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.

As The Crow Flies by Damien Boyd


As The Crow Flies by Damien Boyd
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer, Seattle
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Fern

Rock climbers can’t afford to make careless mistakes. But Detective Inspector Nick Dixon’s former climbing partner, Jake Fayter, died doing just that. Or so it seems. Dixon suspects foul play, but his only leads are unreliable accounts of something odd happening in Cheddar Gorge seconds before Jake fell.

The more Dixon learns about Jake’s life, the more he realises that Jake hadn’t been quite the man he remembered…and a lot of people could have wanted him dead. Once Dixon gets too close to the truth, those people will emerge from the shadows and kill to protect their secrets.

As the body count rises, Dixon bends the rules to breaking point to lure out a killer and unravel a conspiracy of silence that will rock the sleepy town of Burnham-on-Sea to its core.

It had been a number of years since DI Nick Dixon had been actively participating in the rock-climbing community, but he still had a number of good friends there and he kept in touch with their adventures online. When his old climbing partner and still very good friend dies in what appears to be an accident Nick can’t turn down his friend’s parents when they plea for Nick to help supply some answers. Jake had been a professional for many years and it seems incredibly unlikely that he made such a rookie mistake as tying an incorrect knot. But the more Nick digs into the case, the murkier everything becomes.

This is a completely new-to-me author, and I am so very glad I found this book and new series. Before I was halfway through this book, I had already ordered the second and I am very much looking forward to reading more. I thought this was a gripping and quite freshly different style of novel and story. The rock-climbing aspect to it was utterly new to me and while the author adds a good balance of technical detail (his knowledge and research is very clear from the outset) it also doesn’t get bogged down by too much data and the pace of the story moved along at what I felt was a good clip.

I enjoyed the main characters and definitely felt the author wrote this story really well. I was attached and intrigued by the characters but still found them realistic and relatable. The pace of the mystery was good – fast enough that I wasn’t bored or skipping pages, but slow enough I could actually catch everything and didn’t feel like I was racing along too fast to take everything in. For a first novel I felt this was a really good quality and standard and I am definitely eager to read more.

While in many ways this is a regular police procedural style of story, I feel enough different energy is present with both the interesting characters and in particular the rock-climbing element that this should appeal to readers as something a bit more than “just another British-inspector-murder-mystery” style of story. I certainly am pleased I gave this a shot and feel many other mystery/suspense readers will likely feel the same. Best of all this is the start of a decent length series so I have plenty more books to look forward to into the future. Recommended.

Can’t Go Back by Debra Webb


Can’t Go Back by Debra Webb
Devlin & Falco Book 3
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Ginger

Birmingham detectives Kerri Devlin and Luke Falco arrive at the scene of a double homicide to discover that nothing makes sense. A woman and her child are dead, and though the husband says he killed them, the evidence says otherwise. Why would a man confess to unspeakable murders he didn’t commit?

What starts as an open-and-shut case explodes into a web of new leads. Devlin and Falco get to work tracking down every single one—including a disturbing connection between the murders and Falco’s dark past.

Falco knows the incident from eight years ago will jeopardize the partnership he’s built with Devlin, both on and off the job. If he could go back, he would—but what happened happened, and there’s a murderer on the loose. Devlin and Falco must slog through the pain to get to the truth; and so far the only truth they know is that everyone is lying.

Can’t Go Back is an unpredictable suspense with a fast-moving plot that kept my attention. It includes strong, well-developed characters, good and bad guys, romance, police cover ups, obsession, family drama and murder. It’s a balance that gives the readers an authentic story. Book #3 in the Devlin & Falco Series can be read as a stand-alone. I haven’t read the first two books and followed the story and characters with no problem.

There’s a lot of story going on, however the author delivers it with her special skill and talent for entertaining and telling a story. The book opens with a woman and her child found dead from a house fire and the husband admitting to the crime. Detective Luke Falco is still dealing with the incident from eight years ago and it could ruin the current relationship with his partner Kerri Devlin. There are family issues, but the author puts everything in its place and gives the characters life by adding in such vibrant personal details.

The story is told from various characters’ points of view. The author fills the plot with action, heartache from loss and two qualified detectives that are working hard to solve the double murder of the mother and daughter.

The ending revealed a skillful unique twist that I didn’t see coming. I wanted justice for the families and the author delivered that and so much more. It was upsetting that everyone appeared to be withholding information and everyone looked guilty but as it turns out that’s exactly how the author devised it. I’m sure readers will continuously question whodunnit as they continue to read to see what happens next in the case.

A good read that I would highly recommend to readers that enjoy a well-developed murder suspense that doesn’t end in a cliff-hanger.

Her Name is Knight by Yasmin Angoe


Her Name is Knight by Yasmin Angoe
Nena Knight series, book 1
Publisher: Thomas and Mercer
Genre: Contemporary, Action/Adventure, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

Stolen from her Ghanaian village as a child, Nena Knight has plenty of motives to kill. Now an elite assassin for a powerful business syndicate called the Tribe, she gets plenty of chances.

But while on assignment in Miami, Nena ends up saving a life, not taking one. She emerges from the experience a changed woman, finally hopeful for a life beyond rage and revenge. Tasked with killing a man she’s come to respect, Nena struggles to reconcile her loyalty to the Tribe with her new purpose.

Meanwhile, she learns a new Tribe council member is the same man who razed her village, murdered her family, and sold her into captivity. Nena can’t resist the temptation of vengeance―and she doesn’t want to. Before she can reclaim her life, she must leverage everything she was and everything she is to take him down and end the cycle of bloodshed for good.

She’s beautiful and she’s dangerous, but she’s the one you want on your side when you need a heroine.

This is the first book by Yasmin Angoe and while at times it reads like an initial novel, it’s still gripping. I read this over the course of a few days and while there were moments I could put it down, I needed to know what would happen next.

Nena is a complicated figure. She’s been through a lot. As in, there are a lot of triggers that might upset some readers, the violence, the killing, the abuse…it’s not pretty and can be a bit extreme, but it’s the life she’s lived through. I have to admit the violence was a bit much for me, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be too much for other readers. Just be warned.

I liked how Nena grew and changed through this book. The author took what could’ve been the standard assassin trope and made it fresh. I’m not heavy into thriller books, but this one satisfied me.

If you’re looking for a heroine that’s out of the norm in the best way, who has a past and isn’t afraid to face it and a story that’s packed with action, then this might be the book for you.

Black Coral by Andrew Mayne


Black Coral by Andrew Mayne
Underwater Investigation Unit Book 2
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Cholla

Sloan McPherson and the Underwater Investigation Unit have discovered a van at the bottom of a murky Florida pond. Sealed inside the watery tomb are the bodies of four teenagers who disappeared thirty years ago after leaving a rock concert. To authorities, it looks like a tragic accident. To Sloan, it looks like murder. Every piece of evidence is starting to connect to a string of cold case vanishings throughout Florida. Clue by clue, Sloan navigates the warm, dark waters where natural predators feed, knowing that the most dangerous one is still above the surface—nesting and dormant.
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But when a fresh young kill is found in the Everglades, Sloan fears that her investigation has reawakened a monster. How can she catch someone who’s a genius at hiding in plain sight? By acting as prey. The dangerous gambit is working—only too well. She’s being lured into a deception of the madman’s own design. Has Sloan set a trap for a serial killer? Or has he set one for her?

She wasn’t in the water for this, but when Sloan McPherson discovers a van at the bottom of Pond 65, she knows there’s more to it than just an abandonment. When the bodies of four missing teens are found inside, she begins to wonder if it’s murder. What she doesn’t realize is that the killer might still be out there, tracking and killing those who least expect it. What’s the Underwater Investigation Unit going to do? Hand over the case or investigate it themselves?

Sloan McPherson is one of the most self-aware characters I’ve come across. She does stupid things and while she sometimes blames it on her pirate father, she almost always owns up to her idiocy. I adore this, because it means that she has the potential to not make those mistakes again. Her relationship with her daughter, Jackie, is great as well. She tries to be the best mom she can, even when she flops, and I think Jackie knows it, too. Overall, Sloan is tough, smart, and willing to take chances, even if they’re going to get her into trouble in the long run. She makes for an interesting and complex character and is the reason why I was so eager to get my hands on this book.

In this novel, Sloan gets a new partner named Scott Hughes. I always worry when a new person is introduced because they either suddenly become a love interest or an antagonist. Thankfully, Hughes is neither. He’s former Navy who came from another department to join the UIU with Sloan and George Solar, their boss. He’s funny, he’s smart, and he’s very loyal to Sloan and her case. I’d almost want to see them become love interests but the fact that Hughes is happily married, and Sloan is happily… something… with Run gives me reason to be content with them just being work buddies. However, they have a great chemistry and I loved how they worked together.

The uniqueness of an Underwater Investigation Unit is what initially drew me to this series. Growing up in the desert, the Everglades, ponds, and canals of Florida are something I know nothing about. Never mind the gators! Also, the team of Sloan and George, now featuring Scott Hughes, is great. They have a wonderful working relationship, even if Sloan was wary of him at first. Engrossing, complicated cases mixed with an intriguing cast of characters and I’m sold. Now, I’m anxiously awaiting to see where the UIU goes next.