At Bertram’s Hotel by Agatha Christie

9th May 2021.

In the eleventh outing for Miss Marple, she’s staying at Bertram’s Hotel, a place she once visited many, many years before. Priding itself on its traditional décor, service and values, the hotel seems too good to be true for the cynical Miss Marple.

There are train robberies, curious affairs of the heart and personal vendettas all mixed up in a complex investigation led by a Scotland Yard detective, nicknamed Father for his calm, but effective technique. Like Miss Marple, he misses nothing and soon seconds her to his investigation.

Not for the first time, Miss Marple isn’t at the heart of the story. This may be due to the scale of the crimes under investigation. That said, she contributes a good deal to the investigation and deduction. As always, the main characters are sharply observed, though the author’s customary social comments and humour are not as prevalent in this story.

It’s still a complex and baffling puzzle that takes some unravelling, but it’s a much grander affair than the usual local village murder Miss Marple normally solves. Perhaps this is why she is more of an assistant to the police than the main sleuth.

Description

An old-fashioned London Hotel is not quite as reputable as it makes out…

When Miss Marple comes up from the country for a holiday in London, she finds what she’s looking for at Bertram’s Hotel: traditional decor, impeccable service and an unmistakable atmosphere of danger behind the highly polished veneer.

Yet, not even Miss Marple can foresee the violent chain of events set in motion when an eccentric guest makes his way to the airport on the wrong day…

At Bertram's Hotel by Agatha Christie

National Treasure by Barry Faulkner

8th May 2021.

It begins as a simple missing person enquiry. Actress and national treasure, Marcia Johnson, is worried about her daughter, who is missing. From the moment Ben Nevis takes the case, it’s anything but simple. He quickly uncovers a murky background, including drug debts and a Romanian crime family that wants its missing money.

Can Ben and partner Gold recover the missing woman before it turns nasty?

It’s an explosive story, delivered at great pace with barely a pause to catch your breath. Fast, furious and always exciting, Ben and Gold wreak havoc and mayhem as they use the most direct route to get what they want. However, it’s not all one way, and tables can easily turn.

The action is complemented by sharp dialogue, cutting humour and a healthy dose of irreverence as the story races to a climax with an unexpected twist among the drama. Ben and Gold are formidable characters with great rapport and understanding. The pace sweeps you along into a dark world where only the strongest survive.

If you’ve read the first book in the series, you’ll love this. If you haven’t you can read this as a standalone, but why miss out on the first?

Description

Book 2 in the Ben Nevis and the Gold Digger thriller series. Marcia Johnson is a respected actress, Marcia is, according to her agent, a National Treasure. Marcia’s daughter, Janie, is missing without any clue or reason as to why? London Private Eye Ben Nevis thinks it will be a simple search to find her but when Janie’s dead father’s background comes to light things take on a more sinister angle involving an unpaid drug debt owed to a Romanian crime family who wants it paid. Have they got Janie? Ben takes on the London end of the family and the body count grows. When he and Gold fly to Romania it escalates further in a series of exciting skirmishes in Bucharest as they attempt a hostage rescue and escape. Hovering in the background is DCS Clancy, Ben’s old boss at the Met’s Organised Crime Squad who has eyes on finishing the UK end of the Romanian family, but all doesn’t go well and Ben changes from being the pursuer to being pursued right to the final big twist. As usual with a Ben Nevis book, it’s fast and furious with no prisoners taken.

National Treasure by Barry Faulkner

What Lies Beneath by Bill Kitson

7th May 2021.

This is the first Mike Nash novel I’ve read and it won’t be the last. Due to the nature of the crimes, it wasn’t as easy book to read at times, but it’s certainly thrilling and Nash is a flawed, but terrific lead detective.

It starts with the horrific discovery of two skeletons at the bottom of a remote tarn or lake. Unfortunately, this is only the beginning as the lake yields yet more bodies, turning a simple investigation into suspicious deaths into a complex multiagency, international affair as people trafficking leaves it mark on rural Yorkshire.

Alongside the difficulties of bringing down a criminal organisation that spans Europe, Nash has to work with the national Major Crimes Unit, an external body that seems answerable to no one. Then there’s the Russian police and Clara, a detective with more than a passing interest in Nash.

Driven by a desire for justice, but hampered by rivalries and the scale of the operation, the story twists and turns, the tension building to an exhilarating and dramatic climax.

Considering the nature of the crimes, the author handles the issues with sensitivity, never straying into graphic detail. The general absence of swearing and graphic violence is also welcome, showing you can deliver a tense and dramatic thriller without either.

This is an impressive start to what I hope will be an engaging new series for me to read.

Description

Detective Mike Nash thought that moving back to Yorkshire from London would give him a quieter life. Little did he know . . .

Two skeletons are discovered in Lamentation Tarn, a mountain lake.

Talented detective Mike Nash and his team have little evidence with which to work, until a surprising discovery prompts them to contact law enforcement agencies in Eastern Europe.

A joint task force is formed to uncover a criminal network involved in prostitution, drugs, and human trafficking, but Nash’s preoccupation with internal politics, as well as with an attractive Russian detective, proves to be a distraction.

Finally, a young victim escapes the gang’s clutches, providing Nash with much needed evidence. A search of the neighbouring tarn yields evidence of even more heinous crimes.

Who else will die before the criminals are brought to bitter justice?

What Lies Beneath by Bill Kitson

Twisted Crimes by Michael Hambling

7th May 2021.

It’s no secret that I love the Sophie Allen series. They’re built around her dynamic and charismatic character and her relationship with her team. Thankfully, there are no traumatised detectives and stereotyped, pen pushing senior officers to spoil these novels. This places them head and shoulders above many police procedurals in my opinion.

In this latest novel, an elderly couple attend the wrong funeral and then disappear, only to be found weeks later, having committed suicide in a local nature reserve. Or is it murder? If so, what could possibly be the motive?

Later, when another body is found nearby, the investigation gains some traction. But it comes at a price as a whiff of corruption taints the atmosphere.

Live the previous novels in the series, Sophie Allen is a determined and dynamic detective, leading from the front, using all her skill and experience to pick her way through the dense tangle of clues, despite the pressures building around her.

Twisted Crimes is a joy to read and superbly written, maintaining the high standards set in the first novel in the series. It neatly avoids the formulaic approach of so many crime novels to deliver characters you care about alongside some intriguing investigations.

Highly recommended.

Description

Sylvia and Ted Armitage, a retired couple, attend the wrong funeral service by mistake. A month later their daughter returns from holiday to find them missing. The police make little headway in tracing their whereabouts until their bodies are found in their car, abandoned in the middle of a copse in a tranquil nature reserve. They appear to have committed suicide, but some of the forensic evidence suggests otherwise. The police slowly make progress and find several links to a shady organisation that owns a string of bars, clubs and cafes.

When another body is found in the same area, DCI Sophie Allen must use all her investigative skills to unravel the connections between these very different victims. Some of the suspects are involved in shady deals and corruption, others are masking dark family secrets. Sophie is joined by two new police officers, Rose Simons and George Warrander, who will transform her team.

Twisted Crimes by Michael Hambling

Murder on the Levels by David Hodges

6th May 2021.

Having previously started this book twice before, I decided to persevere on the third reading and was rewarded with an enjoyable story with some good twists and dark humour. Like the story, Kate Hamblin grew on me as a character till I was rooting for her by the end.

It begins when she leaves a police surveillance van in the middle of the night. Moments later, it’s blown up, killing her two colleagues. The killer then hunts her down , but she escapes, only to be accused of abandoning her colleagues, perhaps knowing they were about to be killed.

Kate not only has to clear her name, she has to uncover a resourceful killer, who still wants her dead. The story becomes a cat and mouse affair, which is cleverly plotted and executed as the killer tries to complete the job before he’s identified and arrested.

With some deft dark humour and plenty of twists and narrow escapes, the story rattles along to the climax. While a couple of the characters seemed wooden and stereotyped, it remains an enjoyable and different police procedural story.

I’m looking forward to finding out what happens to Kate in her next adventure.

Description

Detective Kate Hamblin is doing surveillance on the Somerset Levels, trying to catch a crazed arsonist. She leaves the van for a moment. Then it goes up in flames, killing her two colleagues.

Kate is accused of abandoning them and is excluded from the murder hunt and effectively suspended from duty.

She is desperate to nail the killer herself and clear her name. She risks all by entering into an unholy alliance with the murder team’s chief suspect.

Kate finds herself not only targeted in a personal vendetta by her own DCI, but stalked by the very killer she is pursuing .

A VICIOUS CRIMINAL NAMED TWISTER WITH AN AGENDA OF SLAUGHTER

Can Kate catch the killer before he takes out the only witness? And will her career go up in flames before it’s even really started?

Murder on the Levels by David Hodges

A Killer is Calling by BL Faulkner

5th May 2021.

You’re always guaranteed an exciting, fast-paced investigation from DCS Justin Palmer and the Serial Crime Squad. This time, it’s a series of strange deaths. People are dying for no apparent cause. The only signs are a trickle of blood from one ear and brain damage.

While the team try to make sense of the deaths, the killer contacts the mayor of London with a massive ransom demand. Unless paid, a lot more of the capital’s citizens will meet the same grizzly end. With the stakes going through the roof, it’s a race against time to identify the killer and stop him carrying out his threat.

More is definitely less with these stories, which get straight to the heart of the action and don’t let up. Best of all, the crimes and investigations are always imaginative and a little different, while retaining the dark humour and interplay between the central characters.

Description

A redundant Naval Weapons Scientist seeks revenge by aiming to turn the latest Weapon of Mass Destruction on London’s population and proves he can do it by killing several innocent people. Palmer and the team must find him and stop him before he unleashes his weapon via the phone lines on millions of people. Palmer takes help from his old contact in the Ministry of Defence and is surprised by what lies deep beneath the UK airports ready to repel any military attacks. The death of several million people could be on his conscience but Detective Sergeant Gheeta Singh has a plan. Will it work?

A Killer is Calling by BL Faulkner

Buried Lies by Chris Collett

4th May 2021.

This is the sixth book in the Tom Mariner series and follows on from events in the previous novel. Like any series, it’s always best to read from the first to get a better understanding of the characters and dynamics of the backstory.

On this occasion, Tom needs time to himself to come to terms with the death of a former lover. He hopes a walking holiday in the Welsh mountains for a couple of weeks will help him ‘find himself’. He revisits an area he once went to twenty years ago and finds a few familiar faces, including an old flame.

But being crime fiction, you know this isn’t going to be a peaceful holiday.

The story ambles along until the murder. The pace picks up and leads to a somewhat abrupt ending. It’s a pleasant enough read, but it lacks the tension and urgency of previous books.

Description

Detective Inspector Tom Mariner goes to the beautiful Welsh countryside to recover. But he finds himself caught up in a murder investigation . . . and he’s the prime suspect.

Grieving the death of his former lover, all Mariner wants is some peace and quiet. But his walking holiday is ruined by the discovery of a body in the woods.

The remote stone farmhouses of this beautiful valley hide many buried secrets.

As more bodies are discovered, can Mariner clear his name and avoid becoming the next victim?

Buried Lies by Chris Collett

A Caribbean Mystery by Agatha Christie

23rd April 2021.

In her tenth outing, Miss Marple finds herself on a Caribbean Island with little to do, thanks to her generous nephew, Raymond. She sits in the sun with her knitting, observing the other guests at the hotel and occasionally conversing with them.

Major Palgrave has plenty of stories to tell and has foisted himself on many of the guests before he treats Miss Marple to his tales. She half listens, nodding in all the right places as he talks about his time in Africa and Asia, finally settling on a tale of a murderer he once saw. He’s about to show her a photograph of this murder, when he spots some people over her shoulder and clams up.

When he’s found dead in his room the following day, a victim of high blood pressure, it looks like no more than old age and over indulgence. But Miss Marple senses there’s more to it and wishes she’d paid more attention to the story he told her.

From this innocuous beginning, the story develops into a classic whodunit, as Miss Marple digs around, uncovering all manner of motives and suspects as she talks to guests, the hoteliers and the local doctor, slowly piecing together the motive for the murder and its consequences.

As with the other Miss Marple books, the investigation is as complex as it is baffling until she makes sense of it all. The characters are sharply drawn and observed, the narrative laced with humour and social comment, and though the pace is gentle, the mystery and questions arising draw you in, refusing to let you go until the crime is solved.

In many ways, the books are more intriguing than the many TV dramas depicting Miss Marple. She’s not the fluffy, gossipy old lady you might imagine, as many a killer and detective would testify, but she’s a delight to follow when she’s on the trail.

Description

An exotic holiday for Miss Marple is ruined when a retired major is killed…

As Jane Marple sat basking in the Caribbean sunshine she felt mildly discontented with life. True, the warmth eased her rheumatism, but here in paradise nothing ever happened.

Eventually, her interest was aroused by an old soldier’s yarn about a strange coincidence. Infuriatingly, just as he was about to show her an astonishing photograph, the Major’s attention wandered. He never did finish the story…

A Caribbean Mystery by Agatha Christie

The Death on the Downs by Simon Brett

22nd April 2021.

Having enjoyed the first book in the Fethering village mysteries series, I was keen to see what neighbours Carole and Jude would get up to in this second outing. United by curiosity and sleuthing, this unlikely duo once again joins forces after Carole discovers a bag of human bones in a barn while sheltering from a storm.

Attention focuses on the nearby village of Weldisham, where the locals have plenty of secrets and animosities to hide. It doesn’t take long for both Jude and Carole to investigate different strands of the murder, arriving at the same conclusion in a deadly climax.

This is cosy mystery writing at its best. The characters are beautifully drawn and realised, each providing their own unique view of the world they inhabit. Though very different in nature, Carole and Jude work well together. The author never misses an opportunity to poke fun at the many conventions and traditions that go with village life and dictate behaviour. The dry, gentle humour pervades the whole story, helping to lighten the darker moments.

There’s no rush or car chases, none of the traumatised detectives who seem to populate most crime fiction these days, and no excessive violence or swearing. This is a gentle, funny and endearing murder mystery that’s as much about the characters and idiosyncrasies of village life as it is about solving a complex murder.

If you enjoy a cosy mystery, this is about as warm, entertaining and beautifully written as it gets.

Description

It wasn’t the rain that upset Fethering resident Carole Seddon during her walk on the Downs, or the dilapidated barn in which she was forced to seek shelter. No, what upset her was the human skeleton she discovered there, neatly packed into two blue fertiliser bags . . .

Amateur sleuths Carole and Jude go to the small hamlet of Weldisham where gossips quickly identify the corpse as Tamsin Lutteridge, a young woman who disappeared from the village months before. But why is Tamsin’s mother so certain that her daughter is still alive? As Jude sets out to discover what really happened to Tamsin, Carole digs deeper into Weldisham’s history and the bitter relationships simmering beneath the village’s gentle facade.

Death on the Downs by Simon Brett

The Snowdonia Killings by Simon McCleave

17th April 2021.

Detective Inspector Ruth Hunter leaves the Metropolitan Police in London for a quieter life in beautiful North Wales, only to find herself thrown into a murder investigation on her first day. The novel focuses on her and her detective sergeant, Nick, who’s an alcoholic, as they struggle to identify a killer who kills the deputy head of a local school.

The story moves along at a steady pace, with the plot swinging one way then another as they identify and dismiss one suspect after another. With secret relationships, racism and jealousy in the mix, there are plenty of motives and suspects. The detectives still struggle to find the evidence that will give them a break after the headmaster of the school is murdered.

While the story had all the right elements, it never felt tense or exciting as the detectives seemed to work their way through one suspect after another without any real direction to the investigation.

Description

Starting a new life in Snowdonia was always DI Ruth Hunter’s dream. Until a twisted killer turned it into her worst nightmare.

Detective Inspector Ruth Hunter lives with the pain of her partner’s mysterious and unsolved disappearance. About to hit fifty, the veteran police officer trades in the crime-ridden streets of London for a more peaceful life in rural North Wales. But Ruth has barely settled into her new position in North Wales Police, when the body of a brutally murdered woman is discovered…with strange symbols carved into her skin. Teaming up with an obstinate deputy, Ruth struggles to eliminate anyone from a long line of suspects. When another slain victim is discovered with the same cryptic markings, she’s forced to re-think the investigation.

Has Ruth got what it takes to solve the case before the murderer attacks again?

The Snowdonia Killings by Simon McCleave