Posted in Book Review, Crime, Family Drama, Psychological Thriller, Scandinavian Crime

A Nearly Normal Family – M.T. Edvardsson 5* #Review @panmacmillan @Mattiasedvard @CeladonBooks #ScandinavianCrime #FamilyDrama #Courtroom #lies #secrets #psychologicalthriller

Every murder case starts with a suspect.

What if the suspect is your daughter?

Would you believe her, or the evidence against her?

THE FATHER Believes his daughter has been framed.

THE MOTHER Believes she is hiding something.

THE DAUGHTER Believes they have no idea what she’s truly capable of . . .

There are three sides to the story. And the truth will shatter this family to pieces.

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I received a copy of this book from Pan Macmillan via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

‘A Nearly Normal Family’, has all the atmosphere, detail and intrigue of a Nordic Thriller, but the pace, moral questions and twists of an excellent courtroom and family drama. The protagonists are pushed to their limits, making them unreliable, so that even when you think you know, you probably don’t, giving this story the edge and mystery of a psychological thriller.

Told from three points of view, the father (a Pastor), the mother( a Lawyer), and the daughter (a clever, rebellious teenager). The events surrounding the murder are revealed, through each character’s point of view

The father is severely tested, his control of the family threatened and his moral beliefs challenged. What will he do for his daughter who he believes in totally? The daughter uses her intelligence to fuel her rebellion against her parents and their beliefs. She has secrets, one of which has damaged her, but is she capable of murder? The mother’s point of view is left until the end and reveals an unexpected twist. All lie and have secrets, making them unreliable protagonists.

The pace of this story is good, even though it is detailed, it doesn’t sacrifice ease of reading for content and this makes it addictive. The characters are believable, and their actions and motives realistic. You are forced to consider how you would act in similar circumstances.

The daughter has considerable insight, and this makes you question whether does she have severe mental health issues, or is manipulative and uses her personality to achieve her aims.

The final scenes reveal an uncomfortable truth that makes you question what has come before. The perfect ending to this atmospheric, crime based twisty thriller.

Posted in Book Review, Crime, Noir, Suspense, Thriller

The Whisper Man -Alex North- 5* #Review @MichaelJBooks @writer_north #Thriller. #Crime #TheWhisperMan #Supernatural

If you leave a door half-open, soon you’ll hear the whispers spoken . . .

Still devastated after the loss of his wife, Tom Kennedy and his young son Jake move to the sleepy village of Featherbank, looking for a much-needed fresh start.

But Featherbank has a dark past. Fifteen years ago, a twisted serial killer abducted and murdered five young boys.

Until he was finally caught, the killer was known as ‘The Whisper Man’.

Of course, an old crime need not trouble Tom and Jake as they try to settle into their new home.

Except that now another boy has gone missing. And then Jake begins acting strangely.

He says he hears a whispering at his window . . .

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I received a copy of this book from Penguin UK Books – Michael Joseph Publishing via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

A curious medley of a creepy, suspenseful thriller and poignant sadness are my impressions of this complex, multi-layered story.

A little boy is missing, and the disapperance has echoes of serial killings years before, but ‘The Whisper Man was caught, so who has taken the little boy?

There are so many facets to this story, a crime to be investigated, a little boy who hears voices and talks to imaginary people. A troubled father and son relationship, in the wake of a family tragedy, and a policeman haunted by his past both personal and work.

The plot slips effortlessly between points of view and different genres. The police procedural is authentic and helps you keep past events and what is currently known in mind. The sadness experienced by Tom and Jake is profound and you empathise with their grief and loss. The killer is damaged and dangerous and the level of menace pervades the entire story. Finally, there is a supernatural element, hinted at, leaving the reader to decide if it is really there or not.

Everything is fused together cleverly, making this a suspenseful, shocking and often sad story. The ending is fast-paced and breathtaking and written packed with vivid imagery. You can see the events unfolding in your mind as you read.

A page-turning, absorbing read that makes this thriller stand out above the rest.

Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Crime, Extract, Guest post, Thriller

The Mark – Heather Burnside – #BlogTour – @Aria_Fiction @heatherbwriter @HoZ_Books #GuestPost #Crime #Thriller #Extract TheWorkingGirls 4*#Review

A TRIP TO THE DARK SIDE

When respected journalist, Maddy, goes to interview prostitutes in a rundown Manchester pub, she doesn’t reckon on attracting the attention of their ruthless pimp, Gilly. He quickly decides to use Maddy for his own gains; he just needs to work out how.

A TOXIC AFFAIR

In the weeks that follow, Maddy is oblivious to Gilly’s growing obsession with her, particularly when she begins a romance with a successful businessman, Aaron. Their passionate love affair starts to dominate her life, and she finds herself losing control and alienating the people around her.

A TARGET ON HER BACK

As Maddy’s safe and successful life starts to crumble around her, she must quickly work out who has it in for her, before it’s too late…

Amazon: https://amzn.to/2GRkfgj

Kobo: http://bit.ly/2BKxbBw

Google Play: http://bit.ly/2NiphE4

iBooks: https://apple.co/2W52h28

I received a copy of this book from Aria via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

Journalist Maddy’s latest assignment takes her to interview working girls. Their pimp sees something in Maddy, a lifestyle that used to be his, and could be again. Maddy lives with her young daughter, she has a good life, all of which her pursuit by the pimp and her new man could jeopardise.

This story is dark and menacing. Maddy, despite her professionalism, is naive and this makes her vulnerable to manipulation. All the girls have a story, why they ended up as working girls, as Maddy’s life unravels she realises how fine the line between safety and danger is.

The story is slow paced, to begin with, as the characters are introduced, and the ease with which different worlds can collide is explored. As the book progresses the adrenaline increases. An interesting start to this new series, with a contemporary, realistic edge.

How ‘The Mark’ Developed – Heather Burnside

I first found my inspiration for The Mark when watching a TV detective series many years ago. I tend to jot down ideas as they occur to me then revisit them years later when I’m deciding which novel I should write next. This particular TV scene featured a senior female detective who was sitting in a rundown pub talking to prostitutes and trying to get information from them.

She was refined, well-dressed and well-spoken and looked totally out of place surrounded by street girls with their provocative clothing and garish makeup. I remember thinking how brave she was to venture into the pub alone and that she was leaving herself open to all sorts of risks.

That gave me the seed of an idea. The police detective became my protagonist, Maddy, who is followed home from the pub by a seedy pimp, Gilly. She appeals to him because she is so different from the women he is used to dealing with and initially he sees her as a challenge. Gilly is attracted not only to Maddy but to her lifestyle too.

During the course of the novel, we find out that Gilly’s background is far different from the life he now leads. As a young man he came from an affluent middle-class home but he was thrown out of university for dealing in drugs and his parents subsequently disowned him and left him to find his own way in the world. In Maddy he sees the life he should have had and he soon becomes obsessed with her. I won’t tell you any more than that as I don’t want to give the story away.

Once I decided to write ‘The Mark’, I carried out a lot of research by reading books about the life of a prostitute and watching online videos. The videos, in particular, were a real eye-opener. They featured several street girls who discussed what they did and what led them to a life of prostitution. Most of the girls were hooked on drugs and were prostituting themselves to feed their drug habit. Many had difficult upbringings or had spent time in care and living on the streets.

Watching the videos made me think that each of the girls had their own story to tell, which made me decide to expand ‘The Mark’, into a series of books with each subsequent book featuring the story of one of the girls. So, that initial idea many years ago has led to a series of possibly four or more books.

One of the girls, in particular, stuck in my mind when I was watching the videos. She was an ageing prostitute with a bad chest problem who couldn’t afford to take time off work because she needed the money for drugs. She was therefore still plying her trade in all weathers despite her considerable health problems. That particular girl provided the inspiration for a character that appears in a later book in the series.

It’s interesting how one small idea can take root in an author’s mind and develop into the basis for a whole series of books. I suppose that’s why authors do what we do because we have such active imaginations.

Heather Burnside spent her teenage years on one of the toughest estates in Manchester and she draws heavily on this background as the setting for many of her novels. After taking a career break to raise two children Heather enrolled on a creative writing course. Heather now works full-time on her novels from her home in Manchester, which she shares with her two grown-up children.

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Extract from ‘The Mark’ – Heather Burnside.

Maddy was behind the wheel of her Audi. Sapphire blue and polished until it was gleaming, the vehicle was just as easy on the eye as its driver. She turned into the tree-lined road in Flixton where she lived. She owned a three-bedroomed detached house, which she shared with her eight-year-old daughter, Rebecca.

As Maddy sped into the drive, she glanced again at the clock on the dashboard. 19:58. She’d just made it. Maddy was surprised that her first interview with the prostitutes had taken so long but at least she’d gleaned some good information from them and had managed to arrange another meeting before the girls had all become nervous of someone at the bar.

Maddy’s ex-husband, Andy, was bringing Rebecca back at eight o’clock and, although he was fairly easy-going, Maddy always liked to be on time. Thank God his working hours were flexible. It meant he could pick Rebecca up from school whenever Maddy had to work late. As she parked the car, Maddy put thoughts of her working day out of her mind. It was time to concentrate on family now and, in her line of business, it wasn’t always a good idea to mix the two.

As soon as Maddy stepped inside her hallway she had that familiar comforting feeling she always got when she returned home. Like everything else surrounding Maddy, her home was immaculate and tastefully furnished. But it was more than that; it was a cosy home that felt lived in. She quickly switched on the hall lamp, which bathed the interior with a subtle amber glow, highlighting the polished wooden flooring, expensive rug, and stunning artwork that hung on the walls.

Maddy walked through the house, switching on the lights in the main rooms and plumping up cushions before flicking the switch on the kettle. She had no sooner pulled a mug from the cupboard than she heard the doorbell ring. Maddy dashed to answer the door, delighted to find her daughter Rebecca standing there with Andy by her side.

Rebecca gave her mother an affectionate hug. ‘I scored a goal, Mum,’ she gushed before rushing indoors.

‘Everything OK?’ Maddy asked once Rebecca was inside.

‘Yeah, she’s fine,’ said Andy. ‘She’s been to netball club after school. They had a practice match and apparently, she was the hero of the hour.’

Maddy smiled. ‘Great,’ she said. ‘I must go and congratulate her.’

‘OK. See you next weekend,’ he said.

‘Yeah, see you then,’ said Maddy.

Then she shut the front door straight away and went through to the lounge to find Rebecca. That was how it was with Andy now. After being divorced for four years, emotion didn’t come into it as far as she was concerned. They were just two adults sharing joint responsibility for their daughter.

Maddy was well over those early days when their separation had torn at her heart. It had been difficult to walk away but Andy’s infidelity had left her with no choice. She was too proud to carry on with the marriage after that and knew that she’d never be able to trust him again.

Nowadays they maintained a united front when it came to anything involving Rebecca whilst getting on with their own lives. Maddy preferred it that way and she knew that it was the best way to deal with the situation.

Rebecca had already switched on the TV and Maddy sat down beside her, stroking Rebecca’s hair as she held her close.

‘So, you scored a goal, did you?’

‘Yes, and all the girls were cheering. And Jade Coulson said after the match that I’d saved our side from getting beat. Jade Coulson doesn’t normally bother with me much. She’s, like, so-o-o cool. I can’t believe she likes me now.’

Posted in Book Review, Crime, Political Thriller, Suspense, Thriller

The Last Widow – Karin Slaughter -4* #Review @HarperFiction @HarperCollinsUK @SlaughterKarin -#Thriller #Crime #Suspense #PublicationDay #WillTrent9 @fictionpubteam

Michelle felt her mouth drop open.

A van slid to a stop beside her daughter.

The side door rolled open.

A man jumped out.

Michelle gripped her keys. She bolted into a full-out run, cutting the distance between herself and her daughter. She started to scream, but it was too late.

Ashley had run off, just like they had taught her to do. Which was fine, because the man did not want Ashley.

He wanted Michelle.

It begins with an abduction. The routine of a family shopping trip is shattered when Michelle Spivey is snatched as she leaves the mall with her young daughter. The police search for her, her partner pleads for her release, but in the end…they find nothing. It’s as if she disappeared into thin air.
A month later, on a sleepy Sunday afternoon, medical examiner Sara Linton is at lunch with her boyfriend Will Trent, an agent with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. But the serenity of the summer’s day is broken by the wail of sirens.
Sara and Will are trained to help in an emergency. Their jobs – their vocations – mean that they run towards a crisis, not away from it. But on this one terrible day, that instinct betrays them both. Within hours the situation has spiralled out of control; Sara is taken prisoner; Will is forced undercover. And the fallout will lead them into the Appalachian mountains, to the terrible truth about what really happened to Michelle, and to a remote compound where a radical group has murder in mind…

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I received a copy of this book from Harper Collins UK – Harper Fiction via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

Fast-paced, political and grizzly, ‘The Last Widow’, starts with a seemingly perfect abduction, as a missing scientist has disappeared without a trace. Then, the crime becomes personal when Sara- medical examiner from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation is abducted, after responding to an apparent major incident.

The resurgence of neo-nazism is explored in this riveting, often graphically violent novel, its contemporary relevance adds to the story’s menacing quality. The thriller unfolds on two levels, the threat to society and democracy and the more personal threat of not finding Sara alive. The emotion in this story is as important, as the crime and action-filled scenes, and makes it a believable, albeit terrifying read.

I haven’t read any of the Will Trent series previously, but this reads well as a standalone. It does make you want to read the previous books in the series to find out more about Will and Sara.

This is not comfortable reading, but that doesn’t detract from the gripping plot, the relentless pace and the realistic characters that won’t let you put the book down. If you enjoy your crime thrillers focused on contemporary issues, without filters this story will appeal.

Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Crime, Extract, Guest post, Historical Crime Fiction, Mystery, Suspense

The Playground Murders – Lesley Thomson -5* #Review @HoZ_Books @LesleyjmThomson #CrimeFiction #ThePlayGroundMurders #TheDetectivesDaughter #BlogTour

Forty years ago, in the dark of the playground, two children’s lives were changed forever.

Stella Darnell is a cleaner. But when she isn’t tackling dust and dirt and restoring order to chaos, Stella solves murders. Her latest case concerns a man convicted of killing his mistress. His daughter thinks he’s innocent and needs Stella to prove it.

As Stella sifts through piles of evidence and interview suspects, she discovers a link between the recent murder and a famous case from forty years ago: the shocking death of six-year-old Sarah Ferris, killed in the shadows of an empty playground.

Stella knows that dredging up the past can be dangerous. But as she pieces together the tragedy of what happened to Sarah, she is drawn into a story of jealousy, betrayal and the end of innocence. A story that has not yet reached its end…

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I received a copy of this book from Head of Zeus in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

I didn’t discover,’The Detective’s Daughter Series, until Book 6 The Death Chamber. That story, and this one, ‘The Playground Murders’, reads well as a standalone. There is sufficient background, especially about Stella’s enigmatic father to let you understand what motivates the main protagonists. However, for the full experience read the older books too.

Original characters and complex cold cases to solve are the hallmarks of this detective series. The characters are quirky and realistic, they all have believable flaws, neuroses and aspiration.

Stella, the detective’s daughter, has two main focuses, cleaning and solving previously unsolved crimes. She runs a cleaning company and a detective agency, with her partner Jack and a cast of unique individuals. They are a family, look out for each other, criticise each other, and share a bond that resists any outside interference.

This story connects a recent murder, with a past child killing, investigated by Terry, Stella’s father. Present day action is complemented by flashback chapters in 1980 when Terry was involved in the child-killing case. The ethos of the historical part of the story is chilling, the contrast of innocence and evil disturbing.

Aside from the detective case, there are snapshots of Stella and Jack’s lives outside work. Stella and her mother Suzie, have the usual mother-daughter issues and Jack a father of twins, has to come to terms with only seeing them periodically, and the spectre of a new father figure in their lives.

This story has a clever, twisty plot, and a menacing undertone. Slow-paced it lets you absorb the action, and atmosphere, as you try to solve the crime. Another exciting chapter in ‘The Detective’s Daughter’, series.

Guest Post – Lesley Thomson – The Playground Murders

With the exception of The Death Chamber (#6), there are children in my stories. As victims of crime or adults who go on to commit a crime. I hope that meeting them as a child gives readers insight into their later actions. Until The Playground Murders, I’d never created a child killer who is a child. No surprise, it’s a disturbing subject. Traditionally childhood is a time of happy innocence. If, for whatever reason, it’s not this is usually down to the transgressions of adults. That a child might deliberately end the life of another child is terrible to contemplate. That photo of James Bulger being led away from his mother by two ten-year-old boys shattered our life-view.

Can a child be evil? Can we forgive the adult a child becomes for a crime they committed long ago? As children did we do bad stuff? Do we write off those misdemeanours because, hey, we were kids? What if punching a kid in the dinner queue caused their death? Do children even understand what death is? The Playground Murders explores these questions.

The playground setting was a no-brainer. Archetypal, it’s in the bones of many of us as kids and as parents. Typically a locus of excitement and fun, joyful shouts, urgent cries and the gales of laughter of children deep in their game carries over municipal lawns, rotundas where Sunday brass bands are long gone. Playgrounds were developed from observing children playing on bombsites after the war. Bounded by railings within a landscaped park or in a school, they offer the change for kids’ imaginations to be free. Girls and boys are heroes of their make-believe. Or villains.  

These days playgrounds are populated with jolly coloured climbing walls, slides, swings and roped walkways but when I was young, and until the nineteen-eighties, the playground was a relatively dangerous place. Heavy iron equipment, the witch’s hat and juggernaut roundabout trapped limbs and crushed fingers and feet. Swings without restraining bars could fly high until chains twisted or snapped propelling occupants onto unforgiving concrete.

There were fatalities. It’s not plot spoiling to tell you that in The Playground Murders one child falls from a tower slide (equivalent to plummeting from a first-floor window), the death ruled an accident because it wasn’t unusual. I feel lucky to have got away with only breaking my arm by crashing pell-mell into my friend Tina when we were eight. Actually, I recently read that kids colliding with each other is a thing. Not just us then.

The Playground Murders, a tale of mired ambitions, of deceit and betrayal and ruined childhoods is also about hope and regeneration. Here’s hoping you enjoy it.

Lesley Thomson grew up in west London. Her first novel, A Kind of Vanishing, won the People’s Book Prize in 2010. Her second novel, The Detective’s Daughter, was a number 1 bestseller and sold over 500,000 copies.

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Extract From The Playground Murders – Lesley Thomson

The group considered the furry mass. The cat was large with a collapsed tummy.

‘I think it’s old,’ Sarah decided. ‘Is it dead like Robbie’s dead?’

‘Yes,’ Nicola snapped at her.

‘Robbie didn’t get runned down,’ Sarah said.

‘No one said he did, darlin’.’ Danielle imitated her older sister Maxine being nice to Jason. ‘Best you go to bed. No nightmares.’ She yanked Sarah to her.

‘You can’t chop it up,’ Jason said. ‘It’s not yours.’

‘I’m a detective,’ Danielle repeated.

‘Can we play Doctors and Nurses with it?’ Sarah enquired.

‘It’s dead so it doesn’t need nursing or… doctoring.’ Danielle forgot to be nice.

‘Let’s pretend it’s alive. Like you did with Robbie,’ Sarah said.

‘Sarah!’ Lee snatched her hand. ‘We’re going. And don’t tell your Dad about this, OK?’

‘Ouch.’ Sarah squirmed crossly. ‘I want to stay for the chopping.’

‘We should tell the owner. They’ll be waiting to give it its tea,’ Nicola said. ‘When Spiderman didn’t come back, Robbie cried. I did too. He’d got stuck in next door’s shed. He was starving. Robbie was allowed to give him Whiskas with a fork.’

‘Robbie’s dead,’ Danielle said.

‘He wasn’t then. Spiderman is alive,’ Nicola mumbled.

‘Has this cat got a collar?’ Danielle wished Nicky would shove off. She folded her arms.

Kevin felt under the cat’s chin. Revolted, Jason sniggered. In his doctor’s voice, Kevin reported, ‘She doesn’t have no collar.’

‘A collar. Not no collar,’ Danielle barked. ‘You don’t know it’s a lady.’

‘It’s had babies, that’s why it’s all flabby like that.’ Kevin did sound like a doctor.

‘I know.’ Danielle tapped her front tooth. Her notion of a detective was derived mainly from Scooby-Doo. ‘We’ll call on everyone in the street and detect the owner. Kevin, you’re my sergeant.’

Kevin scrambled to his feet and stood next to Danielle, hands behind his back like a policeman.

‘There’s hundreds of houses in this street,’ Sarah said.

Everyone went quiet as they digested this.

‘Spiderman crosses the road as soon as he comes out,’ Nicola said at last. ‘He goes in a straight line. If this cat does that, it lives there.’ She waved a hand at the house behind them. A decorated Christmas tree sparkled in the window.

‘No. It’s down there,’ Danielle stated firmly.

‘How can you be sure?’ Nicola asked.

‘I keep saying because I’m a detective. I’ll sling it behind there and people can work it out for themselves.’ Tiring of the operation, Danielle pointed at the memorial for the three dead policemen. She hauled up the cat in both hands. More blood spewed from its mouth. The children scattered like birds.

‘Dead! Dead! Dead!’ Jason did a war dance.

‘We should tell the owner since you know it’s them in that house,’ Lee stepped in.

‘I’ll do it.’ Nicola went along the pavement to the house where Danielle had said that the cat had lived.

Sarah dragged on her brother’s Harrington jacket. ‘Lee, I got to tell you a secret.’

‘Not now,’ Lee hissed.

‘There’s no one in,’ Nicola said.

Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Crime, Extract, Thriller

#BlogTour- Bold Lies-Rachel Lynch – 5* #Review @canelo_co @r_lynchcrime #extract #DIKellyPorter #Crime #Thriller #BoldLies #FridayReads

An investigation leads Kelly back to her former command… and the ex who betrayed her

A brutal murder in the Lake District.

A double assassination in a secret lab in London’s west end.

Seemingly unconnected, unexpected links between the gruesome crimes emerge and it’s up to DI Kelly Porter to follow the trail – all the way to the capital.

Back amongst old colleagues and forced to work alongside her calculating ex, DCI Matt Carter, Kelly must untangle a web of deceit that stretches into the highest echelons of power. A place where secrets and lies are currency and no obstacle is insurmountable.

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I received a copy of this book from Canelo via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

Two locations, Three murders and an unwelcome trip back, to her troubled past for DI Kelly Porter, in this, book five of the Cumbrian based detective series. The murders, appear professional, but are the Lake district and London killings connected?

It is symbolic that as Kelly’s personal life improves, her past has to be faced, on both a personal and professional level. Even though much of the investigation takes place in London, the Lake District references are welcome to all who love the region.

Suspense, clever plot twists and unexpected connections, are all found in ‘Bold Lies’, the true perpetrators of the crimes, think they are above the law, but DI Kelly Porter and DCI Matt Carter, need to prove they aren’t. The crimes are savage, premeditated and carried out with ruthless intent. This is a different crime for Porter to investigate, but every bit as deadly, and menacing as her previous cases.

The characters both old and new, antagonist and protagonist are believable and complex. The psychopathic isolation of the main antagonist is truly chilling, and makes solving the crimes much harder, as little or no emotion is involved. DI Kelly Porter is a true professional, but someone who values her personal life, and lets it balance her. Her humanity is what makes her easy to empathise.

A riveting read, and I eagerly anticipate the next case for DI Kelly Porter.

Read my review
Extract From Bold Lies -Rachel Lynch

Detective Inspector Kelly Porter stared at her computer screen. The office was undergoing a quasi-refurbishment: a few new chairs, a new carpet and a paint job. HR had ruled the old stiff chairs ergonomically unsound, and the whole force was getting replacements that could be set at the user’s preferred angle. Kelly had to admit they were comfortable. Some of her colleagues had spent the morning racing up and down the corridor on them. DC Rob Shawcross had just beaten DC Emma Hide three to two, and she was refusing to shake his hand. As a responsible senior officer, Kelly should have admonished them, but it was highly entertaining to watch. No blood or coffee had been spilled and it had taken mere minutes out of their day. On top of that, it had lifted the spirits of everyone who’d worked on the Tombday case three years ago. David Crawley had appealed his sentence, and the Old Bailey had delivered its verdict this morning.

Tombday had been a complex web of money-laundering and trafficking, run by businessmen in the Lakes and reaching way beyond the UK borders. David Crawley had only been one cog in the wheel, but he was a childhood friend of Kelly’s and an ex-boyfriend. It was a touchy subject. The Court of Appeal had argued that it was never proved that he had obtained material benefit from the people he’d carried in his lorries and that he was unaware of the transactions made in order to get them there. It was also ruled that the persons had come willingly rather than being coerced, and it was questionable that he had ever intentionally planned to exploit them. In fact, there were so many sections of the Trafficking Act that the original case failed to satisfy that Crawley’s offences were reduced to aiding and abetting, carrying a five-year sentence. On account of his impeccable record sheet in prison, and the fact that he’d served almost three years already, he had been freed this morning.

It was a huge blow.

DC Emma Hide brought Kelly a coffee and placed it on her desk. Kelly looked up and smiled at her junior. Her iPad pinged and she flipped it open to notifications from HQ. A 999 call had been transferred to the serious crime unit for North Lakes, and Kelly was expected to move on it straight away. She toyed with sending Emma along but decided against it because she wanted some fresh air. Try as she might, she couldn’t keep herself tied to her chair, and this was a serious crime scene. She’d handed out plenty of domestics, illegal hunting and burglaries to her team. But this was different. A body had been found at Derwent Marina. As yet, it was unidentified. The only information she had was that it was male, and had been found by Graeme Millar, who ran the marina. If Graeme hadn’t recognised the victim, then chances were he wasn’t local. That raised a flag for Kelly. It meant that he was either a tourist or a traveller. A forensic officer was already at the scene.

‘Emma, I’ve got to go out. Are you working on the burglary at Allerdale House?’

‘Yes, guv. I think Kate said she was in between paperwork, though.’

‘How’s it going?’

A local call early this morning had alerted police to something suspicious at Allerdale House’s boatshed. People knew one another round the lake, and apparently, a kayaker had spotted that the doors were open and passed the information on to the police. Upon inspection, the first uniforms on the scene discovered that a crime had occurred.

Old Lord Allerdale was dead, but his grandson and heir, Sebastian Montague-Roland, had been tracked down in London and had supplied a list of items stored in the shed. The house had been standing empty for the last six months, but there were rumours that building work was due to start there to renovate the place and turn it into a luxury leisure complex.

At first glance, the robbery looked like an opportunist break-in. An old pile like that with no one living in it was tempting for the criminal-minded, but apparently, some of the equipment taken from the boathouse was valuable. This raised Kelly’s interest, as it meant that the place could have been targeted.

‘The site is still being processed, guv.’ Emma was dressed in casual gear and could have been planning to sprint out of the door for a run at any moment: but then she always looked like that, and carried it off. Kelly glanced down at her feet, and sure enough, she was wearing trainers. Kelly was relaxed about dress, up to a point. If they were driving round Cumbria, in and out of sheds and boat huts, then formal gear just wasn’t practical.

‘Can you ask Kate to come in here?’ she asked. Emma nodded and disappeared. Kelly sipped her coffee and scanned the few details she’d been given about the body found at the marina. Male, over fifty, Caucasian and naked. That was it. She knew Graeme Millar through Johnny; they drank in the same watering holes after a fell race or a lake swim. The Keswick area was extensive to an outsider, but the fell-racing world was an exclusive and tiny club, one that Johnny had only recently become part of. He and Graeme had much in common, in that Graeme had spent five years as an infantry officer around the same time as Johnny had been serving. They had an instant connection. It was the beginning of weekends of sailing lessons, and the inspiration behind Johnny’s boat purchase. Wendy had been transferred to Derwent Marina from Pooley Bridge in the spring, and Graeme turned a blind eye to the mooring fee.

DS Kate Umshaw came into Kelly’s office and sat down. ‘I do like these chairs.’

‘I know. I think they’re a bit too comfortable, though. We need to take a drive to Keswick.’

Kate raised an eyebrow. Everybody knew she preferred paperwork. This was one of the reasons Kelly wanted to get her out of the office for a change.

‘What’s happened?’ she asked.

‘Body. Derwent Marina.’ Kelly shared the sparse details she had so far and grabbed her coat. Kate did the same.

‘Forensics are there. Let’s hope it’s just a drunk who found somewhere to shelter and stripped off.’

‘Did he die of exposure? In June?’

‘Might be a suicide. How are the nicotine patches going?’ Kelly asked.

‘Dull. It’s the worst decision of my life,’ Kate said. Kelly shook her head. Kate was one of those smokers who would choose a fag over a life jacket.

They checked in with the rest of the team before they left, then headed to the lift. Eden House had several floors, and their office was at the top. Uniforms manned the lower floors, and the two women acknowledged nods as they filed out of the building towards Kelly’s car.

They’d only gone a few hundred yards when Kelly began to feel the benefits of being out of the office. The thought of bumping into Dave Crawley was pushed to the back of her mind, and she concentrated on the drive. With a bit of luck, the body would keep them busy all day. There might be a perfectly innocent explanation, but the Murder Investigation Manual dictated that the first rule of inquiry into a deceased body without an obvious cause of death was to treat it suspiciously.

Derwent Marina was past the town of Keswick, at the end of a tiny road just beyond the village of Portinscale. Kelly had spent many school trips learning to kayak down there, and memories flashed back as she parked up outside the main office. Business had been suspended for the day, and uniforms were on the scene interviewing various groups and individuals. She spotted Graeme, and he waved. Kate got a bag out of the boot that contained all they needed to oversee the processing of a crime scene, and they walked over to him.

‘Hi, Kelly. I hoped it would be you they called.’

Graeme looked ashen, and Kelly realised that it was easy to forget what the sight of a dead body did to people, even an ex-army man. Graeme hadn’t seen active service, though, not like Johnny, and so it was possible that he’d never encountered a corpse before, at least not one that had expired outdoors with no clothes on.

‘You all right?’ she asked. He was sitting on an upturned canoe.

‘It was the smell.’

‘Ah, I get it. That’s not something you’ll forget in a hurry.’

He ran his fingers through his hair.

‘I understand you’ve given a statement?’

He nodded.

‘Thanks, you can go then. Maybe go home and distract yourself with something else.’

He hesitated. ‘When do you think they’ll take him away?’

Kelly looked towards the boatshed, which was now cordoned off with police tape. She felt Graeme’s anxiety. This was a cash business and his livelihood depended upon it.

‘I won’t know that until I’ve seen him. I’m sorry.’ It was all she could say. There were no guarantees. His brow knitted and he got up slowly.

Kelly and Kate walked through the trees towards the large shed. A uniformed officer standing outside moved aside for them. The tape extended around the back and down to the shoreline, but already campers from the neighbouring site were gathered, taking pictures with mobile phones. At least the cover of the shed meant the body was protected from exposure on social media.

As soon as they stepped inside, Kelly appreciated what Graeme had said about the smell. Kate handed her a bottle of perfume and she rubbed some under her nose. She also heard flies. She climbed a ladder and made her way to the stern of the launch. Another smell caught her attention: recently varnished wood. It was in stark contrast and was rather beautiful. The forensic officer, in full kit, was clicking away with a camera.

The dead man was slumped over the captain’s chair. Kelly reckoned he was in his late fifties, and apart from a huge wound to his temple, he looked as though he was asleep. It was an undignified way to go. His skin hung off his body in saggy rolls. He wasn’t fat, just not used to exercise. He was pale, almost white, apart from his arms and face, which were tanned from outdoor life. Kelly wondered if he was on holiday. He wasn’t malnourished or prematurely aged, which indicated a certain amount of prosperity; that ruled out vagrancy or homelessness. There was a watch mark on his wrist and an indentation on his wedding finger: the body had been stripped of every piece of clothing and jewellery.

‘Gunshot wound?’ she asked the forensic officer. He nodded. Kelly raised her eyebrows. It wasn’t what she’d expected to find on a Monday morning on the shores of Derwent Water. It would be difficult to keep this one out of the press, that was for sure.

‘We’ve got two entry wounds, but, so far all I can find is one exit unless they came through the same mess. That’s one for the Coroner.’

She didn’t need to get too close to recognise the wound pattern. On his left temple, two entry wounds had crusted over, and she could see that flies had laid their eggs already. On the other side, a massive exit wound had ripped his skull apart. It was something Kelly had witnessed a few times before, but never here in the Lakes. What was less obvious was why somebody had gone to all the trouble of removing clothes and jewellery to conceal the identity, but left the body in an obvious place. A cursory glance confirmed the absence of blood splatter or matter adhering to the surrounding panels of the cabin: he hadn’t been shot here.

The man had been shot through the brain, execution style. If he’d done it himself, the gun would have fallen from his dead hand and would still be on site. He also probably wouldn’t be naked. And it would be messy.

‘Weapon?’ she asked.

‘Feel free to look around. I haven’t found anything.’

With no weapon and no crime scene, just a dump site, and no name, Kelly knew that today would indeed be a busy day. Happy Monday, she thought.

Rachel Lynch grew up in Cumbria and the lakes and fells are never far away from her. London pulled her away to teach History and marry an Army Officer, whom she followed around the globe for thirteen years. A change of career after children led to personal training and sports therapy, but the writing was always the overwhelming force driving the future. The human capacity for compassion as well as its descent into the brutal and murky world of crime are fundamental to her work.

Twitter: @r_lynchcrime

Posted in Book Review, Crime, Noir, Suspense, Thriller

All That’s Dead – Stuart MacBride – 5*#Review @HarperFiction @KillerReads @StuartMacBride @fictionpubteam #Crime #Scotland #LoganMcRae

Scream all you want, no one can hear…

Inspector Logan McRae is looking forward to a nice simple case – something to ease him back into work after a year off on the sick. But the powers-that-be have other ideas…

The high-profile anti-independence campaigner, Professor Wilson, has gone missing, leaving nothing but bloodstains behind. There’s a war brewing between the factions for and against Scottish Nationalism. Infighting in the police ranks. And it’s all playing out in the merciless glare of the media. Logan’s superiors want results, and they want them now.

Someone out there is trying to make a point, and they’re making it in blood. If Logan can’t stop them, it won’t just be his career that dies.

Amazon UK

I received a copy of this book from Harper Collins – Harper Fiction via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

An atmospheric, menacing, suspenseful start draws you in the Logan McRae’s next case. Returning from sick leave, after his last job resulted in a near-death experience, Logan finds himself in a babysitting role, to save a colleague’s career, and avoid being the establishment’s sacrificial lamb.

Political in nature, this story focuses on a fictitious Scottish Nationalist organisation, who appear to be using crime, to further their political agenda, or is this just a smokescreen for something else? The story has an authentic ethos, dealing with contemporary issues, like social media and the dark web. The crimes are grisly, but seemingly unconnected until Logan and his colleagues, painstakingly begin to make the connections, but they are against the clock, and each delay means another atrocity.

Scotland’s historic battle with England over its self-determination and its 21st-century implications are important in this plot, which has many twists. The clues are there, you just need to widen your perspective to see them.
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Logan is a quirky, yet charismatic character, even though this is only the second book I’ve read in the series, I like him and his cynical outlook and self-deprecating humour. The interactions between the police colleagues are realistic and amusing, a necessary contrast with the terrible crimes they investigate.

This story focuses more on the detective team, and less on the antagonists and crimes, than the previous book I’ve read. Despite this, it is an absorbing, adrenaline-fueled read. The final chapter makes me think this could be the last we see of Logan?