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Michael Hambling, DARK CRIMES

This novel introduces DCI Sophie Allen and her team in a case where they find a woman who has been stabbed through the heart on a city street on the same night that her mother was strangled in her home. As they delve into these crimes, the team discovers that the twisted mind of one individual is at work, and this person plans to kill again and again to accomplish his aims.

I have read a number of books in this British police procedural series, and they have been uniformly good. Allen is intelligent and well-educated, but she also has the cool street smarts to make her a convincing detective. Her team manifests the usual personal problems and allows the author to engage in some social commentary. A few may find Allen’s family life a bit too precious, but this is a small quibble in what is an excellent-so-far-six book series. I would recommend taking a look.

A.G. Barnett, AN OCCUPIED GRAVE

This is the first in a series of exceptional British police procedurals featuring Detective Sergeant Guy Poole and Detective Inspector Sam Brock working in he town of Bexford, England. Aside from catching criminals, both officers have burdens to bear. Poole’s father is a criminal whose activities years ago got Guy’s best childhood friend killed and Guy himself wounded, and now that the father is about to be released from prison, he wishes to reestablish a relationship with his reluctant son. Brock’s wife wants to have a baby, which he is decidedly ambivalent about, and as he becomes more attached to Poole, he becomes increasingly fearful of losing yet another sergeant in the line of duty.

The books in this series have a host of interesting characters, and complex plots that hold the readers interest to the end. There is also a nice dollop of humor to ease the stress of capturing the bad guys.

Chris Collett, DEADLY LIES

This is the first novel in a series of British police procedures featuring DI Tom Mariner. He and a small cadre of associates solve murders in the city of Birmingham. The plots are complex and often come to a surprising but satisfying conclusion. Mariner, who never knew his father and has a troubled relationship with his mother, is an interestingly complex character. Over the course of the series he comes to know more about his background, which forces him to change in fundamental ways. His background also makes it difficult for him to have satisfactory relationships with women. Sometimes the problems that arise from these relationships can be a tough slog for the reader, and I, for one, often feel that the relationship failures are as much the fault of the women as they are Mariner’s. A smart guy should make better choices.

This is a fine series that should be read in order so as to appreciate character development and avoid spoilers.

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