The Art Of Death. David Fennell

This is so frustrating. The first part of the book had me instantly hooked.

The premise of the story is brilliant. A mystery artist going by a thoroughly modern name “@ nonymous” sets up an exhibition that will stun London. 3 homeless men killed, posed and sunk into clear cabinets full of formaldehyde. Videos put on line to show further victims before they are also found displayed in cabinets

A killer using social media to stalk his prey before catfishing them on dating apps.

A new, DI Grace Archer, who is taking over from a DI she arrested during a previous investigation, and suffering the wrath of his friends, whilst finding support in the few people that could see him for what he was.

So where does it become frustrating. The killer becomes obvious as soon as they come into the plot as a person, not as the first person narrator that is carrying out the killings.

But most frustrating is the inaccuracies that could have been sorted out by some easy research.

One of my pet gripes, and I know I am far from on my own, is authors who insist on calling forensics teams SOCO’s, there has been no such thing for over 15 years. All police forces have Crime Scene Investigation Teams, or Forensic Scene Investigation Teams or Forensic Support teams, the acronym SOCO has disappeared from modern policing

A section of the book involving an arson attack, where 2 men die, contains massive inaccuracies, the rank of the Fire Officer, the Fire Service Involvement, the interaction between the Police Officers and the Fire Crews are all completely wrong

The problem that leaves me with is a feeling that this book could have been so much better, all it needed was a bit of research

Pages: 432. Publisher: Zaffre. Publishing date: 4th February 2021

Wild Flower Graves. Rita Herron

Still struggling with her family secrets which devastated her in “The Silent Dolls” Detective Ellie Reeves is about to be pitched into another nightmare investigation

Just as Crooked County is getting over the fact that a serial killer had been stalking the Appalachian Trail, and that the much loved ex Sheriff, might have known about the killer for years, and done nothing about it, more bodies start to be discovered.

Ellie is pitched straight back into the deep end when the first body is discovered. A young woman has had her throat cut, been dressed, had makeup applied, and posed in a remote beauty spot on the Trail. Monday’s Child

With a section of the famous poem sewn into her mouth the victim is the first of potentially 7. When the next body is found the following day it becomes obvious that Ellie is in a race against time

Then the killer contacts her and she realises things are personal, and that the killer is taunting her, but it’s much more personal than that, he has already taken a good friend of hers, a fellow Police Officer.

Racing to find the killer Ellie finds two allies, one thrust upon her by her boss, the other a man she approaches herself. Both men are not her biggest fans

Ranger Cord McClain knows the Trail like nobody else but Ellie as good as accused him of being the serial killer in the previous case, she knows she needs his help but will he help her

Her boss calls in FBI Agent Derrick Fox, a man who helped with the previous investigation but who blew her family apart in his dogged pursuit of the killer who started by killing his little sister.

Not only does Ellie need to build bridges and restore relationships with the two men but she needs to act as a piece keeper, the men do not like or trust each other.

This story is outstanding. Earlier this year I reviewed Our Daughters Bones, the first in the series, and I raved about it. If anything this book is even better.

The setting of the Appalachian Trail is perfect for crime fiction. 2000 plus miles of wilderness walks stretching up the east of the United States, off grid communities, unique characters doted around a fantastic landscape, it’s perfect for intense storylines

Ellie Reeves is a character that it’s very easy to like, and emphasise with, but she can be frustratingly stubborn. Her professional relationships with Fox and Cord, the problems she has with the weird jurisdictional system of American Law Enforcement, and the hostile gossiping of much of the local community, following her family’s involvement with the previous killer, all add to the story.

The two books in the series so far, are amongst my favourite books this year. Can this one be read as a standalone? Yes it can, Rita Herron back refers enough to give the reader a full understanding of what happened in the first book.

But why miss out. Read The Silent Dolls first, then read this one. If you don’t you’ll kick yourself because you’ll definitely go back to it.

Pages 409, Publisher Bookouture, Publishing Date, 3rd December 2020

DARK FALLS. GREGG OLSEN

I wouldn’t usually start a review by saying “This is book three in a series”, but in this case I think I have to.

The first two Detective Megan Carpenter are brilliant, and this book is no different, but of all the series I’ve ever read this one has to be read in sequence.

The story picks up about a month after Waters Edge, the second book, ends; and it starts with a bang.

The opening few pages are some of the grisliest I’ve read as one of Megan’s friends, from her previous life, is killed.

Trying to keep her secret past, a secret from everybody who doesn’t know, and that’s just about everybody, whilst trying to investigate the murder of a person who was integral to it.

To protect her past she has to go back and investigate the murder of 3 people. But the more she digs the closer she comes to exposing her own secrets

What makes matters worse is the modern day killer is leaving clues to Megan’s link to victim and one of the historic murders.

This book is right at the top of the psychological thriller list. In fact this is more a thriller series than a cop series and for that reason it’s one of my favourite reads.

Megan is not the easiest character to like, as a person, but she’s growing on me as her hard ass personality starts to melt a bit.

The settings and the crimes are seriously some of the best in current fiction.

But, it’s the story across the series that has me hooked.

I hope there will be more to come.

Pages: 270 Publisher: Bookouture Publishing date: 4th December 2020

SILENCED GIRLS. Roger Stelljes

20 years ago twin sisters are growing up in small town Manchester Bay Minnesota. At 17 they are beginning to make the discoveries that all teenagers make. During the July 4th celebrations one sister goes missing, whilst the other goes off with a boy, a decision she will always struggle with.

The surviving sister, Tori, remembers her father “The Sheriffs” words to them “When a young girl goes missing, she’s never found”

That’s the case Jessie is never found

20 years later Tori is living in New York, and is an FBI agent. She left Manchester Bay just after her sister went missing and only returned for the Sheriffs funeral 18 months later. She has no intention of going back.

Until another girl goes missing in very similar circumstances, and Tori is sent a letter telling her to look at that case for similarities. The problem being the letter was sent the day before the new disappearance.

The old town has grown. Her father’s deputy is now Sheriff and welcomes her help as long as his lead investigator, Will Braddock agrees.

People are glad she’s back but somebody has invited her. Why? Is she now a target?

Some families have done well out of the towns growth. Others are still in shock from Jessie’s unsolved disappearance

Between Tori and Will the investigation starts to uncover some worrying threads and the story rattles along at a great pace. Until the end, but how will that end resolve the latest crime, and will it answer the mystery surrounding Jessie’s disappearance and give Tori some kind of closure.

This book is billed as being Agent Tori Hunter Book 1. I can only hope it is the start of a long new series. The story is brilliant.

The characters are addictive and I couldn’t help but get hooked on the relationships that Tori rebuilds, and how she works with Will and his team.

One of her old friends “ Steak” is now a cop and is working the case with his partner Detective Eggleston. Yes. Detectives Steak and Eggs. Any author that can dream up that little aside to put a bit of humour in the book is alright with me.

I really enjoyed this story . In fact I’d been going through one of those lulls when I was finding it hard to settle into a book and was having difficulty finding the enthusiasm to read. This book hooked me from the start and got me back into my reading. Brilliant

Pages: 478. Publisher: Bookouture. Publishing Date: 11th November 2020

Their Silent Graves. Carla Kovach

If ever a book hit the right buttons for a psychological thriller it’s this one. Hitting one of the most basics of our primordial fears, being buried alive.

The first murder is nearly a quarter of a century ago, but now the same method is being used again, and to make matters worse, the first victim is murdered at Halloween

DI Gina Harte has had a tough past, her back story has come out in previous books in this series, but her mental baggage really comes to the fore during this investigation.

She is being sent threats that would only make sense if they came from her husband, her dead husband. So is somebody playing with Gina’s head whilst she tries to investigate the latest series of murders. Does somebody connected with the murders have intimate knowledge of her past, or is the unthinkable happening.

There are two threads to this story. The murders, and Gina, and both are written in a way that gripped me from the start and I got lost in this book from page one, right up to the last page.

Carla Kovach has written a series of books that can all be read as stand alone but to get the best out of the series, it’s best to read them all in order. If you haven’t started the series yet I’m jealous, because you are in for a hell of a ride.

Gina Hart, and the regular characters in the series, are so realistic I feel like I’ve actually met them. The crimes and the way they are portrayed are so realistic it’s almost as if you’re reading news reports of something that’s happening now

But the most striking thing is the way Kovach seamlessly stitches them all together. If ever a book series was screaming out to be made into a TV series this is it.

Pages: 380

Publisher: Bookouture

Available now.

Little Bones N.V. Peacock

I’ve not read a book like this for a long time. It brings a whole new level to the psychological thriller genre.

I was convinced on so many occasions that I knew who was behind the crimes in his story, and every time I thought I had it, Peacock wrote a breath stopping scene that convinced me I was right; right up until the last second when I was proven wrong.

It is brilliantly written.

Cherrie has a live in boyfriend who is the father of her only child Robin.

At the end of the day Cherrie looks like any other mother in a modern, unmarried, family relationship, and although she’s in a retail job that’s under threat, all is well in her life.

Her new life that is.

Because nobody, not even her boyfriend are aware of her past.

So when a podcaster outs her as Leigh-Ann Hendy, the daughter of serial killer William Hendy, her life is turned upside down.

Not least because the reason she’s outed is because a young boy has gone missing from her neighbourhood. A young boy much like the ones her father killed, the ones he kidnapped and killed with her help.

Just when she is battling with the fact that everybody is going to know who she is, her son is taken. Is it an act of revenge against her, is it somebody who is playing out her fathers crimes, if you work it out before the reveal you are better than me.

This book is written from a unique point of view. Cherrie is the main character, she is a modern day victim, who was previously a perpetrator. The story s not just told through her eyes, it’s told through her thoughts, and not all of them make comfortable reading, but they do make compelling reading.

I have to say I’ve seen mixed reviews on this book. I’m not going to sit on the fence, I thought it was absolutely brilliant.

Publishers: Avon

Pages: 400

Publishing date: 31st October 2020

While You Slept. R.J. Parker

This is a book that evoked the emotions I used to have watching scary TV programs as a kid. The type you just had to watch but, before the days of fast forwarding through the scary bits on demand, you had to watch between your fingers.

Lily, a newly divorced single mother, has an alert on her phone. On her security camera a man is standing in her garden wearing a mask of her daughters face.

Rushing home to meet the Police Lily picks her daughter up from school. Maisie is scared by the policeman but soon settles down.

The next day Lily wakes up with a hangover, but that’s the least of her problems, she’s at home, in familiar surroundings, with all her possessions, except she’s not. Somebody has in prisoned her and Maisie within a complete replica of their own home, and there’s no way out

The only thing  that’s different are the photos in the family album. The ones that she and her ex, Ewan, took of Maisie have been replaced by ones taken at the same time, images that show Lily, Maisie and Ewan when the originals were taken.

When The mystery man from the security footage makes contact he tells Lily to obey his rules or she will be punished, and she is. The first time she annoys him he takes Maisie away for a night.

No more spoilers, this is an original and brilliant story.

If I was to liken it to any other writing I’d say it was like a cross between Stephen King and Dean Koontz at their best.

The story follows Lily as she tries to escape and tries to work out whose holding them. She examines her own memories dragging her thoughts back to things she’d rather forget.

I really did read this in two sittings, I really did read this holding my breath for way too long at times, but most of all, I really really did enjoy this book.

Pages: 257

Publishers: One More Chapter, Harper Collins

Publishing date: 24th July 2020

Her Shallow Grave. D.K. Hood

Her Shallow Grave.  D.K. Hood

If I say “There’s another serial killer in Black Rock Falls” it sounds like I’m about to start a bad review, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Yes this is the 9th in the Kane and Alton series but it’s not a series that gets old. This book, just like all the others is a page turning crime thriller which crosses into the psychological thriller genre really nicely.

For those that haven’t read these books before Sheriff Jenna Alton is a former DEA Special Agent who is living under a new name to keep her safe. Her deputy, Dave Kane, is ex special forces, who is grieving for his wife years after she was killed by a car bomb.

In fact all of the small team that carries out investigations in Black Rock Falls have fascinating ongoing stories.

So when body parts are found arranged in a tree close to a popular ski resort the team are immediately in the thick of it.

Those body parts belong to more than one person, and as the story unwinds more weird body dumps are found, none stranger than the chimney scene, but no spoilers.

But why are no people getting reported missing, who are the victims and where are they coming from.

The team gets close a couple of times but the discoveries continue.

Meanwhile a young woman has been kidnapped and nobody has noticed she’s missing. We can all guess how she’s going to end up, but what is going to happen to her before she dies.

I’ve mentioned this before, but it describes this series perfectly for the British readers. Black Rock Falls is like Midsummer on crack.

A great series that just seems to get better with each book.

Publishers: Bookouture

Pages: 350

Available now.

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