Secret Crimes by Michael Hambling

11th January 2021.

This is fast becoming one of my favourite crime series. DCI Sophie Allen is a terrific character. Smart, gutsy and charismatic, she’s a world away from the trauma-ridden cops that seem to be everywhere in crime fiction. She’s had her fair share of troubles and she has her vulnerabilities, but she’s also a breath of fresh air.

The story starts with the death of a woman at a local jazz festival in Swanage. A few days later, a man is found on the rocks by the sea. He was also at the festival. While the motive for the murders is unclear, the team find a connection between the two deaths and the investigation gathers momentum. But as it spreads wider, the investigation becomes a long, slow slog that tests the members of the team. But you get to know the characters and the relationships better, revealing yet another strong point of the novels.

There are a few challenges along the way, but solid detection eventually yields a suspect and the pieces start to fit together as the story picks up pace to an exciting climax.

While the crimes and investigations are always intriguing, it’s the balance between the plot, the main characters and their relationships that lifts this series to a different level.

If you haven’t read the Sophie Allen series yet, start with the first novel and enjoy!

Please check out my reviews for Dark Crimes and Deadly Crimes.

Description

The body of an attractive festival-goer is discovered on the rocky shoreline at Peveril Point
But the young woman’s injuries arouse suspicion. Who was the man she met? Is there a history of suspicious deaths at other music festivals across the area?

DCI Sophie Allen is back in charge after the emotional upheavals she suffered in ‘Deadly Crimes’, but is she really in control? And a new detective constable, Rae Gregson, joins the team and immediately faces challenges that put her life in peril.

Secret Crimes by Michael Hambling

Deadly Crimes by Michael Hambling

7th December 2020.

In the second book in the series, detective Sophie Allen investigates two crimes, separated by a gap of 40 years. The first concerns a man, brutally murdered and left at a local landmark. Is it an example to warn others? The links to human trafficking seem to suggest it is and Sophie’s soon on the trail of the gang.

The second murder is more personal, solving a 40 year old mystery. Or does it?

The two murders, and the impact on Sophie, make for a complex and draining investigation that twists and turns with every discovery she makes. There’s joy mixed in with the pain, but her search for the truth is relentless, leading to anxiety among those who know her best.

It’s an intricate plot that’s pulls you along, dragging you deeper into the personal lives of Sophie and those close to her, as you’re propelled towards a surprising but deftly handled climax that provides a solution but leaves a question or two unanswered.

Full marks to the author for weaving an enjoyable and entertaining web that delivers on every level. Sophie Allen has become one of my favourite detectives in the space of two books and I’m looking forward to reading the next novel in the series.

Description

A young man’s mutilated body is found on top of the Agglestone, a well-known local landmark on Studland Heath.

It seems that he was involved in a human trafficking and prostitution gang. But why is DCI Sophie Allen keeping something back from her team? Is it linked to the extraordinary discovery of her own father’s body at the bottom of a disused mineshaft, more than forty years after he disappeared?

Discover an intricately crafted mystery that will have you gripped from start to finish.

Deadly Crimes by Michael Hambling

If Fear Wins by Tony J Forder

13th November 2020.

This is the third book in the DI Bliss series which begins with the particularly sadistic killing of an RAF officer. The racial overtones of the murder lead to local tensions and the involvement of the security services, MI5 and MI6, which bring more complications.

Then a woman from Bliss’s past seeks his help with the suspicious death of her husband. Despite reservations, Bliss agrees to take a closer look at the case.

The story covers a lot of ground, including some past cases and emotional issues, creating a complex narrative that drags Bliss and his team down a few dead ends before he begins to make sense of what’s going on.

While I enjoyed following the twists, turns and different strands, at times I wasn’t always sure who some of the many characters were, especially if any of them dipped out of the story for a few chapters. I also felt a little less of the emotional complications and backstory would have helped my focus.

But these are minor quibbles in what is a skilfully crafted, intense and fascinating police procedural with some dark moments, lightened with humorous touches. It covers a broad canvas without losing the detailed character relationships that underpin all good story telling. Original and well-executed, this is a novel for anyone who likes a big, meaty plot, populated by believable and interesting characters to provide several layers of interest.

While you can read it as a standalone, I’d recommend starting at the beginning of the series to get the maximum pleasure. I’m already looking forward to reading the fourth book in the series.

Description

When a torched body is found in a country lane, DI Bliss and Chandler are called in to investigate.

The detectives are drawn towards recent missing person reports and believe their victim will prove to be one of them. Bliss thinks he knows which, and fears the outcome if he is proven right.

Soon the body is identified, and Bliss and Chandler discover evidence suggesting this murder might be a terrorist attack.

Meanwhile, someone from Bliss’s past needs his help, and soon he is juggling his personal life with the demanding case. To make matters more complicated, MI5 and the Counter-Terrorist Unit are called in to help solve the case. But are they on the right track?

Bliss and Chandler soon find themselves in a race against time, and this might just be their most challenging case yet…

If Fear Wins by Tony J Forder

The Black Rose by BL Faulkner

28th October 2020.

You might think that the world of horticulture is genteel, but a killer lurks among the greenhouses and plant displays in the latest case for the Serial Murder Squad. There’s a fortune to be made for the breeder who can produce the black rose of the title. DCS Palmer and DS Singh are soon on the trail, uncovering more murders and financial irregularities along the way.

It’s a fairly straightforward investigation, but the author still manages to squeeze in a few surprises along the way with an interesting twist at the end.

All the elements that I’ve enjoyed in the previous stories are here. The direct, no nonsense story-telling that produces a slick and fast-paced read with another original and intriguing plot. There’s humour from Palmer and his next door neighbour, Benji, who also does some digging around. They all combine to produce an absorbing story that was over all too soon.

If you like original and entertaining crime fiction that dares to be a little different from the usual police procedurals, you should read this series.

Description

DCS Palmer and DS Gheeta Singh get called to the morgue where two bodies listed as suicides have raised the pathologist’s suspicions that they might not be as a rare plant based poison has been found in their stomachs. The fact that the deceased were Garden Centre owners and Rose breeders who were on the brink of marketing the first Black Rose and reaping the huge financial rewards that would bring alerts Palmer to the fact that things aren’t as serene as they appear to be and he gets involved in an investigation that takes him back into the past concerning cold cases that might not be totally cold and of failed liaisons and unexplained deaths in the Rose Breeding and Garden Centre community. At the centre of it all sits the Black Rose, who will have it to display and launch at the Chelsea Flower Show on the Royal Party and Press day? The case twists and turns right up to the wire as liaisons crack and fracture until an ending that…well let’s say it’s very different to what you might expect.

The Black Rose by BL Faulkner

Six Feet Under by Colin Garrow

27th October 2020.

This is the fourth outing for part time taxi driver, part time private eye, Terry Bell and his partner Carol. This time they’re drawn to a disused airfield and the clandestine events that have already led to one murder.

Now Terry and Carol are in the firing line, racing from one scrape to the next as they try to stay one step ahead of the bad guys while unravelling the mystery. Relying on friends, a deepening relationship with the local police, and their wits, the wise-cracking duo refuse to give up. With some exquisite banter and sly humour, their scenes together are pure gold.

It’s a quick read, but the quality of the writing and the characters shines through every page in this entertaining and satisfying murder mystery cum thriller.

My favourite line comes from Terry, who in a moment of despair, realises he’s caught between a cop and a hard place. Magic!

If you haven’t read any of the Terry Bell series, then grab the first and treat yourself. You won’t regret it.

Description

A murder victim, a deserted airfield, a sinister project. Can Terry untangle the mystery before someone else dies?

Asked to investigate the death of a building contractor, taxi-driver and amateur sleuth Terry Bell thinks the dead man’s widow may be wasting her money. But when the trail leads to an old airfield and a brace of brutal thugs, he begins to wonder what they’re trying to hide. Tracking down one of the builder’s former workmates, Terry finds him unwilling to answer questions. When the man is beaten up, the canny cabbie gets a visit from his favourite detective inspector. But DI Charis Brown and her latest sidekick seem determined not to get involved. Until the man is attacked again…

Six Feet Under by Colin Garrow

He weaves a mystery that can match any of our best thriller writers

In another wonderful review for No Love Lost, Colin Garrow says

Robert Crouch manages to create a delightfully complex plot with twists and turns galore and more suspects than you can shake a doggy snack at. The plot is his best yet and kept me enthralled from start to finish. With a writing style that includes witty one-liners and precise plotting, he weaves a mystery that can match any of our best thriller writers.

 

 

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