Code of Silence. Phillip Jordan

When the troubles ended the violence didn’t

Whilst the paramilitary leaders turned politicians the foot soldiers found others to support

Gangs rule the streets running drugs, trafficking vulnerable women, and girls, they need muscle, and the old paramilitary muscle needs work

The younger generation, raised in an ambient atmosphere of violence, see punishment beatings, kneecapping, and murder, as nothing more than away of dealing out Justice.

So when DI Ronnie Taylor tried to take one of the highest ranking Gang Bosses of the streets, but was let down by the justice System, he thinks he’s made of Teflon and carries on bringing drugs into the country. Using his old paramilitary muscle as enforcers, and encouraging the new generation to distribute with menace.

But Ronnie is adamant she had her man bang-to-rights. The bosses agree but tell her he’s off limits for a while, because he’s quite the celebrity philanthropist, and not getting him convicted has led to bad press.

So when an apparent gang war starts up on the Belfast streets, and his name becomes linked, she has to tread very carefully.

As the investigation continues Ronnie starts to realise that there is something wrong, this isn’t gang on gang, this isn’t a war over drugs, or prostitution. This is somebody chipping away at everybody, this is somebody who either wants to start a huge turf war, in a very volatile environment, or somebody who is out to destroy the gangs and inflict pain on the leaders.

This is a cracker of a book. Set in Northern Ireland on the streets of Belfast. The only city in the U.K. where this story could have been set and still been realistic.

The troubles only ended, if they have really ever completely ended, a few years ago. There are generations brought up on violence, there is a younger generation who are still very much influenced by the stories of the recent past.

Mix that with the drug culture, and people trafficked into slave labour and prostitution, that is found in most big Cities, and you have one hell of a good backdrop to a story.

Then add Phillip Jordan’s story telling and you end up with a brilliantly book.

One of my favourite authors is the American Crime Thriller writer Greg Iles, I liken him to John Grisham without filters.

Phillip Jordan is the U.K. version of Iles. No punches are pulled. The gritty bits are very gritty, but it’s not gratuitous, it’s only ever in context.

Where the story needs violence it’s there, where the story needs to insinuate fear it does, and it all makes the 600 plus pages absolutely fly by.

After the epilogue, in the authors notes, there is a a paragraph made me grin from ear to ear. A paraphrase of what it said is, if you enjoyed the book you’ll be pleased to know that Veronica Taylor will return in The Crossed Keys and No Going Back.

Yes! At least 2 more in the series and I’ll be right at the front of the queue when they are published.

And I’ve found out there is a novella staring Ronnie, Behind Closed Doors, which is my next read.

I love it when I discover a new author. I love it even more when that new author excites me as much as this one did, and that’s only ever happened two or three times.

Pages: 624. Publisher: Five Four Publishing Available now

DI Zoe Finch Series. Rachel McLean

This blog isn’t about a single book in a series, but about the series itself.

It’s been a long time since I found a series, with so many books already published, that I hadn’t already read. The first 5 books are available with at least one other about to be released later in 2021.

I read the first two, Deadly Wishes and Deadly Choices, over a weekend and reviewed them in my last blog, since then I’ve downloaded the other three: Deadly Desires, Deadly Terror and Deadly Reprisal, and read them one after the other.

So why has this series got me hooked?

The locations of the crimes, the area that the stories are set in is very familiar to me, around Central and Western Birmingham, areas I worked in for years.

The realism of the policing. The fact that Rachel McLean has identified how the West Midlands Police works, the fact that the Major Investigation Team are based, as they are in real life, in Rose Road Police Station in Harborne.

The main character DI Zoe Finch his a highly strung single mother of a teenage boy. The boys father is a fellow Police Officer who Zoe did not know was a married, family man, when she was having a relationship with him, the difficulties this now brings as the son navigates relationships with his mom and father, and his fathers family.

Finch ishighly strung and at times difficult to get on with, but as a character in a book she is so easy to empathise with, and like. She is great at spotting the hidden detail and second to none at spotting inconsistencies in paper trails, documents, statements, and anything that is in print.

Her team is well balanced, and a great mixture of characters all of which fit nicely into the stories.

But what has me hooked more than anything else is the running theme of the series. There is at least one Police Officer who is bent, and is linked to a local crime boss, and Zoe has her suspicions that it’s not just one officer, in fact she has a Senior Officer in her sights.

It quickly become apparent that some officers are also under investigation by the Professional Standards department, and as the series progresses they, and Zoe get tantalising close to exposing the cop at the top of the pile of corruption.

McLean has come up with a great way of showing how the bent officers are paid without raising suspicion or leaving a trail. The stories in the books are interwoven so that each one is a great story on its own, but they also chisel away at the main running theme, of not only catching the Crime Boss, but also taking down the Corrupt Police Boss, or bosses.

To say this set of stories would make a great crime series would be underselling it. These books are really good.

My only gripe would be that if I had read them out of sequence, I would never have got the impact that I have by reading them in the right order. They could but the reader would be frustrated by the references to things which happen in previous books.

As a series this is definitely a five star plus, but because the continuing story is so important each individual book would be a four star read, even though the main central story for each book would deserve more.

Publisher: Ackroyd Publishing Books 1-5 available now

Last Place You Look. Louisa Scarr

Wow. Well this one had me hooked from start to finish.

A young single woman having an affair with a married man. A boringly normal man, but a lovely man, who is about to leave his with.

The young woman is Detective Constable Freya West. She has just been attached to work with Grumpy Sergeant, Robin Butler

Her first job is to meet Butler at an address where they have to tell a wife that her husband has died in a hotel room, the victim of an erotic auto-asphyxiation that went wrong.

But during the visit Freya realises that the dead man is the man she was having an affair with, Jonathan, and she’s convinced that there is no way he would have died like that.

Her first mistake is she doesn’t tell Butler, even when it becomes evident that he was having an affair and the Sergeant is actively looking for his mistress.

Her second mistake is stealing a vital bit of evidence before it’s found by her colleagues.

But she’s not the only one with problems. Butlers sister and twin sons were killed in a car crash years ago, and soon after his release, so was the driver of the car which killed them, in another crash. Now the second “accident” is being looked at again, and Freya has been asked to go behind Butlers back to re-examine the case.

Butler is already coming apart at the seams as he struggles with memories of his sister and the twins. He is perpetually grumpy, perpetually single, with the occasional one night stand or friend with benefits relationships. He’s scruffy and just the wrong side of unhygienic, and although it’s not affecting his work, it’s affecting the people he works with.

Meanwhile Jonathan’s death is highlighted as suspicious after all. People involved as witnesses are finding their story unravel. Freya’s tenacity means Butler becomes increasingly more concerned that he was murdered, but his main suspect is the missing girlfriend.

This is a cracking story. If we were allowed to fly long haul this year, this would be the book I’d recommend for a long flight, the time would pass in the blink of an eye.

The story has everything, great characters, a marvellous plot, and an intrigue that kept me second guessing all the way to the reveal.

That one innocent lie, Freya telling Butler she knows the victim, but only as a distant acquaintance, is the first roll of a small snowball in the snow. But as the story continues the snowball keeps getting rolled and it’s getting big. Meanwhile Butler has his own snowball rolling and the two are about to come together.

I loved this book and would recommend it to any crime fiction fan

Pages: 306. Publisher: Canelo Crime. Release date: 8th April 2021

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The House of Killers. Samantha Lee Howe

Every now and then a book comes along and ticks all my boxes. This is one of those books.

Espionage and Crime Thrillers are my favourite genres of books, tick, tick

Robert Ludlum’s Bourne trilogy and Stig Larsons Millennium trilogy, are two of my favourite series with two of my favourite characters. Neva in The House Of Killers is an amalgamation of Bourne and Salander, Tick, tick

A cracking, believable story that keeps me hooked from start to finish. Tick, tick, tick.

Neva is a Bourne in reverse. She’s an accomplished assassin who feels no empathy for her victims, in fact she is void of any emotions, just like Larson’s Salander. But, something is happening to her, flashback memories to when she was a child. Flashbacks to being abused and trained in a merciless brutal way start to enter her mind, along with the occasional memory of innocent times before she was taken to “The House” to be trained by The Network

Meanwhile Michael Kensington is an MI5 agent who works for a shadowy department that is officially called the Archive Taskforce. A team that on the surface looks at cold cases, but whose main duty is to investigate murders that could be politically motivated assassinations.

Michael has been building a case against one assassin that he is convinced is responsible for a lot of the murders that he has in his system. A clinical killer that specialises in using a very sharp blade. But in recent kills the killer has uncharacteristically got a bit careless, has he found a chink, can he identify the killer.

When Neva kills, “retires” another assassin who works for the “Network” it triggers something inside her, when will it be her turn?

When she cracks and kills another member of The Network, of her own volition, she has to disappear, and she knows she needs help.

A chance meeting between Neva and Michael puts him on her track, but why doesn’t he tell the Archieve team everything, and why does he let her under his skin.

What follows is a very unlikely, but thoroughly believable hook up of the two main characters, but what a dance. Neither fully trusts the other, contact is lost and established at Neva’s behest, but still he trusts her, and in doing so puts his career on the line

This book is stunning. It’s that nugget of gold you spend hour panning a river for, the one that comes along every now and then. The last time I was this excited about finding a new author it was Tom Clancy.

The book had me hooked from the start. The characters are great, Neva is believable, but even in her coldest murderous moments there is something that attracts me to her as a character.

Michael is a typical security service Investigator, more Morse than Bond, reserved, lives alone, does his job, goes home. Just your everyday person doing a police job for a government agency. The perfect foil for Neva’s vicious uncaring character.

This story flew by. The plot runs at a prolific speed and the ending is one I just did not see coming. Usually this would mean the author had thrown in something that would be unrealistic in the plot, but not in this case. There’s a slow build up to it that is cleverly hidden in the plot, and when it manifested itself in the last couple of chapters I could see where it had come from, and I loved the fact that I had been caught by surprise by a brilliant twist.

2021 has given me some of the best books I’ve read for years, and this one is right at the top of the list.

Pages: 432. Publisher: One More Chapter Publishing Date 24th June 2021

A Serial Killers Wife. Alice Hunter

Beth has it all, a lovely daughter, Poppy; a loving husband, Tom; and the perfect village life where she runs her own coffee shop.

Then one day Tom’s late from work and by the time he gets home two police officers are waiting to talk to him. Taking him to the station he doesn’t return till late and he tells his wife he’ll explain everything the next day after work. But he doesn’t get the chance because he’s arrested, for the suspected murder of his ex girlfriend 8 years ago.

Life begins to unravel. She knows Tom likes to be a bit dominant in the bedroom but he’s no killer………is he

Dealing with the aftermath of Toms arrest in the village, the gossipy wives, the other kids at Poppy’s school, and the influx of journalists is making her life unbearable.

But not as unbearable as the elements of doubt that start to creep into her thoughts.

Written in the first person, from both Beth and Toms point of view, and occasionally a mystery 3rd person, this book is addictive.

The story isn’t as simple as it sounds, but to go any deeper would mean too many spoilers.

Beth is the kind of character that you can’t help but have empathy and sympathy for. Tom is a character you won’t trust from the start.

And who is the third person

Alice Hunter is great at building tension in the way she writes, even when the story is apparently taking a bit of a breather there is an underlying fizz of electricity.

Don’t get me wrong, this book never really takes its foot of the accelerator, and it goes no where near the brake, it just cruises along at just the right speed all the way through.

I really enjoyed this one.

Pages: 400. Publisher: Avon. Publishing Date: 27th May 2021

The Good Neighbour. R.J Parker

This is a great example of one of those stories that starts with a complete fluke incident, which leads to a breathtaking series of events.

A quick kiss between strangers, a hope for more, but one of the strangers is a psychopathic killer, and the next 24 hours is going to be pure hell for the other. A series of decisions, all of them small, start to snowball, and that snowball gathers pace quickly as it rolls down the hill towards a brick wall that will violently smash it to pieces.

Stranger 1, Leah, is returning home late on Valetines day, to the house she shares with her estranged husband Elliot

As she rounds a bend she hits a deer and goes off the road. Heading to the nearest house for help the door is opened by a very pleasant man who helps her call for assistance and waves her goodbye, just after they share a fleeting kiss

Stranger 2 Martin, is the man who open ended the door and helped Leah, he felt a spark when they kissed. Unfortunately the owner of the house lies dead upstairs having being brutally murdered by Martin. Unfortunately for Leah, that is, because now he’s fixated on her

When Leah returns to the house the next day, with a bottle of wine, to say thank you, she finds the police swarming the house. She tells them that Martin had helped her and they are eventually convinced she was a damsel in distress, and not an accomplice to murder.

So why doesn’t she tell them about the texts that follow. Those texts lead to more, and Leah moves, one small step at a time, away from the safety of informing the police, and towards the danger of the stranger she met, by chance, on a dark cold night

Richard Parker has that gift for writing passages in his books that span a short time, but pack in loads of tension, all of which just keeps building and building.

There were times in this book where I was screaming, inside my head, for Leah to come clean with the police; but at the same time completely understanding why she doesn’t, after all once the snowball has started rolling down the hill it is hard to stop.

And, that brick wall it smashes violently against at the end of the story is drawn out, and breathtaking with tension

A great one off psychological crime thriller.

Pages: 299. Publisher: One More Chapter. Published on 18/3/2021

Dead Secret. Noelle Holten

A quick tease, and an advanced heads up, for a book that’s published later this year, I want to say more but I’m embargoed.

Dead Secret by Noelle Holten. Is, without doubt, the best crime fiction book I’ve read for a while, and I seem to be saying that a lot lately, but there has been some cracking crime fiction published over the last few months.

It’s one of those rarities in a series that can be read as a standalone so when I have to give it marks on a review site I can give it all of the stars.

If you are a fan of the series this is a great addition that will carry you along on the wave Holten has created. If you are new to the series it is surely going to make you want to read the others, so if this teaser triggers an interest maybe read the first three before this one is available

So why is it so good.

There’s a murder, a kidnap, and a domestic abuse crime, all,happening at the same time, and apparently unrelated. But are they?

The three crimes are all investigated in there own way, the paths of the investigation cross at times but isn’t it just coincidence

The main character DC Maggie Jamieson is still mentally and physically exhausted from the last case. Her guard is down and a journalist, she actually fancies, is trying to worm her way into her affections.

But the journalist is also getting information from a source within the team, not Maggie, but everybody wants to know who, and suspicion is flying.

One of the crimes leads the team to a horrific, unbelievable, conclusion.

I started the book on Saturday night and would have read it in one sitting had I started it early enough in the day. As it was I didn’t put it down till silly o’clock in the morning, and picked it up with my first cup of coffee Sunday and sat till I’d finished it.

A great read, I can’t wait to tell you more about later in the year.

So why put this out now. Just to give you enough time to read the first three, if you want to, before this comes out

#1 Dead Inside. #2 Dead Wrong. #3 Dead Perfect.

Published by One More Chapter.

Silent Voices. Patricia Gibney

It starts with a flashback to a boy getting pushed into a quarry lake 9 years ago.

From there the pace of this book is relentless. The first murder victim is found with her face contorted in agony, she’s been poisoned. A very old fashioned way of murdering somebody, but as a statement, because of the obvious pain of the victim, it is horrific.

But, there’s more to follow. Two more, seemingly unrelated victims killed in the same way.

Detective Inspector Lottie Parker and her team take on the latest series of murders to hit Ragmullin, the small Midlands City in Ireland.

Coincidentally, Lottie’s fiancé, who is also her DS, Boyd comes across a teenage girl who is having problems with her bike. Being the Good Samaritan he helps her sort it out, only to find the girl is inexplicably linked to one of the murder victims.

As the investigation progresses the seemingly unrelated victims start to be connected, and there appears to be a spurious link to the death of a boy 9 years earlier in a quarry.

Running alongside the story of the crimes is the story of Parker’s pending nuptials to Boyd, but as we find out in the in the prologue Boyd doesn’t turn up. The wedding is several, days after the first murder, and when he doesn’t turn up Lottie finds a note which suggests he’s on an errand of mercy that may be linked to the crimes they are in the middle of investigating

Was that act of being a Good Samaritan Boyd’s ultimate undoing.

Will the Crimes get Solved

Will there ever be a marriage

Will Lottie Parker ever get a break and find some semblance of happiness in her life.

I love Patricia Gibney’s books. I can’t believe this is book 9 in the series, they have all been brilliant.

The thing that elevates her books is the multiple strands she manages to weave into each storyline. The crimes alone are complex without being confusing. The personal lives of victims, perpetrators, and witness, along with the people who invariably orbit an investigation, are so true to life and easily believable they make for a fantastic read.

The life of Lottie’s team, and her family are always incorporated into the plot with a great effect.

Most of all Lottie herself. What a character. I can’t believe that Gibney has invented this detective without knowing somebody, or some people, that she has amalgamated to create Detective Inspector Lottie Parker. In fact I won’t be at all surprised if there’s not a lot of Patricia in Lottie.

She has really got into the head of a successful DI. The sacrifices made at the expense of her family, although she would argue not; the bluntness of character, although she would say not, but most of all the loyalty she shows to those she cares for.

This book is a great addition to what is already one of the very best crime series being written today. And the good news, I recently read that Patricia Gibney has just signed up to, write more books in the series.

Pages: 460. Publisher: Bookouture. Published: Today.

Passenger 23. Sebastian Fitzek

A quote from the book “An ocean going funfair of tourism and Murder. A floating city where you can get anything, except law enforcement”

Who has jurisdiction over crimes that happen on international cruise liners in international waters. I researched this question and I’m really surprised more books aren’t based on these ships. Basically it’s up to on board security to deal with any crime until the ship reaches port, or waters controlled by a nation, often only the 12 miles around the coast.

No forensics, no cops, people can get away with murder, and that is what this story uses as its foundation.

This is a really good story. Undercover Police Detective Martin Schwartz’s wife was on a transatlantic cruise with their son when they both went missing. The official inquest called it a murder suicide with the mother killing the son. Schwartz was never convinced and always held the ships captain responsible.

So when he gets a call to get onboard the same ship, and that somebody has information on a similar crime that may be related to the death of his family, he drops everything and joins the ship in Southampton just before it sails to America.

Two things surprise him. The person who made contact with him is an old, potty-mouthed, politically incorrect, lady, and that the Captain who was in charge when his family went missing is back in charge.

What’s even more surprising is why the old lady contacted him. She has seen a young girl, who’s mother has been missing for days, and both of who were thought to have suffered a similar fate as Schwartz’s family, has been found on board and his being hidden by the Captain

Schwartz only has a few days to find out what’s going on aboard the ship, because the owner can’t afford to have unsolved mysteries, with expensive loose ends to explain, when they arrive in the States.

What follows is an investigation that unravels a series of terrible crimes. Duplicity is rife, unexpected allegiances, are formed and broken and much more blood is spilled.

A mesmerising read

Pages: 416. Publisher: Head of Zeus. Available now

Who Took Eden Mulligan. Sharon Dempsey

Who took Eden Mulligan could easily be Who Is Eden Mulligan.

This is a belter of a crime novel that is so much more than just a murder investigation.

The book starts with a bloodied and injured young woman staggering into a Police Station, in Northern Ireland, and saying that “they’re all dead” and confessing to killing them before she passes out

The “them” she’s talking about are her 4 best friends and the police quickly find them all in a remote house. 3 are dead, stabbed to death and posed on a bed, the other is clinging to life.

Painted on the wall is a message. Who Took Eden Mulligan

That is where this story can take a massive turn that it couldn’t do if it was set anywhere else in the U.K.

Eden Mulligan went missing from her Belfast home during the troubles.

Since the Northern Ireland Peace Agreement most of us have forgotten what the people of the Country went through, but this book looks at the way the troubles still effect the people of Belfast and the small towns around it

Chief Inspector Danny Stowe is working on cold cases, looking at unsolved murders. When the woman staggers into the Police Station Danny is asked to lead the murder investigation, it’s his way back into Major Investigations. On the same day his best friend from University visits him, and he ropes her in to help the investigation

Dr Rose Lainey is only home for her mothers funeral. She works in England as a Criminal Psychologist and at first is loath to help, but she needs answers herself, especially when they find out who Eden Mulligan, was and when she went missing.

Mulligan was a young attractive woman bringing up her 5 children alone in Belfast whilst her husband worked in England.

Lainey was from the same area, The Markets, and her mother brought up her family alone after her husband was killed. Lainey always thought her mother was part of the paramilitaries, sneaking out at night and being secretive. Lainey had run away from home after her last college exam, away from what she saw as an overbearing mother, and had never returned until she had a phone call to say her mother had died.

Mulligans disappearance was never solved, in fact the police never really took it seriously.

This story looks at The Disappeared of Northern Ireland. People that went missing during the troubles. People taken off the streets by paramilitary snatch squads, taken across the border, tortured and killed. People who’s bodies were never found.

It looks at the effects the troubles are still having on families today, as well as the sectarian violence that was taking place till only a few years ago.

This book could not have been set anywhere else in the U.K.

I’m ashamed to say I’m old enough to know more about the troubles than I did before I started reading this book. I disappeared down a Google worm hole for hours reading about “The Disappeared”

The relationships between Lainey and her estranged family, and her friendship with Stowe, is a brilliant sub plot. In fact both the lead characters in this book have a great story to tell and hopefully there will be more to follow.

Pages: 368. Publisher: Avon. Available: August 2021