Cold Sanctuary by David J Gatward


Cold Sanctuary by David J Gatward
Publisher: Weirdstone Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Fern

A tragic farm accident… or so it seems. Can this former big-city detective defeat the human monsters lurking in the Yorkshire Dales?

DCI Harry Grimm’s happy emotions are confusing the hell out of him. Enjoying the company of his new girlfriend and furry black dog, the usually gruff detective finds himself feeling genuinely content for the first time in a very long while. But it’s soon back to business as usual when the idyllic countryside is rocked by the demise of a popular farmer in a horrific hay-baler accident.

After the coroner rules the mangled remains a homicide, Grimm sends his team out to follow clues that provoke more questions than answers. And as his officers drop like flies, the victim’s adopted son vanishes, and suspicious threats emerge, the justice-driven investigator vows he’ll restore peace and slam another killer behind bars.

Can he shed light on the darkest of sins before more lives are lost in the hills?

DCI Harry Grimm is called out to a local farm in what at first glance appears to be a farming accident gone horribly wrong. But the evidence quickly points to something far more sinister. The situation grows more complicated as tragedy strikes one of DCI Grimm’s own team members and all too soon, they realise the tensions boiling under the surface of their idyllic home are about to burst.

I’ve been really enjoying the DCI Harry Grimm series and found this to be one of the strongest additions yet. I feel Harry himself has really settled into both the countryside and his role leading the local police team. I love how tight knit the small team is and how the characters work so well together but each with their own distinct personalities. I also really enjoy how even though this is set well into the dales and countryside the problems and crime are both realistic but also utterly relatable. This is an exceptional blend I feel and really helps sell me on the series as a whole.

I also really enjoyed how while the plot was fairly straightforward from the start there were still a number of twists I didn’t foresee but the pace kept along at a good clip so at no stage did I feel the story was dragging. While the two main plots/cases did take up the lion’s share of the story I thoroughly enjoyed seeing the team work together and continue to grow. After the last few books – where there has been a lot of character growth in particular – it was nice for this to take somewhat of a back seat and the police procedure to once again come more to the forefront.

Readers should easily be able to pick this book up as a standalone story. The plots are well contained in this story and while the characters are a solid team and clearly have history together, I feel this doesn’t mean readers can’t pick this book up by itself and enjoy it on its own merits.

A strong mystery with interesting characters and a well woven plot. Recommended.

Blood Sport by David J. Gatward


Blood Sport by David J. Gatward
Publisher: Weirdstone Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Fern

A mysterious red sports car. A bloodied animal corpse. He’s caught the scent of a brutal crime, and he won’t stop until it’s solved…

DCI Harry Grimm is weary of humanity’s evil. Dragged to the middle of nowhere during the darkest of hours, he’s enraged by grisly evidence of a horrific illegal dog fight. And when the mutilated remains turn out to be a gamekeeper’s stolen pet, the gritty detective senses he has a solid lead after learning of a long-running feud.

Immediately putting his team on the case, Grimm worries the stakes may be escalating when the animal’s owner is beaten and left for dead. And though the tough investigator puts his nose to the ground and follows the bloody clues, he fears there’s only one shot to apprehend the real monster.

Can he bring a loathsome criminal to justice before the savagery turns deadly?

DCI Harry Grimm is now the permanent DCI for their small community, and he feels he’s finally settling right in. So, when a friend and local calls Harry in the middle of the night, upset at finding blood and the signs of a fight he’s not worried about the lack of sleep. Only all indications of the crime scene indicate there’s a ring of dog fighters and Harry knows too well how insidious – and dangerous – such criminals and actions can be. Will they be able to stop things before they get out of hand?

I’ve been really enjoying this series and found this book to be a solid addition to it. While there’s quite a few smaller plots that are linked in to this dog-fighting ring I feel readers who haven’t read any of the previous stories should be able to follow along quite well without any problems. Those of us who have read the previous installments however should be very happy – I was thrilled that quite a few of the previously unsolved issues got cleaned up in this book and felt quite satisfied with how those plot-arcs were resolved.

There is a fair bit of character growth in a number of Harry’s team in this book and I found it overall a really well written and interesting book. I was pleased to see this progress and feel it will likely make a lot of other readers happy too. I was glad the animal scenes weren’t too gritty and there was no titillation in these scenes – no graphic descriptions of abuse or cruelty to animals and indeed I was very pleased that the police are shown as taking this kind of cruelty and criminality every bit as seriously as abuse and damage to humans.

Readers looking for a country feel but still strongly police procedural and mystery solving story should absolutely try this series. Personally, I feel the books are better read in order, but I think they can be read out of order and still enjoyed.

Death’s Requiem by David J. Gatward


Death’s Requiem by David J. Gatward
Publisher: Weirdstone Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Fern

Music can be murder.

When the body of internationally-renowned vocalist Gareth Jones is found hanging in the tower of a church, the walls daubed in occult symbols, the world of classical music, and the local dales community in which he grew up, is shaken to its core.

With the worst winter in years sweeping through Wensleydale, the spectre of a friend’s death haunting one of his team, and a killer driven by forces darker than he could ever imagine, Grimm and his team are up against the creator of not just a masterpiece, but a symphony of pain.

And it’s up to Harry to make sure that when the curtain comes down, there’s no chance of an encore…

DCI Harry Grimm and his brother Ben are really beginning to settle down into life in Wensleydale. With the people from the small town welcoming and for the most part friendly and the beautiful scenery, it’s hard for them not to both start feeling at home. Bad things still happen in small towns though, and Harry all too soon is finding himself wrestling with both a strange murder in the local church and a surprisingly professional group of animal smugglers.

I really enjoyed this next book in the DCI Grimm series. While I feel the reader would enjoy it more having read the previous installments, this book can absolutely be picked up and read as a standalone. The two main plot threads are very well explained and handled in this book – and even though the animal smuggling/kidnapping has been very loosely alluded to in previous books it was more of a throw-away sort of comment, the actual plot aspect and in-depth investigation is completely contained in this book. The murder begins and concludes in this book, and I feel adds an excellent counterpart to the animal/farming based plot and the two bounce very well off each other.

I am also very pleased to see the further development of a number of the main characters. Jim in particular I feel is coming along very well, from the very young and rather inexperienced police officer in the first book to now being heavily invested in his work and really learning and growing. I also was really pleased to finally see a bit more of Ben’s character – Harry’s brother. While the cast of characters could be seen as on the small side, I really feel they are each well drawn, individual to each other and there’s enough characters to feel like a good unit without there being too few or too many. The fact we can spend time with them all and watch them develop is an integral part to the story being really well rounded and enjoyable to my mind.

The occult/paranormal aspect to this story is very, very lightly handled – I really wasn’t sure to even give it a “paranormal” tag, but there is a “spell” cast in the past by a bunch of the local kids and with the fresh murder some symbols were left so I really felt while light and not a strong part of the plot it was present enough that it needed mentioning. Readers looking for a spiritual/occult/paranormal mystery should definitely not consider this a strong or heavily invested story – and equally readers looking to avoid a paranormal tale shouldn’t shy away from this. The small country town, the characters and the two mysteries are definitely the focus of this story – not the occult/paranormal themes.

Readers looking for a good bunch of characters, a small country town setting and two interesting, concurrent police procedural style investigations should be really satisfied with this book. I found it to be another excellent addition to this series I am really looking forward to the next one.

Best Served Cold by David J Gatward


Best Served Cold by David J Gatward
Publisher: Weirdstone Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Fern

What started in the playground will finish in blood.

When a tragic farm accident turns out to be foul play, DCI Harry Grimm finds himself up against a murderer years in the making and out for revenge.

With the local community in self-imposed lock down, and the body count quickly climbing, Harry and his team are in a race against time to stop a killer as invisible as they are brutally effective.

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And beyond.

DCI Harry Grimm has been up North for a little over a month now and despite his intention to return to Bristol – where his brother is incarcerated and Harry’s private mission can be completed – as soon as he’s allowed by his police superiors, Harry is slowly settling in to life at Wenslydale. He’s slowly allowing the others within the small police department through his shields. Harry has moved from staying at the hotel to renting a small flat, and he’s even considering the biggest change to country life – purchasing his own pair of Wellington’s to save his shoes from further muck.

I really enjoyed this second book from Gatward. While I definitely feel it gives the reader more satisfaction having read the first story (Grimm Up North) this book can absolutely be read and thoroughly enjoyed as a stand alone novel. There is something about Grimm’s character along with his interaction with the small secondary cast of locals that really appeals to me. Gatward is an excellent storyteller and manages to mingle a well written mystery with the country atmosphere yet still allow Grimm’s character to be slightly off balance as the vast expanse of countryside really isn’t his cup of tea at all. It’s a delicate balance and a heady mix in a book like this where it’s really done exceptionally well.

The plot is interesting but not too convoluted. Readers looking for some sort of intricate and deep conspiracy with multiple red herrings and a shadowy cartel or organization in the background won’t find that here. Indeed I found it refreshing and wonderful just how relatable, realistic and “normal” the plot, characters and storyline was. I found this deeply relatable and coupled with the writing style and characters themselves I read this entire book in two sittings because it was just so refreshing and relatable. I loved it.

We learned a very small amount more about Harry’s brother Ben (I can’t wait until we finally get the history and more details about this – I seriously hope it’s in one of the upcoming books but this is clearly a longer-term story arc) and there was also a small reminder or hint about the suspicious nature surrounding the disappearance of the previous DCI which I felt was a gentle nudge to the reader to remind them that particular case/mystery was still open and unsolved and so I’m eager for when that will be resolved too. That said, the main mystery/culprit for this book was wonderfully tied up and I feel the author did an excellent job balancing realism with a good story.

With great storytelling, interesting and realistic characters and a good fast pace, I feel readers should absolutely give this book and series a go. I’m hooked enough I’ve purchased the rest of the series and am really looking forward to them. I’ve found this to be a solid mystery with interesting characters, a good plot and an easy enough writing style they’re fun and engrossing to read. Recommended.