Archive for the ‘Police procedural’ Category

I love discovering new authors and Roz Watkins work is a pleasure to read. Lots of interesting themes are developed throughout ‘The Devil’s Dice’. It touches on superstition, ghosts, Derbyshire folk law, and euthanasia with the feel of a traditional ‘murder mystery puzzle.

Newly promoted DI Meg Dalton is a great character, full of doubt about her own abilities and sensitivity to critism arising from things that happened to her in her childhood and which have left her with a slight disability. Not a good thing to have when chasing suspects around the steep and slippery cliffs and caves of the High Peak. I really like Meg Dalton and the way she continually shares her thoughts about the people she encounters and the conundrums of the murder she is trying to solve. Her vulnerability makes her endearing and also makes for some heart stopping end of chapter cliff hangers. Fortunately she has some support in the shape of DS Jai Sanghera, a lapsed Sikh with family issues who is also at the receiving end of some police colleague insensitivity.

Then there is the bleak Derbyshire setting which almost becomes a character in its own right from the Devil’s Dice caves of the title to the tiny villages balanced on the edge of the Peak District’s inhospitable limestone cliffs. All helping to make this new thriller series a delightful discovery and left me wanting to read more. However, I will just have to wait until the April when ‘The Dead Man’s Daughter’, the second novel of the series is due for release.

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Camilla Lackberg is a Swedish author of contemporary psychological thrillers. She has written ten books featuring crime writer Erica Falck and her police officer husband Patrick Hedstrom set in Camilla’s home town, the fishing community of Fjallbacka. The books can be read as stand-alone thrillers, but for extra enjoyment read them in order. That way you can follow the development of Erica and Patrick’s relationship from courting couple to parents as well as the members of Patrick’s police team as they experience love affairs, births and deaths.

The books make great Christmas reading as they are usually set in a snowy winter. In novel number one, ‘The Ice Princess’, Erica returns to her home town after the death of her parents and finds the body of her best friend frozen in a bath. Although contemporary, many of the Erica Falck series have plots which are rooted in the past, especially the Second World War. In my favourite story ‘The Hidden Child’ Erica finds an old Nazi medal amongst her dead mother’s possessions and uncovers some disturbing family history linked to present day murders.

I’ve just finished reading ‘Buried Angels’, No 8 in the series which also has its roots in WW2. A young woman returns to the island where her father ran a boarding school and where all her family except baby Ebba went missing and becomes the target of an arson attack. But like most of Camilla Lackberg’s novels the motive for present dangers are hidden in the past.
Erica Falck is both a joyous and frustrating character who struggles to balance her writing career with being a parent.

All the books in the series are well plotted and make a very satisfying read.

Finishing my second book about criminologist Kate Trevelyan and starting a new role delivering books to housebound people mean I’ve fallen behind with my reviewing. As crime fiction is by far the most popular genre requested I’ve gone back through my own reading preferences and decided to complete an alphabetical guide to my favourite authors, starting with A for Rachel Abbott.

Rachel is one of the UK’s most successful independent crime writers. Her first seven psychological thrillers have combined to sell over three million copies, and have all been bestsellers. In 2015, she was named the 14th bestselling author over the last five years on Amazon’s Kindle in the UK. Her thrillers feature Detective Chief Inspector Tom Douglas and like Sophie Hannah’s ‘Culver Valley’ series we follow the story of a lone protagonist who may be the perpetrator, victim or witness of a crime alongside the police’s attempts to find the culprit and stop further crime. This creates a strong sense of jeopardy as the reader hopes the victim will survive but knows the police can’t benefit from what they know. DCI Tom Douglas continues to have his own relationship problems which get in the way but make him enduring, and the series provide the satisfaction of getting to know him better with each book.

Rachel Abbott novels always start with dramatic prologues which hint at the suspense to come. My favourite is still the prologue in the first of the series, ‘Only the Innocent’ which starts with an illicit liaison for sex play and soon develops into something more dangerous. The prologue in the last of the series, ‘Come a Little Closer’ is much briefer but is compensated by having more viewpoints to follow before the connections between them become apparent.

Callie, the protagonist of ‘Come a Little Closer’ is a young woman struggling to escape an abusive relationship who is vulnerable to exploitation by others. She’s worn out, depressed and not thinking straight and it takes her a long time to recognise what is happening to her or how she may be connected to other apparently random deaths. The short sharp chapters and varied viewpoints make multiple twists in this riveting suspense a gripping read.

‘Come a Little Closer’ is the seventh and last book of the series. Rachel’s latest novel ‘And so it begins’ was released last month and is the start of a new series about police woman Stephanie King. I’m sure I’ll enjoy that one too, but I hope I haven’t read the last of the Tom Douglas thrillers.

‘Old friends, sat on their park bench like book ends.’
Simon & Garfunkel – ‘Bookends’ Album 1968.

 

The Woman in Blue:
An old friend, now a woman priest, contacts Ruth regarding some threatening letters she has received. She is coming to Walsingham to attend a conference and take part in some of the religious events. Meanwhile, Cathbod is in Walsingham too, house-sitting for a friend when he sees a vision of a woman wearing blue in the graveyard who is soon found dead. This is just the start to a string of murders, as Ruth tries to balance her work lecturing in archaeology, helping the police and taking her daughter to endless play rehearsals while Nelson tries to get over his wife’s affair and the new ‘super-boss’ bent on reform. The crowds are gathering for the local Mystery Play, religious fanaticism rears its head and the scene is set for a fascinating romp through personal relationships and murders.

The Chalk Pit:
Ruth’s archaeological skills are needed again as boiled bones are found in an underground tunnel below Norwich. DCI Nelson and his team are kept busy tracking down a serial killer preying on the homeless. Then a middle class mother of two disappears and Nelson’s boss wants results fast.

In this 9th Ruth Galloway story, where old bones meet modern murder, Ruth and Nelson’s not quite a relationship features as much as the crime. Both have family difficulties to focus on, and however much the reader wants them to get together things always get in the way.

This is Norfolk Noir at its best – misty, gloomy, dangerous, mystical, pagan, set within bleak salt marshes and ancient buildings. The stories turn at a comfortable pace with great twists to reveal hard to guess satisfying endings.

‘The Lies Within ‘opens dramatically with grieving mother Grace Daniels in the dock being tried for murder. The novel goes on to tell how she became a suspect and ends with what happens next. It is the third book in the series featuring Jane Isaac’s DI Will Jackman and it is good to be in his company again. The core of the book is about how Jackman and Grace’s stories interrelate. He is the SIO investigating the murder of her daughter, and it makes for a clever plot with some really good twists which I didn’t see coming.

The story is told alternatively from Will Jackman and Grace Daniels points of view and it is the emotional resonance of Grace’s sections that make this book so compelling. Jane Isaac’s writing captures all Grace’s roller coaster of emotions: her shock, despair, guilt, anger and isolation verging on mental breakdown in a realistic and empathetic way. Will Jackman is a sympathetic police detective with problems of his own and you want him to solve the case and not be let down. But it is Grace’s story and her characterisation in the heartbreaking situation of being the mother of a murdered daughter that make this crime novel different and cause the reader to reflect on what they would do in Grace’s situation.

Having said that, I did find the first part of the novel rather slow to get going, but once the plot moves in a different and unexpected direction and the pace speeds up the need to read on is compulsive and I read the book in one sitting.

‘The Lies Within’ is a satisfying read and I look forward to DI Will Jackman book four.
With thanks to Legend Press for providing an advance copy to review.