Find Them Dead by Peter James

9th August 2020.   5 stars.

Roy Grace takes something of a back seat as the story focuses on the trial of a ruthless drugs baron who will do anything to escape justice. All he needs to do is lean on a couple of jurors to ensure the jury returns a not guilty verdict.

Meanwhile, back from an exciting six months with the Metropolitan Police, Grace resumes his battle with his nemesis and boss, Cassien Pewe. The brother of a key witness in the trial is brutally murdered and Pewe wants results.

The Crown Court proceedings dominate much of the story, but they’re exciting, tense and delivered with the level of detail I’ve come to expect from the author. I really felt for Meg Magellan, singled out to be the juror that will persuade the others to deliver a not guilty verdict, even though she believes he’s guilty on all counts. With threats to kill her daughter weighing on her mind, the tension and danger is palpable as she wrestles with her conscience and fears.

Then, just when you think it’s all over, the author throws in another of his masterful double twists to surprise and delight you. It made up for the moment where I had to suspend my disbelief during one scene.

While this is classic Peter James with his eye for detail, accuracy and a convoluted plot, he’s not afraid to try something a little different and tackle another area of the justice system.

I thoroughly enjoyed Find Them Dead and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys police procedurals.

Description

Ending his secondment to London’s Met Police, Roy Grace gets a tip-off about a county lines drugs mastermind operating out of Brighton. On his first day back in his old job in Sussex, he is called to a seemingly senseless murder.

Separately, Meg Magellan finally has her life back together, five years after the car crash that killed her husband and their son. Her daughter, Laura, now 18, is on her gap year travelling in South America with a friend, and Meg misses her badly. Laura is all she has in the world.

In between jobs, Meg receives a summons for jury service. She’s excited – it might be interesting and will help distract her from constantly worrying about Laura. But when she is selected for the trial of a major Brighton drugs overlord, everything changes.

Gradually, Grace’s investigation draws him increasingly into the sinister sphere of influence of the drug dealer on trial. A man utterly ruthless and evil, prepared to order the death of anyone it takes to enable him to walk free.

Just a few days into jury service, Meg arrives home to find a photograph of Laura, in Ecuador, lying on her kitchen table. Then her phone rings.

A sinister, threatening stranger is on the line. He tells her that if she ever wants to see Laura alive again, it is very simple. At the end of the trial, all she has to do is make sure the jury says just two words . . . Not guilty.

Find Them Dead by Peter James

I Could Be You by Sheila Bugler

4th August 2020.   4 stars.

A dead woman lies at the side of the road and her child is missing. Former journalist, Dee Doran, who has problems of her own, is shaken to the core by the death of her friend, Katie. But this is only the beginning of her troubles as she launches her own investigation alongside the local police.

Like any psychological thriller, there are secrets to unravel. The story alternates between Dee and Katie, past and present, to fill in the missing details, little by little. This means the pace is gentle to start with, but the suspense builds and the pace quickens to an exciting climax as the truth emerges.

Or is it the truth?

That’s the question at the heart of this story and it’s in doubt for most of this well-written novel. While I didn’t take to Dee immediately, her tenacity and friendship to Katie drove her over the hurdles and disappointments she encountered. Meanwhile, Katie’s life before she met Dee is beautifully developed and revealed, creating tension, conflict and a few surprises.

I became more engrossed as the story went on, enjoying the setting and the character development. I would recommend this novel to anyone who likes psychological thrillers and murder mysteries as there are elements of both, providing an entertaining and satisfying read.

Description

A life has been taken. But whose life is it?

On a stifling hot day, former journalist Dee Doran finds the crumpled body of her friend at the roadside. Katie and her little boy, Jake, have been a light in Dee’s otherwise desolate life – now a woman is dead and a child is missing.

Katie has been keeping secrets for a long time. Years earlier, she fell for the wrong person. But he was in love with someone else; who he couldn’t have but couldn’t keep away from. When jealousy and desire spilled over into murder Katie hid the truth, and has been pretending ever since.

As Dee assists the police with their enquiries she’s compelled to investigate too. She realises Katie wasn’t who she claimed to be. Lies are catching up. Stories are unravelling. Revenge is demanded and someone must pay the price. The question is: who?

I Could Be You

Bad to the Bone by Tony J Forder

16th July 2020.      4 stars.

The skeletal remains of a woman are found in a shallow grave in a wood in this first book featuring DI Bliss and DS Chandler. It soon becomes apparent that the duo is dealing with a cold case that offers few clues until the victim’s identity is uncovered.

Then the deaths start. Former police officers, who investigated a complaint of a hit and run many years earlier, start to die. It soon becomes clear that someone doesn’t want Bliss to uncover the truth about the victim’s death, or why she was reburied recently.

I thoroughly enjoyed Bad to the Bones, taking to Bliss and Chandler from the opening pages. Their friendship and loyalty is at the core of the investigation, which takes a sinister turn as a conspiracy to thwart their efforts takes shape. With the help of DS Dunne, they set out to find the officer behind the conspiracy, knowing it could mean the end of their careers if they get it wrong. Or their lives.

Intense and twisting, the plot becomes convoluted as the exciting climax approaches. Bliss is an intensely damaged officer, with more traumas and secrets than you usually find in this kind of police procedural. The angst ridden, traumatised cop has become something of a cliché in recent years, and the problems and troubles Bliss experienced occasionally felt a little overdone, slowing the story.

Though flawed and prone to mistakes, his determination, sense of justice and refusal to be cowed by everything life throws at him won me over.

His boss, Superintendent Sykes, felt a little two-dimensional with his stereotyped, by-the-book attitude and barely veiled dislike of Bliss. The friction between them added conflict and an additional threat, but never felt realistic to me, especially in their confrontational scenes.

But these were minor issues with an otherwise absorbing and engaging story that had me turning the pages at pace to reach the climax. I’m looking forward to reading the second book in the series and would recommend this story to anyone who enjoys well-written and thoughtful police procedural crime fiction.

Description

A skeletal body is unearthed in a wooded area of Peterborough, Cambridgeshire. DI James Bliss, together with DC Penny Chandler, investigate the case and discover that the young, female victim had been relocated from its original burial site.

A witness is convinced that a young female was struck by a vehicle back in the summer of 1990, and that police attended the scene. However, no record exists of either the accident or the reported victim. As the case develops, two retired police officers are murdered. The two are linked with others who were on duty at the time a road accident was reported.

As Bliss and Chandler delve deeper into the investigation, they start to question whether senior officers may have been involved in the murder of the young women who was buried in the woods.

As each link in the chain is put under duress, so is Bliss who clashes with superiors and the media.

When his team receives targeted warnings, Bliss will need to decide whether to drop the case or to pursue those responsible.

Will Bliss walk away in order to keep his career intact or will he fight no matter what the cost?

And is it possible the killer is much closer than they imagined?

Bad to the Bone

Little Boy Blue by MJ Alridge

16th July 2020. 3 stars.

This is the fifth book in the series, but the first I’ve read by the author. I know it’s usually better to start at the beginning to get to know the characters fully, but I saw this book in the library, read the blurb and thought I would give it a try.

This police procedural novel, which can be read as a standalone, is driven by the relentless and restless DI Helen Grace, who has one hell of a dark history and backstory. To say she’s unconventional would be an understatement. She’s plunged into a murder where she knows the victim and shares a past with him. Like all mavericks, she decides to conceal this from her superiors. When another victim is found, again with links to DI Grace, her life and dark secrets begin to unravel.

With short chapters, baited with hooks at the end, the story has pace and urgency. The clever plotting provides twists, turns and surprises along the way as DI Grace sinks deeper into duplicity and despair. There’s plenty of conflict, the stakes are about as high as you can get, and the story has the feel of a thriller.

Unfortunately, Helen Grace’s behaviour felt unrealistic and far-fetched to me. Both she and the story lacked soul, maybe because of the intensity and dark nature of the subject matter. While definitely larger than life and original, Grace never felt like a character I could warm too.

And, just when I thought things couldn’t get any worse for her, the story finished. Grace was up to her neck in it, having sunk about as low as she could get and the book finished. Bang – just like that. No explanation. No resolution.

I’m not a fan of this approach, leaving readers to wait for the next book in a series to find out what happened.

Fans who have grown to like the characters and the author’s writing may not mind this at all.

Description

There are some fates worse than death . . .

Called to a Southampton nightclub, Detective Inspector Helen Grace cuts the duct tape from the asphyxiated victim and discovers she knows him.

A man from the double life she has concealed from her superiors, Helen is determined to find his murderer – while keeping their relationship hidden at all costs.

When a new victim is found, Helen works around the clock to stop her life unravelling. She’ll do anything to solve this case – but dare she reveal her own darkest secrets and lose everything?

And would even that be enough to stop this killer?

Little Boy Blue

Innocent Lies by Chris Collett

16th July 2020.   4 stars.

I thoroughly enjoyed Deadly Lies, the first DI Mariner story. (Check out my review here.) I looked forward to reading this second outing, which dealt with the disappearance of Yasmin and Ricky, two teenagers from different ends of the social spectrum with nothing in common. Parental pressure ensured Yasmin’s case took precedence, which rankled with Mariner.

Progress was slow and frustrating for the detective with a lot of local politics and peer pressure hampering the investigation. It took some time for the investigation to gain any momentum with the discovery of a body. From here, the pace quickened with the discovery of another body and secrets that revealed another side to the victim, adding more doubt and suspicion into the mix.

Though well-written, with a lot of detail and emphasis on the relationship between the police and Yasmin’s family, the slow pace of the first half of the story left me feeling frustrated. Mariner’s relationship with Anna was well-handled and interesting until he had an uncharacteristic lapse in behaviour that I found hard to believe.

Neither issue spoiled my overall enjoyment of a story that’s well-grounded and populated with interesting characters, relationships and conflicts.

Description

Two teenagers go missing on the same day. Just a coincidence?

They are from very different backgrounds: Yasmin is the talented, grammar-school-educated daughter of devout Muslim professionals. Ricky disappears after storming out of his council house after an argument with his mum’s latest boyfriend.

DI Mariner knows Ricky’s mother from his days in uniform. He is furious when his superiors take him off Ricky’s case and reassign him to the more politically sensitive investigation. The press — and his bosses — are convinced that Yasmin’s disappearance is a racially motivated abduction. Her family have been the target of a far right group.

But Mariner soon discovers that Yasmin is far from the innocent victim her parents think she is. Can he get to the bottom of a perplexing case where no one is what they seem?

Innocent Lies

An interview with author, Sheila Bugler

To help celebrate the launch of When the Dead Speak, I’m delighted to welcome fellow Eastbourne author, Sheila Bugler, to Robservations. While we met several years ago at a book festival, and a few times since, I wanted to find out more.

So Sheila, please tell me a little about yourself and your writing.

I’m an Irish crime writer, living in Eastbourne. So far, I’ve published five novels – three books in my Ellen Kelly crime series, and two in my Eastbourne Murder Mysteries series. I am a huge fan of crime fiction and read as many crime novels as I can get my hands on. I write reviews for Crimesquad.com which means I get to read a lot of books before their publication date – my dream job!

When did you first realise you wanted to be an author?

Like most authors, I always wanted to write. In my case, I didn’t have the confidence when I was younger. It was only after my second child was born that I realised if I didn’t start writing, it might never happen. So I started writing and never looked back.

Early on in my writing career, I was lucky to win a year’s mentoring with crime fiction author Martyn Waites. It was a great experience and gave me the confidence I needed to believe I really could do this.

Describe the first piece you wrote and what it meant to you?

The first complete novel I wrote was a twisty psychological thriller called Ready to Fall. It never got published but was good enough to get me an agent. I still love that book, although I doubt it will ever be published because it still needs a lot of work and, at the moment, I don’t have the time to do that.

What do you most enjoy about being an author?

Being able to write books that get published and that people enjoy reading. I also love doing live author events and meeting readers. It’s a real buzz and something I’ve missed a lot during lockdown.

What do you least enjoy about being an author?

It’s such hard work! The biggest problem for me is finding the time to do it properly. I have a ‘day job’ and childcare responsibilities so I have to squeeze in my writing time when I can. It’s a constant challenge. I long for the day I’ll be earning enough money from writing to be able to focus on it full time.

What type of characters do you love and hate to write? Why?

For me, characters always come before plot. I love writing about all sorts of characters and really don’t think I have a favourite or least favourite ‘type’.

How has studying Psychology helped with your writing and the creation/understanding of characters?

The part of me that was drawn to studying Psychology is the same part of me that’s drawn to writing about people. I am fascinated by people – their motivations and interests, their likes and dislikes, the experiences that have shaped them, the dark secrets that lurk beneath the public personas…. I love all of it.

You travelled extensively before settling. How did the travelling and experiences you had influence you as an author and your writing?

It taught me that no matter where you go, people are still people. We all have needs and desires, we all love and hate and grieve. We eat, we sleep, we work and we build relationships with those around us. We are united by our similarities, not divided by our differences.

I believe you’re a creative writing tutor for the Writers Bureau. How did you become involved in this and what does it give you?

I was asked to become a writing tutor a few years ago. I love teaching and helping aspiring writers. The single biggest thing it gives me is the constant reminder of how important it is to learn the ‘nuts and bolts’ of writing.

Too many times, I see writers who want to be a writer but aren’t willing to put the time in to learn how to do it properly. Writing is hard work. It takes time and commitment to becoming a good writer.

What’s been the biggest influence on your writing so far?

All the other incredible writers I’ve ever read. I’m a huge fan of crime fiction and an avid reader. Reading other crime writers reminds me how tough the competition is!

How would you describe your books to someone who has never read one before?

Crime fiction with strong female protagonists and plots with lots of twists and turns.

What’s the best compliment you’ve received about your books?

My last book, I Could Be You, was compared to a Harlan Coben novel. This was a huge compliment, as he’s the reason I started to write crime fiction.

Do you have any favourite authors? What is it about them or their work that appeals to you?

Too many! Megan Abbott and Gillian Flynn are two of my favourite crime writers. I love their writing because their novels explore the darker sides of their female characters.

If you could invite four guests (fictional or real, alive or dead) for dinner, who would you choose and why?

Johnny Cash – because he was a legend.
Leonard Cohen – for the same reason.
Maya Angelou – for her humanity, wit and intelligence.
My friend Alex – because she’s cool, clever and funny and the other three guests would adore her!

Please tell me about your latest project/plans for the future.

Last summer, I signed a four-book deal with a new publisher. I’m contracted to write a book every six months so I’m very busy!

The second book in my Eastbourne Murder Mystery series is out on 9 July. After that, I’m writing a stand-alone psychological thriller which will be published at the end of this year.

Thank you, Sheila, and good luck with When the Dead Speak. I’ll be reading I Could be You, the first Eastbourne Murder Mystery, in the next few weeks.

When the Dead Speak (Eastbourne Murder Mystery #2)

When the dead speak

Secrets can be fatal. But so can the truth.

When the murdered body of Lauren Shaw is discovered laid out on the altar of St Mary the Virgin church in Eastbourne it sends a chill to the core of those who have lived in the area for a long time. They remember another woman, also young and pretty, whose slain corpse was placed in the same spot 60 years ago.

Dee Doran is as intrigued as the rest but focused on her investigation of the whereabouts of a missing person from the Polish community. The police weren’t interested but Dee’s journalistic instincts tell her something is amiss.

But as she starts asking questions Dee finds the answers all point to the same conclusion – someone is keeping secrets and they will do whatever it takes to keep them safe.

When the Dead Speak is available on Amazon.

You can find out more about Sheila Bugler at

Facebook author page: https://www.facebook.com/Sheila-Bugler-author-page-1405242063026200/

Twitter: @sheilab10

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/sheilabsussex/

Website: www.sheilabugler.co.uk

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

An interview with author Ross Greenwood

I’m delighted to welcome crime fiction author Ross Greenwood to my Robservations blog. Having recently read and enjoyed The Snow Killer, I offered Ross the chance to tell me a little more about himself and his writing.

Please tell me a little about yourself and your writing.

Hi, I’m 46 and from Peterborough. I’ve been writing since 2015 and my eighth book is out in November.

When did you first realise you wanted to be an author?

I’ve always wanted to write a book, but suspected it would just be one. It’s snowballed since then, along a rather long, gentle slope with many hillocks as opposed to down a mountain!

Describe the first piece you wrote and what it meant to you?

Lazy Blood was my first and as with most people, it bubbled away in my mind for years, five in my case, before I wrote it. It was a joy to eventually hold.

What do you most enjoy about being an author?

The screaming groupies, fast cars and pots of cash.

What do you least enjoy about being an author?

I find it hard to turn off, especially mid book. My wife says i go ‘absent’, sometimes for weeks!

What type of characters do you love and hate to write? Why?

I like writing them all! If they don’t interest you, probably won’t interest the reader either!

I understand you worked as a prison officer for a number of years. How has this influenced your writing and novels?

Hugely. I was very wrong about what prison is really like. It’s a great place to set stories!

What’s been the biggest influence on your writing so far?

Definitely the prison. I met thousands of people over the four years, both men and women as Peterborough is a dual prison. Lot of writing fodder there! Lot of madness and a lot of sadness.

What inspired you to write the DI Barton series?

I just had (what I thought to be 🙂 ) a great idea to write a book about someone who killed when it snowed. A detective novel seemed the best way to exploit it!

How would you describe your books to someone who has never read one before?

Serious with a sense of humour. A friend calls my Dark Lives books The Prison Misery series.

What’s the best compliment you’ve received about your books?

An eighty year old got in touch after reading Fifty Years of Fear and said he never expected to be surprised at his age, and thanked me for opening his eyes.

Do you have any favourite authors? What is it about them or their work that appeals to you?

I’m a huge reader, but i really like variety, so I flitter between authors like a horny butterfly! I read quite a few of Bloodhound Book’s authors, both current and past for my crime fix, and I buy loads of books in the top 100 on kindle when they’re 99p.

If you could invite four guests (fictional or real, alive or dead) for dinner, who would you choose and why?

Kelly Brook, JFK, MLK, and Nelson Mandela. Last three are sadly dead, but I’m sure me and Kelly will get on.

Please tell me about your latest project/plans for the future.

The Ice Killer is out in November. I always planned it to be a trilogy, but Barton has proven popular, so I will probably do at least one more if the demand is there, but I’m going to do a prison one next, with elements that have never been written about before… Duh Duh Durrrrr…

The latest release from Ross is the second in the DI Barton series.

‘Repent in this life, rejoice in the next…’

A murder made to look like suicide. Another that appears an accident. DI Barton investigates the tragedies that have shattered a family’s lives, but without obvious leads the case goes nowhere. Then, when the remains of a body are found, everything points to one suspect.

Barton and his team move quickly, and once the killer is behind bars, they can all breathe a sigh of relief. But death still lurks in the shadows, and no one’s soul is safe. Not even those of the detectives…

How do you stop a killer that believes life is a rehearsal for eternity, and their future is worth more than your own…?

You can find Ross Greenwood at

Twitter – @greenwoodross

https://www.facebook.com/RossGreenwoodAuthor