Loot by BL Faulkner

1st June 2021.

Gold is at the heart of this entertaining and enjoyable thriller. As the bodies start to pile up, the story twists and turns to keep you guessing until the exciting finale.

While Palmer and Gheeta Singh of the Serial Murder Squad try to keep up with the killings in this fast moving story, they uncover a trail of deceit, treachery and greed that takes them across country and back again.

I’ve enjoyed all the books in the series, but this is one of the best. It isn’t simply the fast, furious pace, but the feeling that the killer is always one step ahead of Palmer, which is unusual. This adds to the tension and surprise element as the story hurtles to its conclusion.

This is a hugely entertaining story with an imaginative and expertly crafted plot, engaging characters and just the right amount of humour to deliver on every level.

Description

Palmer and his Serial Murder Squad encounter an old adversary from the Brinks-Mat heist when bodies turn up in similar plastic sacks and the trail leads to WW2 looted German gold in the hands of a prominent Member of Parliament and some pretty nasty criminals. The gold is moving fast between the various underworld characters and the body count is mounting as Palmer follows it from London to Gloucester and Brighton and gets kidnapped along the way. Can DS Gheeta Singh keep up and pull the team together for the explosive finale at Brighton Marina.

Loot by BL Faulkner

Murder at Home by Faith Martin

30th May 2021.

The murder of Flo Jenkins appears motiveless. This elderly lady is well loved and close to dying from cancer. Why would anyone stab her in her own front room?

This is the mystery facing DI Hillary Greene and her team in their fifth outing. Problems at headquarters also muddy the waters with a stalker sending nasty messages to Janine, who is about to marry the Chief Superintendent, Mel. Then there’s the new detective constable, transferred out of London after an incident.

And a former chief superintendent, who left under a cloud threatens to cause trouble for Hillary.

It’s all in a day’s work for Hillary as she rallies the team, deals with the internal problems and gets down to solving the murder with an inspired bit of lateral thinking. The murder is intriguing, the relationships within the team fascinating and laced with humour, and at the heart of it all, Hillary Greene shines, even though her love life is getting complicated.

This is another excellent and exciting episode in the series. Like all the books in the series so far, it can be read as a standalone, but then you’d miss out on the character development and relationships that are an integral and delightful part of stories.

Highly recommended.

Description

Flo Jenkins is found murdered in her armchair, a paperknife sticking out of her chest. The old woman was well liked and nothing seems to have been stolen from her home. And it was common knowledge that she only had weeks to live.

Why kill a dying woman? This is going to be one of the toughest cases yet for Hillary to solve.

Hillary also has to deal with a new colleague who has a terrible temper and a rocky past.

With no forensics, no leads, and only a drug-addict nephew as a suspect, will this be Hillary’s first failure to solve a murder case?

Murder at Home by Faith Martin

The Torso in the Town by Simon Brett

25th May 2021.

This is the third book in the Fethering mystery series, feature chalk and cheese neighbours Carole and Jude.

It starts with a dinner party at Pelling House, where Jude finds a mummified torso in the cellar. It isn’t long before Jude and Carole are returning to the small market town where it happened to investigate. Carole, however, is smarting from a breakup in a recent relationship, and isn’t as motivated as usual.

But it isn’t long before Jude’s befriending the locals, getting them invited to an important dinner party, and interviewing everyone with a connection to Pelling House over the years. As you would expect, there are plenty of characters in the town and even more suspects, once the body is identified.

Carole and Jude’s progress is a joy to behold as they get behind and under the façade of this sleepy town and its often pompous residents. I loved the author’s gentle mocking of middle class foibles, values and attitudes and the undercurrent of humour that keeps the story jogging along at a merry pace.

The descriptions and social commentary are a delight, the characters beautifully, an occasionally tragically, portrayed, and the investigation leads to an exciting climax, followed by an unexpected twist that adds to the reader’s pleasure.

If you enjoy a cosy mystery that’s original, sophisticated and fun, then this series is a treat and fast becoming one of my favourites.

Description

Grant and Kim Roxby had hoped that their first dinner party at Pelling House would make an impression with their new neighbours. And the next day it’s certainly the talk of the village in Fethering. For their guests – including the couple’s old friend Jude – had been enjoying a pleasant meal when they were rudely interrupted by a gruesome discovery. A human torso hidden in the cellar.

Carole and Jude turn amateur sleuths once again. They begin to question the locals, but they can’t help wondering why a town notoriously distrustful of outsiders is proving so terribly amenable to their enquiries . . .

The Torso in in the Town by Simon Brett

Harbour Street by Ann Cleeves

25th May 2021.

This is another moody, complex murder mystery in the Vera Stanhope series. She seems to be at her best when she had few or no leads to follow.

This time it’s her sergeant, Joe Ashworth, who finds a woman stabbed on the metro in Newcastle. She’s soon identified and Vera’s in Harbour Street, where the woman lived in an attic flat above a guest house. It’s a rundown neighbourhood where people seem to live most of their lives. Vera soon discovers that the victim was well-loved and respected. She kept to herself and no one can think of a reason why anyone would kill her.

With no obvious motive, no real suspects and little to go on, it’s a difficult investigation. Then another woman is murdered and Vera makes connections. She’s soon on the right path for an ending I didn’t see coming.

The pace is measured and evocative. The atmosphere is dark and unsettling. Everyone’s a suspect while the team struggles to find a motive for the murders. But the team keep chipping away, probing, searching, uncovering secrets, flushing out small nuggets of information and anomalies that finally make sense to Vera.

It’s another absorbing and riveting read where Vera dominates proceedings, revealing more about herself and her past, showing a sharp, often wicked humour that brings lighter moments to the story. It’s all blended together with supreme skill for another excellent investigation for the larger than life detective.

Description

A silent community. A murderer among them . . .

As the snow falls in Newcastle, Detective Joe Ashworth and his daughter Jessie travel home on the busy Metro. When the train stops unexpectedly due to bad weather, Jessie notices that one woman doesn’t leave and when trying to wake her they find that the passenger has been fatally stabbed.

With no witnesses DI Vera Stanhope looks into the victim’s past and discovers she lived for years on Harbour Street, in a rundown Northumberland fishing town. As she questions the local residents Vera begins to suspect they know more than they are letting on, and the killer is hiding in their midst.

Harbour Street by Ann Cleeves

The Glass Room by Ann Cleeves

19th May 2021.

In this fifth outing for Vera Stanhope, the murder’s a little too close to home for comfort. Her neighbour, Joanna, is at a writers’ conference. An esteemed critic lies dead, fatally stabbed, and she’s found with a knife in her hand.

It’s a lovely idea for a crime writer to have a murder at a writers’ conference about crime fiction. The opportunity to poke fun at writers and writing is irresistible. The murder and investigation is pure Vera. She’s always excited by murder, happy to speculate, and she prefers talking to suspects and scrutinising them to forensics.

This is a locked room murder with plenty of suspects among the conference attendees. Many have motives to kill the critic, who was not well-liked by many of the people there. But it takes a second murder to give Vera the traction she needs to home in on the killer. After all the struggles to work out what happened, she seems to work out the identity of the killer and motive in double quick time, making the climax feel a little abrupt.

Apart from this minor quibble, this was another brilliantly observed and written murder mystery with Vera on top form and the tensions within her close team adding to the enjoyment.

I’m already looking forward to the sixth in the series.

Description

Sometimes crime strikes too close to home . . .

DI Vera Stanhope is not one to make friends easily, but her neighbours keep her well-supplied in homebrew and conversation. But when one of them goes missing, her path leads her to more than a missing friend . . .

Vera tracks the young woman down to the Writer’s House, a country retreat for aspiring authors. Things get complicated when a body is discovered and Vera’s neighbour is found with a knife in her hand. Calling in the team, Vera knows that she should hand the case over. She’s too close to the main suspect. But the investigation is too tempting and she’s never been one to follow the rules. Vera must find a killer who has taken murder off the page and is making it real . .

The Glass Room by Ann Cleeves

Missing Lies by Chris Collett

18th May 2021.

In the seventh book in the series, Tom Mariner, now acting Detective Chief Inspector, has a lot going on in his personal life. It means he needs to keep to a strict timetable and rely on help to look after autistic Jamie. At work, he’s got a new team around him as Millie’s on maternity leave and Tony Knox on a separate enquiry.

When the daughter of a prominent local politician goes missing, it looks like she’s run away from her parents. There’s no evidence of foul play and a reconstruction generates no leads. When her laundered and neatly pressed clothes arrive in a parcel at the station, everything changes. Within days, another set of clothes indicate another abducted woman.

When a local nurse goes missing, the hospital comes under close scrutiny as the detectives await another clothes parcel. But it never arrives, leaving them confused and struggling to make headway with the investigation.

It’s a complicated investigation that runs down several cul de sacs before a further death provides focus and an explanation for the crimes. Only Tom Mariner isn’t convinced and makes a sudden breakthrough to solve the crimes and apprehend the killer at the eleventh hour.

Missing Lies lacks the spark and focus of previous books in the series, perhaps because there’s so much time given to life outside the investigation. While Millie and Tony have peripheral roles in the investigation, the main plot feels hurried at the end.

Description

18-year-old Grace Clifton vanishes on her way home from work. Amazingly, not a single witness comes forward. But Detective Tom Mariner suspects that she ran away from her overbearing, rich father.

A PACKAGE ARRIVES AT THE POLICE STATION. IT CONTAINS GRACE’S CLOTHES, NEATLY FOLDED AND CLEANED.

Then another woman disappears. And a disturbing pattern begins to emerge.

WHO IS TAKING THEM?

Detective Mariner must track down a suspected serial killer in his toughest, and strangest, case yet, with a conclusion that will have you gasping.

Missing Lies by Chris Collett

Don’t Turn your Back on the Ocean by Janet Dawson

13th May 2021.

You’re always guaranteed something different and intriguing with private investigator, Jeri Howard. In this case her investigation has an environmental theme. While on holiday in Monterey, she’s asked to help find someone who’s mutilating pelicans.  Then her cousin, Bobby, becomes the prime suspect in the murder of his lover. And if that’s not enough to keep Jeri occupied, someone’s trying to destroy her mother’s restaurant business with acts of sabotage.

Are all three issues linked or nothing more than coincidence?

Naturally, Jeri focuses on the murder, crossing swords with the local police in the process. Though warned off, she continues to probe and dig, uncovering a growing list of murder suspects with good motives and means. Jeri’s investigation certainly reveals the divisions with the otherwise peaceful Monterey community.

As the case grows bigger, Jeri seeks help from former employer and mentor, Errol, who still has plenty to offer, despite retiring as a private investigator. With him on board, the investigation gains traction until Jeri homes in on the killer for an exciting chase climax.

And yes, there are links to the pelican mutilation and restaurant sabotage, rounding off the investigation nicely.

It’s another detailed, meticulous investigation that reveals Jeri Howard’s determination and guts, alongside her family loyalties and fragilities. It all adds to the depth of the characters and story, leading to a more satisfying read.

Description

WHAT’S THE WORST THING THAT COULD HAPPEN ON A PI’S VACATION?

A dead body on the beach, most likely.

In this riveting fourth mystery in the Jeri Howard Private Investigator Series, Janet Dawson takes readers on a road trip down the California coast to Monterey, where Jeri is looking to catch a respite from the PI life to relax and visit family. Easier said than done. From the first moment of her arrival in the quiet seaside town, nothing is as it seems.

First, some maniac is mutilating brown pelicans on Monterey Bay. Jeri’s cousin, Donna, who works for the Department of Fish and Game, wants Jeri all over the case. And another one too–something even more sinister that went down only miles from Monterey. And Jeri’s other cousin, Bobby, is the prime suspect.

A local fisherman and erratic alcoholic, Bobby is getting into deep water. His girlfriend went missing after the couple had an altercation at a bar up the coast. When a woman’s body washes ashore, it seems to the local cops that Bobby’s involved in both cases.

Suddenly Monterey Bay’s picturesque waters have become a dark and overpowering force for the vacationing detective and her family. The whole town’s awash in secrets, but answers are in as short supply as healthy pelicans. The only thing Jeri knows for sure? Don’t ever turn your back on the ocean.

Don't Turn your back on the Ocean by Janet Dawson

The Birdwatcher by William Shaw

13th May 2021.

All books should have an emotional impact on the reader. Some books entertain or inform. Others leave a deeper impression that lives longer in the mind and soul. This novel belongs in this category for its portrayal of William South, an ordinary neighbourhood police officer with a troubled past and a dark secret.

He lives alone in Dungeness, Kent, on a shingle headland with few neighbours. When his closest neighbour, and fellow birdwatcher, is found battered to death, William is drawn into the investigation against his will and wish. It brings back painful memories of his childhood in Northern Ireland before the peace agreement.

The two sides of the story run side by side. As the murder investigation progresses, the story of his childhood is replayed. William wants to find his neighbour’s killer, but he may have to reveal his own hidden truth in the process.

This conflict adds another dimension to the characters, relationships and stories, which are beautifully delivered, building the suspense into an emotionally charged climax that’s both life-threatening and tragic in equal amounts.

The aftermath is even more gripping and my emotions were torn in different directions as the consequences played out, leaving me drained and sad. Not many books can manage that.

This is a story about people and how events in the past shape the future and the consequences of suppressing secrets. Whether you enjoy crime fiction or not, you cannot fail to be moved by this story.

Description

Sergeant William South has always avoided investigating murder. A passionate birdwatcher and quiet man, he has few relationships and prefers it that way.

But when his only friend is found brutally beaten, South’s detachment is tested. Not only is he bereft – it seems that there’s a connection between the suspect and himself.

For South has a secret. He knows the kind of rage that killed his friend. He knows the kind of man who could do it. He knows, because Sergeant William South himself is a murderer.

Moving from the storm-lashed, bird-wheeling skies of the Kent Coast to the wordless war of the Troubles, The Birdwatcher is a crime novel of suspense, intelligence and powerful humanity about fathers and sons, grief and guilt and facing the darkness within.

The Birdwatcher by William Shaw

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