The Janus Stone by Elly Griffiths

16th June 2022.

With a gentle, but atmospheric pace, the second Ruth Galloway novel picks up a few months after the first one finished. When a skeleton is uncovered during the demolition of an old house, her forensic skills are needed. With a missing skull and bones that are more recent in origin, this is one for DCI Nelson to investigate.

Ruth continues to remain involved as enquiries reveal the house was once a children’s home. The owners of the land and development are also drawn into the mystery, especially when the bones are carbon dated and turn out to be older than originally suspected.

As the enquiry shifts gear to investigate two missing children, someone seems intent on intimidating Ruth. From here, the story picks up pace to another classic chase climax that’s exciting and nerve jangling.

With sublime characterisation and complex relationships between key players, this is an intelligent murder mystery with plenty to savour and enjoy.

Description

A gruesome discovery at an old children’s home lays bare terrible secrets from Norwich’s past in the second gripping mystery for Dr Ruth Galloway.

Dr Ruth Galloway’s forensic skills are called upon when builders, demolishing an old house in Norwich, uncover the bones of a child – minus the skull – beneath a doorway. Is it some ritual sacrifice or just plain straightforward murder? Ruth links up with DCI Harry Nelson to investigate.

The house was once a children’s home. Nelson traces the Catholic priest who used to run the place. He tells him that two children did go missing forty years before – a boy and a girl. They were never found.

When carbon dating proves that the child’s bones predate the home and relate to a time when the house was privately owned, Ruth is drawn ever more deeply into the case. But as spring turns into summer it becomes clear that someone is desperate to put her off the scent by frightening her to death…

The Janus Stone by Elly Griffiths

Murder on Sea by Jane Adams

8th June 2022.

This is one of the best novels I’ve read for some time. I loved its caring, sympathetic characters brought to life by the author’s deft writing. While it’s essentially a police procedural, led by DI McGregor, Rina Martin, a former actress who played a TV sleuth, had quite a role to play. She runs a quiet guest house on the coast of Dorset, where nothing much happens.

Then an elderly lady is bludgeoned to death in her home. From here, the story opens out, drawing in George and Paul, two boys with very different reasons to be frightened. Having broken into the lady’s house the previous evening, one of them witnesses her murder. The other has more personal reasons to be scared when he believes he’s spotted the abusive father who his family ran away from.

From here the story moves away from the traditional murder mystery, but still packs a poignant punch at its climax. I really felt for McGregor, who has to wrestle with his principles as he tries to deal with the aftermath.

The story’s intriguing, engaging and beautifully crafted. It’s driven by realistic characters caught up in the unreal world of murder. There’s humour within the darkness and hope for a brighter future. All this means this is one of the best cosy mysteries I’ve read for a long time.

I can’t wait to read the rest of the series.

Description

Meet Rina Martin, a retired actress with a taste for tea, gardening and crime solving.

She played a TV sleuth for years, but now she has to do it for real.

She retires to the sleepy town of Frantham-on-Sea. Here on the Dorset coast, she runs her own immaculate guest house and life is blissfully quiet.

Until . . .

A few doors down, harmless old Mrs Freer is bludgeoned to death, and Rina can’t help but be drawn into the mystery.

Mrs Freer’s home was ransacked, but this was no ordinary burglary.

Who knew the old lady kept a gun stashed under her pillow?
And who wanted it badly enough to kill?

Detective Sebastian McGregor is called in to solve this baffling case.

But with her neighbours’ safety at stake, Rina knows she needs to give him a helping hand.

Murder on Sea by Jane Adams

Mystery at Apple Tree Cottage by Clare Chase

7th June 2022.

In the second novel in the series, obituary writer Eve Mallow has moved to the village of Saxford St Peter, looking for rural idyll and a quieter life. Then Ashton Foley returns to set tongues wagging. He’s overcome his past troubles to become a successful interior designer with a list of top notch clients. He also has a natural, flirtatious charm that can turn heads and antagonise husbands.

When his murdered body is found in the woods, it seems his wayward past may have caught up with him. While the police focus on his mother’s partner, Howard, Eve soon realises there are several other suspects with motives to kill Ashton.

The gentle pace and focus on the colourful characters in the village makes the story an absorbing read that allows you to fully consider the various suspects and their motives without being any the wiser. Eve Mallow, and her wonderful dachshund Gus, is a great character, who works it all out in the end, usually after a couple of hiccups along the way.

If you enjoy a well-written cosy murder mystery with an entertaining backstory, filled with fully rounded, lovable characters, you need look no further.

Description

Obituary writer and amateur sleuth Eve Mallow is enjoying life in sleepy Saxford St Peter – until a mysterious murder lands right at her door…

It’s spring in Saxford St Peter – time to get back in the garden, listen to the birds, and take gentle strolls in the woods. But for some, it’s the season for murder.

Eve Mallow is relishing the gentle pace of the village until a new arrival stirs everyone up. Ashton Foley is back: a teenage tearaway turned interior designer to the stars. He’s mad, bad and dangerous to know, but charming too – as Eve herself can testify – and every house in Saxford opens its doors to him.

So when he’s found murdered in the woods near his mother’s home, Apple Tree Cottage, there’s no shortage of suspects. A jealous husband? A spurned lover? Or has someone from his past life caught up with him?

The police soon hit on a simple solution, and arrest his mother’s partner Howard. Ashton always hated him, and he bears all the marks of a recent fight. But Ashton’s mother, miles away in New Zealand, is convinced he’s innocent, and enlists Eve’s help to prove it.

There’s just one problem. Eve saw Howard sniffing around Apple Tree Cottage on the morning of the murder, and she’s fairly sure he’s guilty, too…
Mystery at Aplle Tree Cottage by Clare Chase

The Killing Code by JD Kirk

7th June 2022.

In the third Jack Logan novel, he’s once again in pursuit of a serial killer on a mission. With links to a previous crime several years before, it soon becomes apparent the detectives are dealing with an unusual killer.

As in the previous novels, the banter and interplay between the main detectives is at the core of the story, producing many humorous moments and one-liners to lighten the dark murders. In many ways, I found the characters and their lives more interesting than the murders and the killer. It didn’t spoil my overall enjoyment of the plot, which featured another exciting climax as Logan and the team closed in on their quarry.

Description

How do you catch a killer who doesn’t exist?

After twenty years on the force, Detective Chief Inspector Jack Logan thinks he has seen it all.

He is wrong.

When a nurse is murdered on her way home from nightshift, Jack and his team go on the hunt for her killer.

As more victims are uncovered, Jack finds himself tracking a murderer afflicted by a unique psychosis – one that leaves him free to maim and kill without a shred of guilt or remorse.

Facing a new type of killer in an unfamiliar city, DCI Jack Logan is about to be pushed to his limits by an enemy he cannot hope to understand

The Killing Code by JD Kirk

The House in the Woods by Matt Dawson

7th June 2022.

This is a well-written and cleverly plotted crime thriller. It’s part courtroom drama, part police procedural, and features a private investigator, Atticus Priest, who the defence employ to find the real killer.

But if the accused didn’t do it, who did?

Priest is a former detective inspector, who once worked with DCI McKenzie, and unsurprisingly in modern crime stories had a relationship with her before she chose to remain with her husband and children. However, this past relationship is never allowed to side track the reader from the main investigation.

While the main characters never really gripped me, it didn’t spoil my enjoyment as the complex plot snaked towards an exciting climax, with a couple of twists to wrong foot readers.

Overall, an accomplished crime thriller with a twisting plot that kept me guessing.

Description

Four murders. Two detectives. One mystifying crime.

It’s Christmas Eve and DCI Mackenzie Jones is called to a murder at a remote farmhouse. Ralph Mallender believes his father lies dead inside. When three more bodies are discovered, it’s clear a festive family gathering has turned into a gruesome crime.

At first it seems like an open and shut case: a murder suicide committed by Ralph’s volatile brother Cameron. Then new evidence makes Mack suspect the man who reported the crime is in fact the perpetrator.

But Mack isn’t the only one with a stake in the case. Private investigator Atticus Priest has been hired to get Ralph acquitted. That means unearthing any weaknesses in Mack’s evidence.

Irascible, impatient, and unpredictable, Atticus has weaknesses of his own. Mack knows all about them because they share a past – both professionally and personally. This time round, however, they aren’t on the same side. And as Atticus picks at the loose ends of the case, everything starts to unravel in a way neither of them could ever have predicted…

The House in the Woods by Matt Dawson

Murder Now and Then by Faith Martin

27th May 2022.

In another absorbing murder mystery, Hillary Greene has yet more problems in the background as one of her team looks like he’s heading for trouble. As well as investigating a ten year old murder, there are three other murders that could be linked in some way.

It all adds up to another entertaining and exciting outing in what is a terrific series that consistently delivers intriguing investigations and plenty going on with the various cast members.

I hope there are more novels to come.

Description

Former Detective Hillary Greene and her cold case team are taking a fresh look at the unsolved murder of Michael Beck, found bludgeoned over the head and dead in a river near his home in 2012.

Just twenty-two at the time, he’d recently finished a history degree and had his whole life ahead of him. Everyone said he was a pleasant sort of lad with a passion for the past, quietly living with his parents until he could afford a place of his own. But it quickly turned out that there were at least two people who might have wanted him dead.

The first, his recently-jilted girlfriend Mia de Salle, hadn’t taken the break-up well. The second, his former tutor Dr Timothy Durning, had been accused of sexual harassment by Michael. But the original team could find no forensic evidence linking either of their prime suspects to the crime, nor witnesses placing them in the area when Michael was killed.

Hillary, however, is determined to find fresh leads. But while she and her team get to work, in the city of Oxford two men from the city’s criminal underbelly have been viciously murdered in the last six months.

Are the recent murders and her own cold case linked? More than a decade later, has the same killer struck again? And if so, what’s the connection between the mild-mannered young man and the underworld criminals?

It’s up to Hillary to stop a killer getting away with murder — both now and then.

Murder Now and Then by Faith Martin

Bit Player by Janet Dawson

25th May 2022.

The Jeri Howard series keeps getting better as the private investigator delves into an investigation that’s both close to home and further back in time than she’s gone before. The murder of actor, Ralph Tarrant, in Hollywood in 1942 takes centre stage when Jeri’s grandmother is implicated by an elderly film buff in a memorabilia store. While Jeri doesn’t believe her grandmother even knew the actor concerned, she has to investigate.

It’s a difficult investigation as many of the players and witnesses have died. But a few remain, along with letters that begin to paint an intriguing picture of a house occupied by four bit players, all determined to become actresses in the movie industry.

As piece by piece, Jeri’s persistence begins to uncover what really happened in 1942, more murders occur in the present as memorabilia collectors start dying. Is there a connection with the murder in the past? Is Jeri in danger as she closes in on the truth?

It’s a vivid and fascinating investigation that kept me turning the pages from start to finish in one of my favourite novels in the series.

If you haven’t tried this series, you should go back to the first book and enjoy the absorbing and often unique investigations that make Jeri Howard such a compelling read.

Description

MURDER MAKES A COMEBACK – READY FOR ITS CLOSEUP!

Was Jeri Howard’s grandmother a murder suspect?

That’s a mind-boggling prospect.

The Oakland private investigator has a chance encounter in a movie memorabilia shop, where the odd little man behind the counter drops that bombshell. Now Jeri is on a quest to find out the truth.

Back in 1941, Jerusha Layne was an actress in Hollywood. Her dreams of movie stardom never came true. Instead, she works as a bit player, an actress who speaks a few lines in the background while the big stars emote in front of the cameras. She ekes out a living and shares a tiny cottage with three other aspiring stars, talking about parts as they eat meals in the MGM commissary. The changing cast of roommates is not always a good fit, though, and this leads to friction – and grudges.

British expatriate actor Ralph Tarrant has the reputation of a ladies’ man. He puts the moves on Jerusha, but she rebuffs his unwanted advances. Then the actor is found dead, shot in his Hollywood bungalow. The cops have few suspects. But rumor and innuendo lead the police to question Jerusha and her housemates.

Jeri’s determination leads her to Los Angeles, where she reads the file on the cold case. Tarrant’s murder was never solved, she discovers when she delves into the seamy side of Golden Age Hollywood. Is the killer still out there? What really happened?

This case is personal. Oakland’s most persistent private eye is determined to learn the truth, even if it means tracking down her grandmother’s long-ago housemates and reading all those letters Jerusha wrote to her younger sister, Aunt Dulcie, who is still alive.

Murder never goes out of style. A man who collects Hitchcock movie memorabilia dies at his home. Are old movie posters so valuable that someone would kill for them?

Does this present-day crime have links to the past?

Bit Player by Janet Dawson

Cut Throat by Bill Kitson

24th May 2022.

This is another terrific, twisting and compelling entry into the DI Mike Nash series, which shows no signs of flagging or running out of exciting and complex murder investigations. If anything, the author seems to be enjoying himself.

Is Craig French a brutal killer who robs his victims and then slits their throats? Cumbrian police believe so, having found evidence to support their arrest and conviction. But Craig had a serious fall trying to escape arrest and spent weeks in a coma. Lucky to survive, he struggled with amnesia and was unable to put up any defence.

Now his memory’s back and he’s escaped from prison, determined to prove he’s not a killer. Using his local knowledge to avoid detection, he survives, unaware that more killings have been committed.

Mike Nash, charged with finding French, isn’t convinced that the original investigation and conviction was sound, but there’s no easy way to confirm this. As he digs deeper and the pieces are slotted into place, the investigation becomes more complicated than he could have imagined.

It all builds to another thrilling investigation. The teamwork and camaraderie, dark humour and imaginative story threads gave me so much to savour in what has become one of my favourite crime series.

Description

A violent murderer has escaped from Felling Prison.

Craig French slit the throats of a husband and wife and stole the luxury watches from their safe. But not before slicing the letter F into their foreheads.

Now he’s on the loose.

But French’s mother says that he wasn’t fit to stand trial — he had amnesia and couldn’t even recognize his own mum.

Mike Nash is not convinced either. But he is certain of one thing: there’s a dangerous killer out there somewhere. And whoever it is must be stopped.

Cut Throat by Bill Kitson

The Corfe Castle Murders by Rachel McLean

15th May 2022.

An archaeology assistant is murdered at a dig at Corfe Castle, Dorset. The three people she shared a house with become suspects in Lesley Clarke’s first investigation since leaving Birmingham. Immediately, she clashes with the traditional, DS Dennis Frampton. Then there’s the bomb attack which haunts Lesley and led to her transfer, problems back at home, and a second murder that follows the first.

All the ingredients are there for a classic police procedural, pitting savvy city cop against a more conservative, less experienced local team. The investigation follows a familiar path, raising questions about the main suspects as secrets are uncovered and alibis dispelled. There’s good support from Gail, an outspoken crime scene investigator and the pace picks up nicely as the detectives begin to piece together motives and means.

Description

After being injured in a bomb attack, Lesley is presented with a choice – early retirement, or a period of respite in a calmer location.

But things don’t stay calm for long.

Before she’s even started her new job, Lesley is dragged into investigating a murder at one of England’s most iconic landmarks, the imposing Corfe Castle.

Lesley must hit the ground running. Can she get along with her new partner DS Dennis Frampton, a traditionalist who doesn’t appreciate her style? How will she navigate the politics of a smaller force where she’s a bigger, and less welcome, fish? And most importantly, can she solve the murder before the killer strikes again?

The Corfe Castle Murders is a compelling, character-driven mystery perfect for fans of Ann Cleeves, LJ Ross and Elly Griffiths.

The Corfe Castle Murders by Rachel Mclean

Hillary’s Back by Faith Martin

4th May 2022.

In the 18th book of a consistently entertaining and enjoyable crime series, Hillary’s life has changed. She’s mourning the death of her partner and trying to break in a new recruit to the cold case team. When she’s presented with the unsolved murder of a universally disliked man, she knows she’s up against it.

But Hillary’s made of stern stuff and soon sets about solving the case in her usual, inimitable way.

Without the characters and fascinating backstories of old, it takes a little time to get into the new characters as they settle into their roles. But these are minor niggles in an otherwise entertaining murder investigation.

Description

Eighteen months after Hillary suffered a personal tragedy, she is throwing herself into her work to try to get over it.

Former soldier Gareth Proctor joins her team and finds himself quickly growing to enjoy his new environment.

The first cold case he works on is the murder of Andrew Feeley.

In 2012, this twenty-one-year-old was found dead in the woods near his home, killed by a single stab wound to the chest from his own knife.

Andrew was extremely unpopular. He was a drug dealer, pimp and bully. His stepdad was one of the main suspects, as they hated each other and often came to blows. Other suspects include Toby Truman and his mother Debbie. Andrew was responsible for getting Toby hooked on drugs.

Given Andrew’s criminal background, his murder is thought to be drug-related.

But Hillary’s not buying it — she knows it’s personal. And a search of the Feeleys’ garden turns up some chilling evidence.

Hillary's Back by Faith martin