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

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

The Mermaids Singing by Val McDermid

2nd June 2020.   4 stars.

One of the joys of crime fiction is the number of series available, whether by established or new authors. While many police procedurals are similar or different versions of the same formula, some are more distinctive.

The Mermaids Singing, written in the 1990s, introduces psychological profiler Tony Hill. He’s a damaged character with a lot to prove, especially to police forces used to solving crimes by the book. After three murders the police refuse to connect, he’s brought in secretly to help identify and capture a serial killer. He’s teamed with Carol Jordan, an ambitious fast-track detective inspector, who’s also got a lot to prove to her male colleagues.

The killer, who’s obsessed with torture, is a meticulous planner, well ahead of the police. The trouble is, they won’t acknowledge him and give him the credit and publicity he feels he deserves. When Tony Hill enters the arena, you know there’s going to be a battle of intellects and wills. After all, this is a thriller at heart.

While the chapters relating to the killer were disturbing, they were restrained and essential to the thriller element of the story, increasing the tension as the story headed for an inevitable confrontation.

The characters of Jordan and Hill were well drawn and realistic. The pace was steady, building to an exciting climax with a neat, if predictable twist. It posed a few unanswered questions, but didn’t detract from my overall enjoyment.

I would certainly recommend the book as the writing is first rate, the story well told, and the atmosphere deadly but electric.

Description

You always remember the first time. Isn’t that what they say about sex? How much more true it is of murder…

Up till now, the only serial killers Tony Hill had encountered were safely behind bars. This one’s different – this one’s on the loose.

Four men have been found mutilated and tortured. As fear grips the city, the police turn to clinical psychologist Tony Hill for a profile of the killer. But soon Tony becomes the unsuspecting target in a battle of wits and wills where he has to use every ounce of his professional nerve to survive.

A tense, beautifully written psychological thriller, The Mermaids Singing explores the tormented mind of a serial killer unlike any the world of fiction has ever seen.

The Mermaids Singing

 

No Simple Death by Valerie Keogh

21st May 2020.   4 Stars

I was drawn to this police procedural, set mainly in Dublin, by the quality of the writing when I read a sample. It wasn’t long before the plight of Edel Johnson, whose husband had mysteriously disappeared, pulled me into an intricate and intriguing plot that had me as baffled and confused as the two main detectives, West and Andrews.

They’re a capable and likeable duo, who made small, painstaking discoveries in their efforts to solve the original murder, which then led to a second killing. Both put Edel at the heart of the enquiry, but was she really responsible? Detective West, who’d taken a shine to the abandoned wife, struggled to keep his emotions at bay as he tried to unravel the mystery.

The characters and the plot carried the story at a steady, somewhat meticulous pace. It was like peeling back the layers of an onion until suddenly it all started to make sense. Then the hunt for the killer gathered momentum.

But I was hooked long before that by the cocktail of suspense, mystery and the possibility of one man’s emotions destroying a careful, painstaking investigation.

This was a police procedural with a fresh voice and a satisfying plot. There was no effort to impress, use traumatised detectives or make the story stark and gritty. It was good honest storytelling that left me feeling satisfied, entertained and happy to read more books by this author.

For once, the publisher’s blurb was accurate – it was a gripping crime mystery.

Description

When Detective Garda Sergeant Mike West is called to investigate a murder in a Dublin graveyard, suspicion immediately falls on a local woman, Edel Johnson, whose husband disappeared some months before. But then she disappears.

Evidence leads West to a small village in Cornwall, but when he checks in to an Inn, he finds Edel has arrived before him. Her explanation seems to make sense but as West begins to think his suspicions of her are unfounded, she disappears again.

Is she guilty? West, fighting an unsuitable attraction, doesn’t want to believe it. But the case against her is growing. Back in Dublin, his team uncover evidence of blackmail and illegal drugs involving Edel’s missing husband. When another man is murdered, she, once again, comes under suspicion.

Finally, the case is untangled, but is it the outcome West really wants?

No Simple Death

Future Riches by BL Faulkner

15th May 2020.   5 stars.

If you haven’t discovered the Serial Murder Squad series you’re in for a treat. I discovered the series last year and immediately took to DCS Palmer and his team. As I was reading the later books in the series, it felt only right and natural to go back to the beginning.

Future Riches begins with a couple of murders in the world of TV production. As soon as the Serial Murder Squad takes charge, Justin Palmer and his colleague, Gheeta Singh, immerse themselves in the theatrical world of TV drama, actors and their agents. With Palmer’s nose for anything off key and Gheeta’s formidable IT skills, they’re soon on the trail of the killer.

The story may be short, but it’s crammed with action, a generous measure of humour and witty one-liners, internal work conflicts, and a pace that leads you breathless through a few twists and turns to the exciting climax. At the story’s core is the relationship between Palmer and Singh. Their differences complement each other and they have an understanding and respect that needs no explanation, thanks to the skill of the author. (Looking at his bio, I suspect he’s drawn heavily on his time in TV for this adventure.)

If you like honest, exciting crime fiction, delivered without frills or distractions, this is the perfect introduction to an addictive series.

You can read my interview with BL Faulkner here.

Description

Justin Palmer started off on the beat as a London policeman in the 1964 and is now Detective Chief Superintendent Palmer running his own serial murder squad from New Scotland Yard.

Not one to pull punches, or give a hoot for political correctness if it hinders his inquiries, Palmer has gone as far as he will go in the Met. And he knows it. Master of the one line put down and slave to his sciatica he can be as nasty or as nice as he likes.

The mid 1990’s was a time of re-awakening for Palmer as the Information technology revolution turned forensic science, communication and information gathering skills upside down. Realising the value of this revolution to crime solving, Palmer co-opted Detective Sergeant Gheeta Singh, a British Asian onto his team. DS Singh has a degree in IT and was given the go ahead to update Palmer’s department with all the computer hard and software she wanted. Most of which she wrote herself, and some of which is, shall we say, of a grey area when it comes to privacy laws and accessing certain databases!

Together with their small team of officers and one civilian computer clerk they take on the serial killers of the UK.

On the personal front Palmer has been married to his ‘princess’ , or Mrs P. as she is known to everybody, for nearly thirty years . The romance blossomed after the young DC Palmer arrested most of her family who were a bunch of South London petty villains in the 60’s. They have three children and eight grandchildren, a nice house in Dulwich and a faithful dog called Daisy.

Gheeta Singh lives alone in a fourth floor Barbican apartment having arrived on these shores as part of a refugee family fleeing from Idi Amin’s Uganda . Her father and brothers have built up a good computer parts supply company in which it was assumed Gheeta would take an active role on graduating from University. She had other ideas on this, and also on the arranged marriage her mother and aunts still try to coerce her into. Gheeta has two loves, police work and technology, and thanks to Palmer she has her dream job.

Combining the old ‘coppers nose’ and ‘gut feelings’ of Palmer with the modern IT skills of DS Singh the two make an unlikely, but successful team. All their cases involve multiple killings and twist and turn through red herrings and hidden clues alike keeping the reader in suspense until the very end.

As the Crow Flies by Damien Boyd

14th May 2020.  4 stars.

It’s always interesting to try a new series and meet new characters and settings. I was drawn to this story by the volume of positive reviews and the opening with a mountaineering accident, which was something different and fresh.

I hadn’t read anything by Damien Boyd before, but his easy going, direct style moved the story along at a brisk pace. The central character, DI Nick Dixon, hit the ground running as he returned to his old stomping ground to discover his friend and former mountaineering partner, Jake, had fallen to his death on a climb.

It’s fairly obvious that Dixon won’t accept the fall was an accident and the story follows a fairly predictable route as he discovers his old friend had a few dark secrets and enemies who might want to harm him. But it’s well written, the characters are believable and engaging, and there’s neat twist at the end.

As the Crow Flies is a solid and exciting introduction to DI Nick Dixon and offers plenty of potential for future books. As a regular visitor to Somerset and Cheddar Gorge, I particularly enjoyed the settings, and viewing them through the author’s eyes.

I have no hesitation in recommending this book and look forward to reading more of the series.

Description

Rock climbers can’t afford to make careless mistakes. But Detective Inspector Nick Dixon’s former climbing partner, Jake Fayter, died doing just that. Or so it seems. Dixon suspects foul play, but his only leads are unreliable accounts of something odd happening in Cheddar Gorge seconds before Jake fell.

The more Dixon learns about Jake’s life, the more he realises that Jake hadn’t been quite the man he remembered…and a lot of people could have wanted him dead. Once Dixon gets too close to the truth, those people will emerge from the shadows and kill to protect their secrets.

As the body count rises, Dixon bends the rules to breaking point to lure out a killer and unravel a conspiracy of silence that will rock the sleepy town of Burnham-on-Sea to its core.

As the Crow Flies