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

The Third Rule by Andrew Barrett

9th August 2020.   4 stars.

Let me first say how much I enjoyed this book. I wasn’t sure this would be the case when I opened it on my Kindle to discover I’d previously read the first five chapters and no more. This time, I stuck with it, letting the quality of the writing override my misgivings about Eddie Collins. I struggled to like him or feel much sympathy for him, thanks to his reckless, self-destructive streak, but as the story progressed, I admired his conviction and resolve. I always root for the underdog and was willing him to succeed as the story approached its exciting climax.

It’s an intense and complex story with some big themes, such as the return of the death penalty into the justice system and how power corrupts, coupled with personal tragedy and rivalries. But at its heart is a story of how one man triumphs over trauma and the demons that haunt him to fight the corruption that threatens to destroy him. He’s not alone in his fight, and there’s a price to pay for standing up to those who want to silence him.

Though not an easy read at times, this is a raw and gritty thriller with a slick plot, plenty of tension and an exciting climax. I would have preferred the story to end right there on a high as I was quite breathless, metaphorically speaking, with that satisfied feeling you get when the climax is over.

I loved the forensic and scenes of crime details, which brought the scenes to life, and helped this story to stand out in a crowded crime fiction market.

Description

Crime Scene Investigator, Eddie Collins, always followed the evidence to the truth. Now, he’s running from justice, and running for his life.

Eddie Collins was a brilliant CSI who became an instant hero for tackling an armed robber. He almost died that night. And many times since then he wished he had.

Four years later, riots erupt as a new government unleashes a cruel and fallible death penalty known as The Rules. Meanwhile, a hit and run driver kills Eddie’s son. Eddie blames himself and his hero status dissolves into a drunken wreckage.

Though devastated, he is determined to find his son’s killer, and in a display of his former brilliance, discovers the driver’s identity. But he also uncovers so much more.

His only mistake is not keeping the evidence and his fury to himself.

Broadcast as a murderer and sentenced to a Rule Three death, Eddie must confront his past, chased by a government killer and by a detective who loves slaughtering criminals.

Can Eddie avenge his son, expose the government, and still save himself?

The Third Rule by Andrew Barrett

 

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

An interview with author, Sheila Bugler

To help celebrate the launch of When the Dead Speak, I’m delighted to welcome fellow Eastbourne author, Sheila Bugler, to Robservations. While we met several years ago at a book festival, and a few times since, I wanted to find out more.

So Sheila, please tell me a little about yourself and your writing.

I’m an Irish crime writer, living in Eastbourne. So far, I’ve published five novels – three books in my Ellen Kelly crime series, and two in my Eastbourne Murder Mysteries series. I am a huge fan of crime fiction and read as many crime novels as I can get my hands on. I write reviews for Crimesquad.com which means I get to read a lot of books before their publication date – my dream job!

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

Like most authors, I always wanted to write. In my case, I didn’t have the confidence when I was younger. It was only after my second child was born that I realised if I didn’t start writing, it might never happen. So I started writing and never looked back.

Early on in my writing career, I was lucky to win a year’s mentoring with crime fiction author Martyn Waites. It was a great experience and gave me the confidence I needed to believe I really could do this.

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

The first complete novel I wrote was a twisty psychological thriller called Ready to Fall. It never got published but was good enough to get me an agent. I still love that book, although I doubt it will ever be published because it still needs a lot of work and, at the moment, I don’t have the time to do that.

What do you most enjoy about being an author?

Being able to write books that get published and that people enjoy reading. I also love doing live author events and meeting readers. It’s a real buzz and something I’ve missed a lot during lockdown.

What do you least enjoy about being an author?

It’s such hard work! The biggest problem for me is finding the time to do it properly. I have a ‘day job’ and childcare responsibilities so I have to squeeze in my writing time when I can. It’s a constant challenge. I long for the day I’ll be earning enough money from writing to be able to focus on it full time.

What type of characters do you love and hate to write? Why?

For me, characters always come before plot. I love writing about all sorts of characters and really don’t think I have a favourite or least favourite ‘type’.

How has studying Psychology helped with your writing and the creation/understanding of characters?

The part of me that was drawn to studying Psychology is the same part of me that’s drawn to writing about people. I am fascinated by people – their motivations and interests, their likes and dislikes, the experiences that have shaped them, the dark secrets that lurk beneath the public personas…. I love all of it.

You travelled extensively before settling. How did the travelling and experiences you had influence you as an author and your writing?

It taught me that no matter where you go, people are still people. We all have needs and desires, we all love and hate and grieve. We eat, we sleep, we work and we build relationships with those around us. We are united by our similarities, not divided by our differences.

I believe you’re a creative writing tutor for the Writers Bureau. How did you become involved in this and what does it give you?

I was asked to become a writing tutor a few years ago. I love teaching and helping aspiring writers. The single biggest thing it gives me is the constant reminder of how important it is to learn the ‘nuts and bolts’ of writing.

Too many times, I see writers who want to be a writer but aren’t willing to put the time in to learn how to do it properly. Writing is hard work. It takes time and commitment to becoming a good writer.

What’s been the biggest influence on your writing so far?

All the other incredible writers I’ve ever read. I’m a huge fan of crime fiction and an avid reader. Reading other crime writers reminds me how tough the competition is!

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

Crime fiction with strong female protagonists and plots with lots of twists and turns.

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

My last book, I Could Be You, was compared to a Harlan Coben novel. This was a huge compliment, as he’s the reason I started to write crime fiction.

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

Too many! Megan Abbott and Gillian Flynn are two of my favourite crime writers. I love their writing because their novels explore the darker sides of their female characters.

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

Johnny Cash – because he was a legend.
Leonard Cohen – for the same reason.
Maya Angelou – for her humanity, wit and intelligence.
My friend Alex – because she’s cool, clever and funny and the other three guests would adore her!

Please tell me about your latest project/plans for the future.

Last summer, I signed a four-book deal with a new publisher. I’m contracted to write a book every six months so I’m very busy!

The second book in my Eastbourne Murder Mystery series is out on 9 July. After that, I’m writing a stand-alone psychological thriller which will be published at the end of this year.

Thank you, Sheila, and good luck with When the Dead Speak. I’ll be reading I Could be You, the first Eastbourne Murder Mystery, in the next few weeks.

When the Dead Speak (Eastbourne Murder Mystery #2)

When the dead speak

Secrets can be fatal. But so can the truth.

When the murdered body of Lauren Shaw is discovered laid out on the altar of St Mary the Virgin church in Eastbourne it sends a chill to the core of those who have lived in the area for a long time. They remember another woman, also young and pretty, whose slain corpse was placed in the same spot 60 years ago.

Dee Doran is as intrigued as the rest but focused on her investigation of the whereabouts of a missing person from the Polish community. The police weren’t interested but Dee’s journalistic instincts tell her something is amiss.

But as she starts asking questions Dee finds the answers all point to the same conclusion – someone is keeping secrets and they will do whatever it takes to keep them safe.

When the Dead Speak is available on Amazon.

You can find out more about Sheila Bugler at

Facebook author page: https://www.facebook.com/Sheila-Bugler-author-page-1405242063026200/

Twitter: @sheilab10

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/sheilabsussex/

Website: www.sheilabugler.co.uk

Once Gone by Blake Pierce

28th June 2020.    4 stars

Once Gone is the first novel in the series featuring FBI agent, Riley Pierce, and my first introduction to the character.

A serial killer is on the loose, torturing and killing women, who are posed like dolls for the police and FBI to find. With three women killed and a fourth murder likely, the FBI needs Riley and her unique skills. Trouble is, she’s on sick leave, suffering post-traumatic stress disorder after being captured and tortured by another serial killer. Despite her own reservations and doubts, she’s drawn into the investigation.

The stage is set for an intriguing thriller. It starts well with sharply drawn characters and an investigation that feels very real and tense when a fourth woman is captured by the killer. The stakes couldn’t be higher when a senator, who’s lost a daughter to this killer, starts throwing his weight around, undermining the existing investigation.

An arrest soon follows, but have the FBI got the right man?

The arrest pushes Riley into a downward spiral of deeper self-doubt. Soon she is floundering, her behaviour becoming more extreme as she loses her badge. Naturally, in the tradition of the maverick detective, she battles on, fighting her own demons as well as trying to track down the killer before a fifth victim is found.

While the characterisation of Riley is sympathetic and for the most part believable, I felt her behaviour and actions became too far-fetched as the story hurtled towards a predictable climax. It took the edge off a well-written and enjoyable thriller with some otherwise incisive characterisation.

Description

Women are turning up dead in the rural outskirts of Virginia, killed in grotesque ways, and when the FBI is called in, they are stumped. A serial killer is out there, his frequency increasing, and they know there is only one agent good enough to crack this case: Special Agent Riley Paige.

Riley is on paid leave herself, recovering from her encounter with her last serial killer, and, fragile as she is, the FBI is reluctant to tap her brilliant mind. Yet Riley, needing to battle her own demons, comes on board, and her hunt leads her through the disturbing subculture of doll collectors, into the homes of broken families, and into the darkest canals of the killer’s mind. As Riley peels back the layers, she realizes she is up against a killer more twisted than she could have imagined. In a frantic race against time, she finds herself pushed to her limit, her job on the line, her own family in danger, and her fragile psyche collapsing.

Yet once Riley Paige takes on a case, she will not quit. It obsesses her, leading her to the darkest corners of her own mind, blurring the lines between hunter and hunted. After a series of unexpected twists, her instincts lead her to a shocking climax that even Riley could not have imagined.

Once Gone Blake Pierce

Succession by BL Faulkner

12th June 2020.  5 stars.

The 11th outing with the Serial Murder Squad is another fast paced investigation that dips into the murky world of gangland crime.

When members of South London’s Dawn family are killed, it looks like a takeover by a rival gang is on the cards. When the case is passed to DCI Palmer and his team, it soon becomes clear that there’s more to these murders than a simple turf war. As the body count rises, the investigation twists and turns, with the squad always a step off the pace, but closing in fast.

If you’ve read the previous books in the series, you’ll be familiar with the characters and the author’s no frills writing style, fast pace and great characterisation, spiced with some lovely humorous touches and a realism that increases your enjoyment.

If you haven’t read any of the previous outings for the Serial Murder Squad, you can still enjoy this book, but I would urge you to read the others. You’re guaranteed some exciting stories, quality crime writing and a great deal of pleasure.

Highly recommended.

 

Description

When the boss of South London’s major organised crime firm James Dawn is assassinated along with his patriarchal father suspicion falls on the West End firm trying to expand their empire. But there are other players in the game, Stanley Dawn the uncle who holds a grudge against James, is he teaming up with the West End boss Jack Dooley in a takeover play? Then there’s Eve Dawn, James’s wife, who may be behind the scenes pulling the strings and last but not least Johnny Robinson who runs the North London firm, he’s got an interest but has he got the muscle? The case is dropped onto DCS Palmer’s desk as the Met’s Organised Crime Department is overstretched. Things begin to happen and the body count rises, all the time it seems Eve Dawn is hovering somewhere in the background but nothing seems to stick to her. Why is she bringing in a major money launderer from Panama? Why is she taking a day trip to Cyprus? What has the Catholic Church got to do with drug smuggling. As you would expect from a DCS Palmer novel the pace never lets up and the twists and turns keep the reader glued to it to the very last page.

Succession by BL Faulkner

The Snow Killer by Ross Greenwood

4th June 2020.   4 stars.

I enjoyed this story because it wasn’t populated by the usual traumatised police detectives that seem to be everywhere these days. The killer was also sympathetically portrayed as a victim trying to right a historic wrong. It doesn’t atone for murder, but it’s refreshing to see both sides of the coin.

This is a simple revenge thriller, where the killings are separated by a 50 year gap. The victims and motives for the murders confound DI Barton and DS Strange as the murders only happen when it’s snowing.

The pace is steady, the alternation between detective and killer helps to maintain interest and build suspense, with an unexpected twist that leads to an exciting climax in the snow. The characters are well developed and interesting with some nice humorous touches in the backstory.

If you prefer a more character based approach to your crime fiction and a different, inventive plot, then you’ll find plenty to enjoy in this story.

Description

‘Fear the north wind. Because no one will hear you scream…’

A family is gunned down in the snow but one of the children survives. Three years on, that child takes revenge and the Snow Killer is born. But then, nothing – no further crimes are committed, and the case goes cold.

Fifty years later, has the urge to kill been reawakened? As murder follows murder, the detective team tasked with solving the crimes struggle with the lack of leads. It’s a race against time and the weather – each time it snows another person dies.

As an exhausted and grizzled DI Barton and his team scrabble to put the pieces of the puzzle together, the killer is hiding in plain sight. Meanwhile, the murders continue…

The Snow Killer

The Mermaids Singing by Val McDermid

2nd June 2020.   4 stars.

One of the joys of crime fiction is the number of series available, whether by established or new authors. While many police procedurals are similar or different versions of the same formula, some are more distinctive.

The Mermaids Singing, written in the 1990s, introduces psychological profiler Tony Hill. He’s a damaged character with a lot to prove, especially to police forces used to solving crimes by the book. After three murders the police refuse to connect, he’s brought in secretly to help identify and capture a serial killer. He’s teamed with Carol Jordan, an ambitious fast-track detective inspector, who’s also got a lot to prove to her male colleagues.

The killer, who’s obsessed with torture, is a meticulous planner, well ahead of the police. The trouble is, they won’t acknowledge him and give him the credit and publicity he feels he deserves. When Tony Hill enters the arena, you know there’s going to be a battle of intellects and wills. After all, this is a thriller at heart.

While the chapters relating to the killer were disturbing, they were restrained and essential to the thriller element of the story, increasing the tension as the story headed for an inevitable confrontation.

The characters of Jordan and Hill were well drawn and realistic. The pace was steady, building to an exciting climax with a neat, if predictable twist. It posed a few unanswered questions, but didn’t detract from my overall enjoyment.

I would certainly recommend the book as the writing is first rate, the story well told, and the atmosphere deadly but electric.

Description

You always remember the first time. Isn’t that what they say about sex? How much more true it is of murder…

Up till now, the only serial killers Tony Hill had encountered were safely behind bars. This one’s different – this one’s on the loose.

Four men have been found mutilated and tortured. As fear grips the city, the police turn to clinical psychologist Tony Hill for a profile of the killer. But soon Tony becomes the unsuspecting target in a battle of wits and wills where he has to use every ounce of his professional nerve to survive.

A tense, beautifully written psychological thriller, The Mermaids Singing explores the tormented mind of a serial killer unlike any the world of fiction has ever seen.

The Mermaids Singing