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Broken Dolls by Sarah Flint

51KZWGJbBJLWhen the body of a premature baby is found in a carrier bag, thrown away with the rubbish, DC Charlie Stafford and her team commence an investigation that will lead them to some of the most vulnerable and exploited women in society. After the body of a young prostitute is found with horrific injuries, the team soon find themselves stretched, dealing with prostitution, crack dens, trafficking and now murder. Are the cases linked or is there more than one killer on their patch? Meeting with obstructions at every turn, the police know that time is running out before more lives are damaged forever.

Broken Dolls is the fourth of Sarah Flint’s Charlie Stafford series and, having read the rest, I think I can safely say that this has definitely been my favourite. Charlie is a great character, a no-nonsense copper, devoted to her job and determined to bring the guilty to justice. Like most lead characters in police procedurals, Charlie has a less-than-perfect past, but I like how this only plays a background role in the story, the author preferring to concentrate on the case instead.

The case itself is a pretty emotional one, dealing with the trafficking of women from Europe and forcing them to work as prostitutes in brothels. It is easy to imagine how these women, desperate to provide for their families, fall into the trap of believing the promises of work and accommodation in a foreign country. I particularly liked how the author gave us the backstories of the women involved in the sex trade, showing how society had failed them and making me feel incredibly angry at how this was allowed to happen.

There are several unlikable characters in Broken Dolls, namely ‘Razor’, ‘Dimitri’ and ‘The Punter’. Each of these men use and abuse women and I was desperate for each of them to get their comeuppance. I found the conclusion of each of these story lines very satisfying and was quite surprised by what I read! The ending was very clever and left the possibility of the story being picked up in a later book.

This is a great series and I look forward to the next installment!

With thanks to Aria and Net Galley for my ARC.

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False Accusations by Cora Harrison

The quiet village of Willowgrove is shocked when one of the residents, Mrs Trevor, is murdered. When someone confesses to the crime, it should be an open and shut case, the only problem being that the ‘culprit’ is Rosie, the victim’s daughter, a young woman with learning difficulties. Flora Morgan, a retired headteacher who knows Rosie, is called in to act as her ‘appropriate adult’, firmly believing that she is innocent of the crime. Why did she confess and why is she lying? Flora must find out who actually did it before Rosie is found guilty of a crime she didn’t commit.

Over the years, there have been many mystery books written where the person investigating the crime has no involvement in the police force, Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple, probably being the most famous. This is the case in False Accusations where Flora Morgan’s involvement in the murder of Mrs Trevor comes as a result of her being the ‘appropriate adult’ of Rosie Trevor, a person who safeguards the rights and welfare of a child or vulnerable adult who is being questioned by the police. In books of this genre, the way in which the main protagonist comes across the crime can, at times, seem contrived but I thought that this was a good way of explaining how she could potentially be involved in other cases too.

I liked how, at the start of the book, we were already introduced to the person who had admitted to the crime and the mystery wasn’t so much ‘who done it?’ as ‘how can we prove that she didn’t do it?’ Rosie was a fascinating character whose condition meant that we are never quite sure if she is telling the truth. The author has included several other potential candidates for the true culprit  and I was genuinely surprised when the big reveal occurred – it was not someone who was on my radar! I did feel, however, that there were far too many characters in the book and I found myself confused as to who was who, especially when some of them were referred to as characters from Wind in the Willows.

False Accusations is a slow burner but I felt that the ending was quite rushed and Flora’s illness towards the end didn’t really add anything to the plot. This was a shame as I do believe that this could be a good series if some of the problems are ironed out.

With thanks to Caoimhe O’Brien at Sapere Books for my copy of False Accusations.

 

 

I Know You by Annabel Kantaria

Having recently moved to the UK from her native USA, Taylor is lonely. Her husband is at work most of the time and with her being heavily pregnant, she is finding it hard to make new friends. All seems to change, however, when she is invited by a neighbour to join a book club and she decides to take part in a local walking group. Has she finally found the friends she craves for or is one of them not exactly what they seem?

Before going any further, it would be useful in sharing the book’s blurb with you:

You trust me.

You shouldn’t.

That picture you just posted on Instagram? I’ve seen it.
The location you tagged? I’ve been there.

You haven’t been careful enough, have you?
Because I know all about you.

But when I meet you, I won’t tell you that.
I’ll pretend. Just like you do.

You’ll like me though. You’ll trust me enough to let me into your life.

And then I’ll destroy it.

Throughout the book, which is mainly told from Taylor’s perspective, we are privy to the thoughts of another, unknown character: the character from the blurb. From the outset, then, we realise that someone in Taylor’s life is not who they say they are and the author does a good job in introducing several characters who could, quite easily, be candidates for this dubious role. Could it be her newly-found friends at the walking group or one of the women at her book club? Aspersions are cast on all of these characters at different times in the book, helping to keep you guessing until all is revealed.

I liked the way the story was written in that although we know that there is a threat towards Taylor, she is blissfully unaware of what is going on around her. In most books of this genre, we are used to seeing the main protagonist becoming more and more paranoid as their world starts to implode. Here, however, she has no clue as to what is about to happen to her, meaning that it is a huge shock when it finally does!

Although I Know You is a fast-paced book anyway, once the event that the unknown character is preparing for finally takes place, I found I could just not put it down! It is difficult to say too much without revealing any spoilers, so all I will say is that I found the ending satisfying and worthy of the build up.

I am a big fan of Annabel Kantaria’s writing after reading The One That Got Away and The Disappearance, so I am pleased that I Know You lived up to my expectations. Highly recommended.

With thanks to HQ and Net Galley for my ARC.

 

 

First to Die by Alex Caan

51vvx8RPkCL._SY346_When the body of a man is found the morning after a demonstration by a group of protesters known as Anonymous, Kate Riley and Zain Harris from the Police Crime Commissioner’s Office are called in to investigate. Discovering that the body is covered in strange pustules, fear strikes when it is revealed that the man could be a victim of a lethal virus; potentially, anyone who has come into contact with the victim could be a carrier. The body is soon identified as that of a senior civil servant with strong government connections. As another person goes missing, the race is on to find an antidote whilst also trying to discover the motive behind the attack.

With recent events in Salisbury, the idea of someone being infected with a potentially lethal virus is very topical, and it was this that drew me towards reading the book. I found the premise a fascinating one and enjoyed reading about the precautions that needed to be taken due to them not knowing what had caused the death. The descriptions of the body are graphic and helped to explain the need to ascertain exactly what happened before the public were informed.

The two lead characters, DCI Kate Riley and DS Zain Harris, are an intriguing pair and I liked how their investigation styles were very different yet complemented each other. I did find, however, that the plot of the book was often slowed down by the references to their back stories. Whereas I often find this useful, especially if you haven’t read the previous book in the series, here, I found it distracted me from the main plot. I felt that Kate’s back story, whilst obviously a fascinating one, was a bit of a ‘red herring’ in this book. I found myself wanting to know more about the mysterious character who was watching her, only to find that the story was not resolved in this book.

I did enjoy reading First to Die, but I definitely feel that this is one where I should have read the first in the series prior to reading this one.

With thanks to Zaffre and Readers First for my ARC.

 

Thirteen by Steve Cavanagh

51Hun9Zbi4LThere is no such thing as bad publicity. Or is there? Hollywood starlet, Bobby Solomon, seems to have it all: a beautiful wife, a film about to be released and his own reality TV show. All this comes crashing down when the body of his wife and her alleged lover are discovered at the marital home, and Bobby is the only suspect. Although high-profile cases are not his thing, defence lawyer, Eddie Flynn, takes on the case as he senses that everything is not as it seems, daring to believe that Bobby could, in fact, be getting set up. Cold-blooded killer, Joshua Kane, definitely knows a lot more about the case, so much so that he has managed to find himself a spot on the jury. Bobby’s fate may be in his hands…

I admit that courtroom dramas have never really appealed to me but there has been so much buzz around Thirteen that I felt I had to give it a go. (Plus, I’m a regular listener of the author’s podcast, Two Crime Writers and a Microphone). All I can say is, if all books of this genre are as good as this one, then I might just be a convert!

I warmed to Eddie Flynn immediately and, although this is the fourth book in the series, never felt as though I was missing out on his back story. I enjoyed reading his courtroom scenes and could quite easily see how some of the jurors appeared to be hanging on his every word. A man of integrity, despite his con-man past, Eddie is the perfect protagonist and would definitely be someone I would want on my side if I found myself in Bobby’s situation!

The story is a dual narrative, the other main character being the killer, Kane. He is a truly heinous character and yet an unbelievably fascinating one too. We find out the extent of his nature quite early on in the book when the life of a man is decided upon by the toss of a coin. When the true extent of his crimes and the lengths he will go to to continue his ‘work’ are revealed, he definitely became one of the worst serial killers I have read about in recent years.

Thirteen has great characters and a novel idea for a story and is one of the few books that definitely lives up to the hype!

With thanks to Orion and Net Galley for my copy of Thirteen.

The Night Caller by David Field

image001The women in the East End of London have just got over the horrors of Jack the Ripper when a new attacker appears on the scene – someone is breaking into their homes, stealing their underwear and leaving filthy, threatening messages. With the police refusing to take the crimes seriously, it is up to Esther Jacobs and her fiance, police officer Jack Enright, to investigate the wrongdoings. Are these women being targeted for a reason and just what is the connection to a new female ‘Alliance’? When the case takes a turn for the worse, someone will soon find their life is in grave danger…

The Night Caller is the second of the Esther and Jack Enright Mysteries, a detective series set in Victorian London, the first being The Gaslight Stalker. In the last book, our heroes met and, despite the horrendous circumstances they found themselves in, fell in love. Now planning their wedding, they find themselves involved in a case which becomes a little too close for comfort for Esther. Knowing Esther’s personality, it was not a surprise that she should find herself becoming involved in a female trade union and it was pleasing to see some historical fact being included such as the Bryant and May strike and the role of Annie Besant.

I found much of this book pitying Jack who has spent most of his life with his overbearing mother and is now embarking on a marriage with an equally strong woman. Esther appeared, at times, to be quite unlikable, but I found myself warming to her as the story progressed. It will be interesting to see what the next book has in store for Esther, as she is definitely not the sort of woman to be content with staying at home, looking after any children they have!

The Night Caller definitely transports you back to Victorian London and whereas, in the last book, we saw how the poorest and most unfortunate lived, here we see the lower classes finally trying to fight their way out of poverty. Of course, this would not be what everyone wanted and so we see these women being threatened and, eventually murdered. The mystery was a good one with enough red herrings thrown in to keep you off the scent, and it also had a satisfying conclusion.

I look forward to seeing how married life is treating the Enrights in the next book!

With thanks to Caoimhe O’Brien at Sapere Books for my copy of the book.

Deep Fear by Rachel Lynch

When the naked body of a woman is found near a Lake District church, DI Kelly Porter immediately senses that the killing seemed personal and that the perpetrator had a particular grudge. When another body is found, however, she realises that there is much more to it and that there is a serial killer on her patch. With quotes from the Lakes poets being left with the bodies, the police know that they are dealing with a particularly disturbed individual who must be stopped before the body count continues to rise.

Deep Fear is the second book to feature Kelly Porter, the first being Dark Game. In the first book, we were introduced to Kelly who, after years of working in London, had returned back home to Cumbria. She could have been forgiven for thinking that her job would now be less eventful but, as she soon found out, the Lakes contain their fair share of dubious characters. In Deep Fear, we come across one of the worst sorts – a deranged serial killer who seems keen to mete out their own version of punishment.

This is very much a police procedural and a classic serial killer hunt – something I always enjoy reading. Like many serial killers, this one soon acquires a nickname by the press, in this case, ‘The Teacher’, as they seem to want to teach their victims a lesson. Initially, the victims seem not to be connected but as Kelly digs deeper, a link is found – has she found the right one though or is someone playing an even clever game? One of the things I liked most was that, in order to find her answer, Kelly and her team use a range of techniques, relying not just upon modern forensics, but also using good old-fashioned leg work.

Whereas a lot of the lead detectives in books such as this are very damaged, I find that, although Kelly has her issues, she comes across as a very real character. Her relationship with her family is well-written – it is very easy to imagine the tension caused by the dislike her and her sister share for each other. I also like the way Kelly works – she is a fair boss who still commands respect from the rest of her team.

This is definitely emerging as a series to watch and I look forward to seeing what the Lake District has in store next for Kelly Porter.

With thanks to Canelo and Net Galley for the ARC.

 

My Mother’s Secret by Sanjida Kay

61RUGiggOTLEmma and Stella Taylor are a mother and daughter with very different personalities. Emma has a secret, one that could threaten her family, and Stella is determined, at any cost, to discover just what her mother’s secret is. Meanwhile, Lizzie Bradshaw, a young mother and wife, is forced to leave her family for several days each week as part of her job. When she witnesses a terrible crime, more than one life will be affected. Will any of them be able to put the past behind them and live the life they want?

I was hooked right from the prologue of My Mother’s Secret, when we are privy to an altercation in a shop that leads to grave circumstances for all those involved. This was a great start to the book and left me asking questions that I hoped would be answered as I read. It also gave a hint as to the troubles that were to come. Initially, as the chapters moved between the perspectives of Lizzie, Emma and Stella, it was a bit confusing but I found that once the plots developed, it became much easier to follow.

The main message in the book is probably how, no matter how perfect our life is, it only takes one event to change it all in the blink of an eye. Although Lizzie was struggling financially with her new family, she did appear to be at the brink of a fantastic life, only for it to be cruelly taken away from her. I felt a great deal of sympathy towards Lizzie and did not envy the decisions she had to make.

Emma, on the other hand, I did not initially warm to as I found her overprotective and, at times, rather odd! As we get to know more about her past, however, and discover what made her the way she is, she became much more of a fascinating character. Stella, I found just like any other teenage girl, desperate to grow up but hampered by her parents.

There are a few twists in the story that were not that hard to figure out but there was one revelation towards the end that I did not see coming. It filled me with anger to discover how one of the characters had been manipulated and would probably continue to be so for the rest of their life.

I really enjoyed My Mother’s Secret and will definitely be looking out for more of this author’s work.

With thanks to Corvus and Readers First for my ARC.

 

 

**BLOG TOUR** Dead and Gone by D. L. Michaels

I am pleased to be the latest stop on the blog tour for Dead and Gone by D. L. Michaels, which was published by Aria on May 1st.

When DI Annie Parker visits the supermarket, little does she realise that a disagreement with a fellow customer will see her becoming embroiled in a case that will pit her against one of the country’s leading crime families as she investigates a 20-year-old murder. Meanwhile, the life of successful businesswoman Paula Smith should be a happy one. Indeed it would be, if it wasn’t for her alcoholic husband, Danny, who she knows she should leave. What is the secret that keeps her there? In contrast, Sarah Johnson’s life appears idyllic. Married to a man she loves, all is not, however, what it seems. What secret is he harbouring?

Dead and Gone is a police procedural with a twist. After losing her husband and daughter-in-law in an accident, work has become somewhat of an escape from Annie’s home life. Her son has come to depend on her more and more as he attempts to deal with his own grief, often leaving her in charge of her young granddaughter. Now with the added complications her sister brings, the magnitude of this case threatens to overwhelm her. Never one to be deterred, though, Annie comes across as a feisty, no-nonsense officer and one that I would love to read about again.

At first, I did find the format of the book slightly confusing. The story is told from the points of view of the three main characters and, until I got to know them all, I found myself getting confused between Paula and Sarah. Once the story took hold, however, I soon became engrossed in their back stories although I still looked forward to Annie’s chapters the most.

It was inevitable that, at some point, the three story lines would converge and so I was constantly looking for ways in which I thought it would happen. When it did, the twist was not something I saw coming and was definitely a great surprise. It was probably at this point that I started to read a lot faster, desperate to know the outcome of the huge revelation!

Dead and Gone is a great start to a series and I look forward to reading what follows.

With thanks to Aria and Net Galley for my ARC.

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