THE SILENT DOLLS. Rita Herron

The Silent Dolls Rita Herron

Rita Herron is a new author to me, but she shot straight to the top of my list of must read authors after reading this book.

But it was so nearly a different story. The first chapter in this book sets a scene that makes it seem like this book is going to be like a rural Lethal Weapon with the main character being a female Riggs. How wrong was I.

Thank god I went past that chapter because this turned out to be the best US crime book I’ve read for a very long time.

If you like CJ Box and his Joe Pickett books for their settings you’ll love this book, set in the woods and mountains of the Appalachian Trail in Georgia

The main character, Detective Ellie Reeves, is scared of the dark. Why? Because she got lost in the woods on the Appalachian Trail when she was very young.

Now she’s a detective in Bluff County, the home of the starting point for the trail. So when a little girl goes missing it’s up to Ellie to look for her. What she uncovers during the investigation will send ripples all along the trail, and will have consequences close to home.

The girl that goes missing is not the first, but because the perpetrator has been moving along the trail nobody has put together the spasmodic disappearance of young girls in different jurisdictions, and it takes FBI agent Derrick Fox to highlight the link to Ellie.

The problem is Fox thinks two people close to Ellie, her father and a close friend, might be prime suspects.

This is a great story, set in rural, small town, America. It has everything to combine a great crime thriller with an great psychological thriller. A hunt for a missing child in the wild landscape is made harder by the approach of an in coming winter storm, a brilliant use of the occasional local radio weather reports really adds to the tension.

Ellie is a great character, amongst a cast of equally good bit part players, who hopefully will make appearances in future books.

Will there be future books, I hope so. This is billed as the first in a series, and it does end on a hell of a cliff hanger.

Pages: 366

Publishers: Bookouture

Publishing date U.K. 17th July 2020

THE CHESTNUT MAN. Soren Sveistrup

Nordic Noir is a genre I rarely dip into, but every time I do I always say I must read more of it. This book is an example of just why I should.

What a story.

Twelve months after a Government Ministers Daughter is kidnapped, and a man is convicted of killing her, her finger print turns up at a murder scene, and it won’t be the last time it does.

When Naia Thulin is tasked with investigating the murder she’s not happy. All she wants to do is hand her transfer request in, to get away from the murder team, and join the hot unit investigating Cyber Crime.

Her day gets worse when she’s partnered up with the man nobody wants, Garry Hess.

Hess has just been returned to the team from Europol where he’s under investigation for basically being a lazy waste of space who drinks too much.

All Thulin wants to do is solve the case and move on to her new role. Hess isn’t helping, when he’s there he doesn’t seem interested, and when he is all he does is rub people up the wrong way.

But then they stumble onto something. It doesn’t make them popular with the rest of the team, and even the bosses try to divert them from their lines of inquiry.

Although thinking the same way the two hardly function as a team a and keep coming to the same conclusions working independently of each other.

This gives the reader a real twisting plot to get their head around, and with every twist there’s a shocking revelation.

I loved this book. It’s dark, and like the best crime novels it’s a great psychological thriller.

Soren Sveistrup is a screen writer probably most famous in the U.K. for the Nordic noir thriller series THE KILLING. It shows in his writing, he paints the scenes, and builds the plots brilliantly. The characters in this book jump of the page.

A cracking read

Pages: 491

Publishers: Penguin

Available now

The Pupil. Ros Carne

Mel and Natasha, two very different people at very different stages in their lifes.

Mel, a single mother of a hormonal teenage boy, a successful Barrister working out of a top London Firm.

Natasha, a young woman who lives beyond her means, shop lifts for fun, and strings her boyfriend along whilst carrying on affairs as her alter ego Lola.

Natasha has just become Mels trainee, on her second six months of training, and is hoping to be selected for a full time job, but can she curb her self destructive personality.

Meanwhile Mel is on a downward spiral, she’s struggling at work, making mistakes in court, and Natasha’s watching, not getting on with her son, and Natasha notices.

Using her alter ego, Lola, Natasha starts to flirt on line with Mels son, and at every opportunity undermines her at work.

And so it starts, a twisting turning plot of a psychological thriller.

I have to admit for the first third of the book I couldn’t make up my mind who to sympathise, or empathise with, which was really clever writing; because when the plot starts to unfold I was torn between which of the two characters I was rooting for, even though it was fairly obvious who was the good guy, and who was the victim.

I really enjoyed this book. It turned me upside down and inside out with my conscience being pulled like a tug of war rope. I love books that make me reach for google to research something. This was was different. It had me looking into my own mind. Clever, very clever.

Pages: 312

Publishers: Canelo

Publishing date: 6th August 2020

HIDDEN LAKE. RUHI CHOUDHARY

When she was 12 years old Mackenzie Price came home to find her mother had killed her abusive husband. Together they buried him in the woods.

Price is a fantastic character. Stuck in a prison cell created by her own mind, a Psychological Faraday Cage that refuses to allow her happiness, she suffers constant flashbacks of her childhood, and the abuse her mother suffered before her fathers death.

When the discovery of a body takes her deep into the woods close to her fathers shallow grave she’s worried that the crime will be uncovered and that her life and career will be ruined.

But it’s not her father, it’s the body of Erica, a girl that’s been missing for a year. The high school princes daughter of a rich family there have been posters of her up around the city since she disappeared. Everybody knows her face.

At the same time her body is discovered her Best Friend Abby goes missing, the daughter of a single mother, a mother who works as a waitress in a local strip club, she doesn’t get anywhere near the attention that Erica did.

That annoys Mackenzie, what annoys her even more is she is convinced the two cases are linked, but the senior officers in her department seem determined to keep the two investigations separate, concentrating the majority of their efforts on a girl that’s been dead for a year, instead of on a girl that’s only just gone missing and could still be alive.

What’s more Mackenzies only real friend in the Department, Nick, who is leading Erica’s murder investigation is being alienated by her, and now he’s the only one who seems to be thinking along the same lines as her. Eventually they will have to work together but at what cost.

This is a very simplistic outline of the start of a brilliantly complex plot that had me hooked from the start.

As the story expands, and Mackenzie’s story unfolds, her character becomes addictive. Emotional on the inside but steely on the out, she won’t allow herself stimulants like coffee, or cigarettes. Yet she ploughs through the day fuelled by little but fresh air. It has to take its tole.

Not only has Ruhi Choudhary created, a great character she has created a great scene, a fictional city on the brink of despondency. As she says, it’s a city people are escaping from more than they are being attracted to. Hopefully it’s a Canvas for her to paint many more pictures on as we see Mackenzie fight her demons as much as the city’s crime.

Without doubt she is now one of my must read authors, and I can’t wait to see what happens next.

Pages: 409
Publishers: Bookouture
Publishing Date UK: 19th August 2020

DEAD PERFECT. NOELLE HOLTEN

Dead Perfect. Noelle Holten

The third book in the Detective Constable Maggie Jamieson series.

Maggie is one of those cops that gets things done, in her own way, and sometimes to the detriment of her relationship with her colleagues, and her friends. She rubs people up the wrong way most of the time but she gets things done. So basically she is what we all want to be. She says it as it is, ignores advice, and ploughs her own farrow.

But she is fiercely protective of her few friends, and one of those friends is Criminal Psychologist Kate Maloney. Kate is another anomaly from the norm, an Irish Goth who specialises in Criminal Profiling. She’s also one of my favourite fictional characters.

So when when a body is found that is dressed, and made-up, to look like Dr Kate, Maggie is both scared that her friend is in danger, and determined to solve the murder.

It’s not until a second body, dressed and made-up, in the same way turns up that people that other people, including Kate, start to share Maggie’s concerns

What follows isn’t just a crime thriller, or a police procedural, it’s a cracking psychological thriller.

Noelle Holten has a way of writing that makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. The suspense she builds is enough to have me turning the pages well into the night, in fact her books are the very definition of “I couldn’t put it down”

Then there’s what is becoming her trade mark. The last page twist, the last page cliff hanger.

Just when you think the story is ending, and you turn the last page. WHAM!!!

She smacks you in the face and hooks you into the next book.

Absolutely Brilliant.

This book isn’t out until October, so if you haven’t read the first two, Dead Inside and Dead Wrong, you have time. Believe me you won’t be disappointed

Pages: 400
Publishers: One More Chapter
Publishing date: 16th October 2020.

DEAD WRONG. NOELLE HOLTEN

Two years ago DC Maggie Jamieson was a major player in putting mass murderer Bill Raven behind bars. Maggie had been the main interviewer as Raven confessed to chopping up at least 3 women, and although he named them, he didn’t say where their remains were, and they were never found.

Now he wants to retract his confessions, throwing doubt onto everything about the original conviction, including the in Jamieson’s integrity.

Then dismembered body parts start to show up. Forensic tests show that they belong to the women that Raven confessed to killing. The problem is he’s been in jail for 2 years, and the women have only been dead a matter of days. Where have these women been, and who is killing them.

The clock is ticking as Maggie tries desperately to solve the murders and tries and link Raven to them before he is released on appeal.

Maggie’s visits to interview Raven are a complete mind game. She knows it but is having trouble convincing her own colleagues, let alone the legal system.  So she turns to her friend, Dr Kate Maloney, to help with a psychological profile.

What a story. Noelle Holten is fan of Crime Fiction, and a skilled writer. This book played on every perceived conception I had as I was trying to work out who was the killer. She has written it in such a way that I was kept guessing right up to the end, and what an ending it is.

The characters are fantastic. Maggie is close to being insubordinate, yet insecure at the same time. Bill Raven is brilliantly written, as good a nemesis as I have ever come across.

This book will take your breath away more than once, but don’t relax, one of the biggest gasps comes right in the very last line of the book.

Pages: 432

Publisher: One More Chapter

Available now 

The Art of Dying Derik Cavignano

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Art is very much down to personal taste, but in the case of the murderer in this book its very personal.

The Artist us kidnapping people and turning them into art for his own pleasure, before displaying the finished article to the world.

The problem is, at first, nobody realises what is happening, and his first kill leads to a gang war between two old mobs on the streets of Boston.

After the first body is found Detective Ray Hanley is sent to investigate. From the start he is convinced that this is not a normal murder, but everybody else thinks it’s a mob hit.

As the investigation into the first murder gets underway the “Artist” is already working on his next victims.

As Ray looks at the mob angle he has his mind set more towards a sick individual. Unfortunately the gangs have brought into the war theory and have started attacking each other.

As Boston is faced with a bloody gang war, and a sick serial killer, Hanley tries to pacify the mobs and find the real killer.

This is one of those books that is going to live with me for a long time. There will be comparisons with Silence of the Lambs, and rightly so, but this is a written in todays society. More is possible today, the killer can keep his victims alive for longer, can make them suffer more, and can reek havoc on society as his victims are soon displayed on news web sites in all their gore.

Somehow this makes this book a little bit more realistic, more plausible, more frightening.

This book won an award for Horror in the General Category of the American Fiction Awards and was a finalist in the Thriller, Crime Category. I think it fits nicely into both these categories.

So. If you like a good psychological thriller wrapped around a good police thriller you will love this book.

Pages: 293

Publishing Date UK: 20thSeptember 2019

CHILDS PLAY Kia Abdullah

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A month ago I reviewed the new book by Kia Abdullah, Take it Back, a dark story based around a rape accusation. When I read that book, I noticed that Kia had written another, Childs Play, and decided to give it a go, and I’m glad I did.

Here’s the “but” that usually follows a statement like that, it’s a tough read on a tough subject, and Kia holds no punches, its explicit where it needs to be and that makes the story really good, but it’s not going to be to everybody’s taste.

Allegra seems to have it all, her dream job in a small graphic design company, a nice home, and a successful boyfriend that thinks she’s amazing.

Then one day her boss announces he’s sold the company and that the small workforce has no place in the new multi-national business that has taken it over.

Days before this Allegra had been approached by Michael who wanted to recruit her to a specialist agency working for the government, but it’s not her graphic design skills he thinks will make her a good agent. It’s her childish looks.

The agency specialises in catching paedophiles by baiting them with legal age women, and men, that look underage.

Allegra can pass as a sixteen year old at the best of times and is always getting ID’d at pubs, this team can make her look 13, and they have a very specific target that they want her to go after.

There are subplots running throughout this story, all of which revolve around Allegra, and the most compulsive for me, was the way she changes during her training, going from being horrified at what she sees, to becoming totally desensitised.

The cover of this book says “If James Paterson wrote 50 Shades of Grey”. I couldn’t disagree more, Kia Abdullah is a much better writer than Paterson, and the book is more like a domestic version of Red Sparrow.

If you like gritty, thought provoking crime drama, this book is right up your street, but if you are put off by graphic scenes, maybe it’s not for you, but you’re missing out on a great book.

Pages: 250

Publishers: Amazon media and Revenge Ink

Available now

THE ESSENCE OF EVIL Rob Sinclair

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I loved this book, not because its set in my home city of Birmingham, not even because the main character is wonderfully flawed, or because the story is brilliant, even though all of those are true. I loved this book because it is at least three stories in one, all wonderfully woven together to make a story that will stay with me for quite a while.

DI Dani Stephens, what a character, is returning to work in the Homicide Team of the West Midlands Police after two years off following an injury.

Dani is returning after being attacked by a killer, who nearly took her life, and worse still it was her twin brother.

As she returns she is immediately involved in a murder investigation, one of the strands of the story, but she is teamed up with a friend as joint SIO. Is this part of her rehabilitation into the team, or is she just not trusted?

Talking about rehabilitation, that’s the second thread of the story. In flash-back chapters we find out how she was injured, and are taken through her two years of rehab, the first six months of which were in hospital as she recovered from a Traumatic Brain Injury.

The third strand of the story is how she received the injury, the relationship  she now has with her twin brother who is serving a life sentence for murders he committed.

Dani is a great character, fiercely independent to the point of pushing everybody away. Paranoid to the point of hysteria, and mucked up in the head by the medication she is still taking, even though she should be cutting back.

So when she develops a theory about the murder she’s investigating it’s not surprising that nobody takes her seriously.

As Dani carries on her investigation she starts to doubt herself, has the brain injury robbed her of the one thing she loves in life, the ability to do her job; or has she got it all right, and should everybody else actually be listening to her instead of doubting her.

This is a belter of a book.

I love complex, dark stories, that could all so easily be real, and this book sits firmly in that category.

 

Pages: 394

Publishers: Canelo Hera

Release date:  12thSeptember 2019

RAIN WILL COME Thomas Holgate

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Sometimes a character is so well written, and is that “off-the-wall”, I can associate them with a real person or a character I’ve seen on TV. This is one of those books

Detective Paul Czarick reminded me of Rigs from the Lethal Weapon TV series. He is a man who breaks rules, does what he likes, and is fuelled by nicotine, caffeine, and Columbian marching powder, turning to bourbon when he wants to relax.

Czarick works for the unpopular Illinois Bureau of Justice, and thanks to the fact that he solved a very high profile case, he is benefitting from a certain amount of immunity within the Bureau, and in this case he uses it to its full advantage.

Daniel is a killer, he’s a revenge killer, and he has a plan. Czarick picks up one of his murders and starts to connect the dots and links his case to another murder.

As Czarick becomes aware of the killer, Daniel becomes aware of the cop, and so the game begins.

A game of cat-and-mouse that stretches the length of the states. Every time Czarick gets close Daniel surprises him.

For some, there are lucky escapes, for others there is a terrible death that is somehow linked to something they have done in the past.

This is a simple plot, but a cracking story. It is as much a psychological thriller as it is a police story.

A great read

Publishing date: March 2020

Publishers: Thomas & Mercer

Available to pre-order