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Posted by on 15 May, 2024 in Bestseller, British Crime, British Thrillers, Classic PI, Crime, Thriller | 0 comments



A real mix of books over the first few weeks of May: from a cold case crime novel to a contemporary thriller to a 1980s styled PI novel and the mystery around Roy Grace’s wife.

Short reviews below:

They Thought I Was Dead by Peter James (Macmillan, 14 May 2024)

Peter James’ series about Brighton police detective Roy Grace has become a mainstay of the British crime scene, both in books and on television, over the past decade or so. An ongoing element of the series, has been the question around what happened to Grace’s first wife, Sandy, who went missing. Now with James’ They Thought I Was Dead (Macmillan, 14 May 2024), we finally get a resolution.

“I’m running from a mess I’ve got myself into – a real, proper mess.”

The book opens in 2007 and follows Sandy’s story down the years, as the truth about what happened to her is finally revealed. Desperate and on the run, Sandy’s life takes many unexpected turns between 2007 and 2018.

Told mainly from Sandy’s perspective, the book moves at the brisk pace we have come to expect from a Peter James novel. There are plenty of surprises, and the characters are nicely etched. It is not a pretty story at times, and Sandy is not an overly likeable character, but James does generate some sympathy for her. Despite some good opportunities, Sandy has managed to get herself into a very difficult situation at the beginning of the book and things do not get better as the years progress and the book moves to its poignant conclusion.

In all, They Thought I Was Dead is an enjoyable, and very different, Roy Grace novel, that will fill in some gaps for regular readers of the series.

They Thought I Was Dead was released in the United Kingdom on 9 May 2024 and in Australia on 14 May 2024.

Long Time Gone by Charlie Donlea (Kensington, 21 May 2024)

Charlie Donlea slips under the radar a bit, especially here in Australia, but in recent years he has become one of my favourite authors. His books always deliver good twisty plots and feature straight forward telling that eschews the padding that other authors use.

His latest, Long Time Gone (Kensington, 21 May 2024), has a good twisty premise that quickly draws you in. It opens with Doctor Sloan Hastings submitting her DNA to an online genealogy site for a research assignment to better understand the treasure-trove of genetic information contained on ancestry websites. Brilliant and driven, Sloan is embarking on a fellowship in forensic pathology, training under the renowned Dr. Livia Cutty, a regular in Donlea’s books. Sloan has one reservation about involving herself in the experiment: she’s adopted. Grateful for a loving home, she’s never considered tracking down her biological parents, and now only does so in the name of science.

Despite her mild curiosity, the results deliver a bombshell. Sloan’s DNA profile suggests her true identity is that of Charlotte Margolis, aka “Baby Charlotte”, who captured the nation’s attention when she mysteriously disappeared, along with her parents, in July 1995, never to be seen again. Desperate to know what happened, Sloan heads to the small town of Cedar Creek, Nevada, the site of her disappearance. It also leads her to Sheriff Eric Stamos, who has his own reasons for wanting the investigation into the disappearance of Charlotte reopened.

This is another first class crime thriller from Donlea. Told in his typical easy flowing style, the plot moves along at a good pace with plenty of interesting developments. The story alternates between 1995 and the present, and there is ample suspense and mystery as the two storylines collide. As usual, there is plenty of interesting forensic detail seamlessly woven into the story, as well as the familiar shots at modern media. After a good build-up, the book quickly moves to a suspenseful and exciting conclusion.

There is probably not as many twists as in Donlea’s earlier books, but he still keeps you guessing till the end. Regular readers of his books will also appreciate the cameo appearances by characters from earlier books, such as Livia Cutty and Avery Mason. In all, another very enjoyable read by the always reliable Charlie Donlea.

Long Time Gone will be released on 21 May 2024 in most countries.

Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for a copy of the book for review.

For those after a good old-styled 1980s PI novel, Peter Colt’s The Judge (Severn House, 7 May 2024) certainly delivers the goods.

Set in Boston in 1985, it opens with ex-military operative turned private investigator Andy Roark, being offered a new job. Boston judge Ambrose Messer is being blackmailed, and he needs Roark’s help to stop the culprit.

Messer is judging the bench trial of a chemical company accused of knowingly dumping chemical waste in an unsafe manner, causing birth defects and cancer. The evidence against them is overwhelming, but the message from the blackmailer is clear: If you don’t want the world to know your secret, the chemical company wins. Messer doesn’t want to let a threat corrupt his judgement, but then again, he could lose everything if his secret comes out.

Roark agrees to the job and quickly plunges into action, determined to find the blackmailer before it’s too late. But the disturbing, unexpected revelations he uncovers make him a target of some very dangerous people, who soon seem determined not only to wreck the life of his client, but to destroy Roark’s too.

This is a very competently done and entertaining PI novel. The plotting is a bit formulaic, but Roark is a good narrator and there are some decent surprises, and gunfights, along the way to the exciting conclusion. The 1980s milieu is nicely evoked, and Colt’s descriptions really make you feel the cold and slippiness of a Boston winter.

An enjoyable, quick read that reminded me of the better PI novels written in the 1980s by authors like Robert Parker and Les Roberts. I also really liked the ‘drone view’ cover.

The Judge was released in the United Kingdom and the United States on 7 May 2024, and should be available in Australia from the usual online sources.

Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for a copy of the book for review.

Hunted by Abir Mukherjee (Harvill Secker, 9 May 2024)

Abir Mukherjee heads down a different path with his latest book, Hunted, (Harvill Secker, 9 May 2024).

I have enjoyed those of Mukherjee’s historical Indian thrillers that I have read, and Hunted combines the social consciousness of those stories with an up-to-date thriller plot.

It is a week before the presidential elections when a bomb goes off in an LA shopping mall.

In London, armed police storm Heathrow Airport and arrest Sajid Khan. His daughter Aliyah entered the USA with the suicide bomber, and now she’s missing, potentially plotting another attack. But then a woman called Carrie turns up at Sajid’s door after travelling halfway across the world. She claims Aliyah is with her son Greg, and she knows where they could be.

Back in the US, Agent Shreya Mistry is closing in on the two fugitives. But as she investigates, she comes to realises that there is more to this case than meets the eye, and she begins to suspect a wider conspiracy. Hunted by the authorities, the two parents are thrown together in a race against time to find their kids before the FBI does, and stop a catastrophe that will bring the country to its knees.

Hunted is a well written and gripping thriller that tackles some difficult issues in an attention grabbing way. The plotting is intricate and interesting, and the book builds to a tense conclusion. There are some insightful reflections on the modern society, and the characters are well fleshed out and convincing, although not terribly likeable.

This was a solid read for me, although I think prefer the more engaging tone of Mukherjee’s earlier books.

Hunted was released on 9 May 2024 in most locations.

Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for a copy of the book for review.

So a really mixed selection of books. Of the four, Charlie Donlea’s Long Time Gone was my favourite, although I also have a soft spot for Peter Colt’s The Judge because of the reading memories it evoked.

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