being abused by his mother, but is this the making of a monster?

The abuse is carried out in a specific way, a way I haven’t heard of before, and that’s not the only first in this book.

The setting for the place the first bodies are found when the story moves to the current day, is the second. Some houses which have been abandoned are being used by local youths to party. The houses are suffering from rising sea levels and costal erosion and could collapse at any time.

The first body appears to be a consequence of careless partying, or is it?

The second body, found in the upper floors has had its blood drained and is mummified in salt, and that is the link back to the abused boy thirty years previously.

Casey White is still convalescing but is keen to lead the investigation into both deaths.

As she looks at old crimes she realises that a similar murder had happened years ago, but that the man who committed it is still in prison. He’s old, he’s frail, he’s incarcerated, he can’t be responsible can he?

Another body, a note held in its hand.

Casey’s daughter s still missing, she still sees her, she still worries about her, the note sends her into paranoia, will her daughter be next.

Spangler writes as if he’s writing for me. He ticks all my boxes, original crimes, a great setting, a main character I can engage with, peripheral characters that hold my interest, and ongoing stories that run through the series, each book its own cracking story.

This is Book 4 in the Detective Casey White series, yes it can be read as a standalone, but it’s much better read in order.

Pages: 281. Publisher: Bookouture. Available now

Cross My Heart. D.K Hood

I read on another review that this book had a very dark beginning. That was an understatement.

This is the 12th book in the Kane and Alton series and if you are a fan you will know that DK Hood can come up with some chilling storylines, but in this one she’s surpassed herself.

With her sidekick, partner, and protector Dave Kane away at a conference Sheriff Jena Alton is home alone, in her house, in the woods.

What she doesn’t yet know is that there is a man in the mountains, capturing women and teasing them, by allowing them to escape and then hunting them down like game animals. Until he gets fed up of them, then he………..I’ll leave that to your imagination but I’d bet you won’t come up with what.

As Jenna lies alone in bed with just Dave’s dog, and her cat for company a vicious storm hits, and during it somebody launches an attack on her house.

After the storm the a grisly discovery is made attached to her house, with a message.

The message, and the method of attack, lead the team to think of one man. The problem is he is prison, for life, and Jenna put him there.

What follows is a story that is a heady mix of CJ Box and Greg Iles. Box for the way the story leads to the mountain trails and into the woods, Iles for the unfiltered psychological edge. Stunning

Some of the scenes in the book are so well portrayed I found myself sweating for no other reason than the tension that was in the story.

It ticks all the psychological fears that are inherent in most people, storms, fires, being out in the woodlands on mountains in the dark, being stalked by somebody you just can’t get away from. Hood has written what many people see in their nightmares.

But it’s all well within the realms of believable realism and at no point did I think “no, that’s not going to happen”

A great book in a great series.

Does it need reading in the correct sequence, it would be better, but it could be read as a standalone.

Publisher: Bookouture. Pages: 290

Circles of Confusion. JJ Graftoon

A unique book for me. One that doesn’t look at a crime from the police point of view. One that doesn’t look to solve a murder or other serious crime.

This one is a story of abuse. The story of a young woman graduating from University. One with an empathy for street prostitutes.

Jilly is about to submit her final project. A photographic assignment in which she has documented the lives of local, street based, sex workers.

Her boyfriend Rob has never liked her associating with, in his words “prossies” But in her own way Jilly has used him in the same way the sex workers use their clients, for gain.

She doesn’t love him, in fact she doesn’t really like him, but he has put a roof over her head, kept her fed and safe, and brought her a high end computer to do her work on, so she can put up with the sex.

What she can’t put up with is his increasing mental, and occasional physical abuse, especially when he’s drunk. And when he starts to humiliate her in front of his best friend and drinking buddy Nige, she decides it’s time to move on.

But not before she does a favour for a friend, and goes to a sex workers house to take some “nice family photos” for her.

Tina is too old to be on the streets, her husband, and pimp, Noel is against the photos but he, and their son Leon, take part in the session.

It’s when one of the candid shots make it into the national press that things start to spiral out of control.

Jilly wants to help Gina, but how, without making things worse.

This is a cracking book that enthralled me from page one.

Circles of Confusion is a great title but it’s misleading, there is nothing confusing about this story.

Spirals, free falling, out of control are much more descriptive.

The characters in this book are great.

The violence and abuse are alluded to without graphic depictions, and in my opinion that makes the book more tense.

It’s a tough read in parts but the subject is treated well by the author, without reducing the serious issues it covers.

A great read

Pages: 283. Publisher: Independently Published. Available on Amazon

10 Days. Mel Sherratt

10 days. That’s how long 4 women have suffered for. Taken off the street, kept in a locked room, physically and mentally abused, and then released without explanation.

What could be worse?

This could.

Journalist Eva Farmer has interviewed all of the women after they were released. She knows what the women went through. So when she is taken she knows what to expect, almost on a day to day basis.

Eva, like the police, couldn’t make a connection between the apparently random victims, but she’s about to learn there is one, and that she, like the others, is not a random victim.

Written from two points of view, Eva’s, and her captors, the story unfolds on a daily basis, with occasional chapters being made up of the reports Eva wrote after the interviews with the earlier victims.

But this story is not just about Eva whilst she’s being held, it’s about who she was, and things she’s done in her past.

Could her captive have known all along.

Then there’s her captor. They too have an interesting back story.

I loved this book. It’s gets more complex as it unfolds. There are so many strands that knit together perfectly.

The underlying tension built up by the fact that Eva knows what happened to the first 4 women is tangible.

The demons it brings into her head as she sits in a dark room with only her own thoughts, and memories, is frightening.

A brilliant story that kept me turning the pages until way into the night.

This is a great standalone read.

Pages: 284. Publisher: Bookouture. Available now

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

20/20. Carl Goodman

DI Eva Harris is one hell of a character. 27 years old, a cybercrime specialist who is on rotation to get experience, but she already has a great back story.

Eva is special, in many ways, and if you can get past the fact she is a DI at such a young age you will love this book. Especially if you are a fan of the TV series Line of Duty.

There are multiple strands to this story. One of them is the fact that it’s not a coincidence that Eva is doing a rotation through the Surrey serious crime team. She’s been laced there to find a leak, a bent cop who is feeding organised crime syndicates information on ongoing investigations.

But that is one of the smaller storylines, the main one is the hunt for a murderer.

In the depths of Surrey there is a gated estate where the rich shy away from the public. The estate is the realm of successful business people, footballers, and increasingly rich foreigners.

When the first murder happens on the estate Eva is sent to investigate. A woman tied naked to a chair, her blood drained, her eyes removed with surgical skill.

Evas investigation will lead her to some strange places that may are the domain of the rich and bored. She encounters some tremendous characters.

Along the way the different strands of the story occasionally cross, but never confuse. There is a constant pace that makes the book hard to put down, and then there are the last few chapters.

No spoilers but they are brilliant.

I have to say that Carl Goodman has created one of the best new characters I’ve read for a long time. With her young age, and her tenacity, I can only hope that this is the first in a long series.

At the moment it looks like this book is initially only going to be available as an ebook and audio book, published on the 16th June. I really hope it gets a print run. If it doesn’t, and you haven’t got an ebook reader, it would be worth buying one just to read 20/20

Publisher: Hera. Publishing Date: 16th June 2021

Widow’s Island. L.A. Larkin

Another new author for me, and another addition to my notifications on Amazon.

I have read a lot of good books this year, and this one is right up there with the best.

A middle aged University Professor, who has been recently widowed, relocates herself and her teenage daughter to a small island in Washington State.

For the first few months everything is going ok, but Professor Stephanie Miller is about to present a controversial document to a senate committee, and not everybody is happy about it.

A troll farm ( yes thee is such a thing, I had a pleasant hour reading about them online ) starts to run a campaign to discredit her.

As the misinformation turns to rumours the small island community starts to look at Stephanie and her daughter differently.

Meanwhile the island holds a secret. A murderer has been killing people in a very specific way for years, but his crimes are few and far between, and somebody different always seems to be in the frame for them, even if it’s never quite proved.

When Stephanie and her daughter start to get direct threats it’s not clear whether it’s the result of the trolling, or are they being targeted by a killer.

His is an intriguing story. It has elements that had me reaching for search engines on my computer, Puget Sound, in Washington State, with its collection of islands linked to the mainland by small ferries, is a great place to set psychological thriller.

The toll farms, I’d heard of them but didn’t realise just how much impact they have had over the last few years, a brilliant addition for any thriller where a persons head needs playing with.

Larkin has interwoven two compelling threads that had me second guessing myself all the way to the end of the book.

How much did I enjoy the book. As soon as I finished it I went onto Amazon and looked to see what else the author has written, my wallet was grateful there was only one other book to download, and it is now my current reading.

Pages: 396. Publisher: Bookouture. Publishing date: 3rd June 2021

Dead Secret Noelle Holton

Dead Secret was published yesterday, and I’ve been chomping at the bit to tell everybody how good it is. Now its my turn on the reviewers blog tour, I can do just that

First of all this is book 4 in a series but it can be read as a standalone without losing any of its impact.

What makes this book so good?

The characters, the storylines, everything, are so well written. They are written by a person who has working experience with the people she writes about. That makes things very, very real

She also gets the incestuous nature of crimes, about how when major crimes happen, there is only a small group involved.

There is nobody better at writing about domestic abuse and the way it affects people, the way that if it’s not addressed things can spiral, yet the victim is often the one witness who doesn’t want to come forward.

In this story there’s a murder, a kidnap, and a domestic abuse crime, all, happening at the same time, and apparently unrelated. But are they?

The three crimes are all investigated in their own way, the paths of the investigation cross at times but isn’t it just coincidence?

The main character DC Maggie Jamieson is still mentally and physically exhausted from the last case. Her guard is down and a journalist, she actually fancies, is trying to worm her way into her affections.

But the journalist is also getting information from a source within the team, not Maggie, but everybody wants to know who, and suspicion is flying.

One of the crimes leads the team to a horrific, unbelievable, conclusion.

I started the book on Saturday night and would have read it in one sitting had I started it early enough in the day. As it was I didn’t put it down till silly o’clock in the morning, and picked it up with my first cup of coffee Sunday and sat till I’d finished it. 

I mentioned that this is the fourth book in the series. I’ve already reviewed the first 3.

#1 Dead Inside. #2 Dead Wrong. #3 Dead Perfect.

They were all good, but this one, for me, is the best so far.

I said something in a tweet when I first read this book, and I stand by what I said.

This book is destined for the top of the best seller lists