When the House Burns by Priscilla Paton Review

When the House Burns by Priscilla Paton has a murder mystery at its center, but it’s ultimately a character-driven story featuring real people with real problems. Read my full review.

When the House Burns Synopsis

A Twin Cities Mystery

When death comes home, is nowhere safe? The quest for love and home becomes deadly when Detectives Erik Jansson and Deb Metzger search for the killer of an adulterous real estate agent.

A volatile real estate market, unrest in a homeless encampment, jealousies among would-be lovers, a case of arson—these circumstances thwart G-Met detectives Erik Jansson and Deb Metzger as they investigate the murder of an adulterous woman. The victim’s estranged husband has holes in his alibi. A property developer grieves too much over the death of the woman while his wife shuts him out. The developer’s assistant resents his boss and suspects that the developer was not only involved with the victim but is being scammed by the arsonist. A sexy young widow, friend of the victim, has past traumas triggered by the case and turns to the developer for protection. A homeless man stalked the dead woman and now stalks the young widow. All may hold secrets about the past burning of an apartment complex and the man who died there.

Before the clues come together, Erik Jansson is trapped in an abandoned house as Deb Metzger hunts for a sharpshooter at a remote construction site. The case will burn down around them unless they can scheme their way out of lethal surroundings.

(Coffeetown Press, February 2023)

Genre(s) Mystery & Detective

Priscilla Paton | Pub Date 02.14.2023 | ISBN 9781684920815 | 242 pages

Book Review

Amazonian-size Detective Deb Metzger of Greater Metro Investigations (G-Met), a specialized regional Minnesota’s Twin Cities police agency, has her desperate search for a permanent home interrupted when dispatched to the scene of a homicide. She meets her partner, Detective Erik Jansson, in the driveway of a house for sale where a dog walker had discovered the body of a late-forties realtor with a gunshot wound to her head. At Jansson’s suggestion, Metzger takes the lead on the case since she is the expert on violence against women. After ruling out a carjacking or robbery gone wrong, the detectives settle on the theory the killer is probably someone who was close to the victim, maybe a past or present intimate partner, given the murder seemed personal. Lacking much in the way of physical evidence since the body was exposed to heavy rains for hours before discovery, they begin the tedious process of interviewing the victim’s circle of close associates, checking alibis and looking for motive. They interview the woman’s ex-husband, her boss, and co-workers. While authentic, this wearisome process slows the investigation to a glacial pace, but not so the story since this is more a character-driven story than your typical plot-driven whodunit. At the heart of that story is Metzger and Jansson, two likeable central characters made relatable because they are real people with real problems. Besides attempting to avoid becoming homeless by finding a place to live before her current arrangements with a long-stay rental unit expire, Metzger is also lovelorn. The woman who is the object of Metzger’s affections has been in Paris for months, caring for her aged employer, and Deb feels the relationship is slipping away. Jansson has relationship problems of his own as he tries to come to grips with a recent divorce he didn’t want and desperately wants a woman in his life. The ongoing dramas in the lives of the two main characters keep the story moving and the reader engaged. Paton’s impeccable characterization impressed me. She not only breathes life into Metzger and Jansson, but offers a full slate of fully developed, interesting characters to round out the cast, and even fleshes out incidental roles enough to make the characters feel real. The other thing that made this book an engaging read is Paton’s wry humor that permeates the story through the dialogue and characters’ inner thoughts. She sustained this from beginning to end, no mean feat. It’s the kind of deadpan humor I most appreciate and fits the genre to perfection. Humor aside, there are of course weightier themes in the novel as Paton critiques topics like the lack of adequate affordable housing, homelessness, and violence against women. This is a well-crafted novel with excellent writing, witty dialogue, and plenty of humor. There’s a murder mystery at its center, but it’s ultimately a character-driven story featuring real people with real problems. When the House Burns is a worthy addition to the stacks of those who enjoy reading detective mysteries featuring a cast of compelling characters.

Book rating: ★★★★

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Other People’s Secrets by Meredith Hambrock Review

Other People’s Secrets by Meredith Hambrock, a slow-burn thriller, but so much more. There’s humor and pathos and sheer good story telling as the book unfolds. Read my full review.

Other People's Secrets Synopsis

Baby’s down—and could be out for good—when she faces off with forces bent on turning her lakeside paradise into a living hell.

Baby’s heart is in the right place, but she’s got problems—namely, a fierce taste for booze and an on-again, off-again boyfriend who can’t commit. She’s living and working at Oakwood Hills, a crumbling lakeside resort, with her friends, Crystal Nugget and DJ Overalls, reeling since her adoptive mother died of a stroke. And now, the return of the local drug kingpin, Bad Mike, is about to throw her already unstable summer into full-blown chaos.

To make matters worse, the owner of Oakwood Hills announces plans to sell the resort to Amelia, her boyfriend’s wealthy twin sister, who plans to renovate it, sucking the life out of the only home Baby’s ever known. Desperate to thwart the sale, Baby and her friends decide to try to recover a sunken treasure rumored to be sitting at the bottom of the lake. But Bad Mike also has his eyes on the prize and when the search gets criminal, Baby will be forced to walk down a road full of hidden secrets that will change how she sees herself—and her life—forever.

(Crooked Lane Books, 2022)

Meredith Hambrock | Pub Date 09.26.2022 | ISBN 9781639100989 | 288 pages

Book Review

Other People’s Secrets is a unique standout amongst the usual genre fiction I read and review for many reasons. It’s categorized as a thriller and qualifies as such. But the book is so much more than that. It has a definite literary fiction heft to it as far as writing style and plot scale. And when I say literary, I don’t mean pretentious and boring. I mean it in the sense that Hambrock’s prose provides insight that creates a stronger understanding of the world and of the human condition. As an example, Hambrock uses carefully crafted sentences that often rely heavily on symbolism. And this is a character-driven story rather than one that delivers a fast-paced plot aimed at encouraging the reader to leave behind the problems of reality and to focus squarely on being entertained. Instead, what Hambrock does is open up to her readers a place where its people and its mood can be felt, captured, and understood. This place is Oakwood Hills, a decaying summer resort that has seen better days. It’s on the edge of a lake, inside the mythical nondescript town of Lakeside. The resort features an equally ramshackle dive bar called the Bloody Parrot, which is central to the story. 

“Baby hid inside a summer resort on the edge of Bitborough Lake, inside a town so boring it was simply called Lakeside, home to 672 people, inside a dive bar called the Bloody Parrot, with ceilings that were caving in, thick drops of water constantly condensing and falling on heads and shoulders, paint curling off the walls, a constant smell of deep-fried something thick in the air, with a floor so sticky it was impossible to clean.” 

The people are a mix of resort workers, meth addicts and drug dealers, summer vacationers, absentee wealthy lakeside vacation homeowners, and others who are either genuinely worn down or who live humbly in this once popular, but declining town, and choose not to move on to more prosperous areas. The story itself centers on a twenty-nine-year-old woman named Jane Doe, but everyone calls her Dumpster Baby, Baby for short, and her group of pals. They all work at the resort and bar during the summers, hoping to earn enough to get through the winters. Amongst their friendships and revelry is a deep sadness and loneliness which both the town and its inhabitants, but particularly Baby, suffer from. When the owner of the resort and bar suddenly sells out and ups sticks for Florida, with their livelihoods put at risk, the gang, led by Baby, conspire to discourage the new owner and stop the changes she has in mind for the resort. They feel certain the new owner will take away their jobs and destroy their beloved town and desperately want to stop her. Their scheme succeeds, but then things go terribly wrong when long kept dangerous secrets surface and lives get put at risk. 

In Other People’s Secrets, Hambrock’s narrative serves to widen the lens from individual characters onto the plight of the townspeople in general. She often introduces the reader to minor characters, residents of or visitors to the town who emphasize certain extremities of real life, often cruel in nature (death, crime, drug addiction, poverty, violence, suicide, etc.). The purpose of Hambrock’s method of shaping the primary story in this way is to shape a world, to give feeling and context to a group of people, without having to focus on one person in particular. This allows the story to be about a general community rather than individuals, which allows the conversation to be about a class or type of people, a region, rather than a character. The place, in fact, becomes the person. Besides this, the specific characters Hambrock introduces, such as Baby, DJ Coveralls, Crystal, Marco, Johnny, and Peter Pomoroy, Baby’s on and off rich boyfriend, are all distinct, realistic, and purposeful. Their interactions with one another are interesting and believable, but their internal thought processes are perhaps the most fascinating of all. 

Hambrock clearly loves her central character, Baby. She revealed as much in a recent interview with Dawn Ius (Ius, D. 2022, September 30. Up Close: Meredith Hambrock. THE BIG THRILL. https://www.thebigthrill.org/2022/09/up-close-meredith-hambrock). 

“I love Baby. She is a fully formed person in my head. I love her so deeply, it’s hard for me to see her flaws as flaws. It’s bad. I think it was hard for me to write her f-boy boyfriend, Peter, to have compassion for him. But I hope I did!” 

And why not? Dumpster Baby is an unconventional protagonist—messy and honest. And that makes her fascinating. Also, Hambrock gives her such an unusual backstory. She is known to most as Dumpster Baby (Baby for short) because she was born in a dumpster. 

“Dumpster Baby, pink skinned and screaming, was discovered behind a grocery store, nestled on a bag of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos. Once she was taken into custody, leaving the Cheetos cellophane bag behind, she becomes something unremarkable. Another orphan Jane Doe, case number #45BN6ab9.” 

While Baby’s adoptive mother, Hannah, insisted on keeping the official name Jane Doe for her because she thought it was a pretty, innocent name, Baby rebelled, demanding everyone call her Dumpster Baby so she could walk through the world honestly. 

I’m now a huge fan of Hambrock’s prose and style. In this book, she offers many passages with incredible descriptions, brief passages that are almost poetic in their beauty. She has a talent for not just seeing but also feeling people and places, then somehow transfiguring these sensations into written language. Hambrock also captures mood and tone with her narrative voice and through her use of dialogue. We learn much about Baby, for instance, without being granted access to Baby’s point of view necessarily. Instead, we learn about her through the way others treat her, through Hambrock’s descriptions of her, and by the way Baby and Peter’s relationship is presented in the narrative. Baby, as one single character, comes to mean much more on the narrative level. She represents a type of person, but because of the straightforward and sometimes raw way Hambrock describes her, she can represent a group of people without becoming incongruous. Ultimately, Hambrock’s prose and straightforward style, with brief interludes of poetic, almost romantic language, suits the tone of the novel and the nature of its characters and plot.

Other People’s Secrets is about people and place, but its purpose is somewhat ambiguous. The emotion and pathos are there, but the reader is allowed simply to bear witness to a community, perhaps even becoming a part of it, without being guided toward feeling one way or another about anyone in the town (even Baby, loved by everyone, but still has many faults). Hambrock allows us to draw our own conclusions and to choose how we feel about each character as we come to know them. Thematically, the book touches on topics like friendship, community, poverty, families, survival, income inequality, and a struggle to find self-worth. There is also a good amount of humor, counterbalancing a relatively somber tone. 

Simply put, I adored this book. It’s a richly patterned story spun out in layers to form a coherent and fascinating whole. It’s far from shallow. At times, the surface of the novel is so frothy you may barely notice the deeper currents, or its unique and daring structure. But it’s all there. The story builds up to shocking climax, as long-kept secrets come out. The characters, many of them the flotsam and jetsam of humanity, drive the plot, and Hambrock makes them human and likable (except for those we aren’t supposed to like). You won’t find as much emphasis on crime here as in some thriller genre fiction. But you will encounter a violent drug dealer and other assorted psychopaths. There’s also a treasure hunt. What more could you want? This one is a gem, and I highly recommend it.

I received a copy of the book for review purposes.

Book rating: ★★★★★

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The Soho Killer by Biba Pearce Review

The Soho Killer by Biba Pearce, a compellingly plotted and compulsive read, full of twists.

The Soho Killer Synopsis

Detective Rob Miller Mysteries #6

A serial killer who dumps the victims’ bodies in Soho Square. A sleepless detective thwarted by his box-ticking boss.

Detective Rob Miller thinks he’s seen it all, but this murder scene takes his breath away.

The victim is bound and gagged, with whip marks on his back. The location is one of the busiest squares in London. The cause of death appears to be strangulation.

Murder or a game gone wrong?

The prime suspect is the victim’s partner. Under pressure from his superiors, Rob makes an arrest despite his doubts.

But another body is found: bound, gagged and dumped in the middle of central London. Again, there are no witnesses.

Now Rob’s on the hunt for a serial killer with a fetish — and a talent for staying invisible.

Then the killer makes it personal . . .

(Joffe Books, November 2022)

Biba Pearce | Pub Date 11.17.2022 | ISBN 9781804055618 | 286 pages

Book Review

The Soho Killer is the sixth title of Pearce’s Detective Rob Miller series, and the third I’ve read. While I’ve been reading the series from the beginning, I skipped ahead to read the latest series release. These are comfort reads for me in the sense I know what to expect. I can feel confident that Pearce will deliver it, and that’s always been the case. Far from formulaic as series like this sometimes are, with every book she delivers new imaginative crimes for Miller to solve along with many clever plot twists that keep us eagerly turning the pages. 

Quite a lot has changed in our lead character’s life since the last book in the series I reviewed, The West London Murders. Rob Miller has promoted from Detective Inspector (DI) to Detective Chief Inspector (DCI) and now contends with the inconveniences of holding a supervisory position while trying to solve murders. He also reports to a new boss, Superintendent Felicity Mayhew and his Major Investigation Team features new members. Not only has DCI Miller’s work circumstances changed, Rob has a new wife and infant son at home to go along with his dog, Trigger, first introduced in the second book. And Trigger plays an important role in this story, always appreciated by dog lovers like me. DCI Miller and the former Jo Maguire, a detective who worked with Miller in previous cases, have married. Jo now works part time at MI5, which also plays a significant role in this tale. 

These novels usually include one overarching mystery that gradually increases in complexity, and a couple of support acts in the guise of Miller’s personal life and dealings with his superintendent and other agencies. The same is true here, although Pearce offers more threads to follow than in earlier books. And, as usual, this sixth Rob Miller outing is tremendously good fun. 

The book opens with an ominous, foreshadowing prologue featuring a murder occurring twenty years in the past. And then, after an unexpected, and unpleasant reunion with his long-estranged father, Ronnie (one of the support acts in this book), DCI Miller and his team get stuck into a rather bizarre murder investigation in Soho, not a part of London within their usual remit. A passerby discovers the body of a male victim, kitted out in a sadomasochism outfit on the lawn of a public park. The Major Investigation Team gets the case because the station with jurisdiction over the Soho district is overwhelmed with dealing with demonstrating activists. The initial investigation by Miller and his team reveals the victim is a married gay artist. But they aren’t certain if they have a homicide or an accidental death by erotic misadventure given the victim’s outfit, until Liz Kramer, the pathologist we met in previous books, confirms the victim, Michael Bennett, died from strangulation. The team must then consider the possibility of a hate crime as they get busy with the procedural minutiae of investigating a homicide, interviewing the victim’s husband, canvassing the area for witnesses, and reviewing CCTV recordings for clues to the identity of the killer. When interviewing the victim’s partner, Ralph Keaton, he tells Miller and the team neither Bennett nor he had any interest in BDSM and couldn’t imagine why his partner was found dressed in sadomasochism paraphernalia. That makes things even more baffling for the detectives. 

No sooner has the Major Investigation Team started the Bennett investigation than someone discovers the body of a second male victim, dressed in the same peculiar sadomasochism outfit, and also tortured and raped by instrumentation, and then strangled. But this victim is an official in the British secret services, which adds further complexity to the mix. The team struggles to find something more than the obvious connection by M.O. which suggests the same killer that links the men, but shockingly find no hard evidence that the second victim was gay. But faced again with the specter he is dealing with yet another serial killer, DCI Miller calls on his old friend, Tony Sanderson, a renowned criminal profiler, to help his understanding of the suspect’s motive, and Sanderson joins the team as a consultant. 

For those who enjoy reading crime mysteries, trying to work out the whodunit ahead of the police, Pearce brilliantly throws in plenty of red herrings along the way that mislead us. About midway through, I thought I’d figured it out, but discovered I was so wrong when Pearce finally revealed the killer at the shocking climax. And indeed, that was far from the only surprise Pearce offers us in this gripping story. I won’t say more to avoid spoilers, but will say in this latest Detective Rob Miller book, Pearce has compellingly plotted and produced a compulsive read that is full of devious twists. No doubt she will continue this excellent series since Pearce offered a few hints of future story threads to explore. 

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley for review purposes.

Book rating: ★★★★★

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A Knock on the Door by Roberta K. Fernandez Review

A Knock on the Door by Roberta K. Fernandez, touches deftly on themes surrounding technology, power, and greed and the dangers they present when no limits are imposed. Read my full review.

A Knock on the Door Synopsis

Lori Crawford’s world is turned upside down when her husband dies in a car accident. After twenty-five years of marriage, she thought she would forever live an uncomplicated, happy life with Jack. But just as Lori feels she’s coming out on the other side of her grief, Jack’s assistant at SpringWare, Rita Johnson, discovers information that convinces her that Jack was murdered.

The two women vow to bring the perpetrator to justice. But time is running out, and their names are on someone’s kill list. The truth takes them down a path they never could have suspected. They set out to bring down one of the most powerful men in the country: the director of the National Security Agency. But who will believe them? And how many more will die before they do? Now, they have to decide if they have the courage—and the ability—to finish what they started.

(Subplot Publishing, October 2022)

Roberta K. Fernandez | Pub Date 10.06.2022 | ISBN 9781637554739 | 392 pages

Book Review

A Knock on the Door opens with a brief prologue where Roberta K. Fernandez gives us the final thoughts of a man named Jack Crawford in the last moments of his life. While driving on a freeway, after he hears what he believes is a gunshot, Crawford loses control of his car. It spins out of control across three lanes of traffic before crashing through a guardrail and plunging into a river below. That makes us eager to know more about Jack and about what led to his death. 

Fernandez then opens the first chapter, introducing us to Jack’s former assistant Rita Johnson, one of the lead protagonists. She had worked with Jack for eighteen years before moving to her present position in the same software company, SpringWare, working for Mark Mason, the vice president. Mason has tasked Rita with going through Jack’s computer to retrieve what they needed to finish an important project Jack had been working on before his death. Jack Crawford had been almost like a son to Rita, who is a woman in her sixties now, and she still hasn’t come to grips with his sudden death. She anguishes over not trying harder to stay connected with him and his wife, Lori. As she reviews the folders on Jack’s computer, she discovers something odd, an encrypted folder he had named using a code word the two of them had once used for highly sensitive projects. Curious, Rita copies the files to a CD. Later, once she investigates further, Rita discovers something horrific. She feels certain Jack’s car crash was no accident. Someone murdered him and Rita comes to believe they did it because of the project Jack had worked on. Then we’re off and running into the action. 

Rita keeps digging into the files she copied from Jack’s computer and learns more of the shocking truth. While SpringWare is a gaming company, she discovers that her current boss, Mason, has agreed with the NSA (the National Security Agency) to deliver a surveillance program that could collect private data on everyone using the Internet. Mason had only allowed those who worked on the software limited access to the whole to keep the purpose of the program secret. But what she found convinced Rita Jack Crawford somehow figured out the intended purpose of the software and who the client was. Growing more certain that led to his death, after some soul searching, she contacts Crawford’s widow, Lori, and tells her Jack’s death was no accident. Someone killed him to prevent him from exposing the secretive piece of software destined for the NSA. 

The deeper we get into the story, the more A Knock on the Door reminds us thematically of the 1998 American political action thriller film, Enemy of the State, starring Will Smith and Gene Hackman. Like the movie, which also attacked “the surveillance society,” the plot explores what happens when powerful bureaucrats and demagogues use the power of the government to gain their own ends and cover their own tracks. And after Rita convinces Lori that someone murdered her husband over a secret surveillance program, together they continue probing, hoping to bring those responsible for Jack’s murder to justice. When two other SpringWare employees connected to the program’s development die suddenly and under suspicious circumstances, Rita and Lori realize just what they are facing and that they may very well become the next victims. They take Jacob Browning, a programmer at SpringWare, into their confidences when they feel certain his life is at risk. Jacob is the “last man standing” among those who worked on parts of the program, unaware of the software’s intended use. And Jacob’s computer skills come in handy as the trio continues uncovering evidence that not only implicates their very demanding, and not particularly pleasant boss Mark Mason in the murders, but also Carl Baxter, the ruthless head of the NSA. 

Since Fernandez reveals whodunit early on, the book is far more a thriller than a mystery tale. But by throwing in several surprises along the way, she deftly raises the stakes and ratchets up the tension and heart-pounding suspense all the way through to the splendid climax. 

It’s no secret I’m a stickler for authenticity with crime fiction, and must say the premise here is more than a little far-fetched in spots. As an example, in the scenario of two ordinary women trying to bring down the head of one of the nation’s most powerful and clandestine intelligence agencies, it requires little imagination to predict who would be the bug and who the windshield. Also, the story lacks a character like Brill (Gene Hackman’s character) in Enemy of the State, a former spy who understands the inner workings of the intelligence community, to help Rita and Lori. So, we can’t escape the feeling our ruthless, powerful antagonist, Carl Baxter, should easily prevail against the cast of unremarkable civilian good guys in over their heads. But by and large, the story works. In this post-Edward Snowden era, the plot feels perilously close to plausible. When many of us have watched the heads of American intelligence agencies boldly lying before Congress on television, and read about the recent politically motivated FISA court abuses by the FBI, you needn’t be paranoid to feel distrustful of many of our most powerful federal agencies. It’s not the government that is the enemy, but the unelected bureaucrats and demagogues who use the power of the government to pursue their own agendas with no conscience and seemingly no real oversight from our elected officials. This makes A Knock on the Door feel uncomfortably real. 

With only a little suspension of belief required, the most demanding fast-paced thriller fans will find this a very gripping and entertaining book. Roberta K. Fernandez displays excellent story-telling ability and offers us a cast of likeable and relatable lead characters blindsided by the misused power of the state, along with a believable antagonist convinced that his job somehow places him above the law that we love to hate. From the perspective of pure escapism, I found it both an entertaining and riveting read with much to like. I could imagine easily a filmmaker adapting it for film. 

I received an advance copy of the book from the publisher for review purposes.

Book rating: ★★★★

About the Author

In her sixty-three years of life, Roberta Fernandez, a board-certified hypnotist, didn’t know that she had a story waiting to be told. In 2006, she attended a week-long memoir-writing class conducted by a bestselling author, Joyce Maynard. Joyce worked hard to bring out Roberta’s best work, in spite of her self-perceived lack of talent. While it was an awesome experience to be instructed by a well-known author, Roberta determined that writing about herself was not a talent she possessed. As a first-time author, Roberta now understands she was simply destined to write in a different genre. She enjoys creating relatable characters and watching the story unfold as she types. Like her readers, she wonders what’s going to happen next. A sequel to A Knock on the Door  is already being written.

Author Roberta K. Fernandez

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What Meets the Eye by Alex Kenna Review

What Meets the Eye by Alex Kenna, an electric and polished debut thriller that explores the dangers of unbridled ambition, greed, and quests for revenge. Read my full review.

What Meets the Eye Synopsis

Kate Myles was a promising Los Angeles police detective, until an accident and opioid addiction blew up her family and destroyed her career. Struggling to rebuild her life, Kate decides to try her hand at private detective work—but she gets much more than she bargained for when she takes on the case of a celebrated painter found dead in a downtown loft.

When Margot Starling’s body was found, the cause of death was assumed to be suicide. Despite her beauty, talent, and fame, she struggled with a host of demons. But as Kate digs deeper, she learns that Margot had a growing list of powerful enemies—among them a shady art dealer who had been selling forged works by Margot. Kate soon uncovers a dirty trail that leads straight into the heart of the city’s deadly underworld.

Margot died for her art—and if Kate doesn’t tread lightly, she could be the next to get brushed out.

(Crooked Lane Books, December 2022)

Alex Kenna | Pub Date 12.06.2022 | ISBN 978-1-63910-184-9 | 288 pages

Book Review

What Meets the Eye by Alex Kenna gives us everything we expect from a thriller. It’s a twisty and absorbing read, complete with a suitably flawed but very likeable lead. Alex Kenna is the real deal, a true talent. Her prose is stunningly eloquent and characterization masterful. Thematically, Kenna delivers obvious messages about ambition and revenge and the dangers they pose when left unrestrained, along with a powerful theme around sexual exploitation and violence against women that reminds us how infuriatingly endemic both remain within our society.

The book opens with a prologue set six months prior to the present day that ends with a bang. We meet Margot Starling, a beautiful, talented, ambitious, and highly successful artist, but also a tortured soul. We’re learning a little of Margot’s backstory when someone knocks on her door. Peeping out, she gasps and drops the glass of whiskey in her hand, the glass shattering on the floor. And masterfully, Kenna has arrested our attention, leaving us desperate to learn more.

Moving into present day in the first chapter, Kenna introduces us to the engaging lead, Kate Myer, a former LAPD detective turned private investigator. An on-duty incident not only left Kate with severe back injuries that ended her law enforcement career, but in turn, addicted to pain pills. The addiction cost Kate her already shaky marriage, as well as custody of her daughter, to her cold and unfeeling attorney ex-husband. Kate, after beating the narcotics addiction, is still struggling to pick up the pieces, trying to rebuild her confidence and her life into something approaching normalcy. When Milt Starling comes to Kate, he tells her the police have ruled his daughter’s death a suicide, but insists she wasn’t suicidal. He believes someone murdered her and wants to hire Kate to prove it. Kate is reluctant to take the case. A former police detective, she knows the cops usually get such things right and so believes she would only take Starling’s money to deliver more pain rather than comfort by confirming the death was suicide. The more Starling tells her about his daughter, the more certain Kate is the woman killed herself. But Starling is persistent, and Kate needs to pay her rent. So she relents and accepts the case. The lives of Kaye Myers and Margot Starling then become intertwined. And while she had no way to know it at the outset, Kate’s fateful decision has thrust her into something she doesn’t truly grasp and that comes with personal risks she can’t even imagine.

Time shifts between chapters. Sometimes it’s days. Sometimes months. And sometimes several years pass before we return to the present. Interspersed with the time shifts are multiple narrators offering differing perspectives. I’m not usually a fan of flashbacks, mostly because authors rarely do the technique well and often it causes the pacing of a novel to suffer. But it all works here because Kenna pulls it off seamlessly without detracting from the unfolding events in the present. Also, Kenna’s use of multiple narrators is a creative and effective way of giving readers snippets of the backstory and baggage of the primary characters without it being a distraction.

“And frankly, I’m competent despite my shortcomings. I’m a better-than-average PI. In another life, I was a damn good detective.”

Kate Myers is a deeply flawed character. Flawed protagonists have become a staple in crime fiction, almost an overused trope. And often authors find it hard to balance their characters faults or foibles with relatability and likeability. But in Kate, Kenna gives us a character who we engage with effortlessly, realizing without having to think about it that her flaws help make her feel like a real person, almost like a friend. Someone we feel we know intimately and understand. And she certainly wrings out our emotions by the time this book ends.

What Meets the Eye is a riveting read that deftly entangles the reader in the narrative as it unfolds in the past and present via multiple narrators. Kenna’s writing feels effortless, but we know that reflects the skill required to remove the focus from the words, making them mere vehicles that transport the reader into the story itself. Here the characters become real people, making us forget they exist only because someone clever and talented created them for us.

This is a book that will appeal to lovers of fast-paced thrillers and readers who enjoy novels with strong prose and characters.

I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.

Book rating: ★★★★★

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The Long Way Out by Michael Wiley Review

The Long Way Out by Michael Wiley, an intense character study of a man in crisis, a bleak tale of someone running from his troubled past toward an equally perilous future. Read my full review.

The Long Way Out Synopsis

A Franky Dast Mystery #2

Franky Dast is an unlikely hero. But when a desperate Mexican family turn to him, rather than trust the authorities, to help them track down their teenage daughter’s murderer, he is compelled to help. When another body shows up and he is personally threatened, Franky doubles-down on his investigation. Can Franky stop this vicious killer and find his own way out of his personal hell before it’s too late?

(Severn House, January 2023)

Source: Publisher via NetGalley

Genre(s) Crime & Mystery

Michael Wiley | Pub Date 01/03/2023 | ISBN 9781448309849 | 240 pages

Book Review

Set in contemporary, small-town Florida, The Long Way Out by Michael Wiley is a novel in which the lives of an ex-con wrongfully incarcerated in prison for eight years for crimes he didn’t commit, a group of undocumented migrants, and a psychopathic serial killer are inextricably bound by a series of murders. It’s an intense character study of a man in crisis, a bleak tale of someone running from his troubled past toward an equally perilous future, and Wiley maintains the tension about his character’s fate throughout.

Franky Dast, recently released from prison after spending eight years there for a pair of murders he didn’t commit, is trying to put his life back together. But it isn’t easy. After prison, he successfully found and identified the killers who committed the murders a court wrongfully convicted him of. But the aggressive detective who arrested and framed him still has it in for Franky, and many in the community still regard him with suspicion. He lives permanently in a low rent motel and works as a gofer at an exotic animal rescue facility. Picking up dead chickens at a local commercial chicken farm to feed to the big cats at the animal rescue is one of Franky’s daily duties. That brings him into frequent contact with undocumented migrants who work at the chicken farm. When the fourteen-year-old daughter of a migrant family that Franky knows disappears, her mother begs Franky to look for her. The woman has heard about Franky finding the actual killers from the murders the authorities had pinned on him and believes Dast can help. But Franky refuses. A few days later, boaters find the girl’s body floating in a river. Partly because of the regret he feels for refusing to help the migrant family and partly because he is struggling to find meaning in his own life, Franky embarks on a private crusade to uncover the girl’s killer with shocking consequences. He digs into the murder and finds out the circumstances are far more convoluted than expected. While the premise of a former death row inmate investigating a murder as sort of an amateur private detective strains credibility, it makes for an interesting and quite imaginative story, as long as you don’t think about it too much. Wiley skillfully gives play to Franky’s shifting voice over its full emotional range―compassionate, disillusioned, cynical, desperate, and more. In Franky Dast, the author offers a precisely drawn portrait of a classic antihero living a life of near futility while attempting to come to grips with the personal trauma he has experienced. Franky’s heart-wrenching story is palpable and the type to stick with readers long after they turn the last page. Wiley balances the plot twists and turns with the weighty and complicated issues surrounding desperate economic migrants flowing across the country’s southern border hoping to find a better life. Instead, they too often find, on one hand, people openly hostile to them and, on the other, individuals eager to exploit their desperate circumstances to gain cheap labor. As the novel progresses, it picks up a propulsive energy that compels us to keep reading straight through to the end when the rising sense of tension comes to a shocking head.

I received an advance copy of the book from the publisher via NetGalley used for this review, which reflects my own honest opinions.

Book rating: ★★★★

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Only the Lonely by Tamara von Werthern Review

Some may say Only the Lonely by Tamara von Werthern doesn’t fit the crime fiction mold. That’s okay, since it’s sort of the point. Tamara shows quick wit and humor in this wickedly funny, wildly imaginative thriller that is as gripping as it is entertaining.

Only the Lonely Synopsis

An Accidental Detective Mystery #1

Tamara von Werthern is a British-German writer, primarily for stage and screen. In her debut novel, originally published in German in 2017, she places her eccentric real-life father in the middle of a spoof crime novel and creates a lovable hapless detective figure with a canine sidekick, Maschka.

Detective Philipp drives a number of battered old cars, chases the woman of his dreams and gets embroiled in dangerous tight spots in his first adventure. The novel is set in the author’s hometown, where her father still lives. It is as much an auto-biographical depiction of a father-daughter relationship as a humorous crime novel suitable for young and old.
 
(Para-Site Publications, 2022)
 
Genre(s) Crime & Thrillers, Cozy Mysteries

Tamara von Werthern | Pub Date 2022 (EN) | ISBN 9780955951145

Book Review

Some may say Only the Lonely by Tamara von Werthern doesn’t fit the crime fiction mold. That’s okay, since it’s sort of the point. The publisher’s description bills the book as “a spoof crime novel” but I think it fits the criteria of a cozy mystery just as well. So, take your pick. What I know for sure after reading this book is Tamara von Werthern has to be one of the most underrated and hilarious crime writers around. Only the Lonely is a wickedly funny, wildly imaginative thriller that is also as gripping as it is entertaining. And I’m not saying nice things about her or the book only because she followed me back on Twitter. You know how when a friend tells you they just read a book that’s absolutely dazzling and divine, and you simply must read it? Then you do, but it doesn’t live up to the hype. Well, this isn’t that book. Tamara von Werthern shakes up all the PI clichés and tropes with sharp wit and plenty of pathos while spinning a pretty good mystery that has moments of heart-pounding suspense. This is one of the most entertaining books I’ve read in recent memory, and I can’t hype it enough.

The book opens with a gloomy and cryptic prologue where an unidentified narrator bemoans their unimportance and how they’re waiting their turn to seize the happiness that comes so easily to others. Then we meet our protagonist, Philipp von Werthern, a private investigator. Well, strictly speaking, Philipp is no private eye. He owns a moving company and sells insurance on the side. But he once helped a friend named Laura recover a piece of stolen jewelry. Laura, prone to exaggeration, refers her friend, Annelie Janssen, who needs a private investigator’s service, to Philipp, giving him rave reviews. Janssen, a blonde bombshell who looks Scandinavian to Philipp, arrives at his home with her tale of woe. Philipp, immediately smitten, decides not to tell her he isn’t actually a private investigator and asks her the nature of her problem. Janssen reveals someone with obvious skill has surgically amputated one of her cat’s paws, but the local police not only refused to investigate but laughed at her when she went to them for help. Hoping to spark a romance with Janssen, Philipp agrees to take the case. He accompanies her to her home and inspects the cat’s amputated paw, and agrees someone severed it with great skill. And during the visit, he grows even more enamored with Janssen and believes she feels the same about him. Bereft of any investigative skills beyond what he has picked up from reading detective novels, Philipp bumbles through interviews with a neighbor and Janssen’s housekeeper, but makes no progress in solving the mystery of the severed cat paw. Then, a genuine mystery with real stakes confronts Philipp when Annelie disappears without a trace. A panicked Philipp desperately searches for her with no one to help but his trusty sidekick, Maschka, his golden retriever.

The quick wit and humor Tamara von Werthern weaves into her entertaining tale grabbed me from the start and had me not only in stitches but turning the pages to learn what happened next. You might think comedy and crime thrillers don’t mix, but you’ll think differently after reading just a few pages of this book.

Book rating: ★★★★

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The Art Merchant by J. K. Flynn Review

The Art Merchant by British author J. K. Flynn is the first book in a brand new thriller series set in the mythical city of Belfield in the English midlands, featuring Detective Sergeant Esther Penman, a deeply flawed but relatable protagonist. Read my full review.

The Art Merchant Synopsis

Detective Esther Penman #1

Some pictures are not so pretty…

Detective Sergeant Esther Penman is a mess. She drinks too much. She sleeps around. And her chief inspector is threatening to kick her out of CID and send her back to uniform because he doesn’t like her ‘attitude’.

Luckily for Esther, if there’s one thing she’s good at, it’s solving cases…

When a woman is killed in one of Belfield’s wealthiest neighbourhoods, Esther quickly realises it is no straightforward homicide. The husband has an alibi, but he’s hiding something, and Esther is determined to find out what.

A few days later, a man is found hanging in nearby woodland, and Esther’s suspicions of a deeper conspiracy begin to grow.

It isn’t long before Esther’s hunt for a killer sets her on the trail of forces far more sinister than she imagined…

And puts her on a collision course with the man they call the Art Merchant…

(Chingola Publishing, November 2022)

Genre(s) Thriller & Suspense, Police Procedural, Mystery & Detective

J. K. Flynn | Pub Date Nov. 11, 2022 | ISBN 9781739179717 | 283 pages

Book Review

Once I received the review copy of The Art Merchant, I intended to read only a chapter or two to get a feel for the book before putting it aside to finish the book I was already reading before getting into it. But I surprised myself by getting so thoroughly engrossed in Esther Penman’s world that I couldn’t put this book down and read it in a sitting.

Flynn opens the story with a murder, and the game is afoot. Nothing particularly unusual about that since fans of the genre expect crime thrillers to start with a murder. But what is unusual and something I much liked about the opening scene is it’s not only a murder that should never have happened but it lands the killer in very dire straits where the police are the least of his worries.

When the cops arrive at the crime scene to investigate, we meet our deeply flawed but feisty and earnest protagonist, Esther Penman, a Belfield detective sergeant and former street cop. Her colleague and first-line supervisor, Detective Inspector Jared Wilcox, has one foot out the door as retirement beckons. But meanwhile, he struggles to contain Penman’s inclination to provoke their boss, DCI Warren Porter, who is already looking for an excuse to get rid of her.

Because of her abuse of alcohol, Penman has a habit of reporting late for work with hangovers and smelling of booze. And her behavior toward Porter is often borderline insubordinate. Wilcox attempts to protect his colleague from her self-destructive behavior, because he recognizes Penman is a skilled and talented investigator. But so close to retirement, he is loath to put his career in any serious jeopardy to do so. Not to mention, Wilcox has personal problems of his own to deal with.

Penman and Wilcox pick up the murder of the woman described at the opening. Naturally, since statistics show that their intimate partners kill more than half of all female homicide victims, the detective’s initial focus is on the victim’s husband, Charles Gorman. When they go to interview Gorman at work, he tries to flee from them and his suspicious behavior appears to implicate him. Yet after they interview Gorman, the detectives feel Gorman might not be guilty of the murder after all. Still, Penman’s instincts tell her Gorman is involved in something dodgy, something that might have provoked the murder of his wife. And Esther is determined to find out what Gorman has himself mixed up in. But before she and Wilcox gain traction in the investigation, a new suspect comes to light. DCI Porter, convinced the newly identified suspect is the perpetrator, considers the case solved and despite Penman’s protests, closes the investigation. Livid over his decision, which smacks of department politics, the strong-willed detective persists in continuing to investigate which predictably lands her in even more hot water with her boss when he finds it out, putting her career in serious jeopardy.

Esther Penman isn’t an immediately likeable character as the book unfolds. An attractive, single woman in her thirties, although dedicated to her work, lacks control over her personal life and irresponsible behavior as the synopsis notes.

“Detective Sergeant Esther Penman is a mess. She drinks too much. She sleeps around.”

While DCI Porter is a contemptibly obnoxious person, Penman’s difficulties with him are equally of her own making, so it is hard to muster much sympathy for her even when you understand her thought processes and don’t think she is wrong about continuing the investigation.

Some redeeming qualities counterbalance Penman’s flaws, such as her skill as an investigator, her resolute commitment to her work, and the ethos of what she does (upholding the law, seeking justice, and catching the baddies). Yet her failure to behave more responsibly in her personal life contaminates all that and feels frustrating, especially since those negative aspects bleed over into her work performance. However, as Flynn deftly works Esther’s backstory into the narrative, revealing her darkest secrets, Penman’s flaws suddenly make sense. The motivations behind the excessive drinking and the promiscuous lifestyle become clear. That’s when Esther Penman becomes most human, relatable, and earns our sympathy. What we learn about her doesn’t absolve Esther, but at least helps us understand why Penman is so flawed.

As her character arc plays out over the course of the story, our opinion changes and Esther becomes very likeable and her quirks annoy us less. This is a testament to Flynn’s strong story-telling ability and attention to detail. Esther Penman reminds us there are shades of gray in life lurking between the black and white, between the wrong and right. No one is really all good or all bad.

This book and the events described within feel real, as if the author makes the reader privy to real life pain, anger, and guilt. Flynn drives this home with the most powerful and impressive scene in the book for me where Esther visits her estranged mother, whom she has had no contact with for fifteen years. I won’t indulge in a spoiler by giving away the details, but will admit that the scene resonated with me on a deeply emotional level. Even though I’m no softie, Flynn had me blinking back a few tears there. And to me, that’s the measure of fine storytelling, touching the reader’s emotions. That’s what makes you remember a book long after you’ve turned the last page.

Flynn brilliantly combines suspense and pathos in this remarkably assured debut, balancing the taut plot and the hero’s inner journey toward transformation perfectly as the action builds to a startling conclusion. Fans of crime thrillers with a strong female lead shouldn’t miss The Art Merchant, a debut novel that punches well above its weight. Flynn’s work is thoughtful and provocative, moving and meaningful. I’m eagerly looking forward to reading the second book in the Esther Penman series, Vengeance, due out in Autumn 2023.

I received an advance copy of the book from the publisher used for this review, which represents my own honest opinions.

Book rating: ★★★★

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Desert Star by Michael Connelly Review

Propulsive, startling, and blade-sharp, Desert Star by Michael Connelly is the latest thrilling crime novel from the masterful creator of Harry Bosch and Renée Ballard.

Desert Star Synopsis

Renée Ballard and Harry Bosch series

LAPD detective Renée Ballard and Harry Bosch work together to hunt the killer who is Bosch’s “white whale”—a man responsible for the murder of an entire family.

A year has passed since LAPD detective Renée Ballard quit the force in the face of misogyny, demoralization, and endless red tape. Yet, after the chief of police himself tells her she can write her own ticket within the department, Ballard takes back her badge, leaving “the Late Show” to rebuild the cold case unit at the elite Robbery-Homicide Division.

For years, Harry Bosch has been working a case that haunts him but that he hasn’t been able to crack—the murder of an entire family by a psychopath who still walks free. Ballard makes Bosch an offer: come work with her as a volunteer investigator in the new Open-Unsolved Unit, and he can pursue his “white whale” with the resources of the LAPD behind him.

The two must put aside old resentments to work together again and close in on a dangerous killer.

(Little, Brown and Company, November 2022)

Genre(s) Police Procedural, Crime & Detective, Thriller &Suspense

Michael Connelly | Pub Date Nov. 08, 2022 | ISBN 9780316485654 | 400 pages

Book Review

“And these flowers, they’re amazing,” Ballard said.

“Desert star,” Bosch said. “I know a guy, says they’re a sign of god in this fucked-up world. That they are relentless and resilient against the heat and the cold, against everything that wants to stop them.”

Ballard nodded.

“Like you,” Bosch added.

Let’s cut right to the chase. Harry Bosch is probably my favorite fictional detective and Michael Connelly is one of my favorite contemporary crime fiction authors. Waiting for the next Bosch novel always feels like an itch I can’t scratch and desperately want to. Twenty-six books into the Harry Bosch series (now the Renée Ballard and Harry Bosch series), Connelly keeps cranking out one virtuoso novel after another with no sign of losing a step or an ounce of his passion for his craft. Desert Star, his fifth Bosch book since The Late Show introduced Renée Ballard as Harry’s heir apparent is another bestseller and with good reason.

The book opens with Ballard’s appearance at Bosch’s door with a proposition. Renée, after resigning at the end of the last book, is back at the LAPD, more determined than ever to change things for the better from within the organization rather than from without. Her decision caused friction between her and Bosch since returning to the LAPD meant she bailed on their agreement to work together as private investigators. Ballard, now the head of the recently reconstituted Open-Unsolved unit, which was disbanded because of staffing and budget cuts, asks Harry to join the unit as an unpaid civilian volunteer. As the carrot, she offers him a chance to work his personal “white whale,” the one case he never solved that Harry can’t let go of, the Gallagher Family case where someone murdered an entire family and buried them in the desert. Bosch reluctantly agrees, but no sooner has he started than Ballard yanks him off the Gallagher case to help investigate the unsolved rape and murder of a powerful city councilman’s sixteen-year-old sister. Councilman Jake Pearlman is the driving force behind the reestablishment of Open-Unsolved and Ballard knows his desire for justice for his sister is his principal motivation for rebuilding and becoming the patron saint of the unit. Feeling the unit has to either solve the Sarah Pearlman murder cold case or prove to Jake Pearlman’s satisfaction that it can’t be solved is the key for keeping Open-Unsolved up and running, Ballard makes it the priority. Harry isn’t happy that Renée seems intent on pulling the rug out from under him once again, but grudgingly reviews the Pearlman case and soon discovers an angle of investigation leading to a novel source of DNA belonging to Pearlman’s killer. That leads to the discovery of another rape and murder cold case where the police recovered DNA belonging to the same unidentified suspect and suggests Ballard and Bosch are hunting for a serial killer. Despite the priority Ballard has placed on the Pearlman case and related one, Harry does Harry and goes on working the Gallagher case, which at times has him butting heads with Renée. And then the book continues to the startling, yet not entirely unpredictable ending.

There were two things I loved most about Desert Star. In The Dark Hours, the previous book, Connelly used Bosch in almost a cameo role, putting the major emphasis on Renée Ballard. We get that. Bosch is aging out, a process that has accelerated with the last two Ballard and Bosch novels. Ballard is the fresh face of the franchise. But like me, I’m sure there must be legions of other Bosch fans out there who aren’t yet ready to let Harry go. So, until that happens, and sadly it eventually will, I’d rather see Bosch playing a major rather than a minor role in the books. And Harry Bosch is back in the thick of the things in this novel. The other thing I loved is this is one of the most action-packed Bosch books ever and qualifies as much as a thriller as a police procedural. Despite his advanced age, Harry still has a few moves left.

There seems three key take-aways from Desert Star. First, Bosch’s days are definitely numbered. And that makes this book feel more than a little bittersweet. If Harry makes it into another book, and that seems far from a sure thing given the ending here, I expect his role to be even more diminished than in The Dark Hours. Second, Harry’s half-brother, criminal defense attorney, Mickey Haller appears briefly in the book, which seemed to offer a golden opening for Connelly to expand on the mention here with another Lincoln Lawyer book. Finally, as much as I dread the loss of Harry Bosch, at least Renée Ballard is now a well-established proxy that will carry the franchise torch long into the future. That promises many more excellent and enjoyable Michael Connelly reads. Meanwhile, Bosch fans won’t want to miss this one.

Book rating: ★★★★★

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The West London Murders by Biba Pearce Review

The West London Murders is the second book in Biba Pearce’s chilling and dramatic Detective Rob Miller Mystery series. Read my full review.

The West London Murders Synopsis

Detective Rob Miller Mysteries #2

A spate of brutal stabbings. An ambitious young detective. A killer hell-bent on revenge.

A father is found dead in his posh West London home. Stabbed to death. By somebody who couldn’t stop. There are seven or eight puncture wounds. There’s no time to relax for recently married DI Rob Miller. Now a second man is found brutally murdered in the same frenzied manner. Do the police have a serial killer on their hands? The investigation leads Rob and his ex-lover Detective Jo Maguire to London’s undercover escort industry. It’s a risky world to dive into, and Rob’s feelings for Jo don’t help. They realize that the murderer is leaving a blistering trail of revenge killings – and the violence is escalating. Can Rob and Jo work together to stop the murderer before someone else pays the ultimate price?

(Joffe Books, April 2022)

Genre(s) Mystery & Crime, Thriller, Police Procedural

Pub Date Apr 26, 2022 | 266 pages | ISBN 978-1-8040-5323-2

Book Review

While by intent, I rarely review two books by the same author consecutively, I made an exception for The West London Murders by Biba Pearce. After reading the first book in Pearce’s Detective Rob Miller Mystery series, The Thames Path Killer, I was eager to continue the series. So, since I was awaiting the release of another book I’ve been looking forward to reading, I saw no reason not to jump into the second book in the series.

We pick up where we left off at the end of the first book. After some time off to recover from his last harrowing case, DI Rob Miller is back to work with his colleagues on the Putney Major Investigation Team. This time, under the watchful eye of Detective Superintendent Lawrence, the team grapples with a series of vicious stabbing murders. We’re straight into the action as DI Miller and his second DS Mallory respond to the home of a man found dead with multiple stab wounds. While they can’t work out how the victim earned his living, curiously, the man had significant wealth and owned many luxury possessions. Once the detectives find numerous burner phones inside the house, they suspect the victim might have been involved in drug trafficking. Miller gets confirmation of the theory when another outside agency, this time the National Crime Agency, intrudes into Miller’s murder investigation. The agency which investigates organized crime has an interest in his victim, Aadam Yousef, who they had kept under surveillance for months as a suspected major drug trafficking figure. Coincidentally, DCI Jo Maguire has transferred to the NCA since Miller last saw her, and he finds himself working with Maguire once again. Miller feels conflicted by it all since he and Yvette have reunited, and he also has romantic feelings for Maguire with whom he shared a brief amorous tryst in the previous book.

I like the romantic tension between Miller and Maguire. Pearce uses that as well as Miller’s difficult relationship with Yvette effectively as secondary strands of the plot. It adds interest for the reader, broadens the story, and helps add additional layers to the main characters. I noted in my review of the first book that I wished Pearce had given the Rob Miller character more depth. And, I feel she addressed this well in this second novel, leaving me feeling I understood the character and his motivations more. I must admit, I didn’t find Miller’s love interest, Yvette, likeable in the first book and like her even less in this one. She has always been selfish and preoccupied with herself and her own affairs, and now suffering PTSD symptoms after the trauma she suffered at the end of The Thames Path Killer, she is almost unbearable. While Miller has his flaws, they hardly bear any comparison to Yvette’s shortcomings. Predictably, the relationship only deteriorates further in this book.

Not long after the first murder investigation begins, more bodies fall, and the team faces multiple murders to investigate with an obvious connection (someone feeling very stabby) that shows the crimes are related and all committed by the same perpetrator. I very much enjoyed this as it’s clear the killings will continue until the police stop the killer and this truly builds the tension and suspense. I’m enjoying this series and particularly like Miller, his partner, DS Mallory, and Jo Maguire, as well as his grouchy boss and other colleagues. Pearce also ends the book with an interesting turn of events, so I’m certainly keen to see what comes next.

Book Rating: ★★★★

Biba Pearce is a British crime writer and author of the DCI Rob Miller series.

Biba grew up in post-apartheid Southern Africa. As a child, she lived on the wild eastern coast and explored the sub-tropical forests and surfed in shark-infested waters.

Now a full-time writer with more than twenty-five novels under her belt, Biba lives in leafy Surrey and when she isn’t writing, can be found walking through the countryside or kayaking on the river Thames.

BIBA PEARCE

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