Last week was all about my Top Crime Reads of the year. This week is all about Thrillers.

Here’s the second (and final) post of my Top Reads 2015: my Top Thriller Reads …


THE DARK INSIDE by Rod Reynolds


“In this town, no one is innocent. 1946, Texarkana: a town on the border of Texas and Arkansas. Disgraced New York reporter Charlie Yates has been sent to cover the story of a spate of brutal murders – young couples who’ve been slaughtered at a local date spot. Charlie finds himself drawn into the case by the beautiful and fiery Lizzie, sister to one of the victims, Alice – the only person to have survived the attacks and seen the killer up close. But Charlie has his own demons to fight, and as he starts to dig into the murders he discovers that the people of Texarkana have secrets that they want kept hidden at all costs. Before long, Charlie discovers that powerful forces might be protecting the killer, and as he investigates further his pursuit of the truth could cost him more than his job …”

This debut novel from the uber-talented Rod Reynolds serves up a perfect slice of American noir. New York reporter Charlie Yates is a damaged man. Haunted by career problems and a failing marriage, he’s alienated many of the people close to him. With his employers desperate to be free of him for a while, he’s sent to cover a spate of double murders in Texarkana. He’s angry and isolated in an unfamiliar and unwelcoming place, but as he starts to make acquaintances with the locals and gets up to speed with the facts of the murders, he realises that the town, and the people in it, are hiding many more secrets than they’re willing to share.

Like a lovechild of Raymond Chandler and John D. MacDonald, with a smidgeon of Jim Thompson on the side, this is a relentless, dark and gritty tale about a man who cannot let go until he’s uncovered the truth of what is really going on inside the close knit community of Texarkana. Inspired by the true story of the unsolved Texarkana Moonlight Murders, with deeply drawn characters and a vividly claustrophobic atmosphere, THE DARK INSIDE is an utterly engrossing debut and one of my top reads of 2015 – an absolute must-read for all thriller fans.

You can find out more about Rod Reynolds by following him on Twitter @Rod_WR


THE WRONG GIRL by Laura Wilson

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“In 2006, three-year-old Phoebe Piper went missing on a family holiday. Despite massive publicity and a long investigation, no trace of her was ever found. Seven years later, Molly Jackson, aged ten and recently uprooted to a Norfolk village, finds her great uncle Dan dead in his bed. Molly remembers nothing of her early years, but she’s been sure for ages that she is Phoebe. Everything in her life points to it. Dan’s death brings his sister Janice back to Norfolk where she’s re-united with Molly’s mother Suzie, the daughter she gave up for adoption decades earlier. Janice discovers that a former lover, Joe Vincent, lives nearby. Joe was a rock star who, at the height of his fame, turned his back on public life. As she is drawn back into the past, Janice begins to wonder if Dan’s death and Joe’s reputation as a reclusive acid casualty are quite what they appear. And then Molly disappears.”

I found myself pulled headlong into Janice and Molly’s worlds. Through their narratives the reader discovers the events in their pasts that have shaped their sense of selves and identity, and how the secrets and suspicions that they hold influences each of their decisions in the present. One of the many joys of this book are the fabulous characters – they are so vividly drawn, and the dialogue pitch-perfect, that it feels like you’re watching real-life action unfold before you.

A twisting, turning mystery of tangled secrets, guilt and regret THE WRONG GIRL artfully combines the dark undertones of past trauma with a growing sense of impending doom. With stunning writing, vivid characters and bags of suspense, THE WRONG GIRL is a must read for fans of psychological thrillers.

To find out more about Laura Wilson and her books hop on over to www.laura-wilson.co.uk and follow her on Twitter @LWilsonCrime




“He is darkness. She wants him dead. In a city starved of light, she might just succeed. She moves like a shadow; she kills silently: Raven. This elegant assassin has been on the run for years. This time though, she has picked the wrong target. The hitman known only as ‘Victor’ is as paranoid as he is merciless, and is no stranger to being hunted. He tracks his would-be killer across the globe, aiming not only to neutralise the threat, but to discover who wants him dead. The trail leads to New York … And then the lights go out. Over twelve hours of unremitting darkness, Manhattan dissolves into chaos. Amid looting, conspiracy and blackout, Victor and Raven play a vicious game of cat and mouse that the city will never forget.”

In the latest book in this fantastic series – The Darkest Day – Victor finds himself the target of a talented female assassin with a flawless kill record. Rather than going into hiding after escaping her first attempt on his life, Victor vows to eliminate her as a threat. Alternately threatening or charming information from Raven’s associates, Victor discovers her background and tracks her to a safe house in New York. The clues stack up, and he has everything planned in perfect detail to neutralise her. Then the power goes out in New York City and everything he was so sure about starts to become hazy.

The pace is unrelenting, the danger ever escalating, and Victor is forced to abandon his usual preparations and safe-guards in order to keep out of his pursuers’ – both legal and criminal – way. It’s fascinating to see this character, who is always so in control, plunged into a sustained environment of chaos and having to react to a far more unpredictable set of circumstances than before. Action packed, adrenaline fuelled, thriller writing at its best – THE DARKEST DAY is a must read for all crime thriller fans.

And find out more about Tom Wood and the Victor the Assassin series by hopping over to his website at www.tomwoodbooks.com and following him on Twitter @TheTomWood


COLD MOON by Alexandra Sokoloff


“The hunt for mass murderer Cara Lindstrom is over. FBI Special Agent Matthew Roarke has been working for this moment: the capture of a killer who savagely hunts the worst of humanity. But Roarke remains traumatized by his own near-death at the hands of the serial killer who slaughtered Cara’s family…and haunted by the enigmatic woman who saved his life. Then the sixteen-year-old prostitute who witnessed Cara’s most recent murder goes missing, and suddenly pimps are turning up dead on the streets of San Francisco, killed with an MO eerily similar to Cara’s handiwork. Is a new killer on the loose with a mission even more deadly than hers? In the pulse-pounding third Huntress/FBI Thrillers book, Roarke will have to go on the hunt…and every woman he meets, even those closest to him, may prove deadly.”

COLD MOON is a serial killer story with a difference – this killer is female. Driven by the need to confront ‘It’ – evil – Cara Lindstrom targets those in society who prey on the innocent and the helpless. The story starts with her awaiting trial for murder, but it soon becomes clear that she may not be the only person fighting back against those men who prey on vulnerable women. Detective Roarke – the man responsible for Cara being in jail – is conflicted about the upcoming trial. On the one side he knows Cara is a killer, on the other he is becoming increasingly sympathetic to her cause. And he cannot deny that he’s attracted to her either.

Set in California, COLD MOON shows the glamour and the grime, the privileged (and those who abuse that privilege) and the disadvantaged. It’s highly atmospheric, with compelling, dynamic characters and vivid, rapid-paced action. With super-charged tension and nail biting suspense, this is a real page turner of a read.

To find out more about Alexandra Sokoloff hop over to her website at www.alexandrasokoloff.com and follow her on Twitter @AlexSokoloff


THE SAMARITAN by Mason Cross

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“When the mutilated body of a young woman is discovered in the Santa Monica Mountains, LAPD Detective Jessica Allen knows she’s seen this MO before – two and a half years ago on the other side of the country. A sadistic serial killer has been operating undetected for a decade, preying on lone female drivers who have broken down. The press dub the killer ‘The Samaritan’, but with no leads and a killer who leaves no traces, the police investigation quickly grinds to a halt. That’s when Carter Blake shows up to volunteer his services. He’s a skilled manhunter with an uncanny ability to predict the Samaritan’s next moves. At first, Allen and her colleagues are suspicious. After all, their new ally shares some uncomfortable similarities to the man they’re tracking. But as the Samaritan takes his slaughter to the next level, Blake must find a way to stop him … even if it means bringing his own past crashing down on top of him.”

The Samaritan is packed with all the trademark heart-stopping action, break-neck pace, and twisting-turning plotlines that made Mason’s debut novel – The Killing Season – such a huge success.

In The Samaritan we also get to find out more about the past of mysterious ‘people finder’ Carter Blake (although don’t worry, he’s still pretty damn mysterious!). Jessica Allen is a great female lead – strong, determined and courageous in the face of extreme danger. She reluctantly accepts Blake’s assistance, but is less inclined to completely trust him. As they each follow their own lines of enquiry, gradually closing in on this most brutally sadistic of serial killers, they both become targets.

Set in Florida and California, The Samaritan showcases some great locations (including one very creepy and atmospheric one that I can’t mention – sorry, it’d be too much of a spoiler) to create a vivid backdrop to the story. With great characters, fab locations and a super-twisty plot, The Samaritan is an absolute page-turner. I already can’t wait for the next Carter Blake novel – I think this is a series that’s going to run and run.

To find out more about Mason Cross head over to his website at www.masoncross.net and follow him on Twitter @MasonCrossBooks




“Stella is an escort, immersed in a world of desire, betrayal and secrets. It’s exactly where she wants to be. Stella used to be someone else: respectable, loved, safe. But one mistake changed all that.

When a fellow call girl is murdered, Stella has a choice: forget what she’s seen, or risk everything to get justice for her friend. In her line of work, she’s never far from the edge, but pursuing the truth could take her past the point of no return. Nothing is off limits. Not for her – and not for them. But is anyone truly untouchable?”

Stella (real name, Grace) is an escort by choice. She enjoys her job and the financial freedoms it brings, although she does sometimes wonder if she’ll ever be able to stop. That all changes when another high-end escort she recently worked with is murdered. Suddenly she’s feeling on edge with even her regular clients. Unwilling to believe the Police’s version of events, and plagued by the feeling that her friend was killed for something she knew rather than who she was, Stella can’t move on. Taking matters into her own hands, she sets out on her own search for the truth, but as she begins to get closer to finding the identity of the killer it becomes clear that her quest could have deadly consequences.

Unflinchingly authentic, this thriller gives a peep into the world of a high-class escort, from the clients and the money, to the drama and tension the profession causes in their personal relationships [but beware, if you don’t want to read graphic sex scenes, this book might not be your thing!]. It’s a real page-turner of a read – darkly funny at times, heart-breaking at others – with a riveting mystery at its heart. As pacey as Lee Child, racier than EL James, and utterly gripping – Untouchable is unmissable!

To find out more about Ava Marsh pop over to her website at www.avamarsh.co.uk and be sure to follow her on Twitter @MsAvaMarsh




“A brutal murder. A lone female investigator. Two hundred metres below the ocean’s surface, the pressure is rising … Suicide must be investigated, especially when a Royal Navy sailor kills himself on a nuclear submarine only days after his wife’s brutal murder. Now Lieutenant Danielle “Dan” Lewis, the Navy’s finest Special Branch investigator, must interrogate the tight-knit, male crew of HMS Tenacity to determine if there’s a link. Isolated, and standing alone in the face of extreme hostility, Dan soon realises that she may have to choose between the truth and her own survival. Justice must be served, but with a possible killer on board the pressure is rising and her time is running out …”

This debut novel from J.S. Law is a tense read from start to finish. Danielle “Dan” Lewis – a top investigator with more than a fair share of secrets hidden in her past – is brought in to investigate the alleged suicide of a member of HMS Tenacity’s Ship’s Company. Right from the get-go it’s clear that the odds are stacked against her – Tenacity’s men are a close-knit team and they don’t want anyone – especially a woman – poking around in their business.

Like the novel’s title suggests, Dan is a tenacious lead character and someone that, as a reader, I found it easy to root for. She’s a survivor of injustice, using her own experiences as fire to fuel her unrelenting determination to achieve her goal – utterly focused on searching out the truth, even when it puts her own life in danger.

As an ex-submariner, author J.S. Law’s detailed knowledge of the Navy and submarines shines through to make for a highly authentic and atmospheric setting. The uniqueness of the tightly sealed environment of HMS Tenacity is made increasingly claustrophobic through the ever-increasing build-up of jeopardy. Gritty, super-charged with tension and claustrophobically atmospheric, TENACITY is a real page-turner of a read.

To learn more about JS Law go over to his website at www.jslawbooks.com and be sure to follow him on Twitter @JSLawBooks




“HE’S WATCHING HER. SHE DOESN’T KNOW IT…YET. When a bomb explodes at the University of Amsterdam, aspiring criminologist Georgina McKenzie is asked by the police to help flush out the killer. But the bomb is part of a much bigger, more sinister plot that will have the entire city quaking in fear. And the killer has a very special part for George to play…”

This fast paced thriller is Marnie Riches debut novel and the first book in the Georgina McKenzie series. Opening with a bombing on campus at the University of Amsterdam, the stakes are high from the off and continue to escalate as criminology student, Georgina ‘George’ McKenzie gets drafted in to help the police, and specifically Detective van den Bergen, gather intelligence from within the student and wider communities. Experienced cop – Detective van den Bergen – is a great pairing for George. Whereas she is headstrong and prone to charge into a situation, he is analytical and considered (and a bit of a hypochondriac) – but both are determined and single-minded about the need to get to the truth behind the killings and bring those responsible to justice, and they’re not afraid to go against direct orders to achieve their goal.

Bold and fearless, George is quick to piece together the evidence, and gets frustrated by the slowness of the police. As the stakes escalate, and the danger draws closer, she takes increasingly bigger risks – putting herself (and her friends) in danger. One of those friends is Ad – who George enlists to help her check out the evidence and run her own investigation. Between them they’re often a few steps ahead of the Police and end up feeding information to van den Bergen. The story hurtles along at a breakneck pace as George and Ad track their suspects across Holland and Germany, and it seems sure that they’ll soon have the killer. But George is hiding a secret past, and as the ghosts of her past come back to haunt her, she realizes she’s going to need all her street smarts to foil the killer and keep her friends, and herself, alive. A nail-biting, seat-of-your-pants read – The Girl Who Wouldn’t Die is a great read for those who love action thrillers and fabulous introduction to a great new series.

You can find out more about Marnie Riches and her books by hopping over to www.marnieriches.com and following her on Twitter @Marnie_Riches




“Claymore Straker is trying to forget a violent past. Working as an oil company engineer in the wilds of Yemen, he is hijacked at gunpoint by Islamic terrorists. Clay has a choice: help uncover the cause of a mysterious sickness afflicting the village of Al Urush, close to the company’s processing facility, or watch Abdulkader, his driver and close friend, die. As the country descends into civil war and village children start dying, Clay finds himself caught up in a ruthless struggle between opposing armies, controllers of the country’s oil wealth, Yemen’s shadowy secret service, and rival terrorist factions. As Clay scrambles to keep his friend alive, he meets Rania, a troubled journalist. Together, they try to uncover the truth about Al Urush. But nothing in this ancient, unforgiving place is what it seems. Accused of a murder he did not commit, put on the CIA’s most-wanted list, Clay must come to terms with his past and confront the powerful forces that want him dead.”

This epic story is a spell binding read. Highly atmospheric, it feels grounded in the Yemen landscape, with the tension of a country on the brink of civil war sparking from every page. Rugged and resourceful, Claymore ‘Clay’ Straker has an incredible personal journey from “company man”, there to do a job – no more, no less – to smooth the way with the local people and get the oil company closer to their profit targets, into a dynamic eco-warrior, determined to get to the truth of what’s really causing the children in Al Urush to become so sick, and to put a stop to it – whatever the personal cost.

THE ABRUPT PHYSICS OF DYING is a thought provoking and heart wrenching book. It exposes the horrors some are willing to inflict in pursuit of riches, it shows the lengths others will go to in order to stop them, and it highlights the scars and wounds left both in the earth and on flesh as a consequence. This emotive subject, combined with fabulous writing, a great cast of characters, and a super-fast pace makes it a must read thriller and a stunning debut.

To find out more head to the Orenda Books website at www.orendabooks.co.uk/paul-e-hardisty and follow Paul on Twitter @Hardisty_Paul


I LET YOU GO by Clare Mackintosh


“In a split second, Jenna Gray’s world descends into a nightmare. Her only hope of moving on is to walk away from everything she knows to start afresh. Desperate to escape, Jenna moves to a remote cottage on the Welsh coast, but she is haunted by her fears, her grief and her memories of a cruel November night that changed her life forever. Slowly, Jenna begins to glimpse the potential for happiness in her future. But her past is about to catch up with her, and the consequences will be devastating …”

Opening with a hit-and-run incident which leaves a five-year-old boy dead, this hard-hitting psychological thriller grabs you by the heart and keeps you captive until the very last page.

Jenna has left everything behind to make a new life for herself in Wales. At first she stays inside the remote cottage she’s rented, not engaging with the community, and reliving the horror she’s been through, unable to see a way through her grief. But as the months pass, she gradually begins to forge tentative relationships and starts to believe that perhaps it is possible to continue living. That’s the moment the past catches up with her with terrifying consequences.

Meanwhile, Detective Inspector Ray Stevens hasn’t given up on getting justice for the little boy killed in the hit-and-run. Although his superior officers have told him to move onto other cases, and his wife is getting increasingly irritated by his lack of support in helping resolve the problems their son is having at school, he continues to work the case supported by Kate, the newest Detective Constable in his team. As his home life becomes tenser, and the case remains a mystery, Ray and Kate get increasingly closer as they spend more and more time investigating the details in secret.

With brilliantly drawn characters, and a hard-hitting emotional core to the story, this is a truly gripping novel. From the hauntingly atmospheric winter at a Welsh seaside town, to the claustrophobic terror of Jenna’s inner demons, and the tenacious determination of Ray and Kate to bring justice to a case no matter how long it might take, this is a thought-provoking book. Beautifully written, and with a twist that will have you gasping out loud (it did me!) I Let You Go is an utterly compulsive read, and one that will stay with you long after you’ve read the final page.

You can find out more about Clare Mackintosh by hopping over to her website at http://claremackintosh.com/ and following her on Twitter @claremackint0sh







It’s that time of year again when everyone starts issuing their best books of the year lists, and I’m going to add my two-pennyworth through two ‘top reads’ lists – one for crime novels and one for thrillers.

Today is crime day, and I’ve picked my favourite books from the many fantastic crime novels I’ve read over the course of the year. It’s been hard, but I’ve managed to whittle the list down to my ten favourites.

So here they are, told in no particular order – quite frankly, it’s been difficult enough to get to ten, let alone rank them!


THE SILENT ROOM by Mari Hannah


“One Fugitive. A deadly conspiracy. No rules. A security van sets off for Durham prison, a disgraced Special Branch officer in the back. It never arrives. En route it is hijacked by armed men, the prisoner sprung. Suspended from duty on suspicion of aiding and abetting the audacious escape of his former boss, Detective Sergeant Matthew Ryan is locked out of the manhunt. Desperate to preserve his career and prove his innocence, he backs off. But when the official investigation falls apart, under surveillance and with his life in danger, Ryan goes dark, enlisting others in his quest to discover the truth. When the trail leads to the suspicious death of a Norwegian national, Ryan uncovers an international conspiracy that has claimed the lives of many.”

This standalone crime novel from Mari Hannah has a great cast of characters and I was quickly drawn into their world through the narrative. DS Matthew Ryan is a highly compelling character – he’s determined, driven and, as events take a tragic twist, uses his moment of vulnerability and personal grief as fuel to continue his investigation. The combination of Ryan and O’Neil (from Professional Standards), both looking for answers but coming from different sides of the investigative coin, makes for a great dynamic and the scenes they share have a real zing of electricity.

Gritty, authentic and utterly engrossing, The Silent Room is a real seat-of-your-pants read from the dramatic opening through to the explosive ending.

To find out more about Mari Hannah and her books hop over to her website here and follow her on Twitter @mariwriter





“When a man is found beaten to death in a local Manchester park, Detective Constable Sam Parker is one of the investigating officers. Sam swiftly identifies the victim, but what at first looks like an open-and-shut case quickly starts to unravel when he realises that the victim’s fingerprints were found on a knife at another crime scene, a month earlier. Meanwhile, Sam’s brother, Joe – a criminal defence lawyer in the city – comes face to face with a man whose very presence sends shockwaves through his life. Joe must confront the demons of his past as he struggles to come to terms with the darkness that this man represents. Before long, Joe and Sam are in way over their heads, both sucked into a terrifying game of cat-and-mouse that threatens to change their lives for ever …”

THE DOMINO KILLER is the third instalment of Neil White’s Parker brothers series and it fully delivers on pulse-pounding tension, twists, and page-turning action with the perfect balance between procedural detail and high intensity action. There’s a real immediacy to the writing and a chilling sense of jeopardy right from the outset that carries all the way through the book to the show-stopping finale. As the story develops, and the brothers’ cases become increasingly intertwined, the tension rises ever higher – making this one of those books that has you reading well into the early hours, desperate for sleep but unable to resist reading just one more chapter.

But this book isn’t just about the action. There’s a real emotion kick too, delivered as the brothers get closer to identifying the man who was responsible for their sister’s murder back when they were teenagers. As the stakes ramp up, they are forced to decide just how far they’re willing to go in order to get justice – putting their careers, their friendships, their families, and their lives on the line. Utterly authentic and captivatingly compelling, this story grabs you by the throat and keeps you pinned right from the first page to the last.

To find out more about Neil White check out his website at www.neilwhite.net and follow him on Twitter @neilwhite1965


HEARTBREAKER by Tania Carver


“After years of abuse, Gemma Adderley has finally found the courage to leave her violent husband. She has taken one debilitating beating too many, endured one esteem-destroying insult too much. Taking her seven-year-old daughter Carly, she leaves the house, determined to salvage what she can of her life. She phones Safe Harbour, a women’s refuge, and they tell her which street corner to wait on and what the car that will pick her up will look like. They tell her the word the driver will use so she know it’s safe to get in. And that’s the last they hear from her. Gemma Adderley’s daughter Carly is found wandering the city streets on her own the next day. Her mother’s mutilated corpse turns up by the canal several weeks later. Her heart has been removed. Detective Inspector Phil Brennan takes on the case, and his wife, psychologist Marina Esposito, is brought in to try and help unlock Carly’s memories of what happened that day. The race is on to solve the case before the Heartbreaker strikes again …”

HEARTBREAKER is the seventh book in the Brennan & Esposito series by Tania Carver. As you’d expect it has a fabulously twisty turny plot, a disturbing set of crimes at its core, and a tough emotional struggle for the two lead characters that threatens to destroy both their careers and their life together. What I found especially chilling in this book is the way the killer selects their victims – targeting vulnerable women who have made the decision to seek refuge. Somehow the killer is gaining access to confidential information in real time, and until they are caught every woman seeking sanctuary is a potential victim. Through the storyline, the book looks at domestic violence through the eyes of the perpetrators, the victims, and those working to help the victims, and it doesn’t hold back from showing a violent and brutal truth.

Gritty and compelling HEARTBREAKER is a tense and suspenseful page-turner of a read.

You can find out more about Tania Carver (aka crime writer Martyn Waites’ alter ego) over on www.martynwaites.com and follow Martyn on Twitter @MartynWaites


THE DEFENCE by Steve Cavanagh

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“Eddie Flynn used to be a con artist. Then he became a lawyer. Turned out the two weren’t that different. It’s been over a year since Eddie Flynn vowed never to set foot in a courtroom again. But now he doesn’t have a choice. Olek Volchek, the infamous head of the Russian mafia in New York, has strapped a bomb to Eddie’s back and kidnapped his ten-year-old daughter, Amy. Eddie only has forty-eight hours to defend Volchek in an impossible murder trial – and win – if he wants to save his daughter. Under the scrutiny of the media and the FBI, Eddie must use his razor-sharp wit and every con-artist trick in the book to defend his ‘client’ and ensure Amy’s safety. With the timer on his back ticking away, can Eddie convince the jury of the impossible? Lose this case and he loses everything.”

THE DEFENCE is a fabulous legal thriller. Eddie Flynn – con artist turned lawyer – is haunted by the last case he took to trial. He’s turned his back on the legal profession, taken up drinking and become estranged from his wife and child. Things seem pretty bad, but as the reader discovers from the very start of The Defence, things are about to get much, much worse for Eddie Flynn.

With his daughter abducted, and a bomb strapped to his own body, Eddie is forced to represent Olek Volchek – a man he has no doubt is guilty of murder. In order to buy enough time to figure a way out of the terrifying situation he’s in, Eddie has to draw on all his skills – both legal and criminal – and his friends on both sides of the law, as he gambles against increasingly higher risks in his attempt to get his daughter safe. Smart, courageous and driven by the need to protect his young daughter, Eddie makes for a dynamic character – and someone you can really root for. This rapid-paced, page turner of a legal thriller has bucket-loads of action and piles of sky-soaring tension.

To find out more about Steve Cavanagh hop over to his website at www.stevecavanaghbooks.com and follow him on Twitter @SSCav


BLACK WOOD by SJI Holliday

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“Something happened to Claire and Jo in Black Wood: something that left Claire paralysed and Jo with deep mental scars. But with Claire suffering memory loss and no evidence to be found, nobody believes Jo’s story.

Twenty-three years later, a familiar face walks into the bookshop where Jo works, dredging up painful memories and rekindling her desire for vengeance. And at the same time, Sergeant Davie Gray is investigating a balaclava-clad man who is attacking women on a disused railway, shocking the sleepy village of Banktoun.

But what is the connection between Jo’s visitor and the masked man? To catch the assailant, and to give Jo her long-awaited justice, Gray must unravel a tangled web of past secrets, broken friendship and tainted love. But can he crack the case before Jo finds herself with blood on her hands?”

Banktoun might at first appear to be a small, quaint village with a low crime rate that leaves Sergeant Davie Gray wishing for a bit more police work, but scratch the surface and the secrets simmering just below the surface soon start to threaten the uneasy peace. When a spate of attacks by a balaclava wearing man jolt the villagers from their usual calm, tensions start to rise and after a visitor from the past makes an appearance at the local bookstore where Jo works it’s not long before she begins to unravel. With the flood of memories and questions arising from that fateful day in the woods over twenty years ago threatening to overwhelm her, Jo decides to try and uncover what really happened all those years ago to her and Claire.

Jo is an unpredictable, and at times unreliable, narrator who makes for an interesting and flawed heroine. Sergeant Davie Gray is an altogether more solid and reliable narrator, and as such is the perfect counterbalance to Jo. From the small village location, to the cast of engaging and interesting characters, many of whom seemed to be hiding something, I found BLACK WOOD a really ‘moreish’ read. I loved the twists and turns, and – although I’m usually pretty good at figuring out who did it – this book had me guessing to the end. It also features some pretty creepy masks!

Find out more about debut author SJI Holliday over on her blog at www.sjihollidayblog.wordpress.com and follow her on Twitter @SJIHolliday


SNOWBLIND by Ragnar Jónasson

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“Siglufjörđur: an idyllically quiet fishing village in Northern Iceland, where no one locks their doors – accessible only via a small mountain tunnel. Ari Thór Arason: a rookie policeman on his first posting, far from his girlfriend in Reykjavik – with a past that he’s unable to leave behind. When a young woman is found lying half-naked in the snow, bleeding and unconscious, and a highly esteemed, elderly writer falls to his death in the local theatre, Ari is dragged straight into the heart of a community where he can trust no one, and secrets and lies are a way of life. An avalanche and unremitting snowstorms close the mountain pass, and the 24-hour darkness threatens to push Ari over the edge, as curtains begin to twitch, and his investigation becomes increasingly complex, chilling and personal. Past plays tag with the present and the claustrophobic tension mounts, while Ari is thrust ever deeper into his own darkness – blinded by the snow, and with a killer on the loose.”

Ari Thór Arason relocates to the remote costal village of Siglufjörđur to take up his first job in the police. He’s thorough and tenacious, keen to learn and enthusiastic to do a good job in a community where no one locks their doors and the crime rate is virtually zero – until now. When the seemingly accidental death of an elderly writer is followed by what seems to be a vicious attack on a young woman the community is thrown into chaos – is a killer among them? And how, in a place where everyone knows everyone’s business, can there be no witnesses? Determined to get to the truth, Ari presses for answers, and as he does Siglufjörđur is covered in ever deepening snow – becoming cut off from the rest of the country and trapping the inhabitants together. As darkness descends, and Ari takes increasing risks to lure out the killer, the claustrophobic suspense ramps up to the max.

Snowblind uses its stunningly beautiful yet brutally remote setting to create a chilling, atmospheric locked room mystery. It’s a fantastic read with great writing, engaging characters and an expertly crafted plot filled with twists, turns and slight of hand. Ragnar Jónasson is an outstanding new voice in Nordic Noir, and Snowblind is the first in what promises to be a fabulous new series.

To find out more about Snowblind and Ragnar Jónasson visit www.orendabooks.co.uk/book/snow-blind. You can follow Ragnar on Twitter @ragnarjo and translator Quentin Bates @graskeggur




“Social media stars Chloe Morrison and Joe Hooper seem to have it all – until their bodies are found following an anonymous phone call to their high-profile agent. Tied and bound to chairs facing each other, their violent deaths cause a media scrum to descend on Liverpool, with DI David Murphy and DS Laura Rossi assigned to the case.

Murphy is dismissive, but the media pressure intensified when another couple is found in the same manner as the first. Only this time the killer has left a message. A link to a private video on the internet, and the words ‘Nothing stays secret’. It quickly becomes clear that more people will die; that the killer believes secrets and lies within relationships should have deadly consequences …”

This third book in the Murphy and Rossi series is a real page-turner of a read. The strong sense of place and vivid descriptions bring Liverpool to life, and Murphy and Rossi make for a great crime-solving duo.

The story brings into sharp focus how the media, and social media, feed into and off violent crime, and how the amount of media coverage, and the way individuals are portrayed, is dependent on the perceived value of that person and their death to ratings and circulation figures.

BLOODSTREAM is a dark, gritty and disturbingly sinister police procedural that I found utterly unputdownable.

Learn more about Luca Veste at www.lucaveste.com and follow him on Twitter @lucaveste


TELL NO TALES by Eva Dolan

TELL NO TALES cover image

TELL NO TALES cover image

“The car that ploughs into the bus stop early one morning leaves a trail of death and destruction behind it. DS Ferreira and DI Zigic are called in from the Peterborough Hate Crimes Unit to handle the investigation but with another major case on their hands, one with disturbing Neo-Nazi overtones, they are relieved when there seems to be an obvious suspect. But the case isn’t that simple and with tensions erupting in the town, leading to more violence, the media are soon hounding them for answers.

Ferreira believes that local politician Richard Stotton, head of a recently established ring-wing party, must be involved somehow. Journalists have been quick to acclaim Stotton, with his Brazilian wife and RAF career, as a serious contender for a major political career, despite his extremist views, but is his party a cover for something far more dangerous?”

TELL NO TALES is the second book in the DS Ferreira and DI Zigic series. In it, Ferreira and Zigic are assigned to investigate the hit and run, but what at first seems a fairly straightforward case soon turns out to be far more complex than they’d originally thought. Alongside the hit and run, they’re still struggling to find suspects in a chain of recent murders. The brutal, racially motivated attacks have already claimed two victims, but Zigic’s boss wants the motive for the murders downplayed. The attackers are well prepared and ruthless, beating their victims to death and even playing up to the CCTV cameras they know are filming them. But even with video and forensic evidence, the detectives are no closer to identifying the killers. And things are going to get worse, a lot worse, before they get more leads. With tensions rising, and violence escalating, the two investigations begin to blur, and Ferreira and Zigic find their skills, and their resolve, tested to their very limits.

As in the first book, Ferreira and Zigic make a great duo, with Ferreira’s bold ‘tell it as it is’ attitude perfectly off set by Zigic’s more steady, measured, but no less determined approach. As the investigation progresses they deal with the challenges and try to cope with the shocking brutality of the cases in their own individual ways, but despite their differences, and Ferreira’s reservations about the additional officers assigned to Hate Crimes to support them, they work well together to unravel the complex and interwoven connections that have led to these extreme acts of violence taking place in the town.

A compelling story, beautifully crafted, TELL NO TALES has tension crackling off every page.

To learn more about Eva Dolan hop over to her author page at www.randomhouse.co.uk/authors/eva-dolan and follow her on Twitter @eva_dolan


STASI CHILD by David Young


“East Berlin, 1975: Questions are dangerous. Answers can kill. When murder squad head Oberleutnant Karin Müller is called to investigate a teenage girl’s body found riddled with bullets at the foot of the Berlin Wall, she imagines she’s seen it all before. But when she arrives she realises this is a death like no other: it seems the girl was trying to escape – but from the West.

Müller is a member of the People’s Police, but in East Germany her power only stretches so far. The Stasi want her to discover the identity of the girl, but assure her the case is otherwise closed – and strongly discourage her asking questions. The evidence doesn’t add up, and it soon becomes clear that the crime scene has been staged, the girl’s features mutilated. But this is not a regime that tolerates a curious mind, and Müller doesn’t realise that the trail she’s following will lead her dangerously close to home.

The previous summer, on Rügen Island off the Baltic Coast, two desperate teenage girls conspire to escape the physical and sexual abuse of the young workhouse they call home. Forced to assemble furniture packs for the West, the girls live out a monotonous, painful and hopeless life. Stowing away in the very furniture they are forced to make, the girls arrived in Hamburg. But their celebrations are short-lived as they discover there is a price on freedom in the DDR …”

STASI CHILD is David Young’s debut novel and the first in the Oberleutnant Karin Müller series. Striving for justice whatever the cost is second nature to Müller. She’s a determined, strong and courageous detective, following the evidence and questioning anomalies even when warned off by some very powerful and threatening people. Defying instructions, she leads her team to find the truth hidden beneath the propaganda and cover-ups. But despite her hard-line stance in her job, in her personal life her relationships are imploding and as she juggles the conflict at home with an increasingly tense situation at work, it’s not long before Müller herself could be in danger.

Set in our chillingly authentic recent-past, this pacey page-turner of a police procedural is filled with fear, power struggles and intrigue making it one hell of a debut novel.

To find out more about David Young follow him on Twitter @djy_writer


TIME OF DEATH by Mark Billingham

Time of Death cover image

“The Missing: Two schoolgirls are abducted in the small, dying Warwickshire town of Polesford, driving a knife into the heart of the community where police officer Helen Weeks grew up, and from which she long escaped. But this is a place full of secrets, where dangerous truths lie buried.

The Accused: When it’s splashed all over the press that family man Stephen Bates has been arrested, Helen and her partner Tom Thorne head to the flooded town to support Bates’ wife – an old school friend of Helen’s – who is living under siege with two teenage children and convinced of her husband’s innocence.

The Dead: As residents and media bay for Bates’ blood, a decomposing body is found. The police believe that they have their murderer in custody, but one man believes otherwise. With a girl still missing, Thorne sets himself on a collision course with local police, townsfolk – and a merciless killer.”

TIME OF DEATH, the latest book in Mark Billingham’s Tom Thorne series, takes Tom out of his usual city surroundings on a visit to the countryside for a romantic break with his partner Helen Weeks. But it doesn’t stay a relaxing holiday for long. When Helen recognises the wife of the man accused of the abduction of two schoolgirls from a small Warwickshire community, their holiday is cut short as they head to Polesford for Helen to support her old school friend.

Taking Thorne out of his London comfort zone is genius move. He hates the countryside, especially the thought of antiquing and walking, so he starts his own (unofficial) investigation. This forces him to embrace everything the area has to throw at him – floods, pigs, a lot of characterful locals, and the kind of claustrophobic environment where everyone knows each other’s business. Being the outsider, and not officially involved in the case, he’s able to follow his instincts unchecked, and starts to find he’s actually rather enjoying his holiday. He even manages to entice his friend, and talented Pathologist, Phil Hendricks, out from the city to help him. They still haven’t really spoken about what happened on Bardsey Island (in the previous book The Bones Beneath) and the personal cost to Phil (and Thorne) that resulted, but their friendship is a strong as ever and their banter is, as always, a joy to read.

TIME OF DEATH is filled with mystery and intrigue from the abduction case Tom is investigating, it also layers on a growing sense of unease that coming back to the place she grew up has unearthed some deeply buried secrets that Helen has kept well hidden.

Masterfully written, this is another fabulous instalment in what I think is the best police procedural series around today.

Learn more about Mark Billingham by checking out his website at www.markbillingham.com and follow him on Twitter @MarkBillingham


So there they are – my top crime reads of 2015.

Pop back next week to see my top thriller reads of the year.






CTG Reviews: SOLOMON CREED by Simon Toyne


What the blurb says: “A plane crash in the Arizona desert. An explosion that sets the world on fire. A damning pact to hide an appalling secret. And one man bound to expose the truth. He is Solomon Creed. No one knows what he is capable of. Not even him.

When Solomon Creed flees the burning wreckage of a plane in the Arizona desert, seconds before an explosion that sets the world alight, he is acting on instinct alone. He has no memory of his past, and no idea what his future holds. Running towards a nearby town, one name fires in his mind – James Coronado. Somehow, Solomon knows he must save this man. But how do you save a man who is already dead?”

Highly atmospheric, this cinematic literary thriller plunges the reader deep into the Arizona desert and a town seeped in the blood of a violent history that has continued to haunt it into the present day.

The historical storyline telling of the town’s origins weaves between chapters of the present day mystery which poses the questions: why did the plane crash in the desert? Who was on it? Who caused the crash? Why is Solomon Creed there? And just who is he?

Solomon Creed is an intriguing character – a man with no memory of the past but an instinct for survival and escape. The present day storyline follows his journey as he struggles to uncover just who is he and why he’s ended up in this small town in the desert. And as he seeks the truth about himself, he begins to uncover a web of lies, secrets and hidden treasure dating back to the very inception of the town.

Played out against an epic backdrop, SOLOMON CREED is an atmospheric, intense and complex mystery, perfect for fans of both historical and contemporary literary thrillers.


To find out more about Simon Toyne pop over to his website at  www.simontoyne.net and follow him on Twitter @simontoyne

And to check out SOLOMON CREED on Amazon click here

[With thanks to Harper Fiction for my copy of SOLOMON CREED]


Guest Post: Why I Love ‘Jaws’ and ‘Alien’ (Learning storytelling from the masters) by V.M. Giambanco


Today I’m handing over the reins of the CTG blog to crime writer V.M. Giambanco who’s talking about how she learnt storytelling from the masters …

Telling stories is a dizzying business. When an idea begins to find its legs and pulls the writer into unknown territory with a wink and a shove, it is always possible to see that energy on paper, the sheer joy that went into the construction of that story.

If someone is interested in writing – let alone crime fiction writing, which lives and dies in the layering of action, information and resolution – it is crucial to understand and relish how stories come together.

I have always been intrigued by storytelling and before I wrote ‘The Gift Of Darkness’, the first book in the Alice Madison series, I worked for many years in film editing and was involved in all kinds of projects, from romantic comedies to Mafia thrillers and Bollywood-style musicals, and I have always been keen to see how different elements fit together – or perhaps how they don’t fit together at all. Yes, I’ve been involved in some pretty awful pictures too.

These are some of my favourite examples of storytelling and any aspiring crime-writer could do a lot worse than look at these different films, take them apart and put them back together. They might not necessarily be crime-related but some particular elements make them relevant and significant.

‘Jaws’ and ‘Alien’are masterpieces in the building of suspense around an unseen enemy who takes innocent lives – a kind of serial killer, if you will, and that’s definitely a familiar type of device in crime fiction.

Both films have unusual heroes: the first, a cop who is afraid of water; the second, a woman pushed into leadership by extreme circumstances. The tone of the stories is very different: ‘Jaws’ has a lighter atmosphere with humour and moments of comedy while ‘Alien’ is relentlessly grim, and even in the early parts of the film – when all the characters are still alive – there is the constant, claustrophobic feeling that they are surrounded by an environment that is just waiting to kill them. Outer space after all is the ultimate psychopath: fascinating and lethal.

Two small gems in terms of building tension are the scene when Dallas (Tom Skerritt) is looking for the xenomorph in the air-ducts in ‘Alien’ and the scene when Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss) reacts to viewing the remains of the first victim in ‘Jaws’.

By the way, we never see those remains: instead we are left with the impression of something so awful, so upsetting that even a capable scientist like Hooper is left choking and gasping for a glass of water. Both films are cunning in the art of withholding information and letting us imagine the worst – believe it or not, the Alien was on screen for less than four minutes in total; second for second it was better value than Hannibal Lecter in ‘The Silence Of The Lambs’ who’s on screen for just under sixteen minutes.

Point in question, when Ridley Scott was casting the part of Brett he told Harry Dean Stanton that ‘Alien’ was ‘Ten Little Indians’ in space. Stanton took the part and was rewarded with an unforgettable scene.

It is a well-known fact that Steven Spielberg took ‘Jaws’, written by Peter Benchley, and re-worked it extensively: gone are the sub-plots about the affair between Hooper and Ellen Brody (the hero-cop’s wife) and about the Mayor involvement with the Mafia.

The story in the film is utterly streamlined but it manages to create fully shaded characters using quiet scenes in the middle of the inexorable hunt – moments like Brody at dinner with his son and Quint telling the story of the USS Indianapolis, a ship in WW2 which sank after delivering the nuclear bomb and whose crew was mostly killed by sharks in open water.

The skill of the writers (Peter Benchley and Carl Gottlieb) and the director is that they give us unflagging pace and yet we have characters that feel real, not just a jumble of clichés waiting for the next set piece.

There are a number of devices in the ending of ‘Alien’ – like failing to abort the self-destruct sequence and the reappearance of the ‘villain’ when all seems safe – however Ridley Scott was at the top of his game and even those clichés miraculously work in a nerve-racking last few minutes.

After all these years I still love ‘Jaws’ and ‘Alien’ because they grab me by the lapels and keep me hooked, and that’s what great storytelling does, whatever the medium. Crime fiction should definitely grab you by the lapels and give you a good shake – the shark is optional.

Huge thanks to V.M. Giambanco for stopping by the CTG blog today and talking to us about how she has learnt from the masters.

The third book in her Alice Madison series – BLOOD AND BONE – is out now. Here’s the blurb: “After two years in the Seattle Police Department, Detective Alice Madison has finally found the kind of personal and professional peace she has never known before.

When a local burglary escalates into a horrific murder, Madison is put in charge of the investigation. She finds herself tracking a killer who may have haunted the city for years – and whose brutality is the stuff of myth in high security prisons.

As she delves deeper into the case, Madison learns that the widow of one of the victims is being stalked – is the killer poised to strike again? But then her own past comes under scrutiny from enemies close to home, and Madison’s position on the force – and the fate of the case itself – are suddenly thrown in jeopardy.”

To find out more about V.M. Giambanco and her books hop over to her website at www.vmgiambanco.com and follow her on Twitter @vm_giambanco 

And you can buy BLOOD AND BONE from Amazon by following this link