Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

The Mother-In-Law – Sally Hepworth

Psychological Thriller
4*s

There is possibly no relationship more prone to problems than that between daughter-in-law and mother-in-law so perhaps the fact that the unexpected death of Diana, the matriarch of a wealthy family, brings that relationship under examination.

The story is set in the author’s home territory of Australia, near Melbourne although she has lived around the world. Diana is a woman who expects a lot from her two children Oliver and Antoinette, not least that they don’t depend on their parents for money to fund their adult lives. This is unsurprising since Diana’s work is with women’s health, specifically that of migrants who have travelled across the world with nothing to secure their futures and are pregnant in their new home and in need of support. The lives of her two children who have been given every advantage perhaps don’t qualify for the same level of support.

On the whole I found this an intriguing read, more women’s fiction perhaps than genuine mystery although how Diana died is the central plot. We learn about Lucy, Oliver’s wife and the way her relationship with Diana was forged through the past sections of the novel, the present sections are relating to the investigation into Diana’s death and the reactions of those who were part of her life at the time. I felt that one of the book’s biggest strengths is that it illustrates how the early relationship between Lucy and Diana grew around the early misunderstandings and resentments between the pair. The holding onto stories that illustrate a character trait are huge in any family where harmony is hard to come by, and the story of the necklace lent to Lucy on her wedding day symbolises how it is very hard to switch onto the right foot once something has become a matter of a grudge in the form of a tale held up for examination at key points of stress.

As a reader my point of view on all the characters also matured as we read more about the past with the author being brave enough to challenge some conventional wisdom through using one or more of her characters as a mouthpiece. It is no secret that I’m fond of books that make me challenge my own views and it is easy to think that there is no place in commercial fiction for that kind of improvement; I disagree and so it would seem does Sally Hepworth. Overall though we are lucky enough to have an author who understands that her task is to entertain the readers, and that is done in spades. I said earlier that this struck me perhaps more as women’s fiction than a thriller but, the author does keep the suspense alive until the end. I definitely found this to be quite an addictive read as I needed to know whether my suspicions were correct and although perhaps some of the lesser characters could have been a little bit more rounded, the central ones will probably stay with me for quite some time.

Thank you to Hodder & Stoughton who allowed me to read a copy of The Mother-In-Law; this unbiased review is my thanks to them, and the author Sally Hepworth for a thoroughly entertaining read.

First Published UK: 23 April 2019
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
No of Pages: 368
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read, Five Star Reads

No Way Out – Cara Hunter

Crime Fiction – Series
5*s

Having been blown away with the quality of the first two books featuring DI Adam Fawley I had high expectations of this, the third in this series set in Oxford. The expectations were completely met in this topical thriller.

The crime this time is arson, a particularly brutal means of killing and in this the victims appear to be a young boy Zachary Esmond who has been killed in his home in North Oxford. His elder brother Matty is desperately ill in hospital and their academic father and mother are nowhere to be found. Family annihilation is suspected but only time will tell if the facts fit the theory. First job is to find Michael Esmond and find out if he has deliberately sought to wipe his family off the earth and that is Adam Fawley’s job.

I particularly enjoy the style of Cara Hunter’s writing. All her crime fiction books have been pacey with the main story told in the first person present tense while the reader is treated to news extracts and on-line comments at regular intervals throughout. In this book we are provided with the storyline on what led to the fire, a story covering the best part of a year. The investigation is rapid and a master in police procedural while the on-line excerpts keep the storyline feeling exceptionally current given how most of us digest the news these days and I enjoy having a flavour of the crime being investigated alongside some more generic local news from the Oxford area.

The plotting was, as always, superb. The author manages to provide the reader with a whole host of red herrings without giving this reader the feeling that it is simply a complex puzzle to be solved. I need to feel the potential suspects are there because that’s how the investigation has unfolded rather than they are being conjured up just for the story’s sake.

One of the things I enjoy about this police procedural series is that the team get along with each other. There is little in the way of politics and they provide the reader with a solid team that although aren’t devoid of personality, this isn’t the defining part of the story. I will admit I often like the forays into personal lives of our detectives but I have to admire those writers who manage to keep the investigation itself in the frame through any personal ups and downs the team may encounter. Cara Hunter’s writing falls into the latter camp.

Of course in crime fiction it isn’t just the detectives that need to keep you entertained, we also need to feel something for the victims, the potential perpetrators and all the witnesses that we meet along the way. Cara Hunter has a real knack for bringing the whole cast together with a lightness of touch that certainly kept me turning the pages as the book worked its way towards an accomplished finale.

I’d like to say a huge thank you to the publishers Penguin Books UK who allowed me to read a copy of No Way Out which was an enormous honour. I’ve already put the fourth in the series (due out in December 2019) onto my wishlist.

Previous Books in the DI Fawley Series
Close to Home
In the Dark

First Published UK: 22 March 2019
Publisher: Penguin Books Uk
No of Pages: 367
Genre: Crime Fiction – Series
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

The Guilty Party – Mel McGrath

Psychological Thriller
3*s

I am a complete sucker for a book featuring a good moral dilemma and The Guilty Party fits the bill completely! The question is, how guilty are you if you witness a crime but do nothing? One of the things that appeals about these types of books is that it makes me think – not only what would I do but also whether or not the actions of the characters reflect society.

A group of four university friends go to a music festival, in the spirit of keeping their friendship alive into their thirties. They are totally wrapped up in their own lives. When they leave the music behind they witness a man following a woman down a dark alley way – they try to look the other way but it appears a violent sexual assault takes place. The four do nothing. Having met them none of them seem particularly nice people but I did find it shocking that out of the four only Cassie seemed to feel any overt guilt when a body is found, drowned. The suspicion being this was the victim of the crime they witnessed. It is interesting that the characters are youngish but not ‘young’ and so this links with my wondering if this does in fact reflect the actions of a generation, or has the author created a pessimistic viewpoint.

The book is set fairly soon after the main event and each of the four characters reveal more about themselves, and their friendship. I found that these revelations about the characters to be if anything more disturbing than their lack of compassion for a fellow human. I was left feeling that the ties that bind the four together should have been severed years before, or better still not allowed to flourish in the first place.

The plotting was great as was the characterisation although with so many unpleasant characters, particularly of a ‘type’ meant that I was perhaps less engaged than I would normally be whilst reading. The dilemma at the book’s heart had me thinking though and although this certainly isn’t the first book that has explored this subject matter I felt the back story to the group of friends added an extra dimension.

So while this was a frankly uncomfortable read at times, I absolutely needed to find out more and that after all is the mark of a good writer.

I’d was incredibly fortunate in that HQ for allowed me to read a copy of The Guilty Party and this unbiased review is my thanks to them, and the author, for an intriguing and thought-provoking read.

First Published UK: 7 March 2019
Publisher: HQ
No of Pages: 384
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

The Neighbour – Fiona Cummins

Crime Fiction
4*s

The Neighbour is one creepy novel that even though it confused, and I’ll be honest frustrated me at first, kept me gripped so that I had to keep on reading until I was able to put all the pieces of the puzzle in their place.

The Lockwood family move into their new house 25 The Avenue in Essex in the woodland behind the house a body has been discovered, the fifth in recent times. Not the best omen for a new house I think we can all agree? Garrick and Olivia and their two children have moved into the house due to some difficulties of their own so they have no option but to stick it out through the media interest and local speculation. Garrick’s conviction that the murderer will soon be found soon seems to feel a bit optimistic to say the least.

The bodies themselves have been found with painted faces and the media have named the killer the dollmaker, something that the police are keen to discourage, especially as there is a toymaker living in the area. With everyone under suspicion and the killer close at hand the links between the victims has to be made in order to work out who it is.

I have to hand it to Fiona Cummins because she won me over. The initial total confusion I felt at the different time lines and multiple voices soon evened out into a more cohesive plot, but I did need to stick with it.

Fortunately for the reader, the police presence is led by DCI Clive Mackie, and the team includes the likeable detective, Wildeve Stanton. She is the one who I bonded with as she worked tirelessly hunting the murderer even though she is grieving after a very recent loss. For once the detective’s personal problems isn’t code for any flaky activity, Wildeve is a sensible woman not given to flights of fancy or bending the rules out of shape. With the DCI facing being pulled from the investigation the tension in the police joins that of the inhabitants of the Avenue.

The setting is very atmospheric, the story did give me the creeps which is fairly unusual for me – it takes a lot to scare me but the thought of Olivia living in amongst all of this suspicion not only about the murderer but within her own house too. With different secrets hiding behind all the doors within the Avenue it seems like everyone has something to hide, something to lose and lies to tell. This just served to make the book feel all the more claustrophobic.

I have to admire Fiona Cummins skill in both plotting such a complex thriller. That combined with the skilful writing made the reading of the book a fairly edgy experience.

I’d like to say a huge thank you to the publishers Pan Macmillan for allowing me to read an ARC of The Neighbour which was published on 4 April 2019.

First Published UK: 4 April 2019
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
No of Pages: 416
Genre: Crime Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read, Five Star Reads

Cruel Acts – Jane Casey

Crime Fiction – Series
5*s

Maeve Kerrigan is my kind of protagonist and so I was absolutely thrilled to see that she was back and I’m pleased to say my high levels of anticipation were fully met.

When double murderer Leo Stone is freed because of irregularities with the jury process. Superintendent Godley tasks Maeve Kerrigan and Detective Inspector Josh Derwent to re-examine the evidence, and quickly, to ensure that the case against him is absolutely watertight – the thought of such a dangerous man being allowed to roam free is completely repellent to the hardworking officers. Maeve is quick to alight on another potential victim of Leo Stone but before she has time to devote too much attention in that direction there is another killing similar to those Leo Stone was convicted of. Could it be that the team are investigating a miscarriage of justice after all?

I love this series so much because in part, the characterisation is superb. Maeve is a strong, tenacious and capable officer who knows her own mind and that alone is very appealing. The fact that she is a bit standoffish with her colleagues only serves to endear her to me even more as she is often quietly funny in her dealings with them. But her role is backed up by a whole host of old friends from the previous books. I’m particularly enjoying watching Maeve’s slightly tense relationship with the younger officer Georgia while slipping into a slightly easier relationship with Josh in this episode. Although we have some of the back story of Maeve’s life outside the police this perhaps doesn’t have as much room in this episode as it has done so previously, but fear not there is enough to keep things interesting…

It doesn’t matter how good the characters are in crime fiction if there isn’t a jolly good mystery to be solved and once again Jane Casey far from disappoints. This is a fairly complex investigation given that we know who the key suspect is, the time-line, the forensics and pretty much everything in between, or do we? This is the beauty of the plotting one bit of information can turn everything on its head and unfortunately there are multiple strands to be teased out and worked individually before the team can be certain what happened to the poor women that crossed the path of a murderer.

With engaging writing to finish the triad for the pinnacle of success in crime fiction, Jane Casey reminded me she really is one of the best of the new generation. While the storyline featuring serial killers are nothing new, she manages to keep it feeling fresh with her sharp observational writing that all too easily conjures up the desperate need to catch a killer that must infiltrate such a major investigation in real life.

A most satisfactory read finishing with a solid resolution – I do hope Maeve is back soon.

I’d like to say a huge thank you to the publishers HarperCollins UK who allowed me to read an advance copy of Cruel Acts ahead of publication on 18 April 2019.

The Maeve Kerrigan Series in Order

The Burning
The Reckoning
The Last Girl
The Stranger You Know
The Kill
After The Fire
Let the Dead Speak

First Published UK: 18 April 2019
Publisher: HarperCollins UK
No of Pages: 400
Genre: Crime Fiction – Series
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

Before She Knew Him – Peter Swanson

Crime Fiction
4*s

Often us booklovers are drawn to compare notes on the kinds of characters we like with broadly speaking divisions, those characters we like, we’d be happy to have them as friends, and those that you actively dislike. I’ve, in my more contemplative moments wondered why I am so happy to read about unlikeable characters, and I’ve decided that the authors who create these to populate their books tend to have other dynamics going on that make the likeableness of the character a bonus rather than a hinderance.

In Before She Knew Him there are unlikeable characters and to make things even harder the author has created a world, like he has in his previous novels, that is unlikely to exist but just likely enough to make the fiction only too believable.

Hen (short for Henrietta) Mazur and her husband Lloyd have recently moved house to a small suburb in Boston. They love their new house, they’ve left behind what appears to have been a few bad memories and Hen is now following her artistic path as an illustrator in the new neighbourhood. Their neighbours Mira and Matthew invite them for a dinner party. Hen, who has suffered with her mental health isn’t keen but Lloyd wants them to get out and mix. So they go and in one of those weird coincidences that occur in real life as well as novels, Hen makes a connection between Matthew and a victim of a murder who lived close to them in their previous home. What are the chances?

The book then takes on what could be a farcical turn, but doesn’t quite. Hen convinced that Matthew is in fact hiding some huge dark secret does what anyone would do in such a situation. Yes, she chooses to stalk her neighbour, whilst of course keeping this a secret from her husband, who is likely to worry far too much that she needs to go back to the doctor and have her medication altered.

In between this we see things from Matthew’s point of view. The only thing he is hiding from his wife is the visits his brother Richard makes to the house when Mira is out of town working. Mira has to travel a great deal for her work and Richard visits in her absence because she actively dislikes him – not surprisingly as we read excerpts from his thoughts, I’m sure most readers would decide to put him on the ‘not a friend pile!’

So all in all, exactly what you’d expect from a book by Peter Swanson. A bunch of weird characters, some less likeable than others followed by a somewhat bizarre scenario which is all rescued by some brash actions putting various people in danger of being discovered, followed and perhaps, given this is crime fiction, killed! And it was brilliantly pulled off. I didn’t want to put the book down, so engaged was I with what in the hands of a lesser writer would easily have been thrown against the ‘don’t be ridiculous’ wall.

I’d like to thank the publishers Faber and Faber who allowed me to read the experience that Before She Knew Him which will be published on 5 March 2019.

First Published UK: 5 March 2019
Publisher: Faber & Faber
No of Pages: 320
Genre: Crime Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Previous Books by Peter Swanson

The Girl with a Clock for a Heart
The Kind Worth Killing
Her Every Fear
All the Beautiful Lies

 

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read, Five Star Reads

The Secretary – Renée Knight

Psychological Thriller
5*s

I was a huge fan of Renée Knight’s debut novel Disclaimer and so I had that inevitable mixture of excitement and conscious lowering of expectations as I approached this, the author’s second book. I didn’t need to have a moment of worry, I loved it.

This is a claustrophobic book which is mainly set within the mind of the titular secretary, Christina Butcher. Christina was employed by Mina Appleton as a secretary, almost on a whim, back in the day before personal assistants became de rigour, but essentially that is exactly what Christina was. She wasn’t just employed to help Mina with the family business, a supermarket, she was there to interview the nannies for her children, by the gifts for everyone and anyone, and be on call day and night to do Mina’s bidding.

You might imagine that Christina is a single woman free to devote her time and energy to her role for eighteen years but not so, as Christina tells us her story, we find that she was happily married with a young daughter.

This is exactly the type of psychological thriller I most enjoy, it isn’t a fast moving sweeping and swooping novel, instead it is a study of a relationship albeit one between two women in a business environment, just think given the nature of the work, how many dynamite pieces of information both personal and work-related that Christina has picked up over the years. We also get to see just what Christina has given, and sacrificed, in order to appease her whip-cracking boss.

Neither woman is particularly likeable, if you need to like at least one of the lead characters you probably won’t enjoy this book quite as much as I did. However, both came across as real, in fact, one of the aspects I particularly appreciated was how realistic this book felt. As I mentioned Mina is in the supermarket business and this strand of the storyline isn’t glossed over, we hear and witness some meetings with farmers, and we can easily compare the ethics with those we have read about with the national supermarkets. All interesting and giving every appearance as being researched and not just plonked into the book as a pet cause.

As the book develops there are several minor storylines featuring more sympathetic characters and these build towards what is an absolutely explosive ending. So although the book is what could be called a slow burn, for me it didn’t feel long enough – I was left knowing that we’d exhausted every avenue so I wasn’t left longing for me from that perspective, but having been so caught up within the storyline I was sad to say goodbye.

I’m sure the ending will divide readers, and for this reason alone I would definitely recommend The Secretary as a book club read, but I wasn’t disappointed by it as I enjoyed the sentiment and felt it was entirely in keeping with all that came before.

I’d like to say a huge thank you to Random House UK for allowing me to read a copy of The Secretary before it is published today, 21 February 2019. This unbiased review is my thanks to them and to Renée Knight for a completely addictive read.

First Published UK: 21 February 2019
Publisher: Random House UK
No of Pages: 304
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read, Five Star Reads

Dead Memories – Angela Marsons

Crime Fiction
5*s

Wow! Just for a change I’m going to start this review by saying how much I love this crime fiction series and its chief protagonist DI Kim Stone. I gave the very first book in the series, Silent Scream, the full five stars when I read it in 2015 – sadly despite the subsequent books being even better – five stars is the maximum. Angela Marsons has truly surpassed herself with Dead Memories, the tenth book in the series.

The scene opens on the notorious Hollytree housing estate, specifically the fourth floor of Chaucer House which just happens to be a few floors below where Kim Stone was found next to her dead twin, handcuffed to a radiator. Can it be a coincidence that today two youngsters have been found handcuffed to a radiator? Let’s face it, it’s going to be a no!

This series is firmly wedded to its setting in the Black Country and many of the books take in the Hollytree housing estate with Chaucer House being designated the block which is the roughest of them all, at some point. But this book gets to the heart of Kim Stone’s life. With Bryant, Stacey and Penn, at her side she is going to have to confront some of the many traumas that she has met in life being recreated for someone’s sick game. But that won’t be easy because spiky Kim doesn’t want to share those details with anyone, let alone her colleagues!  Because of the basis in the crimes being committed it was a more traumatic read than most and one that made me realise quite how fond of the detective I have become. Yes, I know its fiction, but when I was reading, it was as real as anything else!

I’ve mentioned in my many reviews of crime fiction series of how much I like meeting up with old friends, in this case the small team that Kim Stone is part of. Angela Marsons has managed her reader’s expectations and interest levels very well on this score with different team members playing larger roles in some of the books and in this episode we have a return of the Alison Lowe a profiler who has been brought on board to keep an eye on Kim herself. This gives a satisfying and fresh injection into the characters and their interactions.

As always the plotting is faultless and although I’d gauge the crimes committed at the top end of my personal gore rating, the black humour that runs through the books means that what could be an unrelenting book of horror doesn’t have that overall feel at all. This really is the mark of a writer who knows her craft and injects a small dollop of humour at the right moment, never inappropriately, to keep the reader engaged but not depressed.

With an enterprising killer at work we also get a full insight into those traumatic incidents in Kim’s life, from the first moment of being left to die next to her twin Mickey to the more recent tragic fatality of a close colleague. So with each murder we get a double whammy of concern for the victims and their families in the present and a second-hand one for Kim, which only served to make me enjoy her company even more.

If you haven’t read this series, start now – they are fantastic but to my mind, you need to read them in order. This the tenth is absolute the cherry on the crime fiction cake!

I’d like to say a huge thank you to Bookouture for allowing me to read a copy of Dead Memories before it is published on 22 February 2019. This unbiased review is my thanks to them and Angela Marsons for another brilliant episode in the Kim Stone series.

First Published UK: 22 February 2019
Publisher: Bookouture
No of Pages: 459
Genre: Crime Fiction – Series
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Previous Books featuring Kim Stone
Silent Scream
Evil Games
Lost Girls
Play Dead
Blood Lines
Dead Souls
Broken Bones
Dying Truth
Fatal Promise

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read, Five Star Reads

The Shape of Lies – Rachel Abbott #BlogTour


Crime Fiction
5*s

 

I’m going to start by saying I’m a huge fan of Rachel Abbott’s writing and of Tom Douglas in particular. This series of books set in Manchester is now up to number eight. Now there will be some book-lovers who will say, ‘the series is already too far through, I can’t start now!’ I disagree (although don’t tell the author) as although I have read these books, eagerly, in order, the stories are all unique and so although we have DCI Tom Douglas to lead the way through the mysteries, he doesn’t have a huge back story to keep track of and therefore I am certain that these books would all work really well as standalone reads. Of course once you’ve read one you may well need to catch up on the rest but that’s a book lover’s problem for another day, right?

As with all crime fiction you probably don’t want me to spend too much time rehashing the synopsis so instead I am going to talk about why I enjoy this series so much with a few hints along the way to let you know what The Shape of Lies has in store for you.

I like books where even though my life is (thankfully) far more boring than the chief protagonist, Anna Franklyn, I could put myself in her shoes with no problem at all. We’ve all listened to variations of the cheesy radio shows where people ring in with tales of lost loves… in this version called ‘The One That Got Away’ well how would you feel if one day it seemed to be your story? What’s worse the man Scott is threatening to tell all, and the thing is he’s dead! I tell you I read this part and could feel the hairs on the back of my neck raise, and at that point I had no idea quite what Anna had to fear.

Books that have a moral dilemma, something to make me think about what I would do in the same situation, or more prosaically at what point in a relationship do you come clean about some of those big things in the past, always get me thinking, and I like thinking whilst I read.

There is a lot made these days of crime fiction being full of twists and turns and while I’m not sure I set as much store on this aspect as the marketing bods seem to think I should, I can’t deny there is a certain amount of pleasure in being surprised. Rachel Abbott always surprises me. The entire premise of this book takes a look at an aspect of crime that hasn’t been covered in any of the previous books by this author, and it isn’t one of those that comes up frequently in crime fiction either.

In amongst the lies, deceit and quite frankly odd coincidences that are unsurprisingly preoccupying Anna as she tries so desperately hard to keep a lid on things at home in front of her stay at home husband and two small children, DCI Tom Douglas and DI Becky Robinson have two murders to solve… oh yes, this is crime fiction at its most complex.

But one of the key things after the basics of plot and pacing is the characterisation. Now I don’t need to like the character, after all they are created to be judged, aren’t they? I wasn’t a huge fan of Anna’s but I think she was pitched perfectly. Professionally she is extremely capable, a headteacher of an Academy, respected by staff and children alike but she has another side, one that doesn’t seem to have moved on all that far from the days when she was in a relationship with Scott and she lives caught between the stories she’s told so often that she almost believes them herself. As my mother would have quoted ‘What a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive’

In short this is a book that had me gripped! It is a great author that leads you to the edge of the story and then immerses you in a world you never really knew existed.  My poor emotions  see-sawed as the revelations made me re-evaluate what I knew to that point. This is not a book to start if you don’t have time to finish it!

I’d like to say a huge thank you to Rachel and Maura for providing me with an advance review copy of The Shape of Lies and allowing me to marvel at Tom Douglas once more. This unbiased review is my thank you to them.

First Published UK: 12 February 2019
Publisher: Black Dot Publishing Ltd
No of Pages: 339
Genre: Crime Fiction – Series
Amazon UK
Amazon US

 

The Rachel Abbott DCI Tom Douglas Books in order:

Only The Innocent
The Back Road
Sleep Tight
Stranger Child
Nowhere Child (Novella)
Kill Me Again
The Sixth Window
Come a Little Closer

Psychological Thriller

And So it Begins

 

About Rachel Abbott

Author of one of 2018’s Times crime books of the year, Rachel Abbott, the UK’s no.1 bestselling independent author, proves once again why she is ‘the queen of psychological thrillers’ with an intense and compelling examination of the toxic impact of lies, deception and guilt.

Rachel Abbott, born and raised in Manchester, founded her own interactive media company in the 1980s, before selling it and retiring in 2005. She then moved to Italy where she worked on the renovation of a 15th century Italian monastery, and it was here that, one day, she found herself snowed in and decided to begin writing for pleasure. This became her debut novel, Only The Innocent, which she went on to publish via Kindle Direct Publishing, topping their chart for 4 weeks.

A true self-publishing pioneer, The Shape of Lies is Abbott’s ninth novel. She splits her time between Alderney in the Channel Islands and Italy.

Rachel Abbott is available for interview and to write articles.

http://www.rachel-abbott.com • @RachelAbbott • http://www.facebook.com/RachelAbbott1Writer

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

The Cromwell Street Murders – John Bennett

Non Fiction
4*s

I don’t read much in the way of more recent true crime but the one exception is those horrific murders carried out by Fred and Rose West. These murders were committed in Gloucester, the largest city to where I spent the latter part of my childhood and where I moved to when I first left home. I already lived in Jersey and was heavily pregnant when in 1994 the garden at 25 Cromwell Street was dug up to reveal the bones of young women.

In the intervening years there have been many books written and I thought I had read them all. Somehow I missed this one, from the perspective of Detective Superintendent John Bennett QPM, the officer in charge of the investigation.

This is an interesting read which takes us behind the scenes and gives some context to what the police knew, in contrast to what the media were able to reveal, and what information they were seeking. John Bennett also works hard to bring the victims and their families to the fore of the investigation, to give them the respect they were so cruelly deprived off when they met their fate at Fred and Rose West’s hands.

Although of course the book doesn’t avoid the murders it certainly doesn’t dwell unnecessarily on them. Instead we have a reconstruction of the house which once stripped of the lurid tabloid details is revealed to be far smaller than might be expected pretty much laying to rest any idea that horrific murders could occur without other adult residents being aware of the fact.

The book is well structured starting with the lead detective giving his recollection of how and why steps were taken to question Fred West further over his missing daughter Heather. The days that followed which included the key revelations made by Fred are all laid out in chronological detail.
Although the book hinges on the crimes of two utterly depraved individuals what it does best is show the reader how a murder investigation really is run. Some parts are devoted to gathering evidence the exact nature of the bagging for forensic purposes, the managing of the media, the questioning of witnesses and of course the horrendous job of talking to potential victim’s families. When you consider that this relatively small police force was handling one of the biggest murder investigations of the British Isles it gives you some idea of the sheer complexity of the task in hand.

John Bennett attempts to be candid about those officers he feels didn’t perform as he would have expected and you get the feeling that there was more on that score that could have been said. This along with tales of family occasions missed and touching tributes to his patient wife while providing some semblance of context became to my mind a little overblown by the time we’d heard various examples. I can’t be the only reader who was shocked at his wife’s reaction during Rose’s trial, particularly as we’d been told that he never discussed any details at home.

This book was definitely informative and in the main incredibly readable and provided me with another viewpoint of this huge murder investigation.

First Published UK: 2005
Publisher: The History Press
No of Pages: 528
Genre: Non-Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US