Eight books reviewed and recommended by our book group.

These are the books we’ve read and enjoyed last month, listed alphabetically by author.

Dark Sacred Night by Michael Connolly
Harry Bosch with (possibly) a new partner in Reneé Ballard, a Hawaiian born surf enthusiast. They meet while Bosch is looking into an unsolved, 10-year old murder of a young street prostitute called Daisy Chapman. Harry is obsessed by the girl’s brutal death and had promised her mother (a recovering drug addict) that he’d look into it again in his own time. He manages to spark Reneé’s interest in the case so she’ll access the old police files and together they realise that the old case links to some present murder enquiries. Oxo gave this 4.5 Stars, saying it’s a really good read.

War Lord by Bernard Cornwell
We’re not sure if this falls strictly into the crime genre but it definitely qualifies as a thriller. It’s the last book in Cornwell’s Viking series, set in Anglo-Saxon England. As King AEthelstan tries to unite England, Uhtred of Bebbanburg is once again dragged into court politics to help. Events conclude with the Battle of Brunanburh, which was fought in the autumn of AD 937 when Aethelstan defeated an army led by Anlaf Guthfrithson and the kings of Ireland and Scotland. Cornish Eskimo couldn’t put this book down and says it’s a terrific conclusion to a gripping series. Like all the other books, this earns 5-Stars, but if you haven’t read any so far, definitely start with Book 1: The Last Kingdom.

The Boy from the Woods by Harlan Coben
A standalone novel set in New Jersey. It is about a man – Wilde – who was found as a small child living wild and alone in the wilderness. Nobody ever came forward to claim him or explain why he was where he was. Fast forward 30 years and Wilde is now a private investigator for his adoptive sister’s security firm. He is asked by an old friend, defence attorney Hester Crimstein (a recurring figure in Coben’s books) to help look for a bullied runaway teenaged girl who is a friend of her grandson. This is quite a complicated plot, involving some arrogant and very rich teens, an obscenely wealthy and powerful family, a shady Trump-like politician, kidnapping, old long buried secrets and other mayhem. Freyja says it’s not one of Coben’s best books, but neither is it one of his worst! 3 Stars.

The Cabin by Jørn Lier Horst
Oxo was surprised to realise this was about William Wisting. She hadn’t particularly enjoyed the Wisting television series so didn’t have high hopes for the books. In fact, though, she enjoyed this. The story concerns the death (by natural causes) of a retired politician. In his summer cabin a locked room is discovered, which contains a number of sealed cardboard boxes that contain foreign currency worth millions of kroner. Wisting si asked to investigate – off the books – and sets up a small team comprising himself, a crime scene technician, his daughter (who used to be an investigative reporter) and, later, another detective. The story twists and turns and Oxo found it hard to put down. She gives it 4.5 Stars.

The Night Raids by Jim Kelly
This is a very enjoyable wartime mystery. Set in Cambridge in the summer of 1940 it starts with a bombing raid. When the dust has settled the body of an elderly woman is found in one of the houses that had been hit. But she has been murdered and two fingers on her left hand severed in order to steal her rings. The list of suspects isn’t long and the plot revolves around the woman’s family. While some of the characters don’t feel entirely real the author manages to make wartime Cambridge come to life, which keeps things interesting. The acknowledgements explain that the diaries of a man called Jack Overhill were an invaluable source of reference, and it probably also helps that the author lives in Ely. Cornish Eskimo gives this 4-Stars and will be looking out for the first two books in this series.

Aspire to Die by M S Morris
This is Book 1 in the Bridget Hart series, written by the husband and wife team of Margarita and Steve Morris. A beautiful, wealthy student is found dead in her room in Oxford’s most prestigious college and DI Bridget Hart is called to investigate. The murdered girl appeared to have been well liked with no known enemies, yet was killed in a brutal and bloody assault. Driven by her own family tragedy, newly promoted DI Hart has a lot to prove as she leads her first murder case. It’s a complex investigation in the closed and claustrophobic confines of an Oxford college, and it brings her into conflict with powerful interests. This is a classic British murder mystery, which Eve really enjoyed. So much so, in fact, that she’s since read the next three books in the series and is waiting for Book 5 to be published in December. She rates this 4.5 Stars.

Still Life by Louise Penny
At one of our previous meetings we discussed Louise Penny’s Inspector Gamache series, which sparked Mo to search out the first book. Still Life was published back in 2005 but it is the scene-setter for the series. Set in Quebec, Canada, a retired headmistress is found dead in the woods outside a small village called Three Pines. It’s thought to be an accident but the investigator, Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, soon realises it’s a murder and most of the suspects belong to the local archery club. Mo enjoyed the story and its setting, and she says the perpetrator of the crime is a total surprise. She gives this 4 Stars and will be looking for other books in the series.

The Boy Who Fell by Jo Spain
Book 5 in the DCI Tom Reynolds series. To begin with Freyja found it tricky to get all the relationships in the Dublin murder squad straight but she says the book soon comes together. The story is about six friends, all of them rich and over-privileged teenagers, who meet for a night of drinking and drugs in a ‘haunted’ and derelict house. At the end of it, one of them has fallen to his death from the top floor and from the marks on his chest it is obvious he was pushed. The local police soon arrest a seventh teenager, black and gay, and charge him with murder and rape. But there are lots of inconsistencies which cannot be explained and it’s clear the original investigation was tainted. Reynolds and his soon-to-retire boss start to look into it and eventually manage to get to the truth. Freyja isn’t a huge fan of police procedurals but she says this is a good story and well written. 4-Stars.