Down Among The Dead by Damien Boyd


Down Among The Dead by Damien Boyd
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Fern

Somerset’s bloody past meets a dangerous present in this thriller from the bestselling DI Nick Dixon crime series.

When a badly decomposed body is discovered during an archaeological dig on the Sedgemoor battlefield, Avon and Somerset police are notified immediately. The remains are recent, and Detective Chief Inspector Peter Lewis knows exactly who they have found.

A single stab wound from a curved blade implicates convicted serial killer Daniel Parker, who Lewis arrested fifteen years ago.

With Parker’s appeal hearing imminent, Lewis comes under intense pressure to pin this new murder on him quickly and quietly. It’s an open and shut case—and Lewis should know—so why then does he insist on assigning it to DI Nick Dixon?

As Dixon starts to re-examine the original investigation, shocking revelations come in from the forensics team. And just as Dixon’s worst fears begin to surface, another body is found…

Fifteen years ago, DCI Lewis was just an underling who happened to be in the right place at the right time for a major arrest – that of a notorious serial killer. Only, in his gut, Lewis never felt the conviction was right and he hasn’t enjoyed an easy sleep since what he felt might be the wrong man was imprisoned. Now, as a new body is discovered on the very cusp of this prisoner having his appeal heard, there is only one man Lewis can trust to do the investigation right and not bow to any pressure – no matter how high up it comes from.

This is an interesting and enjoyable British police procedural murder mystery. There is a tiny bit of archeology and historical re-enactment that I thoroughly enjoyed, and I thought added well to the plot. I also was glad the author did an excellent job of laying out the groundwork for a few moving parts of the plot including both the victims and police working both in the past and present. I felt this was a well plotted story and it absolutely kept my attention right from the beginning.

I was also pretty relieved that a number of the more regular members of DI Nick Dixon’s team were back in play. The last few books Dixon has been working with a few other divisions and officers and while his regular team has always remained in the background, I was pleased to see the team come back together and I greatly enjoyed the familiarity and smooth way they all meshed back together and worked as a team. I strongly feel this added to the appeal I had for this story. I also was pleased Dixon’s fiancé – and her half-sister – added to the storyline. I was pleased the author seemed to be returning Dixon back to his roots a bit more.

Readers looking for a heavily action base plot or something really fast paced won’t find that here. I definitely felt the investigation moved at a decent clip, but this was solidly a police procedural and smaller town type of murder mystery – no massive car chases or helicopters or movie style of shenanigans here. This was a well written and very well plotted British police mystery and exactly what I was hoping for.

A good story in a great series I definitely enjoy.

Beyond The Point by Damien Boyd


Beyond The Point by Damien Boyd
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Fern

DI Nick Dixon is on the hunt for a vicious serial killer, following a trail of fingerprints and DNA across west Somerset.

When the body of a young woman is found on the building site of a nuclear power station, work grinds to a halt. The body bears all the hallmarks of yet another random murder at the hands of the escaped killer. Then Dixon finds a motive.

Fighting for his place on the Major Investigation Team, he soon uncovers a family’s desperate search for the truth, exposing a web of corruption and death that will shake the billion pound construction project to its very foundations. But who can be trusted when so much money is at stake?

Can Dixon find the killer under intense pressure from the top of government? And can he do it before anyone else has to die?

With a dangerous criminal on the loose there’s no rest for DI Nick Dixon. Despite knowing exactly who they are after, Dixon and his team have had very little success in tracing him this last month. Until the bodies start being uncovered and Dixon finally catches the scent – and he knows his quarry isn’t so far away after all.

I’ve been enjoying this series and while I don’t feel this is one of the author’s strongest books it is a very solid and enjoyable read. The plot is extremely straight forward and while the killer is the same nemesis as the previous book in this series, the author explains everything very well – without those annoying, massive info-dumps – and I feel readers who haven’t read any of the previous installments can still be clear on the plot and enjoy the book.

I do feel that readers looking for a heavily action-based story or something with a deep mystery might not be as pleased with this story as others. The killer is known from the very beginning – though readers wanting a more “who dun it” style of book might start with Dead Lock, the previous book where they do the more traditional mystery solving. But this is more of a police procedural manhunt style of story.

I was impressed though that a lot of the conflict came from within the police force and team themselves – things like the power and political plays between the media and the bureaucracy and the more internal police issues. That was quite a bit of the conflict and tension found in this type of story. I also really appreciated how about halfway in the manhunt started to link around another aspect of the mystery and there was still a puzzle to solve and more traditional mystery case to solve. So that was a really enjoyable aspect to the story as well.

I was pleased both Nick and Jane had a good amount of time together – both working and personal – in this story and I am very happy with how both of their character arcs are coming along. Readers looking for lots of bombs and chase and action might not find this story fits their needs. For a realistic and character driven story with plenty of police procedure and enough questions and tension to push the plot along this was a good story and one I enjoyed.

Dead Lock by Damien Boyd


Dead Lock by Damien Boyd
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Fern

Early on a cold Somerset morning, ten-year-old Alesha Daniels is reported missing by her father, a violent alcoholic. Her mother, a known drug addict, is found unconscious, but it’s her mother’s boyfriend the police are keen to trace.

As the hunt for Alesha gathers pace, a second local girl is taken, plunging another family into the depths of despair.

Cutting short his holiday, DI Nick Dixon races home to join the Major Investigation Team, but no sooner has he identified a network of local suspects than they begin to show up dead.

At odds with his superiors, Dixon is convinced the child abductions are anything but random, but nobody is prepared for the investigation to lead quite so close to home.

Can Dixon and his team crack the case before all the suspects are silenced? And will he find the missing girls before it’s too late?

When a ten-year-old girl goes missing Jane is called back from her weeklong holiday to help assist with the investigation. DI Nick Dixon understands completely, but he’s happy to remain away and get some climbing done. Only then another ten-year-old girl is kidnapped – and this one is the grand-daughter of a dear friend and colleague – so Nick rushes back to help with the investigation.

I found this to be a really interesting British police procedural style of mystery. I’ve been enjoying this series but was really pleased the story pretty much stands very well on its own. While the friendships and working relationships between Nick, Jane and a number of the close team members all has the weight of their shared history – the plot and story itself stands very well on its own merits and I strongly feel no prior knowledge of any of the books is needed to thoroughly enjoy this story.

While it’s clear from the outset that the two disappearances of the young girls are linked, I felt it an excellent bit of writing the few twists and turns that unfolded as the cases were more thoroughly investigated. I was well past the halfway mark of the book itself before I started to grasp exactly what was going on and even though I was wrong on a few points I felt the author did a good job giving enough insight that the reader could clue in on much of it as Nick and the other detectives pieced everything together. Then watching it all properly unfold was a real pleasure.

Readers of traditional mysteries should find this a well written and solidly plotted story. I have been greatly enjoying these books and am eagerly looking forward to more. Recommended.

Heads Or Tails by Damien Boyd


Heads Or Tails by Damien Boyd
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Fern

A man has been mutilated and left to drown on the incoming tide, handcuffed in his van. With the murder bearing a striking resemblance to a string of sadistic killings carried out with surgical precision in 1990s gangland Manchester, it can mean only one thing: the killer is back.

Transferred to the Major Investigation Team, DI Nick Dixon is assigned a new partner and sent to Manchester. Meanwhile, the gruesome murders in Somerset continue.

Convinced of a connection with the unsolved gangland killings, and with the odds stacked against him, Dixon takes the ultimate gamble, determined to bring the killer to justice before it’s too late.

But is it the same killer? If so, why has he resurfaced now? And how many more must die?

DI Nick Dixon is transferred temporarily over to the Major Investigations Team when a mutilated man is left to drown inside his van, handcuffed as the tide comes in. The case has eerie similarities to a spate of murders carried out back in the 1990s. When another murder quickly follows Nick needs to uncover what’s really going on before more people die.

I enjoyed this British police procedural story. While Nick still had some support from his regular police team and the usual characters in this series, I strongly feel this book can be picked up and read by itself. Many of the usual characters are in the background and the murder plotline is definitely well contained in this story. Readers who have no prior knowledge of the other characters can easily follow along I feel and there’s none of that usual weight of history and previous ties or cases here. This would be a good story to read to discover if you like the author’s style and tone and then decide if you wanted to go back to the beginning of the series and join along.

I also really thought the plot was well handled. There were a few red herrings and enough threads to keep my interest and I didn’t guess what was going on too early in the book. Even when I (and the characters) began to piece together what was happening there were still enough questions and tension to maintain my interest and I thoroughly enjoyed the book in its entirety. This is certainly more of a police procedural style of story – not an action/adventure book that’s just go-go-go, but I greatly enjoyed the mystery and putting the pieces together.

Readers who enjoy a more classic who-dun-it style of mystery should find this an excellent book that is easily picked up and well worth a try.

Death Sentence by Damien Boyd


Death Sentence by Damien Boyd
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Fern

The body of an elderly man is found in an abandoned World War Two pillbox beside the Bridgwater and Taunton Canal. With no obvious motive and no credible suspect, DI Nick Dixon starts digging into the victim’s past.

The more he digs, the deeper Dixon is drawn into a case that takes him from the cave systems beneath rural Somerset to the heart of government, and threatens to expose a military cover-up at the highest level.

Blocked by a wall of silence, Dixon must unravel a dangerous conspiracy before the killer strikes again.

When the body of a Veteran is found in a World War Two pillbox DI Nick Dixon at first struggles to find any kind of motive that makes sense. But as he and his team peel back the layers the military cover-up and resounding silence that meets them leads Dixon into very dangerous territory.

I have been enjoying this series and really enjoyed this newest addition. I was very pleased that the author kept a series of strong and believable links between what happened in the past and how it was relevant and still effecting people in the present – I feel this kept the book from dwelling too hard on the history and kept it modern and far more relatable.

I also really appreciated how – tempting though it might have been for the author – the story didn’t have many flashbacks to the past. This also really helped me feel like the story was centered and rooted in the present and I was very happy with this. One slight critique would be that there is a short opening scene at the start of the book set in some underground caves and while I thoroughly enjoyed this scene is it not referenced or linked in any way to the rest of the book until well after the halfway mark of the story. Indeed, around the halfway mark I went back to that opening scene and reread it to make sure I hadn’t missed anything as I could not see at all how it related to the rest of the book. It felt like an incredibly long time to not know how it fit in and I really wonder if it needed to be the opening scene – well written and attention grabbing as it was – or if it would have been better served later on in the story.

That said I really enjoyed this British police procedural style of story. I definitely feel readers can pick it up and enjoy it even though it’s part of a series. While some of the secondary characters feel a little thin – more of a support than a standout character – DI Dixon and the main characters are strongly written, and I found thoroughly enjoyable.

An excellent book. Recommended.

Dead Level by Damien Boyd


Dead Level by Damien Boyd
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Fern

In the early hours of Christmas Eve, the wife of parliamentary candidate Tom Perry is brutally murdered in an apparent burglary gone wrong.

With the by-election campaign about to start in earnest, and the festive season in full swing, torrential rain brings with it flood warnings on the Somerset Levels.

Suspended on full pay and transferred to the cold case unit, Detective Inspector Nick Dixon is languishing on the sidelines as the investigation into Elizabeth Perry’s murder unravels and the floodwaters rise.

Returning to duty, Dixon is convinced that the answer lies hidden in Tom Perry’s political life, but why was Elizabeth the target and not her husband? The more Dixon uncovers, the further he is from finding the truth…

DI Nick Dixon is suspended on full pay while a disciplinary action is investigated against him. Working temporarily in the cold case unit he’s grateful just to be kept busy. But when a local parliamentary candidate’s wife is murdered DI Dixon soon finds himself back in action and investigating quite a murky case.

This next installment of the Nick Dixon mystery series is a far longer book than the previous offerings. I enjoyed the fact the plot was equally a fair bit more convoluted and there were a few more moving parts than I recall there being in the previous books. I was surprised that for much of the first quarter or so of the story Nick was suspended and so it was his girlfriend and colleague Jane, and another DI, Janice, who worked the main murder mystery case. While I did enjoy this very different aspect to the story, I wondered a few times what other readers might think of the focus of the story being very much not on Nick as the main character, but very much sitting idly by and not really involved at all.

I was also a bit surprised that Nick’s cold case really took a back seat once he was reinstated and immediately took over the murder of the politician’s wife. At no stage did I think Nick had forgotten about it or that he wouldn’t return to it, but there was a large section of the book where it clearly wasn’t his focus and while I understood this it also didn’t feel very good to me.

That said, I thoroughly enjoyed this strong police procedural story. I enjoyed seeing a few more characters and actually hope to see more of the other DI Janice in later books. The pace of this story is fairly slow – readers looking for a heavily action orientated style of novel won’t find that here – but for more classic British style who-dun-it and police mystery novels should really find this a well written and exceptionally well plotted story. I was also pretty happy that the book stood very well on its own. I don’t believe any of the prior novels in this series need to be read to really enjoy this book.

An interesting and well plotted murder mystery, this is a great book, and I am eager to read the next.

Swansong by Damien Boyd


Swansong by Damien Boyd
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Fern

Isobel Swan, a sixth form student, has been murdered. First, her ring finger is severed, then her throat is cut.

With the investigation going nowhere fast, Detective Inspector Nick Dixon is sent undercover as a trainee teacher into Isobel’s boarding school.

But to find the killer, he must first confront his inner demons and lay to rest the ghosts lurking in his own past. If he can…

As Dixon digs deeper, the stakes have never been higher and a murder has never felt so personal.

DCI Nick Dixon has just returned from a short holiday at Cypres when he’s informed of the murder of a sixth form student. Isobel Swan looks identical to Nick’s high school girlfriend who went missing mysteriously in their lower sixth form year. Nick goes undercover as a teacher at the school and all too soon there’s another murder and everything becomes far more personal and complicated.

This is the fourth novel in the DCI Nick Dixon series, and I’ve been really enjoying these books. While there is a bit of history between Dixon and his colleague/girlfriend Jane and other members of their team, I feel the story can definitely be read as a standalone story. The plot and everything surrounding it including the muddiness created by Dixon’s personal take on the crime is all very well explained and handled and I feel readers should be able to easily pick this up without having read any of the previous installments.

I found this to be very much a police procedural style of mystery novel and while I didn’t think there was anything too unique or fresh about it, I nevertheless found it thoroughly enjoyable. Readers looking for something new or envelope pushing won’t find that here – but for a solid, well plotted and interesting mystery I really feel this book fits the bill. I did wonder a little about how much leeway Dixon was given by his superiors considering his very personal agenda for this murder – to be honest I didn’t find it overly realistic – but I did enjoy the fact that (as a bit of a change) Dixon’s bosses had a lot of faith and confidence in his abilities and were willing to trust him. I find it a bit of a cliché when there’s an overly antagonistic relationship between a detective and his superiors, so it was definitely a nice change to read the other side to this coin.

Readers looking for a solid British based murder mystery novel should absolutely find this as enjoyable as I did. I’m eager to read more by this author and will happily continue with this series.

Kickback by Damien Boyd


Kickback by Damien Boyd
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Fern

A trainee jockey has been kicked to death by an aggressive stallion at the local stables. Deemed an accidental death, the case is closed. But when the jockey’s brother returns from active service, he sparks an armed siege, demanding the investigation be re-opened and the truth uncovered.

Still recovering from the physical and mental scars of his last case, Detective Inspector Nick Dixon is dragged deep into a murky world of betting scams and murder, where people will do anything to keep their secrets. Even if that means silencing a DI who keeps asking the wrong questions about the wrong dead jockey…

When a trainee jockey’s death is found to be accidental, some unusual circumstances force DI Nick Dixon to re-look at the situation. What he finds is not only that the death was clearly murder, but the entire situation at the jockey’s stables is fraught with shady dealings. All too soon Nick and his team are thrust into a dangerous world within the racing community, full of racing scams and murky morals. There are plenty of people happy to muddy their feet to keep their secrets hidden – and won’t quibble who needs to die in order for this to be laid to rest.

This is the third book featuring DI Nick Dixon and I am really enjoying this series. With this book revolving mainly around the racing world – both at the track and some British stables – this reminded me very much of the older, original Dick Francis novels. I started reading those as a teenager and still enjoy them to this very day, so it was a real pleasure to find another author who has written something in a similar vein. A fairly straight cut murder mystery with strong ties of police procedural this book balanced very well some excellent characters and a strong and sensible plot.

Readers who are looking for a heavily action-based (movie-like) sort of novel might find this pace a little slow, but personally I really enjoyed it, finding the extra time fleshing out the characters and police team in particular really balanced with the complexities of the plot.

An excellent police-procedural style of story with a solid plot and some interesting characters, this is a great read and one I really enjoyed. Recommended.

Head In The Sand by Damien Boyd


Head In The Sand by Damien Boyd
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer Publishers
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Fern

The discovery of a severed head in a golf course bunker triggers a frantic race to find a serial killer that brings the town of Burnham-on-Sea to a standstill.

A connection is made with a series of unsolved murders harking back to the 1970s, and Detective Inspector Nick Dixon finds himself caught in a race against time that takes him the length and breadth of the country.

The brutal killing of an elderly man raises the stakes and, as he closes in, Dixon begins to question whether he is chasing one serial killer or two.

DI Nick Dixon has his lazy Sunday morning interrupted by a phone call, a severed head has been found in 12th holes bunker at the local golf club. What follows is an increasingly complicated mystery where the bodies – and body parts – begins to increase at an alarming rate. Can Dixon and his colleagues solve the connection between the victims and top the killer?

I found this to be a really interesting and well-paced story. While it’s the second book in the DI Nick Dixon series I feel it can easily be read as a standalone. The characters and their connections are very well explained without a huge amount of info-dumping or rehashing their histories so I feel readers should easily be able to follow along and enjoy the story on its own merits. I also really enjoyed how this is very much a British police procedural style of story – with a clear murder mystery plot and a good number of suspects and twists in the storyline.

I also thought the author did a very good job of balancing the action in this story with investigation and understandable police work. It’s very clear to my mind that the author has a solid grasp of police practices and the fundamental steps inherent to any investigation and this shines through the story and makes it a real pleasure to read. Readers on the lookout for a solid, well-paced but logical and realistic murder mystery should find this book as enjoyable as I did.

A good and engrossing read, I really enjoyed this book and will be eagerly looking for the next in the series.

Wolf Point by Ian K. Smith


Wolf Point by Ian K. Smith
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Snowdrop

A Cadillac, a pistol, and a corpse make for another morning in Chicago. The body belongs to Walter Griffin, a prominent Black Chicagoan insider hailing from the city’s West Side. He ascended to the upper echelons of the mayor’s office only to meet his end in a watery grave at Wolf Point. Forensics finds his prints on the gun; it’s ruled a suicide.

But grizzled private investigator Ashe Cayne knows better.

Griffin’s children plead with a reluctant Ashe to hunt their father’s killer. They know their dad wouldn’t have taken his own life without a goodbye. And Ashe knows this town’s dark secrets often mean murder is not too far away.

Ashe decides to take on the case and navigate a city rotting with corruption, racial tensions, and sketchy backroom deals. On the bleak streets of Chicago, it’s every man for himself—and that makes everyone a suspect.

A great suspense read with a great main character. If you like well-crafted Private Investigator characters, Ashe Cayne is it. He’s practical and tough and he does what he has to in order to get things done.

I loved this Chicago setting and if you have ever been there, you would really love some of the description. The plot swirls around a city known for its beauty and for its corruption.

There are quite a few characters in this story, but I didn’t have any trouble keeping them straight. I think it’s because this is an author that is extremely detail oriented. Describing his characters or better said, painting a picture of them, makes them clearly identifiable while reading. After all, this author is a doctor who has written a wildly popular two book series and also one who has some diet books that have great reviews. From one type of detail to another. Seems he is as good at describing food detail as he is creating a great character in a suspenseful thriller. I sure hope Ashe Cayne shows up in a third book.