Guiltless by Viveca Sten

The tiny Swedish island of Sandhamn has always been a haven for lawyer Nora Linde. With trouble brewing in her marriage, she finds its comforts more welcome than ever, even in the depths of winter. That is, until her two young sons trip across a severed arm in the woods.

The boys’ gruesome discovery will once again connect Nora with her childhood friend Thomas Andreasson, now a local police detective. When the limb is identified as belonging to a twenty-year-old woman who disappeared without a trace months earlier, what had been a missing persons case takes on a whole new urgency.

Nora and Thomas delve deeply into the woman’s final hours, each of them wrestling not only with the case but with the private demons it awakens in them. As they do, they’ll find themselves drawn into the history of Sandhamn and the tensions that have been simmering just below the surface for more than a hundred years.

Guiltless is my third trip to Sandhamn, a small island off the Swedish coast with a population of only a couple of hundred people but – seemingly – a lot of murder.  I have to say, it sounds beautiful there, but – given the death count – I would think twice before visiting.

This time, the victim is a young girl, missing for months before Nora’s boys find her body. She is an island native (vs. the visitors that flood the island in the summer) and so her death is possibly more shocking than it might have been otherwise and the small community are rocked to it’s core.  The question is why and who?

It’s a question Nora finds herself in the middle of, not just because her sons found the body but because her best friend, Thomas, is investing the case.  Nora and Thomas make an interesting team.  They don’t investigate together as such but they do use each other to bounce ideas off, as well as supporting each other in life in general.

I like their relationship (purely platonic) and both Nora and Thomas as individuals and I think it is this that keeps bringing me back to the series.  They are genuinely nice people, the type I would want to know.  Their friendships seems natural and I can only commend Sten for how well she has created these two people.

Her plots too are pretty good.  There is a simplicity to them when you first start reading but soon the twists start coming and you don’t really know where you are.  Clever.  At the same time, a word that does pop to mind when describing her novels is gentle because you aren’t being beaten over the head with wild card detectives or omnipotent killers.  There is an old fashioned element here, a lot of who dunit and (thankfully) very little in the way of gruesome.

This style fits me perfectly more often now I find.  I don’t like lots of gore with my crime and I am tiring of detectives that go out on their own and don’t listen to anyone else on their team, usually whilst not sleeping, not eating and drinking too much.  There is none of that in Thomas, and I like it.  I also liked the book – a lot – and definitely recommend it (including for those who haven’t read the first two – it’s definitely a standalone).

Enjoy!

Emma x

liked-it-a-lot

Source: Netgalley
Publisher: Amazon Crossing
Publication Date: 23rd May, 2017 (originally published 2010)
Format: ebook
Pages: 370
Genre: mystery / crime
Find on: Amazon UK / Amazon US / Goodreads

Note: I received this book in return for a fair and honest review.  All thoughts, feelings and opinions are my own. 

Other books in the Sandhamn Series…

Still WatersClosed Circles

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cold Kill by P. J. Tracy

29966598

The peaceful Christmas season in Minneapolis is shattered when two friends, Chuck Spencer and Wally Luntz, scheduled to meet in person for the first time, are murdered on the same night, two hours and several miles apart, dramatically concluding winter vacation for homicide detectives Leo Magozzi and Gino Rolseth.

An hour north of Minneapolis, Lydia Ascher comes home to find two dead men in her basement. When Leo and Gino discover her connection to their current cases, they suspect that she is a target, too. The same day, an elderly, terminally ill man is kidnapped from his home, an Alzheimer’s patient goes missing from his care facility, and a baffling link among all the crimes emerges.

This series of inexplicable events sends the detectives sixty years into the past to search for answers-and straight to Grace MacBride’s Monkeewrench, a group of eccentric computer geniuses who devote their time and resources to helping the cops solve the unsolvable. What they find is an unimaginable horror-a dormant Armageddon that might be activated at any moment unless Grace and her partners Annie, Roadrunner, and Harley Davidson, along with Leo and Gino, can find a way to stop it.

This is the seventh book in the Monkeewrench series, though only the second I’ve read and it can definitely be read as a standalone.  Given the detail in the summary (from Goodreads), there isn’t much I can add without spoilers so I’ll have to settle for saying what I thought of the book itself…which is pretty positive.

There is a lot to like about this book.  I loved the setting, the cold Minnesota winter seems like just the right place for a mystery killer to be on the loose and adds to the tension as blizzards reduce visibility to almost nothing and cars skid down roads, and I loved the characters.

As I mentioned already, I have only read one other book in this series (it was book no. 4) yet I clearly remembered a lot of the central characters, specifically Grace and Harley from the Monkeewrench team.   Entering the pages of Cold Kill was a bit like meeting old friends…you’d pretty much forgot the existed but once you come face-to-face again it was like you’d only seen each other last week.  It felt good.

I also liked the detectives. Leo and Gino are old-school, long-ish in the tooth but determined to do the right thing.  There was a humour in their relationship which lightened a book that had a lot of murder in it.  I found myself smiling more than once at their joking back and forth.

The book itself was well written.  It kept me turning pages and barrelled along at quite a pace.  I have to say that the plot wasn’t one I completely believed in (there is a bit of spy / espionage theme here and those aren’t books I normally read) but I was willing to let that go because of I was enjoying myself too much.   If you can’t tell, I liked this one a lot and would definitely recommend it.

Enjoy!

Emma x

liked-it-a-lot

Source: Library
Publisher: Penguin
Publication Date: 17th November, 2016
Format: ebook
Pages: 315
Genre: mystery / crime
Find on: Amazon UK / Amazon US / Goodreads

p.s. This was published as The Sixth Idea in the states

 

 

 

 

Mercy Killing by Lisa Cutts

31129137The death of a local sex offender places the police officers at East Rise incident room under immense pressure – they must treat this case like any other murder, but they know what Albie Woodville did and can feel little sympathy. Except, as the investigation progresses, it becomes clear this isn’t just a one-off killing – someone is out for revenge …

So, despite the fact I promised myself I would stop picking up books that show a woman walking away from me (there are soooo many of them!), I did it with Mercy Killing by Lisa Cutts when I came across it at my local library.  I really can’t help myself!

Mercy Killing is a police procedural that feels real – no doubt because Lisa Cutts is a detective constable when she isn’t writing pretty good pieces of crime fiction (and has been for 20 years).   It also feels different, at least for me when I compare it to the books I’ve been reading lately.  First, the lead detective wasn’t a woman but rather a grumpy old man (Harry), one who had been a police officer for a long time and who is feeling world weary.

Second, investigating this crime seemed like a real team effort.  Harry wasn’t a man out to prove himself or with demons to fight (though he is fighting with his wife a fair deal – no police officers life can be perfect it seems).  He didn’t rush into situations without thinking, putting himself in danger as a consequence.  And he wasn’t a one man band.  He had his team do the work they were being paid to do and he did what he was being paid to do – lead them.

At first, this idea of a team all working together threw me a little but I pretty soon feel into the flow of moving between characters and started to enjoy getting to know them.  They were all interesting and all pretty strong, which they needed to be given not so much the crime they were investigating but the victim, a paedophile. Albie Woodville is a nasty piece of work and it’s probably not a surprise some officers wondered if they shouldn’t be shaking the hand of the man – or woman – who had killed him.

I’m not sure enjoyed is the right word here but for want of a better one, I enjoyed seeing how each officer responded to the victim and his crimes, how it affected them on a professional and personal level.  I also enjoyed getting to see the inner workings of the force and the way the investigation played out.  It did make for a slower pace than some other police procedurals I’ve read but I can’t say I minded it.  I didn’t get bored and my mind didn’t wander so there are no complaints here.

I have read this is the start of a new series for Lisa Cutts – who I haven’t read before – and I have to say I think she’s set a great scene.  An area (East Rise) that seems just dark enough to have some interesting criminals living in it and a cast of characters that feel like they all have more to live.  I’ll be looking out for the second book (due August I think) and would definitely recommend this book. Liked it a lot.

Enjoy!

Emma x

liked-it-a-lotSource: Library
Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK
Publication Date: 1st September, 2016
Format: ebook
Genre: crime, mystery
Find on: Amazon UK / Amazon US / Goodreads

Last Breath by Robert Bryndza 

34368544He’s your perfect date. You’re his next victim.

When the tortured body of a young woman is found in a dumpster, her eyes swollen shut and her clothes soaked with blood, Detective Erika Foster is one of the first at the crime scene. The trouble is, this time, it’s not her case.

While she fights to secure her place on the investigation team, Erika can’t help but get involved and quickly finds a link to the unsolved murder of a woman four months earlier. Dumped in a similar location, both women have identical wounds – a fatal incision to their femoral artery.

Stalking his victims online, the killer is preying on young pretty women using a fake identity. How will Erika catch a murderer who doesn’t seem to exist?

Then another girl is abducted while waiting for a date. Erika and her team must get to her before she becomes another dead victim, and, come face to face with a terrifyingly sadistic individual.

I think it’s fair to say that Robert Bryndza has done it again with this, the latest, in the Erika Foster series. Still stuck behind a desk in Bromley, Erika is missing her former role in the murder investigation team. Her application to go back, though, has been turned down – and she’s angry about it, no more so than when she’s summarily dismissed from a crime scene.

The scene – the body of a young woman has been found in a dumpster, badly beaten and tortured.  She has been missing for only a few days and Erika’s gut is telling her that the killer is likely to strike again.  The problem is no one wants to hear, not least the head of the murder investigation team (and her former adversary), even when she gets as close to begging as she can get and uncovers evidence his team haven’t.

Then, in twist I won’t share for spoilers, she gets given the opportunity to become senior investigating officer and the chase is on for a killer who is becoming more prolific and more violent.  As a reader, you know who he is, what he plans to do next and you see him spiralling.  It all adds to the tension as you also watch Erika and her team struggle to follow the clues, hoping for a lucky break and praying that they get to the latest missing girl in time.

And it is tense, from page one, and not letting up right until the very end.  The killer is suitably evil and just to say smart enough to keep ahead of the police (for a while at least), making my skin crawl more than a little.  And Erika is her usual brilliant self, trying hard not to be self-destructive for once but not doing too well at it.

The mix of tough and vulnerable in her is something I like in my characters.  She isn’t a complete hard-ass, is liked and admired by her team, but her past has left her damaged and with a hard outer shell.  She wants to break out but it’s hard.  Still, we get to see a little of that in this story, making her and her team more real than ever.

As for the story itself, you couldn’t ask for more really.  It’s a cracking read from start to finish.  These are all things I’ve said about other books in the series but here it is again – it was well written, had great pace (I read it in a day which is rare for me), great characters – event the bad guy was well rounded (see creepy killer above), and kept me on the edge of my seat from start to finish.  Can I say any more? I don’t think so – I loved this and really recommend it.

Enjoy!

Emma

loved-it

Source: Netgalley
Publisher: Bookouture
Publication Date: 12th April, 2017 (yes today! cutting this review fine)
Pages: 281
Format: ebooks
Genre: crime, mystery
Buy now: Amazon UK / Amazon US

Note: I received a copy of this book in return for a fair and honest review.  All thoughts, feelings and opinions are my own.

Tuesday Intro: Let the Dead Speak by Jane Casey

Once again I’m linking up again with Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea who hosts a post every Tuesday for people to share the first chapter / paragraph of the book they are reading, or thinking of reading soon. In really enjoy these tasters when I read them on other blogs so wanted to join in.

This week I’m reading Let the Dead Speak by Jane Casey, an author I’ve read a fair few books from, though not all – and not all in this series.  Here’s what it’s about….

51F315SsdqL.jpgA 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…

And here’s how it starts…

It had been raining for fifty-six hours when Chloe Emery came home. The forecast had said to expect a heatwave; it wasn’t supposed to be raining.

And Chloe wasn’t supposed to be home.

Not much of a teaser I admit but is it enough to keep you reading?

Emma

Pre-order on Amazon UK

Her Final Breath by Robert Dugoni

24937499Homicide detective Tracy Crosswhite has returned to the police force after the sensational retrial of her sister’s killer. Still scarred from that ordeal, Tracy is pulled into an investigation that threatens to end her career, if not her life.

A serial killer known as the Cowboy is killing young women in cheap motels in North Seattle. Even after a stalker leaves a menacing message for Crosswhite, suggesting the killer or a copycat could be targeting her personally, she is charged with bringing the murderer to justice. With clues scarce and more victims dying, Tracy realizes the key to solving the murders may lie in a decade-old homicide investigation that others, including her captain, Johnny Nolasco, would prefer to keep buried. With the Cowboy on the hunt, can Tracy find the evidence to stop him, or will she become his next victim?

Returning to her role as Homicide Detective for Seattle PD after taking time off to search for her sister’s killer, Tracy finds herself faced with the death of another young woman, this time a dancer in a local gentleman’s club.  The woman, found hog-tied in a motel room and forced to strangle herself, has died a horrible death…one that exactly matches that of another dancer in another motel room.

It was a case Tracy was working on before her sister’s remains were found, one that her captain decided was a cold case and has filed away.  Now it seems he was wrong, and Tracy has a serial killer on her hands, a cold, calculating one that means the women essentially kill themselves whilst he (or she) watches.  She might also have the serial killer after her, putting her life in danger.

I really liked Tracy.  She’s a good cop, cares for her team (who like her too) and her boyfriend, Dan.  I like that she is vulnerable, her baggage (the death of her sister and subsequent relationship with her parents) making her that way, but isn’t hard or mean – something you often see in damaged female detectives.  As a character she is well-rounded and well-developed, having grown since the last book.

I also liked the plot, including that it wasn’t gory.  It was cleverly done, with lots of twists and turns and dead ends.  And if that isn’t bad enough there are the roadblocks put in the way by the captain, who – unlike Tracy – isn’t that nice, especially when one of his old cases starts to come under scrutiny.  I didn’t like Nolasco but he was a good foil to Tracy and added to the tension as more dead bodies turned up.

And, finally, I liked the writing.  Robert Dugoni is really good at setting a scene and developing characters, who have all grown since the first book and become much more real.  I was completely drawn in from the first few pages and didn’t want to put the book down.   I could feel the cold, grey, Seattle days and the seediness of the streets.   In fact, I was slightly disappointed when it was over and can’t wait to read the next book in the series.  Really, really, liked this one.

Enjoy!

Emma

p.s you might also enjoy Dugoni’s first Tracy Crosswhite novel – My Sister’s Grave

Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Pages:
426 (kindle)
Published on:
15th September, 2015
Source: purchased

Tuesday Intro: Find Her

Once again I’m linking up again with Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea who hosts a post every Tuesday for people to share the first chapter / paragraph of the book they are reading, or thinking of reading soon. In really enjoy these tasters when I read them on other blogs so wanted to join in.

This week I’m reading Find Her by Lisa Gardener, an author I like and whose books I don’t seem to have enough of.  Here’s what it’s about…

25644437Seven years ago, carefree college student Flora was kidnapped while on spring break. For 472 days, Flora learned just how much one person can endure.

Flora Dane is a survivor.

Miraculously alive after her ordeal, Flora has spent the past five years reacquainting herself with the rhythms of normal life, working with her FBI victim advocate, Samuel Keynes. She has a mother who’s never stopped loving her, a brother who is scared of the person she’s become, and a bedroom wall covered with photos of other girls who’ve never made it home.

Flora Dane is reckless.

. . . or is she? When Boston detective D. D. Warren is called to the scene of a crime—a dead man and the bound, naked woman who killed him—she learns that Flora has tangled with three other suspects since her return to society. Is Flora a victim or a vigilante? And with her firsthand knowledge of criminal behavior, could she hold the key to rescuing a missing college student whose abduction has rocked Boston? When Flora herself disappears, D.D. realizes a far more sinister predator is out there. One who’s determined that this time, Flora Dane will never escape. And now it is all up to D. D. Warren to find her.

And here’s how it starts…

These are the things I didn’t know:

When you first wake up in a dark wooden box, you’ll tell yourself this isn’t happening. You’ll push against the lid, of course. No surprise there. You’ll beat at the sides with your fists, pummel your heels against the bottom. You’ll bang your head, again and again, even though it hurts. And you’ll scream. You’ll scream and scream and scream. Snot will run from your nose. Tears will stream from your eyes. Until your screams grow rough, hiccuppy. Then you’ll hear sounds that are strange and sad and pathetic, and you’ll understand the box, truly get, hey, I’m trapped in a dark wooden box, when you realize those sounds come from you.

What do you think? Would you keep reading?

Emma

Dark Water by Robert Bryndza

31433106Beneath the water the body sank rapidly. She would lie still and undisturbed for many years but above her on dry land, the nightmare was just beginning.

When Detective Erika Foster receives a tip-off that key evidence for a major narcotics case was stashed in a disused quarry on the outskirts of London, she orders for it to be searched. From the thick sludge the drugs are recovered, but so is the skeleton of a young child.

The remains are quickly identified as seven-year-old Jessica Collins. The missing girl who made headline news twenty-six years ago.

As Erika tries to piece together new evidence with the old, she must dig deeper and find out more about the fractured Collins family and the original detective, Amanda Baker. A woman plagued by her failure to find Jessica. Erika soon realises this is going to be one of the most complex and demanding cases she has ever taken on.

Is the suspect someone close to home? Someone is keeping secrets. Someone who doesn’t want this case solved. And they’ll do anything to stop Erika from finding the truth.

Transferred to Bromley police station at the end of the last book (The Night Stalker) because she couldn’t quite follow the rules, Dark Water opens with Erika Foster working to catch drug dealers not murderers, not something that makes her happy.  When the body of a young girl is found after being missing over 20 years as part of another investigation, Erika wants the case, convincing her former boss to pull some strings so she could be put in charge and bringing her old team back together.

Opening any cold case would be hard enough but this one is more difficult still because, first time round, it was handled badly by the police who were convinced they had found their man but couldn’t prove it.  Wracked with guilt about not being able to get a conviction the former detective in charge – Amanda Baker – has left the force and fallen apart.   Knowing that Jessica Collins has now been found breathes new life into Amanda, who is determined this time round she will figure out who took her.

Whether it’s Amanda or Erika investigating, there are plenty of secrets and lies to unravelling, meaning lots of twists, turns and red herrings for the reader – something I love.  I really didn’t know what was coming next and still hadn’t completely figured it out by the final chapters.  The truth, when it does come though, feels right.  There is nothing tagged on about the ending, which can sometimes be the case with this genre.

I was rooting for Erika and her team the whole way. Erika is a bit of a live wire and a dog with a bone but she also has a vulnerable side, one that makes you warm to her.  I was glad to see that, with this case, she wasn’t taken off it.  That has happened in the last two and could have easily become a habit.  Instead, she seemed able to reign herself in a  little.  Her two main detectives, Moss and Peterson, are well rounded and characters in their own right, not just there as a foil for their boss.  I want to get to know them more and hope they make more of an appearance in future books.

The story itself was tightly plotted and had a great pace.  It was well written and kept me turning the pages (and up late to finish it).  There are some really good descriptive passages in the book, which set the scene, making it feel more real – I could imagine the dark, cold, quarry and Erika’s tiny flat over-run by family.  It all means that Robert Bryndza is fast becoming one of my favourite authors and Erika Foster fast becoming one of my favourite fictional detectives.  I loved this book and can’t recommend it enough.

Emma

 

note: I received this book from netgalley in return for a fair and honest review. All thoughts, feelings and opinions are my own.

Taken for Dead by Graham Masterton

23526044

When DI Katie Maguire gets asked to attend a wedding, it isn’t unfortunately as a guest…something rather gruesome has turned up in the cake, the head of the baker (a bit of a spoiler, sorry, but it’s in the blurb online so I figured even if I didn’t spill the beans, the publisher has).  When they find his wife, she tells them he’s been missing for over a week, taken by The High Kings of Erin in return for more money than she could ever hope to raise.  They are, it seems, as good as bankrupt thanks to the financial crash.

At first, it looks like this is a one-off but then another local businessman goes missing.  He, too, is close to broke and The High Kings claim responsibility.  They also take to taunting Katie, always seeming to be one step ahead of her and taking pleasure in killing anyone who gets in their way.  It doesn’t help that Katie’s boss doesn’t think she’s worth a jot – given her job because she’s a woman – and uses every slip to show her up.  Of course, he might not dislike her so much if she wasn’t investigating him as well as the kidnappings.  It’s all quite a tangled web that moves at quite a pace.

As with all good detectives, Katie eventually comes out on top but not before a fairly high body count and some pretty gruesome and gory murders. There is more gore than I like nowadays but as I am somewhat committed to the series I tended to forgive this because the style hasn’t changed since the first book, it’s my tastes that have. As Graham Masterton is also a horror writer, I think a bit of gore should probably be expected.

The threads of the plot all tie in nicely together in the end and left me feeling pretty happy with the outcomes.  The only element I didn’t like was a storyline involving Katie’s neighbour.  I understood why it was there – or think I do as it seems to be a set up for book five – but it felt tagged on and given than Katie’s supposed to be a tough cop her behaviour here didn’t seem to fit.  This did mean I didn’t enjoy the book as much as I have others or as much as I might have because it distracted me.  Leaving me liking this book but not loving it.

Emma