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A Poison Tree by J E Mayhew

When the barefoot body of a girl is found in a Wirral country park, alarm bells start ringing as soon as the missing shoes are identified – they originally belonged to a girl who was murdered over forty years ago. A coincidence or has the killer surfaced again? DCI Blake identifies a connection to a local man, Victor Hunt, who lies dying in a hospice. The truth lies somewhere in his complicated family tree but as the body count rises, can the detective find the killer before they complete what they set out to do?

A Poison Tree is the first in the DCI Blake series and it is a fantastic introduction to a character that I know I am going to love. Like many fictional detectives, he has issues in his home life, but I can honestly say that this is the first book I’ve read where the source of his demons is a rather vicious cat with a mind of its own! In a story dealing with a horrible serial killer, this provided some great light relief, and was also a way of letting us know about another traumatic incident that has occurred in his past.

The story is quite a complex one due to it being about seemingly connected murders, decades apart. Although I initially had trouble keeping up with the plethora of characters, I found that as the story progressed, the plot became clearer and I started to build connections between the two sets of characters from the two time frames. This is essentially a book about family and the secrets that lie beneath the surface and, after reading, I saw how apt the book’s title was.

With several twists along the way and a plot that kept me engrossed throughout, I will definitely be continuing this series to see where the author takes Blake next.

Twisted Lies by Angela Marsons

Detective Kim Stone has visited some horrific crime scenes throughout her career but nothing could prepare her for what she was about to see. The body of a man has been found at an industrial estate, death being a release after suffering unimaginable torture. When the news of his death is shared with his wife, Kim realises that something is amiss, a theory which appears correct when the family go missing. When another body is found in similar disturbing circumstances, Kim and her team need to discover what connects the victims before others suffer the same fate.

When you pick up an Angela Marsons book, you know you are going to be in for a good read and Twisted Lies is no exception. This is a series that is still just as fresh as it was at the start and, fourteen books in, the author is showing no sign of losing her touch!

The plot is a particularly gruesome one and tests the skills of Kim and her team. Like in previous books, one of the main strengths of this series is the characterisation and over the course of the previous books, I have begun to see Kim, Bryant et al as old friends. This is a series where the characters feel very real and even off-topic conversations between them are a joy to read.

For me, I have always enjoyed any scene between Kim and her journalistic adversary, Tracy Frost. The relationship between these two strong women has always been tumultuous, each of them secretly admiring the other. In Twisted Lies, we see this relationship ramp up to provide some truly comical moments but, at the same time, showing a thaw in the frostiness (if you pardon the pun!) between them. Frost’s tenacity has never been in doubt, but here we see her using her journalistic skills to the max, and she has certainly gone up in my estimation after reading this.

With an engrossing plot and likable, well-written characters, Twisted Lies promises to be yet another hit for Angela Marsons. Keep them coming!

With thanks to Bookouture and Net Galley for my copy.

Take a look at my reviews of the rest of the series:

Silent Scream

Evil Games

Lost Girls

Play Dead

Blood Lines

Dead Souls

Broken Bones

Dying Truth

Fatal Promise

Dead Memories

Child’s Play

First Blood

Killing Mind

Deadly Cry

The Girl in the Painting by Steve Robinson

When a genealogy student asks him for help in researching the subject of a painting, Jefferson Tayte feels that she is holding something back. It transpires that the woman in the painting is an ancestor of student Nat and that she would like to find out more about her and why she seems to disappear from the records at around the time the picture was painted. To complicate matters further, the painting has recently been stolen and there are also links to a recent murder. Why would someone steal this painting all those years later and what secret does it hold that would make someone want to kill?

Oh how I have missed Jefferson Tayte! Our favourite genealogist is back only this time, his job title has changed! After events in previous books, he is now teaching others how to research their families, something he hopes will be less dangerous! Of course, it’s not long before one of his students piques his interest and he finds himself embroiled in another dangerous mission in the pursuit of a long-lost ancestor.

If you have never read any of the Jefferson Tayte books before, this is a great introduction to the series as, with it being a novella, it is a quick read. The plot is an interesting one, taking us into the slums of Victorian London and contrasting it to the lives of the well-to-do. This is my favourite era to read about in historical fiction and so with the genealogical theme, it was right up my street.

The story is told in two time frames, both being as good to read as the other. As a family historian, I enjoyed reading about Jefferson’s research and it made me long for the pre-pandemic days when we could visit galleries and record offices.

If you haven’t read any of Steve Robinson’s books yet, then I recommend every one of them. Here are my reviews of some of his other books:

Dying Games

Letters from the Dead

Kindred

The Penmaker’s Wife

**BLOG TOUR** Judas Horse by Lynda La Plante

Police are investigating a spate of violent burglaries but when a mutilated body is found inside a Cotswolds house, they realise that this is more than just opportunistic crime. Detective Jack Warr finds himself encountering numerous dead ends as he unearths the secrets in the local community, hoping to get to the core of this organised gang. When he meets Charlotte Miles, a woman with links to the group, Warr wants to use her to lure them into committing one last job with the aim of catching them in the act. With violent acts escalating, Jack knows that he must get this right to avoid more blood being spilled.

It is always a pleasure to read a Lynda La Plante book, someone I have admired since watching the original Prime Suspect on television. After reading the first in the Jack Warr series, Buried, last year, I couldn’t wait to see where Lynda took this character next, especially after finding out his origins. Although this could definitely be read as a standalone, I found that Buried served as a great introduction to the character, helping us to understand what made him tick, whereas this book has given us the opportunity to see more of Jack as a detective. I found myself liking the character more as the book progressed, admiring his determination and policing skills, even if his tactics may not be strictly legal sometimes!


The plot moves on at a good pace and is well developed. From the horrific discovery at the start of the book, the plot progresses well until we discover how this fits in with the rest of the story, taking us on a journey through the privileged Cotswolds where nobody’s home seems safe. I had never heard of a Judas Horse before reading this book and I loved the idea of using the weak link as an insider to lead the police to the gang. We meet a myriad of characters throughout the book, each one, police, victim and criminal, bringing a different element to the story.


The Jack Warr series is promising to be another huge hit for Lynda La Plante and I look forward to seeing where she takes him next.

With thanks to Zaffre Books and Net Galley for my copy and to Tracy Fenton at Compulsive Readers for organising the blog tour.


The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle

A strange beast is stalking the Devon moors and Sherlock Holmes and his companion Dr Watson must determine exactly what has caused the death of Sir Charles Baskerville before his nephew meets the same fate. With an escaped convict also in the area, this could prove to be an incredibly dangerous task for the detective.

This is the next installment in the Easy Classics series which aims to introduce classic works to a younger audience. I have read some others in this series (The Empty House, A Study in Scarlet) and thoroughly enjoyed them, and this was no exception. Superbly adapted and illustrated by Stephanie Baudet and Arianna Belluci, this captures the essence of the Conan Doyle classic, retelling the story in a way that is accessible to younger readers without ever compromising the plot.

This is a superb series, one that I thoroughly recommend to anyone wanting to introduce younger readers to Sherlock Holmes. Unfamiliar vocabulary such as hansom cab is also explained, meaning that these are books that children can read independently.

With thanks to Sweet Cherry Publishing and Net Galley for my copy.

The Girl on the Platform by Bryony Pearce

New mum Bridget is on her way home from work on the train when she witnesses something horrific – a young girl being abducted from a passing station. With none of the other passengers claiming to have seen anything and the police reluctant to believe her, Bridget feels that it is up to her to find the girl. As she begins to uncover the truth, she must make the decision as to whether it is worth putting her own life in danger for a child that nobody else seems to care about.

I love a story with an unreliable witness and in Bridget we definitely have this! With a lifetime of metal health problems and suffering from post-natal depression, there is no doubt that she is a troubled woman. Teamed with the fact that she feels that she is not spending enough time with her baby, we have a main protagonist who made me constantly change my mind as to whether to believe her or not.

At the beginning of the book, there was a definite The Girl on the Train feel, with Bridget determined to find the truth even though others are reluctant to believe her. In my opinion, however, The Girl on the Platform is even better than the aforementioned novel, grabbing my interest right from the start and sustaining it until the very last page. I had been suffering from a bit of a reading slump and this was the book that dragged me out of it, not wanting to put it down for a second!

There is a good range of supporting characters although we see the plot from the perspective of two people – Bridget and the girl on the platform. The chapters featuring the young girl were chilling, and made me desperate for Bridget to be believed and for her to be returned back to her family. At the back of my mind, though, was the nagging doubt that maybe this was all being imagined by Bridget due to the medication she was on. I was pleased that she received support from her husband who always seemed to have her best interests at heart and provided her with love, even if she couldn’t always see it.

At one point in the story, I did start to have an inkling as to where the plot was going to go but I was still genuinely taken aback by the explosive ending. If you are looking for a book to become totally engrossed in, then I cannot recommend The Girl on the Platform enough. This is shaping up to be one of my books of the year.

With thanks to Avon Books UK and Net Galley for my copy.

When the Evil Waits by M J Lee

When a dog walker finds the body of a young boy in a meadow beside the River Mersey, memories are immediately evoked of the Moors Murders. With no DNA or other clues to help find the killer, the police are struggling to make any progress and know that they have a race against time before there is another victim. After recent traumatic events, DI Thomas Ridpath has just returned to work and is thrown straight into the investigation. When another child is taken, Ridpath must try to put aside his own issues to stop the killer in his tracks.


After the shocking cliffhanger M J Lee left us with at the end of the previous book, When the Past Kills, I had been champing at the bit to read this one to see how the story would play out. Within the first few pages, we find out, and we see Ridpath having to come to terms with the aftermath of what happened. If you are new to this series, I would advise you start back at book one in order to get a full picture of Ridpath’s life up to now. While the cases themselves are standalones, I do feel that you need to read about Ridpath’s past to fully understand his character.

Still seconded to the coroner’s office, Ridpath finds himself tasked to re-investigate another officer’s work in order to prove that the case is watertight. Again, we see him falling foul of his colleagues as they realise what he is doing but this is what I like most about him – he has courage of his convictions and will stop at nothing to find the truth even if it means upsetting his fellow officers on the way.

Any plot involving the murder of a child is always a harrowing one and M J Lee has written this in a sensitive way. We soon become aware that there is something amiss in the household of the dead child but what? Could his father really have killed him? The police seem to think so but Ridpath isn’t so sure. Again, we see his tenacity in trying to prove the man’s innocence, not caring whose back he gets up along the way.

I do feel that this series would be great on television and the showdown towards the end of the book had my heart racing just as if I were watching it rather than reading. In Ridpath, M J Lee has created a great character who becomes more and more likable with every book, exactly the sort of police officer I would want to see investigating crimes in real life. I am already eagerly awsiting book seven!

With thanks to Canelo and Net Galley for my ARC.

Take a look at my reviews of the rest of the series:

Where the Truth Lies

Where the Dead Fall

Where the Silence Calls

Where the Innocent Die

When the Past Kills

The Chester Creek Murders by Nathan Dylan Goodwin

After their success in using DNA evidence to help solve a cold case, Detective Clayton Tyler engages the help of specialist company Venator to help him with a cold case of his own. In the 1980s, three young women were murdered, their bodies found dumped in Chester Creek, Delaware County. Despite having the killer’s DNA on record, no arrest has ever been made, and the trail has gone cold. Can Madison Scott-Barnhart and her team use their cutting-edge technology to help to bring the killer to justice?

I have been a fan of Nathan Dylan Goodwin’s Morton Farrier books for many years and so I was immediately drawn to The Chester Creek Murders, the first book in the Venator Cold Case series. Like the Farrier books, this also has a genealogical theme but with a twist. Using the DNA left by the perpetrator at a crime scene, the specialist company are able to use the DNA samples submitted by people wishing to research their family history in order to find a family connection. This lengthy process is obviously something the author understands well, and I found the research process fascinating. As someone who has submitted their DNA profile to a genealogical website, it really helped me to understand how it all works.


There are a good mix of characters, each with their own back stories which I am sure will be explored further in future books. There is a good subplot involving Madison (Maddie) and her missing husband which would be worthy of a book of its own, especially as it also appears to involve another of the characters. I also enjoyed another of the subplots where we begin to explore the ethics of DNA profiling and the secrets it could reveal.


I am a big fan of genealogical fiction and I really like how Nathan Dylan Goodwin has taken this and given it a fresh twist. I am already looking forward to reading about Venator’s next cold case.

**COVER REVEAL** A Chance Encounter by Rae Shaw

I’m really pleased to be able to take part in the cover reveal for A Chance Encounter, the latest book from Rae Shaw, who you may know as Rachel Walkley.

Julianna Baptiste, a feisty bodyguard, finds her new job tedious, that is until her boss, the evasive Jackson Haynes, spikes her curiosity. Who is behind the vicious threats to his beautiful wife and why is he interested in two estranged siblings?

Mark works for Haynes’s vast company. He’s hiding from ruthless money launderers.

His teenage sister Ellen has an online friend whom she has never met. Ellen guards a terrible secret.

For eight years their duplicitous father has languished in prison, claiming he is innocent of murder. The evidence against him is overwhelming, so why does Mark persist with an appeal?

Keen to prove her potential as an investigator, Julianna forces Mark to confront his mistakes. The consequences will put all their lives in danger.


Pre-order Link

UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B08X1PN4VH

US – https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08X1PN4VH

Publication Date: 24th March


About the Author

Rae Shaw is a pen name for the author Rachel Walkley.

Rachel is based in the North West of England. She read her first grown-up detective novel at the age of eleven, which proved to be a catalyst for filling many shelves with crime books, which still occupy her home and grow in number whenever she visits a book shop.

As well as crime, Rachel likes to unplug from the real world and writes mysteries that have a touch of magic woven into family secrets.


With thanks to Rae Shaw and Rachel’s Random Resources.

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