More Equal than Others by Robin Roughley

9th April 2019 – 5 stars.

You’re guaranteed an imaginative plot that will twist and turn and twist again when you join DS Lasser on another investigation. In this case, it’s a twisted vigilante, wreaking havoc on the Wigan’s sex offenders.

The pace and tension are relentless, the dark, dark humour that runs through the stories is delicious. The banter and double act with DCI Bannister are the highlight of yet another great story from Robin Roughley.

It’s intense, gritty and shocking, but filled with humanity, which shines through in Lasser’s determination to bring the killer to justice, no matter what. His romance and relationship with Medea adds another welcome dimension to his character and the story.

Highly recommended.

 

Description

Lasser is on cloud nine but murder soon brings him down to earth.

A sunny afternoon in the park. Children at play, families picnicking on the grass and a man pushing an old pram, a pram that contains horrors beyond reckoning.

DS Lasser is happy, engaged to the woman of his dreams, just back from a two-week vacation. Life is sweet.

But it only takes one phone call, telling him that a local sex offender has been mutilated and murdered and all thoughts of harmonious bliss are quickly annihilated.

Someone is stalking the streets of this down-at-heel northern town, someone with a burning hatred and a long list containing the names of the guilty.

As if things weren’t bad enough, a local reporter is leading a witch-hunt, determined to lay the blame for the killings at Lasser’s feet.

As the nights draw in and the body count rises, Lasser must hunt the maniac who is spiralling out of control. Though he soon comes to realises that the killer, even in his madness, is working to an agenda.

And he isn’t working alone.

More Equal than Others

Twisted by Robin Roughley

4.5/5 stars. A compelling series with strong, sharply drawn characters, an evocative setting with a seedy underbelly, dark humour, and plots that drag you all over the place and back again.

Description

Would you stop a Good Samaritan from killing a killer?

When Sarah Palmer is attacked on her way home, she knows she is seconds from death. That is until a passing stranger miraculously appears out of the darkness to save her, before vanishing into the downpour.

All his life he has heard voices, his mother used to call them his imaginary friends. Now, he can hear only one, and it’s telling him to do bad things.

Amidst so much horror and death DS Lasser finds himself hunting a killer who has no moral compass, but when the true nature of the murderer is revealed, Lasser is forced to acknowledge that someone else sowed the seeds that bloomed into insanity.

As the killer runs amok, Lasser and the team must try to second-guess his intentions before more innocents are slaughtered. Though he soon comes to realise it’s not only the police hunting the killer, someone else has a stake in putting an end to his reign of terror. Someone who literally has nothing left to live for.

My thoughts

Twisted is the fourth DS Lasser novel and like its predecessors it’s fast paced, tense and thrilling in equal measures, though it seemed more violent and graphic.

While you could read this as a standalone, you’d miss the development of the characters and the relationships that add colour and humour to the gritty storylines. The fractious relationship between Lasser and Bannister, his boss, is a joy at times, picking up from where they left off in the previous novel. Lasser’s relationship with Medea is also a delight, especially when it exposes his self-doubt and hang ups.

With plenty of twists and turns, the story alternates between Lasser and the killer. The author always manages to get inside the minds of his characters, so you know and understand them quickly. His portrayal of the killer is chilling, but tempered with empathy as the tragic reasons that created him are revealed.

Lasser is bolshie, driven and relentless in his pursuit of killers, and almost perpetually soaked to the skin in this novel as the rain over Wigan never lets up. But that’s what makes this series compelling – the strong, sharply drawn characters, the evocative setting with its seedy underbelly, the dark humour, and plots that drag you all over the place and back again. The story started to drag a little towards the end, perhaps because of one too many twists, but it remains another enjoyable and compulsive read.

Looking forward to the next in the series.

4.5/5 stars

Twisted Robin Roughley

You never know

Two years ago, on 20th June 2016, my first novel, No Accident, was published.

Was it a dream come true?

Graham NortonOf course it was, but I have to admit to some disappointment when Graham Norton didn’t ring and invite me onto his show. I had all the funny stories lined up from my days as an environmental health officer (or EHO if you prefer TLAs – three letter acronyms).

“You drove around the South Downs, thinking of ways to murder people while you checked their kitchens for hygiene?” he would ask incredulously. “Didn’t it put you off your food?”

“No Graham, I never eat at any place I inspect.”

Pauses for comic laughter and blushes as JK Rowling complements me on my wit.

But the phone call never came. Hordes of fans didn’t beat down my door. The postman gave it a good rattle when he delivered my five complimentary paperbacks, courtesy of my publisher. No one recognised me in the street because none of the bookshops even knew my book existed.

Most of the population fell into the same category. The people who knew – friends, family and colleagues were probably bored of me mentioning the book or they were reading it.

Slowly, as the months passed, I realised the blue plaque on the wall of my house would have to wait a few more years. If I was going to get my book on Richard and Judy and become a household name, I had to get noticed. I had to market myself and my book to the masses.

Miss Marple photoFirst mistake! I needed to find people who liked reading about an environmental health officer who solved complex murders that paid homage to the traditional murder mysteries of authors like Agatha Christie.

Yes, I could see it was going to be a difficult sell. Most crime stories involved police officers or private detectives. Who’d ever heard of an EHO solving a murder?

But why not? If an elderly lady from St Mary Mead could do it …

So I send EHO, Kent Fisher, to investigate a fatal work accident and he uncovers a murder. Simple enough. But he also uncovers a shedload of family secrets and troubles along the way. That’s what happens in books, isn’t it?

Only Kent rolls with the punches, relying on his finely tuned sense of humour to see him through.

He becomes a local hero and gains his first commission to find a missing wife in the second novel, No Bodies, published in 2017. Once again, environmental health plays a key part as said missing wife ran off with a dodgy caterer.

Who said you can’t have your cake and eat it?

In No Remorse, published in May 2018, Kent takes his West Highland white terrier, Columbo, (no points for guessing my favourite TV detective), to entertain the residents of a well-to-do care home. One of the residents, who has dementia, is convinced they’re trying to kill him.

When he dies a few weeks later, does Kent think it’s murder? Of course not – until he’s handed a cryptic code that the old man left for him. And Kent’s on the trail again.

You might wonder how an EHO can solve murders. You might not think that running an animal sanctuary and trying to protect the environment are that heroic or worthy. And with all the personal baggage he carries, you might wonder why he doesn’t collapse under the weight of it.

That’s fine. If you prefer your heroes to be cynical coppers who drink and smoke too much, have broken marriages, and spend lots of time in their cars eating junk food between apprehending villains, there are some brilliant stories out there.

KindleI know, I’m an avid reader as well as a writer. Dip into my Kindle and you’ll find Peter James, LJ Ross, Rachel Amphlett, Robin Roughley, Elly Griffiths, Agatha Christie, Conan Doyle and many more crime writers.

They’ve all inspired me in some small way to write the kind of book I like to read, filled with twisting plots, irreverent humour and engaging characters who have real lives and issues to deal with.

I’m lucky to have a small, but growing number of readers who like the stories. Some of them write reviews that lift my day and keep me writing. Others send me messages by email or social media to say how much they enjoyed the novels. Some discuss the books with me, which is always an honour.

I love it when bloggers and reviewers hate a character – or love them. Some think Kent Fisher would make a great TV drama. Others think he should pack in environmental health and become a private detective.

Okay, Graham Norton’s not one of them, and he hasn’t signed up for my monthly newsletter either, despite the offer of a free book as a thank you.

I feel honoured and humbled that people have bought my books and enjoyed them. That’s all I ever wanted really – to entertain people with complex murder mysteries that would hopefully baffle them until the final reveal when they would sigh and say, ‘Of course.’

It would be great to shift millions of books like Peter James so I could make a living from writing. Maybe one day I will. Maybe I’ll emerge from Crouch Corner for lunch, take a peek at my phone and discover I’m an overnight sensation after all these years.

Or I’ll return to my desk and continue with the first draft of No Stone, the fourth Kent Fisher mystery. After all, there’s a small, but growing group of people who are waiting for the next book in the series. And I care about those people, who invest their money and time in me.

More than I care about sharing a sofa with JK Rowling, Elton John, Victoria Coren-Mitchell and Bob Mortimer, soaking up the laughter and applause as another funny story about noisy neighbours in bikinis rolls off the tongue.

But if I work hard and keep trying … you never know.

Robert Crouch

Authors who inspire me to write better

Last weekend, I wrote about the authors who inspired me to move from the ideas buzzing around my head to putting fingers on the keys of a typewriter or word processor. (You can read the post here.)

Sue Grafton’s alphabet murder series, featuring Kinsey Millhone, helped me believe I could create my own detective and write crime fiction. Now, with two books published and the third scheduled for May this year, my inspiration comes from other crime writers who bring their own style and ideas to the party.

Plenty of choice

Let’s face it, there are millions of books out there, each vying for your attention as you scan the results on Amazon, Kobo or your local library bookshelves. But out of those millions, how many will appeal to you? How many would you class as ‘essential reads’? How many books would you buy on the strength of the author’s name?

There are so many good writers out there, offering different spins on the same themes and subjects. Why do some capture your imagination more than others? Why do they talk to you in a way that others don’t? What is it that draws you to a particular writer?

I’ve no idea, but I suspect it has a lot to do with the author’s voice and style. The author talks to you in a way you like and understand. The story and characters still have to be good, and familiar settings can help, but there’s something about particular authors that strike a chord or two.

I could list well over twenty authors, whose police procedurals, psychological thrillers or private detective novels have entertained me over the past few years. (There’s a similar list of authors whose books were dumped after a few chapters or pages.)

But at the moment, there are only four authors who inspire me, who make me want to write stronger and better to reach the benchmarks they set. They all write police procedural series with strong central characters, imaginative plots, and dramatic storylines. Yet each author is distinct, bringing something different to the table. I’ve listed them in the order I discovered them.

Robin Roughley – DS Lasser series

Tethered to the DeadRobin has written fifteen of sixteen books so far, set in and around Wigan, but I’ve only just finished reading Tethered to the Dead, which is No 3, but I love the character and his fearless pursuit of criminals. The plots are complex and explode in all directions from a simple crime. There’s social comment, an unflattering view of the seedier side of life, and a wonderful optimism and wit that reassures you that the world will be all right once DS Lasser gets the killer.

But best of all, I like the way the author takes you into the heads of his characters, good and bad, revealing there essence in a few paragraphs.

Peter James – Detective Superintendent Roy Grace

Not Dead EnoughAgain, I’m only on book three, Not Dead Enough, but I can see why Peter James is one the top crime writers in the country. Not only is he an excellent writer who can create memorable characters and brings them to life in a few paragraphs, his plots are wickedly clever. He portrays all shades of Brighton and offers plenty of social and political comment in his investigations, but it’s his attention to detail and police procedure that lift his stories above most of the others. That detail about how the police operate, the systems they use, the buildings they occupy and the rules and regulations that govern their work add great credibility and authenticity to the novels.

LJ Ross – DCI Ryan

I’m a newcomer to this series, set in Northumberland, but again, it’s the story and characters that matter, including a touch of romance, which we all enjoy, don’t we? Holy Island, had a distinctive plot, laced with an undercurrent of ritual and mysticism, to tax the charismatic lead characters in a tale filled with suspense and drama. The style leans more towards the cosy end of the crime market, but remains modern and relevant, which appeals to me.

Book two, Sycamore Gap, is my next read.

Rachel Amphlett – DS Kay Hunter

Will to Live coverI’ve only recently discovered this series and enjoyed the first two books, Scared to Death and Will to Live. Rachel has a no-nonsense, economic style of writing that engages you from the first paragraph. Like Peter James, her plots are different and deftly delivered with a touch of wit and humour to lighten the tone.

While she tackles gritty subjects and hard hitting crimes, she manages without littering her stories with profanities and gratuitous descriptions or violence, which proves it’s the story that counts. I also like to write this way.

These authors all have distinctive styles, but share a number of characteristics that heighten their appeal and inspire me, namely

  • strong central characters who will do whatever it takes to bring the villains to justice
  • complex, twisting plots that baffle, intrigue, entertain and fulfil
  • realism and credibility
  • humour and wit, often dark, that’s often lacking in many novels.

 

Though a newcomer to crime fiction with much to learn, these are the characteristics I strive to bring to my novels, and I’m delighted I’ve found such fantastic examples to show me the way.

I’m sure there will be many more authors in my ‘To Be Read’ pile that will entertain and hopefully inspire me.

That’s the joy of reading.


Click here for reviews of the novels mentioned in this post.

If you’d like to find out more about my novels and lead character, Kent Fisher, please check out my website at http://robertcrouch.co.uk or my Amazon page.

If you’d like exclusive previews and insights, sign up to my Reader Group by entering you details in the form at the top right of the page.

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