The House Fire Rosie Walker

As a retired Fire Officer I didn’t know quite what to expect of this book.

What I got was a great read.

Don’t be fooled by the title. Yes fire, and arson, are a running theme but it’s the story of why the fires are being set that makes this book stand out.

It’s the story of one woman, Jamie, and her partner, Spider, trying to make a TV documentary about a series of fire that hit a town in the 1980’s. It’s about the fire setter starting over again and threatening Jamie and her family.

Jamie’s family also play a central role. Her mothers new husband, a minor TV News reporter, and her young sister just don’t get on. The new husband, is he just too good to be true. The little sister is she just being a teenage brat.

The family dynamics examined in this book are a big part of what makes the story so compelling, and at times chilling.

At times this book seems a bit Nancy Drew, at others it’s very much straight off the pages of Val McDermid, and that blends it into a great psychological thriller .

Print length: 343. Publisher: One More Chapter. Published on 6th 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.

Fallen Angel. D.K Hood

A group of crime authors. A snowed in mountain resort. What could possibly go wrong.

The book starts with a woman running through the snow, she knows she’s being pursued, but she doesn’t get away.

The staff of the resort notice she’s missing and reports it to the Police.

Sheriff Jenna Alton and her trusty second in command Detective Dave Alton head to the resort.

What follows is a cross between a cosy, locked room crime mystery set in, and around, the snowed in resort, and a chilling thriller.

Alton and Kane are stuck in the resort as the blizzard rages, another woman is murdered.

In true locked room mystery style they know they are trapped with the killer hiding in plain sight amongst the staff and guests.

I like this book, in fact I like this series. The back story of both Alton and Kane, both in hiding with pasts that have seen them work in law-enforcement, is addictive reading.

Both moved to hide in plain sight in the sleepy mountain town of Black Rock Falls, a small team around them that help them solve the ever increasing number of murders that have hit the town.

The town is growing as is its notoriety, that’s what attracted the crime authors, it’s also what’s attracting the psychopaths.

This, off all the books so far, has the feel of an Agatha Christie story, with the inclusion of the modern day chiller.

The story that the book carries is good, but for me it’s the characters and the setting that sets this series apart from others.

For that reason, I wouldn’t read this as a standalone book. It’s an essential cog in a very strong engine, and in the right place in that engine it works perfectly. On its own, I don’t think it would have as big an affect.

Pages: 346. Publisher: Bookouture. Available now.

The Stolen Ones. Angela Marsons

When a man, Steven Harte, walks into a Police Station and asks to speak to Detective Inspector Kim Stone, with information about the disappearance of a young girl 25 years ago she initially gives him short shrift.

But when he says she will want to talk to him again soon, just as another little girl goes missing under very similar circumstances , he gets her attention.

Is he building an alibi, does he know something relevant, or is he just playing with Kim’s head.

And, as if one person playing with her head isn’t enough, the Queen of Psychopaths, Kim’s nemesis, Dr Alex Throne is sitting in prison trying to plot her way to freedom.

She knows Kim won’t be able to resist visiting her if she can get a message to her, all she needs is a phone with a number Kim doesn’t recognise. Easy for a functioning, psychotic, sociopath. But somebody will have to suffer.

Meanwhile. Kim’s team are investigating the latest disappearance and Stacy starts to notice a pattern.

The little girl that went missing 25 years ago was never found, but was she the first.

To find the clues that will help the team find the latest girl the team start to dig into historical cases, none of which had been solved.

How can respected business man Steven Harte possibly be linked to all of these cases?

Why is he leading Kim on a merry dance across the Black Country. He seems to anticipate their every move, and ingratiates himself with her team.

Can he possibly be a cold blooded kidnapper, and killer?

All the time the investigation is going on Dr Alex is plotting, should Kim be spending more time making sure she stays locked away, or is she being blindsided.

This is a belter of a story.

I recently watched a live Stream with Angela Marsons talking about how she comes up with stories for this amazing series. The way a little thing will catch her attention, then develops into a plot.

The way she is intrigued by finding out about specialist fields within Criminology and Forensics. The fact that she has bookshelves full of research text books.

It’s not a coincidence that this is the favourite series of so many people, selling millions around the world. Was it Tiger Woods who said “the harder I practice, the luckier I get”

Angela puts the hard miles into her research, often digging deep just to give a short chapter authenticity and realism.

The people, the settings, the stories, are all very realistic.

But there was something she said in the live stream that really resonated with me. Readers don’t need to know the little things, “like how many forms a cop needs to fill out” What they want to read is what they actually expect of a crime book, based on their knowledge from TV series and documentaries.

Nobody does this better than Angela. I work in the forensic field and have been involved in major investigations. I’ve never once thought anything she wrote was unrealistic.

Yet I have an acquaintance who could not be further removed from that life. Who has no experience of the police, or a police investigation, who is absolutely hooked on these books.

If Angela can keep both of us enthralled, and eagerly waiting for each instalment, she is definitely doing something right, very very right.

This year has been a stellar year for Crime Fiction books, but Angela Marsons still sits reading get at the top of my charts and looking at Amazon Chart today, the day after publication for this book, right at the top of most other readers must read list as well.

Pages: 426. Publisher: Bookouture. Available now

Frozen Souls. Rita Herron

When a serial killer has to start leaving bodies out in the open to make room for their latest victim things are seriously wrong.

The snow storm should have hidden the body, possibly for months but every crime books favourite unnamed character, the dog walker stumbles not only across the body, but also has a close encounter with the killer.

Detective Ellie Reeves is the first to the scene and is about to start a game of cat and mouse with the killer that will revoke memories of her own childhood.

The star of this book for me is the setting. Rita Herron uses the remote township of Crooked Creek for the small town scenario really well. Everybody knows everybody, except who is the killer.

They also know where to find Ellie, and how to show their frustrations when the case isn’t going well.

So when another girl goes missing the pressure starts to mount. Will that cause her to make a mistake, or let a slip of concentration leave her exposed.

One things for sure when everybody knows the towns detective, her history, and where to find her, that means so does the killer.

And, if you are a killer who thinks a Detective might be on to you, what would you do.

Is the killer in their own community, or is it one of the strangers who have set up remote communities around the mountains at the start of the Appalachian Trail

The characters Herron uses in all of her books are believable and engaging, when they are on the right side of the law, and utterly chilling when they are not.

But, as I’ve already said, it’s the setting that brings chills, and not just because of the snow storms. This book has that psychological thriller slant that had me on the edge of my seat.

A stunning read.

Pages: 449. Publisher: Bookouture Available now

Little Bones. Patricia Gibney

For anybody that hasn’t found series of books, by Patricia Gibney, featuring DI Lottie Parker, you are missing out on one of the best Police Thriller series on the shelves.

For those of you that have, you are in for a treat with this one, I think it’s the best so far.

Lottie is called to a gruesome murder the victim has an old fashioned razor blade in her hand.

A woman receives a hand written note with three Rusty Razor Blades inside, she knows she’ll be dead within days, if not before the end of the day. Especially when she sees news of a murder on the news.

Somebody is coming for her. She knows why. She’s scared and so she should be.

Somebody is watching the Police. He wants to help, he has information, but he also suffers blackouts and doesn’t know if he’s the killer.

And all of that in the first few chapters.

Lottie and her team have their work cut out with this investigation.

You can rely on Patricia Gibney to keep it real, and this is no exception. Her books are like the written version of the real life, fly-on-the-wall, crime documentaries that follow live investigations. But her books are access all areas.

She takes you inside the head of the detectives, the criminals, the witnesses and the victims. She shows you the affect of a crime on everybody it touches, and throughout the series she has shown us the affect the work has on DI Lottie Parker and her family.

This book arrived in my inbox on a Friday morning, it went straight to the top of my to-be-read list, and was finished by Sunday, it gripped me from the first chapter. Brilliant.

Pages: 407. Publisher: Bookouture. Available now.

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