What a Christmas….

Cold Xmas Book Cover Cold Xmas
DCI Antonia Hawkins
Alistair Gunn
british detectives, police procedural, female sleuths, murder, thriller
Penguin
(16 Nov. 2017)

In the small village of Cold Christmas there's a church that faces the wrong way . . . What has it to do with the three dead men found in a London flat? 

DCI Antonia Hawkins has a killer to catch. Only she can't predict what is waiting for her at the end of the chase. 

Nobody remembers the young men entering the abandoned London flat a few weeks ago. Nobody cares if they left.

Until the unbearable smell of decay.

DCI Antonia Hawkins is called in to view the dead men; three, lying neat in a row. There's no damage to the bodies, no obvious cause of death. Is this a suicide pact? Or is that just how it's meant to look?

If there is a link between the three very different men then Hawkins needs to find it, and fast. Because unless she does, more are going to die. And they might not all be strangers.

Overall a good new detective read for me with one main proviso – I am getting rather tired of what is now becoming a cliche – the female detective with angst and a rubbish love life.

A couple of other slightly irritating things – that cat needs to be put on a diet, and as all overweight cat owners know – a. you ignore their plaintive miaows for more food; b. you have them on a strict feeding schedule; and c. you use the special food for overweight cats – I can suggest a few brands if you like – biscuits are best.

Other small irritation is that I thought that all detectives had now learnt to keep wellie boots in their cars!

These small irritations detract me when I’m reading from a good story as they continue to bug me and I want to edit the story for the author, just as I edited my students’ work…. Which is a shame as this could have been a really good series for me, but as I also thought the ending unnecessary in its dolore, I’m downgrading to a 3.5/4.

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Bones and yet more

Bones to Pick Book Cover Bones to Pick
Brie Hooker Mystery
Linda Lovely
Cosy, mystery, female sleuth, murder
Henery Press
(24 Oct. 2017)

Living on a farm with four hundred goats and a cantankerous carnivore isn’t among vegan chef Brie Hooker’s list of lifetime ambitions. But she can’t walk away from her Aunt Eva, who needs help operating her dairy.

Once she calls her aunt’s goat farm home, grisly discoveries offer ample inducements for Brie to employ her entire vocabulary of cheese-and-meat curses. The troubles begin when the farm’s pot-bellied pig unearths the skull of Eva’s husband, who disappeared years back. The sheriff, kin to the deceased, sets out to pin the murder on Eva. He doesn’t reckon on Brie’s resolve to prove her aunt’s innocence. Death threats, ruinous pedicures, psychic shenanigans, and biker bar fisticuffs won’t stop Brie from unmasking the killer, even when romantic befuddlement throws her a curve

Small towns are incestuous. And in the Southern USA have too many guns, too much testosterone meaning too much bad temper, and not mention greed.

Greed because there are few ways to make legitimate and ‘good’ living, and because laziness and greed are partners in crime. The easy way to make money is often preferred.

So here we find, with the local law enforcement barely trained and exhibiting the above characteristics, and often chose because of (family) relationships, we find the very first statement to be true.

Thus the law officers are liable to take short cuts and easy solutions.

A nicely written mystery, but I’m sorry, even as a vegetarian myself I wasn’t converted to being a vegan – how could you give up goat milk and cheese living on a goat farm? Never, if the recipes offered were samples – I did check out veganism after reading this book but again wasn’t converted. And the vegans I have known always seem to be less than healthy as it is very difficult to balance the nutrients.

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Who get punished?

Unpunished Book Cover Unpunished
Gardiner and Renner Thrillers #3?
Lisa Black
Crime, Thriller & Mystery, Police procedurals
Kensington
Jan 2017

Maggie Gardiner, a forensic expert who studies the dead, and Jack Renner, a homicide cop who stalks the living, form an uneasy partnership to solve a series of murders in this powerful new thriller by the bestselling author of That Darkness.

It begins with the kind of bizarre death that makes headlines—literally. A copy editor at the Cleveland Herald is found hanging above the grinding wheels of the newspaper assembly line, a wide strap wrapped around his throat. Forensic investigator Maggie Gardiner has her suspicions about this apparent suicide inside the tsunami of tensions that is the news industry today—and when the evidence suggests murder, Maggie has no choice but to place her trust in the one person she doesn’t trust at all . . .

Jack Renner is a killer with a conscience, a vigilante with his own code of honor. In the past, Jack has used his skills and connections as a homicide detective to take the law into his own hands, all in the name of justice. He has only one problem: Maggie knows his secret. She insists he enforce the law, not subvert it. But when more newspaper employees are slain, Jack may be the only person who can help Maggie unmask the killer-- even if Jack is still checking names off his own private murder list.detective

This story is centred around a forensic examiner who is as nosy as they all seem to be. She (as they tend to be in this genre) is never happy with the easy answer and always finds extra clues.

That said, I really enjoyed this novel. I had not read the previous books about this forensic/detective/killer combination and as a fan of the TV series ‘Dexter’ I was hooked by Renner.

I found both characters believable and the writing had me guessing the ending wrongly – so good for Lisa!

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Tell who?

Don't Tell a Solul Book Cover Don't Tell a Solul
M. William Phelps
true crime, murder
Pinnacle Books,U.S.
(28 Feb. 2017)

Cherry Walker was a devoted, trusting, uncommonly innocent young woman who loved caring for a neighbor's little boy. But when she was asked to testify in court against his abusive mother, Cherry never got the chance. She couldn't lie if her life depended on it--and it did. Cherry's body was found on the side of a Texas road, after being doused with lighter fluid and set aflame.
Attractive, manipulative, and violent, mother of four Kim Cargill had a wealth of dirty secrets she'd do anything to keep hidden. This in-depth account by bestselling investigative journalist M. William Phelps takes you inside Cargill's shocking trial--and into the mind of one of the most conniving female psychopaths in recent history--and on death row

A true crime story. This was written in a very prosaic style that was less than engaging. It detailed every step in the police procedures in minute detail and exhaustive explanation. And by the second half of the story was repetitive.

I feel that the way it was written will not encourage readers to explore a new genre or author and yet it is a story of a person with anti-social personality disorder that had 2 complete faces – 1 to those outside the family, especially men, and one to her children and husbands – yes she persuaded several by getting herself pregnant 4 times… The reader is horrified by Kim and yet the book taps into the reason why we read newspaper stories of dreadful crimes – and why Hannibal was made into a movie etc. This love of horror and the need to experience it 3rd hand is very strong in our psyche.

3 for story 2 for style

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Speaking for the Dead?

Let the Dead Speak Book Cover Let the Dead Speak
Maeve Kerrigan, Book 7
Jane Casey
women sleuths, police procedural, psychological, murder, mystery
HarperCollins
March 1, 2017
400

'Casey's writing is compulsive, menacing and moving' Sophie Hannah In the chilling new crime novel from award-winning author Jane Casey, Detective Maeve Kerrigan and the murder squad must navigate a web of lies to discover the truth... A murder without a body Eighteen-year-old Chloe Emery returns to her West London home one day to find the house covered in blood and Kate, her mother, gone. There may not be a body, but everything else points to murder. A girl too scared to talk Maeve Kerrigan is young, ambitious and determined to prove she's up to her new role as detective sergeant. She suspects Chloe is holding something back, but best friend Bethany Norris won't let Maeve get close. What exactly is Bethany protecting Chloe from? A detective with everything to prove As the team dig deeper into the residents of Valerian Road, no one is above suspicion. All Maeve needs is one person to talk, but that's not going to happen. Because even in a case of murder, some secrets are too terrible to share...

A complex story with many red herrings for the police to sort through and which DS Kerrigan finally does, but not without learning about her own issues along the way.

Whilst I liked this policewoman, I think it is time that we had lead female police characters without so much baggage. Ones that their colleagues all like and are still good at their jobs, ones with happy families and children, but yes, working as a detective will put strains on a family life but they could resolve them without divorce or adultery or…

So here the story starts with Chloe coming home unexpectedly from her father’s to find her mother missing and the house covered in (her mother’s) blood.

There is a presumption of murder but they cannot find her body.

Chloe is, according to her mother and some experts, learning disabled, but still she has a firm friendship with Bethany a neighbour, some years younger than her. Bethany’s family belong to a local religious group that favour Abrahamical teachings, with full immersion baptism and the man being the head of the household and the woman the home-maker. They shun modern appliances such as mobile phones and Bethany ‘s life is quite constrained. But her friendship with Chloe is tolerated, despite their concerns over her mother’s activities – as they perceive them.

The story involves many issues relating to religious tolerance and beliefs as well as who do you believe and what do past actions mean for who you are now – can you change your character?

A nice, if fairly standard, police detective novel with the denouement being behind several twists and turns.

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