Married Lies by Chris Collet

24th February 2021.

I’ve enjoyed all the Tom Mariner books so far, but this one is my favourite. Maybe it’s because his relationship issues are not so prominent in this story, though they’re never too far away. It was also interesting to see an investigation into stalking, bearing in mind the story is set at the start of the millennium, when attitudes were changing.

There’s also a gruesome death to investigate. Nina Silvero is the widow of a former police detective with a chequered past and death. This connection, and the nature of his widow’s death, lifts the investigation up several notches. Not so, the stalking case, where the victim, Lucy Jarrett, wavers between fear and wondering if her imagination’s playing games with her.

Both investigations soon become bogged down as progress is slow and painstaking. Then a partial fingerprint on a wine bottle leads to a promising suspect, who may also have a connection the Lucy Jarrett’s stalking.

There’s good interplay within the team and even time for Mariner to make a fool of himself, helping to lighten the mix a little. The story moves along at a steady pace, picking up speed as more suspects are drawn into the investigation. A spark of inspiration has Mariner confronting the killer in a restrained climax with a kick in the tail.

Another enjoyable story in an engaging series, where the main characters continue to develop and show their frailties. It all adds to the backstory and my continued reading pleasure.

I’m already looking forward to the next book in the series.

Description

Lucy Jarrett is terrified. Someone is watching her every move, following her home from work and making threatening phone calls. But her husband doesn’t believe her and no one else is listening.

Lucy’s married life is proving anything but blissful. Her musician husband is perpetually away on tour and doesn’t want to start a family.

Lucy finally calls on Detective Tom Mariner for help, and he takes her fears seriously because of the recent murder of another young woman by her ex-partner.

DI Mariner himself is already on the hunt for a sadistic killer. Nina Silvero, wife of an ex-police officer, was duped into sipping sulphuric acid disguised as celebratory wine.

Grappling with Nina’s apparently motiveless killing, Mariner delegates Lucy’s case to Millie Khatoon. Is someone out for revenge against the police?

Can DI Tom Mariner track down the stalker and catch the killer before anyone else dies?

Married Lies by Chris Collett

Till the Old Men Die by Janet Dawson

23rd February 2021.

This is a deep, involving and complex story that deals with past injustices alongside a current murder. When a history professor is killed in a car park, it looks like a random killing. Then a woman turns up at his university, claiming to be his wife and alarm bells begin to ring. It’s time to call in private investigator Jeri Howard, whose father was a colleague of the dead professor.

Pretty soon, it becomes clear that the professor left a package that the bad guys want. But who would want to kill a professor, researching historical events in his homeland, the Philippines? This is what Jeri has to discover and it’s a slow torturous trail through the Filipino community in California where many are related by blood and marriage.

Who can she trust and believe? Who has a motive to kill the professor? More than that, what is the motive? It seems the answer lies in his research and the package everyone wants to find.

It’s a well-researched story with a detailed background and history of the people involved and their roots. More than once, I struggled with the names of characters and their relationships as the story unfolded. As the story progressed, I began to recognise the key characters and relationships, which helped to make sense of the players and suspects.

This early confusion didn’t spoil my enjoyment of the story. The issues explored made this a private eye novel with a difference, which is always welcome, and added a depth to the background and characters that made the story more interesting and engaging.

This is the second book in the Jeri Howard series and I’m looking forward to reading more.

Description

In Janet Dawson’s second absorbing Jeri Howard mystery, the tough-minded private investigator finds herself –in no time at all–at the center of an international jumble of war heroes, collaborators, resistance fighters, politicians, and crime bosses.

But in fine PI mystery fashion, the case isn’t at first what it seems. It begins small, with the grisly murder of a sedate, widowed history professor, written off as a random street crime until a woman turns up at his university, claiming to be his widow and demanding access to his “papers.” Jeri’s called into the case by her father, a good friend of Lito, the murdered Asian Studies professor, who tells her about a mysterious envelope he received from his friend on the day of his funeral.

A note with the package said “keep it safe”. And Jeri knows that’s the key: whatever was in it is behind Lito’s murder. Sure enough, it’s gone missing.

And Lito was just back from a research trip to the Philippines. What, she wonders, did he learn there? Once she realizes his research subject was the Japanese invasion of the Philippines in World War Two, things take a sinister international turn.

Off she goes, searching for answers in Lito’s close-knit Filipino community, a world alive with music, food, celebrations – not to mention power struggles, treachery, and betrayal. And then the case heats up. Because the past never dies—it just gets covered up.

Till the Old Men Die by Janet Dawson

Networking for Writers by Lizzie Chantree

23rd February 2021.

While there are plenty of books out there that deal with all aspects of marketing a book and using social media as a writer, it’s great to find one that talks to me in my language. I’m neither an expert nor a novice, but I like to check out different angles and approaches as there’s always something to learn.

And this book gave me a fresh outlook in a number of key areas, such as how to engage on Twitter and use it as a writer. Email subscription lists are another area where the author gave me plenty to think about and try. Suddenly, it started to make more sense. I could see how I could improve what I do.

That’s the beauty of this excellent book – it’s filled with practical tips, mainly based on the author’s own experiences and knowledge. The book’s written in an engaging and encouraging style that left me feeling more confident and motivated to try harder.

You can’t ask for more than that.

Description

Are you swamped with book marketing and looking for a way to find new sales? Learn simple and effective networking techniques, to grow your readership and connect with other authors and book lovers, today!

Whether you are a new or an experienced writer, self-published or traditionally published, this book will show you how to grow your readership and author network, through some of the most powerful of all marketing tools – word of mouth and recommendation.

This book will show you:

How networking can help you sell more books.

Why author branding is important.

How networking hours work.

Specific Facebook groups for writers

How to utilise social media to grow your readership.

How not to waste valuable writing time.

How to make our marketing more effective.

Networking for Writers by Lizzie Chantree

No Sex Please We’re Crime Writers

19th February 2021.

Have you ever wondered why there’s so little sex in crime fiction?

Maybe there is and I’m reading the wrong books. Maybe sex and murder are not good bedfellows.

Some categories of crime fiction, such as cosy mysteries, exclude explicit sex, graphic violence and excessive swearing. In my book, literally and metaphorically, this doesn’t exclude romance, sexual tension and people sleeping together. It simply frowns on graphic description.

But sex scenes should only be in a story if they are essential to the plot or character development. This should be the case in any book in any category. If a killer, for instance, seduces his or her victims before killing them, does this need to be shown in detail?

Crime Scene - No sex please

You could argue the same for murder. Does it need to be shown in great detail?

It depends on the type of book and the writer, I guess. With so much emphasis on the collection of forensic and DNA evidence at crime scenes, detailed description that may lead investigators closer to the killer would be essential.

It’s up to writers to show the world as they see it.

Personally, I’m not a fan of torture scenes or any graphic descriptions that involve violence or someone inflicting pain on another human being or animal.

That’s not to say I live in a closeted world where everything’s rosy. I simply don’t need to read the details. I have an imagination. If someone is being tortured as part of the story, tell me. I need to know. But do I want to know every detail of what the killer’s doing?

Some writers like to get into the minds of killers, to show how they’ve become who they are. We’re all inquisitive and the subject’s fascinating, but that doesn’t mean it needs graphic descriptions.

It’s the same with sex. My readers can imagine a sex scene much better than I can write it. And let’s be honest here, each person will imagine it a little differently, making the story more personal to them.

Fun readingSurely, that’s what we want as authors – readers to enjoy our books. Reading is an emotional experience. The imagination fills in the blanks. We see characters in a particular way, even when they are described in detail. It means readers are more likely to get something personal to them from what they read.

Of course there are times when you have to lay things out in detail, if only for accuracy or credibility, but I would suggest there’s always some room to allow the reader’s imagination to personalise what they’re reading.

If I want everything laid out for me, I’ll watch TV.

Then I can complain on social media that the main character is nothing like the one I pictured in the books.

Not that I really picture them. I’m more interested in who they are, not what they look like.

And that’s the point, ultimately. No two readers are alike. Every one of us has different tastes, values and attitudes. I prefer to read books that aren’t graphic or filled with profanities. I know people swear in the real world, but they also belch, fart, pick their noses, scratch their bums and so on.

If the story and characters are engaging, some swearing and violence won’t put me off a book.

If the swearing and violence feel excessive or unnecessary, I can stop reading – and often do.

I want people to enjoy my books. I want to entertain my readers.  I want to tantalise them with complex plots and mysteries in a contemporary world that feels real.

I don’t need graphic sex, foul language and excessive violence to achieve that. It doesn’t make my books soft and fluffy or unrealistic.

I’m writing a murder mystery not a bonk buster.

Reading questions

How do you feel about swearing, sex and violence in crime novels?


Learn more about the Kent Fisher murder mysteries.

A Pocket Full of Rye by Agatha Christie

17th February 2021.

Under the cover of a children’s nursery rhyme a killer is bumping people in the Fortescue house. The dysfunctional family, ably looked after by the efficient Miss Dove, offer up plenty of suspects and motives, as you would expect with Agatha Christie. Then there are the servants, a lover, and a historical rivalry to add more suspects to the pool.

The author handles it all with her usual mastery, laying false trails and diversions to fox the local police. There’s no lack of social comment and humour as she reveals the secrets and conflicts within the family.

Having trained one of the parlour maids serving there, Miss Marple arrives at the house to assist the police. It doesn’t take her long to separate the rye from the chaff with her incisive knowledge of human nature and ability to spot the worst in people.

The story’s a joy from start to finish, weaving a winding trail through a house filled with largely unlikable characters, nearly all tarnished by money and greed. It’s a masterclass in the classic whodunit and hugely entertaining.

Description

In Agatha Christie’s classic, A Pocket Full of Rye, the bizarre death of a financial tycoon has Miss Marple investigating a very odd case of crime by rhyme.

Rex Fortescue, king of a financial empire, was sipping tea in his “counting house” when he suffered an agonizing and sudden death. On later inspection, the pockets of the deceased were found to contain traces of cereals.

Yet, it was the incident in the parlour which confirmed Miss Marple’s suspicion that here she was looking at a case of crime by rhyme. . .

A Pocket Full of Rye by Agatha Christie

See Them Run by Marion Todd

16th February 2021.

I enjoy finding new authors to read in a crowded crime market where there are more detectives with traumas than you can shake a stick at. Many of the police procedurals tread the same familiar territory without bringing anything new to the table. While See Them Run followed some familiar patterns, it was engaging  and different enough to catch and maintain my interest.

It didn’t start that way, but drew me in after the first hit and run murder. The card with the number 5 on it suggested there was a serial killer at work. And sure enough, it wasn’t long before a second victim was found with a number 4 on the card. The countdown began.

DI Clare Mackay was an engaging lead character, who’d left her past behind in Glasgow, along with her boyfriend. Having swapped the mean streets for a rural idyll, she soon came under scrutiny from the Detective Chief Inspector called in to oversee the case. For a while it looked like another case of desk bound superior officer finding fault with the team, and Clare Mackay in particular. But as the story progressed they started working together and developed an understanding to solve the case.

With good support from the team, the detectives slowly unravelled the mystery and the motive behind the killings, leading to an exciting and satisfying climax.

Though the case followed familiar themes and motives, the plot was well-handled and intriguing enough to keep me turning the pages. The characters were realistic, engaging and drove the investigation along its twisting course. Clare Mackay came over as strong and determined, but vulnerable due to past events – a good mix with plenty of possibilities for the future.

I look forward to reading the next in the series.

Description

In a famous Scottish town, someone is bent on murder – but why?

On the night of a wedding celebration, one guest meets a grisly end when he’s killed in a hit-and-run. A card bearing the number ‘5’ has been placed on the victim’s chest. DI Clare Mackay, who recently moved from Glasgow to join the St Andrews force, leads the investigation. The following night another victim is struck down and a number ‘4’ card is at the scene. Clare and her team realise they’re against the clock to find a killer stalking the streets of the picturesque Scottish town and bent on carrying out three more murders.

To prevent further deaths, the police have to uncover the link between the victims. But those involved have a lot more at stake than first meets the eye. If Clare wants to solve the case she must face her own past and discover the deepest secrets of the victims – and the killer.

See Then Run by Marion Todd

Murder of the Bride by Faith Martin

11th February 2021.

Having read and enjoyed the first two novels in the Hillary Greene series, I was looking forward to another entertaining murder investigation. I wasn’t disappointed.

It begins when a woman in a wedding dress is found strangled in a cow shed on a farm. It isn’t long before Hillary’s piecing together the woman’s eventful life and the impact she has on many of the locals at the party they were all attending. A lot of the people are not who they seem to be, increasing the list of suspects.

Alongside the investigation, the relationships and interplay between the main team members are a joy to watch, strengthening the characters and offering plenty of conflict and challenges. There’s a healthy streak of humour running alongside the egos and sexual tensions in the squad.

Hillary has her own problems to resolve, thanks to her now deceased husband, who was a crooked cop. She lives on a narrow boat, has no love life to speak of, and an animal welfare organisation wants to take the former marital home from her.

While the investigation may be frustrating, there’s always plenty going on. The stories have improved with each book. The various backstories continue to provide additional conflict as well as entertaining distraction. The characters are now established, bringing additional depth to the novel. Combined, they produce an entertaining story that I thoroughly enjoyed.

I’m already looking forward to reading the next in the series.

Description

DI Hillary Greene is called out to attend a suspicious death at Three Oaks Farm in the picturesque village of Steeple Barton.

The large farmhouse is filled with music and revellers, but when she steps into the farm’s large cowshed, Hillary finds a dead bride. Dressed in a sumptuous white wedding gown, the young, beautiful redhead had clearly been strangled.

But not everything is what it seems, and the victim turns out to be at the centre of a web of jealousy and intrigue in the close-knit village. Many of the villagers have a motive for murdering her but they’re not giving up their secrets easily.

Can Hillary discover the real reason for this brutal crime and cope with the spiralling revelations about her dead ex-husband?

Murder of the Bride by Faith Martin

The Darkest Evening by Ann Cleeves

11th February 2021.

Like so many readers, I love Vera Stanhope. She’s distinctive, original, fascinating and about as unique a detective as you could meet. All of which makes her irresistible. Her work as a detective inspector is her life and her passion. With grit, determination, a wry sense of humour and a canny understanding of humour nature, she’s an unstoppable force when she’s on the hunt for a killer.

The relationships within her team, especially Joe and Holly, add an extra depth and dimension to the books and allow the reader to see how her colleagues view her. While they may question her methods and idiosyncrasies at times, they know she’s fearless, loyal, and usually right.

In this story, Vera’s battling a snow blizzard on her way to her house in the countryside. Temporarily lost and straying from her usual route, she chances upon an abandoned car with a baby, strapped into the back seat. The driver’s door is open and it isn’t long before Vera discovers the body of a young woman in the snow.

While this is no ordinary murder, the location is close to Brockburn, the Stanhope Ancestral home – the family she’s estranged from thanks to her father being the black sheep. Not only must Vera try to make sense of the murder, she’s forced to deal with relatives she has little in common with, along with their tenants, who make up the small community.

Is one of them a killer? Why was the victim on Stanhope land? Why did she abandon her baby in the car?

It’s a fascinating and painstaking investigation. Vera peels back the layers, revealing secrets, liaisons and plenty of suspects and motives. Holly and Joe also have their moments as they help Vera make her way through the mist (literally) to an exciting, breath taking climax.

Fast and furious it’s not, but this is a beautifully crafted murder mystery that’s absorbing, compelling and satisfying. It will stay long in the mind and make you want to read more.

Description

The darkest nights can hide the deadliest secrets . . .

Driving home during a swirling blizzard, Vera Stanhope’s only thought is to get there quickly.

But with the snow driving down heavily, she becomes disorientated and loses her way, eventually stumbling on another car abandoned on the road. With the driver’s door open, Vera assumes the driver has sought shelter but is shocked to find a young toddler strapped in the back seat.

Afraid they will freeze, Vera takes the child and drives on, arriving at Brockburn, a run-down stately home she immediately recognizes as the house her father Hector grew up in.

Inside Brockburn a party is in full swing, with music and laughter to herald the coming Christmas. But outside in the snow, a young woman lies dead and Vera has a new case. Could she be the child’s mother and, if she is, what happened to her?

The Darkest Evening by Ann Cleeves

The Long Call by Ann Cleeves

10th February 2021.

If you like your crime fiction gritty, violent and with plenty of action, you might find this a little slow. But if you enjoy gentle, beautifully crafted, character driven murder investigations, this story gives you time to breathe, to savour and to deliberate.

It centres on DI Matthew Venn, who returns to the community he left many years ago. His husband runs a local community centre that’s the focal point of the story. When a body’s found on a beach, not far from where they live, it’s Venn’s first major case in charge. The victim, a casual worker at the centre, is a bit of a mystery with a past that offers up some suspects and motives. Before his death, he befriended a girl with Downs Syndrome, who visited the centre.

Venn’s not your usual hard-boiled stereotype copper. He’s sensitive, self-conscious and often doubts his abilities as he struggles for traction on a case that touches the local community, from those who rely on the centre for help to those who run it.

I loved the North Devon setting, the doggedness that Venn shows, despite his doubts, and the way he slowly peels back all the secrets to get to the truth behind the killing. The relationships between the various members of the team are also fascinating as the drive for the truth tests every one of them.

This is the first in a new series and I look forward to reading the next when it is published.

Description

In North Devon, where the rivers Taw and Torridge converge and run into the sea, Detective Matthew Venn stands outside the church as his father’s funeral takes place. The day Matthew turned his back on the strict evangelical community in which he grew up, he lost his family too.

Now he’s back, not just to mourn his father at a distance, but to take charge of his first major case in the Two Rivers region; a complex place not quite as idyllic as tourists suppose.

A body has been found on the beach near to Matthew’s new home: a man with the tattoo of an albatross on his neck, stabbed to death.

Finding the killer is Venn’s only focus, and his team’s investigation will take him straight back into the community he left behind, and the deadly secrets that lurk there.

The Long Call by Ann Cleeves

They Do it with Mirrors by Agatha Christie

10th February 2021.

I’m working my way through the Miss Marple series and thoroughly enjoying myself. All the stories so far have been smoothly written in a direct style that takes you to the heart of the story and plot. Each story is distinctive and They Do It with Mirrors is no exception.

This time Miss Marple’s asked to help an old friend, Carrie Louise, who may be in danger. She’s living in an old mansion which now has a rehabilitation centre for criminals. Due to her history of marriages, Carrie Louise has accumulated a number of family members, who live with her. Add the staff needed to run the rehab centre and you have plenty of suspects.

When her stepson visits unexpectedly, no one expects him to be murdered in his room. Most of the suspects are in the dark, thanks to the lights failing, while her husband, Lewis, is arguing with a troubled young man in the office next door.

Then it looks like someone’s trying to poison Carrie Louise.

The author handles the large cast well, with her usual skilful characterisation, providing plenty of suspects and motives for the murder, as the police soon discover. Miss Marple’s not thrown by the red herrings as she slowly makes sense of everything that happens in a detached, almost clinical manner that belies her humanity and understanding of human nature.

It’s all over a little quickly, but that doesn’t diminish what is another fine example of the author’s ability to weave a complex, gripping story that keeps you guessing to the end.

Description

A man is shot at in a juvenile reform home – but someone else dies…

Miss Marple senses danger when she visits a friend living in a Victorian mansion which doubles as a rehabilitation centre for delinquents. Her fears are confirmed when a youth fires a revolver at the administrator, Lewis Serrocold. Neither is injured. But a mysterious visitor, Mr Gilbrandsen, is less fortunate – shot dead simultaneously in another part of the building.

Pure coincidence? Miss Marple thinks not, and vows to discover the real reason for Mr Gilbrandsen’s visit.

They Do It With Mirrors by Agatha Christie