Silent Voices by Ann Cleeves

9th April 2021.

If you like your crime fiction to be as much about the characters as the plot, then the Vera Stanhope series should fit the bill. From the moment you read the first page, you know you’re in the company of an unconventional, intriguing and brilliant detective, whose excesses are balanced by her determination and vivid insights into human behaviour, relationships and the secrets people hide.

Vera’s excited by murder – the more complicated the better. And this one’s another complex investigation with families at its core. It begins with Vera in a health club – imagine what her team will say when they find out. She’ll find out sooner than she thinks when she discovers a body in the steam room.

Jenny Lister, a social worker specialising in the safety of children, has been strangled. Social workers are not popular people at the best of times, but there’s no obvious reason for her murder. But once the team start digging, they find suspects and motives in the small village where she lived.

While the pace of the enquiry and story is gentle, it’s never anything short of fascinating as Vera digs into the lives of the suspects, slowly building the picture she needs to solve the case.

The dynamics in her team continue to develop and provide plenty of humour and insight. At the core of the team is the relationship between Vera and Joe, her detective sergeant. While there are elements of yin and yang, they work well together and understand each other. Newcomer Holly is keen to impress, but has a lot to learn. Charlie is the bloodhound of the team, dogged and meticulous, the one with the contacts.

If you haven’t already guessed, I’m a huge fan of this series and its author.

Description

No murder is ever simple . . .

When DI Vera Stanhope finds the body of a woman in the sauna room of her local gym, at first, she thinks it is a death from natural causes. But then Vera spots ligature marks around the victim’s throat and has another murder case on her hands.

The victim is Jenny Lister, who was an experienced social worker, but her neighbours are quick to inform Vera about Jenny’s involvement in a notorious case. A young child tragically died and a member of Jenny’s team was subsequently fired and vilified by the media.

As Vera tries to pry information from the secretive community another body is found, and Vera finds herself in a race against time to stop the killer.

Silent Voices by Ann Cleeves

Murder in the Village by Faith Martin

28th March 2021.

Having read and enjoyed the first three novels in the Hillary Green series, I settled into this one, not realising what a great and gripping story it was going to be. When I say story, there are actually two stories here – the murder in the village and a much bigger, far reaching battle with the local drugs baron.

Despite the title, the murder of a politician at home is not the main plot, though it still has to be investigated by the team and resolved. The new superintendent has bigger fish to fry and mounts a raid to catch the local drugs baron accepting a shipment at his remote farm. While Hillary wonders how her boss has managed to get such a tip off so soon after taking up his post in Oxford, she’s part of the team that carries out the raid.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t go quite to plan.

Alongside the two investigations, the backstories featuring the team members provide plenty of lighter moments and humour, together with some additional conflict that take this series to a new level. Well-developed and realistic, the characters add depth and interest to the novel as you watch their various desires and issues play out.

While I’ve enjoyed the first three books in the series, this is certainly the best story so far.  With a number of running issues brought to a head and resolved, I can’t wait to see how Hillary and the team develop and take on some new challenges in the next murder investigation.

Highly recommended.

Description

A would-be politician is found battered to death in the kitchen of his expensive home in a lovely Oxfordshire village. His wife’s alibi is full of holes and there’s another woman in the background. And what about his seemingly mild-mannered political rival?

DI Hillary Greene tries to get to the bottom of this perplexing murder. She certainly doesn’t think the prime suspect is as guilty as everyone thinks.

Just as she’s about to make a breakthrough, everything is turned upside down by a fatal development in another case she is working on . . .

Can Hillary find the murderer and will she survive a brush with one of Oxford’s most dangerous criminals?

Murder in the Village by Faith Martin

Buried Crimes by Michael Hambling

23rd March 2021.

There’s a change of pace in this fourth outing for DCI Sophie Allen and her team.  Two children’s skeletons are unearthed in the garden of a family home, sending shock waves through the local community. Unable to identify the children or find any evidence of a violent crime, it’s going to be a long, slow struggle to piece together what happened twenty years ago.

As the painstaking investigation crawls along, there’s time to get to know more about Sophie’s life and past as she struggles with the shocks from the previous novel. Then there’s Rae, the transsexual who’s forced to face a bully from the past. There are further secrets to unveil with the family who found the skeletons and the sisters who once owned the property.

At times the story meanders through these lives and characters as the investigation inches along until finally, the victims are identified. From here, it’s a short journey to solving the case.

While not as exciting or absorbing as the previous novels in the series, Sophie Allen remains a likeable and formidable lead character. The insights into her past and her family are often interesting and entertaining, and there are several subplots to distract you from the slow investigation.

That said, this remains and interesting and enjoyable story and I’m looking forward to the next in the series.

Description

Devastating family secrets from the past. Sisters with a murderous rivalry.

A family move into their dream home in Dorchester: it seems perfect, particularly for their two children, but when Philip and Jill Freeman move a buddleia bush, what they find buried beneath its roots will haunt them forever.

Why have two children’s skeletons been lovingly wrapped and buried in their garden?

DCI Sophie Allen is forced to probe crimes that occurred many years before, crimes that cause emotional upheavals within the local community. In a complex investigation, Sophie Allen unearths family secrets which carry on having devastating effects to this day and risk taking new lives.

Buried Crimes by Michael Hambling

Silent Tide by Alex Scarrow

17th March 2021.

In a yacht off the coast of Hastings the grisly remains of a murder are discovered. For DCI Boyd, relocated from London to Sussex CID after extended sick leave, it’s his first case in his new job. Still recovering from the death of his wife and son, he has no choice but to hit the ground running with his new colleagues.

It soon becomes clear that this is a case with few concrete leads. But Boyd’s no quitter and shows he can ruffle feathers if he needs to. Slowly, with the help of DS Okeka, he makes a surprising discovery that turns the case on its head.

Written in an upbeat style with plenty of humorous observations and one liners, this is an easy to read story with a brisk pace, likeable characters and an unusual and intriguing plot. Like many police procedurals on the market, Boyd has a traumatic past and maverick behaviour, which can stretch credibility at times, but it remains an entertaining story and a solid start to a new series.

I received a free copy of the book in return for an honest review.

Description

A sinking boat is spotted a few miles off the south coast.

Waiting onboard, is a grisly discovery.

​DCI Bill Boyd – recently relocated from London to Hastings – is now with the East Sussex CID and his first case is that of a local business man and his new young wife, missing in the English Channel.

All that remains of them is a grisly discovery aboard their half-submerged yacht and a digital trail that could put Boyd and his daughter, Emma, in danger.

Silent Tide by Alex Scarrow

Telling Tales by Ann Cleeves

16th March 2021.

Ann Cleeves is fast becoming one of my favourite authors, especially for the Vera Stanhope series. I love the gentle pace, the way she gets inside the minds of the characters, and the old style police detective who favours observation, information and deduction to solve crimes.

In this second outing for Vera, she’s asked to review a murder enquiry conducted by a neighbouring police force. Jeanie Long, the woman convicted of killing Abigail Mantel ten years ago committed suicide in prison, still protesting her innocence. A new witness has come forward to establish Jeanie’s innocence.

In the small village of Elvet, the revelations cause shock waves. The real killer is still at large. With plenty of suspects, secrets and motives, the atmosphere becomes almost claustrophobic as the tension builds towards breaking point. The former police officers, who conducted the original investigation, are no match for Vera Stanhope and her gentle but incisive approach.

Then another murder devastates the locals.

The settings, people and the investigation are beautifully and meticulously described and brought to life as Vera ferrets away, bringing her own unique brand of investigation and humour to the proceedings as she homes in on the killer.

The quality of the writing and characterisation are first rate, engaging the reader from the first paragraph to the last. With each book, you learn more about Vera and what makes her the formidable detective she is.

Description

Ten years after Jeanie Long was charged with the murder of fifteen-year-old Abigail Mantel, disturbing new evidence proving her innocence emerges in the East Yorkshire village of Elvet. Abigail s killer is still at large.

For Emma Bennett, the revelation brings back haunting memories of her vibrant best friend and of the fearful winter s day when she had discovered her body lying cold in a ditch.

Detective Inspector Vera Stanhope makes fresh inquiries, and the villagers are hauled back to a time they would rather forget. Tensions begin to mount, but are people afraid of the killer, or of their own guilty pasts?

Telling Tales by Ann Cleeves

The Distant Echo by Val McDermid

10th March 2021.

This is a complex story about four students who discover the body of Rosie in the snow. The discovery is about to change and taint their lives as they become the only suspects for her rape and murder. While the police never have enough evidence to charge any or all of the four students, suspicions remain in the community.

In the first part of the story, set in 1978, the murder investigation and lives of the students is examined in great detail. It soon becomes clear that each of the four students has something to hide. Their relationships are tested more than their alibis as the police struggle to make progress. The brothers of the dead girl have their own ideas about retribution. Friends and other students start to shun the suspects.

Wind forward 25 years to the newly formed police team, created to examine and review cold cases, using advances in forensic science and DNA profiling to bring killers to justice. DS Karen Pirie is tasked with Rosie’s murder. Pirie soon discovers that the evidence from the murder has been either mislaid or lost.

Then two of the four former students are murdered within a short space of time. For the remaining two, it’s now a battle for survival. If the police won’t take them seriously, then they must solve Rosie’s murder themselves. The pace picks up, tensions increase to bursting point for a harrowing climax and confrontation where the real killer is finally exposed.

It’s a long story, but once the momentum picked up, I couldn’t put the book down, enjoying the twists and turns as the truth finally emerged.

This is the first in the Karen Pirie series from a talented and versatile author.

Highly recommended.

Description

Some things just won’t let go.
The past, for instance.
That night in the cemetery.
The girl’s body in the snow.

On a freezing Fife morning four drunken students stumble upon the body of a woman in the snow. Rosie has been raped, stabbed and left for dead in an ancient Pictish cemetery. And the only suspects are the four young men now stained with her blood.

Twenty-five years later the police mount a ‘cold case’ review of Rosie’s unsolved murder and the four are still suspects. But when two of them die in suspicious circumstances, it seems that someone is pursuing their own brand of justice. For the remaining two there is only one way to avoid becoming the next victim – find out who really killed Rosie all those years ago…

The Distant Echo by Val McDermid

The Seagull by Ann Cleeves

9th March 2021.

It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of the Vera Stanhope series. I love the intricate plots, the depth and development of the main characters, especially Joe and Holly and the sheer tour de force that is Vera.

It’s all in evidence in this story, which revolves around an old murder that’s a little close to home due to the involvement of Vera’s father, Hector. He was one of four friends, involved in illegal activities. Disgraced former police officer John Brace is the second. Now languishing in prison, he’s prepared to reveal details of a third friend, missing presumed dead. But Brace wants Vera to help his daughter and grandchildren in return.

Only there are two bodies, not one, dumped in a culvert on the Northumbrian coast. Who is the second victim? Was she killed at the same time as the man? And who is the mysterious fourth friend, known only as the Prof?

As the investigation progresses, it’s clear that the victims had links to the Seagull, a former exclusive club on the Northumbrian coast.

It’s another complex case with plenty of twists and turns as Vera tries to make sense of the many threads until finally she weaves them together, leading to an exciting conclusion with a surprise ending.

If you like character driven crime fiction, populated by believable characters you will root for, and plots that are as intricate as they are original, then you should try this series.

Description

When prison inmate and former police officer John Brace says he’s willing to give up information about a long-dead wheeler dealer in return for protection for his family, Vera knows that she has to look into his claims.

But opening up this cold case strikes much closer to home than Vera anticipates as her investigation takes her back in time to The Seagull, a once decadent and now derelict nightclub where her deceased father and his friends used to congregate.

As Vera’s past collides dangerously with the present, she will have to confront her unwanted memories and face the possibility that her father was involved in what happened. The truth is about to come out but is Vera ready for what it will reveal?

The Seagull by Ann Cleeves

Poetic Justice by BL Faulkner

5th March 2021.

Returning to a favourite series is like catching up with an old friend, enjoying the company, reflecting on past times, recalling what brought you together. In this third outing of the Serial Murder Squad, DSC Palmer and the team are brought in to investigate three murders. The victims are left with a note that links to a traditional poem.

Not that this helps the team as they struggle to find the connection between the three victims and a motive. But it isn’t long before their enquiries yield leads that help to speed them along to a dramatic conclusion.

And if Palmer doesn’t have enough challenges at work, his neighbour and nemesis, the somewhat flamboyant Benji, has introduced Mrs Palmer to Skype. Only Palmer has neither the enthusiasm nor understanding needed to make sense of Skype. Along with the team banter, these encounters add a delicious layer of humour to the stories.

Palmer’s old school cynical know how contrasts beautifully with Gheeta’s technological prowess to form the backbone of the team. The direct, fast paced writing propels you along, resulting in an entertaining and exciting story that’s over too soon.

Looking forward to the next in the series.

Description

A series of murders of minor celebrities leads Palmer and the team to a Drama School and an incident that happened many years ago. The killer’s clue left at each scene is a line from a poem. Can Palmer piece the clues together before the next murder? The trail leads him into the world of publishing and children’s drama colleges with all its bullying and shattered egos until a twist at the end ties it all neatly together.

Poetic Justice by BL Faulkner

Thicker than Water by JD Kirk

4th March 2021.

In a world of crime fiction where many series tread the same well-worn steps, some books stand out for their originality, the distinctive voice and style of the author, and a great set of characters to bring the story to life.

Thicker than Water has all three qualities in abundance. Detective Chief Inspector Jack Logan is a gruff workaholic who knows how to draw the best from his team. Their banter, camaraderie, and the way they pull together is a joy, lifting the story with humour, humanity and a determination to get the job done, no matter what.

In this second outing, the team are investigating an unpleasant, ritualistic murder of a single mother, whose body is dumped into Loch Ness. She has a dubious boyfriend with a history of anger and aggression. But with few clues, even less forensic evidence and no substantial leads, the investigation makes slow progress.

While Logan and his colleagues rise to the challenge, none of them are prepared for what they discover as the story accelerates to an exciting and unexpected climax.

Distinctive, atmospheric and credible, this gritty story is populated with believable and engaging characters. Logan’s cynical social commentary paints some graphic pictures of life in the Scottish Highlands, but it’s his unflagging determination to catch the killer and his humanity you’ll remember.

Highly recommended.

Description

In twenty years on the force, he has seen his share of monsters.

When a badly mutilated body washes up on the shores of Loch Ness, DCI Jack Logan’s dream of a quiet life in the Highlands is shattered.

While the media speculates wildly about monster attacks, Jack and the Major Investigations Team must act fast to catch the killer before they can strike again.

But with Nessie-hunters descending on the area in their dozens, and an old enemy rearing his ugly head, the case could well turn out to be the most challenging of Jack’s career.

And, if he isn’t careful, the last.

Thicker than Water by JD Kirk

A Darker Domain by Val McDermid

5th March 2021.

Some stories grab you from the start, drawing you in with strong believable characters you root for. Add an intriguing mystery that spans a quarter of a century, going back to the heart of the Miners’ Strike and a murder that has echoes today. Finally, bring in an adversary that’s rich, formidable and determined to find out what happened to his grandson, kidnapped all those years ago.

The narrative flips back and forth between 1984 and 2007, revealing two stories in a level of detail that brings the hardships of the Miners’ Strike to life. One miner, Mick Prentice, disappeared at the time, giving DI Karen Pirie another cold case to investigate. The discovery of a body in caves nearby only adds to the mystery.

At the same time, a daughter and her son were kidnapped and held to ransom. Catriona died and her son disappeared. DI Pirie wants to find him, but a journalist with a nose for a good story is also on the trail.

DI Pirie is a quiet but steely character, fearless in her quest to solve cold cases and bring justice to the victims. Slowly and carefully, she uncovers the pieces and puts them together to get to the truth of what happened twenty-five years ago. And even when she has the truth, there are still a couple of twists to wrong foot you.

This is one of the best and most original crime stories I’ve read for some time. The history, the sense of place and time, the characterisation and plot are first rate and deftly handled by the author to deliver a powerful story of love, sacrifice and murder that lingers in the memory.

While this is the second book in the series, I didn’t feel I’d missed anything by not reading the first book. However, I plan to correct that as soon as possible.

Description

Twenty-five years ago, a woman and her baby son were kidnapped and held to ransom. Catriona Grant ended up dead and little Adam’s fate has remained a mystery ever since.

When a new clue is discovered in a deserted Tuscan villa – along with grisly evidence of a recent murder – cold case expert DI Karen Pirie is assigned to follow the trail.

She’s already working a case from the same year. During the Miners’ Strike of 1984, pit worker Mick Prentice vanished. Where did he really go? And is there a link to the Grant mystery?

The truth is stranger – and far darker – than fiction.

A Darker Domain by Val McDermid