And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

23rd October 2021.

The author’s own note says she wrote this because it was difficult to do and keep it credible. And while the idea does seem far-fetched, it’s so well written and plotted, you happily go along with the story, watching the visitors to Soldier Island die one by one.

It helps that each one of the visitors hides a guilty secret. These are revealed as the deaths continue and those remaining begin to fear for their safety. The suspense and tension is palpable and almost claustrophobic as the visitors fall apart, knowing there is no escape other than self-preservation.

There’s a clever twist, which ultimately explains why the ten were chosen and gathered together for what is an original and ingenuous murder mystery. I’m not sure how or why Agatha Christie had the idea, but she delivered it in style in her usual straightforward and entertaining way.

A classic of the genre.

Description

Ten strangers, apparently with little in common, are lured to an island mansion off the coast of Devon by a mysterious host.

They sit down for dinner and a record begins to play. The voice of their host accuses each person of hiding a guilty secret. By the end of the night one of them will be dead.

Stranded by a violent storm, they begin to die – one by one.
Each of them is guilty. But who is the killer?

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

The Crossing by Matt Brolly

21st October 2021.

The town of Weston super Mare, Somerset, is shocked by the brutal murder of Veronica Lloyd, an elderly volunteer at a local church.

This is DI Louise Blackwell’s first murder investigation since her forced transfer from the Major Investigation Team in Bristol. She shot a killer, but was not supported by her colleague, Tim Finch, leaving a burning sense of injustice inside her.

After a priest is killed in a similar manner to the first victim, it looks like there’s a serial killer on a mission.

The story alternates between the killer and the police. The events that drove the killer to commit murder are revealed, little by little, as the story progresses. Meanwhile, the police investigation struggles on without tangible progress. The threat of the Murder Investigation Team taking over drives Blackwell on, desperate to connect the dots before Finch takes over.

It’s an interesting story that explores the power of religion and how its messages can become corrupted. The killer’s past is portrayed sympathetically, to reveal the injustice he feels, but without overshadowing the brutality of his crimes. DI Louise Blackwell has a chip on her shoulder that affects her judgement, especially towards the climax. She doubts her abilities, her judgement and her behaviour as she struggles with the investigation, revealing the human side of police work.

While it took me a while to get into the story, it grew on me as the book progressed towards a race against time climax.

Description

In a small town full of secrets, everyone’s a suspect.

When a body is discovered, bled dry on a beach, the sleepy seaside town of Weston-super-Mare wakes up to a nightmare. For Detective Inspector Louise Blackwell, recently transferred to the town she last saw as a child, it’s her first case on the job.

The victim—Veronica Lloyd, an elderly volunteer at a local church—has puncture wounds to her hands. When a priest is found killed in a nearby church in a similarly grisly condition, it becomes clear that Blackwell is dealing with a righteous and bloody murderer. But the victims aren’t random. The killer has a vendetta and is hell-bent on exacting twisted revenge for a dark secret dating back years—and there are more murders planned.

As the body count rises, Blackwell faces a race against time to solve the mystery of the murderer’s identity and put an end to the carnage. She thought she knew Weston, but the town holds more secrets than she’d ever have imagined. Who can she trust and who knows more than they are letting on?

She must discover the crimes that unite the victims—before it’s too late.

The Crossing by Matt Brolly

The Lost Man by Jane Harper

21st October 2021.

A man is found dead by the weathered gravestone of an old stockman in the heat of the Australian outback. What was he doing out there without water or transport? No signs of a struggle or murder. A few miles away, his vehicle, fully equipped with food and water, is found. Why did he abandon it and travel on foot in the scorching temperatures?

This is a story that unfolds slowly and achingly as a cattle farming family comes to terms with the unexplained death of Cameron, the middle of three brothers, the week before Christmas.

This is Australia’s outback – vast distances, unrelenting heat, flooding once a year and small town communities, often several hours away by car. It’s a place that shapes the people who live and work there. But those people have grown to become part of outback. One detective, one medic, covering thousands of square miles. Nothing happens quickly out here.

As one small clue is uncovered after another, the darker side of Cameron’s life, the relationships with a tyrannical father, and past secrets slowly come to light, changing opinions and perceptions to ultimately reveal the truth about the man and how he died.

The story is beautifully described and delivered, showing the hardships endured by these people, the tensions within families, often isolated from others for months, and the past secrets that come to the surface when tragedy strikes.

It’s a haunting story that slowly grips you and draws you in, refusing to let you go until the final page.

If you’re looking for something a little different, something that’s beautifully crafted, driven by characters and secrets, you won’t be disappointed. This is the perfect antidote to formulaic police procedurals.

Description

He had started to remove his clothes as logic had deserted him, and his skin was cracked. Whatever had been going through Cameron’s mind when he was alive, he didn’t look peaceful in death.

Two brothers meet at the remote border of their vast cattle properties under the unrelenting sun of the outback. In an isolated part of Australia, they are each other’s nearest neighbour, their homes hours apart.

They are at the stockman’s grave, a landmark so old that no one can remember who is buried there. But today, the scant shadow it casts was the last hope for their middle brother, Cameron. The Bright family’s quiet existence is thrown into grief and anguish.

Something had been troubling Cameron. Did he choose to walk to his death? Because if he didn’t, the isolation of the outback leaves few suspects…

The Lost Man by Jane Harper

Fatal Lies by Andrew Cunningham

20th October 2021.

The second book in the series is another fast moving, thoroughly entertaining and exciting investigation. Del and Sabrina travel the length and breadth of the USA when they become embroiled in another complex murder mystery.

The brutal murder of Daisy Leduc sparks off another investigation when her estranged daughter is asked to contact Sabrina. The only link is the time they spent together in gaol. It soon becomes clear Del and Sabrina are not the only ones interested in what Daisy has left behind, especially when they discover she didn’t die at the hands of a serial killer when she was 17.

Who exactly is trying to kill them and preserve Daisy’s secrets? As Del and Sabrina uncover the clues, the list of suspects grows, leading to a thrilling climax.

I love the self-deprecating humour, the light touch that propels this entertaining caper, and the spirit of adventure that’s on every page. Del and Sabrina are great creations, ably supported by some quirky and likeable characters. The story is also lifted by some sly comments about being a murder mystery writer, which had me chuckling as I read.

Terrific stuff!

Description

Daisy Leduc was forgotten and alone. That was just how she wanted it. But when she is discovered stabbed to death in a dusty little Texas town, it plunges Del Honeycutt and bestselling mystery author Sabrina Spencer into a 30-year-old mystery involving murder, hidden identities, dangerous family secrets, political intrigue, and a long-forgotten serial killer.

When they discover that Daisy, under a different name, supposedly died 30 years earlier, they find themselves squarely in the crosshairs of killers whose deadly secrets lie in Daisy’s mysterious past.

Fatal Lies by Andrew Cunningham

Brutal Crimes by Michael Hambling

14th October 2021.

In the tenth outing for Sophie Allen of the Violent Crimes Unit in Dorset, she has to investigate the brutal murder of a fellow detective, dumped in a disused clay pit at night. Only the killers are unaware that a young girl, Amy, is in the woods watching them.

A second body in the clay pit suggests links to major crimes, involving slavery, luxury cars stolen to order and gun running. The investigation soon focuses on Middle Eastern residents, living in ‘millionaire’s row in Poole. The key is Mia, a university student, working during the summer to earn some much needed cash. What she learns puts her in danger as the police begin to unravel the mystery.

Once again, the author has written another riveting book in this memorable series. The characters and their relationships form the backbone to the story, which is a thriller rather than a whodunit. Piece by piece, the detectives pull the various strands together to solve the murders.

Perhaps best of all, is the lack of detectives trying to deal with traumas as they go about their jobs. The detectives also get on with their superiors, working together rather than the maverick style which seems to populate so many crime novels. In other words, this is a series where the characters are likeable as well as effective, providing a breath of fresh air among the formulaic crime novels publishers seem to produce these days.

Description

Twelve-year-old Amy Birkbeck is checking her bat boxes late one cold January evening in the woods by her house.

She witnesses something no child should ever see — a group of men rolling a body into the deep pool of the disused old clay pit.

Meanwhile, DCI Sophie Allen’s team is falling apart.

One of the members of the unit goes missing. Surely he couldn’t be the body in the pool? Or is something much darker going on?

Then a second body is found in the disused clay pit. And it seems the dead man is connected to a suspected arms dealer . . .

There are dangerous goings-on in Detective Allen’s quiet patch of Dorset, and she doesn’t know who to trust.

Brutal Crimes by Michael Hambling

The Secret Adversary by Agatha Christie

13th October 2021.

First published in January 1922, this is another fast moving adventure, giving Tommy and Tuppence their first outing. Naturally, the language and attitudes are of the time, but in all other respects this is a dramatic ripping yarn that’s fun to read, easy to follow and filled with all the twists, turns and surprises I’ve come to expect from the Queen of Crime. Indeed, at the beginning there’s some clever plotting that brought a smile to my face.

The writing and story-telling is confident and bold, driven by the two main characters, who have a lust for excitement and an almost fearless approach to any danger they face. Can they find Jane Finn, who seems to be at the centre of a political plot that threatens the government?

While Tuppence is the main driving force in the duo, Tommy has his moments and it’s beautifully delivered as the pace and action hots up for a memorable climax. The usual explanations follow to show the reader how the mystery was solved and why.

In many respects, it’s light, frothy and easy to read, but this is a result of great writing and plotting, effortlessly delivered to satisfy the reader. If you’re interested in historical crime, this is a great introduction.

Description

Tommy Beresford and Prudence ‘Tuppence’ Cowley are young, in love… and flat broke. Just after Great War, there are few jobs available and the couple are desperately short of money. Restless for excitement, they decide to embark on a daring business scheme: Young Adventurers Ltd.—”willing to do anything, go anywhere.” Hiring themselves out proves to be a smart move for the couple. In their first assignment for the mysterious Mr. Whittingtont, all Tuppence has to do in their first job is take an all-expense paid trip to Paris and pose as an American named Jane Finn. But with the assignment comes a bribe to keep quiet, a threat to her life, and the disappearance of her new employer. Now their newest job are playing detective.

Where is the real Jane Finn? The mere mention of her name produces a very strange reaction all over London. So strange, in fact, that they decided to find this mysterious missing lady. She has been missing for five years. And neither her body nor the secret documents she was carrying have ever been found. Now post-war England’s economic recovery depends on finding her and getting the papers back. But he two young working undercover for the British ministry know only that her name and the only photo of her is in the hands of her rich American cousin. It isn’t long before they find themselves plunged into more danger than they ever could have imagined—a danger that could put an abrupt end to their business… and their lives.

The Secret Adversary by Agatha Christie

The Man by the Sea by Jack Benton

8th October 2021.

This is a murder mystery with a difference, set in a sleepy seaside town in Lancashire. Former soldier, Slim Hardy, discharged for misconduct is now a private detective. He’s been employed by Emma, who believes her husband is having an affair.

Slim can’t find any evidence of an affair, but the husband, Ted, is behaving strangely, making incantations in old Latin at the water’s edge. Who is he talking to? Why?

Slim’s curiosity won’t let it rest until he has answers. Unfortunately, with his drinking problems and poor judgement, it’s not going to be an easy investigation.

I enjoyed the novel, which was easy to read and not too demanding. The paranormal overtones made it different from a traditional murder mystery, which added to its appeal. While I didn’t take to Slim’s character, he drove the story along, despite being deeply flawed and a poor detective.

Description

John “Slim” Hardy, heavy drinker and disgraced soldier turned bumbling private detective, is hired to investigate Ted Douglas, an investment banker who slips out of work every Friday to visit a desolate cove on the Lancashire coast. There, he walks to the shore, opens an old book, and begins to read aloud.

His wife thinks he’s having an affair.

Slim thinks he’s insane.

The truth is more incredible than either could imagine.

The Man by the Sea by Jack Benton

Deadly Wishes by Rachel McLean

8th October 2021.

Overall I enjoyed this novel, featuring DI Zoe Finch. Flushed with success, she’s put on the team investigating the murder of Assistant Chief Constable Bryn Jackson. However, Zoe’s given a more mundane role than she would have liked, but this isn’t going to stop her getting to the heart of the investigation. Naturally, she treads on a few toes, antagonises Jackson’s widow and uncovers more than she bargained for.

The novel was not unlike a sandwich. It started in a slow, methodical way that took a while to get going. When it did, the story was gripping and exciting with plenty of tension and suspense as it hurtled towards the climax. Then despite the twist, I felt the story fizzled out, leaving some key issues to be picked up in the next novel, perhaps.

There were rather a lot of characters to keep track off, especially on the police side. I was forced to stop and come out of the story a couple of times as I tried to recall who these people were and where they fitted in. That aside, the writing was good, the pace and suspense gripping in the middle section and DI Finch was a strong and likeable lead character.

Description

Meet Zoe Finch, West Midlands Police’s newest Detective Inspector. She’s outspoken, ambitious, and damaged. And she’s working a case that could make her career, or cost her everything…

Fresh from the success of the Canary investigation into depravity and corruption at the highest levels, she’s attracted attention. Not least from Assistant Chief Constable Bryn Jackson.

But when Jackson is brutally murdered on the night of his retirement party, Zoe is dragged into a case that’s deeply personal.

All the evidence points to the victim’s downtrodden wife, who has secrets of her own. But Zoe begins to suspect all isn’t as it seems. Could Jackson’s death be linked to the Canary case? And what is her new boss, DCI David Randle, hiding?

Seeking out the truth will force Zoe to confront her own past, and put her career, and her team’s lives, on the line.

Deadly Wishes by Rachel MacLean

Alone with a Killer by Bill Kitson

29th September 2021.

The sixth book in this excellent series, featuring DI Mike Nash and his team, is another twisting, action-packed cracker.

A woman goes missing while her husband is playing golf in Spain. It appears she’s been abducted by a vicious serial killer, dubbed the Cremator by the press. Nash isn’t convinced, but he’s got his own distractions to deal with. With the thin blue line stretched to breaking, a security van is held up.

Is it coincidence or is there a connection? When more violence and mayhem follow, it’s clear there’s a lot to unravel.

It takes some time to piece together what’s happening in this story, but that’s the beauty of an intriguing mystery. And the more complicated it gets, the more you turn the pages, eager to make sense of what’s happening. That’s the power of the storytelling that drives this police procedural thriller.

I enjoyed catching up with the characters, the humour that lightens the dark tone of the storylines, and the surprises that emerge as Nash begins to piece everything together. Like all the previous books, the climax is exciting and action-packed.

While this can be read on its own, the books are so good you should start at the beginning for maximum pleasure. Click here to check out my reviews of the previous books in the series.

Description

Alone in an isolated Yorkshire cottage, Vanda Dawson waits for her sister Jo to come keep her company. Her husband Brian is away on holiday. Outside, as storms lash the country, Jo struggles to reach the house. But she finds it deserted and in darkness.

WHERE HAS VANDA GONE?

With Mike Nash on leave, Detective Sergeant Clara Mironova leads the investigation.

The missing woman’s husband is also unaccounted for. Is he responsible, or has she been abducted by the sadistic serial killer nicknamed The Cremator?

A SERIAL KILLER WHO TORTURES AND BURNS HIS VICTIMS ALIVE.

Before Nash’s return, a security van disappears along with its two-man crew. Further violent crimes are reported and it becomes apparent that nothing is as it seems and no one is quite what they appear to be.

Alone with a Killer by Bill Kitson

Witness to Evil by Janet Dawson

27th September 2021.

Jeri Howard series always offers something different, usually a social problem that encapsulates a crime or two. In this outing, Jeri has to track down runaway teenager, Darcy, who’s gone to Paris. It soon becomes clear that she’s tracking back through her grandmother’s time in Paris as a refugee from the Nazi occupation during World War II.

This history offers a hint at what’s to follow once Darcy’s returned to California. Sent off to a school for troubled teenagers, it isn’t long before she runs away and asks for Jeri’s help once more. It looks like Darcy may have murdered someone at the school.

But the truth is more sinister, as Jeri soon discovers.

Once again, Jeri is on the trail. The hunt through Paris is beautifully described. Darcy and her grandmother are terrific characters, both feisty and passionate about the truth. Back in California, Jeri’s journey is met with resistance from almost all sides as the school closes ranks, making for an intriguing and tense investigation.

It all leads to a dramatic climax that’s as exciting as it is tense, providing the perfect finish to a riveting story.

While you can read this book as a standalone, the Jeri Howard series is well worth a try as subject matter is always as intriguing as the investigations she undertakes.

Description

Oakland private eye Jeri Howard has landed a sweet gig: five days of Paris cafes and museums on somebody else’s franc. The assignment? Track down and retrieve a precocious seventeen-year-old who swiped her mother’s credit card and took off for Paris. Finding the girl (who’s not exactly hiding anyway – after all, she’s using her mother’s credit card) is no mystery for a P.I. with Jeri’s investigative skills. But the girl, Darcy, is on a mission to uncover family secrets. Her grandmother, it seems, has a past life and identity she’s shared only recently. As it turns out, Darcy didn’t need to travel to Paris to confront the evil that retains its vicious hold on the world in a modern-day counterpart. It’ll be waiting for her at home.

Jeri’s mission accomplished, they part, with Jeri’s invitation to call if ever Darcy needs help. Distress code: “We’ll always have Paris.” The call’s not long in coming. Darcy is now a “person of interest” in a murder case and, once again, in the wind. People at her new school seem to believe the worst of her, the police are inclined to agree, and she’s been sighted driving the dead man’s car with a couple of skinheads on her tail. This is not what Jeri was picturing when she cautioned, “Stay out of trouble, okay?”

The murder victim was the school handyman, an average-looking joe who kept some pretty rough company – skinheads with steel-toed boots and swastika tattoos. School officials have issued a gag order, but Jeri manages to glean one clue from Darcy’s roommate – the murder victim is not who he seems. Jeri relentlessly chases down the victim’s identity and teases out the connections that weave a web of hate from World War II to Darcy’s campus. As always, Jeri gets the last word – and the satisfaction of getting in a few good licks.

Witness to Evil by Janet Dawson