Posts Tagged ‘series’

Here’s some information about the novels I enjoyed on my recent holiday in Spain:

‘Under my Skin’ by Sabine Durrantc1yr-square-orig.jpg

This debut psychological thriller has been likened to ‘Gone Girl’ and ‘Girl on a Train’. It is certainly domestic noir and takes the reader straight inside the world of TV presenter Gaby Mortimer as she goes through the horrors of finding a dead woman’s body and then becoming the police’s first in line suspect. I didn’t warm to Gaby as a character but was fascinated to read more about her TV life-style. She was strong enough to carry the plot and I didn’t guess the ending until close to the end. Some of the other characters, especially the police ones like D I Perivale were less convincing. The book takes a while to get going but when it does with the introduction of journalist Jack it rips along. ‘Under my Skin’ was an excellent holiday novel. It was easy to read and interesting with its continuous twists and turns which gave the reader lots to think about under their parasol.

‘Murder at the Lighthouse’ by Frances Evesham – to curl up in comfort with a G & T.murder-at-the-lighthouse

This is the first of the Exham on Sea Cosy Crime Mysteries. It was a very enjoyable light hearted read in the Agatha Christie tradition, bursting with village life idiosyncrasies and implausibility and a litany of very amusing characters. Just right for basking in a temperature of 41 degrees. Libby Forest, the lead character and amateur detective is an endearing and insightful recent divorcee who has moved to Exham on Sea for a fresh start in life. As an incomer she has a refreshing take on the hypocrisy of her fellow residents and the stupidity of the local constabulary. Of course she immediately finds a body by the lighthouse and from then on in refuses to be side tracked until the identity of the victim and then the murderer are discovered. Frances Evesham has invented an array of lively village personalities to get in Libby’s way from her Goth teenage lodger to the pompous chair of the women’s group or the rude but kindly garage proprietor. Fortunately there are two further books in the Exham on Sea Mysteries (based on Burnham on Sea) waiting on my Kindle for my next sunshine break.

‘Cross and Burn’ by Val McDermid9780751551273
Having caught up with all the books in the delicious Tony Hill and Carol Jordan series I am reading them through again enjoying my extra closeness to the main characters and Val McDermid’s masterly plotting. I have reviewed this before but it is worth a second look.

‘Cross and Burn’ is the eighth book in the series of nine. It can be read as a standalone as the plot arc starts with the two lead characters in dark places because of what happened in book seven, something that is deftly revealed without holding up the pace as the book progresses, and ends with a resolution of sorts and a new direction for the future. While Tony Hill and Carol Jordan are sorting out their downfalls a parallel plot with a serial murder unfolds with flashes of scary insights into the mind of the murderer as Paula aided by the few who remain from Carol’s old team try to save the lives of his victims. Like all Val McDermids books the victims are portrayed as real people whose lives you care about, making the whole thing much more suspenseful.

Crime Writer M J Hall

Crime Writer M J Hall

We recently discussed M R Hall’s crime novel ‘The Coroner’ at the Sidmouth Crime Fiction Book Group. The book generated a lot of discussion. We shared our own experiences of sitting through a Coroner’s court and although most cases are brief and business like, we agreed that Matt Hall’s experience of being a criminal barrister and his knowledge of the criminal justice system brought real authenticity to Jenny’s courtroom – although we hope that Coroner’s are not in the habit of popping pills in the real Coroner’s Court.

We like Matt Hall’s tense and compelling style of writing and thought he did an excellent job of getting inside the head of a neurotic professional woman, with the proviso that the romance/sex side of the novel seemed a bit more masculine.

Matt Hall will be giving a workshop on ‘Turning Good Ideas into Commercial Crime Novels’ at ‘Creative Thursday’, part of the Theakston Old Peculiar Crime Writing Festival in York on Thursday 21st of July. Sarah Hilary, (see my earlier post) another of our favourite authors and winner of Crime Novel of the Year Award at last year’s festival will also be taking part. I’ve attended Creative Thursday on two previous occasions and found it inspiring and fun. I can also recommend taking the challenge of pitching at ‘The Dragons’ Pen’. It’s scary but brilliant when all four ‘dragons’ want to read your submission.

Sarah Hilary - Theakston prize winner 2015

Sarah Hilary – Theakston prize winner 2015


‘Scared to Tell’ is set in Connecticut, USA. The novel opens with the discovery of a young intellectually disabled woman found frozen to death in the grounds of her care home. It’s not long before Detective Annie Macpherson, recently returned to her secondment to an American police force from her home in Scotland, is on the case. This time Annie is working a duel role with the Regional team as well as her old force, so ‘Scared to Tell’ introduces new police colleagues as well as old favourites, but her romance with Detective Dave Ellison is still very much on.

The story is about the not often tackled theme of abuse of people with intellectual disabilities and the author’s empathetic handling of the experience of her intellectually challenged characters makes for a very realistic read of a topic often neglected in crime fiction but very current with the increasing exposure of abuse in British care homes.

I enjoyed being reunited with Annie. She is a dogged and determined police woman with a soft side and in ‘Scared to Tell’ her own family experience of having a brother with severe learning difficulties helps with her undercover task of finding evidence of abuse. Barbara Fagan Speake makes excellent use of her own background in her novels; both in her own Connecticut upbringing and her professional experience as a UK clinical psychologist. ‘Scared to Tell’ is another satisfying and enjoyable read. Highly recommended.


I read Cross and Burn during my three hour wait at Heathrow airport and the onward journey to Hong Kong. The sense of increasing menace and suspense kept me absorbed and made my long journey much better than expected.

I’m a fan of Val McDermid’s Tony Hill and Carol Jordan’s series of crime novels, but read this one out of sequence as I had somehow managed to miss numbers 7 & 8. Cross and Burn is number 8. The novel starts with an estranged Tony and Carol and it is obvious from the first chapter that something really bad happened in book 7. Something which has left all the main characters with psychological and sometimes physical damage.

The way that Val McDermid shows the fallout from the events of the previous book without describing what took place is subtle and effective. Something I found enlightening as I write my own sequel to Revenge Ritual and need to show how the shocking events at the end of my recent novel have affected the remaining characters.

In true McDermid style, the antagonist’s point of view is interspersed with the other characters to provide foreshadowing of the violence and danger to come. Although the victim’s viewpoints are only represented in a few short chapters, as a reader you care about their fate, especially for the mother whose fourteen year old son reports her missing at the start of the book. There is still plenty about Carol and Tony’s on-off relationship, although they don’t spend much time together on the page until near the end. It is probably due to this that newly promoted DS Paula McIntyre carries most of the main narrative and provides the catalyst to pull the old MIT team back together.

Although it is a brilliant and compelling psychological thriller, what I really enjoyed were the insights of the lead characters to the situations they encountered, revealing a satisfying blend of despair and strength and going deeper into their characterization than in previous books in the series. A brilliant read – especially for long journeys.

Tim WeaverWhat RemainsWhat Remains is the 6th book in the David Raker series about a missing person investigator. It is a haunting, intriguingly dark novel. I was lucky enough to attend Tim Weaver’s author talk at the Yeovil Literary Festival in October when he said he was trying something different in this novel, although he didn’t say what it was. I think it’s the fact that Raker who has always been such a loner now has a ‘sidekick’ for much of the early part of the story in the shape of ex-cop ‘Healey’. Yes, this book is big on single second names. But if you are a Raker fan, read it for yourself and see what you think is different.

In What Remains both Raker and Healey are haunted by the horrible murder of two children and their mother, described in the opening pages of the book. It affects both men deeply causing them to skim the depths of depression and as such they are often not best placed to support each other. But this is riveting and disturbing stuff. Raker and Healey’s turmoil is our turmoil as Healey self destructs pulling Raker down with him. The novel has a strong sense of brutal realism as it touches on themes of homelessness, depression and mental illness. With a plot that twists around shocking and surprising events and clever misdirection.

The novel is written in such a way that you don’t need to have read the earlier Raker stories to follow and enjoy it. Weaver drops the back story into the action in a subtle and unobtrusive way. But if you have read the other books in the series, What Remains provides a satisfying resolution to a plot thread that runs throughout the series.

In conclusion, this is a complex satisfying crime novel worthy of a five star review. It won’t disappoint fans of Raker and if you haven’t come across him before then this is as good a place as any to start – then go back and read the earlier books.



I love this book.  I found it on Goodreads, my new favourite way of finding new books and recording my reviews. It’s such a compulsive chilling thriller. It tells the story of a teenage girl who goes missing. Something we hear about all too often in the media. But Clarrisa Lynch’s skilful atmospheric writing takes us right inside missing girl Wendi’s mind. You’ll know what it feels like to be estranged and desperate. As readers we share her thoughts and emotions. So much so that you’re compelled to read on to find out what happens next. ‘Have you seen this girl?’ is a real page turner, with its short, sharp chapters, a narrative which twists in unexpected ways, realistic context and gritty descriptions. Start this novel when you can read it to the end. You won’t be able to put it down.

Clarrisa Lynch is an author to watch out for andHave You Seen This Girl FRONT COVER the good news is that this book is the first of the ‘Flocksdale Files’ series, and the second book ‘House of lost girls’ is coming out in November. I can’t wait to read it.

Barbara Fagan Speake

Barbara Fagan Speake

Primed by the PastPrimed by the past is a gripping psychological thriller. Its author, Barbara Fagan Speake is a prize winning crime writer. It shows in the quality of the writing. The novel draws you in from the first page with an intriguing prologue that captures your imagination and sets the scene for an exciting action packed read. Scottish police detective, Annie Macpherson makes a likable lead character. I’ve enjoyed following her progress through the personal and professional challenges that her secondment to the Connecticut police provide during the story. 

Primed by the Past is a great start to a promising series featuring Annie as she extends her stay with the Connecticut police department. As an American now settled in the UK, Barbara writes with authority about the US legal set up and uses her professional background as a clinical psychologist to inform the actions and motivation of her characters, resulting in some fast moving and fascinating plot turns.  I’ve read all three of the Annie Macpherson crime novels, and while it is always good to meet a character at the start of their novel journey, they can all be read as satisfying standalones. The fourth book in the Annie Macpherson series is due out later this year.

 Barbara is always ready to help novice writers and I can recommend her guest post ‘Lessons I have learnt from writing crime fiction and Indie publishing’ on this Crime Book Club website link.

Police woman Sandy Osborne

Police woman Sandy Osborne

I’ve been reading a lot of dark psychological thrillers recently and Sandy Osborne’s ‘Girl Cop in Trouble’ was just what I needed to lift my mood. I already liked the lead character, Cop Sally more and more as I read about her initiation into the 1990’s police force in ‘Girl Cop’, the first of the series. In ‘Girl Cop in Trouble’ she has gained a confidence in both her personal and professional life, which she certainly needs as she carves her way through the challenges of her work and her relationships.

Many of my favourite characters return from ‘Girl Cop’ but the fact that this is a sequel never gets in the way as everything is explained as it happens. I loved the insight I had into the life of a female police officer in the 1990’s. It’s worth reading for this alone. But like recent WPC TV programmes such as ‘WPC 56’ this is a great romantic comedy with plenty of police jokes, but with a story line that reminds you that policing can be harrowing, dangerous and poignant.