Thin Air by Ann Cleeves

18th January 2022.

The sixth book in the series is as beautifully crafted as its predecessors, bringing the harsh, but stunning landscape and lifestyle of the Shetlands to life. DI Jimmy Perez is slowly getting back to his old self when Eleanor, a woman from a party of friends disappears. The friends are in Shetland to celebrate the wedding of one of them to a local from the island.

Intertwined with the murder is a myth and ghostly apparition, dating back to the 1920s. One of the group sees the ghostly image of the girl and investigates, certain she is not seeing things. But then this myth was another reason why Eleanor wanted to visit the island.

With assistance from Willow Reeves, a mainland detective brought in to assist, the detectives slowly unravel the myth from the evidence as they inch towards identifying the killer and the motive. Then a second murder brings an added urgency and different perspective on the case, testing the detectives to the limit.

The author has a gift for creating strong, believable characters that you recognise and understand within a few minutes of meeting them. She also knows how to slowly build the tension as the story progresses, drawing the reader in deeper until the twist that reveals the killer.

While this novel can be enjoyed on its own, starting at the beginning of the series will give you so much more understanding and satisfaction as you follow the lives of these ordinary people in extraordinary times.

Description

A killer who leaves no trace . . .

A group of old university friends leave the bright lights of London and travel to Shetland to celebrate the marriage of one of their friends to a local. But late on the night of the wedding party, one of them, Eleanor, disappears – apparently into thin air.

Detectives Jimmy Perez and Willow Reeves are dispatched to investigate. Before she went missing, Eleanor claimed to have seen the ghost of a local child who drowned in the 1920s. Jimmy and Willow are convinced that there is more to Eleanor’s disappearance than they first thought. Is there a secret that lies behind the myth? One so shocking that many years later someone would kill to protect it?

Thin Air by Ann Cleeves

The Crossing Places by Elly Griffiths

12th January 2022.

I’ve always enjoyed Elly Griffiths’ books and the first novel in the Dr Ruth Galloway series is no exception. The characterisation is excellent, with sharply drawn characters and relationships that engage from the first page. The Norfolk setting and the salt marshes are evocatively described, providing a brooding background that adds to the tension.

The story is simple enough. A girl is missing in similar circumstances to another child who disappeared ten years before. Mysterious notes have been sent to DCI Nelson regarding the first girl and again when the second one disappears. When bones are found, Dr Ruth Galloway, a forensic archaeologist, is called in. The investigation brings back memories of previous digs on the marshes and past tensions.

It’s all beautifully complex and woven, leading to a dramatic climax and resolution with a neat twist.

This is definitely a series I will continue to read and enjoy.

Description

A child’s bones are discovered on the windswept Norfolk marshes. Believing them to be ancient, the police call in Dr Ruth Galloway, forensic archaeologist. But this is no prehistoric grave. A cold missing person case has now become a murder investigation.

Dr Ruth Galloway is called in when a child’s bones are discovered near the site of a prehistoric henge on the north Norfolk salt marshes. Are they the remains of a local girl who disappeared ten years earlier – or are the bones much older?

DCI Harry Nelson refuses to give up the hunt for the missing girl. Since she vanished, someone has been sending him bizarre anonymous notes about ritual sacrifice, quoting Shakespeare and the Bible. He knows that Ruth’s expertise and experience could help him finally to put this case to rest.

But when a second child goes missing, Ruth finds herself in danger from a killer who knows she’s getting ever closer to the truth…

The Crossing Places by Elly Griffiths

Murder at Work by Faith Martin

4th January 2022.

This is another engaging and colourful story in the trials and tribulations of DI Hillary Greene. Due to retire in a few weeks, her governor assigns her to a murder, hoping it will make her think twice about leaving the police. To make matters worse, former colleague and thorn in her side, Frank Ross, is now a security guard at the scene of the murder and fast becoming a prime suspect.

As always, the backstory offers as much suspense, tension and entertainment as the murder investigation. Hillary’s involvement in a case involving a detective sergeant she worked with looks like it might come back to bite her, adding to her problems and stress.

It all blends together into another entertaining story that kept me hooked from start to finish. I love the interplay of the main characters, the continuing backstory issues, and Hillary trying to keep all those plates in the air. She’s a terrific character who continues to develop and surprise as the series progresses.

This yet another reason why you should start with the first book in the series to enjoy the many cases and challenges Hillary faces. Reviews for all the previous books are on my website.

Description

Hillary will retire in a few weeks. But can her boss get Hillary to change her mind by putting her on a murder investigation?

The victim is found dead with his head bashed in with a piece of wood. Michael Ivers was a gambler and a notorious womaniser. He had few friends and there is a long list of people who might have wanted him dead.

Hillary wants to solve her final case as a police officer and she has just days left to find out who killed him. To add to her problems, her old enemy, ex-Sergeant Frank Ross is back on the scene and is a prime suspect.

Murder at Work by Faith Martin

Murder on High by Paula Williams

28th December 2021.

A gentle humorous tone underpins the story of Kat Latcham, who struggles with various issues in the village of Much Winchmoor. Reduced to three part time jobs, keen to break free of the constraints of a community that knows everyone’s business, and uncertain about her future with boyfriend, Will, the last thing she needs is another murder in the village.

As a reporter for the Dintscombe Chronicle, she’s expected to cover the murder. Only a teenager with a smartphone has beaten her to the story, providing photographs of the corpse that is found dead at the foot of the church tower. As the villagers gossip and speculate about possible killers, it soon becomes clear that this is no ordinary murder. With plenty of suspects, all with good motives, to choose from, Kat can’t help but become involved, often at the expense of work.

It all leads to an exciting climax on top of the church tower.

This is the fourth novel in the Much Winchmoor series, which has become a favourite of mine for its collection of sharply drawn village characters, its humorous swipes at village life, and the trials and tribulations that face Kat as she’s drawn into some intriguing murders.

If you enjoy a cosy village murder mystery, look no further.

Description

Remember, abseiling is only the second fastest way down a church tower.

The note pinned to the teddy bear lying at the foot of the church tower could have been a joke – if it hadn’t been for the body on the path next to it!

Somebody wants to make very sure that everyone knows this was not an accident or suicide. But why?

Suddenly, no one in the village has any enthusiasm for the Teddy Bear Abseil, planned to raise money for the children’s play area, as, once again, a murderer walks the narrow, twisty streets of the small Somerset village of Much Winchmoor.

And, once again, Kat Latcham, reporter/dog walker/barmaid and occasional reluctant hair salon gopher, finds herself unwillingly dragged into a murder investigation.

This fourth Much Winchmoor mystery is spiked with humour and sprinkled with romance. And, of course, one carefully planned, coldly executed murder.

Murder on High by Paula Williams

Dead Water by Ann Cleeves

28th December 2021.

The fifth book in the Shetland series is another story of secrets about to be exposed and one person’s attempt to prevent this.

It starts with a journalist, Jerry Markham, returning to Shetland, looking for a big story. Is it something to do with a new renewable energy scheme that’s met with local opposition? Or does the story have its roots in the past? When he’s found dead inside a boat belonging to the Procurator Fiscal, Rhona Laing, DI Willow Reeves, called over from the mainland to take charge, senses a link.

Jimmy Perez, still on compassionate leave, is drawn into the investigation, he weaves snippets of gossip and information from interviews with local knowledge and the relationships on the island that are rarely kept secret. A second murder leads him closer until he works out the identity of the killer.

But is he too late to save a third murder?

Once again, Ann Cleeves weaves her magic with another intriguing and complex murder mystery. The characters are beautifully drawn and evoked, from the uncertain, but determined DI Reeves, to the quietly spoken Perez, who has more than murder to contend with. The bleakness and raw beauty of the Shetlands wraps itself around the whole story, shaping the lives and behaviour of its inhabitants.

Like the other books in the series, this is a sheer joy to read.

Description

A journalist working a story. Now his murder is a headline . . .

When the body of a journalist is found in a traditional Shetland boat, Detective Inspector Willow Reeves is drafted in to head up the investigation.

Jimmy Perez has been out of the loop, but his local knowledge is needed and he decides to help the inquiry. Originally a Shetlander, the journalist had left the islands years before to make a name for himself in London, leaving a scandal in his wake. He had few friends in Shetland, so why was he back?

When Willow and Jimmy dig deeper, they realize that he was chasing a story that many Shetlanders didn’t want to come to the surface. One that must have been significant enough to kill for . . .

Dead Water by Ann Cleeves

A Killing at the Track by Janet Dawson

21st December 2021.

This is another superlative entry into the Jeri Howard series, which I love. It’s time to saddle up for a look into the world of horse racing, which the author brings to life in vivid detail as she takes us behind the scenes. From the first few pages, you know someone’s going to be killed.

It’s not long before a jockey’s body is found and Jeri is on the case. Already investigating a series of threatening phone calls to one of the trainers, she now has a murder to investigate. The police are there, but she’s got a head start in a couple of areas and uses the knowledge and contacts she’s making at the track to ferret out the truth. A second death raises the stakes.

Like all of the books in the series, Jeri works hard to piece together the clues to uncover the secrets that provide the motives for the deaths. While there are no surprises, it’s all deftly handled as she puts together the pieces and builds the tension to an exciting climax.

If you’ve never tried this series, you’re missing out on a great private investigator and some fascinating backgrounds that make the stories that little bit different and more interesting as a result.

Description

Intrepid Jeri Howard, Janet Dawson’s savvy female private eye, steps into the Winner’s Circle in Dawson’s NINTH action-packed mystery, set almost entirely at a track seething with intrigue. Author Dawson takes us to the fascinating and forbidden backside, where you practically need a hotwalker for the humans, as owners fret, jockeys throw fits, and vets sweat to hold overworked horses together with duct tape.

Overworked is a hazard of the job, but “injured” can result in lost fortunes or death—and not just death for horses, as Jeri soon finds out. You don’t have to be a detective to know that if it’s a track, there’s always a bad actor out there, looking to make a killing the easy way. And if they have to kill to do it, our intrepid PI’s not going to rest until the desperation stakes.

So here’s how it goes—one dead jockey, then two dead jockeys, three exotic poisons, and several possible payoffs—Jeri’s positively in a lather! But you can wager she’s going to show her stuff in the stretch and take home the purse. (She’s reliable that way.)

Dawson’s complex plot is a pleasure, but the rich backside lore makes this one a sure thing. When you can practically feel the breeze as the horses sweep by, you know you can’t lose!

A Killing at the Track by Janet Dawsonao

Broadland by David Blake

20th December 2021.

DI Tanner escapes London for the tranquillity of the Norfolk Broads. On his first day, a body is found, bringing him into conflict with an existing detective inspector, who’s got plenty of local knowledge, but little experience of leading a murder inquiry.

It’s a routine police procedural with an interesting setting and some good conflict between the existing and new detectives. The pace is as gentle as the Norfolk countryside, but picks up once another murder is committed. When Tanner and DC Evans uncover the motive, the pace picks up towards the climax in a disused mill.

While Tanner and Evans are an interesting team, the story never quite gripped me, mainly because I felt the behaviour of two of the local detectives was a bit stereotyped and unrealistic.

Description

A girl’s body found mutilated by a boat’s propeller, another dumped at the bottom of a slipway, and a disused Norfolk mill, hiding the secret to both.

When a girl’s body is found strangled, raped, and horrifically mutilated by a boat’s propeller, deep in the heart of the Norfolk Broads, newly arrived Detective Inspector John Tanner is asked to assist with the investigation.

At first, all the evidence points to a man who had a multi-million pound reason to kill her. But when an alibi is produced from an unexpected source, and another body appears at the base of a slipway, Tanner finds himself turning to local girl, Detective Constable Jenny Evans for help.

As a more romantic relationship develops between them, they find themselves facing a race against time to identify a lethal adversary, one with a lust for blood and a mind set on revenge.

Set within the mysterious beauty of the Norfolk Broads, this fast-paced British detective series is a dark cozy murder mystery with a slice of humour and a touch of romance that will have you guessing until the very end, when the last shocking twist is finally revealed.

Broadland by David Blake

Blue Lightning by Ann Cleeves

15th December 2021.

Wow, what an amazing read, with such a powerful and emotional ending, beautifully written. It proves that crime fiction isn’t simply about murders and police procedures. Like any memorable story, it’s about the characters, the relationships and the background.

In this case, it’s Jimmy Perez, a detective inspector born on Fair Isle in the Shetlands. He’s a complex, thoughtful character, who takes his time and thinks things through before making a move. He knows the islands, their people, the myths and legends, the gossip. And when he investigates a murder, he uncovers the secrets.

In this fourth outing in the series, he’s back home, introducing his fiancée, Fran, to his family, to the crofter’s life he left behind. He has a week off. He doesn’t mind the storm that will isolate the place for days. It’s the murder at the bird observatory he could do without. When the body of a famous bird watcher and TV presenter is found stabbed, Perez is on his own – no crime scene or forensic back up – just his wits and skills as a detective.

At least the killer’s also trapped.

The investigation moves slowly. With the number of visitors and regulars at the observatory, there are plenty of suspects, plenty of secrets to uncover. There’s also Fran and his family to consider. It’s not long before he’s feeling the pressure of too many late nights, of working alone.

The tension builds as more and more motives are uncovered. The pressure to solve the case increases when a second murder is committed. How is it linked to the first? Is anyone else in danger? How can he protect everyone?

And then that superlative ending, catching me completely by surprise.

If you haven’t read Ann Cleeves, you’re missing so much from one the UK’s best and most consistent authors. If you haven’t read any book sin this series, start at the beginning and enjoy the sumptuous stories, the characters and the wonderfully bleak but beautiful islands that make up the Shetlands.

Description

A remote island on lockdown. A killer on the loose . . .

Shetland detective Jimmy Perez knows it will be a difficult homecoming when he returns to Fair Isle to introduce his fiancée to his parents. With the autumn storms raging, the island is cut off from the rest of the world.

Then a woman’s body is discovered at the renowned bird observatory, with feathers threaded through her hair. Perez has no support from the mainland and must investigate the old-fashioned way. He soon realizes that this is no crime of passion – but a murder of cold and calculated intention.

There’s no way off the island until the storms abate – and so the killer is also trapped, just waiting for the opportunity to strike again.

Blue Lightning by Ann Cleeves

Red Bones by Ann Cleeves

8th December 2021.

In the third of the Shetland series, DI Jimmy Perez is called out to investigate the shooting of an elderly woman at night. It appears to be a tragic accident, but Jimmy wants to be sure. There’s an archaeological dig in the grounds, which has exposed some bones. They may be ancient, they may not. While Jimmy waits for the test results, he continues his enquiries, uncovering some old secrets and rivalries that may shed light on the shooting.

Like the previous books in the series, this is a beautifully crafted and written story that paints a sympathetic picture of island life in a remote part of the UK. On the island there are no secrets. Everyone knows your business.

The island setting is brought to life, exerting its influences and pressures on daily life. The characters are vividly drawn, revealing their doubts and ambitions. Jimmy Perez is a sensitive, thoughtful detective, who works slowly and diligently, processing the facts and the gossip to reveal the killer and the motive.

The pace is gentle, the characters engaging, the setting atmospheric and the story is beautifully told. By the end you feel you know everyone better than your friends. I love these stories and can’t wait to read the next in the series.

Description

When a young archaeologist uncovers a set of human remains, the island settlers are intrigued. Is it an ancient find – or a more contemporary mystery?

Then an elderly woman is shot in what appears to be a tragic accident in the middle of the night, Shetland detective Jimmy Perez is called to investigate.

The sparse landscape and the emptiness of the sea have bred a fierce and secretive people. As Jimmy looks to the islanders for answers, he finds instead two feuding families whose envy, greed and bitterness have lasted generations.

Surrounded by people he doesn’t know and in unfamiliar territory, Jimmy finds himself out of his depth. As the spring weather shrouds the island in claustrophobic mists, Perez must dig up old secrets to reveal the truth . . .

Red Bones by Ann Cleeves

Burying Bad News by Paula Williams

29th November 2020.

In the third Much Winchmoor mystery, part time reporter, dog walker and barmaid, Kat Latcham once again finds herself investigating a dead body.

But this seems to be the least of her troubles as the Dintscombe Chronicle has been taken over by a company that wants scandal not reports on parish council meetings. Her job at the pub seems to be in jeopardy and her mother’s hairdressing business is leaking customers. She’s broke, desperate to leave the village and struggling with her feelings for Will.

So when one of two feuding neighbours winds up dead, her new editor turns up the pressure and wants the inside line. Kat has other ideas, especially as the husband of her best friend is the prime suspect. Having had too much to drink and lashed out at another resident in the pub, things are not looking good for him.

Like the previous two books in the series, it’s a delightful pastiche of troubles, gossip and sleuthing as Kat tries to keep too many plates in the air. The humour is never far from the surface, producing some great lines from lovingly crafted village characters you would instantly recognise.

Much Winchmoor is the perfect escape if you enjoy a cosy mystery that’s well-written and populated by characters you’ll warm too.  Kat’s both fun and more than a match for the local police when it comes to catching a killer.

Highly original and entertaining, this is a series to warm you like an open fire on a cold winter’s day.

Description

One severed head, two warring neighbours – and a cold-blooded killer stalks Much Winchmoor.

There’s the murder made to look like a tragic accident, and a missing husband. Could he be victim number two?

The tiny Somerset village is fast gaining a reputation as the murder capital of the West Country, and once again, reporter/barmaid/dog walker, Kat Latcham, finds herself reluctantly dragged into the investigation.

Things are looking bad for Ed Fuller, the husband of one of Kat’s oldest friends. Kat is convinced he’s innocent – but she’s been wrong before. Has Kat come across her biggest challenge yet?

Fans of Janet Evanovich could well enjoy this “funky, modern day nosey detective” transported to the English countryside.

The third Much Winchmoor mystery is, as always, spiked with humour and sprinkled with a touch of romance.

Burying Bad News by Paula Williams