The Death Messenger Mari Hannah

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The Queen of Northern Crime Fiction is spreading her wings.

Mari Hannah is back with the second in the Ryan and O’Neil series.

Following on from the Silent Room, this book can comfortably read as a stand-alone novel without the reader feeling like they have joined the party half way through.

Detective Superintendent Eloise O’Neil, formerly of Professional Standards, is back in Northumbria, but this time she has been asked to form her own Unit to investigate high profile serious crimes.

The first person she brings in is Detective Sergeant Matthew Ryan, formerly of Special Branch, and one time person of interest to O’Neil when she was in her former role.

The chemistry between the two is electric; but whereas Ryan is a heart on your sleeve type of person who finds it hard to hide his emotions, and is usually quite prepared to share what he is thinking, O’Neil is almost a split personality. She swings from happy and flirtatious, to moody and brooding in a split second and, more often than not, half way through a conversation.

O’Neil also holds secrets. Why was the Unit formed and who is funding it? It is legitimate, it is legal, but is its ultimate boss as above board.

The team form to investigate their first crime, the disappearance of a Scottish Judge who is about to start Hearing a high-profile case.

When a DVD, showing the apparent crime, scene arrives at the Units HQ it quickly becomes obvious that this is not the first DVD that O’Neil is aware of. Tensions between her and Ryan almost ruin the newly formed team when he finds out. Especially as he suspects O’Neil is trying to protect somebody outside of the team.

As more DVD’s start to arrive, and as bodies start to be discovered, the team needs to expand; but the right people have to be taken on. Both O’Neil and Ryan have their reasons for choosing some very specific people. Will either, or both, get their way.

When the new members come on board they bring with them some exceptional skills and experience, and they are great characters for the book.

Along with them Ryan recruits his blind twin sister. Caroline excels at hearing things that other people miss. Usually a CPS Prosecutor Ryan is particularly protective of her because of her blindness. Will she be put into danger by helping the investigation?

The crimes are being committed by somebody with skills in the use of making movies, or so it seems. The recordings are professionally done, and there is a narrator common to all of them. Why would somebody film the scenes, and why taunt the team by sending them to them?

This story is nothing but top fantastic. Mari Hannah has set most of her books in the North East but by forming this cross boarders National Response Team she has opened the doors to let her team roam across Britain and Europe.

The characters are great. Each one brings its own mix to the chemistry which is so much a part of Hannah’s books.

The story explores the trials and tribulations of a criminal investigation.

It explores the frustrations of the team as they build hypothesis after hypothesis only to see them all smashed. Suspects are identified, then discarded. Will the team find the perpetrator?

This is writing of the highest quality and the reader is left wanting more at the end of each book.

This one is no exception.

Pages: 350

Published by Pan Macmillan

Publishing Date: 16th November 2017

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A Deadly Game Joanne Griffiths

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This book is one of the best I’ve ever read in crime fiction.

What makes it stand out?

This book looks deeper at the families of the victims than any other book I’ve read.

There is only a short lead up to each victim and the reader hardly gets to know them, but the detail put into the effects on the family which are left behind is mesmerising.

Joanne Griffiths has written about a murderer who she manages to keep anonymous right up until his arrest; but its only his name we don’t know.

We know everything he thinks, we know his wife and child, we know that he is an egotistical, sociopathic, wife beater.

The book follows the investigation into a series of sexual assault murders in the Aston area of Birmingham.

As each victim is murdered the Investigating team seem to get nowhere near identifying the killer.

In turn the killer starts to mock the Police through letters sent to the local media.

As in all investigations there are wrong turns, and the frustration of the Police is reflected in the main Police character DS Jim Wardell

Wardell is a transferee, too West Midlands Police, from Yorkshire via Nottingham, and is escaping a failed marriage. He is a decent man but the frustrations of the investigation are beginning to bear down on him.

The scenes in which he and his partner DC Angela Watkins attend the crimes, and then have to interview families, are written in a way that it is hard not to feel the emotions the officers go through.

The story follows the investigation as the Police openly admit that they are nowhere near catching the killer, only for him to kill again. The phrase “waiting for a lucky break” plays a part in every major investigation and it is no different in this book.

But, will that break ever come…

I highly recommend this book to anybody who enjoys crime fiction, or anybody that just enjoys a well written story.

 

Pages: 322

Publisher: Bloodhound Books

Available on Amazon

Anatomy of a Scandal Sarah Vaughan

 

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Just to deviate from my usual reading I was looking for a Political, or Court, Drama. Anatomy of a Scandal came up in the Amazon search engine when I put both categories in so I thought I’d give it ago, even if it did say “female fiction” as the main category.

Well either I’m in touch with my feminine side or they have the category wrong. I found this to be a thoroughly engrossing read.

The synopsis for the story reads like it should be from a tabloid news front page, but it is written with the panache of a broad sheet.

James Whitehouse is a high profile Conservative MP, a cabinet minister, and a very good friend of the Prime Minister. They have been friends from school and were members of the Libertines at Oxford University.

The story starts with Sophie Whitehouse, his wife, waiting at home for her husband who is uncharacteristically late and out of contact. When he walks through the door he looks worried; and he should be, he’s just about to tell his wife he has been having an affair with a pretty young researcher, and that the press has got hold of the story.

Could it get any worse?

Oh yes!

The researcher Olivia Lytton accuses James of rape and he is arrested, and the case goes to court in a high-profile media circus of a hearing.

Sophie decides to stand by her man; but does she believe him.

Kate Woodcroft QC the CPS prosecution Barrister is convinced James is guilty and is prepared to do almost anything, within the law, to see him found guilty.

The story concentrates on the Court hearing whilst flashing back to James and Sophie’s University days and the shenanigans of the Libertines. Will this history show why Sophie is so adamant that James is innocent, or explain why she wants to stand by him? Will it show why Kate is so determined get a guilty verdict.

There are places in this book, where Sarah Vaughan described places and people very deeply, that I have to admit to speed reading or skipping text as; but the story is outstanding.

Throughout the book I found myself taking sides, then changing my opinion. If I had been on the Jury I might have had a hard time reaching a verdict…..at times.

By the end of the book my allegiances were firmly on one side, but I dare say people will have different opinions.

I am so glad I decided to look at a different genre of book.

Pages: 400

Publishers: Simon & Schuster UK

Publishing date:  11 January 2018

Available to pre-order on Amazon