The DI Declan Walsh Series Books 1&2 . Jack Gatland

I was browsing book sites looking for a new author when I found the first book in the series, Letter from the Dead being offered as a free book on Amazon.

Not one to turn down a cheaply I loaded it onto my Kindle, and I’m glad I did.

Letter from the Dead introduces DI Delan Walsh, an Officer who is on the brink of leaving the Police following two recent events, one disciplinary, the other the resolution of a case that saw him braking a corruption ring in his force.

The hatred from many other officers he can deal with, the fact that he punched a Priest has resulted in his suspension and possible dismissal.

But he’s approached by DCI Munroe. His team of City of London Officers are made up by people with similar issues to Walsh. His ethos is some problem cops are just to good at their job to be allowed to slip away. They specialise in old or cold cases.

So when new information is received about the apparent accidental death of a Politician’s nearly 20 years earlier the team investigate exactly what happened

What follows is a multilayered plot that takes in the possible murder and introduces recurring characters that will turn up in the series.

Politicians, Police Officers, Gangland criminals, all take major roles as do their friends and families.

The investigation of a historic crime, involving politicians has huge impact. 20 years on some have moved on from politics, and not all in a positive way. Ones homeless, by choice, one’s an internet preacher, and one has changed his political allegiances. But what are they running away from.

This is a story about manipulation and consequences, and it’s a great vehicle to start the series.

The second book, Murder of Angels, is one of the most complex stories I’ve read for a long time, but it’s a cracker of a read.

Parts of two Cities, London and Birmingham, are run by traditional, old school villains, but they are being slowly threatened by the younger gangs, youths that have less respect for people in general. In this case the problem is exacerbated by the fact that it’s the sons of the old gangsters that are trying to take over.

Declan and the team of misfits are spread thin covering crimes in both cities as part of a joint investigation.

The concept of this conflict is again historical. Things that happened 18 years ago having a huge impact on today, and it’s the mysteries of the past that the team need to get to the bottom of, to get to solve todays crimes.

As complex as the book is there is never any doubt of its credibility. The story is brilliant.

The characters in this series are really good. Walsh is totally engaging. His history, and his father’s history are going to have a huge impact on the series.

If you like multi-layered books with a compelling ongoing thread, this is definitely a series not to miss

I really can’t wait to read the next book, but I have commitments to other books, and I’ve got work to do so it will have to wait for a week or so.

Death In Kabul. A. Belsham & N. Higgins

The star of the book is its hotch-potch collection of characters that could only be put together in somewhere such as Kabul, a City suffering corruption following years of war and internal conflict.

Mac, the disgraced British Police Officer and his colleague Ginger, a former Para both now working for a private company training local Police Officers.

Major Jananga, an uncorrupted Police Officer who wants to stick to the rules, but those rules include torture and killing.

Baz Khan, and American journalist who is trying to expose a gang smuggling artefacts out of Afghanistan.

When a British soldier is murdered Jananga enlists Mac to help with is investigation.

Meanwhile Baz Khan is on the tail of the smugglers but doesn’t realise how much danger her journalistic enquiries are putting her in.

Gradually both investigations start to point towards a drinking den. The Lucky Star is a drinking den, gambling den, and brothel that could only exist so openly in a city like Kabul.

What a story. It would be wrong to say Kabul is portrayed as lawless, but it is portrayed as being under the Laws of whoever wants to make them up at the time.

There are moralistic angles incorporated into the plot that adds a different twist to a crime mystery set in Europe or America can realistically offer.

It’s also another of those books that had me hitting Google on numerous occasions. I love learning new things and this book certainly gave me the opportunity to do that.

A great read and one that is firmly on my Recommended List

Publisher: Canelo Action. Print Length: 413 Pages. Available now

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

The Millionaire Murders. Rachel McLean

This is the series that I find myself waiting for more than any other at the moment.

Rachel McClean created a set of characters from the West Midlands Police in her first set of books, The Deadly…….series set in Birmingham.

One of those characters is the lead in this spin-off series set in Dorset.

DCI Lesley Clarke was seconded to the “quieter” force of Dorset to help her recover from an injury she suffered during a terrorist attack in Birmingham, but life has been far from quiet.

This is the fifth book in the Dorset Based …….Murders set and has some interesting cross-overs with the first set.

The main Crime in this book is a double murder in the Millionaires Row that is Sandbanks.

When a live-in cleaner returns home with her boyfriend she expects her boss to be away, she should have flown out on holiday, so she doesn’t expect to find the woman, and an unknown man dead, in a bedroom of the luxury house.

What starts of as a complicated crime is made worse when Clarke is told to split her already small team into two. A well known local journalist has gone missing and politically it turns into a must solve.

So with her Sergeant and two others investigating the murder, Lesley and one of her DC’s start to try and find the journalist.

What Clarke can’t share with her team is that the journalist was looking into the death of her predecessor, a death which had been recorded as suicide. A death that the head of forensics thinks was anything but suicide, and she’s convinced Lesley enough for her to have involved an old colleague from Birmingham to re-examine the case.

Why? Because she really doesn’t know who she can trust in her own team, or those above her.

Can her Sergeant and his small team solve the murder, and can Lesley keep her concerns about her predecessors death a secret in isolation from her investigation into the missing journalist.

That is a running theme through the whole of this set of books, and is an absolute cracker. It’s that, as well as the well conceived, well plotted stories in each book that keeps me checking for new release dates, and hitting the preorder as soon as they arrive.

I once wrote that Rachel’s books were like the TV series Line of Duty, I was wrong, they are so much better.

Print length: 366 pages. Publisher: Ackroyd Publishing

After Everything You Did. Stephanie Sowden

Another new writer to me, but one I will definitely be looking for in the future.

A young woman, Reeta, wakes up shackled to a bed in hospital.

Two Federal Agents tell her she is the killer of at least four women, two of which are still missing.

The problem is Reeta has suffered serious injuries and has no memories pre-waking up in hospital.

The Agents want to keep her in the blind about her past, unconvinced she has no memory.

They try to deal with her to get back the two missing bodies, but she is adamant she can’t remember a thing.

Set in 1966 in America, with the lack of todays science, two Agents try to bully and cajole a confession from Reeta.

Nobody will tell Reeta who she is, she wants to know where her family are. Latching on to one news report she approaches the reporter to find out about her past life.

Carol, the reporter initially hates Reeta, but soon realises she really does have no memory, and starts to be suspect of the Federal Agents methods. Surely they should tell Reeta about her past.

Her past involves been born into a religious colt, led by the mysterious Jeb.

I was convinced I knew how this plot was going to culminate. I was wrong.

There are little red herrings all leading in one direction, but I couldn’t call it misleading, more intriguing.

The characters are brilliantly engaging, and the plot is compelling. This book had me in a bear hug from page 1 and kept me there until the last full stop.

Print length: 327 pages. Publisher: Canelo Crime. Publishing date : 7th April 2022

The Dying Game. Ruhi Choudhary

Do you want to play a game..a simple question with chilling consequences.

A beautiful woman murdered, a local man committed suicide leaving a note saying he had to killed her.

A open and closed case until another person is murdered.

Then the first clue, a letter. somebody is showing people how vulnerable a member of their family is. The question. Do you want to play a game. Kill the person I deliver to you or a member of your family dies. Your choice.

Detective Mackenzie Price is assigned the case, and immediately starts to send ripples through the small community she works in.

One of the families involved is old money rich, and they have influence.

But with more people going missing, and now knowing they only have a limited time to find them, she doesn’t care who she upsets, or what the consequences might be.

The way Ruhi Choudhary writes always grips me. She has a way of guiding the story down avenues that always make me think, I’ve got this, only to find it’s another clever plot twist.

But that’s what makes it so good. Real police investigation is all about building hypotheses, the investigators investing their theory, until it’s proven wrong and they have to back track and build another

It’s always about the clues you don’t see, often right in front of your eyes, the clue that only takes relevance when that one piece of the jigsaw falls into place, and you finally see the relevance of the picture.

This is where Choudhary is the master. She lets little things slip into the story that help build the final hypothesis. There’s no sudden revelation of a clue, or suspect who hasn’t been in the story until almost the end.

Everything is there in the build up, but can you spot it. I’m usually quite good at spotting it, but not till really late in these stories.

A great book in a brilliant series. Yes it can be read as a standalone. No it won’t ruin the earlier books if you choose to go back and read them.

Loved it.

Print length: 382 pages. Audio book running time: 10 hours 45 Publisher: Bookouture

Lin Su Yoshimura The Days of Darkness. J.C Walker

Before I write anything else I have to say I really enjoyed this book

My dilemma is I really don’t know why.

If I was to list all the things I don’t like this book would be it.

I don’t like something that stretches the believable, this book has quite a bit of that in a James Bond opening sequence type of way.

I don’t like Ninja avenging angels. Lin Su is the epitome of one of these.

I don’t like villains being portrayed as the hero’s, yes you guessed it that’s exactly what happens in this book.

But it’s thoroughly compelling .

The characters are really engaging. The pace of the story is frenzied in places yet, in line with the training of Lin Su, slow and peaceful in others.

The disgraced military hero Major Jason Stone turns out to be a clever man with the weirdest moral compass.

Drug and Club Boss Matthew King is a rouge with a heart.

Together they make a great story.

What the Gumph on the back says

Lin Su Yoshimura, trained in martial arts at a young age by her parents, is kidnapped as a teen in China and sold into the sex trafficking trade which lands her in the United States of America. She is rescued from an abusive pimp by Matthew King, a New York drug dealer. Lin Su becomes a part of his organization as she wrestles with the horrors of her past.

They are approached by Jason Stone, a disgraced ex-Special Forces officer, who convinces them to raid Juan Ramirez, leader of a notorious Mexican cartel. Stone assembles a team of well-trained mercenaries accompanied by Lin Su and King to carry out the operation deep in the Mexican jungle which yields a huge quantity of cocaine and savage outcomes that neither expected.

I was offered this book to review and I’m glad I read it. Would I have picked it up in a shop. No. But that would have been a big mistake.

It looks like I’m going to have to start expanding my reading and check out new genres

Print length: 482 pages. Publisher: Groove Productions.

The Body Beneath The Willows. Nick Louth

The fourth book in the DCI Craig Gillard series, but just in case you’re put off by that, this book can easily be read as a standalone without losing any of its impact.

For crime fiction fans I’d describe Gillard as a character similar to Lewis from the Morse spin-off series. Nothing is unusual about him. He’s an honest cop, a family man who is happily married, even if he has a mad aunty who occasionally gives him hassle on the domestic front. He just gets on with the job, and that make really comfortable read.

The Publishers Gumph

On the tree-lined banks of Surrey’s River Wey, a decaying corpse is dug up by workmen in the middle of an Anglo-Saxon burial site. His modern dental fillings show that this is no Dark Age corpse…

DCI Craig Gillard is called in, but the body’s condition makes identification difficult. One man, however, seems to fit the bill: Ozzy Blanchard, a contractor employed by the same water firm doing the digging who disappeared six months ago, his crashed company car found nearby.

But then an X-ray of the corpse throws the investigation into turmoil. A shard of metal lodged in his neck turns out to be part of an Anglo-Saxon dagger unknown to archaeologists. Who wielded this mystery weapon and why? Does the answer lie in a murderous feud between two local families?

The deeper Gillard digs, the more shocking truths he will uncover.

A totally original crime mystery that will keep you guessing until the very end, The Body Amongst the Willows is an absolute thrill-ride, perfect for fans of Michael Connelly, Ann Cleeves and Mark Billingham

What I thought

Nick Louth has created a great character in Gillard. The story clatters along at a great pace, and takes enough twists and turns to keep the reader guessing, without stepping into the realm of the improbable, or impossible. It’s very realistic.

There’s a clever thread running through the book that had me convinced I’d spotted who the murderer was, but no, I was wrong.

Gillard is written in such a way that you can feel his frustrations as the investigation seems to hit brick walls.

This is made even more realistic by the fact that Louth has fully embraced the way of the world today. He is the first author, that I’ve read, who has taken on the way the pandemic is affecting the country, the reduced number of Police Officers available, working from home, the mental effect of lockdown.

Nick Louth books are very much of the now, and I suspect in years to come people will read them and remember the period we’re going through. Hopefully as a distant memory.

Print Length 306 pages. Publisher Canelo Crime. Published 27th 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.

The Monument Murders. Rachel McLean

Straight off I’m going to say this is one of my favourite series. I enjoyed the original books set in Birmingham, and these Dorset based books.

The Dorset books are neither a continuation of the Birmingham books, or a separate series, they are very much a spin-off with overlapping characters.

Rachel McLean has a way of making realistic, normal paced, modern policing exciting.

She has a great skill for a flamboyant murder scene which always puts a different spin on the scene examination.

But what I think she has mastered is the ability to take a very thin twine of a thread of a story, and weave it through all of her books.

As with the Birmingham series there is the hint of Police misdoings. A problem that is niggling away at DCI Lesley Clarke, a problem that her boss seems to want her to look into, but at the same time won’t acknowledge the exists.

In each of the Dorset series this thread is intertwined with the main crime to be investigated.

I mentioned flamboyant scenes. The first murder victim in this book is found spread eagled over the local landmark, the Swanage Globe.

An architect has had his throat cut and a note has been left with the body, Go Home, is written in his own blood.

The fact that the victim is black, and the words on the note, instantly raise the possibility of a race crime. But he’s an out-of-towner working on a controversial project, so the reference to going home may not be race based.

With the investigation team split between the two hypotheses cracks start to appear.

Can Clarke keep everything together, the team, the main investigation, the side investigation into a crime that may not even have happened, and her relationship with a criminal defence barrister who just happens to be representing one of her main suspects.

What a book, and what a clever ending………..

I can’t wait for the next one.

Pages: 352. Publisher: Ackroyd Publishing. Available now.