The Secret Adversary by Agatha Christie

13th October 2021.

First published in January 1922, this is another fast moving adventure, giving Tommy and Tuppence their first outing. Naturally, the language and attitudes are of the time, but in all other respects this is a dramatic ripping yarn that’s fun to read, easy to follow and filled with all the twists, turns and surprises I’ve come to expect from the Queen of Crime. Indeed, at the beginning there’s some clever plotting that brought a smile to my face.

The writing and story-telling is confident and bold, driven by the two main characters, who have a lust for excitement and an almost fearless approach to any danger they face. Can they find Jane Finn, who seems to be at the centre of a political plot that threatens the government?

While Tuppence is the main driving force in the duo, Tommy has his moments and it’s beautifully delivered as the pace and action hots up for a memorable climax. The usual explanations follow to show the reader how the mystery was solved and why.

In many respects, it’s light, frothy and easy to read, but this is a result of great writing and plotting, effortlessly delivered to satisfy the reader. If you’re interested in historical crime, this is a great introduction.

Description

Tommy Beresford and Prudence ‘Tuppence’ Cowley are young, in love… and flat broke. Just after Great War, there are few jobs available and the couple are desperately short of money. Restless for excitement, they decide to embark on a daring business scheme: Young Adventurers Ltd.—”willing to do anything, go anywhere.” Hiring themselves out proves to be a smart move for the couple. In their first assignment for the mysterious Mr. Whittingtont, all Tuppence has to do in their first job is take an all-expense paid trip to Paris and pose as an American named Jane Finn. But with the assignment comes a bribe to keep quiet, a threat to her life, and the disappearance of her new employer. Now their newest job are playing detective.

Where is the real Jane Finn? The mere mention of her name produces a very strange reaction all over London. So strange, in fact, that they decided to find this mysterious missing lady. She has been missing for five years. And neither her body nor the secret documents she was carrying have ever been found. Now post-war England’s economic recovery depends on finding her and getting the papers back. But he two young working undercover for the British ministry know only that her name and the only photo of her is in the hands of her rich American cousin. It isn’t long before they find themselves plunged into more danger than they ever could have imagined—a danger that could put an abrupt end to their business… and their lives.

The Secret Adversary by Agatha Christie

A Fatal Obsession by Faith Martin

26th September 2021.

The story, set in 1960, starts slowly with a murder connected to a past death. Ryder, a trainee coroner, sat in at the original inquest, convinced witnesses were lying. Now, as a coroner, he wants to investigate the original death to uncover the truth, but he needs a police officer to assist him. WPC Loveday, a fresh but ambitious officer, is assigned to help him.

As soon as they start working together, the story moves up a gear and develops into an intriguing double investigation. Both characters grew on me as they uncovered a somewhat gothic plot that didn’t pan out as I expected, which is always a bonus.

It’s always enjoyable to return to the days before DNA, forensics and computers dominated investigations. Detectives had to use their wits, experience and intelligence to deduce and solve crimes.

The novel is a worthy start to a new series that offers something different from the usual police procedural novels that seem to follow the same old well-worn tracks.

Description

Oxford, 1960. There’s a murderer on the loose and two unlikely heroes are poised to solve the case.

Meet Probationary WPC Trudy Loveday – smart, enthusiastic and always underestimated.

In the hope of getting her out of the way, Trudy’s senior officer assigns her to help coroner Clement Ryder as he re-opens the case of a young woman’s death. She can’t believe her luck – she is actually going to be working on a real murder case.

Meanwhile, the rest of the police force are busy investigating a series of threats and murders in the local community, and Clement can’t help but feel it’s all linked.

As Trudy and Clement form an unlikely partnership, are they going to be the ones to solve these crimes before the murderer strikes again?

A Fatal Obsession by Faith Martin

Rough and Deadly by Paula Williams

23rd September 2021.

In the second Much Winchmoor novel, Kat’s thrown into another murder investigation when Margot Duckett-Trimble is killed and left in a vat of cider. As she was standing for election to the parish council and full of self-importance, there’s going to be a long list of suspects.

But Kat already has enough troubles of her own to contend with. Without a permanent job and no money, she’s forced to live with her parents. Her dreams of escaping the sleepy village lie in tatters. And she’s not sure about her feelings for Will, or what he feels for her.

Somehow, she stumbles along, doing odd jobs here and there, freelancing for a local free newspaper, picking up village gossip along the way, especially where it concerns the murder. When her Aunt Tanya arrives in the village, keen to divorce her husband and start a new venture, events take a sinister turn and Kat’s problems multiply.

I enjoyed this engaging cosy mystery thanks to the likable characters, along with the humour and social comment that underpins the writing and story. All the typical characters you find in a village are here, with Prescott the dog stealing every scene as he wreaks havoc wherever he goes.

I’m looking forward to reading the next book in the series.

Description

Everyone knows Abe Compton’s Headbender cider is as rough as a cider can get. But is it deadly?

When self-styled ‘lady of the manor’, Margot Duckett-Trimble, announces she wouldn’t be seen dead drinking the stuff, who could have foreseen that, only a few days later, she’d be found, face down, in a vat of it?

Kat Latcham’s no stranger to murder. Indeed, the once ‘sleepy’ Somerset village of Much Winchmoor is fast gaining a reputation as the murder capital of the West Country and is ‘as sleepy as a kid on Christmas Eve’ when it’s discovered there’s a murderer running loose in the community again.

Kat has known Abe all her life, and she is sure that, although he had motive, he didn’t kill Margot. But as she investigates, the murderer strikes again. And the closer Kat gets to finding out who the real killer is, the closer to danger she becomes.

Rough and Deadly by Paula Williams

The Hour of her Death by Rebecca Rane

21st September 2021.

I enjoy discovering new authors and books, especially those that offer something original.

Kendra Dillon is only as good as her next podcast. And after a successful first cold case investigation, she’s told about a nun who was brutally murdered 30 years ago. Yet as she makes enquiries, there’s little evidence of a proper investigation at the time. Calling on her skills as an investigative journalist, and a few family connections, Kendra starts to make some headway.

A second murder threatens to derail her investigation and put her right in the path of a serial killer. That’s if a stalker who has hurt her in the past doesn’t get to her first.

From the first page to the last, this was a gripping story, full of pace, drama and tension. Kendra’s a likable lead character with a point to prove. She’s well connected, feisty and good at what she does. Unfortunately, a previous investigation touched nerves and she lost her job. Now working for public radio, she has to earn her keep by attracting sponsors to her podcast.

It’s a great premise that offers an original spin on the cold case investigation. In every other respect, it’s a traditional murder mystery, which means clues, red herrings, and suspects. Kendra holds it all together despite personal demons, bureaucracy and those who want the past to remain in the past. Her determination to reveal a killer who has escaped justice for too long drives the story along.

Then there’s the stalker, watching from the shadows, waiting for the right moment to strike.

This is a great start to a series.

Description

Only a monster could murder a nun on Christmas Eve. But the horrific crime has gone unsolved for thirty years when a mysterious stranger begs a true crime podcaster to investigate.

Kendra Dillon hosts The Cold Trail Podcast. She’s made it her mission to uncover new clues in old mysteries. She’s shocked that this brutal display of evil against an innocent nun has gone unchecked for decades. No suspects. No arrests. No justice.

With police and church officials refusing to reopen the investigation, Kendra believes someone’s hiding a vile conspiracy. But right as Kendra gets close to the disturbing truth, another shocking crime derails her investigation. The Cold Trail may be leading Kendra straight into the path of a serial killer. With every podcast episode, Kendra gets closer to waking an evil that’s been lying in wait.

And Kendra isn’t alone. A stalker is following her every move, ready to ensnare her in his own twisted fantasy.

Can Kendra catch the culprit and serve up justice before she’s silenced forever?

The Hour of her Death by Rebecca Rane

Laptops Can Kill by BL Faulkner

18th September 2021.

If you’re going to steal a laptop, make sure it doesn’t belong to a deadly and ruthless criminal. Unfortunately, for two thieves, it’s too late. For Detective Chief Superintendent Palmer, it’s the beginning of another fast-paced investigation for the Serial Murder Squad. In addition to his trusty IT guru, Gheeta, Palmer calls on the Organised Crime Team for support as he tries to make sense of the killings and the missing Sammy.

Palmer’s soon on the trail, but he’s lagging behind Sammy, who has a similar agenda. With his usual humour, directness and Gheeta’s skills, he soon solves the mystery and catches the killers. Only it’s not that simple as a final twist reveals.

Once again, BL Faulkner has delivered an entertaining and enjoyable police thriller that’s original and populated by memorable characters – plus that extra twist, which lifts the story to another level. I’ve enjoyed every book in the series, and while they are all excellent, this has to be one of my favourites.

While it can be read as a standalone, like all the books in the series, to get the most of the characters and the humorous backstory that features his wife and their neighbour, Benji, it’s wise to start at the beginning.

Description

Case 13 in the DCS Palmer and the Met’s Serial Murder Squad files. When petty thieves are murdered by a team of professional hitmen whose MO matched other unsolved killings Palmer wants to know why? What could bring a professional hit on a bunch of petty thieves? What had they done to upset somebody so much that the hit was called? There’s a big search going on in the underworld for a certain laptop, why? What’s on it and where is it and is it connected to the case? Who is ‘Sammy’ the person being sought so aggressively by the hitmen and what does ‘Sammy’ know? Palmer brings in help from Organised Crime and starts to unravel the tangled threads of the case whilst suffering the usual attempts of Mrs P at home to improve his health with a vegetarian diet that he resists and his nemesis neighbour Benji unwittingly causing him pain.

Laptops Can Kill by BL Faulkner

Belle Manor Haunting by Cheryl Bradshaw

14th September 2021.

In the fourth book in the series, Addison finds herself at the heart of another mystery from the past. This time it’s the death of a young girl in a hit and run. The heart of the mystery is Belle Manor, which hides plenty of secrets, including the identity of the killer.

This investigation holds more surprises as Addison discovers the history of her own family, especially the psychic powers that pass down the female line. She has to choose whether to embrace what history has ordained or walk away as her mother did. Her decision could have a profound effect on her husband and family.

The personal dilemma lifts the story to make it the most intriguing and satisfying book of the series so far. With conflict and pressure on all sides, Addison has to decide her future while solving a complex murder mystery.

It’s a fascinating story that begs a fifth book.

Description

Addison’s eyes open to find she’s been transported several decades into the past. She’s sitting in the back seat of a car. Sara is beside her. The car stops at an intersection. Moments later another vehicle in the opposite direction barrels through the stop sign, slamming into the car before jerking the vehicle into reverse and fleeing the scene. Who is the driver of the other car? And what secrets within the walls of Belle Manor provide the answer to little Sara’s untimely demise?

Belle Manor Haunting by Cheryl Bradshaw

Dead Man’s Prayer by Jackie Baldwin

12th September 2021.

This is an intense and complex story where the past forces its way into the present with devastating effects. At its heart is DI Frank Farrell, a priest with a past that links with the brutal murder of Father Boyd. Then, with hardly the blink of an eye, the investigation takes on a sinister twist and new urgency when twins are abducted.

From here, the investigation becomes complicated as Frank Farrell’s involvement in the crimes becomes suspicious.

I enjoyed the complexity of the novel, though I think the police, namely Frank Farrell were rather slow at reading the signs. He was meant to be a loner and something of a misfit, but I struggled to warm to his character, perhaps because his behaviour seemed to be at the mercy of the plot. But this still remains a well crafted and written story. The atmosphere, though dark and intense, created plenty of tension and built towards an exciting race-against-time climax.

Description

 Ex-priest DI Frank Farrell has returned to his roots in Dumfries, only to be landed with a disturbing murder case. Even worse, Farrell knows the victim: Father Boyd, the man who forced him out of the priesthood eighteen years earlier.

With no leads, Farrell must delve into the old priest’s past, one that is inexorably linked with his own. But his attention is diverted when a pair of twin boys go missing. The Dumfries police force recover one in an abandoned church, unharmed. But where is his brother?

As Farrell investigates the two cases, he can’t help but feel targeted. Is someone playing a sinister game, or is he seeing patterns that don’t exist? Either way, it’s a game Farrell needs to win before he loses his grip on his sanity, or someone else turns up dead.

Dead Man's Prayer by Jackie Baldwin

All Lies by Andrew Cunningham

This hugely enjoyable adventure of discovery begins with the murder of Del Honeycutt’s date. Before he has time to catch his breath, he’s plunged into a race to discover ‘hidden treasure’ from a crime committed by his great grandfather 85 years ago. Only Del’s not the only one after the treasure. A vicious group of killers are taking no prisoners in the search for the only clue to the location of the loot – a painting, stolen many years before.

To complicate matters, Sabrina, turns up, wanting to find out who murdered her sister. Is she a grieving relative or is she also after the treasure?

From office worker to investigator in a couple of days, Del falls into an exciting adventure that takes him and Sabrina across America and into Brazil’s Amazonian rainforest to locate the treasure. Along the way, they learn more about each other and their respective pasts. As danger pushes them closer together, the inevitable romance is not far behind.

While it’s pure escapism, the characters are delightfully engaging. The pace never lets up and the twists and turns make for exciting reading. This is adventure in the style of ‘Romancing the Stone’, filled with humour, unlikely heroes and a gripping narrative that kept me turning the pages.

Fabulous entertainment.

Description

A seemingly innocent date gone tragically wrong plunges Del Honeycutt into a web of murder, lies, greed, and a hidden fortune dating back to a crime committed 85 years earlier by his great-grandfather.

Accompanied by Sabrina, the sister of Del’s brutally murdered date, a violent journey of discovery and fear begins. Pursued by vicious killers intent on eliminating anyone with knowledge of the 85-year-old crime, their only hope of survival is to find the reason behind the original crime and why, decades later, someone is still willing to kill to keep it hidden.

But Sabrina is concealing a monstrous lie of her own. Is she who she says she is?

All Lies by Andrew Cunningham

A Credible Threat by Janet Dawson

26th August 2021.

In the sixth novel in the series, Oakland PI, Jeri Howard, investigates a dangerous stalker. It starts with hostile phone calls, moves on to damaging plants and in particular decapitating lemon trees, and escalates to a pipe bomb.

The targets are a mixed group sharing a house. Each one has something that makes them a target, which makes Jeri’s job difficult, to say the least. Vicki, the daughter of her ex-husband, called her in to help, but not everyone in the house is happy about it.

With tensions high and suspicions rife, Jeri finally gets on the right track when her mentor and former employer is mugged in Carmel. Suddenly, the case takes a sinister turn as Jeri has a race against time to prevent a murder.

The Jeri Howard novels are always interesting as they tackle different issues from the usual missing persons and murder. Many of these are social issues, and this story is no different. While it starts as a classic stalking, it turns into something much more dangerous. There’s also a personal element to the story, which increases the stakes and tension, leading to a highly enjoyable and satisfying read that kept me turning the pages.

I would also say that the story is easier to follow than some of the previous books, which may be why I read it fairly quickly. Or it could be that it’s an excellent story that gripped me from intriguing start to exciting climax.

Looking forward to the next in the series.

Description

Oakland PI Jeri Howard is now taking house calls. At least when her ex-husband’s daughter, Vicki Vernon, is on the other end of the line. Vicki, who is an undergrad at prestigious UC Berkeley, fears the worst when her shared house receives multiple threats from an unknown antagonizer.

First, it’s hostile phone calls. Then vandalism and stalking. And everything becomes real when Jeri picks up the house phone and hears the stalker’s chilling voice herself.

As if that weren’t enough, a nasty flyer circulates around the law school filled with bigoted epithets against students of color and women — and it’s uncannily similar to the anonymous caller’s hateful words. But with so many possible targets in one household, Jeri’s just not sure which of the housemates is the target.

After all, Rachel volunteers at an abortion clinic. Ben is an African-American student on scholarship. Marisol spends her time helping victims of domestic abuse. And Vicki and Emily have been harassed on campus by a sexist chemistry student.
But when someone throws a pipe bomb through the students’ window, the case all but explodes.

A Credible Threat by Janet Dawson

Murder in the Garden by Faith Martin

23rd August2021.

In the ninth outing for Hillary Greene, she’s got two investigations on the go. After two months compassionate leave following the murder of her boss and friend, she returns to find there’s no progress with the investigation. There’s worse to come as his pregnant widow seeks revenge and threatens to destroy the career she’s built.

But there’s no rest for Hillary when Edward Philpott is found murdered in his garden. She throws herself into this enquiry even though she’s not at her best. From here on in, things get complicated as she tries to juggle two investigations, putting her own career on the line.

It’s another enjoyable and thrilling mix of everything that’s good about this series. The murders are complex and intriguing, but it’s the characters and the backstory that demand attention in this novel. There’s a new boss with an axe to grind and a new DS with her eyes on more than Hillary’s job.

Then there’s the murder of her old boss. The killer seems to have got away with it, but Hillary can’t accept that, even though she’s not allowed to get involved in the investigation. As she treads a difficult tightrope, the killer threatens to strike again with another police officer in his sights.

The tension is expertly maintained as the investigations develop with more than a few surprises and heart stopping moments, making this one of the best books so far in the series.

I love this series.

Description

Edward Philpott is found bludgeoned to death with his own spade in his beautiful garden. He lived with his daughter Rachel and his two grandchildren.

Hillary’s only lead is a rival from the village flower show who used to argue with the victim about the size of their vegetables. But what dark secrets from the past and present does this village hold?

Hillary has returned to work after the slaying of her boss and is desperate to track down his murderer. His pregnant widow is even more determined to get revenge, but will she go too far?

Can Hillary cope with two complex investigations full of extreme emotions, one of which is very close to home?

Murder in the Garden by Faith Martin