When Marion Summers - red-haired, beautiful and mysterious - collapses and dies in the rarefied surrounds of the London Library, DI Kathy Kolla and DCI David Brock are sent to head the investigation. Kathy finds a reluctant kinship with the feisty Marion, who had, like Kathy, left a difficult home life when young and struck out to London for independence.
DARK MIRROR is a first rate police procedural. The author plays fair with the reader. The clues are all there, it's up to you to sort out which are red herrings and which are genuine. He also strikes a nice balanace between the private lives of the characters and their work.
A good police procedural is one of my favourite types of books. If it's done properly it keeps you reading compulsively to find out if your theory is correct. I did manage to figure it out in the end, but not before I ran trough a number of suspects and changed my mind several times.
If police procedurals are you thing then DARK MIRROR is one you should have on your bookshelf.
DARK MIRROR is the tenth book in the Brock and Kolla series.
COLD JUSTICE - Katherine Howell
When Georgie Riley was a teenager she stumbled upon the body of seventeen-year-old Tim Pieterson who had been murdered. Georgie is now a paramedic and finds herself teamed up with an old school friend. Freya was Georgie’s best friend who departed with her family without a word after Tim’s death. Why did Freya leave town so abruptly? What is she hiding? Nineteen years later, the case is still open. Tim’s younger cousin, Callum is now a politician and has agitated to have the case reviewed. Detective Ella Marconi is returning to work after recovering from injuries.
“Write what you know” aspiring writers are often told. Katherine Howell has done that to good effect. She worked as a paramedic for many years and her detailed knowledge of both the job and the physical and emotional toll it takes are vividly portrayed. COLD JUSTICE is Katherine’s third book (the previous two are Frantic and The Darkest Hour) and her writing seems to get better and better . COLD JUSTICE not only has the fast pace of a thriller, it also has multiple threads which are gradually pulled together. Katherine is also a dab hand at knowing exactly when to change threads in the plot to leave the reader in suspense. I was lucky to receive a copy of the book in advance of its publication. COLD JUSTICE is due in book shops on 1st February 2010. I recommend you be in line on that date to get a copy. You won’t regret it.
THE TWILIGHT TIME - Karen Campbell
Anna Cameron is a new Sergeant in the Flexi Unit. On her first day in the new job she discovers she'll be working with her ex, Jamie, now married and with a child. In at the deep end emotionally after many years without him, she's also plunged headlong into the underworld of Glasgow's notorious Drag - the haunt of working girls, drug dealers and sad, seedy men. Someone is carving up the faces of local prostitutes, an old man has been brutally killed and racist violence is on the rise; Anna must deal with all this alongside tensions and backstabbing within her own team.
THE TWILIGHT TIME is the debut novel from ex-cop Karen Campbell - featuring Sergeant Anna Cameron as the central character. In 2009 Campbell won Best New Scottish Writer at the Scottish Variety Awards, and there is now a second book out: After the Fire, which switches the viewpoint to two characters from the first book - Jamie and his wife Cath.
But THE TWILIGHT TIME is a book that was recommended to me by somebody whose preferences I follow closely, and coincidentally was nominated as a discussion book on one of my email lists, so it was with some pleasurable anticipation that it was shunted up the To Be Read list.
When Anna Cameron is bought into a local station as part of an active policing unit there's some disquiet around the place - she's mostly been a head office / policy sort of police officer before this and nobody's all that convinced about her ability to take over and run a unit. Fragile emotionally after Jamie dumped her anyway, discovering that she'll be working with him puts her under increased (self-imposed) strain, and when she finds that there is active resentment against her from other members of the squad, she starts to fall apart. Becoming obsessed with the murder of Ezra, a frail, old Polish man doesn't help her cause with anybody - especially as it isn't one of her own cases. When she is injured in the chase for a man who has been carving up the faces of prostitutes, Anna doesn't cope at all well when Jamie's wife Cath (an ex-cop in her own right, with a very bad case of post-natal depression), reaches out to her, having known Ezra as well.
There's a hefty dose of angst, personal instability, depression, obsession, resentment, dislike, mistrust, lack of understanding, and selfishness in just about everybody in THE TWILIGHT TIME. To the point where it can be very off-putting. It's not often that you read a book and come out of it realising that there was a point in the narrative where you'd have cheerfully slapped just about every character. As somebody commented in the discussion we had about the book - there is a fine line between tough and obnoxious and some readers may choose to believe that Anna is tough - and others will be voting obnoxious. Personally I'm not adverse to a flawed central character, and I liked that Anna wasn't perfect and that there were signs of redeeming factors, although I will admit in THE TWILIGHT TIME there were too many flaws in too many of the characters. Having said that, I like characters that aren't too perfect and screw up and have bad days and are a bit grumpy and a bit stupid and occasionally daft as a brush, but stick with things, and care about something - and I really liked the way that Anna and Cath both cared about what happened to a lonely old man.
In terms of plot - there were some good touches, with the mystery of the death of Ezra, and what seems to be, on the face of it a racist plot, quite interesting. It was also touching to be reminded that an old man could die, alone and mostly unforgotten and unremarked on. The other case that is being pursued by Anna's team is the carving up of prostitute's faces. This is resolved reasonably well, although at points it does seem to disappear into all the personal stuff a little, and in both investigations there were a few procedural twists and turns that didn't make a lot of sense. This is a debut book however, and sometimes they can have some flaws. The question really is would reading THE TWILIGHT TIME make me want to pick up the second book and it certainly did that.
INNOCENT BLOOD - Elizabeth Corley
DCI Andrew Fenwick is on a tough case. The Choir Boy investigation, a project outside ordinary police jurisdiction, aims to expose an infamous and increasingly powerful paedophile ring. Moreover, with eleven-year-old schoolboy Sam Bowyers missing, every second counts. But is the investigation more complex than it initially seems? And could something buried alongside a child's corpse, twenty-five years ago, be a vital clue?
There are some authors who just seem to be able to consistently turn out good books, ones that engage your attention, sometimes create some discomfort in the reader, but invariably make you think. Elizabeth Corley is one of those authors for me, I remember her books long after I've finished reading them. INNOCENT BLOOD continues the standard.
DCI Fenwick's case - the Choir Boy investigations into a paedophile ring, was triggered by information from the USA, indicating that there is a paedophile ring operating in his area. This ring looks like it has been in existence for years and could very well have been involved in the murder of local boys. One boy's body, murdered and buried twenty-five years ago has already been discovered, and there is another boy who has been missing for a similar amount of time, as well as an eleven-year old who has recently disappeared. At the same time Major Maidment may have been hailed as a hero by the local community, when he shoots a conman when he pulled a knife on police, but Fenwick's friend and colleague Inspector Nightingale is looking at having to charge the Major with attempted murder. She's also convinced that Major Maidment is hiding something.
Some readers will may the subject matter in INNOCENT BLOOD disturbing, but the handling of it is sensitive, without sensation, whilst also revealing enough to ensure you're aware of the evil that is being perpetrated. There are quite a lot of books around at the moment that have paedophilia as the central crime and many of those don't do the subject matter justice. Sometimes you get the distinct feeling of the crime du jour being followed, not contributing anything much to the readers understanding of the central subject matter. That's not the case in INNOCENT BLOOD as the book conveys a number of aspects of the crime, including a series of saddening and differing points of view, but ultimately the message is clearly that whilst paedophilia itself is incomprehensibly sick, there's something considerably more chilling in the organisation and joint participation in such activity. The men in INNOCENT BLOOD who perpetrate these crimes are undetectable in their day to day lives - uncomfortably normal.
Whilst the subject matter may trigger an automatic skip in some people, the book is extremely well done. Tight, taut, uncomfortable, sensitive, caring INNOCENT BLOOD isn't what you could call an enjoyable read, but it was exactly the sort of book that you can expect from this author, and really worth sticking with.
STILL MIDNIGHT - Denise Mina
It's the case that could make DS Alex Morrow's career, it would make any cop salivate. A home invaded in the dead of night, deep in the heart of the cosy suburbs, a hard working family at the heart of it and a vulnerable old man taken hostage. It's high profile: a black-and-white case and it shouldn't be too hard to solve...
The attackers were slovenly. The two strangers who forced their way into the warm comfortable home demanded millions the family didn't have and shouted for a man nobody had hear of. It had to be a mistake, and a bad one at that.
According to the famous names quoted on the back of STILL MIDNIGHT, Denise Mina is the crown princess of crime, past winner of the John Creasey Memorial Prize for her first crime novel GARNETHILL. She certainly is a writer that deserves a wide fan base, as she is undoubtedly one of the great writers of the nuanced central character.
STILL MIDNIGHT introduces one such new character - DS Alex Morrow. Morrow is prickly, raised by a single mother suffering from chronic depression, there but for the grace she's somehow kept herself out of trouble. She's somebody who the hierarchy think can't be trusted - she shoots from the hip too often, offends people, loses her temper, has a mouth on her and is simply not able to not use it, despite the need for politics and tact. What the hierarchy don't seem to realise is that she's way harder on herself than they could ever be. But she's badly rattled when she's not given responsibility for the sort of case that Detectives dream about. She would have been the perfect officer - a home invasion and the kidnapping of an elderly man - has happened right on her childhood stomping ground. She's knows a lot of the criminals in that area, she still has contacts, yet she somehow finds herself reporting to DS Bannerman - would-be surfer dude, political player, bosses mate. Morrow does what she does best, setting out pretty much on her own, doling out the snarling and insults as she proceeds, she rides roughshod over anyone who gets in the way. All the while struggling with the problems in her personal life.
The interesting thing about STILL MIDNIGHT is that there's a lot of ground in here that it seems frequent readers of crime fiction will have travelled before. Difficult central police characters; unthinking / unsupportive hierarchy; family problems; racism; troubled youth; lone wolves. Put these elements in the hands of a writer with the skill of Mina however, add a villain with an almost whimsical view of the world; a cock-up that puts the villains in a nothing to lose scenario and you have something that's edgy, involving and really really good.
Fans of Mina's GARNETHILL trilogy will find something vaguely familiar in STILL MIDNIGHT. There's something all too real in all of Mina's characters that might make you squirm just a little bit! Sure Alex and Maureen come from different sides of the law, but they are both flawed, complicated and frequently annoying characters who seem somehow familiar and extremely sympathetic. Add to that strong procedural elements, a great sense of place and pace, and STILL MIDNIGHT is a terrific book - let's hope it's the start of a new series.
SUFFER THE CHILDREN - Adam Creed
DI Will Wagstaffe - Staffe to friends and enemies alike - is a man with many burdens. On the eve of leaving for a personal trip abroad he is called to the scene of a horrific crime, a known paedophile has been butchered in his own home.
SUFFER THE CHILDREN is the first book introducing DI Will Wagstaffe. A confession early on - I try not to read blurbs on books so the first few chapters referring alternatively to Wagstaffe and Staffe left me mildly confused, a feeling that came back to visit me on a few occasions throughout the book.
Staffe is a workaholic, that or he doesn't trust the team he works with. Either way, as one of his past cases resolves leaving him threatened by the perpetrator and his gang of thugs, Staffe is planning a holiday. Which he cancels, or avoids, when somebody starts killing known sex offenders. Paedophiles keep dying, bizarrely, violently and Staffe and his colleagues find themselves in the invidious position of trying to find the killer of people that, well, does anybody really care. Guy Montefiore has a young teenage daughter of his own and he's not impressed with the bad habits her mother is handing onto her, but then he's also busy stalking teenager Tanya. Meanwhile Staffe mourns for his broken marriage, tries to help an old friend, and support a sister who is the victim of domestic violence (and who has moved into his house).
SUFFER THE CHILDREN has a very complicated plot line. It's overly complicated to be frank, which is a pity, as lurking within the complication, and slightly over dramatic goings on, there's a character set that had some promise. Mind you, yet another paedophile / vigilante / should anyone care because the victim's not a nice person - well it seemed very much like it had been done before and, even with all the ancillary goings on, there was nothing particularly startling or surprising. I think that's probably my biggest problem with SUFFER THE CHILDREN, predictable and a little boring and I wasn't all that shocked, or surprised, or disturbed or even particularly interested by the end.
FEVER OF THE BONE - Val McDermid
There are reasons why Val McDermid is one of the best in the business when it comes to writing crime fiction and they are all contained in FEVER OF THE BONE.
Tony, Carol and her team are all familiar but evolving characters. Characters you care about. Several different threads of the plot weave in and out of each other, changing emphasis at just the right time for maximum suspense.
FEVER OF THE BONE differs from many books featuring serial killers in that McDermid doesn't take you inside the killer's head and doesn't describe graphic violence.
It is a police procedural and one of the best I've read in a long time.
FEVER OF THE BONE is one of my top books of 2009 to date. It would take something very, very special to knock it off that list. I can't recommend it highly enough.
THE DEAD OF WINTER - Rennie Airth
It‘s not often that I don’t finish a review book. I feel obligated to read the entire book in order to do justice to the review.
Sadly, I had to give up on THE DEAD OF WINTER. Not because it was a necessarily a poorly written book. I don’t think it is. I have read worse and finished them. So why did I give up at page 197 of a 408 page book? I ran headlong into one of my pet peeves. This particular peeve is when the author pauses the plot to give the back story of a character. It’s all very fine and dandy for a couple of major characters but when the reader is being told the history of minor characters it becomes a major distraction. That’s what happened in this case. Do we really need to know the history of the relationship between the main character and the local village bobby, who up until i stopped reading the book had a very minor role. If this had been a movie it would have been with half a dozen lines.
When that was all I was noticing I decided to call it quits. This may be unfair to the author, but everyone has their quirks and Rennie Airth ran into one of mine.
THE TOWER - Michael Duffy
Young detective Nicholas Troy is basically a good man, for whom homicide investigations are the highest form of police work. But when a woman falls from the construction site for the world's tallest skyscraper, the tortured course of the murder investigation that follows threatens to destroy his vocation.
In an interesting twist THE TOWER is the first crime novel from former publisher, journalist turned author Michael Duffy. Set in Sydney, the book will introduce readers to two Sydney police characters, the young Detective Senior Constable Nicholas Troy and the older Detective Sergeant Jon McIver.
Falling from high up on the construction site for the world's tallest skyscraper in Sydney isn't going to end well, landing on the roof of a police car just makes it seem all that more cruel. It takes quite a while for the police to identify the woman who died on that dark Sydney night, although thinking it is unlikely to be a suicide is made easier by events high up in the tower as the investigation commences.
Young Nicholas Troy is one of the earliest detectives on the scene, and it's very easy to imagine that without him this tale of greed, money, power, corruption and influence would never be fully uncovered. Life for Nicholas isn't particularly straight-forward though. At home, he and his wife Anna have a young son, but the pleasure in becoming parents has been shattered by Anna's ongoing battle with debilitating post-natal depression. At work he's closely connected with Jon McIver who has a bit of a reputation. As the investigation into who this woman is and why she fell from this particular building rolls on, the truth of this massive building project is slowly revealed, despite the best efforts of some really incompetent policemen and some blatant police politics.
THE TOWER is an interesting book for a number of reasons. Firstly there is this spectre of this massive Tower Building being constructed in the city of Sydney, imposing itself in such a grand manner over the city and its inhabitants. As the story unfolds the tower is hiding secrets within the construction, in its background and how it came to be, and in the history of its builders and their own motivations. The tower and it's original builder and their connection with the victim are revealed in the midst of a mix of corruption, money and screwed up family relationships. Along the way there are a range of characters deeply involved in the mystery - the engineer come security chief for the tower, his Chinese master, the victim's own family and, of course, Troy's family and friends.
The book does have a few minor problems - there's a little too much repetition, particularly of some of the circumstances surrounding Troy's personal life which tends to drag out the length of the book without necessarily adding much new to the overall story. The tensions between the upper-echelons of the police force and McIver and Troy are a little predictable and Troy commits one of the basic no-nos in a police investigation by getting too close to a possible suspect. But there are some very interesting characters here. Everybody is human - not perfect - not completely bad. As the story of Troy, McIver and the death of this woman begins to unfold, there's something refreshing about the matter of fact way in which the characters are presented. The supposed good guys - the upholders of the law, skate across a minefield of temptation, expediency and convenience. They are capable of losing control and objectivity, of making bad decisions. The bad aren't all bad, but certainly aren't particularly good either and their decisions are as compromised by the circumstances of their own lives. There's no glossing over the victim herself, she's a spoilt little rich girl with very limited street-smarts. Yet in a strange way there's a glimmer of possible sympathy sometimes just as there is a desire to line them all up for a serious dressing down.
Supporting those characters is a very complicated plot that doesn't suffer from being overly busy. There are elements that really ring true, there are others that take their lead more from the traditional thriller than perhaps a police procedural, but they work together very well. There's also an interesting interweaving of the very domestic and the very international.
It looks like THE TOWER is the start of a new series - police procedural, character based, set in Sydney. Where Duffy takes Troy and Anna, McIver and the rest of the investigation team is something to look forward to.
It's market day in St Denis, a small town in the Perigord region of south-west France. The locals are on the alert because inspectors are about to make a 'surprise visit', hoping to enforce the unpopular and bureaucratic EU hygiene rules. But for Captain Bruno Courteges, St Denis' Chief of Police, this particular market day turns into something far more serious.
If you're not a fan of cosy style mysteries, you could be forgiven for missing BRUNO CHIEF OF POLICE. Don't be fooled by the cover photos, or the blurb which uses a comparison with a rather well known cosy writer though. BRUNO CHIEF OF POLICE is much more of a police procedural. Well it's a rural French procedural, so whilst there's a violent murder to be solved, there's also a very engaging central police character, a great sense of place, and meals to die for. Perhaps a comparison with Montalbano might have been more successful? Although it's still not quite accurate as Bruno is considerably more content and able to deal with life, his colleagues and the various challenges along the way (like matchmaking local women) with a lot more joie de vivre than you could ever imagine Montalbano contemplating.
Mind you, the story does it's bit to mislead the reader at the beginning, as Bruno seems to be mostly occupied with stopping the locals from wreaking havoc on the EU Hygiene Inspection officer's as they clamp down on the local farmers market. Luckily that's not exactly a full time occupation for a local Chief of Police, so he's got plenty of time in which to attend to his own vegetables and poultry, make his own liqueur and potter around building his house. The story behind how Bruno ended up Chief of Police of St Denis is a tale in its own right, but Bruno's background, the story of the village and the occupants and its extremely important history and culture are built into the investigation of a shocking murder in a way that is seamless, charming and involving. When the idyllic village lifestyle is shattered by the discovery of the body of an old man, head of a local immigrant North African family, dead, eviscerated, his body mutilated with the image of a swastika, the multi-levelled police system in France means that outsiders take responsibility for the investigation. They are more than happy to suspect two local rich kids, on the fringe of a drug trafficking neo-Nazi group. Local knowledge leads Bruno to something from the past that has surfaced at last.
Bruno is simply a wonderful character. Astute, yet relaxed, alone but self-sufficient, he's a believable village copper with a lifestyle that is highly desirable. The village is nicely populated with its own brand of eccentrics, the old residents and the new arrivals. Whilst the tensions in that little town in the middle of a big rural area reflect the sorts of tensions that you get in any society, there's the added complications of a country, and people, who remember the Second World War all too clearly.
The only worrying thing is that for this series to continue, and continue it hopefully will, St Denis could run the risk of becoming as dangerous a place as St Mary Mead, Midsomer or Denton. Let's hope there's enough vin de noix to keep Bruno's spirits up.