Once Gone by Blake Pierce

28th June 2020.    4 stars

Once Gone is the first novel in the series featuring FBI agent, Riley Pierce, and my first introduction to the character.

A serial killer is on the loose, torturing and killing women, who are posed like dolls for the police and FBI to find. With three women killed and a fourth murder likely, the FBI needs Riley and her unique skills. Trouble is, she’s on sick leave, suffering post-traumatic stress disorder after being captured and tortured by another serial killer. Despite her own reservations and doubts, she’s drawn into the investigation.

The stage is set for an intriguing thriller. It starts well with sharply drawn characters and an investigation that feels very real and tense when a fourth woman is captured by the killer. The stakes couldn’t be higher when a senator, who’s lost a daughter to this killer, starts throwing his weight around, undermining the existing investigation.

An arrest soon follows, but have the FBI got the right man?

The arrest pushes Riley into a downward spiral of deeper self-doubt. Soon she is floundering, her behaviour becoming more extreme as she loses her badge. Naturally, in the tradition of the maverick detective, she battles on, fighting her own demons as well as trying to track down the killer before a fifth victim is found.

While the characterisation of Riley is sympathetic and for the most part believable, I felt her behaviour and actions became too far-fetched as the story hurtled towards a predictable climax. It took the edge off a well-written and enjoyable thriller with some otherwise incisive characterisation.

Description

Women are turning up dead in the rural outskirts of Virginia, killed in grotesque ways, and when the FBI is called in, they are stumped. A serial killer is out there, his frequency increasing, and they know there is only one agent good enough to crack this case: Special Agent Riley Paige.

Riley is on paid leave herself, recovering from her encounter with her last serial killer, and, fragile as she is, the FBI is reluctant to tap her brilliant mind. Yet Riley, needing to battle her own demons, comes on board, and her hunt leads her through the disturbing subculture of doll collectors, into the homes of broken families, and into the darkest canals of the killer’s mind. As Riley peels back the layers, she realizes she is up against a killer more twisted than she could have imagined. In a frantic race against time, she finds herself pushed to her limit, her job on the line, her own family in danger, and her fragile psyche collapsing.

Yet once Riley Paige takes on a case, she will not quit. It obsesses her, leading her to the darkest corners of her own mind, blurring the lines between hunter and hunted. After a series of unexpected twists, her instincts lead her to a shocking climax that even Riley could not have imagined.

Once Gone Blake Pierce

The Felt Tip Murders by BL Faulkner

27th June 2020.    5 stars.

Another hugely entertaining story in the Serial Murder Squad series as the team pursues a killer who’s targeting the financial sector. Can DCS Palmer and his team identify and apprehend the person who has suffered at the hands of these accountants and bankers before another murder is committed?

Like the other stories in the series, The Felt Tip Murders may be on the short side, but it’s stuffed full of drama, tension, sharp dialogue and twists. With a direct, fast-paced style, the story only pauses for Palmer to eat another of his wife’s excellent meals, often in the middle of the night after a long, tiring day detecting.

The story and characters are very visual with some lovely dialogue and one-liners to lighten the mood. Frustrated by his rulebook guvnor, who specialises in stealing the glory and delegating the blame, Palmer escapes into the field with Gheeta and is soon on the trail of the killer. Even as they close in for an exciting climax, there’s still another twist or two to wrong foot them.

If you enjoy honest, no-nonsense story-telling with likeable and lively characters, plots that don’t come out of a formula book, and a generous helping of humour, you should give this crime series a try.

Description

Two prominent London City accountants and a banker are murdered. The only clue a felt tip message written on their foreheads. The more Palmer and the team look into it the more past financial actions taken by the three victims point towards a client taking revenge. But which client? And then there’s the upcoming Holiday Cruise Palmer has promised Mrs P. If he doesn’t get the case done and dusted before the sailing date he won’t be in her good books. The pressure is on and DS Singh’s kidnapping doesn’t help.

The Felt Tip Murders by BL Faulkner

An interview with author Ross Greenwood

I’m delighted to welcome crime fiction author Ross Greenwood to my Robservations blog. Having recently read and enjoyed The Snow Killer, I offered Ross the chance to tell me a little more about himself and his writing.

Please tell me a little about yourself and your writing.

Hi, I’m 46 and from Peterborough. I’ve been writing since 2015 and my eighth book is out in November.

When did you first realise you wanted to be an author?

I’ve always wanted to write a book, but suspected it would just be one. It’s snowballed since then, along a rather long, gentle slope with many hillocks as opposed to down a mountain!

Describe the first piece you wrote and what it meant to you?

Lazy Blood was my first and as with most people, it bubbled away in my mind for years, five in my case, before I wrote it. It was a joy to eventually hold.

What do you most enjoy about being an author?

The screaming groupies, fast cars and pots of cash.

What do you least enjoy about being an author?

I find it hard to turn off, especially mid book. My wife says i go ‘absent’, sometimes for weeks!

What type of characters do you love and hate to write? Why?

I like writing them all! If they don’t interest you, probably won’t interest the reader either!

I understand you worked as a prison officer for a number of years. How has this influenced your writing and novels?

Hugely. I was very wrong about what prison is really like. It’s a great place to set stories!

What’s been the biggest influence on your writing so far?

Definitely the prison. I met thousands of people over the four years, both men and women as Peterborough is a dual prison. Lot of writing fodder there! Lot of madness and a lot of sadness.

What inspired you to write the DI Barton series?

I just had (what I thought to be 🙂 ) a great idea to write a book about someone who killed when it snowed. A detective novel seemed the best way to exploit it!

How would you describe your books to someone who has never read one before?

Serious with a sense of humour. A friend calls my Dark Lives books The Prison Misery series.

What’s the best compliment you’ve received about your books?

An eighty year old got in touch after reading Fifty Years of Fear and said he never expected to be surprised at his age, and thanked me for opening his eyes.

Do you have any favourite authors? What is it about them or their work that appeals to you?

I’m a huge reader, but i really like variety, so I flitter between authors like a horny butterfly! I read quite a few of Bloodhound Book’s authors, both current and past for my crime fix, and I buy loads of books in the top 100 on kindle when they’re 99p.

If you could invite four guests (fictional or real, alive or dead) for dinner, who would you choose and why?

Kelly Brook, JFK, MLK, and Nelson Mandela. Last three are sadly dead, but I’m sure me and Kelly will get on.

Please tell me about your latest project/plans for the future.

The Ice Killer is out in November. I always planned it to be a trilogy, but Barton has proven popular, so I will probably do at least one more if the demand is there, but I’m going to do a prison one next, with elements that have never been written about before… Duh Duh Durrrrr…

The latest release from Ross is the second in the DI Barton series.

‘Repent in this life, rejoice in the next…’

A murder made to look like suicide. Another that appears an accident. DI Barton investigates the tragedies that have shattered a family’s lives, but without obvious leads the case goes nowhere. Then, when the remains of a body are found, everything points to one suspect.

Barton and his team move quickly, and once the killer is behind bars, they can all breathe a sigh of relief. But death still lurks in the shadows, and no one’s soul is safe. Not even those of the detectives…

How do you stop a killer that believes life is a rehearsal for eternity, and their future is worth more than your own…?

You can find Ross Greenwood at

Twitter – @greenwoodross

https://www.facebook.com/RossGreenwoodAuthor

Gone Daddy Gone by Cheryl Bradshaw

23rd June 2020.  5 stars.

I fairly zipped through this novel, which either means it’s a quick read or I couldn’t put it down. It’s probably both as once again things get personal for Sloane Monroe. This time it’s Shelby, daughter of her boyfriend, Cade, who happens to be Chief of Police in Jackson, Wyoming.

When Shelby’s attacked and killed, the effect on Cade and Sloane is devastating. Naturally, there’s worse to come as she begins to dig below the surface to discover that Shelby was a high class escort, which takes our private eye in a new direction.

She’s forced to work with old adversary, Coop, who’s also a Chief of Police, and a former lover, to solve the murder. Then, as the attacks continue Sloane realises just how personal the killings have become.

As I’ve come to expect from Cheryl Bradshaw, it’s an emotional roller coaster of a ride with Sloane’s customary cool shaken to the core. Even with the help of those she loves, she’s struggling to hold it together at times, forced to reveal her vulnerabilities like never before.

And what a climax to an absorbing story that twists and turns with each attack, until the final revelation that means life will never be the same again for Sloane.

This series simply gets better with each book. While you can read this as a standalone, you’ll miss out so much unless you start at the beginning and follow Sloane’s difficult and achingly emotional journey through some brilliant and original investigations.

Highly recommended.

Description

On an early winter morning, college student Shelby McCoy walks the quiet, snowy path back home. A tree branch snaps in the distance. Then another. A man is there with her, following close behind, whispering her name. She looks back, sees him gaining on her, and runs. Who is this man, and why is he carrying a gun?

If you love a great mystery with a surprising twist, you’ll enjoy Gone Daddy Gone, a New York Times bestselling series.

Gone Daddy Gone by Cheryl Bradshaw

The Jansson Tapes by Colin Garrow.

17th June 2020.   5 stars.

With more than a gentle nod to The Rockford Files and The 39 Steps, Colin Garrow’s third offering in the Terry Bell series is the most exciting yet. Filled with his trademark humour, the wisecracking duo of Terry and Carol set off in pursuit of some missing reel-to-reel tapes, unaware of the danger they’re facing.

From the moment the book starts to its thrilling climax, the action is as non-stop as the Geordie banter. Populated with some terrific characters, Terry Bell somehow manages to extricate himself from some serious situations and keep himself one step ahead of the bad guys as the complex story twists and turns from one crisis to the next.

If you like your crime at the entertaining end of the spectrum, driven by distinctive characters, a plot you wouldn’t find in a formula manual, and a liberal injection of humour, this is a series you should seek out. While each book can be read as a standalone, like all series, you’ll get more from the books if you read them in order.

This is my favourite of the three books so far. The author’s enjoyment leaps out from every page as he reveals some of the inspiration behind his writing and Terry Bell’s character. I’m tempted to suggest there’s more than a passing nod to Raymond Chandler in some of the descriptive narrative, which is another bonus.

If you like to be entertained and enjoy a lot of fun and excitement alongside the thrills, then look no further than the Terry Bell series.

Description

When a familiar leggy blonde slides onto the back seat of his cab with the offer of work, taxi-driver and amateur sleuth Terry Bell isn’t keen. However, compared to the tedium of driving a cab all day, the lure of another mystery is too strong to resist, and Terry agrees to help. Tracking down a missing writer and his tape recorder sounds simple enough, but following the clues to a remote village, the case takes a dangerous turn when the man turns up dead. After the police take over, Terry and his sidekick Carol return home to find their flat ransacked—and that’s not the only surprise. Caught between a suspicious detective inspector and the machinations of a mysterious woman, can the wily investigator unravel the mystery before the killer strikes again?

In this murder/mystery series set on England’s northeast coast, The Jansson Tapes is book #3 in the Terry Bell Mystery series.

The Jansson Tapes by Colin Garrow

Succession by BL Faulkner

12th June 2020.  5 stars.

The 11th outing with the Serial Murder Squad is another fast paced investigation that dips into the murky world of gangland crime.

When members of South London’s Dawn family are killed, it looks like a takeover by a rival gang is on the cards. When the case is passed to DCI Palmer and his team, it soon becomes clear that there’s more to these murders than a simple turf war. As the body count rises, the investigation twists and turns, with the squad always a step off the pace, but closing in fast.

If you’ve read the previous books in the series, you’ll be familiar with the characters and the author’s no frills writing style, fast pace and great characterisation, spiced with some lovely humorous touches and a realism that increases your enjoyment.

If you haven’t read any of the previous outings for the Serial Murder Squad, you can still enjoy this book, but I would urge you to read the others. You’re guaranteed some exciting stories, quality crime writing and a great deal of pleasure.

Highly recommended.

 

Description

When the boss of South London’s major organised crime firm James Dawn is assassinated along with his patriarchal father suspicion falls on the West End firm trying to expand their empire. But there are other players in the game, Stanley Dawn the uncle who holds a grudge against James, is he teaming up with the West End boss Jack Dooley in a takeover play? Then there’s Eve Dawn, James’s wife, who may be behind the scenes pulling the strings and last but not least Johnny Robinson who runs the North London firm, he’s got an interest but has he got the muscle? The case is dropped onto DCS Palmer’s desk as the Met’s Organised Crime Department is overstretched. Things begin to happen and the body count rises, all the time it seems Eve Dawn is hovering somewhere in the background but nothing seems to stick to her. Why is she bringing in a major money launderer from Panama? Why is she taking a day trip to Cyprus? What has the Catholic Church got to do with drug smuggling. As you would expect from a DCS Palmer novel the pace never lets up and the twists and turns keep the reader glued to it to the very last page.

Succession by BL Faulkner

Borderlands by LJ Ross

11th June 2020.  3.5 stars.

You’re always guaranteed and entertaining and enjoyable crime story from LJ Ross and the fourteenth books in the DCI Ryan series is no exception. This time Ryan and his team are split across two separate investigations.

The first is a malevolent serial killer who likes to imprison his prey before releasing and hunting them down in a remote part of the Northumbria National Park. The second investigation concerns a terrorist cell intent of disruption and destruction in pursuit of their goals.

While all the author’s hallmarks are here – the humour and banter between Ryan and Phillips, the close relationships between team members, and the carefully crafted storylines – splitting the team diluted the suspense and excitement. Both investigations were carried out with cool efficiency and had no real obstacles or complications to crank up the tension.

The book was a quick read and seemed shorter than usual, maybe due to the abrupt ending, which caught me off guard. That said, it remains a well-written and entertaining read that evoked a range of emotions and kept me turning the pages.

Description

After uncovering a fresh wave of corruption within the ranks of Northumbria CID, Detective Chief Inspector Ryan was looking forward to an uneventful summer. But, when a young woman is shot dead on the remote army ranges of the Northumberland National Park, Ryan is called in to investigate.

Meanwhile, violent crimes are being committed across sites of historic importance in the North East, the perpetrator leaving only a graffitied symbol as their calling card. As the body count rises, Ryan and his team must unravel the mystery behind its meaning – before it’s too late…

Borderlands by LJ Ross

The Snow Killer by Ross Greenwood

4th June 2020.   4 stars.

I enjoyed this story because it wasn’t populated by the usual traumatised police detectives that seem to be everywhere these days. The killer was also sympathetically portrayed as a victim trying to right a historic wrong. It doesn’t atone for murder, but it’s refreshing to see both sides of the coin.

This is a simple revenge thriller, where the killings are separated by a 50 year gap. The victims and motives for the murders confound DI Barton and DS Strange as the murders only happen when it’s snowing.

The pace is steady, the alternation between detective and killer helps to maintain interest and build suspense, with an unexpected twist that leads to an exciting climax in the snow. The characters are well developed and interesting with some nice humorous touches in the backstory.

If you prefer a more character based approach to your crime fiction and a different, inventive plot, then you’ll find plenty to enjoy in this story.

Description

‘Fear the north wind. Because no one will hear you scream…’

A family is gunned down in the snow but one of the children survives. Three years on, that child takes revenge and the Snow Killer is born. But then, nothing – no further crimes are committed, and the case goes cold.

Fifty years later, has the urge to kill been reawakened? As murder follows murder, the detective team tasked with solving the crimes struggle with the lack of leads. It’s a race against time and the weather – each time it snows another person dies.

As an exhausted and grizzled DI Barton and his team scrabble to put the pieces of the puzzle together, the killer is hiding in plain sight. Meanwhile, the murders continue…

The Snow Killer