Ice Queen (DI Jamie Johansson #6), by Morgan Greene

Eight stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to Morgan Greene for providing me with a copy of this novel, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

I was pleased to be handed an ARC for this novel, the ninth in the Jamie Johansson collection and sixth in this DI Johansson series. Greene does a formidable job at advancing his protagonist effectively and keeps her criminal investigations on point. With some stellar narrative techniques and a story that never allows the reader to catch their breath, there is something electric about this novel, which is said to be the last in this vein of Jamie Johansson novels. Greene impresses and eager readers should devour the entire collection soon.

Tying off some loose ends from a previous case, DI Jamie Johansson is permitted to sit in on an Interpol interview. It is then that she realises that there is much more to the story than her investigation uncovered, with some whispers of new and brutal crime along the Finnish border. However, Interpol officials seem more interested in the Russian angle, hoping to nab someone swiftly.

After reluctantly being given the green light, DI Johansson and her partner make their way up to Leppasalmi, a town that does not see much light for three winter months. While the locals have come to accept the danger at night, locking themselves away at dusk, DI Johansson cannot accept this and uses her penchant for finding crime to see what’s been going on.

Local lore talks of an Ice Queen who hunts those who have committed some grievance, though specifics are never revealed to DI Johansson. However, the killings are both brutal and focussed, using killing tools from bygone eras and in different parts of the world. As DI Johansson inches closer, she is caught in the web of the Ice Queen and may soon become one of the bodies left as a deterrent to those who would think to dethrone Her Majesty. Scrambling for answers while juggling some personal struggles of her own, DI Jamie Johansson makes a move to help the residents of Leppasalmi, even if it is the last thing she does! Greene weaves a stunning story together and keeps the reader on the edge of their seat throughout.

I can be guaranteed of a great read when Morgan Greene is at the helm. It was a random ‘would you read my book?’ request by the author that got me hooked on Jamie Johansson and her criminal adventures, something I have never regretted. Greene has done so much to develop Johansson’s character, moving her from the UK to Sweden, where crimes are just as sadistic. However as mentioned in the author’s note, there is something new on the horizon for DI Johansson, which is sure to spice things up for series fans who have come to adore this gritty copper with a backstory like few others.

Greene uses his quick writing style to pull the reader into the middle of the story by the end of the second chapter. There’s so much going on and the action seems never to wane. Throughout the story, a handful of new and recurring characters make themselves known and keep the reader highly entertained. That said, as Greene admits in his personal note, he may have piled on too many things with too many characters to be easily digested in a single story. Great plot twists and a criminal vein of happenings keeps the story focussed and allows the reader to feel attached to what’s happening. With a smattering of Swedish and Finnish, the reader can feel as though they are in the middle of the case and in rural Sweden, where English is not common. I cannot say enough about Morgan Greene or the series, though I am interested to see what the new perspective will do for the series. While I have always said that there’s no need to fix something that’s not broken, I can see the advantage of the odd tweak to make things run a little more smoothly. I await the tenth instalment with anticipation.

Kudos, Mr. Greene, for another winning piece!

Idle Hands (DS Jamie Johansson #3), by Morgan Greene

Eight stars

Having devoured the opening two novel in this series, I was eager to get my hands on the third, deemed the final of the ‘prequel trilogy’ by Morgan Greene. This book matches the others with a strong story and more captivating characters. Working on threads from the past books and a new case, Greene is able to pull readers in with more from DS Jamie Johansson.

Still reeling from the fallout in the last book, DS Johansson is left with an injured partner and many questions about who could have tipped off the smugglers to the intended raid. While there are some whispers about an inside job, it is hard to finger members of the London Met without major blowback.

If this were not enough to keep her busy, Jamie has decided to move, worried that her stalker—serial killer, Elliot Day—may return to cause her more havoc. Working during off-hours, she and a few helpful hands are able to secretly put her into a new abode, hopefully that no one will be the wiser.

DS Johansson is soon called to the scene of a crime, with her interim partner, Captain Nasir Hassan. They discover the body of a young woman whose hands have been severed. She appears to have been busking on the London streets, though this is no dime store violin in a case. It is antique and has been kept up. Witnesses mention having seen someone in passing, though no one saw the murder.

Using some of the added resources within the Met, Johansson and Hassan learn that the victim is none other than Alyssa Doran, who sits as first chair in her college orchestra. Her abilities with the violin sound magical, though she does not come across as anyone worthy of murder, or having her hands removed. A little digging helps Johnasson and Hassan learn more about the cut throat world of orchestras, though the primary suspect cannot be located, the new first chair.

When not only the aforementioned first chair goes missing, but the orchestra’s conductor is found murdered, Johansson and Hassan discover that there is more to the story they do not yet know. It appears the crime may not be victim specific, but more to do with the sanctity of her hands. Are there other murder victims out there with missing hands? Could this, perhaps, provide some needed clues?

Just as things are getting heated at work, Johnasson is visited by none other than Elliot Day. He brings a message and proof that no amount of secrecy will keep him from her. Jamie is walking a fine line and has yet to tell anyone that he’s back, which only furthers the sense of danger that envelops her.

A killer’s on the loose, Day lurks in the shadows with an ongoing obsession to help her in his own, sick way. Will this be one killer who can lull more victims into a sense of protection, or can he be plucked up before the vibrations of his kills resonate with the general public?

Morgan Greene remains a natural storyteller, using strong writing alongside some well-developed characters to provide an addictive read. All novels in this prequel series served to keep me pushing ahead and reading well into the night, leaving me wanting even more

DS Jamie Johansson remains a powerful protagonist, blossoming throughout the story. She remains a young detective, but Johansson has great passion her father passed along. The attentive reader will see how she struggles to handle the three plots that have come up in this story, leaving her little time for personal growth. Greene effectively shapes her into a character many will want to see grow as the novels continue. If rumours I have heard prove true, there is a lot to come for Johansson in the coming years!

Greene develops his supporting cast effectively, pulling on many walks fo life to keep the reader highly entertained. This police procedural blends some of the unresolved cases from the past with a new and equally horrible one, mixing people from all three novels. With a focus on music and its dark underbelly, Greene develops some characters specific to the genre, some of whom work well with Johansson, as others clash in the best possible way.

This was a great third novel, tying off some of the ‘prequel threads’ Greene presented. An author worth noting, Greene shows much confidence as the story builds. There is great action and a well-balanced set of cases. Exploring London from yet another angle, Greene offers something not soon forgotten. Longer chapters pull the reader in with much plot development, alongside a few teasers to keep the reader forging ahead. I have high hopes that some of the less developed aspects of the story emerge later in Greene’s work, as his ability to offer a cliffhanger or two has me wanting to rush back as soon as I can.

Kudos, Mr. Greene, for another winner. Where will you take DS Jamie Johansson next, is surely all the buzz amongst your fans!

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge:

Bare Skin (DS Jamie Johansson #1), by Morgan Greene

Nine stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to Morgan Greene for providing me with a copy of this novel, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

Approached by the author to review his debut police procedural, I entered the experience with an open mind and high hopes. As soon as DS Jamie Johansson made herself known, I could tell that this would be a gritty story with significant character development and a plot that would propel the piece forward. I was not disappointed with Morgan Greene’s work and hope others will take the time to read it. That being said, you’ll want to block off some time, as this novel will surely pull you in!

Of all the partner pairings within the London Metropolitan Police, that of Detective Sergeants Jamie Johansson and Paul Roper is surely the least likely. DS Johansson is young, lithe, and health conscious, while DS Roper smokes like a chimney and loves his drink. The age gap is also quite significant, but somehow they make it work and find a form symbiosis.

When they are called to investigate the death of a young, homeless man, Johansson and Roper can only suspect it will be another case that adds to the statistics. However, Oliver ‘Ollie’ Hammond presents as a long-time heroin user who appears to have drowned in the river, with a significant amount of torture to his body. Might it have been self-inflicted from years of drug use? That’s the question that no one seems able to answer.

When DS Johansson tracks Ollie back to a shelter, she discovers that he has a girlfriend, Grace, who has been living on the streets with him, battling the same heroin addiction. While there are few leads, once DS Johansson finds Grace, she is in bad shape. Rushed to the hospital with an overdose, she will be of no help to anyone for the time being.

DS Roper takes him job seriously, but is also realistic about the chance that a pair of homeless people will be top priority for the Met. His pig-headedness clashes greatly with his partner, as DS Johansson refuses to give up. She’s sure there is a drug angle here, as many of the dealers and drug kingpins likely have Grace and Ollie on their radars. Working every angle they can, Johansson and Roper discover a possible suspect, though they try to handle things on their own, much to their own demise.

Suspended for putting themselves and other cases in jeopardy, Johansson and Roper go their own ways for the time being. Johansson uses her time away to reflect on some of her own personal problems, including a budding connection to one of the witnesses that has helped shape the case. It’s only when a substantial lead comes to fruition that DSs Johansson and Roper will be called on assist in bringing a ‘big fish’ down. However, not everything caught in the net proves helpful, and this leads to a stunning cliffhanger as the last chapter comes to an end.

Morgan Greene not only has a way with storytelling, but can lure the reader in with a strong plot and some well-developed characters. There was no point during my reading that I was lulled into a sense of boredom, as I was always wanting a little more, turning pages well into the night.

DS Jamie Johansson is a wonderful protagonist and her character is hashed out effectively throughout the story. A transplant from Sweden in her teens, she idolises her father, who was also a detective before he took his own life. The animosity between her parents left Johansson with a gaping hole in her life, something serving on the Met only hopes to fill. While she is a young detective, she has a knack like few others. Her mix of workplace professionalism and desire to better herself through diet and exercise make her a well-rounded character that Greene explores in breakaway moments of the narrative. There is still much to learn about her, making the fact that this is a series with some momentum all the more exciting.

The cast of secondary characters kept me intrigued throughout as well. Greene is able to paint a wonderful picture in this police procedural with strong supporting characters from all walks of life. The police, drug world, and medical folk are all presented in a believable fashion and help to hash out the multi-faceted plot that never seems to lag. With the cliffhanger at the end of the novel, we’ll likely see many of these faces again in the sequel, though how they will impact the story is left to be seen.

This was a great debut novel and Morgan Greene is surely an author worth noting. A strong plot gains momentum throughout with a strong setting on the gritty streets of London. Using some of the darker underbelly of the city, Greene offers the reader something well worth their while. The use of longer chapters pulls the reader in with much plot development, only to be countered with a few short, teasing chapters to keep the ‘a few more pages’ mantra on the lips of many. With a cliffhanger, I have no choice but to reach for the sequel to see how things resolve themselves. In truth, Greene writes so well that I’d be happy to rush to find another DS Jamie Johansson novel no matter the topic!

Kudos, Mr. Greene, for a great beginning to what looks like a gritty series. I hope others stumble upon your work and see just how addictive it can be.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: