Murder Plot by Kevin McCarthy

24th September 2020.   3.5 stars.

I found this entertaining cosy mystery buried among the books on my Kindle. The story’s set in 1975. GP, Lance Elliott, becomes involved in a murder investigation when members of the nearby allotment start dying in suspicious circumstances. Being a local GP, most of the victims and suspects are known to him, though this doesn’t seem to help him much as he grapples with the investigation.

The story is told from Lance’s viewpoint in a gentle, humorous way as if he constantly doubts what’s happening to him. While he’s an almost reluctant investigator, his father, a retired GP, has no self-doubts, throwing himself into the fray with gusto. The scenes between the two of them are among the  most amusing and memorable in the story.

With the help of the local police and the usual red herrings and secrets, the story almost strolls along until the final stages when the momentum builds to an exciting climax and reveal.

If you enjoy a gentle cosy mystery with a good puzzle at its heart, and no bad language or unnecessary violence, then this story is worth a look.

Description

It’s 1975, Lord Lucan has been named as the murderer of Sandra Rivett, and in a quietly anonymous London suburb, it seems that murder is most certainly in the air…

Retired hard-man Charlie Daniels dies on his allotment. Verdict: death by natural causes. But Dr Lance Elliot isn’t so sure – especially when more local residents start dying!

With the caustic Inspector Masson looking over his shoulder, he is soon uncovering the murky secrets of the Thornton Heath Horticulture and Allotment Association in his hunt for the killer. And even Lance himself will discover that the past can never stay buried forever…

Murder Plot by Kevin McCarthy

The Murder at the Vicarage by Agatha Christie

15th September 2020.   5 stars.

This is the first novel to feature Miss Marple. In her first appearance, she’s described as a bit of a busybody, who’s always right in her assessment of any situation. The vicar, who relates the story, isn’t too kind in his opinion of her, but he slowly grows to realise she sees what most people miss.

While some of the attitudes are of their time in the 1930s, the story is written in a direct style that feels fresh and perfectly at home in today’s world. As you’d expect from the author, the plot is complex and clever, with plenty of suspects and red herrings to keep you guessing. The touches of humour lighten the story where needed as the cunning plot is slowly unravelled.

The characterisation is first rate, especially Inspector Slack, who’s like a rude, overbearing whirlwind, dismissive of Miss Marple in the first instance. Her knowledge and understanding of people is drawn from parallels within the village of St Mary Mead. Naturally Slack doesn’t have the time or patience to listen to the tales she relates to make her points.

While Miss Marple plays only a modest role, her short, incisive appearances reveal the determined and uncompromising sleuth she will become.

If you’ve never read Agatha Christie or Miss Marple, this is the perfect introduction and a delight from start to finish.

Description

‘Anyone who murdered Colonel Protheroe,’ declared the parson, brandishing a carving knife above a joint of roast beef, ‘would be doing the world at large a service!’

It was a careless remark for a man of the cloth. And one which was to come back and haunt the clergyman just a few hours later. From seven potential murderers, Miss Marple must seek out the suspect who has both motive and opportunity.

The Murder at the Vicarage

The Gilded Shroud by Elizabeth Bailey

30th August 2020.   4 stars.

It’s no secret that I prefer private detectives and sleuths to police procedural crime fiction. It’s much more challenging for a sleuth to solve a murder, especially when the killing is in 1789 and you’re a woman.

But that’s exactly what Ottilia Draycott must do when a marchioness is found murdered in her bed. It doesn’t help when the marchioness’s husband, Lord Polbrook, fled the house during the night. His mother Sybilla steps into the household to restore calm with her companion, Ottilia.

From the moment Ottilia sets foot in the house, sparks start to fly. Direct, determined and masterful at dealing with people under duress, she makes an immediate impression. She’s soon delving into the secrets and suspicions upstairs and downstairs, following a twisting trail, strewn with the usual deceptions and lies. While she ferrets away inside the house, rumours and accusations are rife outside as news spreads.

I thoroughly enjoyed the story, driven at a good pace by Ottilia’s superlative performance and humour. The characters are engaging and believable. The plot has enough twists and turns for mystery lovers, and there’s an undercurrent of romance to add a little spice to the story.

I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys historical murder mysteries and a memorable sleuth.

Description

1789, London

When Emily Fanshawe, Marchioness of Polbrook, is found strangled in her bedchamber, suspicion immediately falls on those residing in the grand house in Hanover Square.

Emily’s husband – Randal Fanshawe, Lord Polbrook – fled in the night and is chief suspect – much to the dismay of his family.

Ottilia Draycott is brought in as the new lady’s companion to Sybilla, Dowager Marchioness and soon finds herself assisting younger son, Lord Francis Fanshawe in his investigations.

Can Ottilia help clear the family name? Does the killer still reside in the house?

Or could there be more to the mystery than meets the eye?

The Gilded Shroud by Elizabeth Bailey

No Obvious Cause by Valerie Keogh

18th August 2020.    4 stars.

This is the second book in the series, building on the characters and relationships in the first, No Simple Death, which I reviewed here.

When a man with no obvious enemies is poisoned by an imported vegetable that can kill if not properly prepared, Sergeant West’s murder investigation soon grinds to a halt. He’s also thrown out of his normal rhythm by the return of Edel Johnson, who featured in the first story. Despite his feelings for her, he manages to alienate and aggravate her.

With a man down and crime on the increase in Dublin, he struggles to keep his team motivated and on track to solve the murder. But once the mystery is unlocked, there’s a race against time in the exciting climax.

I thoroughly enjoyed my second outing with West and his sidekick, Andrews, who make a great team with plenty of banter and humour. You get to know more about them as they struggle to make sense of something that makes no sense. The romantic attraction between West and Edel adds another dimension to this well-paced and written crime story, which sits at the cosy end of the spectrum.

I’m not a big fan of violent and gritty crime fiction as I want to be entertained by engaging characters and bamboozled by a good plot. If that’s how you like your crime fiction, I would recommend this book and series.

Description

A murder followed by a series of random, motiveless crimes leave Detective Garda Sergeant Mike West and his team puzzled.

When Edel Johnson arrives at the scene of a crime Mike is taken aback, more so when he discovers she is now working with a victim support group. He has feelings for her, but he is the garda who investigated her husband’s murder, and their relationship is complicated.

With crime in Dublin’s suburbs at an all-time high, and his superiors breathing down his neck, West doesn’t need the distraction.  But someone wants Edel out of the way, and it’s up to West to find out who…

No Obvious Cause

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

The Jansson Tapes by Colin Garrow.

17th June 2020.   5 stars.

With more than a gentle nod to The Rockford Files and The 39 Steps, Colin Garrow’s third offering in the Terry Bell series is the most exciting yet. Filled with his trademark humour, the wisecracking duo of Terry and Carol set off in pursuit of some missing reel-to-reel tapes, unaware of the danger they’re facing.

From the moment the book starts to its thrilling climax, the action is as non-stop as the Geordie banter. Populated with some terrific characters, Terry Bell somehow manages to extricate himself from some serious situations and keep himself one step ahead of the bad guys as the complex story twists and turns from one crisis to the next.

If you like your crime at the entertaining end of the spectrum, driven by distinctive characters, a plot you wouldn’t find in a formula manual, and a liberal injection of humour, this is a series you should seek out. While each book can be read as a standalone, like all series, you’ll get more from the books if you read them in order.

This is my favourite of the three books so far. The author’s enjoyment leaps out from every page as he reveals some of the inspiration behind his writing and Terry Bell’s character. I’m tempted to suggest there’s more than a passing nod to Raymond Chandler in some of the descriptive narrative, which is another bonus.

If you like to be entertained and enjoy a lot of fun and excitement alongside the thrills, then look no further than the Terry Bell series.

Description

When a familiar leggy blonde slides onto the back seat of his cab with the offer of work, taxi-driver and amateur sleuth Terry Bell isn’t keen. However, compared to the tedium of driving a cab all day, the lure of another mystery is too strong to resist, and Terry agrees to help. Tracking down a missing writer and his tape recorder sounds simple enough, but following the clues to a remote village, the case takes a dangerous turn when the man turns up dead. After the police take over, Terry and his sidekick Carol return home to find their flat ransacked—and that’s not the only surprise. Caught between a suspicious detective inspector and the machinations of a mysterious woman, can the wily investigator unravel the mystery before the killer strikes again?

In this murder/mystery series set on England’s northeast coast, The Jansson Tapes is book #3 in the Terry Bell Mystery series.

The Jansson Tapes by Colin Garrow

Succession by BL Faulkner

12th June 2020.  5 stars.

The 11th outing with the Serial Murder Squad is another fast paced investigation that dips into the murky world of gangland crime.

When members of South London’s Dawn family are killed, it looks like a takeover by a rival gang is on the cards. When the case is passed to DCI Palmer and his team, it soon becomes clear that there’s more to these murders than a simple turf war. As the body count rises, the investigation twists and turns, with the squad always a step off the pace, but closing in fast.

If you’ve read the previous books in the series, you’ll be familiar with the characters and the author’s no frills writing style, fast pace and great characterisation, spiced with some lovely humorous touches and a realism that increases your enjoyment.

If you haven’t read any of the previous outings for the Serial Murder Squad, you can still enjoy this book, but I would urge you to read the others. You’re guaranteed some exciting stories, quality crime writing and a great deal of pleasure.

Highly recommended.

 

Description

When the boss of South London’s major organised crime firm James Dawn is assassinated along with his patriarchal father suspicion falls on the West End firm trying to expand their empire. But there are other players in the game, Stanley Dawn the uncle who holds a grudge against James, is he teaming up with the West End boss Jack Dooley in a takeover play? Then there’s Eve Dawn, James’s wife, who may be behind the scenes pulling the strings and last but not least Johnny Robinson who runs the North London firm, he’s got an interest but has he got the muscle? The case is dropped onto DCS Palmer’s desk as the Met’s Organised Crime Department is overstretched. Things begin to happen and the body count rises, all the time it seems Eve Dawn is hovering somewhere in the background but nothing seems to stick to her. Why is she bringing in a major money launderer from Panama? Why is she taking a day trip to Cyprus? What has the Catholic Church got to do with drug smuggling. As you would expect from a DCS Palmer novel the pace never lets up and the twists and turns keep the reader glued to it to the very last page.

Succession by BL Faulkner

Borderlands by LJ Ross

11th June 2020.  3.5 stars.

You’re always guaranteed and entertaining and enjoyable crime story from LJ Ross and the fourteenth books in the DCI Ryan series is no exception. This time Ryan and his team are split across two separate investigations.

The first is a malevolent serial killer who likes to imprison his prey before releasing and hunting them down in a remote part of the Northumbria National Park. The second investigation concerns a terrorist cell intent of disruption and destruction in pursuit of their goals.

While all the author’s hallmarks are here – the humour and banter between Ryan and Phillips, the close relationships between team members, and the carefully crafted storylines – splitting the team diluted the suspense and excitement. Both investigations were carried out with cool efficiency and had no real obstacles or complications to crank up the tension.

The book was a quick read and seemed shorter than usual, maybe due to the abrupt ending, which caught me off guard. That said, it remains a well-written and entertaining read that evoked a range of emotions and kept me turning the pages.

Description

After uncovering a fresh wave of corruption within the ranks of Northumbria CID, Detective Chief Inspector Ryan was looking forward to an uneventful summer. But, when a young woman is shot dead on the remote army ranges of the Northumberland National Park, Ryan is called in to investigate.

Meanwhile, violent crimes are being committed across sites of historic importance in the North East, the perpetrator leaving only a graffitied symbol as their calling card. As the body count rises, Ryan and his team must unravel the mystery behind its meaning – before it’s too late…

Borderlands by LJ Ross