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

Daddy’s Girls Sarah Flint 5*#Review @SarahFlint19 @Aria_Fiction #CrimeFiction #PoliceProcedural #Crime #BlogTour #GuestPost #BookReview #London #DCCharlieStafford

#DaddysGirls

He wasn’t always a killer. At first, he just wanted to talk.

 D.C. Charlie Stafford has an odd case on her hands. And it may be her toughest one yet.

A burglar who isn’t interested in valuables, the subject of Operation Greystream is a strange but smooth operator. In the dead of the night, gloved and masked, he visits the elderly. He doesn’t hurt them and, if they beg, he won’t take anything of real value. All he wants is conversation… and they’re powerless to refuse him.

But then 87-year-old Florence Briarly is found by her friend, cold to the touch and neatly, too neatly, tucked into bed. And Charlie realises this case has taken a sinister, urgent turn. Now, this stealthy burglar has had a taste of murder, it’s only a matter of time until he craves it again…

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#AriaBlogTour

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

My Thoughts…

Another exciting range of investigations for DC Charlie Stafford and her colleagues. This book illustrates the problems faced by detectives, the procedures that must be followed and how the law can sometimes work against them, It is its authenticity that makes this such a readable crime thriller. There are also moral questions explored in this story. Can something be illegal, yet in most people’s eyes morally right?

There are multiple crimes for the team to solve in this book, which shows the complexity of modern police work, and the many competing demands they have to satisfy, with often limited resources. Mistakes are made, which have consequences, and the team have to live with this

Whilst, the overt violence is less than in previous stories, the trauma that the victims suffer is palpable and well described. This is also a family drama. How do family members react, when someone they know and love becomes a criminal or a victim? Can this, sometimes, misguided loyalty, impede the police investigation? Suspense builds with each crime, and it is only the relentless, painstaking detection and forensic evidence that will solve the crimes.

This reads as a standalone, but if you enjoy authentic police procedurals, with believable family drama and complex characters, read the series.

#Daddy’sGirls
Guest Post – Sarah Flint – Daddy’s Girls

It’s been a long, but exciting year!

Well, it’s been just over 13 months since ‘Broken Dolls’ was published and boy, what a year!

In that time, I’ve written ‘Daddy’s Girls’ and a new standalone book, (yet to be revealed) travelled New Zealand, Australia and the UK and beaten breast cancer – not necessarily in that order!

I think I said in my last blog post that with the smooth comes the rough – and my rough was a fairly hefty dose of hospital admissions and treatment. The smooth, was hearing that I was fully cured of my cancer, and meeting an incredibly courageous lady on my ward, who gave me the thrill of actually finding a total stranger who had read all my books – for the first time ever. The rough to that meeting was that within a fortnight I heard she had sadly died, but I will always remember her bravery and fortitude and the time I spent chatting with her and her lovely husband.

On that note, during my travels I’ve also met some fantastic people; both personally and professionally, who have become friends, fans and followers and I count you, as avid readers, bloggers and tweeters, among them. From my local writers group, to contributors and visitors at Bristol CrimeFest it has been amazing to hear your stories. You have all been an incredible support during this year and I have heard from many who have, or are, going through similar tribulations and have very much appreciated your motivational offerings and words of wisdom. I hope I can now do the same in return.

Thank you x

When thinking about my friends and family, my thoughts always return to a similar theme. What would you do to save, protect or avenge a family member or good friend? Would you be prepared to lie for them, or even die for them? It’s a theme that drove ‘Daddy’s Girls’, and has steered my newest standalone.

Thomas Houghton was loosely based on a suspect I arrested during my time as a police officer in the Metropolitan Police. The man’s history fascinated me as he had very few, and very minor criminal convictions, yet he appeared to have committed the most heinous burglary and knife-point rape imaginable. What drove him to commit that crime? And why had the man’s daughter been prepared to lie and even take on a false identity herself, in order to cover for him? Was it love, fear or simply bewilderment that compelled her ill-conceived loyalty?

Out of those questions came ‘Daddy’s Girls’, a story that evolved in order to provide a fictional reason for the man’s actions – his decline into drugs, mental illness and criminality – and the imaginary outcome for both he and his daughter.

I witnessed my own mother’s battle with multiple sclerosis, so I know how devastating it can be to watch someone you love change from an outgoing, active person to someone unable to walk, talk or feed themselves. The toll on carers, physically, mentally and emotionally is far harder than, I think, we as a society appreciate. Could this be a reason for Thomas’s crime? I don’t know, and I don’t excuse it, but it seemed to make sense as a work of fiction.

The book could equally have been named ‘Mummy’s Girl’, as I also wanted to explore the motivations of the victim’s child when searching for justice. How had Florence Briarly’s daughter acted? Could one crime be judged to have been morally right, even if legally wrong? Why can standing-up for your parent in one situation be considered wrong, while acting for your parent in another be judged as right?

It’s an interesting dilemma and one that seems to rear its ugly head on a regular basis in the media, along with the question of how safe you really are in your own home and what steps can you lawfully take in order to protect your loved ones, and your possessions?

Ooh – it’s a moral and legal nightmare! But it makes for great stories.

Throw into the mix Charlie, with her unfailing quest to get justice for the victim and her continuing loyalty to Hunter, as well as Ben’s on-going problems, and you have my latest offering. I have really enjoyed exploring the dilemmas in all the storylines, as well as finishing the book on a note of intrigue. It certainly has made me want to continue Charlie’s story – and I hope it will make you want to do the same.

I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed.

Many thanks.

Sarah xx    

With a Metropolitan Police career spanning 35 years, Sarah has spent her adulthood surrounded by victims, criminals and police officers. She continues to work and lives in London with her partner and has three older daughters.

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Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Festive Read, Friendship, Romance, Romantic Comedy

We Met in December Rosie Curtis 4*#Review @AvonBooksUK @karamina #Christmas2019 #FestiveRead #ChristmasinSeptember #romcom #Friends #Relationships #Romance #London #BookReview #bookbloggers #MondayBlogs

What if you couldn’t get away from the one who got away? 

Unlucky in love Jess is following her dream and moving to London. It’s December, and she’s taking a room in a crumbling Notting Hill house‐share with four strangers. On her first night, Jess meets Alex, the guy sharing her floor. They don’t kiss under the mistletoe, but as far as Jess is concerned, the connection is instant. She lets herself imagine how their relationship will grow over the following year.

But when Jess returns from a Christmas holiday, she finds Alex has started dating someone else – beautiful Emma, who lives on the floor above them. Now Jess faces a year of bumping into (hell, sharing a bathroom with) the man of her dreams… and the woman of his.

Jess is determined to move on and survive the next twelve months… but love has a way of hampering even the best-laid plans…

Set over the course of one life‐changing year, this is the most uplifting and moving love story of 2019.

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

My Thoughts…

So, my first festive book this year is ‘We Met In December’, to be strictly accurate, although Christmas features in this story at the beginning and at the end, it follows Jess and Alex’s emotional journey, month by month, after their initial meeting in December. Both are emotionally scarred from failed relationships, and childhoods, that were less than ideal, and so a serious romantic relationship is not what either is looking for.

When they meet in December, as new housemates in a household where a firm house rule is no couples, they ignore their initial attraction, both believing it is one-sided. Jess focuses on her new career and her two best friends. Alex focuses on his new vocation as a nurse, but he can’t resist a non-relationship with another housemate Emma.

The friendship that develops between Alex and Jess is gentle and lovely, they explore London together and find out what makes each other tick, but romance is denied by both of them. The travelogue through London is vividly portrayed and adds extra depth to the story.

Told from two points of view, there is a sense of dramatic irony. The reader knows what each character is feeling, but they are both in ignorance of the other’s regard. Most of the conflict to the romance is internal, from their past emotional baggage, but other well-meaning people provide external conflict, and you do wonder if they will be able to see, and more importantly act on what is right in front of them.

This is a lighthearted relationship story with a festive ambience. The ending is so romantic and leaves you with a heartwarming feeling.

Posted in Author Interview, Blog Blitz, Book Review, Crime, Family Drama

The Fourth Victim John Mead 4*#Review @BookGuild @JohnMeadAuthor @rararesources #PoliceProcedural #CrimeFiction #EastEnd #London #BookBirthdayBlitz #BookReview #BookBloggers

Whitechapel is being gentrified. The many green spaces of the area, which typify London as a capital city, give the illusion of tranquillity and clean air but are also places to find drug dealers, sexual encounters and murder…

Detective Sergeant Julie Lukula doesn’t dislike Inspector Matthew Merry but he has hardly set the world of the Murder Investigation Team East alight.  And, it looks as if the inspector is already putting the death of the young female jogger, found in the park with fatal head injuries, down to a mugging gone wrong.  The victim deserves more.  However, the inspector isn’t ruling anything out – the evidence will, eventually, lead him to an answer.

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#TheFourthVictim
Author Interview – John Mead – The Fourth Victim

Is this story inspired by a real event? If not, what are the inspirations behind this story?

Most of the ideas I have are sparked by incidents I’ve heard about or been involved in. However, they do get greatly adapted to fit the plot.  For example, the idea to set the main narrative of The Fourth Victim in Whitechapel came from walking past Lehman Street police station and wondering what a modern-day Jack the Ripper might be like. It didn’t take me long to decide that the events if enacted today, would be more mundane – less sensational in this jaded age – and  Jack would be psychoanalysed to death. Though he or she would, no doubt, be a Twitter celeb – at least for a day!

Given that I wanted to write something about how the police deal with mental health issues, and how this impacts on the nature of criminality and victimhood; then that ‘Whitechapel Ripper’ setting seemed to put everything into place.

Is it important to create memorable detectives in this genre? Why do think this is?

In general, I would say it is important to create a memorable team of detectives. Even if it is mainly a partnership – Morse had Lewis but also Dr Max DeBryn and Strange, while Poirot had Hastings and Japp.  Although neither Morse nor Poirot could function in a modern police force. A better example would be Vera or Montalbano, both of whom have their teams and sidekicks.   It is the people around the central character and their relationships which define them and make them memorable.

It is, therefore, necessary to create characters which are relatable, well-rounded humans with flaws and inconsistencies. The interactions of these characters are what creates interest and bring the story alive. I tend to find ‘lone wolf’ characters unrealistic, especially in the police as these are organisations based on teamwork. If you consider some of the more modern ‘classic’ detectives, like Martin Beck or Wallander, they may not be the best team players but they are still part of a team and interact with them.  This is as true of the criminals – no one is all good or all bad – and the victims. Both of which are often used as mere plot devices and quickly forgotten, while in reality, they are central to the crime.

Do your detectives have to be likeable? Why is this?

No, not essentially, in reality, how many of the detectives you read about would you want to spend an evening with (Holmes would be insufferable and Jimmy Perez would be maudlin)? I would say it is more important to make them understandable, to show their weaknesses and vulnerabilities as well as their strengths – this is what makes a character interesting and, hopefully, why people want to read about them. 

Take Maigret or Elise Wassermann, these characters only become likeable once you start to understand their backgrounds and relationships. Both these characters might seem to be the typical ‘lone wolf’ detective but neither would be anything more than a cypher until you realise that Maigret needs his wife to give him a strong anchor in life and Wassermann, who is autistic, is really doing her utmost to fit in. Otherwise, neither of them would be particularly likeable.

Do you draw your characters from real life, your imagination, or are they a mix of both? How do you make your characters realistic?

Sometimes, someone, I come across sparks an idea for a character and, at other times, I realise a character I have written reminds me of someone I know.  But, on the whole, I find the characters develop a life of their own – once you have a few basic characteristics defined for a character it is surprising how complex they can become.

What sort of books do you enjoy reading and why?

I enjoy books that teach me something: whether it is about writing technique, a moment in history or life in general.

Treasure Island is technically the best book ever written. Not a word is wasted, the plot is fast-paced, the characters are well rounded and every scene comes to life.  Which is quite a feat?

Though I like anything by PG Woodhouse for his wordplay, and CJ Sansom and C Hibbert for their impeccable research.

These days I generally read crime fiction – usually, police procedurals – and the masters of this genre are Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö who wrote the Martin Beck series.

What are you currently writing?

Having decided to write a trilogy based on the Metropolitan Police’s Major Investigation Team East – who deal with murders in modern-day East End of London – I have discovered this is actually a ‘trilogy’ in four parts. And I am currently working on the final two parts of this series, the second book in the series – Geraldine – is being published at the end of September. 

However, I am also working on the plot of another book, an allegorical story of modern life.  It’s about a paranoid white suprematist who befriends a homeless Muslim woman – now if I can pull that off who knows what will come next …

What are the best and the worst things about being a writer?

I absolutely love the act of writing, editing and all aspects of the process – I become totally absorbed by it. Unfortunately, because I am naturally lazy, I completely hate the thought of having to start writing, editing or anything else connected with the process, and do all I can to put it off.

Life is full of contradictions.

#TheFourthVictim

I received a copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

The iconic setting of Whitechapel for this book puts you in the correct frame of mind for murder. Although this part of the EastEnd of London, is much changed, it seems the possibility of a serial killer is an uncomfortable echo of its gruesome past.

Detective Inspector Merry, who on the surface is anything but, and Detective Sergeant Lukula make an interesting an investigating duo. The other members of the murder investigating team are also distinctive, and despite their personality differences, the team functions well.

This is a character-driven police procedural, with well-drawn realistic characters whose multiple human frailties make them authentic. The plot gives heavier emphasis on the police team’s personal lives than is usual in a police procedural. This adds interest to the more routine parts of the story, but for some will detract from the main storyline.

The investigation of the crimes is detailed and well researched. There is also a mental health theme in this story, which is contemporary, and again, shows copious research.

The plot has twists and false information, and the ending draws everything together in a satisfying way.

John was born in the mid-fifties in East London, on part of the largest council estate ever built, and was the first pupil from his local secondary modern school to attend university. He has now taken early retirement to write, having spent the first part of his life working in education and the public sector. He was the director of a college, a senior school inspector for a local authority, and was head of a unit for young people with physical and mental health needs.

He has travelled extensively, from America to Tibet, and he enjoys visiting the theatre, reading and going to the pub. It is, perhaps, no surprise that he is an avid ‘people watcher’ and loves to find out about people, their lives, culture and history. When he is not travelling, going to the theatre or the pub; he writes.

Many of the occurrences recounted and the characters found in his novels are based on real incidents and people he has come across. Although he has allowed himself a wide degree of poetic licence in writing about the main characters, their motivations and the killings that are depicted.

John is currently working on a series of novels set in modern-day London. These police procedurals examine the darker side of modern life in the East End of the city.

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Posted in Book Review, Historical Crime Fiction, Murder Mystery

The Corpse Played Dead – Georgina Clarke 5*#Review @canelo_co @clarkegeorgina1 #Crime #HistoricalFiction #MurderMystery #ALizzieHardwickeNovel #London #BookReview

‘All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players…’

When an undercover assignment for the Bow Street magistrate sees prostitute Lizzie Hardwicke trade Ma Farley’s Bawdy House in Soho for life as a seamstress the theatre on Drury Lane, it becomes clear quite quickly – what goes on in the wings is much more intriguing than the theatrics being played out on stage…

Soon Lizzie is once again thrown together with the handsome Inspector Will Davenport when a high profile investor is brutally hanged at centre stage and Lizzie discovers the body. With the suspect list rivalling any casting call, Lizzie will have to use every trick she’s hidden up her sleeves to unravel the tangled threads and bring the culprit into the spotlight. 

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

My Thoughts…

Another eighteenth-century adventure with the irrepressible Lizzie Hardwicke and the self-contained detective Davenport. 

If you haven’t read the first book in the series, ‘Death and the Harlot’, there is enough backstory in this to enjoy this standalone story, but you’re missing out if you don’t read book one.

Lizzie remains a believable historical character, with flaws, a clever mind, courage and compassion. The tentative friendship between her and Davenport develops in this story, the opposites are perfect counterpoints for the other, leading to humour and witty dialogue. The possibility of love hangs in the air, but both are emotionally damaged, and the trust between them will take a while to build.

Lizzie goes undercover as a seamstress in the famous Drury Lane Theatre, a wonderfully atmospheric setting for a historical murder mystery. The disruptive incidents that have occurred soon turn into something more deadly and Lizzie has to find the culprit. 

There are lots of suspects, clues and drama in this story, with a medley of historical figures and authentic fictional characters, it holds your interest, proving to be as enthralling as any play staged in the famous theatre.

A lovely, original story with realistic characters and a clever plot.

Posted in Book Review, Family Drama, Literary Fiction

Nightingale Point Luan Goldie 4* Review @HQStories @LuanGoldie #FamilyDrama #LiteraryFiction #UrbanFiction #ContemporaryFiction #BookReview

On an ordinary Saturday morning in 1996, the residents of Nightingale Point wake up to their normal lives and worries.

Mary has a secret life that no one knows about, not even Malachi and Tristan, the brothers she vowed to look after.

Tristan wishes Malachi would stop pining for Pamela. No wonder he’s falling in with the wrong crowd, without Malachi to keep him straight.

Elvis is trying hard to remember the instructions his care worker gave him, but sometimes he gets confused and forgets things.

Pamela wants to run back to Malachi but her overprotective father has locked her in and there’s no way out.

It’s a day like any other until something extraordinary happens. When the sun sets, Nightingale Point is irrevocably changed and somehow, through the darkness, the residents must find a way back to lightness, and back to each other.

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

My Thoughts…

Whilst the idea for this story is familiar and contemporary, it is the believable, complex characters that make it worth reading for me. The author’s knowledge of this setting and social ethos makes the reader feel part of the story. The characters easy to empathise, even when they are not always likeable.

The ordinariness of life in the tower block setting makes the tragic event both dramatic and unexpected. There is a careful build-up of characterisation at the beginning so that when the event occurs, you care what happens.

The aftermath is also well written and explores in a sensitive way what happens to our characters afterwards. The ending is poignant but hopeful. emphasising the quality of the community and the individuals who comprise it. They are born into adversity and rise above it, making a story that could be too sad, life-affirming and heartwarming.

Posted in Book Review, Historical Fiction, Historical Romance, Saga

Nettie’s Secret – Dilly Court – 4* #Review @HarperFiction @HarperCollinsUK @fictionpubteam @DillyCourt #Historical Romance #Saga #Victorian #TuesdayBookBlog

As the wind whipped around her, dragging strands of hair from beneath her bonnet and tugging at her skirt, Nettie left behind the only home she’d ever known…

London, 1875. Taking one last look around her little room in Covent Garden, Nettie Carroll couldn’t believe she wouldn’t even be able to say goodbye to her friends. Her father had trusted the wrong man, and now they would have to go on the run. Once again.

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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…

This is the first Dilly Court romantic saga I’ve read, and I enjoyed it.

Set in Victorian England and Europe, it follows the adventures of Nettie and her father, as they flee from the law, in the wake of an art forgery scandal. The plot is gently paced with hardships, romance and mystery, all intertwined to create, an easy to read historical adventure. The historical setting is well- researched and enriches the plot with different lifestyles and cultures and iconic cities and countryside.

The characters are authentically written. Netties’ father is a particularly irritating man. Netties is courageous, intuitive and loyal. You want her to find a happy life, after the constant stress of looking after her father.

This is quite a lengthy read, but it is easy to pick up the story again if life interferes with your reading time.

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