The Lost Ones. Marnie Riches

Well if you are looking for a detective with a difference this is the book to find it in.

Detective Sergeant Jackie Cook. A hormonal woman in the third trimester of an unexpected pregnancy who has: A waster of a husband who contributes nothing but dreams of being a rock star. Nine year old twin sons doing their best Fred and George Weasley impressions. A mother who lives in the basement with her David Niven like boyfriend. The occasional visiting bohemian artist father.

On top of all of that her colleagues blame her for letting the glory seeking, queen detective, DI Venables get the rank of Detective Inspector because she’d stood down from it.

Oh and there’s a series of gruesome murders to solve.

Cook and her partner David Tang are assigned to a murder where the limbless torso of a young girl has been posed in a beer garden.

It’s not the usual gang related murder the team are used to dealing with in Manchester, and it’s not the last body with bits missing that is coming their way.

The story develops as more bodies are found. Each either missing pieces, or being discovered as just one piece.

Cooke and Tang are under pressure, Venables is preening her feathers and wants a quick arrest of who she thinks is an obvious suspect. Cooke and Tang know she’s wrong.

This story is stunning, and has introduced one of the quirkiest characters I’ve read for years.

Cook is a force to be reckoned with, but she’s also a vulnerable woman.

She’s blunt, likes to give the occasional kick in the shin, loves her job, but has real problems balancing her work and home life.

As the story gallops on she finds herself having to merge both worlds, but the result is not what she expects, or is it.

A stunning start to what I hope will be a great series.

If you are a fan of Marnie Riches you are not going to be disappointed. If you are only just discovering her you are in for a real treat.

Publisher: Bookouture. Pages: 324. Audio Book 11 hours 6 minutes. Narrator Helen Duff. Available now.

Tuesday Falling. S. Williams

When three things collide and bring something good into your reading.

One. I’ve been looking for a new style of writing. I love crime fiction but it can have a habit of sticking to the same one or two formulas.

Two. A few weeks ago I reviewed a book by Stephen Williams, The Skin Games, it was brilliant.

Three. A comment by another reader, after they’d read my review, included a link to Tuesday Falling by S. Williams. Why didn’t Amazon suggest this, I thought The Skin Games was his first book.

So when I clicked the link, and read the synopsis I thought I’d give it a go.

I was hooked from the start.

Tuesday is a young, emo-goth, or that’s the appearance she wants to portray. Homeless, living off the grid, below the streets, in the labyrinth of tunnels, service ducts, basements and the underground infrastructure, of London.

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. She’s on a killing spree. In fact she’s about to wage a very smart war on the drug dealing, people smuggling, woman abusers that make up the lowlife of some of Londons sink estates.

Which Williams perfectly describes as “sink estates with no Government money spent on them, but rich in drug money”

The gangs are run by powerful men who have long left the estates behind and rely on their young impressionable gang members, again brilliantly described as “clone-drones”.

They rely on the gangs reputation, the threats of, and actual violence, to intimidate already scared residents, and pick on the vulnerable, mainly young women and girls.

So when a young girl, with high intelligence, and a driven motivation, decides to start reaping havoc, the gangs don’t stand a chance.

The problem is Tuesday is breaking the law just as much as the gangs, and not only does she have the gangs on her tail, she also has the police, or was that the plan all along.

This is a really clever story with brilliant characters.

The violence is only really hinted at with Williams taking things to the edge, and leaving the reader in no doubt about what has happened, without going overboard on the gore.

The story touches on aspects of life in, and amongst, some of the most underprivileged of society. It handles it well and although poetic licence lets Williams exaggerate some things, it’s not by much, and the reader doesn’t need a huge leap of faith to understand this story is realistic in its settings and crimes.

A great read.

Publisher: Killer Reads, Pages: Unspecified. Available now on Amazon

The Binding Room. Nadine Matheson

This book is so much more than a crime novel.

Nadine Matheson has taken a cracking crime story and wrapped a clever plot full of politics around it.

The politics of race, family feuds, political interference and so much more.

A Pastor is murdered in his Church.

The SIO, DI Anjeclica Henley is looking around the scene when she finds a small locked room with the body of a young, white, man bound to a bed. Everybody thinks he’s dead until the Pathologist arrives and finds he’s alive.

The family of the Pastor have an overinflated view of his importance, and perceived celebrity.

The young man is unidentified.

The Pastors wife is infuriated by the fact that the Police appear to be putting more effort into identifying the man from the locked room, than into the murder of her “celebrity” husband.

The wife involves the local MP who sees an opportunity to attack the already stretched Police force, accusing them of racism.

What she doesn’t realise is that DI Henley is SIO and that she is Black. In fact by “rattling the cage” and insisting on a press conference she has the opposite effect.

Suddenly the Pastor has gone from murder victim to possible abuser, with is past life being dragged up by police and press.

All the time another person is being held captive, their bones are being broken, they are being denied food and drink. Is it too late for her to be saved.

A great read, as much for the personal and professional struggles some of the characters go through, as for the crime itself.

Pages: 512. Publisher: HQ Release date: 7th July 2022

The Skin Code. Stephen Williams

The cover says “An absolutely gripping crime thriller with an astonishing twist”. Well in my opinion, even that is understating what to expect.

This is an absolute cracker of a book, which I am hoping is the introduction to a new series.

I have to admit the first chapter almost left me cold. A woman is attacked by a gang in an alley in London. She’s saved by, what I mistakenly thought was going to be another vigilante. I am so glad I continued past those first few pages.

The woman who does the saving is Raine. A no nonsense ex-Police Officer, who is now a private detective, and she’s not doing vigilante work, she’s following the woman who was attacked. Her parents had reported her missing, but because she’s over 18 the Police aren’t concerned, so the parents have hire Raine, not to bring her home, just to see if she is ok, and find out what she’s doing.

Meanwhile a friend of Reine, and still a serving Police Officer, Mary Hume is the DI investigating a gruesome murder.

Hume and her DC Echo have been assigned the case when a man is found in his flat. He has been killed and mutilated. The mutilation came when he was still alive and in a conscious, but paralysed state, owing to a well mixed drug cocktail.

Londons Met Police are under staffed and some low level parts of investigations are outsourced. Hume hires Raine to look into the partner of the dead man.

In return Raine asks for information on Heather, the girl in the alley, who she has lost track of.

When Heather is murdered, that investigation starts to take a nasty twist.

But not as nasty as Humes murder investigation, because the bodies are starting to stack up.

And so begins one of, if not the best book, I’ve read this year.

This is a stunner.

Raine and Hume take equal billing as lead characters and they are fantastic. Echo the DC is just as good, and unique in his life style, all three are compelling to read about.

The story has a drug theme running throughout, and Williams describes it perfectly as the “closed circuit of hopelessness”

Raine is a great character. Living on a houseboat, a cafe connoisseur, a person who is on “extended leave” from the Police, a bit off-the-wall in her approach to life, brilliant.

Hume, a normal happily married middle age woman, who just happens to be good at her job, and just happens to have a sharpe sense of humour, brilliant.

The story is set in and around the London drug scene. Again brilliant.

The end of the book does carry a nice twist. Right there, in the last two paragraphs, of the last chapter, there is a plot twist that really makes me think their will be at least a sequel, but I’m hoping for many more in a long series.

Publisher: Joffe. Pages: 330. Publishing date: 9th June 2022

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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The Fossil Beach Murders. Rachel McClean

DCI Lesley Clarke is back for her 6th outing in the Dorset Crime Series.

An earth slip on the coast near Lyme Regis uncovers two bodies. They could have been there for days, weeks, years, even centuries. When the forensic teams start the examination it reveals they’ve been there about ten years, and that they were murdered.

What starts off as a routine investigation, into what appears to be a decade old crime, quickly starts to have ramifications today.

There has been a story winding through this series. The story of a Police Officers suicide, that Clarke is becoming convinced was anything but a suicide. The story of a local businessman who is anything but the straight and narrow pillar of the community they like to portray.

The exposure of the bodies during the landslide leads to an investigation that starts to bring the story to a head.

It’s a tense, unputdownable story. Clarke is carrying out the investigation in the shadow of veiled threats from her boss, and a possible parallel investigation into the suicide of her predecessor by a journalist.

Why is her boss being so cagey.

Political issues start to raise their head as a neighbouring force refuses to release information on the current case unless they are involved.

Why won’t they share their information with Dorset MIT

This is a six-out-of-five story. Utterly compelling and a must read for any crime fiction fan

Rachel McClean came in my radar last year and is now firmly one of my favourite authors

When I read a book I keep notes for my reviews, just a list of characters and a simple outline of the plot. It helps me with these reviews, and lets me go back and remember stories later on in a series.

It is a testament to this story that I wrote the title at the top of the page, then got so engrossed that I forgot to write another word.

Print length: 338 pages. Published by: Ackroyd Publishing. Available now. Search Dorset Crime on Amazon for the series and offer prices.

One Girl Missing. Carla Kovach

Gina Harte. Now that’s a name that we should be hearing on a TV Series.

Carla Kovach has really developed this character, to say she’s been through the mill would be an understatement, but she is one hell of a Police Officer.

This story sees the Harte storyline take another twist, and it’s a belter.

The main story is always the investigation into a crime, and this one opens a real can of worms.

Two women go out for a night. A man attacks them. One of the women disappears, the other is missing.

The missing woman’s 5 year old girl is at home waiting for her mom. When the Police find her she tells them a strange man had been looking in her window.

Then the book turns really dark.

What has life been like behind closed doors.

Every house, every flat, every apartment holds its own story. Most are happy, or just plain mundane, but a few hold dark secrets.

You can’t tell these fearful dwellings from the outside. Every now and then neighbours might hear arguments and banging, and have an idea something is going on, but the truly dark houses are silent. Hiding bad things in plain sight, in ordinary neighbourhoods.

What has been going on.

Why were the women attacked, and where is the missing woman

What a way to start a book.

This is 359 pages of fast paced criminal investigation rapped up in a psychological thriller.

Publisher: Bookouture. Available now

The Box Hill Killer & The South Bank Murders. Biba Pearce

The on going police series has now reached book 5. As I only discovered this series very recently I have been binge reading it. It’s a testament to how good these books are that I am gutted that I’ve got to wait until publication day for the next one.

The lead character, DCI Rob Miller is one of those lovely rarities, a cop with no issues. A happy family man. No vices, no irritations, just a man doing his job.

His team is ever evolving with a strong core of three or four , but with others rotating in and out of his team. Every one of them is well written and just right for the role they play in the Police, and in the story.

The villains and victims are also perfectly written and evoke just the right level of anger and empathy.

In these two books the team are on the tracks of more vicious killers, but one investigation is really personal.

The Box Hill Killer.

12 years ago four people were killed by, who the press dubbed, The Pentagram Killer. When a current murder investigation throws doubt on the original investigation, of the four murders, Millers team have the headache of a current, and a historic crime being linked highlighting a miscarriage of justice.

What they don’t expect is to find a body dump, but when a cadaver dog starts to indicate possible burials in a remote area of a park, that is exactly what they find.

A great story.

The South Bank Murders

Possibly the best book in the series, and it starts with a bang.

3 men are killed in a shooting in a restaurant. One of them as a retired Police Officer who was very close to Rob and his team. In fact he’d phoned Rob on the day he was killed and asked him out for a drink.

The team find themselves involved in an investigation that involves County Line Drugs dealings centred on a rough Council Estate.

The realism of the writing in this book is brilliant. The way young immigrants are exploited to run drugs and carry out burglaries. The way the gangs Cuckoo people on the estate. People who want nothing to do with crime having to be involved because they’re to scared not to be.

Trying to work out who is lying because they are guilty, and those who are lying because they are too scared to tell the truth.

Who can the team trust. The quandary of the modern day police where estates are run by gangs who hold more fear than the authorities.

This is not just the best book in the series, it’s one of the best books I’ve read. Stunning.

Publisher Joffe Books. Pages: 332 and 298. Available now.

The Hidden Child. Rebecca Griffiths

One of my often used phrases is “I love a book that gets me reaching for Google” and this is one of those books.

In fact it made me realise just how much I didn’t know about the Myra Hindley and Ian Brady murder spree that took place in the early 1960’s.

Maybe it was because the murders took place when I was two or three years old, maybe I thought I knew more about them because they have been in and out of the news ever since.

Rebecca Griffiths has taken those murders and woven a great story around them.

Ronald is a farmer, on Saddleworth Moor. He’s reclusive and keeps himself to himself.

It’s a solitary life and that’s what he wants. So when a couple start to appear on his land, he notices them straight away. When he starts to hear news reports about missing children he quickly realises what the mystery couple are up to.

But what can he do about it.

Go to the police, no way. Ronald has his own reasons for not wanting the Police snooping around his land.

Ronald is a great character, conflicted, would be the best way to describe him. But his story is tough and at times emotional.

Hindley and Brady, there victims, and the families of the victims are written about tactfully but grittily. In fact at times it’s a bit of a tough read when you realise that part of the story is factual

Books which weave fact and fiction can go both ways, really good, or really bad, this one is definitely in the really good category.

Rebecca Griffiths has used just the right mixture of fact and fiction, in fact it’s that good a mixture that I wouldn’t have been surprised if I hadn’t got to the end and found that I’d been reading a book bringing new evidence, and revealing new crimes. There have been rumours for years that there are more victims of Hindley and Brady, and that maybe there was another accomplice.

This book doesn’t open the door of another accomplice but it does open the door on other murders, and that’s where the fiction kicks in.

This is a great read. Weather you remember the Moors Murders, or as was my case, thought you knew a bit about them, I can guarantee that by the end of this book you will have used whatever research engines you have available to you, and learnt a lot more.

The story is great, the jump between what is present and what is past, within the story is sometimes a bit blurred and I got confused once or twice, but that may have been because I was reading it none stop. It hooked me from the start.

Print length: 361 pages. Audio book length: 10 hours 47 minutes. Publisher : Bookouture

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