Elly Griffiths Mark Bailey

Review: Elly Griffiths – The Blood Card

Elly Griffiths – The Blood Card (2016)

Elly Griffiths – The Blood Card
Elly Griffiths – The Blood Card

Quercus, Hardcover, 384 pages

Published: 3rd November 2016

ISBN13: 9781784290269


The Blood Card is the 3rd in the Stephens and Mephisto Mystery series by Elly Griffiths (probably best known for the Ruth Galloway novels).


It is Brighton, England – Elizabeth II’s coronation is looming, but the murder of their wartime commander, Colonel Cartwright, spoils the happy mood for DI Edgar Stephens and magician Max Mephisto.

A playbill featuring another deceased comrade is found in Colonel Cartwright’s possession along with a playing card, the ace of hearts: the blood card.

The wartime connection and the suggestion of magic mean that Stephens and Mephisto to be summoned to the case by a colleague of their late commander.

This causes Edgar’s ongoing investigation into the death of Brighton fortune-teller Madame Zabini to be put on hold. Max is busy rehearsing for a spectacular Coronation Day variety show – his television debut – so it’s Edgar who is sent to New York, a land of plenty worlds away from still-rationed England on the trail of a small-town mesmerist who may provide the key but he is silenced first. Edgar’s colleague, DS Emma Holmes, finds the clue buried in the files of the Zabini case, that leads them to an anarchist group intent on providing an explosive finale to Coronation Day.

Now it’s up to Edgar, Max and Emma to foil the plot, and find out who it is who’s been dealing the cards .


Again there is excellent characterisation, especially of the 5 main protagonists (Max Mephisto, DI Edgar Stephens and his 2 sergeants, Emma Holmes and Bob Willis; Ruby – Maxs daughter and Edgars fiancée ) all who contrast with each other nicely.

The mystery element is well handled with twists and turns but a fair outcome – the only caveat would be with the detour to America which slows the plot down a bit.


Luca Veste Mark Bailey

Review: Luca Veste – Then She Was Gone

Luca Veste – Then She Was Gone

Luca Veste – Then She Was Gone
Luca Veste – Then She Was Gone

Paperback: 448 pages (December 2016)

Kindle: 3043Kb (July 2016)

Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK

ISBN: 978-1471141393 (PB)

This is the 5th novel by Luca Veste featuring DI David Murphy and DS Laura Rossi.

Murphy and Rossi are investigating the disappearance of a politician who was on course to be elected as one of the youngest MPs in Westminster.

A year earlier, Tim Johnson has taken his baby daughter out for a walk – she never made it home. Johnson claims he was assaulted and the girl was snatched. The police see a different crime, with Johnson their only suspect.

Detectives Murphy and Rossi are tasked with discovering what has happened to the popular politician – and in doing so, they unearth a trail that stretches into the past linking both cases. There is a past crime that someone is hell-bent on avenging.


This is a tight well written novel with strong well drawn characters which grabs your attention and keeps you turning the page (or clicking the Kindle).

Mark Bailey Mark Hill

Review: The Two O’Clock Boy by Mark Hill (2016)

Mark Hill – The Two O’Clock Boy  (2016)


Published: 22nd September 2016 (UK – Kindle), 20th April 2017 (UK – Paperback)

ISBN13: 978-0751563238 (Paperback)

The Two O’Clock Boy by Mark Hill
The Two O’Clock Boy by Mark Hill


The action in The Two O’Clock Boy cuts between 1984 and today. Kenny Overton is working the night shift in a supermarket –a petty criminal trying to make up for a life of mistakes which began in an awful children’s home many years ago. Someone doesn’t want him to make up for his mistakes – they want to make  Kenny pay for his past now.

DI Ray Drake and newly promoted DS Flick Crowley are called out to the scene of a vicious multiple murder. With 3 members of one family slain and the fourth escaping only by virtue of having left his phone at home they sense that this is not going to be a straightforward case. The questions they need to solve is why would someone want to kill them all in such a personal and heinous way and who has such hate

Drake knows that this is a message about the secrets that link back to the Longacre Children’s home. Drake fears for his family’s safety and with needs to find a way to prevent Crowley from following her instincts and investigating the children’s home. The killer – the ‘Two O’Clock Boy’ – begins to taunt Drake and wants their secrets exposed so the question Drake has to ask himself is how far is he willing go to stop the murders, protect his daughter and cover up the truth.


I am in two minds about this book as it is a gripping read but suffers from a number of flaws.

It does take some time to get into in the first half and suffers from plot twists that did stretch the credibility of this reader in the second half.  Also Drake, who the press release suggests will be the lead character in the series, is pretty unlikeable and hard to feel any sympathy for – Flick Crowley, I found, to be a fair more like-able character.

I received a free copy of this book from the publishers on NetGalley.

Mark Bailey Sally Spencer

Review: The Shivering Turn by Sally Spencer (2016)

Sally Spencer – The Shivering Turn (2016)

Severn House, Hardcover, 224 pages

Published: 31st October 2016 (UK)

ISBN13: 978-0727886675

The Shivering Turn by Sally Spencer
The Shivering Turn by Sally Spencer

The Shivering Turn is the 1st in a new series by Sally Spencer focusing on Jennie Redhead, a private eye in mid-1970s Oxford.

Jennie Redhead is a former police woman who was effectively forced out of the force for trying to expose corruption. She now earns her living as a private eye in Oxford and is barely earning her living. Mary Corbet goes to her office one day and employs Jennie to find her missing daughter even though she is convinced that her daughter is already dead. The key to finding her dead or alive lies in uncovering the meaning of the shivering turn.

This is a very good book with lots of twists and turns and a genuine mystery at its core which will keep you thinking. Jennie Redhead is an interesting character and the slightly historical background is interesting.

I received a free e-copy of this book from the publishers on NetGalley.

Ian Rankin Mark Bailey

Review: Rather Be the Devil by Ian Rankin (2016)

Ian Rankin – Rather Be the Devil (2016)

Orion, Hardcover, 320 pages

Published: 3rd November 2016 (UK)

ISBN13: 978-1409159407 (cased)

Rather Be The Devil by Ian Rankin
Rather Be The Devil by Ian Rankin

Rather Be the Devil is the 21st Rebus Novel.

John Rebus is retired once again and his memories are turning to past events and some cases have never left him.

One of those is brought back to him when Rebus is dining out with Deborah Quant. 40 years earlier, beautiful, promiscuous Maria Turquand died in her hotel room at the Caledonian Hotel on the same night that a famous rock star and his entourage were staying there – her killer has never been found. Rebus asks DI Siobhan Clarke to bring him the cold case files so he can do a bit of digging.

Meanwhile, the dark heart of Edinburgh remains up for grabs after Cafferty stood aside. The young pretender, Darryl Christie, has staked his claim but a vicious attack leaves him weakened and vulnerable – a situation exacerbated by an inquiry into a major money laundering scheme. Has Rebus’ old-time foe Big Ger Cafferty really given up the ghost or is he just biding his time until Edinburgh is once more ripe for the picking?


What is nice is how the Rebus novels now have moved from being primarily a solo series to more of an ensemble piece with Rebus, Siobhan Clarke, Malcolm Fox, Deborah Quant, Cafferty and, of course, Edinburgh each getting their turn in the spotlight during the course of the novel.

This is an utterly compelling and gripping read which I read worryingly quickly as you get engrossed in the book by both the characters and the plotlines.

The ending does set up the series for more novels very nicely.


I received a free copy of this book from the publishers on NetGalley.

Mark Bailey Reviews Sophie Hannah

Review: Closed Casket by Sophie Hannah (2016)

Sophie Hannah – Closed Casket (2016)

HarperCollins, Hardcover, 384 pages

Published: 6th September 2016 (UK)

ISBN-13: 978-0008134099 (cased)

Closed Casket by Sophie Hannah
Closed Casket by Sophie Hannah

This is the 2nd return of Hercule Poirot novel penned by Sophie Hannah (although I don’t think that he is as the back cover blurb suggests “the world’s most famous detective” as I feel that Sherlock Holmes is probably more well known).


Lady Athelinda Playford is hosting a party at her Irish mansion with two strangers to her as guests: the famous Belgian detective Hercule Poirot and Inspector Edward Catchpool of Scotland Yard

Is the invite a result of the decision of Lady Playford to change her will and cut two of her children off without a penny leaving her vast fortune to someone else –  an invalid with only weeks to live. Poirot begins to wonder if Lady Playford expects a murder but why is she so determined to provoke a killer? When the murder is committed despite Poirot’s best efforts to stop it why does the identity of the victim make no sense at all?


I much preferred this to The Monogram Murders and will now go through my issues with that novel and how they have been addressed with this.

Edward Catchpool is still the narrator but we now do know his rank (Inspector) from the start, he is less scared of dead bodies, we do learn more about him as this book goes on and he not is a mere tool for Poirot as he is clearly a friend and is much better treated.

The fussy Poirot is back which may be in part because of the Country House milieu which means that he is much closer to the Poirot we know and love.

The book is also a bit tighter which might be due to it being shorter (I reckon it is about 91000 words compared to the 97000 words of The Monogram Murders so about 6% shorter)


The plot still does rely on Poirot making some leaps of logic that are a teensy bit heroic if one is being kind but I am much happier than I was last time – I should give warning though that there still are some fairly damning reviews on Amazon though.

Ken McCoy Mark Bailey Reviews

Review: Ken McCoy – Dead or Alive (2016)

Ken McCoy – Dead or Alive (2016)

Dead or Alive by Ken McCoy
Dead or Alive by Ken McCoy

Severn House, Hardcover, 256 pages

Published: 1st October 2016 (UK)

ISBN13: ISBN-13: 978-0-7278-8633-0 (cased), 978-1-84751-738-8 (trade paper), 978-1-78010-802-5 (e-book)


Dead or Alive is the first in a new series of thrillers by Ken McCoy about DI Sep Black in Yorkshire, mainly in and around Leeds.

Detective Inspector Sep Black has been forced to resign from the police force following the death of a suspected paedophile in police custody and allegations of spousal abuse from his wife.

He knows that he had been set up but how can he prove it – and stay alive in the process? He is convinced that local gangster Vince Formosa has a mole within the police and sets out to expose the traitor, clear his name and wreak revenge on the men who brought him down.

To do this he must go undercover and find two missing children who the police are convinced have been abducted on their way home from school on the orders of Vince Formosa who wants land that their fathers’ property company owns.


This is a very tightly written thriller – the plot is not wholly convincing but it goes at such a rate of knots that you rarely notice the issues unless you start analysing the book, i.e. for a review.


The central character of Septimus Black is an interesting character who has flaws (and quite a lot of them – he certainly doesn’t play by the rules) but you like him and get emotionally engaged in his quest for justice and a return to something like his former life with the aid of his friend Winnie.


One of the most interesting aspects of the book for me is the timelessness of it – if you found a way around the use of mobile phones (i.e.  by making calls to designated  telephone boxes) and shifted the historical paedophile focus back beyond Saville – it could be set in the 1950s with its Maltese gangster (Vince), traditional tough but fair police man (Septimus) and a (former) tart with an heart (Winnie).


This is a really enjoyable read – you engage emotionally with the characters (especially Septimus and Winnie) and do go through the pages at a rate of knots because it is just so enjoyable.


I received a free copy of this book from the publishers on NetGalley.

Crime Fiction Mark Bailey Reviews Sally Spencer

Sally Spencer – Death in Disguise (2016)

Sally Spencer – Death in Disguise (2016)

Severn House, Hardcover, 224 pages

Published: 30th April 2016 (UK)

ISBN13: 978-0727886200

Sally Spencer - Death in Disguise
Sally Spencer – Death in Disguise

Death in Disguise is the 11th in the DCI Monika Paniatowski Police Procedural series by Sally Spencer.

DCI Monika Paniatowski investigates the killing of an American guest in an hotel and discovers she has two cases – one in the present day (the 1970s) and one in the 1920s. The body of Mary Edwards (an American female tourist) is found in the Prince Alfred suite at the Royal Victoria Hotel; Mary Edwards had been a guest at the hotel for two weeks having paid cash in advance. But who is Mary Edwards and what was she doing in a small town like Whitebridge?

The answer to the question of why was she here could lead to the answer as to who killed her.

This was the first book by Sally Spencer I have read but as I do like police procedurals I thought I would give it a chance.

The book has the two main plot strands of the 1920s and 1970s which intertwine to keep you engaged, it is well researched and plotted to keep you engaged as the plot twists and turns. Characterisation is good especially of Monika but also of DS Kate Meadows who is a very interesting character.

It can be read as a standalone but I will be working my way through now from the 1st novel where Monika Paniatowski becomes the lead character (The Dead Hand of History).

I received a free copy of this book from the publishers on NetGalley.

Mark Bailey Reviews Tammy Cohen

When She Was Bad by Tammy Cohen (2016)

 When She Was Bad by Tammy Cohen  (April 2016)

 When She Was Bad by Tammy Cohen (2016)
When She Was Bad by Tammy Cohen (2016)

The blurb is

Amira, Sarah, Paula, Ewan and Charlie have worked together for years – they know how each one likes their coffee, whose love life is a mess, whose children keep them up at night. But their comfortable routine life is suddenly shattered when an aggressive new boss walks in ….
Now, there’s something chilling in the air.
Who secretly hates everyone?
Who is tortured by their past?
Who is capable of murder?”

which does neatly sum up the plot.

There are two parallel storylines here – that of Amira, Sarah, Paula, Ewan and Charlie who all work together in a recruitment agency and have a new, rather foreboding and very different boss take over to motivate them and that of Dr Anne Cater – a child psychologist, who is remembering one of her most famous and horrific cases. The first storyline is also told from multiple perspectives.

This is a very competent psychological thriller with lots of plot twists and tension building.

Whilst psychological thrillers are not my usual cup of tea I really did enjoy this as it kept you turning the page to find out what happened next.


Thanks to Black Swan for an uncorrected proof copy.



Mark Bailey Radio

Radio Highlights in February 2016 – dramatisations of Rebus: A Question Of Blood by Ian Rankin and Charles Paris: A Decent Interval by Simon Brett.

I just want to signpost 2 radio highlights for crime fiction fans on BBC Radio 4 in February 2016.

On Saturday 13th February at 14:30, a 2-part (2 x 60 minutes) adaptation of A Question Of Blood by Ian Rankin starts – “When a known criminal dies in a house fire the forensic evidence suggests he was murdered before the fire started. Rebus – the last person to see the victim alive – becomes the main suspect. Meanwhile, a fatal shooting at a private school near Edinburgh unexpectedly leads Rebus to an army helicopter crash on Jura in a case involving diamonds and drug smuggling.”

More information is at Rebus – A Question Of Blood

On Friday 19th February at 11:30am, a 4-part (4 x 30 minutes) adaptation of A Decent Interval by Simon Brett starts – “Charles, bit-part actor and amateur sleuth, returns to the stage as the ghost in Hamlet, but rehearsals are fraught as both Ophelia and Hamlet are being played by reality TV stars and soon it’s not only Shakespeare’s lines that are being murdered. As the body count rises, so do Charles’ suspicions. Whilst at home, meanwhile, Frances fears she may have come to the end of allowing her semi-detached husband to remain as her lodger.”

More information is at A Charles Paris Mystery: A Decent Interval