Category Archives: Crime

Murder in the Village (DI Hillary Greene #4)

Murder in the Village

by Faith Martin

by Faith Martin

The ensemble cast is back for more murder and mystery in the picturesque Oxford suburbs. During the course of the first three books, the regular crew of the Thames Valley force have become well established. Their relationships and idiosyncrasies have woven themselves into the fabric of the books. But in this new adventure things begin to unravel in unexpected ways.

The arrival of new Superintendent, Jerome Raleigh. Raleigh is something of a high-flyer from the Met, but there is something about him that just doesn’t sit right with DI Greene. Why would an ambitious and driven man like him swap the Met for the leafy suburbs of Thames Valley?

Greene is a natural and instinctive detective with an uncanny ability to see when something isn’t right. In the new Super’s case, alarms bells are ringing loud and clear. And she is not alone in her suspicion that there is more to Jerome Raleigh’s move than meets the eye.

But before she can give any time to her thoughts about the new boss she has a murder to solve. Her investigation into the unexplained death of a would-be politician is going nowhere when an unexpected twist in another case leaves Greene with unplanned time on her hands.

With DI Greene’s forced absence from the station, DS Tyler takes over the murder investigation whilst trying to deal with a shocking upheaval in her personal life.

Murder in the Village sees our regular cast of characters thrown off-kilter by the plots interesting little twists. Whilst I have enjoyed the previous three books in the series, I felt there was a greater maturity to this one that indicates Faith Martin’s growing confidence in her characters and their stories.

I do enjoy the way she writes. The books are full of twists and turns, told with a directness and lack of unnecessary detail that makes them very easy to read. DI Greene herself is a character I find it easy to empathise with. She is good at her job and good with the people around her, but she isn’t perfect. She has her own secrets that continue to pull at her conscience like a broken thread.

I have to admit I have become a fan of the Hillary Green stories and look forward to reading the next instalment, already sat on the shelf awaiting my attention.

The Sussex Downs Murder

The Sussex Downs Murder

The Sussex Downs Murder by John Bude

by John Bude

As part of the British Library Crime Classics series, The Sussex Downs Murder is an authentic and enjoyable example of pre-war crime writing. It is very much of its time in style and attitudes. The characters are stereotypical of their type and place in the social pecking order. Superintendent Meredith and his colleagues are first led by assumptions, but as the tale unfolds, it becomes clear that not everyone connected with the case is what they seem.

Meredith is called in to investigate when local businessman and landowner John Rother goes missing. His car is found abandoned just a few minutes from his home when he should have been miles away on holiday. There are signs of a struggle but no sign of the man himself. The police’s initial thoughts are that he has been kidnapped. But when no ransom is demanded, Meredith begins to suspect a more sinister crime has been committed. This seems to be confirmed several days later when human remains are discovered.

As superintendent Meredith pieces the clues together the case begins to take some unexpected turns. The trouble is that none of the pieces fit together as they should. Like a poorly made jigsaw, to make one piece fit, another needs to be abandoned.

The Sussex Downs Murder is a product of its time. It is cleverly plotted and well written, but lacks the fully developed characters, pace and scope you would expect from a modern crime story. This not a bad thing though. There is a certain naivety to the narrative that I found endearing.

My only frustration with it is the way the narrative jumps from one set scene tp the next.

The plot is cleverly laid out and I was as baffled as the police themselves until I top began to see that shape of the missing pieces. And I have to say that I really liked the little twist at the end, so unusual for the time.

 

 

The Thursday Murder Club (The Thursday Murder Club #1)

The Thursday Murder Club

The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman

by Richard Osman

Richard Osman is a well-known face on British TV, involved with several popular game shows. The Thursday Murder Club is his first novel and became an instant hit on its release. The question is though, would it have been so popular if its author wasn’t already a popular figure?

My first instinct is to say no. I don’t think it would have been such an instant hit. No doubt without his name on the top it would have got there, but much more slowly. As it is, Richard’s name has propelled it into the charts, but it is the quality of the story at the writing that has kept it there. 

The copy I have just read was read first by my wife (who loved it) and then my daughter before making its way to me. As I write this it is making its way to a family friend who is eagerly awaiting the opportunity to get stuck in.

I love a good mystery. I also love a good comedy. A book that combines the two is definitely going to arouse my interest and in The Thursday MurderClub, we get both in spades. Set in a peaceful retirement village, The Thursday Murder Club is a group of four friends who get together each week to investigate unsolved murders. They are a very unlikely bunch, lead by the enigmatic Elizabeth whose past is as mysterious as the events begin to unfold when they find themselves in the middle of a live murder case. 

The official investigation is being run by DCI Chris Hudson and PC Donna De Freitas. DCI Hudson is sceptical of the Club’s involvement at first but soon has to admit that Elizabeth’s unorthodox methods get results. For PC De Freitas, Elizabeth becomes something of a fairy godmother. 

As one crime leads to another, the intrepid sleuths, both official and unofficial, uncover more than one mystery. There are several strands to the story that the teams must try to unravel. Part of the narrative comes from Joyce’s diary entries which offer the best insights into the characters involved. 

The Thursday Murder Club is an excellent murder mystery neatly wrapped up with humour and compassion. In parts, it is extremely funny, with observational comedy reminiscent of the late great Tom Sharpe. From beginning to end, it is entertaining and compelling. It is one of the very few books that have made me laugh out loud recently. 

It was recommended to me and I can highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good laugh and a bit of a mystery.

 

Murder of the Bride (DI Hillary Greene #3)

Murder of the Bride

Murder of the Bride by Faith Martin

by Faith Martin

Once again, DI Hillary Greene and her intrepid team find themselves investigating a suspicious death under rather unusual circumstances. The victim is young Julia Reynolds, a guest at an anniversary party who came to a somewhat sticky end in a cowshed, dressed as a bride.

The bride part is a bit of a red herring; it was a costume party and her choice of dress was intended as a jibe to her would-be fiance. 

There is no question about the fact she was murdered, but what was she doing in the cowshed and who would want to kill such a popular and lively young woman?

As with Hillary’s previous cases, nothing here is quite what it seems and she and her team soon uncover a web of jealousy and intrigue. Potential suspects begin to emerge out of the woodwork but all lack either motive or opportunity. None of it makes any sense and all avenues seem to be dead ends.

There are plot twists aplenty as Thames Valley’s finest inch ever closer to the truth, uncovering more than they bargained for along the way.

Faith Martin has created a likeable hero in Hillary Green, surrounding her with a supporting cast that is varied and colourful. Each has their unique idiosyncrasies and troubles. There is also the ongoing saga of Hillary’s now dead husband, Ronnie, and his nefarious exploits that continue to follow her like a bad smell. She may have been cleared of any wrong-doing herself, but there is still the question of Ronnie’s ill-gotten gains. One man at least, is determined to get his hands on the money, Sargeant Frant Ross. Frank is a permanent thorn in Hillary’s side, but one that has his uses which she is happy to exploit if it will help with a case.

The book also has a couple of interesting twists as part of the ongoing arc. 

Murder of the Bride is a well written, well-structured crime novel that is both challenging and easy to read. I like Faith’s almost simplistic style. There is a lot of plot and character development but all done in an easily accessible way. The narrative is clean and pacey with little padding.

This being the third on the series the characters and their backstories are already well developed so there is little time spent going over old ground.

I am enjoying these books and look forward to getting into number 4. 

Murder at the University (DI Hillary Greene, #2)

Murder at the Universityby Faith Martin

DI Hillary Greene is back for her second outing, clearing up the streets of Oxford. And a damn fine job she is doing of it. 

This time we find DI Green still suffering from the aftermath of the investigation into her deceased husband’s criminal activities. But she is well respected within the station and determined to remove any stain on her reputation.

A pretty French student has been found dead in her room at an exclusive Oxford College. As DI Greene arrives it appears to be a simple case of an accidental drug overdose. But as the investigation begins, Hillary’s inscrutable instinct tells her that there is more to the case than first thought.

As the evidence comes in, Hillary and her team realise they are dealing with a clever but brutal murder. She is relentless in her search for the truth and slowly begins to uncover a web os=f secrets hidden beneath the college’s veneer of respectability. In the end, it is a chance remark by a colleague that opens the case up and ultimately reveals the truth behind the cruel murder of a promising young girl.

Murder at the University has everything you would expect, and want, from a detective story. There are plenty of plot twists and clues, but also some great characters, particularly Di Hillary Greene herself. What you won’t find here are in-depth discussions about police procedure or rambling descriptions of people and places. The narrative is fast-paced and focused. Whilst we discover a lot about the characters as the story progresses, it is no more than necessary to drive the plot and set the scene for future books.

Faith Martin has a simple but direct way of writing. The plot has plenty of twists and turns and her characters are diverse and believable. Their relationships are as much a part of the story as the investigation itself. 

I for one am pleased to have been introduced to the world of Hillary Greene and am looking forward to joining her on more adventures in the future. 

 

 

The Big Over Easy

The Big Over Easyby Jasper Fforde

Having previously experience of Jasper Fforde through his highly imaginative Thursday Next series I was well prepared for this first look at the work of the Nursery Crimes Division of Reading Police Department.

Actually, the best way to embark on one of Fforde’s literary adventures is to put your mind in to a sort of free-fall, leave all preconceptions, hang ups and preconceived logic in the locker room before entering. Believe me, the last thing you need when facing a world inhabited by the likes of DI Jack Spratt, DS Mary Mary and the late Humpty Stuyvesant Van Dumpty III is any kind of link to reality. It would just confuse things and might actually lead to psychological problems in later life. Best to play safe.

Now, you might think that any book that lists the three pigs amongst its characters would be aimed at the younger reader. You would be quite wrong. Despite the almost childish nature of some of the characters and themes, The Big Over Easy is a book for grown-ups, all be it, grown-ups with one toe still firmly holding on to childhood.

The story begins when DS Mary Mary, fresh from Basingstoke (which isn’t her fault) turn up at Reading Police HQ to take up her new role working alongside the long suffering DI Jack Spratt. We are introduced to a dysfunctional set of characters who at first glance you might hardly credit with the ability to solve a 12-piece jigsaw let alone a full blown murder enquiry. But first impressions can be deceptive, especially in a world where the measure of a policeman’s success is getting their cases published in Amazing Crime Stories. Simple solutions just don’t make the grade.

What follows is a tour-de-force of clever wit, painful puns and, surprisingly, a damned good whodunit. All of the characters are clearly drawn and easily visualised as they weave their way through a clever, although sometimes painfully twisted, plot.

For those who have already survived earlier expeditions in to the warped mind of Jasper Fforde, Big Over Easy is more of the same and you know what to expect. For Fforde virgins I suggest you make yourself comfortable and be prepared for a literary journey like to other. Put on your safety googles, dive in and enjoy.

 

Murder on the Oxford Canal (DI Hillary Greene, #1)

Murder on the Oxford Canalby Faith Martin

Despite this being the first of Faith Martin’s books to feature DI Hillary Greene, the story opens in the middle of a personal crisis. No gentle introductions here I’m afraid. Faith throws her reader in the deep the end with everyone but the reader knowing what is going on. On the positive side the book does hit the ground running, a pace it maintains through to the end.

It is a fast-paced story populated by some interesting characters, not least of which is the aforementioned DI Greene who is struggling with some personal issues that threaten her career. He husband is dead and she is being investigated as part of the enquiry into his illegal activities. She has been forced to leave her home and is trying to cope with life on a cramped narrowboat. To top it all, she is handed a case, only to have it whipped away the moment it gets juicy.

Her investigations into the body mysteriously discarded in a remote canal lock lead Hillary and her team to uncover a drug-smuggling operation, But is the mysterious death really linked or is there something else going on?

Murder on the Oxford Canal is a little above the run-of-the-mill. It has a good plot, plenty of clues and some intriguing characters. Good, simple entertainment and worth seeking out the next instalment of DI Hillary Green’s adventures.

 

The Day That Never Comes (The Dublin Trilogy #2)

The Day That Never Comesby Caimh McDonnell

There is unrest in the fair city of Dublin. The locals are revolting, fired up by a combination of blatant injustice and police incompetence. In the middle of it all once again, and blissfully unaware of his role in the impending mayhem is Paul Mulchrone.

Fresh from his equally unintentional head-on collision with Dublin’s seedier side (The Man With One Of Those Faces), Paul just wants to patch things up with his girlfriend Bridgit and get his fledgeling detective agency off the ground.

And if that wasn’t enough to keep a young man busy, Paul is left looking after the city’s crankiest German Shephard, takes on his first job, following a particularly dodgy local businessman and tries to find his missing business partner, the infamous Bunny McGarry. 

Although his appearance in this book is minimal, Bunny McGary’s presence is felt throughout. In McGarry, author Caimh McDonnell has created one of the most unpredictable heroes in modern fiction. He may be one fo the god guys but there is almost no crime he won’t commit for the good of his friends. This time around though it is Bunny himself who needs saving from the bad guys.

Just an average day in the office for our reluctant hero. 

Like the first instalment, The Day That Never Comes is a wonderful mix of intriguing crime drama and slapstick comedy. It has a good pace, great characters and shed loads of natural Irish wit. 

Worst Case Scenario

Worst Case Scenarioby Helen Fitzgerald

Having to deal with Glasgow’s darker characters every day has made probation officer Mary Shields a little cranky. Her inclination to drink, her lack of respect for authority and her naturally suspicious nature should probably have made her unsuitable for the role, but ironically she is good at her job. But now with her job on the line, she prepares to walk away, but not before she can clear one final case on her books.

Enter Liam Macdowall, imprisoned for murdering his wife but now out on licence and put under Mary’s watchful eye. There is an instant distrust between the two, but on the surface, it is a simple enough case, not more difficult than any of the thousands she has handled before. But things soon get messy and the result is devastating for Mary and everyone around her.

Worst Case Scenario is one of those rare books that manage to combine gritty thriller with lashings of humour. Mary is a wonderfully imagined character whose flaws are plain to see but make her all the more charming. 

Helen Fitzgerald has a reputation for writing psychological thrillers and this is certainly a prime example of the best of the genre. I was gripped from the very first page, following Mary and Liam’s relationship with growing alarm and dread. At heart, it is a very tense and dark story, but the humour that runs through it like a seam of gold elevates it beyond the run-of-the-mill. I thoroughly enjoyed the book and was left wanting more.

A great read.

 

 

Witch is How The Drought Ended (The Witch PI #29)

Witch is How The Drought Endedby Adele Abbott

Right from the top, I have to admit that this was something of an odd choice for me. Not the book itself as such, just the fact that I chose to read book #29 in a series before reading any others! The reasoning behind the purchase is lost on me now, but none-the-less, I ploughed on regardless. And to be honest, despite there being a few references and ongoing subplots I struggled with, the book itself was a refreshing summer read.

Jill Maxwell is not only a private investigator earning a good living in rural England, but she is also a witch, something that the majority of her clients know nothing about. Her cases are an interesting mix covering both worlds. She is simultaneously searching for a missing canal boat owner and investigating the mysteriously vanishing water in the fairy reservoirs. It is all in day’s work for this particular sleuth.

I found the style of writing very easy to read and the gentle humour made it a particular pleasure. In a typical PI style, the story is told in the first person and is very dialogue-driven. Ms Maxwell does not go in for long-winded descriptions or soliloquise. The writing is concise and well-paced. I particularly liked the way the mundane and magic worlds were interwoven.

All I need to do now is go back 28 books and see where it all began…