Thriller of the Month – Silent Scream, by Angela Marsons

Thriller of the Month – Silent Scream, by Angela Marsons

British thriller writer Angela Marsons has sold 2m books. It’s easy to see why when you read her first crime thriller, Silent Scream (currently a bargain 99p on Amazon). The first page features a child’s clandestine burial, while a well-to-do woman is murdered in her bath in the next chapter. Marsons grabs the reader by the throat right from the start, and never lets go.

This twist-packed detective story has a very American feel, with the lawmen’s banter calling to mind vintage cop shows such as Hill Street Blues. However, like its author, heroine DI Kim Stone is based firmly in the Black Country.

The post-industrial urban sprawl to the west of Birmingham is sympathetically described. Marsons makes it clear that it’s not all high-unemployment sink estates; there are wealthy areas too. Occasionally, the distinctive local dialect crops up in characters’ conversations, but Marsons displays a light touch with that and there is no struggle to understand them.

So what of the story? Kim Stone finds herself chasing the serial killer of individuals who worked at a children’s home that burned down ten years before. Having established a link between the victims, Stone is in a race against time to protect remaining employees of the institution. Her suspicions that bodies will be found in the home’s grounds sadly proves correct. That triggers emotions for Kim Stone, who spent much of her early life in care. In fact, although perceived by others as cold and lacking in social graces, Stone is extremely emotional below the surface. In particular, she is determined to stick up for those without a voice. There is never any doubt that Stone will find the murderer, because she is so highly motivated by her desire to bring justice to the dispossessed.

Naturally, there are obstacles along the way – as well as plenty of red herrings and twists. The Queen of Suspense, Marsons keeps us guessing. Both the unmasking of the killer, and subsequent heartwarming ending, came as a complete surprise to me. They were, however, completely credible.

The book is a page turner, and I polished it off in a day. The only off note for me was Marsons’ rather harsh description of the Bull & Bladder pub. Luckily, she admitted the error and apologised in a later book. As a temple to Bathams Bitter, the alehouse serves some of the best beer in the land, and I’m jealous that one of her characters calls it his local. Having said that, I wouldn’t want to share the fate she has in store for him…

This is the first in a long series about Kim Stone. I’ll definitely work my way through the rest!

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I’m also a crime thriller writer, focusing on the buzzy British cities of Birmingham and London. Read “5 minute crime thriller” The Gap here.

Thriller of the Month – Flowers for the Dead, by Barbara Copperthwaite

After taking time out to finish my latest crime thriller, The Vodka Trail, I’m reading lots of fabulous fiction again, and Thriller of the Month is back! Barbara Copperthwaite’s Flowers for the Dead is a psychological thriller on a par with Ruth Rendell’s darker works – an all too believable story of the harvest reaped from a dysfunctional childhood.

Anti-hero Adam is rich, young, athletic and alone in the world. He’s also painfully shy and can’t communicate easily with women. Although he knows the meaning of different flowers, having taught himself from an old book, even his hand-tied bouquets are misunderstood by the girls he fancies.

Orphaned in his late teens (and we learn more about that as the tale unfolds), Adam lives in a Victorian mansion in a swanky area of Birmingham. He travels far and wide in pursuit of young women – London, Colchester, Reading and inverness. It takes years for the police to realise they’re looking for a serial killer. Segueing between past and present to show us how a killer was made rather than born, Barbara Copperthwaite draws us skilfully into the minds of Adam, his victims and the policeman who’s racing against time to rescue the latest object of the killer’s fixation.

There’s just enough police procedural detail in the book to satisfy crime fiction fans, but this novel is all about the serial killer’s psychology, the warped logic that allows Adam to justify his acts to himself. Emotionally, nothing is black and white. It is possible to pity Adam, while still being repulsed by his crimes and rooting for DS Mike Bishop to save the day. The final suspense-filled finish is a real nail-biter.

This is journalist Barbara Copperthwaite’s second book and a third is expected soon – definitely one to watch!

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I’m a British thriller writer who’s just released The Vodka Trail – a suspense thriller. Just like Flowers for the Dead, the conflicts in the story have their roots in the past…