Deadly Lies by Chris Collett

Deadly Lies

This is a revised edition of a novel previously published in 2004 as A Worm in the Bud (I prefer the new title). It is the first in a series about DI Tom Mariner, set in Birmingham and the surrounding countryside.

Mariner is investigating the apparent suicide of a journalist, Eddie Barham, who is the main carer of his severely autistic younger brother, Jamie.   

Of course it is not suicide and Mariner has a very complex case on his hands that leads him up many false trails before the reason for Eddie’s murder becomes clear.

There is a lot of information about autism (perhaps too much?) to enable the reader to make sense of what is going on.

With Eddie gone, Jamie is looked after by his sister, Anna, which turns her well-ordered life upside down. At the beginning of the book Anna is not very likeable. It is only as she re-connects with Jamie that she realises she has her priorities all wrong. Mariner feels drawn to her and I have a feeling she will appear in other books in this series.

Mariner is well written with just enough backstory to make him believable. I look forward to reading where his next adventure takes him.

Thanks to Joffe books for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Fire on the Fens by Joy Ellis

Fire on the Fens

Fire on the Fens is the ninth outing for DI Nikki Galena and her team in a tightly plotted, complex story that stretches them all to the limit.

They are working on two seemingly unrelated cases and getting nowhere, but the killer is escalating and they still have no idea who is responsible.

It is fine as a stand-alone story but you will benefit from starting at the beginning of the series; the gradual accumulation of backstory will make it a much more meaningful experience.

As usual, Joy Ellis has used such atmospheric descriptions you can almost feel the isolation of the fens. Thank you to Joffe Books for the free copy in exchange for an unbiased review.

Murder on the Oxford Canal by Faith Martin

Murder on the Oxford Canal

Originally written in 2004, this is the first book in a series being republished by Joffe Books. Set in the Thames Valley near Oxford, its main character is DI Hillary Greene. The opening chapter makes us wonder what exactly is going on – we are not sure where she is and why she is not very happy about it? All will soon be revealed. I was not sure about Hillary Greene at the beginning of this novel but slowly came to care about what was happening to her.

To say she is having a difficult time would be a mild understatement. She is going through an acrimonious divorce, is forced to live on a narrowboat, some of the team she works with are quite unpleasant and she is being investigated by the Discipline and Complaints Department (officers from the North Yorkshire force) as her ex-husband Ronnie (now deceased but also a police officer) was bent and they think she knows where he has hidden a lot of money.

She starts off investigating the case of a body found in the canal (given to her to keep her out of the way of the D&C officers) but it turns out to be part of something much bigger. I look forward to reading the other books in this series.

Thanks to Joffe Books for providing me with an ARC in return for an unbiased review.

Happiness for Beginners by Carole Matthews

Happiness For Beginners

As a fan of Carole Matthews’ books, I thought Happiness for Beginners was one of her best. Molly runs a farm for children who don’t thrive in mainstream schools. She has a collection of oddball animals that the children help to look after.

She has her work cut out with the arrival of Lucas, a deeply troubled teenager whose father sees Hope Farm as a last resort. This relationship is the main focus of the story, unusually, rather than the romance between Molly and Shelby.

There is a lot of humour despite the serious issues, with the animals stealing the show (I really liked the alpacas, bizarrely named Tina Turner, Rod Stewart and Johnny Rotten). The story is told in the first person so we see everything through Molly’s eyes and this helps to keep the focus on the farm.

 The eye-catching cover will make you want to buy the book and you won’t be disappointed; it’s a heart-warming tale. If this is your first Carole Matthews book, then you have her whole back catalogue to look forward to (my favourite is A Whiff of Scandal).  

Red Snow by Will Dean

Red Snow

Tuva is due to start a new job in a couple of weeks, and is looking forward to moving south where she imagines life will be more interesting (and warmer). But the best laid plans…

Red Snow is the sequel to Dark Pines – the second book by Will Dean to feature journalist Tuva Moodyson – and you really need to read them in order to understand why Tuva responds the way she does, especially regarding the characters that live on the edge of the forest.     

Superb writing and vivid descriptions emphasize the claustrophobic isolation of life in this small Swedish town in the middle of winter; the repetitive descriptions drive home the relentlessness of the cold and dark winter months (so realistic I had to wrap myself in a blanket while reading).  

Although I found her slightly irritating, Will Dean does a good job of getting inside Tuva’s head and making her come alive on the page. The town of Gavrik seems to be populated by a lot of really weird and creepy characters; the descriptions of David Holmquist’s unusual cooking actually made me feel ill!   

With Tuva due to leave, and the ‘Ferryman’ still at large, the ending comes as a shock; with so many possibilities I had no idea who the killer was. I will read Dark Pines next to fill in Tuva’s missing back-story, and look forward to reading her next adventure.

Thanks to Tripfiction for a copy of Red Snow in exchange for an honest review.