Reviews from the No Remorse blog tour

Check out the reviews and guest posts from the No Remorse blog tour, 7th to 18th May, 2018.

Dear BBC, please make these into a top quality drama – Booksaremycwtches

This book is a brilliant read – Black Books Blog

A light hearted and entertaining mystery with deaths and danger aplenty –  My Reading Corner

Guest post on LJ Ross, Author Introductions

An engrossing puzzle with some intriguing twists and a real sense of danger – Hair Past a Freckle

Enough intrigue to keep you hooked from start to finishNovel Deelights.

The characters were really great – Donnasbookblog

Kept me guessing until the endKatiesbookcavereviews

Guest post at Love Books Group

A great sense of tension, suspense and drama. Highly Recommended – Me and My Books

An addictive read which you will find hard to put downA Lover of Books.

This one is the best so farIgnite Books.

A strong plotted book that kept me turning those pages – Orchard Book Club

The Moor by LJ Ross

6th August 2019.  5 stars.

LJ Ross has delivered another terrific and highly entertaining episode in the DCI Ryan series. This time it’s a cold case investigation, triggered by the memories of a 10 year old girl, Samantha, who’s the daughter of the ringmaster of the circus that’s just pulled into town.

Samantha turns out to be a delightful character and rather a handful as the team battles social services, the closed community of the circus, and their own emotions as they investigate the murder of her mother.

It’s a fast-paced tale where the layers of silence are peeled back to reveal secrets, animosities and motives for murder. As Ryan moves closer to the truth, the stakes increase and the risk to Samantha grows, leading to a thrilling finale and some emotionally charged moments.

The Moor has everything you could wish for in a crime story – lovable characters you root for, a twisting plot with enough suspects to keep you guessing, and a humanity that underpins the main characters and the job they do.

With some unfinished business from a parallel investigation, I’m looking forward to where the next story will take one of my favourite crime teams.

Highly recommended and one of the best crime series I’ve had the pleasure to read.

Description

The circus is in town…

When a ten-year-old girl turns up on DCI Ryan’s doorstep to tell him she’s witnessed a murder, he has no idea he’s about to step into his most spellbinding case yet. The circus has rolled into Newcastle upon Tyne, bringing with it a troupe of daring acrobats, magicians, jugglers—and one of them is a killer.

Ryan and his team must break through their closed ranks to uncover a secret which has lain buried for eight years, before the killer strikes again – this time, to silence the only living witness…

Murder and mystery are peppered with romance and humour in this fast-paced crime whodunnit set amidst the spectacular Northumbrian landscape.

The Moor

Longstone by LJ Ross

22nd April 2019 – 4 stars.

I’m glad the team were back in Northumbria for this murder investigation involving a Viking shipwreck that costs Iain Tucker his life.

In steps DCI Ryan to investigate and uncover the secrets and lies in the close-knit community of Seahouses. While he’s hardly had time to acquaint himself with events, there’s another murder and it’s time to bring in his team.

While the story started slowly, focusing on some family relationships and the main characters in the village, it picked up pace to finish with a well-described and exciting climax on the sea. The information and detail concerning shipwrecks and their exploration was interesting and added realism and credibility to the unusual but compelling plot.

There seemed to be a lot more banter and humour between the main characters, which I found a little distracting at times, but otherwise an entertaining and enjoyable read.

Description

Between the devil and the deep blue sea…

Viking treasure is discovered beneath the icy waters of the North Sea and local historian Doctor Anna Taylor is called in to help catalogue the most exciting hoard in living memory. But when a shipwreck diver washes up dead, she’s soon out of her depth. Luckily, she knows just the person to call…

When DCI Ryan arrives at the picturesque fishing town of Seahouses, he’s faced with an impenetrable wall of secrets and lies. As he juggles marine archaeology and the cutthroat world of shipwreck diving, another murder blows the case wide open. To uncover the truth, Ryan must delve deeper into the hearts of those around him to find what lies beneath…

Longstone

Are your novels cosy mysteries?

When a reader first asked me this question, images of Miss Marple and tearooms in quaint country villages sprang into my head.

That’s okay, I thought, because I love Miss Marple and Agatha Christie. They’re one of the reasons I write traditional whodunit mysteries. When bestselling author, Tamara McKinley suggested that Agatha Christie fans would love my first novel, No Accident, I was delighted.

But I never envisaged the Kent Fisher mysteries as cosy. They deal with modern, serious issues that don’t feel cosy.

To settle any doubt, I turned to Google.

A quick check suggested cosies were crime fiction in which sex and violence are downplayed or treated humorously, and the crime and detection take place in small, socially intimate communities. The person solving the crime is an amateur, usually but not exclusively a woman, with contacts in the police or other law enforcement agencies.

Well, that got me thinking. There’s no graphic sex in the Kent Fisher mysteries because I believe a reader’s imagination can do a much better job. Any violence is usually confrontational and targeted at Kent to stop him solving a case. The communities are not socially intimate, though most of the action takes place in the small towns and villages of the South Downs. Kent’s an amateur detective, sure, but as an environmental health officer, he’s a law enforcer and often works with the police, giving him certain detection skills.

His best friend is a retired Scenes of Crime Officer.

On balance, it looks like my novels fall into the cosy category.

As Kinsey Millhone, Morse and Miss Marple inspired and influenced me, why did I ever doubt this? After all, my goal has always been to entertain readers with absorbing, complex mysteries, engaging characters with their own stories and troubles, all laced with a healthy dash of irreverent humour.

I prefer to think of the Kent Fisher mysteries as the cosy end of the crime fiction spectrum, like LJ Ross or Dick Francis.

My favourite crime novels of 2018

21st December 2018

It may be the shortest day of the year, but here at Crouch Corner, there’s a long list of crime novels to wade through if I’m to select my favourites of the year.

Without doubt, crime’s the most diverse genre and possibly the best-selling. You can read everything from little old ladies solving murders between cream teas to full blown serial killer thrillers that leave little to the imagination. We’re all interested and intrigued by murder, and many readers like to solve the mystery before they reach the solution.

I started over 50 crime novels this year, though some of them fell by the wayside and didn’t capture my interest. I finished reading 42 and enjoyed most of them. This included a number of existing favourites and many new authors, who I read for the first time.

I’ve reviewed all of the novels mentioned here, along with many more that didn’t make this post. I think of it as a way of saying thank you to the authors for entertaining me, and I hope it helps others to discover some of the great novels out there.

All my review are posted on my website and can be viewed by clicking here.

If you’ve any favourite crimes novels for 2018, please comment below and tell me about them.

Series characters

Like many readers, I love a good series, and they don’t come much better than Peter James and his hero, Roy Grace, who fights crime in Brighton and Hove, just along the East Sussex coast from me. As well as beautifully crafted plots, the author provides a detailed insight into the way the police work and operate, including the issues they face with public spending cuts, the media, and senior management. This gives the stories a credible and authentic feel that makes them come alive.

Not Dead Enough

I’ve only read the first eight novels in the series, but the one that gave me the most pleasure, was the third, Not Dead Enough, which finished with a series of exquisite twists.

The DCI Ryan series by LJ Ross, set in Northumberland, has become a firm favourite since the first in the series, Holy Island, based in Lindisfarne. The author’s easy style and cast of likable characters, facing internal and external threats, some of them personal, make for entertaining reading.

While every novel is terrific, my favourite is High Force, which deals with a personal vendetta that cranks up the tension to an almost unbearable level before the finale, which gives more than a passing nod to Sherlock Holmes.

High Force

Finally, my other favourite series this year involves DS Kay Hunter, created by Rachel Amphlett. Set in and around Maidstone in Kent, these novels have a straightforward, no-nonsense style and another team of likable detectives, who fight for each other as much as they fight criminals. There is also a personal element to many of the stories to add to the tension.

Hell to Pay was my favourite as Kay Hunter finally discovers who’s trying to destroy her career and why.

Hell to Pay

New authors

One of the joys of reading is discovering new authors and books that hit all the right spots. Sometimes, they come by recommendation from other readers. Sometimes a publisher offers a book for a reduced price or for free to tempt new readers. Whatever the reason, I’ve broadened my choices in 2018 and these are my favourites.

Michael Wood

His books feature DCI Matilda Darke, a detective returning to work after sickness caused by stress. In For Reasons Unknown, as well as proving she’s physically and emotionally fit to return to work, she has competition, no guarantee of getting her old job back, and a cold case that bites back. Her personal battles add that extra layer of tension and engagement to lift the story.

For Reasons Unknown

Outside Looking In continues Darke’s return to her old job. But with a vendetta threatening to derail her recovery, the tension builds to a superb climax that kept me reading well into the afternoon to reach the climax.

Harlan Coben

A friend of mine commented on Facebook about Caught, describing Coben as a favourite author. I took a quick look on Amazon and loved his distinctive voice and style of writing. The story drew me in effortlessly with a TV sting snaring a child abuser. Only it was never going to be that simple. And the complications and twists kept coming, leaving me quite drained by the end.

I’ll definitely be reading more Harlan Coben in 2019.

Harlan Coben Caught

Cheryl Bradshaw

Another American author with a voice and style I immediately connected with. While it’s always best to start a series with the first book, I began with Hush Now Baby, the sixth in the Sloane Monroe private detective series. I loved the characters, plot and tone of the book, which was reminiscent of a grittier Kinsey Millhone.

Hush Now Baby

A special thank you to Sue Grafton

My reading year was tinged with sadness when Sue Grafton died. The creator of Kinsey Millhone had completed 25 novels featuring her wonderful private eye. While Y is for Yesterday wasn’t the best of the novels, in my opinion, it was a fitting end and tribute to a wonderful author, who inspired me to create Kent Fisher and write my own crime novels.

Y is for Yesterday

I also revisited A is for Alibi, this year and loved it as much as the first time I read it back in the late 1980s.

That only leaves me to tell you my favourite crime novel of 2108.

It wasn’t an easy choice by any means, and there were quite a few contenders, but the decision was based on my emotional reaction when I finished the book.

You should always feel sadness when you reach the end. For hours, days, maybe weeks, you’ve lived with the characters, following them through the twists and turns as they battle to overcome the challenges that face them. Now it’s over, but the book lives on in your memory. You think about it, relive some of the moments and reflect on a story that moved you, maybe even changed the way you look at life.

That’s the mark of a great book and the crime novel that moved me more than any other this year was Outside Looking In, by Michael Wood. I think it was Matilda Darke’s determination to face her demons and battle through that left the biggest impression.

If you haven’t read this series, give it a go.

And my overall favourite book for 2018

Outside Looking In

Well, that’s almost it for 2018, a year that gave me lots of reading pleasure. I hope to read more crime novels from my favourite authors and discover a few more new to me. I already have quite a few loaded onto my Kindle.

Next week, I may well reflect on 2018, when I published my third and favourite Kent Fisher mystery, No Remorse. It could also be a good time to share my hopes for 2019.


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Seven Bridges by LJ Ross

21st November 2018 – 4/5 stars

Once again, the author delivers another terrific story, filled with tension, suspense and superlative writing as someone starts blowing up the bridges over the River Tyne. Is it a terrorist, trying to bring Newcastle to a standstill, or is there a more sinister mind at work?

LJ Ross captured the horror, disbelief and fear of a city, dealing with the aftermath of a bomb and the threat of a second unless a ransom is paid. At times, I couldn’t put the book down, deeply affected by the quality of the writing and the very real reactions of the public and police.

DCI Ryan was his usual impeccable self, taking everything in his stride, even with the distraction of a fellow officer and friend under arrest for murdering Detective Superintendent Jennifer Lucas. Even as the minutes ticked away, with the threat of another explosion imminent, you knew he would battle through and find the bomber.

I had to suspend disbelief as the story sped to a rapid resolution that felt a little rushed somehow. Maybe that accounted for a couple of small slips in procedure, which is unusual. I also found the plot far-fetched, which took the edge of my enjoyment, even though Seven Bridges was original and well written.

Everything else about the story was as good as I’ve come to expect from LJ Ross. Her characters and the camaraderie they share may seem a little too good to be true in these troubled times, but there’s enough negative press, violence and nastiness every night on the news.

Reading should be an escape into a magical world with characters you care about and every book in the series scores highly in this respect.

Description

It’s been five months since a killer walked free and DCI Ryan is preparing to leave Newcastle to hunt him down – this time, for good.

But Ryan’s plans are scuppered when events take a dramatic turn and he is forced to stay and face his past one last time, or watch a friend suffer the consequences.

Amid the chaos, another killer is preparing to strike. When the Tyne Bridge explodes, Ryan’s team are faced with a frantic race to uncover a deadly foe who won’t stop until every bridge is burned, along with everybody on it…

Murder and mystery are peppered with romance and humour in this fast-paced crime whodunit set amidst the spectacular Northumbrian landscape.

Seven Bridges

Dark Skies by LJ Ross

5th October 2018 – 4/5 stars

After Cragside’s detour into the whodunit, it’s good to be back into the more familiar police procedural format. This time a murder from thirty years ago leads to more killings in the present day and another serial killer on the loose.

Ryan has the added challenge of a new boss, Detective Superintendent Lucas, who arrives with unfinished business and a score to settle. She starts by dividing and conquering, splitting up the team, befriending the weakest member, while chaining Ryan to his desk to do more ‘management’.

Because Lucas is so obsessive, with only a few hints about what caused the rift with Ryan, she felt a little predictable and wooden. Her battle with Ryan also contributed to an ending I understood, but found frustrating.

But it won’t stop me reading the next novel to find out how the various threads of the story develop. My quibbles are minor for a story that’s well-written and crafted, entertaining, filled with engaging and charismatic characters, and loaded with tension, suspense and welcome doses of humour.

Description

Beware what lies beneath…

One fateful, starry night, three friends embark on a secret camping trip but only two return home. Thirty years later, the body of a teenage boy rises from the depths of England’s biggest reservoir and threatens to expose a killer who has lain dormant…until now.

Detective Chief Inspector Ryan returns from honeymoon to face danger from all sides. In the depths of Kielder Forest, a murderer has escaped justice before and will do anything to protect the secrets of the past. Meanwhile, back at Northumbria CID, an old foe has taken the helm as Superintendent and is determined to destroy Ryan at any cost.

Who will prevail in Ryan’s most dangerous case yet?

Murder and mystery are peppered with romance and humour in this fast-paced crime whodunit set amidst the spectacular Northumbrian landscape.

Dark Skies

Cragside by LJ Ross

28th September 2018 – 4/5 stars

It was always going to be a challenge to follow the high drama and intensity of the previous two novels, Angel and High Force, so Cragside takes DCI Ryan and his team into a more traditional whodunit, set in a stately home. I’m not sure if there was a conscious nod to Agatha Christie, but I enjoyed the change of style and tone.

The pace is gentler, allowing more time to be devoted to the main characters as they cope with the aftermath of The Hacker in the last story. I love the way Ryan’s close-knit team work hard and care for each other. The relationships form one of the backbones of the series and provide some touching and humorous moments to offset the violence and tragedy of murder.

There are plenty of suspects as you would expect with a murder mystery and a good blend of detection and forensics to help the team close in on the killer in a dramatic finale.

Though it lacked the high stakes and tension of the previous novels, Cragside is an entertaining, well written story with a glorious setting and a sinister development that promises to raise the personal stakes in the next novel.

While you don’t need to have read the previous novels in the series, you’re missing out on one of the best crime series I’ve had the good fortune to read.

I’m off to read the next in the series.

Description

Are you afraid of the dark..?

After his climactic battle with notorious serial killer The Hacker, DCI Ryan is spending the summer with his fiancée within the grounds of Cragside, a spectacular Bavarian-style mansion surrounded by acres of woodland. When they are invited to attend the staff summer party – a Victorian murder mystery evening – it’s all a joke until the lights go out and an elderly man is found dead. It looks like an unfortunate accident but, as the dead man’s life begins to unfold, Ryan and his team of detectives realise that all is not as it appears.

When a second body is found, terror grips the close-knit community and Ryan must uncover the killer who walks among them, before they strike again…

Murder and mystery are peppered with romance and humour in this fast-paced crime whodunit set amidst the spectacular Northumbrian landscape.

Ctagside

High Force by LJ Ross

5/5 stars. It was always going to be difficult to follow the breath-taking excitement and climax of Angel, the previous novel in the series, but High Force is simply stunning.

With Denise Mackenzie held captive by ‘The Hacker’, the stakes couldn’t be higher. The need to find him before he kills again is palpable in every chapter. And it couldn’t get more personal.

With pressure from the media and the top brass, Ryan and Philips must set aside their pain and fears to hunt down The Hacker, who has seemingly disappeared without trace.

It’s fascinating to follow the trail of breadcrumbs that offers little hope at first. But the desperation and anxieties reveal the true depth of the friendships and respect the key players have for one another. The occasional glimpses into Ryan’s past also offer details that helped me understand him and what drove him to become a detective. These small details revealed the intensity of his beliefs and principles, which made him an even more engaging character to root for.

And as for the climax – let me just say that I couldn’t put the story down until the last breathless words were read and digested. Talk about tense and exciting … I was exhausted, but exhilarated.

The series grows better and stronger with every book, revealing a writer at the top of her game. But please read them in order to get the most out of these wonderful novels.

High Force

Description

Hell has unleashed a demon – and he’s coming for you…

Detective Chief Inspector Ryan’s worst nightmare has just become a reality. Notorious serial killer The Hacker has escaped prison and kidnapped one of his best detectives from her own home. His brutality is the stuff of legend – Ryan lost his sister and nearly his own life bringing the man to justice first time around. Can Ryan do it again to save his friend?

There’s a nationwide manhunt underway but the trail has gone cold and fear spreads like a virus. Ryan and his team must find The Hacker before he takes another life – but are they too late?

The clock is ticking…

Murder and mystery are peppered with romance and humour in this fast-paced crime whodunit set amidst the spectacular Northumbrian landscape.

You never know

Two years ago, on 20th June 2016, my first novel, No Accident, was published.

Was it a dream come true?

Graham NortonOf course it was, but I have to admit to some disappointment when Graham Norton didn’t ring and invite me onto his show. I had all the funny stories lined up from my days as an environmental health officer (or EHO if you prefer TLAs – three letter acronyms).

“You drove around the South Downs, thinking of ways to murder people while you checked their kitchens for hygiene?” he would ask incredulously. “Didn’t it put you off your food?”

“No Graham, I never eat at any place I inspect.”

Pauses for comic laughter and blushes as JK Rowling complements me on my wit.

But the phone call never came. Hordes of fans didn’t beat down my door. The postman gave it a good rattle when he delivered my five complimentary paperbacks, courtesy of my publisher. No one recognised me in the street because none of the bookshops even knew my book existed.

Most of the population fell into the same category. The people who knew – friends, family and colleagues were probably bored of me mentioning the book or they were reading it.

Slowly, as the months passed, I realised the blue plaque on the wall of my house would have to wait a few more years. If I was going to get my book on Richard and Judy and become a household name, I had to get noticed. I had to market myself and my book to the masses.

Miss Marple photoFirst mistake! I needed to find people who liked reading about an environmental health officer who solved complex murders that paid homage to the traditional murder mysteries of authors like Agatha Christie.

Yes, I could see it was going to be a difficult sell. Most crime stories involved police officers or private detectives. Who’d ever heard of an EHO solving a murder?

But why not? If an elderly lady from St Mary Mead could do it …

So I send EHO, Kent Fisher, to investigate a fatal work accident and he uncovers a murder. Simple enough. But he also uncovers a shedload of family secrets and troubles along the way. That’s what happens in books, isn’t it?

Only Kent rolls with the punches, relying on his finely tuned sense of humour to see him through.

He becomes a local hero and gains his first commission to find a missing wife in the second novel, No Bodies, published in 2017. Once again, environmental health plays a key part as said missing wife ran off with a dodgy caterer.

Who said you can’t have your cake and eat it?

In No Remorse, published in May 2018, Kent takes his West Highland white terrier, Columbo, (no points for guessing my favourite TV detective), to entertain the residents of a well-to-do care home. One of the residents, who has dementia, is convinced they’re trying to kill him.

When he dies a few weeks later, does Kent think it’s murder? Of course not – until he’s handed a cryptic code that the old man left for him. And Kent’s on the trail again.

You might wonder how an EHO can solve murders. You might not think that running an animal sanctuary and trying to protect the environment are that heroic or worthy. And with all the personal baggage he carries, you might wonder why he doesn’t collapse under the weight of it.

That’s fine. If you prefer your heroes to be cynical coppers who drink and smoke too much, have broken marriages, and spend lots of time in their cars eating junk food between apprehending villains, there are some brilliant stories out there.

KindleI know, I’m an avid reader as well as a writer. Dip into my Kindle and you’ll find Peter James, LJ Ross, Rachel Amphlett, Robin Roughley, Elly Griffiths, Agatha Christie, Conan Doyle and many more crime writers.

They’ve all inspired me in some small way to write the kind of book I like to read, filled with twisting plots, irreverent humour and engaging characters who have real lives and issues to deal with.

I’m lucky to have a small, but growing number of readers who like the stories. Some of them write reviews that lift my day and keep me writing. Others send me messages by email or social media to say how much they enjoyed the novels. Some discuss the books with me, which is always an honour.

I love it when bloggers and reviewers hate a character – or love them. Some think Kent Fisher would make a great TV drama. Others think he should pack in environmental health and become a private detective.

Okay, Graham Norton’s not one of them, and he hasn’t signed up for my monthly newsletter either, despite the offer of a free book as a thank you.

I feel honoured and humbled that people have bought my books and enjoyed them. That’s all I ever wanted really – to entertain people with complex murder mysteries that would hopefully baffle them until the final reveal when they would sigh and say, ‘Of course.’

It would be great to shift millions of books like Peter James so I could make a living from writing. Maybe one day I will. Maybe I’ll emerge from Crouch Corner for lunch, take a peek at my phone and discover I’m an overnight sensation after all these years.

Or I’ll return to my desk and continue with the first draft of No Stone, the fourth Kent Fisher mystery. After all, there’s a small, but growing group of people who are waiting for the next book in the series. And I care about those people, who invest their money and time in me.

More than I care about sharing a sofa with JK Rowling, Elton John, Victoria Coren-Mitchell and Bob Mortimer, soaking up the laughter and applause as another funny story about noisy neighbours in bikinis rolls off the tongue.

But if I work hard and keep trying … you never know.

Robert Crouch