The Missing Nurse by Roger Silverwood

3rd July 2020.  2 stars.

The story starts with a patient murdering a nurse at an asylum twenty years ago and moves swiftly to 2002 and Detective Inspector Angel, a brash Yorkshireman in a provincial town. I enjoyed the gentle pace and local feel and settled into the story.

It soon became clear that Angel had a way of policing that didn’t tally with the procedure book. Old-fashioned and a bit of a dinosaur, his actions and dialogue started to remind me of a 1970s stand-up comedian. With more sayings and similes than you can shake a stick at, his humour became tiresome as the book progressed, intruding into the narrative.

Having read past the halfway mark, I stuck at it to see how Angel would solve the crimes. While creative and mildly amusing, his investigation and actions seemed to be inspired by Tom Sharpe, stretching the credibility of the story.

While I accept that some police officers in the early millennium could still be old school and relics of the past, Angel’s character felt overdone. The humour didn’t always temper the impact of his behaviour and comments, which rather took the edge of a neat and well-disguised twist at the end.

I’d like to be more positive as the plot is well put together, but I couldn’t warm to the character of Angel.

Description

MEET DETECTIVE INSPECTOR MICHAEL ANGEL. AN OLD-SCHOOL POLICEMAN WHO SOMETIMES RUBS HIS COLLEAGUES UP THE WRONG WAY. HE’S GOT HIS FLAWS, BUT HE NEVER GIVES UP ON A CASE.

PLEASE NOTE THIS BOOK WAS FIRST PUBLISHED AS “IN THE MIDST OF LIFE.”

For Inspector Michael Angel, the savage murder in an insane asylum twenty years ago marks the beginning of this gruesome trail of enquiries to find missing nurse Fiona Thomas.

In spite of obstruction from the chief constable, this quirky Yorkshire policeman reduces the suspects to one, by resorting to an unusual and original strategy.

A dead woman wearing one stocking inside out, an American class ring, a missing videotape of the lovely Lola, and two dead cats all play their part in this scramble to find the killer in this unusual and gripping mystery.

The Missing Nurse

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

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

The Mermaids Singing by Val McDermid

2nd June 2020.   4 stars.

One of the joys of crime fiction is the number of series available, whether by established or new authors. While many police procedurals are similar or different versions of the same formula, some are more distinctive.

The Mermaids Singing, written in the 1990s, introduces psychological profiler Tony Hill. He’s a damaged character with a lot to prove, especially to police forces used to solving crimes by the book. After three murders the police refuse to connect, he’s brought in secretly to help identify and capture a serial killer. He’s teamed with Carol Jordan, an ambitious fast-track detective inspector, who’s also got a lot to prove to her male colleagues.

The killer, who’s obsessed with torture, is a meticulous planner, well ahead of the police. The trouble is, they won’t acknowledge him and give him the credit and publicity he feels he deserves. When Tony Hill enters the arena, you know there’s going to be a battle of intellects and wills. After all, this is a thriller at heart.

While the chapters relating to the killer were disturbing, they were restrained and essential to the thriller element of the story, increasing the tension as the story headed for an inevitable confrontation.

The characters of Jordan and Hill were well drawn and realistic. The pace was steady, building to an exciting climax with a neat, if predictable twist. It posed a few unanswered questions, but didn’t detract from my overall enjoyment.

I would certainly recommend the book as the writing is first rate, the story well told, and the atmosphere deadly but electric.

Description

You always remember the first time. Isn’t that what they say about sex? How much more true it is of murder…

Up till now, the only serial killers Tony Hill had encountered were safely behind bars. This one’s different – this one’s on the loose.

Four men have been found mutilated and tortured. As fear grips the city, the police turn to clinical psychologist Tony Hill for a profile of the killer. But soon Tony becomes the unsuspecting target in a battle of wits and wills where he has to use every ounce of his professional nerve to survive.

A tense, beautifully written psychological thriller, The Mermaids Singing explores the tormented mind of a serial killer unlike any the world of fiction has ever seen.

The Mermaids Singing

 

The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler

27th May 2020.  3 stars.

One of my missions this year is to read the works of well-known crime writers, both old and current. As I have a preference for stories about private eyes and amateur sleuths, I chose Raymond Chandler’s Phillip Marlowe. I immediately liked the  writing and style. The characters were pin sharp and well-drawn, and like many of the settings, described with an irreverent and cynical humour.

Marlowe’s the archetypal hard-boiled PI with a strong sense of  justice and honour. He’s brave, confrontational and smart, with a clever turn of phrase and an answer for everything.

When Marlowe gives drunk, Terry Lennox a lift one evening, a convoluted and twisted tale of murder and deceit begins in Los Angeles. After the savage murder of Terry’s wife, he disappears, confesses to murder and kills himself.

But Marlowe’s not convinced. He digs around, upsetting various people, rich and influential, landing himself in trouble with the local police and generally making a nuisance of himself. His progress is slow and generally antagonist, sometimes with little happening for weeks, until he makes sense of everything at the end.

While the writing is high-quality, with some memorable descriptions and one-liners, the style became a little distracting and unrelenting as the story progressed. Marlowe’s behaviour became tiresome and repetitive as the pace dropped. It made the story feel long and drawn out, lessening the impact of the well-disguised final twist.

Description

Down-and-out drunk Terry Lennox has a problem: his millionaire wife is dead and he needs to get out of LA fast. So he turns to his only friend in the world: Philip Marlowe, Private Investigator. He’s willing to help a man down on his luck, but later, Lennox commits suicide in Mexico and things start to turn nasty. Marlowe finds himself drawn into a sordid crowd of adulterers and alcoholics in LA’s Idle Valley, where the rich are suffering one big suntanned hangover. Marlowe is sure Lennox didn’t kill his wife, but how many more stiffs will turn up before he gets to the truth?

The Long Goodbye