6 Ripley Avenue. Noelle Holten

A great standalone crime thriller, and I find that I’m saying that with less frequency than I’d like.

Why? Because most writers these days seem to stick with tried and trusted characters within a series.

The good thing about standalone books is you are never sure how they are going to end, which character will survive to the end, who will be left in a position that they can continue life in the way they were when the book started. It doesn’t have to have a happy ending for everybody.

The story in this book is like a locked room mystery with teeth.

The “locked room” is a hostel, rehabilitation centre, for serious offenders who have been released from prison. 6 Ripley Avenue.

When one of the inmate-guests is murdered in the middle of the night there are only so many suspects that can possibly have carried out the crime. Either other “guests” or staff

As the Police start their investigation a local, freelance crime journalist, Sloane starts her own.

Sloane has an advantage over the Police, she can listen to hearsay and gossip, the Police have to establish truth and relevance.

Sloane has a person on the inside, a volunteer cook who fancies herself as a bit of a Miss Marples, but she does tend to jump to the wrong conclusions at times. Does she help or hinder Sloane.

The Hostel is run by Jeanette. She is shocked by the murder but as the blame game starts, she begins to look at her staff differently. As Sloane’s investigation relies on gossip, Jeanette starts to realise some of it might have foundation.

This is a brilliant story. As with all of Noelle Holten’s books there is a depth of realism in her writing that can only be born of experience.

I’ve read mixed reviews of this book, and honestly, I don’t understand some of the criticisms. This is a fast paced thriller. A book that had me hooked from page one until the last full stop.

The characters are brilliantly written and I found myself having empathy with some, frustration with others, and engaging with all of them. Just as it should be.

The story is realistic, set in a tight community, limited suspects, Police frustrated by sticking to the rules, whilst the main characters carry on unrestricted by procedures and red tape.

That is another reason I loved this book. It’s not led by a Police Investigation, with a cop as the main character.

Sloane is a great lead, with a fresh way of looking into things.

Overall, in my opinion, one of the best books I’ve read this year.

Pages: 378. Publisher: One More Chapter Audio Book 10 hours 40 minutes, narrator TBC. Publication date: 27th September 2022

Hidden Bones. Rita Herron

There is something about this series that has me really hooked.

It could be the main character, Detective Ellie Reeves, or the other recurring characters, all of who add massively to the stories.

It could be the setting, a small town at the start of the Appalachian Trail, with its unique inhabitants and visitors.

Or it could be the well thought out, well written crimes.

It’s probably a combination of all of those things.

This book starts like a Stephen King story. A flash back to 30 years ago, a little girl hiding whilst she witnesses her mother being murdered. The killer finding her and taking her away.

Back to today and it’s Spring Break and all the madness it brings. A group of teenagers carrying out a TikTok challenge to film themselves in an abandoned “haunted” house.

The house is an old Orphanage with a bad reputation. When something spooks them they make a run for it but one girl falls into a pit. The pit is full of human bones, but how long have they been there.

Unsure weather this is a historic case, or even if it’s a crime scene Ellie is moved off the case when a very recent murder victim is found.

A woman has been the victim of a horrific murder, and she has had rough sex recently. In another twist the team dig into her past and can’t be sure the rough sex and the murder are part of the same crime.

The story follows the investigations into both crimes, and more as they happen. Inevitably the investigators start to wonder if there’s a link.

If there is, how long has this killer been active, and how many victims are there.

Rita Herron is one of those authors I wait for. I’m lucky enough to be able to read the books before they are published. When the notification pops up to say one of her books is available it goes straight to the top of my TBR list and is always the next book to be read.

I think that speaks volumes.

Print length 460 pages. Audio book 8 hours 58 minutes Narrator Tanya Eby. Publisher Bookouture. Available now.

The Guilty Girl. Patricia Gibney

If you are a parent that has had children who have already passed through teenage years, this book will bring back memories of all the fears and trepidations you felt.

Patricia Gibney is particularly good at tapping into raw emotions. Her books always seem to come from the heart, and be laid on foundations of experience that brings a reality which is unrivalled when it comes to the angst and emotions of the characters.

This book is no exception. In fact it stands out as a brilliant book, in what is already a brilliant series.

The angst of youth. Wanting to be a part of everything, whilst being torn between what is right and what is wrong.

The dangers some youths are exposed to in their hunt for acceptance, or their version of “the dream”

The vulnerability of youth, hidden by the false shield of the hard exterior.

Lottie Parker is called to a murder. A young girl held a house party at her parents house, the next day she is found dead amongst the detritus of the party.

Why was Lucy killed.

Another girl Hannah is hiding something, and Lucy seems to have found out about it.

Parker starts to uncover disturbing evidence that indicates that somebody is taking advantage of young girls.

Evidence starts to stack up, and then one boy, who should know better admits he was at the party, Parker is infuriated.

The story in this book is so current it’s frightening. It’s frightening to realise that things like this are going on. We all read about these crimes in the newspaper, online, or hear about them in the news, but Patricia Gibney makes them so much more relevant to us by adding the emotions of the victims, witnesses, and investigators.

I look forward to every book in this series and have never been disappointed. This one lifts the bar again, I can’t wait to see where she takes us in the next one.

Print Length: 507 pages (according to Amazon). Audio book 14 hours 38 minutes Narrator Michele Morgan. Published 15th June 2022

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

Devils Chimney. Adam Lyndon

Billed as book one of the Detective Rutherford Barnes series, and hopefully it’s going to be a long series.

Two uniform PC’s are out at night looking for the person responsible for a series of burglaries. They come across a home which has been broken into and chase down the man they see outside.

The home belongs to one of the officers, Harriet Holden, a message scrawled on the wall is a direct threat.

The man is taken into custody and yells another threat “I know who you’re f….ing. No one’s going to miss you. You can jump into the fire but you’ll never be free..

Whilst the burglaries suspect is in custody Holden goes missing, and is later found murdered and mutilated.

Her partner on the night, the arresting officer, a young PC, Rutherford Barnes, is drafted into CID to help with the case, and is soon embroiled in a case that has many twist and turns.

The story is set in 2001 and it’s the perfect time period to start this series.

Technology is starting to race ahead but the era still has DNA in its earliest use, mobile phone tech at it’s basics, and policing still suffering some of the biases the police suffered before forces started to address them in the 90’s

Barnes is a strong character with a firm moral compass, and he needs it for this case.

Set on the south coast a criminal is forging his own “empire”. People come under his influence, people who should know better.

Barnes trusts people, but that naïvety soon gets eroded and a stronger willed copper develops

This is a great story. At over 450 pages is a long read by todays standards but, as they say, time flies when you’re enjoying yourself, and this book seemed to fly by when I was reading it.

Pages: 451. Published by: Joffe Books. Publishing date: 23/6/2022

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

When The Night Ends. M.J Lee

As a Coroner’s Officer DI Ridpath has different legal powers under the Coroners legislation.

In remission from Cancer, and on what some people see as light-duties, Ridpath is still attached to one of Greater Manchester Police’s Major Investigation Teams, whilst working for the Coroner.

So when an Inquiry is formed to look into a death in a custody cell everybody, including the Coroner thinks Ridpath might want to take a back seat, but he’s happy there is no conflict of interest and insists on carrying out investigations in preparation for the inquest .

But then the questions start. Why was the Post Mortem carried out so quickly, why was the body cremated before the toxicology results came back. Why were so many important witnesses ignored by the investigation carried out by the IPC, and why are some of those witnesses dying.

The Custody Sergeant on the night of the death was a good man, every copper liked him. He’s been cleared by two internal investigations of any wrong doing.

It’s a step too far for most of Ridpath’s colleagues in the MIT, another investigation of a good cop who has been left festering at a desk for three years.

I don’t know why this series flies under so many peoples radar. I often get asked who my favourite authors are and M.J Lee is always one of those I mention, which is usually followed by the answer, “Oh, I’ll look him up”

This is a great series. Ridpath is one of the great fictional Police Officers being written today.

His ongoing story, the moralistic conflicts he finds himself in are great reads

The fact he works to different legislation whilst also having a Police Warrant Card, gives murder and suspicious death investigations a different angle from most Police procedurals.

This is a great addition to a great series.

Pages: 403. Publisher: Canelo Crime. 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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