Nine Elms by Robert Bryndza

Robert Bryndza burst onto the crime-writing scene a few years back with his excellent Erika Foster series, which I thoroughly enjoy. It was with great excitement then that I picked up this first book in a new series, featuring police officer, Kate Marshall.

Kate was a high-flying young police woman who, after sleeping with her superior, also catches a sought-after serial killer – the Nine Elms murderer. Instead of being rewarded for her efforts, she leaves the force in disgrace. The story begins fifteen years later as Kate, now a mother and a criminology lecturer, is living a quiet life by the coast, teaching keen students and interacting with her brilliant research assistant, Tristan Harper.

When she’s approached by distraught parents with a missing daughter, Caitlyn, essentially a cold case that the police never took seriously but which the parents believe is connected to the Nine Elms murders, she reluctantly takes it on. In the meantime, a Nine Elms copycat killer has emerged and the body count is growing. Against her will, Kate finds herself doing private investigating with Tristan, not only to try and resolve what happened to Caitlyn, but learn what she can about this mimic killer, a killer who is getting too close to Kate and her son, Jake, for comfort.

This novel opens in a strong and brutal manner (which is Bryndza’s style), grasping the reader by the collar and not letting go for a while. After this knockout beginning, the book slows a little as we’re introduced to Kate and invited to peel back the various layers that make the person she is now. Likewise, her professional and personal environment are described and explored, setting the groundwork for the character and future stories. But before long the pace builds again to breakneck speed as past and present collide. Well-written, tightly plotted and with great characters, this is a fabulous introduction to a great new series.

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Fair Warning by Michael Connelly

You know when you pick up a Michael Connelly book you’re about to hugely entertained by a tight, gritty plot, intense characters, high-octane moments and a realistic setting. Fair Warning, the third book in his Jack McEvoy series, ticks all those boxes and then some.

Jack is a reporter with a long-from investigative paper that usually focusses on softer issues that everyday readers find interesting. But when a woman he had a one-night stand with twelve months earlier is found brutally murdered, he’s not only pulled into the investigation, but determines to uncover the culprit.

What Jack does find leaves him not only under suspicion for the crime he’s also seeking to solve, but on the brink of uncovering a serial killer who’s been on the loose for years and with a (growing) body count that makes even Jack and his associates baulk. As Jack gets closer to finding out the killer’s identity, so too the murderer is getting closer to Jack. Is breaking news worth risking your life for?

Connelly has done it again with an edge of the seat read that plunges the reader into some very dark corners before hauling us out again, giving us a good ol’ shake and then setting us upon another shadowy, dangerous path. Replete with characters who always act in ways that make sense – whether it’s in relation to who they are, their personal relationships, their job, laws, rules etc (too many crime books ask readers to suspend their disbelief just a bit too much – Connelly, I find, is never guilty of that particular sin but always works within the logic of the world he evokes) – possess flaws, egos and big hearts as well as dire intentions, this is another sensational read.

I read this over a couple of days staying up way too late to finish it and then regretted it when I did! Same old, same old with a Connelly book… now I have to wait impatiently until the next one is out.

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Enmity (DI Munro and DS West #3) by Pete Brassett

Another easy read featuring Scottish curmudgeon (with a heart and ethics) DI Munro and his forever hungry side-kick and pseudo-daughter (or that’s how it seems) DS West. Enmity, book number 3 in the series, sees DI Munro travelling with DS West to Ayr to solve the murder of a former colleague’s daughter. When more bodies turn up and it appears that someone innocent is being framed, all Munro and West’s skills and that of the team at their disposal are required. But when one of the team doesn’t want to co-operate and, worse, falls under suspicion, it seems the murderer is closer to home than anyone thought.

These books are great when you want to read a crime book that isn’t too complex, contains central characters who are likeable and clearly drawn (if somewhat stereotypical) and a setting you enjoy. Clichéd at times, with a tendency to include “Scottish” words randomly, much can be forgiven for the effortlessness of the read – even when you guess, “whodunit” part of the pleasure is discovering how the author concludes the case.

A good series.

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Gallery of the Dead by Chris Carter

Firstly, I want to thank the publishers and Net Galley for providing me an ARC of this gripping novel.

This is the first book by Chris Carter I have read, though it is the 9th in the DI Robert Hunter series. This didn’t matter as it was easy to plunge into and get a sense of the central characters, especially Hunter who, according to everyone who knows and works with him is an intellectual force to be reckoned with. Heading up the Ultra Violent Crimes Unit within the LAPD, Hunter and his partner, Carlos Garcia, think they have seen everything. That is until a gruesome discovery alters their assessment.

Not only is the body brutally disfigured, the room in which it is found is presented in such a way that it sets off alarm bells, not only in Hunter but, when more bodies are discovered, also violently dispatched and with a specific signature, the FBI as well. Joining forces, the LAPD and FBI are working against time and a strange and deadly psychopathy. They are also working against each other and must learn to put aside internal tensions and prevent the serial killer from striking again. But it’s not just the killer with a big ego and personalities and personal lives soon become intertwined with shocking consequences.

I mostly enjoyed this book and the characters. While the murders were gruesome, the rationale behind them was explained, and the narrative progressed steadily, building tension. However, two things bothered me in relation to character. The first was the main character Hunter. It felt as if the reader was continually being told, through other characters, how amazingly brilliant the man was, rather than being shown. That one of his colleagues makes the first major break-through in the investigation also undermines his apparent cleverness and people’s desire to impress him. I found that aspect a little frustrating and even rolled my eyes once! Apart from that, he was a fascinating character who, perhaps, is explored and explained in earlier books and that was one disadvantage of reading the ninth book in the series and would explain why these reminders of his intelligence and likeability kept appearing.

The other character that really got up my nose was the female FBI agent, whose name I appear to have forgotten already. Why the woman had to be the one to grandstand, rile and rub people up the wrong way and be such a pain in the arse (almost a caricature), I am not sure. I understand that in pop culture (and maybe even real life) enmity between the police and FBI is legendary, but surely, when a psychopath is on the loose, it’s time for the professionals to be just that: professional. Not for this woman agent. Some of her actions and comments were so OTT and I wondered how her partner could stand working with her let alone have genuine feelings. She was a silly cow much of the time. This also went some way to undermining the final chapters of the book and what happens. It was hard to have sympathy for someone who hadn’t been a good colleague, took offense at just about everything and went out of her way to aggravate people throughout most of the investigation.

Looking briefly at other reviews, no one else has passed comment on this, so maybe it’s just me. I have no issue with women being pariahs and pains, but again, it was so at odds with the loyalty and affection she commanded, what others said about her, I just felt the latter didn’t ring true. Again, the reader was being told not shown – though in this instance what we were told (by other characters) was the opposite of what we were shown. Actions were speaking louder and contradicting words.

Overall, however, I thought this was a really entertaining read – one which, despite a couple of minor misgivings, I really enjoyed.

 

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She by Pete Brassett

The briefly titled She is the first book I have read by Pete Brassett and it’s also the first in a crime series (Di Munro and DS West). As an introduction – to ongoing characters and their partnership – it serves the reader well. Detective Inspector Munro is an experienced cop and Scotsman who doesn’t suffer fools and enjoys taking those new to his team under his wing, albeit in a particular way. It would be easy to believe the man had been a teacher in a former life as everything becomes a lesson which demonstrates his superior knowledge and ability – often at the expense of those with less time on the force. In this book, the person on the receiving end of most of his lessons in policing is Detective Sergeant West. Coming across from financial crimes, it appears she has a lot to learn and that Munroe is just the fellow to teach her, especially when it seems they have a very gruesome serial killer on the loose – a woman, no less – the “She” of the title.

Written in alternating viewpoints, from someone very familiar with the suspect as well as in the third person when the crimes are being investigating, it makes for engaging reading – most of the time. At other times, I found it a little clichéd: the old, grumpy male cop with young, enthusiastic female partner who not only seemed to make some basic errors of judgement, but relishes the experience and wisdom of her older counterpart. For someone who reached the rank of Sergeant, I found West’s naiveté and sometimes stupidity a little hard to swallow and felt there were sexist overtones in her portrayal which rankled. Still, you do end up feeling very fond of DI Munroe as his intentions are not to humiliate but genuinely improve his colleague’s performance and as West grows into her role, you invest in her as well.

Enough to ensure I purchased the next book in the series.

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