Deadly Games by Sally Rigby

29th December 2019. 3 stars.

I enjoyed the story, which was a familiar police procedural where the killer was always one step ahead of the police and adept at leaving no evidence. The pace was good and the plot developed steadily, with several possible suspects and a neat twist at the end.

The characters and their relationships felt a little stilted, especially Walker’s somewhat clichéd view of her fast-track boss. The relationship between Walker and Cavendish also seemed a little black and white. One minute DCI Walker wants nothing to do with Cavendish. Then, before you know it, they’re almost best friends.

I’m not sure the chapters written from the killer’s perspective contributed anything new or useful to the story or plot. If anything, these chapters intruded into the police investigation, lowering the suspense and tension rather than increasing it. I would have preferred the author to spend the time on building the characters and relationships to make them more believable.

Description

A killer is playing cat and mouse……. and winning.

DCI Whitney Walker’s in trouble. She’s threatened with demotion if she screws up another case. So, when a killer starts murdering female students, it’s a chance to redeem herself.

Forensic psychologist, Dr Georgina Cavendish, has spent her life inside the university walls, but when one of her students is murdered, she steps out from behind the text books and puts her skills to the test.

The two headstrong women join forces to stop the killer. But sparks fly when real world policing meets academic theory, and it’s not a pretty sight.

Deadly Games is the first book in the Cavendish and Walker crime fiction series. If you like serial killer mysteries and psychological intrigue, then you’ll love Sally Rigby’s page turning book. Pick up your copy today.

An interview with author, Barry Faulkner

I first got to know Barry Faulkner during an online Q and A session for the UK Crime Book Group on Facebook. Little did I know what an interesting life he led before publishing his Serial Murder Squad novels. From washing the cars of London gang leaders to contributing material for light entertainment shows, Barry’s experiences have all contributed to the fast-paced, no nonsense crime thrillers he publishes. As someone who likes something a little different from the usual, I can highly recommend the stories, which made me think of The Sweeney.

My grateful thanks to Barry for taking the time to answer my questions. Over to you, Barry.

Please tell me a little about yourself and your writing.

My father, elder brothers, uncles and cousins were all on the wrong side of the tracks and sometimes ran with the notorious Richardson Brothers gang in South London in the 60s -90s. My mother was determined her youngest would not follow that family tradition and made sure I was kept away from it although I mixed with many of the ‘names’ as a kid and cleaned the Richardson’s rollers every Saturday for 10/- at their scrap yard in Camberwell as well as other members cars. The golden rule was never to go inside the cars or open the boots. I wonder why? I started writing at school and was encouraged to do so by a great English teacher called Mr Reid who saw something in my juvenile doodling. I owe him a lot.

When did you first realise you wanted to be an author?

I first realised I wanted to write when I read Cider With Rosie by Laurie Lee, I must have read it twenty times by now. The descriptive writing is the best I have ever read and paints a picture in your imagination that no other writer has ever equalled for me.

Describe the first piece you wrote and what it meant to you?

The first significant piece was a fun piece describing a weekend away at the coast with the scouts. It made the local paper and the Scout Magazine. I was hooked thinking that everything I wrote from then on would get published. Sadly not so.

What do you most enjoy about being an author?

The most enjoyable thing about being an author for me is the power to let my imagination run free and see where it takes me. I don’t plan a book other than the basic premise and where it is set. Each one has a different setting. The Last one, Ministry of Death is set in the NHS Drug Procurement Department , the one before that in the take away meals environment, I’ve also done Television, The City of London Financial District, Rock Groups etc..so half the fun of writing is the research into the different settings. I like to get it right.

What do you least enjoy about being an author?

I don’t think there’s anything I don’t enjoy about being an author.

Burning Ambition by Barry Faulkner

I see from your Amazon biography, you worked as a copywriter for an advertising agency. How did this influence your writing?

Yes, advertising copywriter for Erwin Wasey Ruffrauth and Ryan in Paddington. A top US advertising agency whose boss lived in a suite at the Dorchester! I think some of  the characters I came into contact in that industry have stuck with me and surface in the books from time to time. My character Benji, the next door neighbour and nemesis of my DCS Palmer is definitely from that workplace.

You were also a script writer and editor for TV during the 1980s and 90s. Can you tell us a little bit more about that and what you think it’s brought to your novel writing?

Whilst at the Advertising Agency I was writing stuff and sending up to the television companies  and got lucky.( they won’t even look at unsolicited commissions these days which I think means they are missing out on a lot of new writers and we get the same old tosh all the time) Anyway I was called up and asked to contribute to various light entertainment shows during the 70s -90s and ended up as a script editor/writer on most of the Light Entertainment shows including Bob Monkhouse, Tom O’Connor, Russ Abbot, Not The Nine O’clock News etc. It broadened my outlook and way of writing as I spent a lot of time in the ‘writers room’ with other writers and we bounced ideas off each other as well as having my own work edited and on many occasions binned!

What made you want to move from TV scriptwriting to crime fiction novels?

The television job meant many days and even weeks stuck in hotel rooms at night and that’s when I started to put together various ideas for TV series, mainly of the LE format but all the time in the back of my mind I had this DCS Palmer character pushing to get out. I don’t know where he came from but I get quite a few emails and letters from retired ex Detectives and old South London criminals now in their 80s- 90s telling me they recognise various characters in the books  so maybe some of the people I met as a youngster, from both sides of the law, have stuck in the recesses of my brain and emerge as a character in a book, who knows? Anyway, Palmer kept insisting he be written and I really got into him and the Serial Murder Squad in those hotel rooms. He was written as a pilot for a TV series but never made it.

Tell me about the inspiration and motivation to write the Serial Murder Squad series.

I wrote three Palmers for TV and being rejected they went into the drawer with all the other reject slips and then three years ago when I fully retired and time became available I went back, pulled him out and gave reign to all the plots in my head and in various notebooks that I’d kept over the years. So like many writers I sent them out and started collecting the reject slips but with the birth of Amazon there was another route to publishing as an Indie. I realised that floundering away on your own as a new indie would lead to mistakes and probably very little sales so I joined the Alliance of Independent Authors which was the best thing I have ever done in my writing career, I attended, and still attend a local meeting of members of that group in Cheltenham where the fonts of all publishing knowledge, Debbie Young and David Penny guided me through the tricky road of wannabe author to published author with several thousand Palmers sold. There’s about forty of them in various notebooks so many more Palmers to come I hope.

How would you describe your books to someone who has never read one before?

I think you have to have a USP (Unique Selling Point) or your books will get lost in the plethora of the police procedural genre  of thousands of books. Many authors use their own area like Scotland or Cornwall to capture readers who recognise the settings.  I use London as that’s my place of birth and I know it well,  but realising how many are set in London I also have a USP of humour. Coming from a light entertainment background in television my mind is programmed to add (hopefully) witty and humorous remarks between my principle characters and with the addition of Benji, Palmer’s nemesis neighbour, I am able to run a fairly light back story against the main serial killer theme. Readers seem to warm to that and the juxtaposition and banter between the irascible old school DCS Palmer and his young IT and cyber expert Detective Sergeant, Gheeta Singh, chalk and cheese. So the reader will be taken into the darkness of serial murder but now and again will laugh.

Takeaway Terror

Who inspires you and Why?

I’m not inspired much by books and authors these days, I get bored very easily and hate the current trend of every detective having an Achilles heel and family problems and pages and pages of back story not relevant to the plot but insisted on by traditional publishers to increase the book price and KU page read income. Not on. I recently spoke with a well respected traditionally published crime author who told me she had submitted her next book of 80,000 words to be told by her publisher to expand to 140,000!!! She wasn’t happy.

I do get inspiration from television. Television crime drama, especially the streaming channels of Netflix and Amazon are right up to date with their output. Forensics are state of the art and the characters well drawn, my all time favourite is The Sopranos, but currently I like Ray Donovan. I intend to start another series of books about a present day London Organised crime syndicate and having just watched The Irishman film on Netflix that is inspiring me to get going on it. That film is a classic, half true and half fiction but so well put together.

What’s the best compliment you’ve received about your books?

I suppose the best one is one I get quite a lot, ‘these books should be a television series’. I’d love to go back in time with them to the BBC commissioning editor who said ‘no’ and push them into his face and say,  ‘see what you missed, I could have been a millionaire Rodney’

Do you have any favourite authors? What is it about them or their work that appeals to you?

My favourite authors?  Laurie Lee for his use of descriptive words whilst moving the story along at pace, a complete master.  Ed McBain, the all-time number one in the pulp fiction genre that I reside in.  Robert Crais and his Cole and Pike novels, I rate them above Jack Reacher. His use of words and sentences is unique. Do try him.

If you could invite four guests (fictional or real, alive or dead) for dinner, who would you choose and why?

Four dinner guests?  My great grandfather and my grandfather both of whom I never knew so I could find out the truth about a family business fortune gambled away in the 1800’s. Probably all make believe but it would be an interesting chat anyway as I know nothing about the family before my dad. Fred Karno, the UK’s first impresario who ran concert halls in the late 1800s and 1900s. He took Charlie Chaplin and his understudy, Arthur Jefferson, who later changed his name to Stan Laurel, to America and worked with Hal Roach on silent comedy film shorts for Buster Keaton and the rest of the silent comics. His life went from poverty to millionaire back to poverty ending up running an off licence in Dorset. And my fourth and last guest, Leonard Ernest ‘Nipper’ Read, DCS Read, the detective who nicked the Krays and many more top criminals whilst head of the Murder Squad in the late 60s-70s. He also helped clean out corruption amongst detectives at Scotland Yard with Commissioner Sir Robert Marks when close to 200 were sacked or took early retirement.

Please tell me about your latest project.

My current work load, and I don’t look at it as work as I enjoy it too much, I’m getting paid for having a lot of fun and meeting a lot of interesting people, however my current projects are finishing DCS Palmer book 10 ‘The Body Builder’ (there’s a clue!), getting my London Gang series underway and hassling Literary Festival organisers for a spot (unpaid) in there programme next year for my illustrated talk on ‘the Heists and Geezers of UK Crime from 1930 to Present Day’ or any other ‘crime’ spot they’d like to offer, I just love meeting writers and readers.

 

Thank you, Barry, for some fascinating insights into your life and writing. Good luck with ‘The Body Builder’. I look forward to reading it.

 

The Met’s Serial Murder Squad investigate the unusual deaths of three staff working at the Ministry of Health Drug Procurement department. Are all three deaths from natural causes or had the deceased stumbled on something that senior management and the pompous head of the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee in the House of Commons want to hide away at any cost, even murder?

How does a Romanian drugs company fit into the jigsaw and can Palmer and the team uncover the facts before more deaths occur? DCS Palmer needs hard evidence to convince his boss that there is a serial killing going on so the team start to dig and are surprised at what they find.

(Read my 5 star review here.)

 

For details of my reviews of Barry’s thrillers, please visit my review page.

A Long Time Dead by Andrew Barrett

23rd November 2019. 4 stars.

I enjoy books that take me into new worlds. In this case it’s forensic science through the eyes of a Scenes of Crime Officer, who seems to have upset too many people.

While the story started slowly, the forensic detail during crime scene investigation was fascinating, but never to the detriment of the story. The author’s skill, practice and knowledge shone in these scenes, adding credibility and authenticity to the story.

I just wanted it to shift up a gear.

When it did, the whole story came alive, leading to a fast-paced, thrilling climax that kept me turning the pages. Roger Conniston, was a flawed but likeable lead character with plenty of determination, guts and conviction. By the end, I was rooting for him.

I’m look forward to reading more of his adventures.

 

Description

The police discover a woman’s naked body on her bed, arcs of blood tracked across the wall from a neck wound. This is the second such case Detective Superintendent Chamberlain has running. The first is still unsolved, and he’s desperate for a lead. Any lead.

It’s 1999, and Scenes of Crime Officer, Roger Conniston, is too busy obsessing over an arms dealer to worry about whether his coal-powered computer is Year 2000 Compliant; too busy cruising Wakefield’s night-life to worry about his wife or his lover, or the promotion he doesn’t really want.

Roger is about to make his move on the arms dealer when he’s arrested for the woman’s murder.

With Roger in the cells, Chamberlain can relax, and the arms dealer can resume his trade.

But Roger has to prove his innocence and find the true murderer. Not easy from behind bars – bars that are guarded by the same officer he’s been spying on.

A stressed investigator. A ruthless arms dealer. And someone else in the background plotting his death. Which of Roger’s new enemies want him out of the way?

A long time Dead

Need You Dead by Peter James

26th September 2019.  5 stars.

I’ve enjoyed every novel in the Roy Grace series. With an imaginative and complex plot, fascinating insights into police procedure and a few surprises as the story hurtles towards the climax, Need You Dead continues the consistent high standard of stroytelling I’ve come to expect from Peter James.

So, who killed Lorna Belling?

With suspects starting to form an orderly queue, this is not going to be a simple case for Detective Superintendent Roy Grace, who has problems of his own to overcome. While Grace finally puts the mystery of his ex-wife, Sandy, to bed, it’s only the start of more demanding challenges. With Assistant Chief Constable Pewe watching his every move, the pressure on Grace leads to more than a few sleepless nights.

With several suspects and an intricate plot that makes them all potential killers, the story kept me guessing right up to the breathtaking climax, delivering an unexpected, but satisfying twist I didn’t see coming.

This is quality writing, populated with strong, believable characters, delivered with pace and panache to provide yet another exciting instalment in the Roy Grace series. While all the novels work as standalones, reading the series from the start means each book delivers much more.

I would recommend this series to anyone as Peter James always delivers memorable, top quality crime fiction.

 

Description

Lorna Belling, desperate to escape the marriage from hell, falls for the charms of another man who promises her the earth. But, as Lorna finds, life seldom follows the plans you’ve made. A chance photograph on a client’s mobile phone changes everything for her.

When the body of a woman is found in a bath in Brighton, Detective Superintendent Roy Grace is called to the scene. At first it looks an open and shut case with a clear prime suspect. Then other scenarios begin to present themselves, each of them tantalizingly plausible, until, in a sudden turn of events, and to his utter disbelief, the case turns more sinister than Grace could ever have imagined.

Need You Dead

The Visitor by Jane R Goodall

23rd September 2019.  4 stars

This complex novel pits folklore, superstition and the supernatural against forensic science and police procedure to produce an intriguing story about the hunt for an elusive serial killer. DI Briony Williams starts a new job with a murder that will take her to her wits end as she’s dragged through myth, superstition and fear in search of facts that will make a case and identify the Visitor.

I enjoyed the novel as I like something different from the usual run-of-the-mill police procedurals that seem to be everywhere these days. I’ve always been fascinated by superstition and the supernatural, both in terms of wondering what might be out there, and more importantly, the affect it can have on people and the way they behave. The author certainly provides a deep insight into ancient folklore and the way beliefs can manipulate, frighten and subdue people.

The investigation pits Briony against her more hard headed colleagues and superiors, who prefer a conventional, follow the evidence approach to apprehending the killer. The trouble is, the killer always seems to be several steps ahead, killing anyone who might reveal the truth about him.

While I liked the detail on folklore and superstitions, necessary for the plot, it seemed to come at the expense of character development. There were glimpses of personal issues and relationships that could have been developed to add more depth to the characters and story. Though fascinating, the detail needed to support the story inevitably slowed the pace in places, leading to a somewhat hurried climax.

That said, I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys something different and challenging. I’m moving on to read The Calling, the third and final book in the Briony Williams series.

Description

1974, Oxford.

Detective Briony Williams, starting a new job with the Thames Valley police in Oxford, is called to investigate the murder of a seventeen-year-old girl. Convinced that the girl’s murder is no ordinary domestic crime, Briony delves into the world of the supernatural when she finds a stone carved with an ancient cryptic message clutched in the victim’s hand.

The police need solid scientific evidence that will stand up in court, but in order to solve the case Briony must ally herself with a psychic girl and a druid leader. As Briony investigates, the danger deepens, setting her directly in the path of a killer bent on eliminating anyone getting close to the truth.

Undeterred, Briony must steer a course between the rational and the supernatural in her search for The Visitor.

The Visitor

The Walker by Jane R Goodall

25th August 2019. 4 stars.

This is a complex and complicated police procedural with shades of Hogarth, Jack the Ripper, secret societies and a police team struggling to make sense of a series of seemingly random ritualistic murders.

It’s 1971 and fast track Detective Inspector Briony Williams is thrown in at the deep end to bring her special skills to the team – namely research and referencing. Yes, life in the police was a bit different in those days. Despite Briony’s class and insights, she struggles to make an impression on her more experienced colleagues. But this doesn’t stop her following her own leads and connections as the killer appears to be toying and taunting the police.

I took to this story when I first discovered it 5 years ago, and enjoyed it just as much second time around. Though never fully developed, the characters and their relationships are strong, revealing the tensions and conflict that bubble to the surface when progress is slow and the bodies start to pile up. There’s humour, dead ends and sheer desperation at times.

Then there’s Nell, who may have witnessed The Walker’s first murder several years before. This makes her a target, creating another layer of tension and apprehension as the story unfolds and The Walker moves in for the kill.

Due to the complex nature of The Walker, a lot of pages are devoted to his history and development, including secret societies and a spell in a Californian hippy colony that slowed the pace of the story at times.

Otherwise, this is well written and researched, full of surprises and false trails and refreshingly different from your average police procedural. No detectives with major traumas, just police officers stretched to their limits as they struggle to catch a killer who’s three steps ahead.

Thoroughly recommended.

 Description

London, 1971.

Nell is a university student in London, desperately trying to put a traumatic episode in her past behind her.

But as a series of murders reveals a brutal, twisted killer, obsessed with Jack the Ripper, Nell recognises his mark, and realises her terrifying nightmares might just be coming true.

Determined Detective Briony Williams, also just starting out on her life in London, is part of the team tracking down The Walker.

The elusive, erudite killer is a practised anatomist with a theatrical streak, arranging his victims’ bodies in grotesque parodies of Hogarth’s engravings.
When The Walker sends a perfectly extracted eye to the police in a Tupperware container, with a defiant message, all of Briony’s (male) team believe she is in over her head, and attempt to consign her to desk work.

The killer seems to be planning a reunion with the schoolgirl who found his first victim.

These two young women see London as a place of hope and promise, but they soon discover that new times mask age-old evil in this dark psychological thriller…

The Walker

Outside Looking In by Michael Wood

19th November 2018 – 5/5 stars.

Every once in a while a story comes along that blows your socks off. It’s not just the story that stands out from the rest, but the writing, characterisation, plotting and emotional content, combining to create a brilliant novel.

Outside Looking In, the second in the Matilda Darke series, is one of those stories. I loved every minute, every page, from the dark, but compelling opening to the final twists and revelations at the end. Central to my enjoyment is the character of DCI Matilda Darke, a damaged officer, whose vulnerability is challenged almost daily as she teeters on the brink of a breakdown due to past mistakes and losses. Her strength, refusal to be beaten and friendship with Adele, save the day but provide some emotional drama to add to the dark and twisting plot that starts with an horrific murder and attack.

Like all good dramas, the plot is filled with tension and suspense as the police struggle to get a handle on the murders. The local newspaper doesn’t help, slurring Darke’s character and abilities. There’s an old enemy, lurking in the wings, and plenty of potential suspects to confound the reader, but once it starts to fall into place, it’s a terrific ride to the climax.

While Outside Looking In can be read as a standalone, treat yourself to the first book, For Reasons Unknown (click here for my review), before you do. Not only will you read another cracking story, but you will get so much more from the characters and relationships.

Outside Looking In is without doubt my favourite crime novel so far in 2018.

Description

When elderly George Rainsford goes to investigate a suspicious noise one night, the last thing he expects to find is a bloodbath. A man has been killed and a woman brutally beaten, left for dead.

The victims are Lois Craven and Kevin Hardaker – both married, but not to each other. Their spouses swear they knew nothing of the affair and, besides, they both have alibis for the attack. With nothing else to link the victims, the investigation hits a dead end.

The pressure is on for investigating officer, DCI Matilda Darke: there’s a violent killer on the loose, and it looks like her team members are the new targets. With no leads and no suspects, it’s going to take all Matilda’s wits to catch him, before he strikes again.

Outside Looking In