Tag Archives: Detective

She Has The Touch Of Death…

“An ugly duckling as a child, Jodie Bentley had two dreams in life – to be beautiful and rich. She’s achieved the first, with a little help from a plastic surgeon, and now she’s working hard on the second. Her philosophy on money is simple: you can either earn it or marry it. Marrying is easy, it’s getting rid of the husband afterwards that’s harder, that takes real skill. But hey, practice makes perfect …

Detective Superintendent Roy Grace is feeling the pressure from his superiors, his previous case is still giving him sleepless nights, there have been major developments with his missing wife Sandy, and an old adversary is back. But worse than all of this, he now believes a Black Widow is operating in his city. One with a venomous mind… and venomous skills. Soon Grace comes to the frightening realisation that he may have underestimated just how dangerous this lady is…”

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Incredibly we’re now up to book twelve in the Roy Grace detective series from Brighton author Peter James. It certainly doesn’t seem like eleven years since I read “Dead Simple” – the first in the series.

This latest instalment finds Grace investigating a black widow character as well as dealing with some ghosts from past investigations – as well as from his own personal past (in the form of his first wife Sandy). Thankfully the last of these has now come to a conclusion, though typically enough there is still some baggage from that situation that will likely impact quite significantly on his life going forward. Much as I like to see how a detective’s personal situation impacts on his day job I’m not sure that I wouldn’t have preferred that particular story arc to have come to a full stop.

Peter James
Peter James

Nonetheless, James has yet again managed to craft a captivating storyline. Perhaps one might argue that some of the crimes committed might have been more easily detectable given certain similarities and coincidences, but given the budget and staffing constraints that our police force has come under in recent years it is perfectly conceivable that the events depicted here could go on undetected.

I did have a couple of reservations – Spoiler Alert! – when the killer is arrested she seems to give up just a little too easily and the method for killing via a single snake tooth that she carried seemed a bit unlikely. To balance that, however, there are a couple of very pertinent thoughts on the strengths of relationships and of course the rest of the tale is excellently told and James has clearly done a lot of research on his subject matter.

All in all, then, another excellent entry into the Roy Grace series. Looking forward to book number thirteen already…btm

Dark Waters Can Hold The Deadliest Secrets

“When DI Wesley Peterson is summoned to investigate a killing, he assumes that the case is a routine matter. But soon dark secrets and deadly deceptions start to emerge from the victim’s past, and Wesley begins to realise that a simple incident of cold-blooded murder is altogether more calculated and complicated that he could ever imagine.

Meanwhile, archaeologist Neil Watson is pulled from the historic Paradise Court to a ruined village from the First World War. Even with the help of the attractive and enigmatic Lucy, Neil cannot shake the feeling that something is missing from his explorations: a cryptic clue that might have been lost when Sandrock tumbled into the sea many years ago. A clue that could help Wesley solve his most puzzling case to date.

As more victims fall prey to a faceless killer, Wesley sees the investigation affecting him more personally than ever before. And when his precious family becomes a target, Wesley has no time to lose. Just like the fallen village of Sandrock, Wesley will have to stand tall if he is to withstand the coming storm…”

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Just finished reading “The Death Season”, the third Kate Ellis novel that I’ve read, following on from “The Cadaver Game” and “The Shadow Collector”, which were books sixteen and seventeen respectively in the Wesley Peterson series. This one is book number nineteen so obviously I’ve somehow managed to miss one!

As before we are presented with two mysteries from different eras at the same time, weaved together with links to be uncovered between the two. In the present day it’s the murder of a man in a local hotel room and the knock-on effects that this has, whereas the older story is set in the early 20th century when Sandrock, a fishing village, disappeared into the sea one stormy night.

Kate Ellis
Kate Ellis

The latter was inspired by the true story of the village of Hallsands which was practically wiped out by storms in 1917. The fictional version, together with a nearby stately home’s ice house, is the setting for archaeologist Neil Watson’s work.

Meanwhile his good friend DI Wesley Peterson is juggling the demands of the 21st century murder case with feelings of guilt over the time he spends away from his family – as well as a certain attraction to a colleague – whilst his boss DCI Gerry Heffernan is on light duties following an incident in the book that I missed!

I thought that this was a pretty decent story, with plenty going on to keep the reader interested. That said, however, I felt that this time around there were just too many coincidental links between people and cases to be credible. Still, it’s a novel – not real life – so that’s perhaps not the worst thing that one could say about a book! Some of the outcomes were also a little predictable, but for the most part this was a well written and engrossing murder mystery story. Next up in the Wesley Patterson series will be “The House Of Eyes”…btm

The Deal, The Danger, The Deaths

“The Deal

Tom Thorne is a detective again, but there’s a price to pay. Stuart Nicklin, the most dangerous psychopath he has ever put behind bars, promises to reveal the whereabouts of a body he buried twenty-five years before. But only if Thorne agrees to escort him.

The Danger

Unable to refuse, Thorne gathers a team and travels to a remote Welsh island, at the mercy of the weather and cut off from the mainland. Thorne is determined to get the job done and return home before Nicklin can outwit them.

The Deaths

But Nicklin knows this island well and has had time to plan ahead. Soon, new bodies are added to the old, and Thorne finds himself facing the toughest decision he has ever had to make…”

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“The Bones Beneath” is the thirteenth book that I have read by English author Mark Billingham, and the twelfth to feature his police detective character Tom Thorne.

The majority of the book takes place during the journey to, and time spent on, Bardsey Island, a small island off the west Wales coast that is reputed to be the burial place of twenty thousand saints and also sometimes claimed to be the last resting places of both King Arthur and Merlin.

There are some flashback chapters to events on the island some twenty-five years previously and others that cover events happening elsewhere whilst Thorne and his party are on the island which give hints as to what’s going on but the truth isn’t revealed until the end as usual.

Thorne’s significant others, by which I mean recurring characters that he works with – such as pathologist Phil Hendricks and detective colleagues Dave Holland and Yvonne Kitson – have fairly minor roles to play here too, with most of the action, as it were, being between Thorne and Nicklin.

I have to be honest and say that, whilst I most certainly enjoyed this novel I felt that it was a little weak in comparison to the Thorne tales that have preceded it. There is very little in the way of police investigation of detective work going on in this story, with most of the revelations coming about as and when the bad guy decides to disclose them, which I think accounts for the relative lack of overall excitement with this one.

Hopefully things will pick up with the next book in the series “Time Of Death”…bones beneath

Happiness Comes At A Price…

“After six years living alone, Joe O’Loughlin is invited to spend the summer with his estranged wife Julianne and their two daughters. Determined to rekindle his marriage, Joe  grabs this lifeline like a drowning man, but soon there are complications.

A mother and her teenage daughter are found murdered in a Somerset farmhouse, one defiled by multiple stab wounds and the other left lying like Sleeping Beauty waiting for her Prince. Reluctantly Joe is drawn into the investigation because another psychologist, a former student calling himself the ‘Mindhunter’ has traded on Joe’s name and jeopardised the police inquiry by leaking details to the media and stirring up public anger.

With no shortage of suspects and tempers beginning to fray, Joe calls on his old friend former detective, Vincent Ruiz, for help and soon they discover links to a series of brutal attacks where the men and women are choked unconscious and the letter ‘A’ is carved into their foreheads.

Nothing is what it seems and Joe will discover that happiness comes at a price”michael-robotham_close-your-eyes

I’ve just finished reading “Close Your Eyes” by Australian author Michael Robotham. I’ve read a number of his books since stumbling over his 2008 novel “Shatter” which was set in and around Bristol, a city that I spent much of my life living in.

In this latest one the action is a little south of Bristol, in and around Clevedon, but still features psychologist Professor Joe O’Loughlin, his wife and daughters Charlie and Emma, and ex-cop Vincent Ruiz.

Michael Robotham
Michael Robotham

To be honest I was surprised to find that Robotham is Australian, and lives in Australia, such is his knowledge of the areas in which O’Loughlin’s character operates. His official bio mentions a period working in London as a journalist but perhaps he spent some time in the South West too? The only point at which he slipped up, in fact, was in referring to Fishponds Road in the Eastleigh area of Bristol when in fact it’s in Eastville. That aside the general area really comes to live on the page.

Story-wise, this one is as good, if not better, than the likes of “Watching You” and “Say You’re Sorry”. There are lots of twist and turns and genuinely tense passages. Robotham has a knack of making his characters very real and believable, and as a reader you therefore become invested in what happens to them.

Also, with this story he has done a superb job of planting so many false trails and red herrings that I, for one, had no chance of figuring out who the baddie was until he wanted me to! Excellent storytelling.

The only concern that I have is that having seen somewhere the author apparently stating that he wasn’t able to finish writing O’Loughlin’s stories until the situation between Joe and Julianne was resolved. Without giving anything away there is, indeed, some kind of resolution in this book, but I hope that doesn’t mean an end to the Professor’s adventures as they have been a joy to read and I would certainly miss him. Time will tell, I suppose, but if this is to be Joe’s swansong then it’s certainly a strong one to go out on…michael-robotham-competition

First He Kills… And Then He Waits

“First he kills.

A psychologist is found brutally murdered, an addict jumps to his death and a student is found dead. These are the facts. And they are all that DIs Wheeler and Ross have.

Then he waits.

As Wheeler and Ross weave through the layers of Glasgow’s underbelly they find a subculture where truth and lies are interchangeable commodities and violence is the favoured currency.

He watches.

The killer stays one step ahead of them as Wheeler uncovers a web of deceit in which her own nephew is entangled and she is saddled with the dilemma: is justice ever served by the truth?”

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I have just finished reading the debut crime novel by Scottish author A.J. McCreanor, now a resident of Glastonbury. It took me a little while to get into this book, I suspect largely due to the regional dialogue – words that presumably make far more sense to someone either from Glasgow, or with a good knowledge of some of the language used locally there.

A.J. McCreanor
A.J. McCreanor

The story starts with a short preface outlining the death of a drug addict, William MacIntyre, as a result of jumping from a Glasgow bridge into the path of an oncoming bus. This news is then relayed to a character by the name of Andy Doyle.

The tale proper then begins in Chapter 1. Two youths – Alec Munroe and Rab Wilson – break into an isolated cottage belonging to a educational psychologist, James Gilmore, expecting him to be at parents evening at Watervale Academy. However, they find Gilmore hanging from a hook on the wall of his living room, very badly beaten and very dead.

We are then gradually introduced to all the main characters over the course of the next few chapters. On the police front there is DI Kat Wheeler, Acting DI Steven Ross, DS Ian Robertson and DC Alexander Boyd.

On the civilian side we discover that Doyle is less than honest, his girlfriend Stella has secrets to keep hidden, plus there’s mohican-topped Weirdo, criminal Maurice Mason recently released after serving time for manslaughter, young George Grey who was being seen by Gilmore at the Academy and Wheeler’s nephew Jason who is a law student in the city.

It’s the run up to Christmas and Wheeler and Ross have to try to figure out who is responsible for the brutal killing of Gilmore, but have little to go on as Gilmore seems to have been a complete loner and there is no physical evidence, no apparent motive and no suspects.

Meanwhile criminal business interests and Wheeler’s attempts to connect with, and check up on, Jason give us plenty of other information through the various sub-plots to keep our brains engaged. I did find it to be a little unfocused sometimes, leading to some confusion, though in this case maybe that could be the fault of the reader!

I found this to be an enjoyable story, perhaps a little too true to life in the sluggishness of the police investigation to make for riveting reading at times, and the local language (as already mentioned) something of a handicap. The conclusion of the case is somewhat unusual in that the police accept an outcome that they aren’t fully invested in but, again, that’s maybe more true to life than we might like to believe to be the case (though there is the hint of a twist right at the end which may perhaps carry over into the next book?).

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A promising debut novel, then. Time will tell if McCreanor will join the ranks of authors by whom I look forward to each successive book but this is a solid, if unspectacular start…

They Were Marked For Death

“The last words Jamie Ball hears from his fiancée, Logan Somerville, are in a terrified mobile phone call. She has just driven into the underground car park beneath the block of flats where they live in Brighton. Then she screams and the phone goes dead. The police are on the scene within minutes, but Logan has vanished, leaving behind her neatly parked car and mobile phone.

That same afternoon, workmen digging up a park in another part of the city, unearth the remains of a woman in her early twenties, who has been dead for thirty years.

At first, to Roy Grace and his team, these two events seem totally unconnected. But then another young woman in Brighton goes missing – and yet another body from the past surfaces.

Meanwhile, an eminent London psychiatrist meets with a man who claims to know information about Logan. And Roy Grace has the chilling realization that this information holds the key to both the past and present crimes . . . Does Brighton have its first serial killer in over eighty years?”

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Book eleven in the Roy Grace series by author Peter James sees Detective Superintendent Roy Grace drawn into a two simultaneous cases – a corpse found under a path that was buried some thirty years ago and the disappearance and possible abduction of Logan Somerville.

Peter James
Peter James

As the cases develop Grace finds himself under increasing pressure when more bodies and missing girls come to light. Added to that he and new wife Cleo are about to move home, Cleo is struggling to cope with the move and their young son and Grace has to deal with his new boss – nemesis Caspian Pewe.

Within Grace’s team Glenn Branson is attracted to a new journalist at the local Argus newspaper, whilst Norman Potting is still mourning the death, in the previous book “Want You Dead”, of his fiancée Bella Moy.

And of course, let’s not forget the always ongoing saga of Grace’s missing first wife Sandy. Events in this book indicate that perhaps, just perhaps, this particular aspect of the Roy Grace story is finally coming to an end… we shall see.

CGGuKdEUoAAH4roThis particular story though is, as usual, full of detail and excellently plotted. For once I thought I had it all figured out by about three-quarters of the way through but I really should have known better! James managed to pull the rug from under me more than once in the final sections of the book.

Characterisation is, again, really well done. You do feel like you really get to know these characters on more than a superficial level which makes for a much more invested and gripping read. Superb…

C.I.D. Isn’t What It Used To Be…

“It’s a been a bad week for acting Detective Inspector Logan McRae. Every time his unit turns up anything interesting, DCI Steel’s Major Investigation Team waltzes in and takes over, leaving CID with all the dull and horrible jobs.

Like dealing with Mrs. Black – who hates her neighbour, the police, and everyone else. Or identifying the homeless man who drank himself to death behind some bins. Or tracking down the wife and kids of someone who’s just committed suicide.

But when the dead bodies start turning up, one thing’s certain – Logan’s week is about to get a whole lot worse…”

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I’ve just read “22 Dead Little Bodies”, a short novel by Stuart MacBride featuring his long-standing characters Logan McRae and Roberta Steel.

Although this is shorter read than MacBride’s usual McRae work that does not mean that there is any drop in standards.

Stuart MacBride
Stuart MacBride

Granted there are none of the usual crimes found in MacBride’s books to be solved here – no serial killers torturing and maiming their victims in the most gruesome manner etc. – but there are still a couple of murders for Police Scotland to solve. As Steel’s MIT take on such cases that means that CID (where McRae works) tends to be left with the less glamorous investigations.

As is usually the case, however, McRae finds himself doing a great deal of the work with Steel hovering around waiting to grab the glory!

In keeping with the main McRae series of books there is an update on the situation with McRae’s girlfriend Samantha, whilst the man himself manages to find himself getting in yet deeper with local crime boss Wee Hamish Mowat.

Equally important to the success of this novella is MacBride’s trademark humour. Somehow he manages to write some passages in such a way as to make me laugh out loud even as the bodies are piling up!

Readers unfamiliar with previous McRae stories may flounder a little in places, being unaware of the history of McRae, Steel, Mowat, etc., but for the most part they – and certainly anyone already familiar with these characters – should find much to enjoy here…

Once Inside There’s No Way Out

“A fate worse than death…

DI Murphy and DS Rossi discover the body of known troublemaker Dean Hughes, dumped on the steps of St. Mary’s Church in West Derby, Liverpool. His body is covered with the unmistakable marks of torture.

As they hunt for the killer, they discover a worrying pattern. Other teenagers, all young delinquents, have been disappearing without a trace.

Who is clearing the streets of Liverpool?

Where are the other missing boys being held?

And can Murphy and Rossi find them before they meet the same fate as Dean?”

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2014’s “The Dying Place” is author Luca Veste‘s second novel, following on from “Dead Gone” which had introduced the characters of Liverpool detectives DI David Murphy and DS Laura Rossi.

This novel starts off with an account of how a single mother on benefits is judged by others, often without any knowledge of what lead to the mother and children being in the position that they find themselves.

Luca Veste
Luca Veste

From there we are gradually introduced to a range of characters – from an elderly man whose wife died after being mugged and who despises the “scallies” on Liverpool’s streets, to Goldie, a teenager full of bravado who thinks he’s top dog, and all manner of people on both sides of this particular divide.

As well as a rather perplexing case to deal with, DI Murphy also has a partner pressing him to commit to starting a family and a best friend whose teenage son (Murphy’s godson) seems to be going off the rails to contend with. On top of that he isn’t the “perfect” detective – he misses things sometimes, but that adds to the drama contained within the book.

I thought that this was a really well written crime thriller which addresses a very topical subject at a time when those whose life depends on state benefits are the subject of much media and political interest. Social commentary within the confines of a crime thriller.

Inspired by his father’s discussion about “getting together a group of “old boys” in a van and sorting out the “scallies” which he imagines lurk on every corner” and his own interest in the sense of disparity he finds in the city of Liverpool, what Veste does here is to take the extreme viewpoints often bandied about and to examine what really lies beneath the surface. Yes, there are bad folks that do bad things who are living on benefits but there are also those who want to do so much better, just as there are those looking down on the benefit “scroungers” who are capable of equally bad things.

dp-blog-tour2This is a really good book with a great story to tell which manages to both entertain in the way that crime thrillers should and also comment on how parts of our society have become. Recommended reading…

Don’t Love Him. Don’t Trust Him. Don’t Say I Didn’t Warn You…

“Would you trust a complete stranger?

After Chloe and her daughter Freya are rescued from disaster by a man who seems too good to be true, Chloe decides she must find him again to thank him. But instead of meeting her knight in shining armour, she comes across a woman called Nadine Caspian who warns her to stay well away from him. The man is dangerous, Nadine claims, and a compulsive liar. Alarmed, Chloe asks her what she means, but Nadine will say no more.

Chloe knows that the sensible choice would be to walk away – after all, she doesn’t know anything about this man. But she is too curious. What could Nadine have meant? And can Chloe find out the truth without putting herself and her daughter in danger?”

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Born in 1971, Cambridge based author Sophie Hannah is probably best known for her series of crime novels featuring the police detectives Charlie Zailer and Simon Waterhouse – two of which have been made into television series under the title “Case Sensitive”.

Sophie Hannah
Sophie Hannah

For the 2015 Quick Reads campaign – which aims to promote reading amongst adults who wouldn’t normally read by producing stories from big name authors that are shorter and less complex than their usual novels – Hannah has written “Pictures Or It Didn’t Happen”.

Chloe Daniels is overjoyed when Tom Rigbey rides to the rescue, literally, when she accidentally leaves her daughter Freya’s sheet music in her car on the way to an audition for a part in a musical.

Despite her best friend Lorna’s advice, Chloe is desperate to track Tom down and thank him. Receptionist Nadine Caspian tries to warn Chloe off Tom but won’t go into detail, and Chloe is rather reluctant to be put off.

Whilst Chloe is getting carried away with her thoughts, Lorna asks her friend Charlie Zailer and Charlie’s husband Simon Waterhouse to get involved.

It’s not long before Simon has everything worked out – is Tom, as Lorna suspects, far too good to be true? Or is there an altogether less expected answer to the mystery?

Clearly this was unlikely to be as satisfying a read as Hannah’s previous Zailer / Waterhouse stories, at just 123 pages and slightly larger than normal typeface, and that proved to be the case. I personally am looking forward to a full length follow-up to last year’s excellent “The Telling Error”, which was the ninth book in the series proper.

Sophie Hannah
Sophie Hannah

That said however, and bearing in mind the initial purpose of this book, it does the job admirably. There is enough detail and description to keep things interesting, without too many distractions or red herrings, and a decent enough mystery and resolution to make reading this worthwhile…

The Deadliest Secrets Lurk In The Darkness…

“Lilith Benley and her mother, rumoured to be witches, were convicted of the brutal murder of two teenage girls. Eighteen years later Lilith is released from prison, and soon a young woman is found dead at a neighbouring farm. Called in to investigate, DI Wesley Peterson now has to deal with the terrifying possibility that Lilith Benley has killed again…

Meanwhile archaeologist Neil Watson discovers a gruesome wax doll at a house that once belonged to a woman hanged for witchcraft. Then Neil has a near fatal accident, and some suspect a supernatural connection. Now it is up to Wesley to uncover terrible secrets and bring a dangerous killer to justice – a killer who will stop at nothing to wreak vengeance and death.”

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Last December I wrote about the sixteenth novel in the Wesley Peterson series of books by Devon author Kate Ellis, titled “The Cadaver Game”.

“The Shadow Collector” is book number seventeen and, as with the last one, there are two stories told in parallel – one from the present day and the other from during the English civil war in 1643.

The modern-day tale is the principle tale here, and concerns the events occurring after convicted murderer Lilith Benley is released from prison and returns to her home, Devil’s Tree Cottage, in a small village in Devon.

Kate Ellis
Kate Ellis

There is a reality television show being filmed at the neighbouring farm, down to its’ last two contestants – an ageing TV comedian and a former boyband singer.

When a young woman is found murdered between the two properties DI Wesley Peterson and his immediate boss DCI Gerry Heffernan are naturally suspicious of Lilith. However, both celebrities at the farm seem to have things to hide, as do a number of local residents.

Meanwhile, the excavation of the basement of nearby Mercy Hall uncovers some nasty looking wax dolls, giving the supervising archaeologist Neil Watson something else to dig into.

Mercy Hall is the former home of Alison Hadness, a woman hung in 1643 as a result of accusations of witchcraft – and we learn more about her story, and that of Captain Thomas Whitcombe, through their journal entries dotted throughout the book.

This won’t be an easy case to solve for the police – or for the reader. As you would expect from a decent crime thriller there are several red herrings to be found here, but even once those have been revealed it still doesn’t prepare you for the final, unexpected, twist!

61x9O91u6vL._SL300_In need to try and catch up with the more recent cases for DI Peterson – already books eighteen (“The Shroud Maker”) and ninteen (“The Death Season”) have been published!