Over her Dead Body by AB Morgan

18th January 2021.

Can you imagine waking up one day to discover you’re dead? Your bank account’s closed because you’ve been certified dead, but no one bothered to tell you. The bailiffs are at the door, your car has been impounded and your employers can’t pay your salary.

The premise was irresistible and though I didn’t know the author, I dived straight into this entertaining and enjoyable story that’s part psychological suspense and part private investigator. While the subject matter’s a little dark at times, it’s lightened by the characters and generous dashes of humour throughout.

Peddyr Quirk and his fabulous wife, Connie, the private investigators who take the case, are perfectly suited to Gabby Dixon’s unusual dilemma. With their help, she starts to find out who is doing this to her and why. As layers are peeled away, deep family issues and a teenage tragedy come to the surface. As more of the past is unlocked, the truth becomes more sinister than Gabby could ever have imagined.

Description

Gabby Dixon is dead. That’s news to her…

Recently divorced and bereaved, Gabby Dixon is trying to start a new chapter in her life.

As her new life begins, it ends. On paper at least.

But Gabby is still very much alive. As a woman who likes to be in control, this situation is deeply unsettling.

She has two crucial questions: who would want her dead, and why?

Enter Peddyr and Connie Quirk, husband-and-wife private investigators. Gabby needs their help to find out who is behind her sudden death.

The truth is a lot more sinister than a simple case of stolen identity.

Over Her Dead Body by AB Morgan

 

 

An Unfamiliar Murder by Jane Isaac

11th January 2021.

Imagine coming home after a hard day at work and finding the body of a stranger, murdered in your home. You wouldn’t think it could get much worse – until the police take you in for questioning as a suspect.

While it soon becomes clear that Anna’s not the killer, she’s still left with the question of why a stranger was murdered in her home. And as she starts to ask questions, it soon becomes clear that there are family secrets blocking her road to the truth.

At the same time, DI Helen Lavery, in charge of her first murder enquiry, has to make sense of the murder. A second death increases the pressure and the pace picks up, focusing on the investigation more as the detectives make a breakthrough.

But will they be in time?

I enjoy trying new authors and series, getting to know new characters and settings. You can never be sure what you’re going to get and the first quarter of this story took its time to get going with a lot of focus on the emotional state of Anna and Helen Lavery. But once the investigation kicked into gear, the story picked up and became an exciting and intriguing hunt for the killer. The characters revealed themselves through their actions and relationships and the secrets were peeled away, layer by layer.

This is a good first novel to a series with an intriguing plot, plenty of drama and tension, and some engaging characters that lay a sound foundation for future novels.

Description

Arriving home from a routine day at work, Anna Cottrell has no idea that her life is about to change forever. But discovering the stabbed body of a stranger in her flat, then becoming prime suspect in a murder enquiry is only the beginning. Her persistent claims of innocence start to crumble when new evidence links her irrevocably with the victim…

Leading her first murder enquiry, DCI Helen Lavery unravels a trail of deception, family secrets and betrayal. When people close to the Cottrell family start to disappear, Lavery is forced into a race against time. Can she catch the killer before he executes his ultimate victim?

An Unfamiliar Murder by Jane Isaac

Secret Crimes by Michael Hambling

11th January 2021.

This is fast becoming one of my favourite crime series. DCI Sophie Allen is a terrific character. Smart, gutsy and charismatic, she’s a world away from the trauma-ridden cops that seem to be everywhere in crime fiction. She’s had her fair share of troubles and she has her vulnerabilities, but she’s also a breath of fresh air.

The story starts with the death of a woman at a local jazz festival in Swanage. A few days later, a man is found on the rocks by the sea. He was also at the festival. While the motive for the murders is unclear, the team find a connection between the two deaths and the investigation gathers momentum. But as it spreads wider, the investigation becomes a long, slow slog that tests the members of the team. But you get to know the characters and the relationships better, revealing yet another strong point of the novels.

There are a few challenges along the way, but solid detection eventually yields a suspect and the pieces start to fit together as the story picks up pace to an exciting climax.

While the crimes and investigations are always intriguing, it’s the balance between the plot, the main characters and their relationships that lifts this series to a different level.

If you haven’t read the Sophie Allen series yet, start with the first novel and enjoy!

Please check out my reviews for Dark Crimes and Deadly Crimes.

Description

The body of an attractive festival-goer is discovered on the rocky shoreline at Peveril Point
But the young woman’s injuries arouse suspicion. Who was the man she met? Is there a history of suspicious deaths at other music festivals across the area?

DCI Sophie Allen is back in charge after the emotional upheavals she suffered in ‘Deadly Crimes’, but is she really in control? And a new detective constable, Rae Gregson, joins the team and immediately faces challenges that put her life in peril.

Secret Crimes by Michael Hambling

The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman

10th January 2021.

Anyone who follows my reviews will know I like trying something different and new authors, though in this case I’m well aware of Richard Osman from his TV work. The moment I started to read, the direct, conversational style drew me straight into the characters and setup and promised an entertaining crime story with plenty of humour and witty observations.

The action takes place at a luxury retirement complex/village, where four of the residents meet up to investigate unsolved murders. They’re led by Elizabeth, whose past occupation seems to allow her an endless supply of contacts that get almost any information she needs. While she’s the main driving force, her compatriots all have plenty to contribute.

When a dodgy developer linked to the complex is killed, the team have a real murder to investigate. With some dubious and skilful manipulation, Elizabeth manages to enlist the help of the local detective inspector in charge of the police investigation. When the owner of the complex is also murdered, the team discover a complicated web of businesses and deals that throw up a good number of suspects.

It’s cleverly plotted and written, always with a gentle, humorous touch, some genuinely touching moments, and a plot that twists and turns, taking the reader through a multitude of emotions. It’s an assured debut that should appeal to anyone who likes a gentle mystery with a sharp plot.

If you’re happy to suspend disbelief, it’s pure escapism with wry social comments, likeable characters, spun through with wit, humour and compassion. I’d be very surprised if there aren’t more cases ahead for the murder club.

Description

In a peaceful retirement village, four unlikely friends meet up once a week to investigate unsolved murders.

But when a brutal killing takes place on their very doorstep, the Thursday Murder Club find themselves in the middle of their first live case.

Elizabeth, Joyce, Ibrahim and Ron might be pushing eighty but they still have a few tricks up their sleeves.

Can our unorthodox but brilliant gang catch the killer before it’s too late?

The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman

A Murder is Announced by Agatha Christie

3rd January 2021.

I’m thoroughly enjoying the Miss Marple series in the order they were written. Alongside the deft characterisation, wry social comments, ingenious plots and Agatha’s Christie’s effortless writing style, you get to see the author and Miss Marple develop.

The story starts with an ad in the local newspaper, announcing the date, time and place of a murder. Naturally, the locals are intrigued and find excuses to visit the house, where the occupants, equally mystified and intrigued, are ready to welcome them. At the allotted time, the lights go out and three shots are fired soon after. When the lights are restored, a stranger in a mask lies dead on the floor.

It doesn’t take long to identify the stranger and come up with possible motives for what happened. Was it a prank gone wrong, an accident or something more sinister? Fortunately for the police, Miss Marple isn’t far away and soon starts piecing everything together.

The book follows Inspector Craddock’s investigation. He soon discovers that almost everyone at the house at the time of the shooting has a motive for murder. This creates plenty of red herrings, false trails and dead ends to keep the mystery bubbling along nicely until Miss Marple figures it all out.

When she reveals the murderer and motive, you realise all the clues were there in plain sight as the story was told. And as you would expect from an author at the top of her game, there are no loose ends or plot holes to be seen.

If you accept the attitudes and values that were prevalent in 1950, this is another brilliant, entertaining and clever whodunit that’s a pleasure to read and contemplate afterwards.

Description

A mystery that will defy even the most ingenious of detectives because, when you turn over a stone in an English village, you have no idea what will crawl out…

‘I’m not too late, am I? When does the murder begin?’

An announcement appears in the local paper: this Friday, at exactly 6.30pm, a murder will take place.

Who could resist such an invitation?

Driven by morbid curiosity, the villagers head to the appointed location: a quiet house on the outskirts of the village.

The crowd gathers. The clock counts down. And then the lights go out.

A Murder is Announced by Agatha Christie

Kindred Crimes by Janet Dawson

30th December 2020.

This is the first novel in the Jeri Howard private investigator series, set in California. Like many of its contemporaries, the story’s told by Jeri in a direct, no nonsense manner. She’s a streetwise investigator with high principles and a determination to see a job through, even when the client decides he no longer requires her services.

Missing wife, Renee Foster, turns out to be anything but the person her anxious husband portrays. As Jeri digs deeper, encountering more than her fair share of obstacles and challenges, she peels away the layers to reveal family secrets no one wants to share. There’s Mark, the brother, who shot their parents and served fifteen years for the crime. He’s out and building a new life for himself, determined not to return to past events.  Sister Karen, employed in the skin trade, knows more than she’s willing to tell.

Then there’s the husband’s family, who never liked Renee to start with.

And Jeri’s former husband, a cynical copper who still holds a torch for her, can’t help but make life difficult for her, especially when people start dying.

How Jeri makes sense of it all and overcomes the odds makes for a fascinating and entertaining story that’s full of surprises, humour and touching moments that all build to a slick climax and resolution. The characters are sharply drawn and realistic, vulnerable and flawed, but always interesting.

I’m delighted to have discovered this author and I’m looking forward to reading the next book in the series.

I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys private eye stories by authors like Sue Grafton and Cheryl Bradshaw.

Description

THE PORN STAR, THE MURDERER, AND THE DISAPPEARING WIFE…

Those are just a few of the family members Oakland P.I. Jeri Howard finds herself investigating in a puzzling missing persons case that sprawls throughout the grittier sections of Northern California. For a woman who told her husband she had no relatives, Renee Foster’s actually well-stocked with them….and doozies at that. The whole family—criminals, abusers, and kindly aunts alike– comes alive in Janet Dawson’s first novel, prompting the New York Times to hail it as “a welcome addition to this tough genre.”

There’s clearly a lot more here than the simple matter of a wife disappearing with the grocery money. Smelling a rat or two right from the beginning of this complex and intriguing mystery, the red-haired private detective follows many a twisty trail as Dawson weaves an equally twisty tale, which, to the reader’s delight, just keeps winding back on itself, revealing brand new secrets as fast as ancient skeletons can fall out of closets.

Dawson’s Oakland is damp and properly sinister and Jeri’s as savvy as Sam Spade, with something of Spade’s seen-it-all outlook. What she doesn’t know, her chic lawyer pal, Cassie, can supply; and her cop ex-husband’s on hand to make trouble.

Kindred Crimes by Janet Dawson

The Country Inn Mystery by Faith Martin

30th December 2020.

I’m not a big fan of the traditional cosy mystery set in a small rural village, but the writing and character of Jenny Starling captured my imagination from the first page and took me along on an interesting and enjoyable ride.

Relief chef, Jenny, is working at the Spindlewood Inn in the village of Caulcott Deeping in the Cotswolds. The village is putting on a Regency extravaganza, which includes performances of a local historical event by the amateur dramatic society. And while they may be amateurs, the battle of egos is just as sharp.

The story ambles along with Jenny observing the varied characters who are there for the weekend. It soon becomes apparent that some of these people have other agendas, especially where the main actor, Rachel Norman, is concerned. It’s only a matter of time before she winds up dead, but how she was killed is a baffling mystery in the Agatha Christie tradition.

While the police try to piece it all together, Jenny’s observational skills and ability to connect the sometimes obscure clues ensures she solves the murder with skill and aplomb.

The author’s produced an entertaining and enjoyable read, filled with suspects, motives and red herrings and a liberal sprinkling of humour and wry observation, which lift it above the average cosy mystery.

Description

Jenny Starling is working at The Spindlewood Inn for the weekend. It’s hosting a Regency Extravaganza, involving historical costume, amateur dramatics and food.

Leading actress of the amateur dramatic society and reputed man-eater Rachel Norman portrays a doomed noblewoman. But when she turns up actually drowned in the pond, there’s suddenly a murder to investigate.

There’s been plenty of trouble at the idyllic country inn. The performers weren’t a happy troupe, and Jenny discovers a simmering romantic tension.

Who wanted Rachel dead and why? Jenny Starling is going to need all her wits to crack this complex case.

The Country Inn mystery by Faith Martin

Natural Causes by James Oswald

30th December 2020.

Having recently read and enjoyed an advance reader copy of Bury Them Deep, (check out my review here) I thought it was time to start at the beginning of the DI McLean series. And what a start it is.

Natural Causes is a dark and complex police procedural with a supernatural element. It centres around a sixty year old case of a teenage girl who was repeatedly raped and tortured in a ritual killing. The body, safely hidden inside a building, has been discovered during building works.

As DI McLean starts to investigate this terrible murder, he’s dragged into another murder in another part of Edinburgh. The investigation is led by his boss and it’s clear they don’t see eye to eye at all. More murders follow, some seeming to have no rational. With a steadily increasing body count, DI McLean has to work out the connections to identify the killer.

The plot is too complex and involved to explain without spoilers, but it’s ingenious, baffling and intriguing at the same time, making this novel hard to put down. The characters are well drawn and believable, the relationships tight and realistic, and the writing builds the suspense and tension to an exciting climax.

It’s an outstanding first book in a series. The supernatural elements make it different from the standard police procedural but compelling too. It’s a terrific read and one I would recommend to anyone who likes a complex murder mystery that’s as much about the characters as the plot.

Description

Edinburgh is horrified by a series of bloody killings.

Deaths for which there appears to be neither rhyme nor reason, and which leave the city’s police stumped.

DI Tony McLean is focused on the investigation, but his attention is drawn by a chilling cold case:

A young girl, ritualistically murdered.

Her remains hidden for sixty years.

It seems impossible that there could be any connection between the cases, but McLean starts to wonder . . .

Because if it’s true, they might be facing an evil beyond anything they ever imagined.

Natural Causes by James Oswald

The Moving Finger by Agatha Christie

23rd December 2020.

Every time I read one of Agatha Christie’s books, I’m impressed by her direct, easy-to-read style that draws you into the heart of the story from the first page. Language and values aside, her writing feels modern, with plenty of dialogue, the minimum amount of description, and succinct characterisation. In short, she transports you into her world with the minimum of effort.

The Moving Finger is no different. It starts with injured pilot Jerry Burton and his sister Joanne moving to the quiet village of Lymstock, where someone’s sending out poison pen letters. It isn’t long before Mrs Symington, wife of the local solicitor, takes her own life after receiving one of the letters.

With a wide cast of suspects, Jerry Burton tries to identify the letter writer. Then Rose, a maid in the Symington household, is brutally murdered, and the whole atmosphere changes as the police investigate.

The story builds slowly, using the different reactions of the recipients of the letters to build suspense and suspicion. Jerry Burton, who narrates the story, is a capable lead who’s soon out of his depth as he struggles to identify the person responsible. When Rose dies, it’s time to call in Jane Marple.

I’m not sure why Agatha Christie waited until the final quarter of the book to bring in Miss Marple, but her impact is immediate. She swings into action to connect all the clues, solve the murders and restore calm and justice to Lymstock in an exciting climax.

With a fine cast of suspects, red herrings, misunderstandings, and the author’s humour and social commentary, this is a classic whodunit that’s as clever as it is baffling and complex. An enjoyable and memorable read, the novel reveals why the author remains so popular.

It’s simply a treat from start to finish.

Description

The placid village of Lymstock seems the perfect place for Jerry Burton to recuperate from his accident under the care of his sister, Joanna. But soon a series of vicious poison-pen letters destroys the village’s quiet charm, eventually causing one recipient to commit suicide. The vicar, the doctor, the servants—all are on the verge of accusing one another when help arrives from an unexpected quarter. The vicar’s house guest happens to be none other than Jane Marple.

The Moving Finger by Agatha Christie

Baby Lies by Chris Collett

18th December 2020.

I’ve enjoyed the first three Tom Mariner series. He’s an easy going, caring detective who has had some tricky cases to investigate and a love life that’s never quite delivered. In this fourth outing, the focus is on babies, in particular ones that go missing.

The story starts off well enough with the abduction of a baby from a crèche. While all is not what it seems, the story starts to slow and seems to meander as the detectives struggle to get to grips with the case. When the baby is suddenly returned the story shifts to Mariner’s troubles with Anna. DS Knox, his friend and colleague, also has issues with his love life.

But there’s another mystery bubbling to the surface. The pace picks up a little as the team investigate and make connections they missed with an earlier murder. An arrest soon follows, leading to a rather abrupt and unexciting ending.

While it’s an easy going and entertaining read, Tom Mariner’s love life seemed to pose more of a challenge than the crimes being investigated.

Description

Six-week-old baby Jessica is abducted from a local nursery. And Detective Tom Mariner realises he’s not going to get the time-off he was hoping for.

The police get a good description of the woman who took Jessica, but the appeal to the public doesn’t generate a single lead.

Then the kidnapper calls demanding money for Jessica’s safe return . . . and a terrible discovery is made in the woods.

Can Mariner get to bottom of a complex case which involves much more than child abduction?

Baby Lies by Chris Collett