#BookReview: Dead Man’s Prayer by Jackie Baldwin (@JackieMBaldwin1) @KillerReads

514ibchgoml-_sx325_bo1204203200_“A dark and gripping crime debut, the first in an exciting new series. Eighteen years ago, DI Frank Farrell turned his back on the church. But when an ex-priest is murdered in his hometown, he has no choice but to delve into his past. Perfect for fans of Stuart MacBride, James Oswald and Val McDermid.

Ex-priest DI Frank Farrell has returned to his roots in Dumfries, only to be landed with a disturbing murder case. Even worse, Farrell knows the victim: Father Boyd, the man who forced him out of the priesthood eighteen years earlier.

With no leads, Farrell must delve into the old priest’s past, one that is inexorably linked with his own. But his attention is diverted when a pair of twin boys go missing. The Dumfries police force recover one in an abandoned church, unharmed. But where is his brother?

As Farrell investigates the two cases, he can’t help but feel targeted. Is someone playing a sinister game, or is he seeing patterns that don’t exist? Either way, it’s a game Farrell needs to win before he loses his grip on his sanity, or someone else turns up dead.”

Back in September I was thrilled to be part of Jackie Baldwin’s Dead Man’s Prayer blog tour.  Jackie wrote a fantastic piece for damppebbles about what drives her to explore crime in her writing.  If you missed it, click here and have a read.  On 1st December 2016 Dead Man’s Prayer was published in paperback, so to celebrate I thought it was about time I gave this debut crime thriller a read.  And I flipping loved it!

DI Frank Farrell is drawn back to his hometown of Dumfries.  The only difference being that last time he was a resident of Dumfries and Galloway, he was a catholic priest and now he’s a detective inspector.  That’s some career change!  The ghosts of the past never stay buried for long though, and Farrell is thrown into investigating the murder of Father Boyd; once upon a time his mentor, housemate and sworn nemesis.  Forced to confront his own demons, DI Farrell flounders with few clues and little evidence to go on.  But when twin boys are snatched from a local nursery all attention is diverted elsewhere.  But Frank has a feeling.  He believes the murder of the priest and the kidnapping of the boys are linked.  When one of the boys is found alive, hope for the other twin dwindles.  Will DI Farrell be able to convince his team of the connection?  And exactly how close to home will the investigation take him…?

For me, this is a perfect piece of crime fiction.  I’ve always wondered if I’m a little strange as I always enjoy crime books featuring priests, or religious artefacts as murder weapons.  Yup, it’s official, I am most definitely strange!  With Dead Man’s Prayer I was in my element as not only does this story have a priest as the murder victim but also as the crime fighting superhero too.  It was like a dream come true!  As I’m sure you have already guessed, I really liked DI Frank Farrell.  He’s not as damaged as my usual detectives but by no means is he squeaky clean.  The fact that his team, at times, saw him as a priest rather than their DI was brilliant.  I can’t wait to read more about DI Farrell.

DC Mhairi McLeod was also a favourite of mine.  I’m not normally a fan of the ‘something to prove’ female sidekick but Mhairi won me over.  She felt more real, relatable and sincere than other characters in a similar role in other books I’ve read.

I found the plot gripping from start to finish.  Frank shares his suspicions fairly early on but you don’t discover what’s actually happened until much later.  I enjoyed the build up, the ‘is he right, or is he wrong’ along with the ‘but how could that be the case?’.  Brilliant writing from Jackie Baldwin.  When I wasn’t reading this book and real life was happening, I wanted to be reading.

I became very emotional when it came to the young twins being snatached.  And then again when only one of the boys was reunited with his family.  The anguish the nursery staff felt really got to me too.  Really difficult reading at times but superb writing!

Would I recommend this book?  I most certainly would.  It’s riding high on my list of top police procedurals for 2016.  I just hope that I don’t have to wait too long before my path crosses with DI Frank Farrell again.

Five out of five stars.

I chose to read and review an ARC of Dead Man’s Prayer by Jackie Baldwin.

Dead Man’s Prayer by Jackie Baldwin was published in the UK by Killer Reads on 1st December 2016 and is available in paperback and eBook formats | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads | Killer Reads |

Smith & Sons (11)

Jackie_02_by_Kim_AyresJackie Baldwin was born in Dumfries. She studied law at Edinburgh University returning to Dumfries to practice criminal and family law for the next twenty years. During that time she married and had two children and a variety of pets. She later retrained as a hypnotherapist. Dead Man’s Prayer is her debut crime novel and is set in Dumfries. When not working or writing, Jackie can generally be found in a forest or by the beach on long muddy walks with her two Retrievers.

Author Links: Twitter | Facebook |

 

*Blog Tour: Review* Outside Looking In by Michael Wood

51-x44K35eL“When elderly George Rainsford goes to investigate a suspicious noise one night, the last thing he expects to find is a bloodbath. A man has been killed and a woman brutally beaten, left for dead.

The victims are Lois Craven and Kevin Hardaker – both married, but not to each other. Their spouses swear they knew nothing of the affair and, besides, they both have alibis for the attack. With nothing else to link the victims, the investigation hits a dead end.

The pressure is on for investigating officer, DCI Matilda Darke: there’s a violent killer on the loose, and it looks like her team members are the new targets. With no leads and no suspects, it’s going to take all Matilda’s wits to catch him, before he strikes again.”

I’m thrilled to be today’s stop on the Outside Looking In blog tour.  In true damppebbles style, this is the first DCI Matilda Darke book I have read despite it being the second book in the series (at least I’m not too late to the party with this one!).  And oh my gosh, I love Matilda Darke.  And I love Michael Wood’s style.  Totally readable and very engrossing.

The bodies of a couple are discovered in their car following what looks like a massacre.  He is dead, beyond resuscitating and she is barely hanging onto life.  DCI Matilda Darke is put on the case and soon discovers the victims are Kevin Hardaker and Lois Craven who were having a secret affair for over a year.  But why would someone kill these two fairly normal people, and why with such vengeance and hatred?  Suffering from negative publicity and her own demons, can Matilda discover who killed the couple and why, before anyone else is hurt…?

I should start by saying that DCI Darke has made it onto the illustrious damppebbles #girlcrush list.  I LOVE her.  She’s so wonderfully normal, the kind of person I’d like to pop down to Costa with for a coffee (I would say ‘pub’ and ‘white wine’ but she’s on the wagon!).  Thankfully I have the first book in the series, ‘For Reasons Unknown’ on my TBR so I can get my second fix of DCI Darke, ha ha!  Anyway, enough of my new womance…

The pacing of the plot is spot on with the story unfolding at a thoroughly enjoyable rate.  I wanted to keep turning the pages, I wanted to find out what was going to happen.  There was a moment where I felt pure dread for one character.  I won’t say anymore as I don’t do spoilers but oh my!

The conclusion is gripping and kept me on the edge of my seat.  There is encounter at the end of the book which I hope Michael Wood will be building on in the third book.  I’m looking forward to seeing where that particular story line goes.

This book does work as a standalone but I think it helps (no matter what the series or who the author) to read books in their correct order.  I wasn’t sure whether the missing child case that is mentioned often is something that was covered in book one or if it happened in the distant past.  I think going into a series partway through does leaving you feeling like you’ve missed a couple of important days at school!

I loved the nod to other great crime writers (being a crime fiction fanatic!).  I was hugely jealous of Matilda’s book inheritance and could immediately picture the bookcase she would need (boy, would it be big!).  If anyone would like to donate their crime fiction collection to me, the address is Emma @damppebbles….heh heh.

Would I recommend this book?  I most certainly would but I think starting at book one is the best way forward.  Outside Looking In is totally compelling, thoroughly engaging and you’ll really like DCI Matilda Darke.

Four and a half out of five stars.

Outside Looking In by Michael Wood was published in the UK by Killer Reads on 26th May 2016 and is available in paperback and eBook formats | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads |

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Michael Wood is a proofreader and former journalist in Sheffield, South Yorkshire. His first novel featuring DCI Matilda Darke, FOR REASONS UNKNOWN, was released in the autumn of 2015. The follow-up, OUTSIDE LOOKING IN, is released in May 2016 in ebook format by Killer Reads at HarperCollins.