Call to Arms by Rachel Amphlett

5/5 stars. This is top drawer crime writing, based on strong, likeable characters you will root for.

My thoughts

After the heart-stopping finale to the previous novel, it was always going to be a difficult story to follow. But Kay Hunter’s back at work, despite a few problems, dealing with the fallout that’s left her boss, Devon Sharp suspended and under investigation.

Acting up in his absence, she’s bored with shuffling paper and organising the team. Then she takes an interest in a cold case that may hold the key to her boss’s future. It may also be her undoing due to the personal involvement Sharp has with the case.

With memories vague and progress slow, the investigation is a credit to Kay’s determination as she chips away at the witnesses, uncovering little fragments of information that begin to cast doubt on the original verdict.

As the details fall into place, the pace picks up to a satisfying climax that offers surprise rather than the nail biting tension and action of the previous novel.

I love Kay’s determination and the way she’s grounded by her marriage to vet, Adam, who provides solid support and various animals that he looks after at home. In this case, it’s Rufus, the German Shepherd, who prompts one of the most moving scenes in the book.

If you haven’t read any of the Kay Hunter novels, please start with the first to get maximum enjoyment from the way the characters develop over the series as this is top drawer crime writing, based on strong, likeable characters you will root for.

5/5 stars

Call to Arms

Description

Loyalty has a price.

Kay Hunter has survived a vicious attack at the hands of one of the country’s most evil serial killers.

Returning to work after an enforced absence to recover, she discovers she wasn’t the only victim of that investigation. DI Devon Sharp remains suspended from duties, and the team is in turmoil.

Determined to prove herself once more and clear his name, Kay undertakes to solve a cold case that links Sharp to his accuser.

But as she gets closer to the truth, she realises her enquiries could do more harm than good.

Torn between protecting her mentor and finding out the truth, the consequences of Kay’s enquiries will reach far beyond her new role…

Call to Arms is a gripping police procedural, and the fifth in the Detective Kay Hunter series.

Hell to Pay by Rachel Amphlett

5/5 stars. The story will live long in my mind as a brilliant example of crime writing at its best.

Description

When a road traffic accident on a dark autumn night uncovers a disturbing conspiracy, Detective Sergeant Kay Hunter’s investigation exposes a ruthless serial killer exploiting vulnerable young women.

With her enemies unmasked and her career spiralling out of control, Kay’s determination to seek vengeance for the victims brings her dangerously close to those who want to silence her.

Undeterred, she uncovers the real reason behind a plot to destroy her career and sets in motion a terrifying chain of events.

Could Kay’s need for revenge be her undoing, or will she survive to see justice served?

My thoughts

This series just gets better as the personal stakes continue to increase for Kay Hunter.

With yet another original story, filled with pace, suspense, tension and drama, the scale of the challenge facing Kay and her team is overwhelming. Factor in the lack of support from above, another branch of the police stepping in to take over the investigation, and a ruthless killer who’s orchestrates from a safe distance, and you have one hell of a story.

Kay’s determination to bring the killer who has caused her, and others, so much pain and grief made me fearful, hoping she wouldn’t let her anger blind her to danger. But of course, this is fiction, no matter how real it feels, and I simply couldn’t put the book down as the tension and threat built.

In the end, I was left breathless. The story will live long in my mind as a brilliant example of crime writing at its best. Bring on the next book.

Hell to Pay

 

Heavenfield by LJ Ross

5/5 stars. I love the atmospheric locations, the sinister backstory and the engaging central characters, all wrapped up in some great writing.

Description

The hunter becomes the hunted…

When a man is found dead at the remote church of Heavenfield, DCI Ryan is the only other person for miles around. The police have no weapon, no motive and no other suspects.

Already suspended from Northumbria CID, Ryan must fight to clear his name. But soon, more than his career is at stake when prominent members of the mysterious ‘Circle’ begin to die. Somebody wants Ryan’s name to be next on the coroner’s list and to survive he must unmask the devil who walks among them – before it is too late.

Unfortunately for Ryan, the devil looks just like everybody else…

My thoughts

The beauty of a series is getting to know the main characters a little better with each book. In Heavenfield it’s the way the main characters come together and rally round DCI Ryan that lifts a story where there’s so much going on. He’s under attack from ‘The Circle’, whose members seem to be ruthlessly purging anyone who threatens their existence or exposure.

The events in this story have been brewing in the previous two books and lead to an intense and complex plot with many threads and a rather neat twist at the end. Hats off to the author for keeping so many plates spinning. At times it felt like there was too much going on, diluting the tension, but the thrilling climax more than made up for this.

I love the atmospheric locations, the sinister backstory and the engaging central characters, all wrapped up in some great writing that makes for exciting and dramatic stories that are an absolute pleasure to read.

I can’t wait to find out how the team deal with the aftermath of this story in the next book, Angel. From the standard of writing so far, it promises to be another great book.

5/5 stars

Heavenfield

The Missing Children by MA Comley

3/5 stars. The story had a decent pace and plenty of drama as it flicked between the police and the abductors of the children.

Description

The first gripping thriller in the DI Kayli Bright trilogy.

“I want my mummy…”

The whisper seems to echo through the rooms of the abandoned house. DI Kayli Bright and her partner, DS Dave Chaplin, aren’t strangers to dealing with bad cases, but no one can prepare for the emotional and mental anguish caused by the discovery of a child’s remains.

Determined to find the responsible culprit, several of the dead child’s family members surface on their radar of suspects…until they learn of another child’s abduction.

The investigation leads Kayli to the shocking conclusion that even more children in the area have been abducted. A race against time ensues to find the children before they get lost in a sinister, evil world.

My thoughts

I’m always interested in trying an author I haven’t read before and overall I enjoyed The Missing Children. The story had a decent pace and plenty of drama as it flicked between the police and the abductors of the children. Due to the subject matter, there was a high emotional level on all sides. The author wanted to show how crimes against children affect the investigating police officers, but this seemed to be at the expense of their professionalism and objectivity.

The story felt rushed and as a result the characters didn’t feel fully developed to me. They came across a bit lightweight and preachy. Some of the banter between DI Bright and DS Chaplin didn’t sound realistic as they seemed to be talking moral messages at times. The two of them also seemed to run around, carrying out most of the investigation themselves, despite having a team to support them.

While I welcomed her tenacity and commitment, DI Bright seemed to skip round police procedures and even break a few rules. I know all mavericks do this, but she didn’t strike me as a maverick no matter how well-intentioned and determined she was. Ultimately, this lack of professionalism starts to affect the credibility of the characters and story.

However, the action sequences were dramatic and well-handled, and the story was neatly wrapped up at the end.

3/5 stars

The Missing Children

Honour Bound by Alaric Bond

October 2017

5/5 stars. This is a great story, filled with engaging characters, action and conflict and historical details that brings the whole tale alive

Description

Satisfied that he has forged HMS Kestrel into a formidable weapon, Commander King is keen to take her to sea once more. But the war is not progressing well for Britain, and his hopes of remaining in Malta are shattered as Kestrel is moved closer to the action. And so begins a story that covers two seas and one ocean, as well as a cross-country trek through enemy territory, a closer look at the French prison system and a reunion with several familiar faces.

Containing breathtaking sea battles, tense personal drama and an insight into the social etiquette of both Britain and France, Honour Bound is a story brim-filled with action and historical detail.

My thoughts

I have an eclectic taste in books, but believe in one simple maxim – a good story is a good story. And this is a great story, filled with engaging characters, action and conflict and historical details that brings the whole tale alive. While it can be read as a stand alone, it would be a shame to miss out on its predecessors in the Fighting Sail series.

Honour Bound, like its predecessors, is character driven, and not afraid to venture from sea to land when the French capture King’s ship.He and his officers are taken prisoner and held at Verdun, France. Their captivity and way of life is shown in considerable detail, adding an extra dimension to the story and characters, who we get to know a lot better.

Battles at sea are not forgotten though as a parallel story follows the exploits of Lewis, an officer turned smuggler.

If you like your novels to have strong and interesting characters, facing life and death challenges, and you enjoy learning about life in the past, then please give this novel, and the rest of the series, a try.

Highly recommended and I’m looking forward to the next book.

5/5 stars

Scared to Death by Rachel Amphlett

November 2017

Description

When the body of a snatched schoolgirl is found in an abandoned biosciences building, the case is first treated as a kidnapping gone wrong. But Detective Kay Hunter isn’t convinced, especially when a man is found dead with the ransom money still in his possession.

When a second schoolgirl is taken, Kay’s worst fears are realised.

With her career in jeopardy and desperate to conceal a disturbing secret, Kay’s hunt for the killer becomes a race against time before he claims another life.

For the killer, the game has only just begun…

Scared to Death is the first book in a crime thriller series featuring Kay Hunter – a detective with a hidden past and an uncertain future…

If you like the Kim Stone series by Angela Marsons, Peter James’ Roy Grace series and the Erika Foster series by Robert Bryndza, discover Rachel Amphlett’s new detective novels today.

My thoughts

I’ve been aware of Rachel Amphlett and the Kay Hunter series for some time, but it’s taken a while to get around to Scared to Death. It’s always good to start with the first in a series so you can watch the characters and stories develop over time. And I have to say, I thoroughly enjoyed every page of this book.

While I have no problem with profanities and violence in stories, I often find them unnecessary and overdone in a lot of stories. Rachel Amphlett’s skill as a storyteller meant she didn’t need gratuitous violence, description or profanities to tell a riveting and realistic story, which made it all the more enjoyable for me.

Her straightforward, no nonsense style is refreshing, allowing readers to imagine the characters, if they want to. There was a strong sense of place and time, especially in the rundown industrial estates of Maidstone, and the scenes in the police station seemed highly realistic and credible to me.

The story not only kept me interested from start to finish, but I enjoyed the dashes of humour, particularly the snake her veterinary husband brought home to look after. The humour, and Kay Hunter’s compassion, proved the perfect counterpoint to the chills and terror experienced by the victims.

Both Kay and the killer were vividly brought to life, adding to the drama and suspense of the intriguing and original plot.

And behind it all, there’s this uneasy menace, lurking in the dark. I suspect this will continue into the next story.

5/5 stars. Highly recommended.

I’ve already purchased Will to Live, the second Kay Hunter story and look forward to following her fortunes and misfortunes.

Will to Live cover

Series Killers

Sometimes, I wish there were fewer books out there.

It’s not because I’m a slow reader. Far from it. I can zip through the pages like Mo Farah on his final lap of a race. It’s more a question of the amount of time available for reading. I read while I eat – breakfast and lunch each day.

If a book’s good, I can be tempted to extend lunch, but even then I only manage to read a couple of books a month, sometimes three.

Even if I extended lunch to five or seven courses, the temptation posed by the bewildering choice of authors and books would defeat me. Like many readers, I love discovering new authors, and often a series that gives me that extra magic in a story.

That extra magic

It’s usually a subject close to my heart, a plot that resonates at a deeper level, or a character that embodies similar values and beliefs to me. There’s usually a good sprinkling of humour and a distinct voice that makes the author stand out from the rest.

Must reads

I can only think of two authors whose books I have bought and read without hesitation.

Wilt Tom SharpeThe peerless Tom Sharpe had me laughing well into the night, forcing me to retreat under the covers so I didn’t wake everyone in the house. His ability to take a simple problem and escalate it to the scale of a nuclear war was unsurpassed. I wanted to write like him and make people cry with laughter.

Kinsey Millhone and I have an enduring relationship of over 30 years. It started the moment I opened A is for Alibi, the first of Sue Grafton’s alphabet series. Apart from Kinsey’s feisty attitude, her sense of humour shines through as she passes judgement on all kinds of human foibles and idiosyncrasies. There’s an intriguing backstory too.

New must reads

In recent years, I’ve discovered a few more crime authors who tick the boxes.

While I enjoyed Dead Simple by Peter James, the second in the Roy Grace series, Looking Good Dead, has captured my imagination and shown the great writing that led to him being voted top crime writer recently.

Robin Roughley, who writes the DS Lasser series, grabbed my attention in The Needle House, because of the great characterisation and realism that ran through the story. The second in the series, The Way that it Falls, confirmed what a terrific storyteller Robin is.

LJ Ross wowed me with the charismatic DCI Ryan in Holy Island, set on beautiful Lindisfarne, which still tingles in my memory from a visit there nearly ten years ago. The second story, Sycamore Gap, sits on my Kindle, waiting to be read.

And most recent of all, Rachel Amphlett grabbed me with Scared to Death and DS Kay Hunter, another strong, determined believable character with a no nonsense style. I’m looking forward to reading the second book, Will to Live.

Eat more

platterBut with all those books out there, intriguing reviews from the many bloggers I follow, and authors I’ve met through social media, I‘m constantly tempted away from the series I’d like to follow.

Maybe I’ll have to read while I’m eating my tea, or take a few more snacks during the day, maybe indulge in the occasional midnight feast …

It will mean more running to burn off the calories, but that’s a story for next time.

You can read my thoughts on most of the books mentioned in this blog on my Reviews page