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The Hangman by Louise Penny

A jogger in the village of Three Pines has his run disturbed when he discovers the hanging body of a dead man. The death of the man, who had been staying at the local Inn and Spa, is initially thought to be a suicide but Chief Inspector Armand Gamache is not so sure. Just what brought this man to Three Pines and was it something that, ultimately, led to his untimely death?

I haven’t read any of Louise Penny’s Chief Inspector Gamache books before this one but was looking for a quick read and this seemed to fit the bill. This short story fits between books six and seven but not having any previous knowledge of the characters was not a problem.

The setting is perfect for a murder – the sort of place where you know there are secrets and that there are people trying to keep them covered up. Louise Penny manages to pack a lot into the book although it would have been good to have seen this expanded into a full length novel.

If you are looking for a quick read, The Hangman is perfect.

**COVER REVEAL** The Silence by Katerina Diamond

Slightly late due to the dreaded Covid, but better late than never! I’m pleased to be able to share with you the cover for Katerina Diamond’s latest book, The Silence. This definitely looks right up my street!

Gail wakes in the middle of the night to everyone’s worst nightmare.

She can’t move, can’t speak and a stranger is standing over her. Then everything goes black.

Gail knows she didn’t dream it. Or him. But the police don’t believe her.

That was two years ago. She has tried to move on, forget what happened.

Until she meets his next victim.

This woman’s story is identical to hers. And the attack happened exactly one year later.

There is one week left until he will strike again. And now the silence is broken, there is no telling what he will unleash…

Preorder The Silence here.

What the Shadows Hide by M J Lee

Six months ago, the bodies of a young male and female were found by builders in a derelict house, but the police have drawn a blank in trying to find their identities or how they ended up there. The press labelled them the Romeo and Juliet murders and interest was high but the case has fallen on to the back burner. Why then is the coroner so keen for her officer, D I Ridpath, to investigate? Intrigued, he begins to look into the case and uncovers information that changes the whole investigation – has there been an unknown serial killer operating in Manchester over the past two decades?

After the shocking events of the previous book, Ridpath is back and working with new boss Steve Carruthers – a breath of fresh air after his previous superior officer, Turnbull. I liked this new addition but am already wondering what secrets he hides! Events in the book see Ridpath on a personal mission, continuing to bend the rules in order to get the evidence he needs. I’ve always liked this about the detective, his determination to bring the bad guys to justice meaning that he often falls foul of his bosses, although he is always shown to be right in the end!

Fans of one of the author’s other series (like myself) will be thrilled to see a familiar face in the form of genealogist Jayne Sinclair. As I read about the unidentified bodies, I started to think that Jayne would be the ideal person to assist so was glad to see her being drafted in. This was a great cameo role for the genealogist and I hope that we see another crossover in the future.

As always, the story is well written and keeps you gripped right until the end. This is now the ninth Ridpath book and the series is showing no sign of slowing down.

With thanks to Canelo and Net Galley for my copy.

The Last Remains by Elly Griffiths

When a human skeleton is found by some builders renovating a café, archaeologist Dr. Ruth Galloway is asked to assist with the identification. It transpires that the remains are modern and are soon identified as Emily Pickering, a student who disappeared in 2002. DCI Nelson and his team investigate and a suspect is identified – her university tutor – as it is discovered that he was one of the last people to see her alive. Complications arise, however, when Nelson finds out that someone he knows was also part of the group who were together when Emily went missing – Cathbad – friend of Dr Galloway and partner of one of his own officers. Cathbad is certainly hiding something but could he be capable of murder?

The Last Remains was always going to be a bittersweet book ever since Elly Griffiths announced that this was (for now) going to be the last in the series. Over the years, Elly has become one of my favourite authors and Ruth Galloway and the rest of the ensemble have become like old friends. It was with trepidation, therefore, that I started to read, hoping that the ending would be a huge sigh of relief for long-time fans. Of course, I needn’t have worried!

In The Last Remains, Elly has very cleverly introduced a new plot while also revisiting plots from previous books. It is for this reason that it is advisable to have read the rest of the series before this one in order to avoid spoilers. There is also the reintroduction of characters from the past who are interwoven into the text with ease.

The ending was just what I wanted and more, providing the literary equivalent of a warm hug. While stories are nicely tied up, Elly has left it in such a way that there is definitely scope for further books, something I hope we will see in the future. It would be a huge shame for this to be the end!

The Dying Place by Charly Cox

When Kennedy Farmer does not return from her run, Detective Alyssa Wyatt has a missing persons case on her hands. As the police begin the search, the body of another girl is found with injuries that sicken even the most hardened of detectives. To complicate matters further, stuffed into her mouth is a polaroid photograph of Gunner Galveston, a murder victim from fourteen years before and a case that Alyssa worked on. The killer was never caught; has he struck again? With Kennedy Farmer missing and the killer seemingly escalating, this promises to be a particularly difficult case for Alyssa.

Charly Cox has a knack for writing heinous killers and she has certainly outdone herself this time! This man made my skin crawl as we see him showing no regard whatsoever for his victims, making them endure the most horrific torture imaginable. One of the author’s strengths is that she manages to show this sickening behaviour without ever being too graphic, leaving much of it to your imagination.

This is the fifth book in the series and we are now really getting to know the characters. Alyssa and her partner Cord are a great team who work well together and share a common determination to bring criminals to justice no matter what it takes. There are many other supporting characters who also make this series what it is and Hal is definitely my favourite – I’d definitely want him and his research skills in my team!

If you haven’t read any of the previous books in the series, this can be read as a standalone, but I heartily recommend reading them all as they are all gripping and engaging reads.

All His Pretty Girls

The Toybox

Alone in the Woods

The Devil’s Playground

With thanks to Hera Books and Net Galley for my copy.

Monthly Round Up: February 2023

This month, I have read a book that will definitely me making it onto my ‘best of the year’ list. One Puzzling Afternoon by Emily Critchley is published by Zaffre in May and can be pre-ordered here – well worth a read!

Books I Have Read

The Last Remains by Elly Griffiths

The last in the Dr Ruth Galloway series (for now) has had fans desperate to know what happens! With long-standing stories being dealt with, it has definitely been worth the wait. Hopefully we do get the opportunity to revisit this amazing series at some point in the future.

The Scarecrow Killer by Margaret Murphy

The second in the Detective Cassie Rowan series is a particularly macabre tale. When effigies are found followed by a real death a short time later, there appears to be a serial killer on the loose. After enjoying the first in the series, it was good to catch up with Cassie again.

What the Shadows Hide by M J Lee

The ninth in the Ridpath series sees the detective enlisting the help of someone else fans of this author will recognise when a genealogical researcher assists in finding the identities of a young male and female. Another great book in this engaging series.

One Puzzling Afternoon by Emily Critchley

I loved this book about an elderly woman with dementia who wants to find out what happened to her friend who disappeared when they were teenagers. A great mystery coupled with a sensitive look at the effects of dementia.

Books I Have Acquired

To love and to cherish, till death did them part…

Two desiccated bodies are found in each other’s arms in the bricked up room of a derelict Victorian warehouse. After six months of work, the police have nothing and Ridpath is finally called in to investigate. Dubbed the Romeo and Juliet murders by the press, so many questions remain unanswered.

Who are they? Why were they there? Who killed them? And why was the coroner so keen for him to work on this particular case?

Ridpath is plunged into his most difficult investigation yet, in a race against time to discover the truth. Has an unknown serial killer been operating in Manchester for the last twenty years?

A luxury cruise liner, abandoned with no crew, steaming into the mid-Atlantic.
And you are the only passenger left on board.

Caz Ripley, a cafe owner from a small, ordinary town, boards the RMS Atlantica with her boyfriend Pete and a thousand fellow passengers destined for New York.
The next morning, she wakes to discover that everyone else on board has disappeared.
And that’s just the beginning. Caz must prepare for a crossing that will be anything but plain sailing …

It was supposed to be a simple case: a young man arrested for armed assault.

But it was just the beginning.

As Rodney Middleton awaits trial, Detective Jack Warr is warned by his mentor DCI Ridley that they have only scratched the surface of the man’s crimes.

Then DCI Ridley is suddenly removed from his post. No one is to contact him – and no one will say why.

As Warr digs into Middleton’s past, Ridley calls pleading for help, now accused of a murder he insists he didn’t commit.

To catch a monster and exonerate his friend, Warr must weed out the lies. But what awaits Warr if he uncovers the truth? 

In an underground labyrinth a lost soul wanders, waiting for revenge, waiting for love… 

London 1900

Alice Webster has made the worst decision of her life. When her Aunt Agatha offers her the chance to go on a Grand Tour she jumps at the opportunity to get away from the glare of scandal. Heading off to see the world as the century turns, Alice begins to believe her broken heart can be healed, and a chance encounter on a train bound for Paris changes everything. When their journey takes them to a Cretan house thick with history, and the world-famous dig at Knossos, stories from the past begin to echo through Alice’s life.

London Present Day

Eloise De’Ath is meant to be a grieving widow. But if people knew the truth about her late husband, they’d understand why she can’t even pretend. Needing to escape, Eloise heads to Crete and the house her father-in-law Quinn left her, and slowly Quinn’s home begins to reveal its mysteries. In his office Eloise discovers his life’s work: the study of the Victorian excavation to find the Minotaur’s labyrinth. Fascinated by the diaries of a young woman from the dig, Eloise is drawn into Alice’s tale of lost love and her growing obsession with Ariadne, the princess of the labyrinth.

Three women divided by time but connected by the long-hidden secrets of the past. As their stories join in a golden thread, a terrible injustice might finally be undone…

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie

The murder of local man Roger Ackroyd has rocked the quiet English village where he once resided. It is up to the famed Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot, to try to find out exactly what happened to Mr Ackroyd and whether there is a connection to the recent death of his fiancée.

This has long been thought of as one of Agatha Christie’s most ingenious novels, its plot breaking the boundaries of the crime fiction of the time. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd definitely stands the test of time despite it being originally written in 1926 and it is clear to see why the Crime Writers’ Association voted it the best crime novel ever.

The ending, even a century later, is still controversial and shows how Christie was prepared to push boundaries and why she is still so widely read today.

Trial and Retribution by Lynda La Plante

When a young girl goes missing from a housing estate only to be found murdered, suspicion falls on her stepfather until another name enters the frame. Michael Dunn is well-known in the area as a heavy drinker who willingly allows children into his flat. With little evidence, the police have to build a case that will convict Dunn, but did he do it or has the real culprit been overlooked?

Lynda la Plante has always been one of my favourite authors and television adaptations of her work are among my favourite programmes. I was pleased, therefore, to see that her Trial and Retribution series is being revisited, giving a new audience the opportunity to read the books of this groundbreaking series.

The plot is an emotive one, from the disappearance and death of a young child to the ensuing investigation and trial. What stands this apart from a regular police procedural, however, is that the focus is faced firmly on the police’s search for evidence to ensure that their prime suspect is convicted. In true Lynda La Plante style, though, she still manages throw in a few more very plausible suspects, making you question whether or not the police actually have the right man.

If you have never watched the television series, where Rhys Ifans brilliantly plays Michael Dunn, I can recommend it highly. I look forward to the reissue of the second book in the series.

The Scarecrow Killer by Margaret Murphy

Detective Cassie Rowan is driving home on the motorway late at night when something catches her eye at the side of the road. Getting out of her car to investigate, she finds a hanging body, but thankfully it is just an effigy, not a real person. A week later, there is an accident on the same stretch of road resulting in the death of seventeen-year-old Damian Novak. Cassie believes that the two incidents have to be connected and soon discovers that Damian is not the first teenager in that area to die in suspicious circumstances, each death being preceded by a mysterious effigy…

I really enjoyed the first book in this series, Before He Kills Again, so I was pleased to see that Margaret Murphy had written a follow-up. The Scarecrow Killer can definitely be read as a standalone, however, so don’t worry if you haven’t read the first.

Cassie is a great character, determined to find the guilty party no matter what it takes. Her single-mindedness does not always endear her to her superiors but it is this doggedness that makes her such a good detective. Her home life is not what you would call conventional, but this is part of what makes her such a likeable character, as she deals with her younger sibling who she has had responsibility for since the death of their parents.

The plot is a strong one with a plethora of great characters, each one playing their part in this mysterious and slightly macabre story. Although Cassie works in Liverpool, I really liked how much of the action takes place in a nearby village which appears to be stuck firmly in the past, seeming almost otherworldly. I found that I could easily visualise the village although the though of a boggart in the fog did unnerve me slightly!

I hope that this isn’t the last we see of Cassie Rowan.

With thanks to Joffre Books and Net Galley for my copy.

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