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

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