Murder at the University by Faith Martin

10th October 2020.    4 stars.

The second DI Hilary Greene novel starts with the mysterious death of a French university student in Oxford. It takes a while to uncover the secret life she was leading, giving the investigation new impetus.

Meanwhile, Hilary has her own battles to fight, thanks to her husband’s corruption, which has cast a shadow over her career and blighted her life since his death. An animal rights charity is suing her, determined to take the marital home from her. And then there’s her non-existent love life and the attentions of two fellow officers.

The author cleverly weaves the personal lives of Hilary and her colleagues into the murder investigation, which has repercussions in several areas, leading to a good crop of suspects and motives. The pace is gentle, the characters well drawn and engaging, and there’s a delicious sense of fun about Hilary that adds another dimension to the story.

The characters and relationships feel more rounded in this second outing, providing this cosy mystery/police procedural with a solid, entertaining backbone.

Description

A pretty French student is found dead in her room at an exclusive Oxford college. Everyone thinks it is another tragic case of accidental drug overdose.

But Detective Hillary Greene has a nose for the truth. She quickly discovers that the student was involved in some very unusual activities.

With a shocking cause of death found, the case becomes a high-profile murder investigation.

Adding to the pressure, Hillary’s nemesis is transferred to work with her at the station.

Can Hillary keep her cool and get justice for the unfortunate student?

Murder at the University by Faith Martin

Dark Crimes by Michael Hambling

6th October 2020.   4 stars.

I love it when a book surprises me. In this case it was the character of DCI Sophie Allen, who was fresh, original, charismatic and fun. How refreshing it was to have a lead detective who lacked the trademark traumas that plague police procedurals these days.

The lack of personal traumas took nothing away from an entertaining and exciting story that ticked and twisted along at a good pace and kept me guessing right up to an exciting and satisfying climax.

There were a couple of inaccuracies in police procedure, but they didn’t spoil my enjoyment and I’m looking forward to reading the second story in the series.

I would happily recommend this novel to anyone who likes police procedurals that are not too gritty or violent in their delivery.

Description

A young woman’s body is discovered on a deserted footpath in a Dorset seaside town late on a cold November night. She has been stabbed through the heart.

It seems like a simple crime for DCI Sophie Allen and her team to solve. But not when the victim’s mother is found strangled the next morning. The case grows more complex as DCI Sophie Allen discovers that the victims had secret histories, involving violence and intimidation. There’s an obvious suspect but Detective Allen isn’t convinced. Could someone else be lurking in the shadows, someone savagely violent, looking for a warped revenge?

Dark Crimes by Michael Hambling

The Keeper of Secrets by ML Rose

21st September 2020.   4 stars.

Someone is playing mind games with DCI Arla Baker, breaking into her flat, sending her items that suggest they know her secrets. Worst of all, they undermine her by claiming she knows what happened to the missing teenager of an American diplomat.

No wonder Arla’s bosses are concerned. Their concern turns into their worst fears when the missing girl turns up dead.

While there’s nothing new about a killer targeting a police officer during a murder investigation, I like it when things get personal. It ramps up the stakes and the author deftly handles Arla’s fight to maintain her sanity, stay in charge of the murder investigation and find out who’s tormenting her as she slowly unravels. With glimpses into the killer’s mind, both sides of the story run alongside each other and interweave, adding to the suspense and tension, which increases when another victim is found in the same park.

With strong characters, plenty of emotion, tension and action, the story takes you on a gripping ride to an exciting and satisfying climax that ties up all the loose ends. While I had to suspend my disbelief a little at times, the final twist was neatly handled and revealed, setting up an exciting climax that kept me turning the pages.

As this is the second story in the series, I’m not sure how much of the backstory I missed from the first book, but it didn’t affect my enjoyment of the story. Another author to add to my list and a book I would heartily recommend.

Description

A teenage girl disappears on the streets of London. Soon, her parents get a note. Ask Detective Arla Baker where the missing girl is. Then a dead body appears in the local park.

Someone knows a lot about Detective Inspector Arla Baker. They know her hidden past. They know where she lives. They know about her lost sister, Nicole.

Every move Arla makes to catch this killer is anticipated. It’s as if he knows what she’ll do next… Pressure is mounting on Arla. Not least because the missing girl happens to be the American Ambassador’s daughter.

But why is the killer so obsessed with Arla? More than his victims, it is Arla he wants to have in his sights…

As the net closes around her, Arla zooms in on the social circle of London’s upper class, and their dirty secrets.

Secrets some will kill to keep.

Another teenage girl is killed inside the same park, and the same message is left on the body. Ask Arla Baker what happened.

For Arla, it’s not a police case anymore. It’s a fight for survival.

The Keeper of Secrets by ML Rose

The Scent of Guilt by Tony J Forder

20th September 2020.    5 stars.

Having read and enjoyed Bad to the Bone, the first book in the series, I was keen to see what DI Bliss would face in this second outing. Having left Peterborough twelve years ago, he’s back and immediately thrust into a serial killer investigation. Needless to say, his return isn’t welcomed by all, least of all by his new boss. Her animosity and unreasonable demands pile on the pressure as he investigates a highly complex and unusual series of murders.

When the killings are linked to some separate rapes, being investigated by his friend and former colleague, DS Chandler, the case takes an unexpected twist that ultimately leads them to California before the truth is unravelled.

And it takes some unravelling.

I was pleased to find that the twelve year absence seems to have reduced the complicated backstory and history that burdened Bliss in the first story, resulting in more pace and balance this time.

As a result this became an enthralling and compelling investigation that delivered on every level – strong, believable characters and relationships, a dogged determination to get to the truth, an intricate and delightful plot that will last long in my memory and quality writing to bring it all alive.

In short, this is one of the best and most memorable crime stories I’ve read for some time.

Description

Twelve years after he left Peterborough under a cloud, DI Bliss returns to the city and the major crimes team. Having spent years policing organised crime, Bliss is plunged straight into the heart of a serial murder investigation.

Meanwhile, Penny Chandler has been promoted to DS and has been working in

London on the Met’s sexual crimes team. But when two rapes are reported on her old patch in Peterborough, Chandler volunteers to interview the victims.

Chandler joins the hunt for the attacker and soon notices a possible link between the rapes and Bliss’s murder investigation. Could the same man be responsible?

Just as both cases seem to stall, a call comes in from an ex-policeman who knows of unsolved cases in the USA with a similar MO. Bliss finds himself travelling to California to hunt for a killer whose reach may have stretched further than anyone could possibly imagine.

But in order to catch the murderer, Bliss must discover the killer’s motive. A motive which should have remained buried in the past…

The Scent of Guilt by Tony Forder

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 Soul Killer by Ross Greenwood

13th August 2020.   4 stars.

I enjoyed my second outing with DI Barton and his team as they pursued a serial killer who managed to stay several steps ahead until the tense and exciting climax.

A lot of time and emphasis was given to reveal the killer’s strict upbringing, adult life and the people and factors that turned him into a ruthless killer. This aspect of the story was particularly well-executed, offering an empathetic insight into the damaged character before he went on to kill.

Once the killer’s identity is revealed, the story becomes a cat and mouse thriller with the police playing catch up and even stalling at one point before putting the pieces together. The climax was a while coming, but tense, exciting, dramatic and worth waiting for.

Well written and balanced, this is a story that makes you realise how simple events, attitudes and circumstances can turn a child into a cold-blooded killer.

 

Description

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…?

The Soul Killer by Ross Greenwood

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

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