A selection of books recommended by our Crime Fiction Book Group.
Our Zoom meetings are rather more constrained than our get-togethers in Oundle Library. Being online means we have to be much more disciplined about speaking in turn, so our ‘freewheeling’ discussions – where we bounce around authors, books and genres – aren’t happening at the moment. Nonetheless we’ve read a pretty good selection of titles this month, even though a couple of them are old favourites. Reviews in alphabetical order, by author.
DI Nick Dixon series by Damien Boyd
Eve has found a new author to read. Damien Boyd was a solicitor before turning to writing crime fiction and his first book about DI Nick Dixon (As the Crow Flies) was published in 2013. Perhaps unsurprisingly the story is that Dixon trained as a solicitor before joining the police and has transferred to Somerset after 5 years in the Met. Eve says the books are fast-paced and well-written, and the descriptions of Somerset are especially good. She’s been working her way through the series (ten books) and has just finished Book 6. Expect a full review on our website soon. None of the books are available on the e-library but there are a few in the library catalogue – mostly in talking book (CD) format.
Red Bones by Ann Cleeves
Published in 2009 this is Book 3 in Cleeves’ Shetland series that features DI Jimmy Perez. Oxo hadn’t seen the TV version so was able to enjoy reading this. The grandmother of Perez’s colleague, Sandy Wilson, is found shot dead at her home in Lerwick. A recent archaeological dig there had uncovered a set of human remains and it’s not known if the skeleton is ancient or recent. Then there’s another murder, arranged to look like suicide, and Perez finds himself untangling family feuds that date back to World War 2. Oxo says this is a very satisfying mystery. Well written, and the story well-told. A definite 4-Stars. The BorrowBox e-library has a great number of Ann Cleeves books available for loan, including this one.
One Lost Soul by J.M. Dalgliesh
This is Book 1 in Dalgliesh’s Tom Janssen series, set in Norfolk. Feebs particularly enjoyed it because she knows Norfolk and can picture the scenery. But that’s not to say Dalgliesh doesn’t describe Norfolk well. He does. But the extra degree of familiarity with the locations is a bonus. This story starts with the discovery of the body of a strangled teenager on a cliff top path. Janssen is new to the area and working with a new team and, as they investigate, realises the case won’t be solved until they’ve uncovered the layers of secrets of the close-knit community. The story is well-balanced between the murder and the lives of Janssen and his colleagues. Feebs says it’s an enjoyable murder mystery, and she’s now also read Book 2 (Bury Your Past) which is good too. Norfolk Gal and other members of our group also recommend Dalgiesh’s series set in Yorkshire that features DI Nathanial Caslin. So, if you like police procedurals, Dalgliesh is an author to watch out for – but not on BorrowBox because it has none of his books!
Alice Teale is Missing by Howard Linskey
Linskey is an author who appeared on our radar a couple of months ago, and this is his latest book and a standalone novel. Set in Northumbria it concerns a 17-year old girl called Alice Teale, who walks out of school one day and is never seen again. The police aren’t making much progress but are then sent pages that have been removed from Alice’s diary, which gets the case moving. It’s a story about secrets, lies and small-town connections and is totally gripping. Norfolk Gal gives it 4.5 Stars. This book is available on BorrowBox as an eBook and eAudiobook.
A Dark So Deadly by Stuart MacBride
This is a standalone novel by MacBride, and not one of his acclaimed Logan McRae series. DC Callum MacGregor has ended up working in the ‘Misfit Mob’ – the group where Police Scotland dumps the officers it can’t get rid of. They are assigned the cases no-one expects to get solved and are never expected to achieve anything. MacGregor is given the task of tracking down the owner of an ancient mummy that’s been found at a tip but he then uncovers links between his mummified corpse and three missing young men. Clover reports that it took a few chapters to get really into the story but once she had she couldn’t put it down. There were times she laughed out loud at the rather wry humour, which helped counteract the plot which was quite dark in some places, and the outcome was certainly unexpected. She gives it 4.5 Stars. BorrowBox has a good number of MacBride e-books available, including this one.
Life of Death by Chris Merritt
British author, Chris Merritt, writes a series about a British-Ghanaian Met detective called Zac Boateng. This is Book 3 and set in Lewisham. The plot criss-crosses between the kidnap of his 11-year old son, his guilt as a father (caused by the death of his daughter a few years ago), his profile as a well-regarded DCI, and his determination to catch a gun dealer, who appears to be a serving officer in the Met. As events build to a crescendo it seems as if Boateng will be blamed as the bent copper by ‘Kaiser’ and a leading politician who is keen to shine on the ‘reducing crime in London’ campaign front. Feebs says this is a really good read, with all the elements of a fast-paced storyline and plenty of tension to keep the reader gripped. She gives it 4-Stars and will be looking for others in the series. Available on BorrowBox as an eAudiobook but not as an eBook.
The Drifter by Nick Petrie
Not the sort of book that Freyja usually reads, although she likes Lee Child which was why she chose it. We include her summary in this report because she has a completely different ‘take’ on this from Cornish Eskimo, who loved it, gave it 5-Stars and wrote a standalone review for our website which you can read here. Freyja says this is very similar to Jack Reacher books in story, hero and style but not as good. And because she felt it was such a close copy of Lee Child’s books it didn’t achieve a life or presence of its own. Yes, there’s lots of action and violence and the story is fast-paced but Freyja only awards 3-Stars. If you enjoy Jack Reacher why not read The Drifter and see who you agree with! Sadly, none of Petrie’s books are on BorrowBox.
The American Boy by Andrew Taylor
Set in late Regency England, this is a standalone novel that was nominated for the Richard and Judy ‘Best Read of the Year’ awards when it was published in 2003. The ‘American Boy’ in question is Edgar Allan Poe, and Taylor cleverly weaves him into this story of a young teacher called Thomas Shield. After a varied career, Shield has returned to England having fought at the Battle of Waterloo, and takes up a teaching post at a school in Stoke Newington. As he becomes involved with the families of some of his pupils it turns into a story of murder, corruption, sex and revenge. Mo says it is beautifully written, with wonderful descriptions of the shadier side of London in that period. There’s something quite scholarly about it, so it’s not a particularly easy read although the story is so good you persevere. Shield is an unlikely hero, and although Edgar Allan Poe doesn’t play a leading role his father is tangled up in the tale throughout. Mo gave this 4.5 Stars and also recommends Taylor’s Lydmouth series of modern-day murder mysteries. BorrowBox has a few of Taylor’s novels – eBooks and eAudiobooks.
Sleep by C.L. Taylor
Oxo read this and said she couldn’t put it down. The heroine, Anna, has survived a terrible car crash but is crushed by feelings of guilt, and suffering from appalling insomnia. And then she starts finding anonymous messages about what happened. Trying to escape she takes a job in a hotel on a remote Scottish island but her problems don’t disappear. Seven guests arrive to stay and a storm cuts them off from everything and everyone. And there are deaths. This is a twisty, psychological thriller that taps into Anna’s paranoia so realistically you’re almost in Scotland with her. For fans of this genre it’s well worth reading and Oxo gives it 3.5 Stars. This is available on BorrowBox as an eBook.
The Death of Mrs Westaway by Ruth Ware
After we’d talked about Ruth Ware’s The Turn of the Key at an earlier meeting, Freyja found this novel that was published in 2018. It’s a slightly old fashioned gothic mystery but very atmospheric and with some sinister characters. Hal Westaway lives alone in Brighton after the hit-and-run death of her mother. She has no family and it’s a lonely and precarious existence making her living as a tarot card reader and fortune teller on Brighton Pier. Then she gets a solicitor’s letter telling her she’s the co-heir to an estate in Cornwall. She visits and discovers that the family believe her to be the long-lost granddaughter of its former owner, Mrs Westaway. Even after Hal confesses that she cannot be, they still want to know her better. And slowly it becomes clear there are other mysteries in the family which might make it advantageous for them to be rid of Hal entirely. Freyja enjoyed this story very much and awarded 4-Stars. The eBook is available on BorrowBox.