A Litter of Bones by J D Kirk

24th November 2020.

It’s always good to find a new author with a distinctive tone and voice that you enjoy. While the abduction of a child is no laughing matter, it’s lightened by the humour in this story and the way it draws the characters in the investigation team together.

Is there a copycat killer on the loose or has DCI Jack Logan put the wrong person away? That’s the question at the heart of this police procedural, set in the Highlands of Scotland. It’s a fairly standard storyline in crime fiction, lifted by the author’s delivery and the development of the main characters, which allowed them and the book to grow on me the more I read.

With plenty of action, false trails and an exciting climax, there was a satisfying conclusion to the story with all loose ends neatly tied up.

My only dislike was the cruelty inflicted on a cat. I’m not sure the graphic descriptions added anything to the story.

Description

A missing child. A tormented detective. A ticking clock.

Ten years ago, DCI Jack Logan stopped the serial child-killer dubbed ‘Mister Whisper,’ earning himself a commendation, a drinking problem, and a broken marriage in the process.

Now, he spends his days working in Glasgow’s Major Investigations Team, and his nights reliving the horrors of what he saw.

And what he did.

When another child disappears a hundred miles north in the Highlands, Jack is sent to lead the investigation and bring the boy home.

But as similarities between the two cases grow, could it be that Jack caught the wrong man all those years ago?

And, if so, is the real Mister Whisper about to claim his fourth victim?

A Litter of Bones by JD Kirk

Me by Elton John

16th November 2020.

Back in 1973, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road was the first album I bought, using money saved from my paper round. From the opening bars of the first track, I became and have remained a fan of Elton John and his music.

From the moment I started reading his autobiography, I knew it would be as good as his music.

While this is a remarkably candid, warts and all autobiography, it’s also a funny, uplifting life story that reveals many triumphs over adversity as the singer songwriter slowly discovers who he really is and becomes comfortable in his own skin.

While his adventures and misadventures are often epic in scale, the issues at the heart of his behaviour are no different to those that might be experienced by anyone whose parents argued and struggled to show their love for their children. His determination to confront his demons and his search for true love are only different in their scale and for being played out in the full gaze of the public and media.

Throughout the highs and lows, Elton John never loses his love of music or performing live. Despite his short temper and tantrums, he remains a warm and funny man who cares deeply for those he loves and respects.

I can’t recommend this moving and life affirming story enough. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry and you’ll understand why he’s the ultimate entertainer.

Description

Christened Reginald Dwight, he was a shy boy with Buddy Holly glasses who grew up in the London suburb of Pinner and dreamed of becoming a pop star. By the age of twenty-three, he was performing his first gig in America, facing an astonished audience in his bright yellow dungarees, a star-spangled T-shirt and boots with wings. Elton John had arrived and the music world would never be the same again.

His life has been full of drama, from the early rejection of his work with songwriting partner Bernie Taupin to spinning out of control as a chart-topping superstar; from half-heartedly trying to drown himself in his LA swimming pool to disco-dancing with the Queen; from friendships with John Lennon, Freddie Mercury and George Michael to setting up his AIDS Foundation. All the while, Elton was hiding a drug addiction that would grip him for over a decade.

In Me Elton also writes powerfully about getting clean and changing his life, about finding love with David Furnish and becoming a father. In a voice that is warm, humble and open, this is Elton on his music and his relationships, his passions and his mistakes. This is a story that will stay with you, by a living legend.

Me by Elton John

If Fear Wins by Tony J Forder

13th November 2020.

This is the third book in the DI Bliss series which begins with the particularly sadistic killing of an RAF officer. The racial overtones of the murder lead to local tensions and the involvement of the security services, MI5 and MI6, which bring more complications.

Then a woman from Bliss’s past seeks his help with the suspicious death of her husband. Despite reservations, Bliss agrees to take a closer look at the case.

The story covers a lot of ground, including some past cases and emotional issues, creating a complex narrative that drags Bliss and his team down a few dead ends before he begins to make sense of what’s going on.

While I enjoyed following the twists, turns and different strands, at times I wasn’t always sure who some of the many characters were, especially if any of them dipped out of the story for a few chapters. I also felt a little less of the emotional complications and backstory would have helped my focus.

But these are minor quibbles in what is a skilfully crafted, intense and fascinating police procedural with some dark moments, lightened with humorous touches. It covers a broad canvas without losing the detailed character relationships that underpin all good story telling. Original and well-executed, this is a novel for anyone who likes a big, meaty plot, populated by believable and interesting characters to provide several layers of interest.

While you can read it as a standalone, I’d recommend starting at the beginning of the series to get the maximum pleasure. I’m already looking forward to reading the fourth book in the series.

Description

When a torched body is found in a country lane, DI Bliss and Chandler are called in to investigate.

The detectives are drawn towards recent missing person reports and believe their victim will prove to be one of them. Bliss thinks he knows which, and fears the outcome if he is proven right.

Soon the body is identified, and Bliss and Chandler discover evidence suggesting this murder might be a terrorist attack.

Meanwhile, someone from Bliss’s past needs his help, and soon he is juggling his personal life with the demanding case. To make matters more complicated, MI5 and the Counter-Terrorist Unit are called in to help solve the case. But are they on the right track?

Bliss and Chandler soon find themselves in a race against time, and this might just be their most challenging case yet…

If Fear Wins by Tony J Forder

Dead of Night by Cheryl Bradshaw

3rd November 2020.

This novella sees Sloane Monroe at odds with boyfriend and new police chief, Cade, as they both investigate the brutal murder of Wren Bancroft’s mother-in-law. Events take a turn for the worse as the investigation tries to establish if she’s the killer.

All of Sloane’s trademark determination and refusal to give in to police pressure are on show, but combined with a little more tolerance than previous outings.

While I prefer the engagement of a full novel, it’s still a class act with a satisfying slice of mystery and intrigue that’s easily devoured in one session. It provides a good introduction to Sloane and the main players, but to get the full benefit, you should start at the beginning of a series.

Description

After her mother-in-law is fatally stabbed, Wren Bancroft is seen fleeing the house with the bloody knife. Is Wren really the killer, or is a dark, scandalous family secret to blame?

Dead of Night is part of the Sloane Monroe mystery series and is book 6.5 in series order. It can be read as a stand-alone.
Dead of Night by Cheryl Bradshaw

Killer Lies by Chris Collett

3rd November 2020.

It all gets personal in this third outing for Tom Mariner. Faced with problems in his relationship, an explosion that could have killed him and a killing that’s a little closer to home than he first realises, he takes some time off duty to get to the truth of some family issues.

His determination to discover the truth leads him on a personal mission that could also hold the key to a murder. Unfortunately, there were so many characters involved, I was never quite sure who was who, which spoiled my enjoyment. The pace also slowed before picking up once more as the climax approached.

While it all made sense in the end, it would have helped if the author placed a few character reminders here and there, instead of relying on their first names.

While this was more of a personal story than a police procedural, it remains an interesting addition to the series. I’m interested to find out how Mariner will develop and deal with the issues in the next book.

Description

Just when DI Tom Mariner seems to be settling down with his new girlfriend . . . everything kicks off.

First, a badly decomposed body of a young woman is found in a Birmingham sewer. The police can’t identify her and dub her “Madeleine.”

Then an important politician and his wife are shot on an isolated road. “Vengeance is mine” is scrawled in blood at the scene.

And finally, a bomb explosion in the busy city kills five people, causing chaos and panic.

Can Detective Mariner and his team get to the bottom of crimes that will come very close to home for him and his team?

Mariner will need to bend the rules and risk everything to get to the truth. And in a thrilling conclusion, his own life will be threatened.

Killer Lies by Chris Collett

Head in the Sand by Damien Boyd

30th October 2020.

When you wake up to learn that someone’s left a decapitated head in a bunker on a golf course, you know it’s going to be a difficult day. And so it turns out in in the second book of the DI Nick Dixon series.

Di Dixon is a well-drawn and likable character who leads his team well as they dig deeper to find much more than they bargained for in the hunt for the killer. As the pieces slot together, it becomes a race against time to prevent more murders.

I enjoyed the original and memorable plot, which kept me guessing for quite a while. The investigation felt realistic and thorough, pulling the team in various directions until they homed in on the motive and the killer. The whole story was engaging and easy to read, allowing me to race through to the climax.

Description

The discovery of a severed head in a golf course bunker triggers a frantic race to find a serial killer that brings the town of Burnham-on-Sea to a standstill.

A connection is made with a series of unsolved murders harking back to the 1970s, and Detective Inspector Nick Dixon finds himself caught in a race against time that takes him the length and breadth of the country.

The brutal killing of an elderly man raises the stakes and, as he closes in, Dixon begins to question whether he is chasing one serial killer or two.

Head in the Sand by Damien Boyd

The Black Rose by BL Faulkner

28th October 2020.

You might think that the world of horticulture is genteel, but a killer lurks among the greenhouses and plant displays in the latest case for the Serial Murder Squad. There’s a fortune to be made for the breeder who can produce the black rose of the title. DCS Palmer and DS Singh are soon on the trail, uncovering more murders and financial irregularities along the way.

It’s a fairly straightforward investigation, but the author still manages to squeeze in a few surprises along the way with an interesting twist at the end.

All the elements that I’ve enjoyed in the previous stories are here. The direct, no nonsense story-telling that produces a slick and fast-paced read with another original and intriguing plot. There’s humour from Palmer and his next door neighbour, Benji, who also does some digging around. They all combine to produce an absorbing story that was over all too soon.

If you like original and entertaining crime fiction that dares to be a little different from the usual police procedurals, you should read this series.

Description

DCS Palmer and DS Gheeta Singh get called to the morgue where two bodies listed as suicides have raised the pathologist’s suspicions that they might not be as a rare plant based poison has been found in their stomachs. The fact that the deceased were Garden Centre owners and Rose breeders who were on the brink of marketing the first Black Rose and reaping the huge financial rewards that would bring alerts Palmer to the fact that things aren’t as serene as they appear to be and he gets involved in an investigation that takes him back into the past concerning cold cases that might not be totally cold and of failed liaisons and unexplained deaths in the Rose Breeding and Garden Centre community. At the centre of it all sits the Black Rose, who will have it to display and launch at the Chelsea Flower Show on the Royal Party and Press day? The case twists and turns right up to the wire as liaisons crack and fracture until an ending that…well let’s say it’s very different to what you might expect.

The Black Rose by BL Faulkner

Six Feet Under by Colin Garrow

27th October 2020.

This is the fourth outing for part time taxi driver, part time private eye, Terry Bell and his partner Carol. This time they’re drawn to a disused airfield and the clandestine events that have already led to one murder.

Now Terry and Carol are in the firing line, racing from one scrape to the next as they try to stay one step ahead of the bad guys while unravelling the mystery. Relying on friends, a deepening relationship with the local police, and their wits, the wise-cracking duo refuse to give up. With some exquisite banter and sly humour, their scenes together are pure gold.

It’s a quick read, but the quality of the writing and the characters shines through every page in this entertaining and satisfying murder mystery cum thriller.

My favourite line comes from Terry, who in a moment of despair, realises he’s caught between a cop and a hard place. Magic!

If you haven’t read any of the Terry Bell series, then grab the first and treat yourself. You won’t regret it.

Description

A murder victim, a deserted airfield, a sinister project. Can Terry untangle the mystery before someone else dies?

Asked to investigate the death of a building contractor, taxi-driver and amateur sleuth Terry Bell thinks the dead man’s widow may be wasting her money. But when the trail leads to an old airfield and a brace of brutal thugs, he begins to wonder what they’re trying to hide. Tracking down one of the builder’s former workmates, Terry finds him unwilling to answer questions. When the man is beaten up, the canny cabbie gets a visit from his favourite detective inspector. But DI Charis Brown and her latest sidekick seem determined not to get involved. Until the man is attacked again…

Six Feet Under by Colin Garrow

No Past Forgiven by Valerie Keogh

21st October 2020.

I thoroughly enjoyed the first two books in the series, featuring Dublin detective sergeant Mike West and Edel Johnson. This book follows on, with the first third focusing on the stumbling relationship between the two. When West books a romantic holiday in a lighthouse on a remote island off the west coast, he’s greeted by a strange murder and a lack of available detectives to investigate it.

From this point, the story follows a more conventional murder mystery route with plenty of suspects and red herrings before the detective finally finds the key to unlock the case.

The writing is good, the characters well drawn and believable and the murder investigation throws up some interesting suspects and moments to challenge the relationship between Mike and Edel.

I think this is best read after the previous two books so that you understand the characters and relationships. If approached as a standalone, you could be forgiven for thinking it’s a romance story with a murder rather than crime fiction.

Description

Crime and criminals keep getting in the way of Detective Garda Sergeant Mike West’s personal life.

The woman he loves is living in his house, in his spare bedroom. It should be simple, but it isn’t. He has a solution. A romantic weekend away, in a lighthouse on Clare Island.

A stunning place, a beautiful woman. What could be more perfect?

When one of the islanders dies in a bizarre and a tragic accident, West is roped in to help. But it isn’t an accident, and there is more than one suspect.

There’s also more than one secret. Can West solve the case before someone else dies?

No Past Forgiven by Valerie Keogh

Stolen Children by Michael Wood

16th October 2020.

In DCI Matilda Darke’s sixth outing, she faces yet another intense, emotional investigation when a young girl goes missing. It brings back memories of Carl Meagan, a child who was kidnapped years before. His disappearance has haunted her ever since.

But something isn’t quite right about the latest kidnap and it isn’t long before Darke and her team are on the right track.

The emotional stress of a missing child is vividly portrayed and dominates the first part of the story. Once the truth is uncovered, the story changes direction and gathers momentum. All the elements from the previous stories are here – the mix of personal and professional relationships, the characters in the team, references to past cases, and all the usual problems of public spending cuts and restrictions. There’s even room for a few social and political comments along the way.

Stolen Children maintains the themes, characters and relationships of the previous books in the series, which should keep fans happy and keen for the next instalment.

Description

Some cases won’t die.
A young boy walks into a police station in France. He claims to be Carl Meagan – a missing child from Sheffield whose name is still whispered as a warning to kids who stay out after dark.

Some children won’t be found.
On her way home from the supermarket, nine-year-old Keeley Armitage vanishes without trace. Her family is overcome with shock and DCI Matilda Darke can’t help but focus on memories of the Carl Meagan case that almost ruined her career.

Some killers won’t be stopped.
As Matilda investigates, she peels back the layers of grief and sadness that surround Keeley’s family. Until she is left with an unimaginable choice: betray those closest to her or let a violent killer walk free…

Stolen Children by Michael Wood