A Room Full of Killers by Michael Wood

5 stars from me (can I give it 6?)

This book hits you hard from page 1 and simply does not stop.

A Room Full of Killers is sheer brilliance; Michael Wood has excelled himself with not only his characterisation of DCI Darke but also the base elements of humanity, the melancholy that resides within us all and a simply brilliant story.

I think if I were a detective I’d be like Matilda, single, relentless and living in a house filled with books – although you may have to swap the treadmill for a couple of cats. That’s what makes her so fabulous, so tangible, it’s her realness, her flaws and her fallibleness that all make her so believable. She truly is the perfect heroine, and if I were ever wrongly convicted I would like it to be her who looked into my case.

The characters in this book – from the main stayers to those in the sidelines – all come to life within the pages and all of them are real and solid. I can totally see this series being televised and I cannot wait to see who plays Matilda.

As ever, Michael Wood plays homage to some of the crime thriller greats and I love this ‘nod’ to his peers and contemporaries.

As well as being a cracking crime thriller, A Room Full of Killers takes on some pretty weighty issues. Is a killer born or created? Is it nature or nurture? Can you ever truly atone and repent? Should we – society – allow killers to obtain a first class education from within prison, allowing them a potentially brighter future than someone who went through the mill of a comprehensive education? Is it right for a killer to be given a new life and a fresh slate – how well do you ever know anyone?

Although I am sure this would make for a great standalone, I urge you to begin with the first in the series For Reasons Unknown so that you have some history that will add depth and resonance to A Room Full of Killers.

So, thank you Michael Wood for this series which I am enjoying immensely and for bringing DCI Matilda Darke and her team into my life. Sometimes, just sometimes, I could almost forgive you for not being that keen on cats.

 

Synopsis: ‘DCI Matilda Darke is the perfect heroine’ Elly Griffiths

The third book in Michael Wood’s darkly compelling crime series featuring DCI Matilda Darke. Perfect for fans of Stuart MacBride, Mark Billingham and Val McDermid.

Eight killers. One house. And the almost perfect murder…

Feared by the people of Sheffield, Starling House is home to some of Britain’s deadliest teenagers, still too young for prison. Now the building’s latest arrival, Ryan Asher, has been found brutally murdered – stabbed twelve times, left in a pool of blood.

When DCI Matilda Darke and her team investigate, they uncover the secrets of a house tainted by evil. Kate Moloney, the prison’s manager, is falling apart, the security system has been sabotaged, and neither the staff nor the inmates can be trusted.

There’s only one person Matilda believes is innocent, and he’s facing prison for the rest of his life. With time running out, she must solve the unsolvable to save a young man from his fate. And find a murderer in a house full of killers…

 

Outside Looking In by Michael Wood

5 Stars from me!

I am already utterly in love with Michael Wood‘s writing style. I find it incredibly comfortable in a way that I can only liken to picking up a new Peter James DS Roy Grace novel.

DCI Matilda Darke is wonderful. She has the perfect mix of misery and compassion, her own bag of issues and demons that she carries around with her and yet a warmth and compassion bested only by her desire to protect and serve.

Outside Looking In is a simple yet complex tale and, although it stands up on it’s own merits, I would urge you to read For Reasons Unknown first so that you have the back story which is cleverly woven throughout Outside Looking In.

I raced through this book, feeling every shred of Matilda’s pain for her emotional loss and the enormous weight of responsibility she bears for past cases. She is tangible within these pages, a real, credible and believable character. I can picture her and her house and I hope that one day this series will be televised.

Although I said I find Michael’s writing comfortable, please do not think this is a fluffy tale – quite the opposite, it is gritty, raw and fast paced with a descriptive brilliance which brings horror to life and pulls no punches. The storyline throughout Outside Looking In is proper grim and takes the reader on a winding roller coaster before reaching its conclusion.

One other thing I really enjoyed was the continual referencing to other crime thrillers – most of which I have read and loved – I thank Jonathan Harkness for his gift.

I am greatly looking forward to A Room Full of Killers, which sits waiting patiently upon my kindle.

 

Synopsis: The second book in Michael Wood’s darkly compelling new crime series featuring DCI Matilda Darke. Perfect for fans of Stuart MacBride, Mark Billingham and Val McDermid.

When elderly George Rainsford goes to investigate a suspicious noise one night, the last thing he expects to find is a bloodbath. A man has been killed and a woman brutally beaten, left for dead. The victims are Lois Craven and Kevin Hardaker – both married, but not to each other. Their spouses swear they knew nothing of the affair and, besides, they both have alibis for the attack. With nothing else to link the victims, the investigation hits a dead end.

The pressure is on for investigating officer, DCI Matilda Darke: there’s a violent killer on the loose, and it looks like her team members are the new targets. With no leads and no suspects, it’s going to take all Matilda’s wits to catch him, before he strikes again. 

 

Close to Home by Cara Hunter

5 stars from me!

This is a fabulous debut novel from Cara Hunter, I enjoyed it immensely and could easily have devoured it in one sitting if time had permitted!

As well as having a great storyline, I thought Close to Home was such a clever book, covering a wide variety of really quite topical issues.

Great characters throughout, more twists and turns than an oiled up eel and a fast pace – I loved it!

Can’t wait to read more by Cara Hunter.

 

Synopsis: Someone took Daisy Mason. Someone YOU KNOW.

Last night, 8-year-old Daisy Mason disappeared from her parents’ summer party. No one in the quiet suburban street saw anything – or at least that’s what they’re saying. DI Adam Fawley is trying to keep an open mind. But he knows that nine times out of ten, it’s someone the victim knew. That means someone is lying. And that Daisy’s time is running out…

Introducing DI Fawley and his team of Oxford detectives, CLOSE TO HOME is a pulse-pounding race against time and a penetrating examination of what happens to a community when a shocking crime is committed by one of its own.

 

 

The Trespasser by Tana French

5 stars from me!

Wow! What an incredible book.

During a recent trip to Dublin I perused the shelves of the delightful (and award winning) The Gutter Bookshop and The Trespasser was highly recommended. Having now finished it, I can see why!

Now, for a girl like me who is a fan of the fast paced Simon Kernick esque style of writing, I have to confess that the slower pace of Tana French was a bit of a shock to the system. Please don’t mistake ‘slower pace’ for ‘slow’ because it isn’t, it is just told in a more indulgent style – each scene is delivered to you in glorious technicolour, none of the words seem superfluous and at no point was I bored. If anything, this steadier than usual pace made the book feel luxurious as though the author had taken extra time and care to ensure the resulting story was just right.

The Trespasser has a real feel to it, the characters and their personal and working habits all ring true – within these pages are solid, well-defined individuals who live and breath in their own right. The awkwardness, trust, deceit and burgeoning friendships all feel right and segments throughout this book are exceptionally well observed.

The story itself is doled out in manageable pieces, making your brain work as you get swept along and I am delighted to say that it didn’t have a disappointing ending.

I haven’t read any of Tana French’s other books but I will be making a point of adding them to my, ever growing, ‘to be read’ pile.

Synopsis: In The Trespasser being on the Murder squad is nothing like Detective Antoinette Conway dreamed it would be. Her partner, Stephen Moran, is the only person who seems glad she’s there. The rest of her working life is a stream of thankless cases, vicious pranks, and harassment. Antoinette is savagely tough, but she’s getting close to the breaking point.

Their new case looks like yet another by-the-numbers lovers’ quarrel gone bad. Aislinn Murray is blond, pretty, groomed to a shine, and dead in her catalogue-perfect living room, next to a table set for a romantic dinner. There’s nothing unusual about her – except that Antoinette’s seen her somewhere before.

And that her death won’t stay in its neat by-numbers box. Other detectives are trying to push Antoinette and Steve into arresting Aislinn’s boyfriend, fast. There’s a shadowy figure at the end of Antoinette’s road. Aislinn’s friend is hinting that she knew Aislinn was in danger. And everything they find out about Aislinn takes her further from the glossy, passive doll she seemed to be.

Antoinette knows the harassment has turned her paranoid, but she can’t tell just how far gone she is. Is this case another step in the campaign to force her off the squad, or are there darker currents flowing beneath its polished surface?

For Reasons Unknown by Michael Wood

5 stars from me!

I really enjoyed this fabulous debut and am therefore delighted that there are others in the series to get stuck into already! Huge thanks to Michael Wood for his swift work as there are another 3 books to read 🙂

DCI Matilda Darke is a perfect character for our lead role, she fits the bill entirely with a disastrous recent past, disheveled appearance, low self-esteem, alcohol dependancy, loyal colleagues and moments of brilliance peppered throughout a dogged and determined pursuit of the truth.

All of the characters in the story were incredibly well defined and I have to say (in addition to Matilda) I felt a strong connection to Jonathan Harkness. He vividly came alive on the the pages and I couldn’t help but be drawn to this peculiar yet endearing man.

I can’t praise this book enough and if you are a fan of detective crime thrillers which tear along at a cracking pace then you will love this book. I found the story clever (without being pretentiously complex), gripping, fast paced (without cutting corners) and incredibly hard to put down.

I can’t wait to go on to the next books in the series.

Synopsis: Two murders. Twenty years. Now the killer is back for more…

A darkly compelling debut crime novel. The start of a brilliant series, perfect for fans of Stuart MacBride, Val McDermid, and James Oswald.

DCI Matilda Darke has returned to work after a nine month absence. A shadow of her former self, she is tasked with re-opening a cold case: the terrifyingly brutal murders of Miranda and Stefan Harkness. The only witness was their eleven-year-old son, Jonathan, who was too deeply traumatized to speak a word.

Then a dead body is discovered, and the investigation leads back to Matilda’s case. Suddenly the past and present converge, and it seems a killer may have come back for more…

 

The Bone Field by Simon Kernick

5 stars!

I can see lots of people have opted to give this book 4 stars, however, for the sheer pace of it and the fact that I couldn’t put it down, I have to go with 5 stars.

The Bone Field offers some brilliant new characters alongside the much loved DI Ray Mason and PI Tina Boyd; these two are literally made for each other.

I really enjoyed the storyline surrounding the character Ramon, without dropping any spoilers, I would have enjoyed reading more about him and his life.

As you would expect from Kernick, this book moves at breakneck speed, flitting across countries and timelines with careless abandon – all the while tightening the screw of suspense with each and every page.

To be fair, it’s a bit of a no brainer isn’t it, if you liked his previous books then you will love this!

 

Synopsis: From the best-selling author of Stay Alive, The Final Minute and The Witness.

When the bones of a 21-year old woman who went missing without trace in Thailand in 1990, are discovered in the grounds of an old Catholic school in Buckinghamshire, an enduring mystery takes on a whole new twist. Her boyfriend at the time, and the man who reported her missing, Henry Forbes, now a middle-aged university lecturer, comes forward with his lawyer and tells DI Ray Mason of the Met’s Homicide Command that he knows what happened to Kitty, and who killed her.

So begins a hunt for the truth that will focus on a ruthless crime gang, a rich, dysfunctional family with a terrible past, and a highly ambitious man so cruel and ruthless that he must be brought down at any cost…

Killing Kate by Alex Lake

5 stars from me!

Well, first things first, I am now clearly going to have to go and find myself a copy of After Anna by Alex Lake as Killing Kate was so darn good!

My boys bought me this for mother’s day as they know how much I enjoy a good serial killer thriller!

Killing Kate did not disappoint. I was gripped early on and towards the end I was desperately racing through the pages to see what happened next – this is a really well paced, tension building thriller.

I had a few suspects in mind and therefore wasn’t entirely surprise by who the killer was but he did show his hand much earlier than I was expecting. From that moment on the book is roller coaster!

One teeny tiny gripe and POTENTIAL SPOILER so don’t read on if you don’t want to…. There is no way he would have let her have a phone in her hand. Absolutely no way. But, still a whooping 5 stars from me as it really was an entertaining read and I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy of After Anna!

Oh, and, I totally thought it was written by a woman.

 

Synopsis: A serial killer is stalking your home town.

He has a type: all his victims look the same.

And they all look like you.

Kate returns from a post break-up holiday with her girlfriends to news of a serial killer in her home town – and his victims all look like her.

It could, of course, be a simple coincidence.

Or maybe not.

She becomes convinced she is being watched, followed even. Is she next? And could her mild-mannered ex-boyfriend really be a deranged murderer?

Or is the truth something far more sinister?

On Laughton Moor by Lisa Hartley

4 stars from me

It’s a solid 4 stars too, this is a really good debut.

Lisa Hartley has created a set of characters here that I immediately want to know more about. In fact that is probably the major reason I’ve given 4 stars and not 5. (Is that the world’s worst back handed compliment? I’m not sure.)

DS Catherine Bishop is a great leading lady. Very likeable, very tangible. Her love life is a bit of mess and I have to admit to feeling a bit sorry for poor old Louise!

DI Jonathan Knight was the cause of some frustration for me. Great character but didn’t shine as much as I thought he could – and what is his back story? I really want to know! I’m hoping that we might find out more in book 2 – one this is for sure though, I really, really want to read book 2!

Potentially a tiny bit of a spoiler so look away now if you haven’t already read the book…. Another reason for 4/5 stars is that I felt it was left a little unresolved in terms of exactly how the killer had found the victims!

 

Synopsis: Detective Sergeant Catherine Bishop has an enigmatic new boss, DI Jonathan Knight. How he’ll adapt to life in Lincolnshire after years in the Met is anyone’s guess.

When the body of a well known local thug is discovered, an intriguing message found on his battered corpse raises unwelcome questions. Is DS Bishop herself being accused of the grisly murder, or does the message point to a more sinister secret?

As the body count grows higher, Bishop and Knight find themselves in a race against time to discover the identity of a merciless, faceless killer whose motivation is a mystery.

Bones In The Nest by Helen Cadbury

5 stars from me

YES! I am so glad I went on to read book two after reading To Catch A Rabbit by Helen Cadbury and only awarding it 3 stars.

Bones In The Nest is a much more accomplished read. Sean Denton is a far more rounded and developed character and now that he is a PC he is much more convincing in his actions.

In fact there are so many clear, distinct and engaging characters in this book that it is hard to just pick out a few key favourites. Sean is obvious one, Khan too was a great character and I found myself drawn to the troubled Chloe. Just as strong but most unlikable were Sean’s dad and Terry – for me, the jury is STILL out on Lizzie!

The storyline was strong and good to follow, I wanted to know the answers and I wanted to keep reading to see how things panned out. At several points Sean seems to be getting himself into deep water and is then cleverly removed from it. The social aspects of the book are relevant and help to keep it fresh and edgy.

This has all the markings of being a brilliant new detective series and I will be watching with interest to see how it develops; I can’t wait for book three!

Synopsis: The second book in the Sean Denton series. A young woman is trying to rebuild her life after prison, but someone is out there who won’t let her forget what she’s done. Racial tension is bubbling up on the Chasebridge Estate and Sean is drawn back into a web of family and neighbours he’d rather avoid. When a body is found in the stairwell of a block of flats, Sean is right at the heart of the case.

Love You Dead by Peter James

screen-shot-2016-12-28-at-13-50-424 stars from me

Is it so bad that I was routing for the killer a lot of the time?

I loved this different take on a murderer. It wasn’t someone depraved who murders for the fun of it, or someone awful and grubby who murders to cover up a crime or a rape, in Love You Dead by Peter James we have a murder who murders as a means to an end.

It puts a whole new slant on the process. She isn’t aiming to hurt anyone or cause anyone undue pain, she isn’t seeking revenge, she is simply viewing people as a commodity, a disposable commodity, and using them accordingly.

Running through this story is the ongoing tale of Roy and Sandy, finally though in Love You Dead we reach an element of conclusion which has, for me, been a long time coming. There is obviously yet more to unfold from this sub-story but I am glad the main ‘dangling carrot’ has been removed. Without wishing to give spoilers – the bit with the fish lost this book it’s final star in the review!

Overall, exactly what you want from a Peter James novel. Roy Grace is a fabulous character and I feel I could read back to back novels as fast as the author could pen them!

 

Synopsis: An ugly duckling as a child, Jodie Bentley had two dreams in life – to be beautiful and rich. She’s achieved the first, with a little help from a plastic surgeon, and now she’s working hard on the second. Her philosophy on money is simple: you can either earn it or marry it. Marrying is easy, it’s getting rid of the husband afterwards that’s harder, that takes real skill. But hey, practice makes perfect . . .

Detective Superintendent Roy Grace is feeling the pressure from his superiors, his previous case is still giving him sleepless nights, there have been major developments with his missing wife Sandy, and an old adversary is back. But worse than all of this, he now believes a Black Widow is operating in his city. One with a venomous mind . . . and venomous skills. Soon Grace comes to the frightening realization that he may have underestimated just how dangerous this lady is.

Love You Dead is the gripping twelfth book in Peter James’ Roy Grace series.