Ted Hertel Jr has just reviewed BONES IN THE RIVER for Deadly Pleasures Mystery Magazine. Here are his thoughts:

The annual Appleby Horse Fair generally draws more than 40,000 tourists including many Travellers and Gypsies from around the area. This causes no end of problems for the police and those who live in the small Lakeland town in which they gather. Tensions always run high between the visitors and the locals, but this time they are exacerbated when a young boy on a bicycle is run over and his body disappears just as the Romany begin arriving. It isn’t long before a body does wash up in the river—only this corpse is the remains of a missing adult male from the area. DC Nick Weston and crime scene investigator Grace McColl must work with their respective teams, and each other, in order to delve into long-held secrets and a prevent violent clash at the Fair.

This is the second novel in Zoë Sharp’s entertaining Lake District trilogy, the first of which was DANCING ON THE GRAVE. You need not have read the earlier novel in order to follow this one. McColl and Weston are interesting protagonists, each of whom carries baggage from prior relationships and their police work. They work with different teams but still manage to find their investigations overlapping. Other characters are equally well drawn, from the villains to the visitors to the Fair. The locals believe that those visitors are responsible for both crimes, including that of the young boy whose body also eventually turns up in the river.

The author beautifully describes the English Lake District, as well as the lifestyles of the Romany, complete with their language and culture. The Fair, which is based on the actual event, is so well-described that it makes one want to visit it. The mystery at the heart of this novel is one that will touch your heart; the secrets behind that mystery will then shatter it.

Sharp is best known for the action and suspense in her outstanding Charlie Fox series. While the reader knows the identity of the young boy’s killer right from the start, this bit of information only heightens the suspense as the killer does everything possible to evade capture. This is an entirely different type of tale from the Fox series, a complex one that will twist your mind right to the novel’s final pages. I look forward to the third volume in this set.

My thanks to Ted Hertel Jr, as always, for the kind words.

TedHertelJr

The name of Linda Wilson is a well-known one in crime review circles, so I was very pleased that she wanted to take a look at Book No2 in the Lakes Crime Thriller trilogy, BONES IN THE RIVER for Crime Review:

June 13 2020

Both your editors are huge fans of Martin Walker’s Bruno chief of police series that’s set in the Dordogne. Sharon Wheeler enjoyedA Shooting at Chateau Rock, although it’s not the best in the series by some way and has a tendency to plod via lots of tasty meals and Bruno building a hen house. Faintly bemusing, though, was the presence of a long-standing mate of Linda Wilson’s, who was piloting a chopper! And we were equally surprised by an appearance from our dear friend Ayo Onatade, who has a guest spot as a pathologist inBones in the Riverby Zoë Sharp. Yes, we know it’s common in crime fic, but it always brings us up short! As for the book, which is set amidst the annual Appleby Fair, Linda says it’s intelligent and cleverly written, with well-drawn characters and a plot that twists and turns like a true Cumbrian road.

Review

Every year, the Cumbrian village of Appleby-in-Westmoreland plays host to the annual gathering of the Gypsy and Traveller community. This is an event not without controversy and there is something of an uneasy relationship between locals and the fairgoers. This year tensions are running high for more dramatic reasons than usual.

Members of the travelling community are being questioned by the police over the disappearance of a local boy and the discovery of his damaged bike in a skip, with forensic evidence that links back to one of the Gypsies. Vano Smith claims he found the bike by the side of the road but wasn’t involved in any hit and run.

Then matters worsen when a body is discovered in a makeshift grave partly collapsed into the river near the spot where the Gypsies bring their horses to be washed. Inevitably, suspicion falls on the Gypsy and Traveller community. The police are keen not to inflame local tensions, but that’s a big ask when the body of the missing boy is found in the river and is believed to be the victim of a hit and run.

DC Nick Weston and Crime Scene Investigator Grace McColl are required to navigate the tensions riding high in Appleby as well as the inevitable internal stresses of both investigations. Grace’s boss, head CSI Chris Blenkinship, isn’t exactly her biggest fan and on this occasion, he’s dismayed to find that she’s picked up the hit and run case.

Grace is a dogged investigator with considerable flair and ingenuity when it comes to an examination of the evidence and is the force’s most skilled forensic specialist. And Blenkinship has good reason for his concern. It became clear very quickly that he was the person responsible for the boy’s death when driving homes from a dinner party, over the legal limit for drinking and driving. A moment’s inattention was all that it took. Not wanting to jeopardise his career, Blenkinship took the decision to conceal the accident, a decision that will inevitably come back to haunt him, especially with Grace’s involvement.

This is the second outing for Weston and McColl and it’s every bit as good as their introduction in Dancing on the Grave. When I finished their debut I had hopes of this becoming a series and those hopes have been amply fulfilled. Appleby, with its influx of caravans, horses and traders, provides an atmospheric backdrop for another ably executed police thriller that positively oozes a sense of place, making it easy to picture the rolling hills and river valleys, the colourful caravans and their occupants. Zoë Sharp writes well and sympathetically of both townsfolk and incomers, with rights and wrongs on both sides.

As ever, there are surprises in store in the forensics, and Sharp pitches a good mix of plot-driven action and character development, with bags of tension on all sides. Every time I thought I’d got a handle on what had happened, a brisk wind blew across the fells, dispelling my theories and leaving me floundering. The final twist was one I didn’t see coming.

The only thing that came close to bouncing me out of the story was the introduction of the shrewd pathologist, Dr Ayo Onatade. Using the name of such a well-known figure in the world of crime fiction drove a horse and cart at speed through the fourth wall, although I did enjoy the mental images of my friend dealing briskly with all comers and dominating every scene in which she appeared with a force of personality and style that went further than appending her name to a fictional character. If anyone is capable of fighting crime with style, it’s Ayo!

Bones in the River is intelligent and cleverly written, with well-drawn characters and a plot that twists and turns like a true Cumbrian road.

Reviewed 13 June 2020 by Linda Wilson

Read and comment on the full review over on Crime Review.

Day 7 of the Blog Tour for BONES IN THE RIVER. Today, it’s the turn of the wonderful Jen Lucas to review the book for Jen Med’s Book Reviews. A thought-provoking look at the underlying themes, plus a plea for more!

My Thoughts

If you like a mystery in which CSI and Detective work side by side (sort of) in order to solve a crime—one that in this case, at least from the start, isn’t clear to them is even a crime yet, then this is definitely the book for you. Now, as readers we are faced with a perspective that is completely separate from that of the investigating team. We know things that they have yet to discover, but then they are set to make a discovery that will take us by surprise too. Confused? You won’t be if you read the book—which I highly recommend you do as it is a brilliant read.

We start with a case of a potential hit and run, one with a startling conclusion that will guarantee to take you by surprise. But this is not the only thread in this story and when a skeleton is discovered on the riverbank close to the annual Horse Fair in Appleby, it leads Grace McColl and Nick Weston to a group of Travellers who are haunted by both secrets and a familial legacy which leads to all kinds of conflicts.

It is easy to paint Travellers in a negative light, as nothing more than thieves, not to be trusted. It is the reputation they have earned, whether justified or not, as they lead a lifestyle that many in the more rooted community cannot understand. However, whilst there is an air of mystery about certain members of the community, Zoë Sharp has worked hard not to bow to any singular stereotype, or make any aspersions about Travellers in general, whilst still conveying the judgement and prejudice that their community is subjected to. It is a delicate balance but very carefully handled. It was the elements of the story in which the Traveller culture is explored more closely, that idea of the sort of head of a clan, which I found fascinating. The story served to challenge my own prejudices without alienating me from what I was reading and I often found myself incensed by the behaviour of the self proclaimed civilised locals who sought to discriminate against the Travellers in their midst. Like every community, there are the good and the bad folk, and the bad are not always easy to identify whilst those you may trust least can often take you by surprise.

I do love the characters of Grace and Nick and the chemistry between them is undeniable. It’s not an easy partnership, several obstacles standing in their way, not least of which is Nick’s partner—the mother of his child. Theirs is a complicated relationship, not likely to be made any easier by revelations from within this book. Then there is Grace’s ex-husband—a man who cannot take a hint when told that they are over. Of course that’s not made any easier when you factor in Grace’s mother, Eleanor. Oh my word how I like her. She is a canny lady that’s for sure and she has the measure of those around her very quickly. She is keen, quick witted and very sly in her own way. A brilliant character and it’s easy to see where some of Grace’s spirit comes from. And it’s a good thing that Grace is so determined and strong as she will need her wits about her this time around as at least one of the people she is hunting for knows how to stay one step ahead.

One other character who was something of a revelation in this book is Queenie. Although she lives her life in a largely patriarchal community where her only role is to support her husband and bring up her children (and I say only with a roll of my eyes and more than a hint of sarcasm), she is so strong of spirit and heart that you cannot help but admire her. She is the calm at the heart of a storm, a voice of reason unafraid to stand up for what she believes in, no matter what peril she puts herself in. She is naturally wary of the police having had no reason to trust them in the past, but the reluctant respect she shares with Grace helps to drive the story. There is a real depth to her character and she is easy to grow to like. Although it’s not always easy to understand her acquiescence to her husband and brother, there is that underlying spark that signals a woman who will ultimately not be cowed by others.

The book is full of moments of tension and conflict and moments that will make you smile in spite of a very hard hitting storyline. It is a tale of long held secrets, of prejudice and mistrust and of family, for good or for bad. Parts will make your heart break, others will even make you angry or perhaps make you laugh. But what they will do is combine to produce a storyline that is 100% absorbing and a completely compelling read in a series I am loving.

I know this series is set to be a trilogy, but then it was only ever going to be a standalone at one stage. Is it too much to hope for that after book three there might just be room for a little more? Fingers crossed as these books are definitely recommended.

Read the review and leave a comment over on Jen Med’s Book Reviews.

Day 6 of the Blog Tour for BONES IN THE RIVER. Today the fabulous Noelle Holten has posted her review at Crime Book Junkie. I think it’s fairly safe to say she enjoyed the book, but don’t take my word for it:

Set in Cumbria / Kirkby Stephen / Appleby the reader is immersed in a novel which looks at the travelling community; discrimination; blame; fear; family; loyalty; grief; secrets; consequences; mistrust; corruption; loss; deception and a search for the truth/justice.

Zoë Sharp is one of my favourite authors because no matter what, she delivers a story that instantly has you on the edge of your seat. What an opening! My eyes widened as I read the final sentence and that was it – HOOKED! What I loved about this book was the puzzle that keeps you guessing in relation to the secondary thread whilst the main storyline has you screaming at the characters as they unravel a horrible crime – you see, the reader knows early on who the police and CSI are looking for – and you absolutely won’t believe it! So it’s not the WHO it is the HOW the outcome will be revealed that will have you racing through the pages! Within the pages, there is great description – you are there in the moment – and it’s hard not to imagine the beauty of the setting balanced against the horror of the crime… There is an authenticity to the novel as well, it was clear that Zoë Sharp did her research and I also enjoyed the #kickass moments – some that might make even Charlie Fox proud!

When I read the first book: DANCING ON THE GRAVE I wanted more – I loved DC Nick Weston and CSI Grace McColl so was thrilled to hear that Zoë took on board her readers *ahem* demands and followed up with this book! But readers – both are fabulous stand-alone stories so you can read them on their own – but given we learn a little bit about each of the main players in the first book, you may as well read it – it’s brilliant! DC Nick Weston is still trying to prove himself but we learn a lot more about him and I have to say, I love him even more. Same applies to Grace McColl – she’s determined and not afraid to follow her gut but the insight we receive in BONES IN THE RIVER about Grace goes a long way to explain or hint at why she is this way. I also like the almost uncertainty that hovers over the relationship (personal and professional) between Grace and Nick. And Zoë Sharp can write a baddie well – but in this novel, there are a few who might surprise you when all is revealed and you may even feel sorry for some…

So would I recommend this read? That would be a hell-to-the-yeah I would! Another cleverly constructed and riveting read from the oh-so-talented, Zoë Sharp! BONES IN THE RIVER delivers everything I look for in a crime thriller: relatable characters, a compelling and believable plot and a pace that is sharp, fast and addictive. Highly recommended!

You can read or comment on the review over at Crime Book Junkie.

Day 5 of the Blog Tour for BONES IN THE RIVER. Today I’m the guest of Sara Weiss at the Book Lovers Forever group on Facebook. This is an invite-only group, so I’ve shared Sara’s review below:

CSI Grace McColl and Detective Nick Weston are back in book two in the Lake Thriller trilogy. The book opens with a murder. This isn’t a whodunnit, we find out immediately who the killer is although the police don’t know. During the investigation of this crime a body washes up in the river and the two cases become intertwined.

I really enjoyed the procedural aspect of the story. I also like these characters very much. There were a couple of plot devices I did not enjoy. I won’t get into specifics because it might influence the reader; I just want to explain the lower star rating. Overall, this was a solid story with great characters. It was well researched, or at least seemed to be, the details were very interesting. I really like all the animals, from pets to breeding horses, the personalities were as filled out as their human counterparts.

This could definitely be read as a stand alone, but the first book, DANCING ON THE GRAVE is fantastic.

 

Day 3 of the Blog Tour for BONES IN THE RIVER is a review by Sarah Hardy at By The Letter Book ReviewsIt is always fascinating to see what different reviewers pick up on in any book, and this was no exception:

My thoughts:

It always horrifies me when you hear of hit and run accidents. I would like to think most of us would do the right thing if the unfortunate ever happened but sadly this isn’t always the case.

The fact that there are two deaths to investigate made this story much more intriguing. Especially as one happened years before. Throw into the equation that gypsies have set up home, the police, like most of us, can’t help to jump to conclusions as to who might be behind the deaths.

From the start the reader knows who the culprit is for the hit and run. I loved that we knew, adding to the tension of the already gripping story line and making me want to scream at the characters at who its was. The author spends time on the investigation and the leg work of interviewing. This leads to some shocking discoveries as well as getting to know the people under investigation better. Of which some had me disliking more whilst others my empathy increased.

BONES IN THE RIVER is a realistic crime thriller that kept me hooked throughout. The author makes every minute of the investigation interesting and I couldn’t wait to discover what was waiting for me with each new chapter. It is a story filled with hidden secrets and lies which made it all the more exciting as Grace and the team work hard in unveiling the truth. A tense, page turner of a read.

You can read the review or comment on it over on By The Letter Book Reviews.

Today kicks off the Blog Tour for BONES IN THE RIVER with a review from the amazing Karen Cole at Hair Past A Freckle. Karen has taken a deep dive into the book and really got to the heart of what the story is all about in her perceptive, detailed review:

I’m thrilled to be launching the blog tour for Bones In The River today. Huge thanks to Zoë Sharp and Ayo Onatade for inviting me and for my advance digital copy of the novel.

When I reviewed Zoë Sharp’s DANCING ON THE GRAVE a couple of years ago, I concluded it with the hope that the standalone would become a series and so I was delighted to discover that yes, Grace McColl and Nick Weston were going to appear again in BONES IN THE RIVER, the second book in what is now the Lakes Thriller trilogy—although each story can easily be enjoyed as a standalone too.

The novel opens with the death of a child and though it was an accident, the killer makes a panicked decision to hide the evidence. His identity is revealed to the readers very early in the book but rather than diminishing the tension, knowing who was responsible ahead of the investigating team actually increases the sense of nerve-wracking anticipation to the proceedings. There’s a tantalising game of cat-and-mouse played out as the perpetrator takes progressively wilder steps to evade being caught even as a crucial piece of evidence lies in the hands of the police.

The discovery of the boy’s badly damaged and bloodied bicycle sparks a concerned investigation into his disappearance and if a missing child is always likely to stir up emotions in a community, the prospect of violence becomes even more probable here with the influx of Gypsies and Travellers arriving for the Appleby Horse Fair. Relations between locals and the Travelling Community are always strained but as a second body is discovered, the age-old stigma and mistrust of Gypsies means many are quick to accuse them of both crimes and to make it clear they are even less welcome in the area.

The Fair also brings with it the added complication of old arguments—among different Gypsy clans and with the locals. Usually the Shera Rom (head man) keeps a tight grip on things but Hezekiah Smith’s recent death means the position in waiting to be filled. More than one man wants the role and they won’t risk losing face even if it results in bloodshed. Zoë Sharp writes of the difficulties arising from hostilities between locals and the Travelling Community with empathetic insight and her use of Romany words throughout adds an authentic flavour to the story. She draws attention to the abiding bigotry directed at Gypsies whilst still acknowledging their own difficult issues—perhaps most notably regarding some of their less than enlightened attitudes towards women. With that in mind, Queenie Smith is undoubtedly one of the most engaging characters in the novel; her strength and courage in the light of all she endures here meant that I looked forward to every scene this superbly rendered woman appears in.

The strong characterisation extends beyond Queenie, of course; I loved Detective Nick Weston and CSI Grace McColl in the first book and that was cemented here as their contrasting roles and investigative styles perfectly complement one another. The chemistry between them continues to simmer and I welcomed the introduction of Grace’s mother, Eleanor who interferes just enough in her daughter’s life. Meanwhile, the acting Head of CSI, Chris Blenkinship is a thoroughly unlikeable man whose arrogant behaviour ensured I was desperate for his comeuppance. On that score, I particularly loved the fabulous Force Medical Examiner, Dr Ayo Onatade (that name will obviously be familiar to many crime fiction lovers!) whose cool attitude and depth of knowledge so ably puts him in his place on a few occasions.

BONES IN THE RIVER is a gripping police procedural and the intertwining investigations into both a tragic new case and the discovery of a body killed a decade ago are captivating throughout.With long-hidden and more recent secrets gradually being uncovered, the drama is never less than compelling, the sense of place is vividly evoked and the perceptive exploration of complex family issues is thoroughly engrossing. Zoë Sharp’s writing is always first-rate but there are moments when it becomes utterly beautiful and the lyrical poeticism she uses in her descriptions of the river or the day as a storm approaches are simply outstanding passages that I read twice just to savour them.

BONES IN THE RIVER is as brilliant as I’ve come to expect from an author who has become one of my favourites. It’s dark, shocking and exciting but is imbued throughout with intuitive empathy and a dry wit—I loved it!

If you’d like to comment on the review, please visit Hair Past A Freckle.

BONES IN THE RIVER, the second book in the Lakes crime thriller series with CSI Grace McColl and Detective Nick Weston, will be published on May 26 2020. Even without the current UK Lockdown situation due to Covid-19, I enjoy taking the book on the virtual road with a Blog Tour.

So—drum roll, please—here are the dates and stops on the tour of the best and brightest book blogs for BONES IN THE RIVER. As well as getting the opinions of the various bloggers and reviewers, I’ll be writing, about the particular setting of the annual Appleby Horse Fair for this book, about starting this new series, answering questions, and talking about how past jobs have influenced my writing career. I hope you’ll join me.

Day 1: May 25
Hair Past A Freckle with Karen Cole

Day 2: May 26
Donna’s Book Blog with Donna Maguire 

Day 3: May 27
By The Letter Book Reviews with Sarah Hardy  

Day 4: May 29
Trip Fiction with Tina Hartas

Day 5: May 31
Book Lovers Forever with Sara Weiss

Day 6: June 2
Crime Book Junkie with Noelle Holten

Day 7: June 4
Jen Med’s Book Reviews with Jen Lucas

Day 8: June 5
Elementary V Watson with Vic Watson

Day 9: June 7
Shotsblog Confidential with Ayo Onatade

New Zealander Judith Baxter has always been a Charlie Fox fan, so it was wonderful to read her Books And More Books review of the upcoming Lakes Crime Thriller and find she’s warming to Grace McColl and Nick Weston, too.

As part of Zoë Sharp’s Advance Reader Team, I am delighted to say I recently received a copy of her latest book in the Lake Thriller Trilogy,

This is book No 2 and once again we meet CSI Grace McColl and Detective Nick Watson whom we met in DANCING ON THE GRAVE. This time they are brought together on a couple of murders which may or may not be linked.

‘The traditional Appleby Horse Fair hosts the largest gathering of Gypsies and Travellers in Europe…’ And it is in this setting with the rivalry between the Travellers and locals that Ms Sharp sets the scene.

As she says Half the businesses in town rub their hands in glee about all the extra income, and the other half shut up shop and treat it as an enforced holiday. It’s a well-known fact … it is the ideal time of year for settling scores.”

A child’s bicycle is found dumped in a skip at the side of the road. Grace McColl is called in when it is discovered there is blood on the frame, human blood. Enter Nick Watson, detective recently moved from London to this quiet region of the Fells. But is there a body? and to whom does the bike belong?

While investigating this, the body of an adult is thrown up by the fast-moving river. But there is no identification on him, and why would there be when it is determined that the body has been in the water for ten years or more?

So our protagonists are working on a missing child and a dead adult, both cases at the same time. And all the while in the background, Grace’s boss is working against her and actively confusing one of the cases on which she is working.

Apart from McColl and Weston we once again have the familiar characters of Pollock and Ty Frost and we are introduced to more characters such as Queenie and Bartley Smith, Vano Smith, the Elliots and their complicated family.

As always, the story is well-plotted, the characters well rounded and the plot is believable. And thanks to Ms Sharp for the research that leads to such a strong and believable background to this gripping story. Thank you; I really enjoyed reading about Travellers and their traditions.

I love all of Ms Sharp’s writing and while Charlie Fox will always be my favourite, the more I read of this pair the more I like them. I am looking forward to Book 3.

 I recommend you get a copy of this without delay.

You can read Judith’s review and comment on her site, Books And More Books 2017.

When I logged in to Twitter recently, I was delighted to come across this re-Tweet from Ian Rankin, quite out of the blue, saying, “Highly recommend this series!” Well, as my grandmother might have said, I’ll go to the foot of our stairs. What a lovely surprise!