The Shadow Man, by Helen Fields

Eight stars

After developing a strong DI Luc Callanach series, Helen Fields sets about dazzling her readers with yet another superb standalone novel. The Shadow Manis not only a great police procedural, but also pushes the genre to the limits with one of the most unique serial killers I have come across in all my years reading. Steeped with action, suspense, and some psychological chills, Fields proves that she is a force to be reckoned with when she puts her mind to it. Fans of her past work the genre in general will surely find something captivating in this piece, though it will also keep them up well in to the night.

Dr. Connie Woodwine has been called in to help work a case within Police Scotland’s Major Investigation Team (MIT). An American, Woodwine brings her experience as a forensic psychologist to a baffling case and is teamed up with DI Brodie Baarda, based in Edinburgh. A woman’s found slain in her bed and the best friend who had arrived to see her is kidnapped from the driveway. Woodwine and Baarda have no idea where to begin, as the forensics are scarce and the leads non-existent. 

After word comes over the wire that a teenage girl was abducted in plain sight by a gangly, skeletal man outside a library, Woodwine and Baarda try to determine if this is another abduction or an extrapolation of their own case. Still, there is little on which to go, save the eerie description by another youth. Still, it’s something for the time being.

Meanwhile, in an undisclosed location, the two victims begin to see that they are playing parts in a sick a sadistic game with a man who fancies himself already dead. His emaciated body is disgusting enough, but the ‘play acting’ he has them perform while in captivity takes things to a whole new level. He almost encompasses the role as head of a family, one that meets his every needs. As the kidnapper continues to add to his brood, his more violent side comes out, making him a threat in an entirely new way.

Woodwine and Baarda begin to piece things together, though extremely slowly. It is nothing that will guarantee solving the case, but this sliver of information could help expand the search parameters, while they wrestle to comprehend the killer’s physical and psychological anomalies. They’ll need to stay on top of things if they hope to save those who have been taken and find justice for those whose lives have already been extinguished.

I got a kick out of reading the comments made by some about how ‘pleasantly surprised’ they were to see this novel come from Helen Fields. In my humble opinion, this is Fields in and out, pushing the boundaries and bringing police procedurals to life with strong narratives and stellar characters. Set again in Scotland, the reader gets that brogue feel within the banter as a killer seeks to exact their own form of tortuous behaviour to allay their own fears.

Connie Woodwine and Brodie Baarda definitely share the spotlight in this piece, with the former’s ‘foreignness’ definitely receiving a little added focus. Woodwine’s own backstory adds something to the story, after she suffered a brain injury as a teenager and ended up as an achromat, unable to see colour whatsoever. Living her life in black, white, and shades of grey, Woodwine is able to get to the core of the case with her exceptional determination throughout the piece. Her banter with Baarda’s whose past seems much less exciting, proves to be a key element to the novel’s success. This is a duo that works so well together, one can only imagine if it will spin into a series to rival DI Luc Callanach.

By and large, the secondary characters are wonderful with the central antagonist, Fergus Ariss, proving masterful. His body is plagued with an illness that is only revealed in the latter part of the novel, though his mental rationalisations prove baffling throughout. Ariss uses those who fall into his clutches so well and creates this secondary world that readers cannot help but discover in the well-paced narrative. Ariss does well to keep the flow of the story going as he tries to build up his familial empire one victim at a time. There’s little time to rest as the story’s flavour gets deeper and more alluring as the chapters flow. Those who support both the protagonists and the antagonist find themselves perfectly placed, developed effectively throughout.

Kudos, Madam Fields, for another great read. I am eager to see what else you have in store for your fans.

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

These Lost & Broken Things, by Helen Fields

Eight stars

Stepping away from her highly popular police procedural series, Helen Fields offers readers a piece set over a century ago, with a woman who will do anything to keep her family together. Sofia grew up in a family of Romani, luring unsuspecting people and taking their money through various sleights of hand. Amongst them was Sofia’s keen abilities at poker, which has her winning large sums from the dark and dirty men who frequent the gaming houses in the late 19th century. Moving head to 1905, Sofia has married and has two children, a definitely improvement in her life. When her husband, Tom, dies before a doctor can be summoned, Sofia has no choice but to seek employment to ensure there is food on the table. While she finds it hard to do so, Sofia is approached by Tom’s employers, one Emmett Vinsant, who has many businesses he owns. While Sofia is leery, she agrees to work in a gaming house, watching other men lose their money with ease. She is unable to keep her poker addiction under wraps and ends up almost losing everything one night. She’s warned by Vinsant to be more careful and given a final chance, serving as an assassin of sorts. Given instructions by Vinsant or his underling, Sofia Logan is now a cold-blooded killer, but can finally ensure her family’s safety. Between assignments, she is forced to remember some of the horrors of her youth, when she first got a taste for murder to protect herself. As Sofia continues her work, she finds herself gravitating to a new man, one who could topple everything if he were to find out Sofia’s true work. An interesting change for Helen Fields, though the writing is still top notch. Those who enjoy historical fiction may want to get their hands on this piece, as well as long-time fans of the authors other work!

I admit that my fascination with Helen Fields’ novels had me wanting to try this piece, at least for something different. I sought to determine just how versatile Fields could be and this novel helped prove that she has what it takes to write outside of the crime thriller box. Sofia Logan proves to be a wonderful protagonist, though quite unassuming as she keeps her nose down in early 20th century England. Suffering alongside many others, Sofia has the love of her family first, though she cannot forget some of the skills she learned as a child to protect her from the wiles of evil men. As the story progresses, the reader can see some of the epiphanies that Sofia has, both about herself and the lifestyle she is living. Others within the piece complement her and keep the plot moving in a forward direction. The story is quite well-paced with a few plot lines to keep the reader intrigued. The intermixing of flashback chapters helps sketch a more complete story about Sofia Logan and lays the groundwork for the impetus of her need to survive. Those readers who enjoy some of the more modern work might like this extrapolation, if only to remind them why Helen Fields is such a great author. I cannot wait to see what’s to come!

Kudos, Madam Fields, for a great move away from your traditional fare. I think you have the knack for historical fiction and yet am also quite happy with your modern Scottish tales.

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

Perfect Kill (D.I. Callanach #6), by Helen (Sarah) Fields

Eight stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Helen Fields and Avon Books UK for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

Returning to this stellar police procedural series, I was eager to discover how Helen Fields would tackle some of the major cliffhangers she left for readers. She’s surely spun things around and developed a multi-pronged storyline that will keep series fans talking and the reader enjoying this one until the final page. With DI Luc Callanach on the outs with his boss at MIT Police Scotland, he has agreed to make his way to France and help out an old INTERPOL colleague. When they discover the remains of a body—its internal organs removed—Callanach is baffled about who or what might be lurking in the shadows. Some preliminary DNA traces it back to a missing Scottish boy, forcing Callanach to get on the phone with DCI Ava Turner, this aforementioned boss and past love interest. Turner takes the call and agrees to make the notification, but is working some cases of her own. Someone has discovered the body of a man, shot in the head. Found in a seedy part of Edinburgh, there are some obvious signs of trying to clean up the scene. Add to that, a young man has gone missing out of thin air and no one can make sense of it. While both cases progress, Callanach learns of an underground organ transplant ring and tries to infiltrate it, but must be extremely delicate, while DCI Turner’s leads send her on a few wild chases, including to a pig farm. Both Turner and Callanach must also tackle feelings from their recent amorous tiff and news of a friend that leaves them broken. With two additional underlying plots related to people in captivity, this book leaves little time to breathe or process. Fields has done it again, with a stellar piece of writing. Recommended to those who love this series and need another reason, as well as the reader who loves a police procedural that leaves it all out on the field (pun intended).

I discovered this series a while back and cannot get enough of it. The mix of Scottish and French beliefs adds depth to the story and a layer of humour I have not found elsewhere. Luc Callanach remains a wonderful protagonist, still smarting from some of his choices, but eager to help back in France. His police work is balanced nicely with an air of compassion, both for Ava, as well as those around him on the case. We do not get much more back story, or even processing what happened, but Callanach does well keeping things professional as best he can. Contrasting nicely with this is DCI Ava Turner, whose supervisory role has been violated again, but she is still trying to shake off the feelings she has for Callanach. Compartmentalising these is difficult, but she as a few major cases on her plate, let alone the news of a friend’s illness. Juggling all this, as well as professional interactions with Callanach begin the wear her down to the nub. Others make recurring or new appearances and keep the story fresh, from all angles. Fields has done well to develop some characters who pull the reader in, while others are surely repulsive enough that no one wants near them. The plot was strong and worked well for me, balancing a Scotland and France angle, tying things together effectively without muddying the waters too much. There is that ongoing Callanach-Turner strain that has kept the series on edge for a while, which does not dissipate here. As series fans scream for some resolution, they also bask in the awkwardness that continues throughout. I am eager to see where things are headed, as this series never disappoints.

Kudos, Madam Fields, for another stellar instalment in the series. I hope you have many more ideas for your crew!

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

Perfect Crime (DI Callanach Thriller #5), by Helen Sarah Fields

Eight stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Helen Fields, and Avon Books for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

In a series that keeps finding new ways to impress, Helen Fields captivates the reader’s attention yet again. While on a short holiday from work, DI Luc Callanach finds himself at a care facility, where he comes face to face with one of the residents, riddled with dementia. The reason for the visit is to allow Callanach to confront one of the two men who raped his mother many years ago. Barely able to hold his emotions in check, Callanach wants to make it clear that he will never forget the horrible things his mother was forced to endure, even if he may be facing his biological father at present. Upon returning to Police Scotland, Callanach and DCI Ava Turner are called out to a crime scene next to a castle wall. They are baffled to discover why they might be involved in what appears to be a clear-cut jump. How quickly suicide turns into a homicide, as some of the injuries discovered in the post-mortem are surely the work of someone else. Seeking to better understand the victim’s backstory, Callanach and Turner learn he visited a counselling centre to help with suicidal thoughts, but this brings them no closer to understanding what took place. When a second victim turns up dead with another suicidal presentation, Callanach and Turner wonder if there is a killer on the loose, seeking to turn thoughts into action. Meanwhile, the man Callanach visited turns up dead the same day as the aforementioned visit, smothered with a pillow. Could Callanach have taken out his aggression on a man who could not fight back? DCI Turner seeks to keep her underling’s ties to the victim off the radar, but does wonder if a temporary leave may help from muddying the waters too much. When a third victim is discovered, Callanach and Turner know that they must act fast, not only finding the killer, but also honing in on potential targets before their psychological worries cause a loss of life. Might there be someone lurking in the shadows who acts as a conduit for those who seek death already, or perhaps someone with a sinister game-plan, seeking only pawns in their sadistic adventure. Another stellar addition to the series that will have readers rushing to learn more. Recommended for those who have come to enjoy the nuances of the series, as well as those who love multi-layered police procedurals.

I remember randomly stumbling upon Helen Fields and this series, seeing much of the hype it was getting. As soon as I allowed myself a chance to delve in, I was hooked. From its interesting cases through to its characters who offer multi-faceted approaches to make the narrative even better, there is something for everyone . DI Luc Callanach again takes centre stage in this piece, working through some of the revelations of his personal life, while also trying to advance his career in Police Scotland. Series fans will know he is the ‘pretty boy’ of MIT, but his dedication and determination are second to none. His ongoing interaction with his friend (and now superior) DCI Ava Turner gives the reader something to enjoy as a secondary storyline in this novel, serving as character development for both. Ava Turner proves to be an interesting character in her own right, offering the story new and interesting flavours as she seeks to come to terms with a handful of conflicting emotions as they relate to Callanach. Turner is also trying to keep her team together, even as the commanding officer looks for any holes to tear her apart. With interesting characters who serve in many capacities, Fields keeps the reader’s attention throughout, helping to enrich the story’s growth. The story was a wonderful spin on the usual police procedural, with a killer whose intention is to offer a ‘shove’ for someone already on the precarious edge of life. Adding some development in the Callanach saga can only have interesting fallout for the protagonist, in this and future novels. One can hope that there are more books in this series, whose momentum never stops.

Kudos, Madam Fields, for another wonderful novel. I cannot wait to see where you will take DI Luc Callanach in the near future.

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

Perfect Silence (DI Callanach #4), by Helen Sarah Fields

Eight stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Helen Sarah Fields, and Avon Books UK for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

Helen Sarah Fields has been developing this strong police procedural series over the past few years, which mixes some unique characters against the backdrop of some vicious murders that will keep the reader wondering well into the story. When a young woman is discovered murdered, her body dumped like a pile of rubbish, DI Luc Callenach and DCI Ava Turner are understandably concerned. However, when the body is shown to have a doll-like piece of skin carved from both the abdomen and back, things get a little more concerning. Thus begins a panicked search for a killer that Police Scotland can only hope will be brief. When a second woman goes missing, she is seen to have left her baby in a pram. The baby is eventually located, with a raggedly stitched doll of human skin tucked next to her. Callanach and Turner think that this may be the start to a gruesome killing spree and it is only getting started. Meanwhile, there is a new drug on the streets named Spice, which turns its users into zombies, at least for a time. Those in the homeless population are turning up carved with a ‘Z’ on their cheek while under the influence. Turner and the rest of her team are trying to see who might be targeting this vulnerable population, finding a clue that takes them on a goose chase through the richer families of Edinburgh. DCI Turner must not only wrestle with these two cases, but a superior who will stop at nothing to meddle and cut her down. Edinburgh is rocked by these crimes and the killer may be trying to push a religious extermination of their own to cleanse the streets. Fields continues with her stellar writing that will have series fans begging for more. Recommended to those who have been intrigued by the DI Callanach novels to date, as well as those who like a well-paced police procedural that does not lose stream throughout.

While there are many police procedural series on the market today, Helen Sarah Fields has found a way to produce unique stories with a handful of strong characters. Using Edinburgh as an interesting backdrop, the stories exemplify the strength of Police Scotland as they face a number of bone-chilling cases. Fields again turns her focus on DI Luc Callanach and DCI Ava Turner, developing their characters as well as abilities to solve crime. Callanach continues to impress since his move from INTERPOL, showing that he has a strong dedication to the police work required to solve these complex cases. As with the previous novels, Callanach’s struggles with issues in his personal life bleed into the present through a well-paced narrative that highlights these struggles. The series reader will know precisely what is going on and find much interest in how it is handled herein. Turner is forced to continue her struggle with being catapulted up the ranks, where she is now able to oversee the Major Investigations Team (MIT). However, this has led to a number of other issues, including trying to define her relationship with Callanach, who now answers to her, as well as the issues of being put under the microscope by an equally determined Superintendent. Fields effectively shows how Turner seeks to find a balance in a position that is rife with controversial decisions. The story is strong and Fields is able to weave together a powerful crime thriller with clues and dramatic case development peppers amongst the ever-intensifying chapters. These cases are full of dark criminal elements and will surely keep the reader up well into the night. Another strong effort by Fields will keep me reading as long as she has ideas put to paper.

Kudos, Madam Fields, for another wonderful novel in this series. I cannot wait to see what else you have in store for your fans.

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

Perfect Death (D.I. Callanach #3), by Helen Fields

Nine stars

Helen Fields is back with another instalment of her popular Police Scotland series, where DI Luc Callanach has a new case to handle that will challenge everything he knows about policing. Callanach continues to adjust to his position within Police Scotland, much different from his INTERPOL days. After his colleague’s recent promotion, Callanach is adjusting to a new professional relationship with DCI Ava Turner, who has been forced to learn the ropes swiftly. While Callanach’s attention is drawn to an apparent victim of hypothermia, Turner receives disturbing news that her Chief Inspector has taken his own life in an apparent act of suicide. Unable to see what signs she might have missed, Turner liaises with her superior’s family, only to make a number of disturbing discoveries. Callanach tries to piece together his own case, but nothing is adding up. Just as he is making some progress, he receives a personal visitor who comes with a pile of unsolicited news that rocks him to the core. Trying to make sense of what he’s come to learn, Callanach goes somewhat rogue and keeps Turner at arm’s length in the middle of an important part of the investigation, earning him some ire from his DCI. When a few more cases of unexplained illnesses show signs of outside interference, Callanach and Turner realise that there may be a serial killer lurking in the shadows, their victims varied to the point that no similarities exist. With Edinburgh abuzz, Police Scotland must make some headway to locate this killer while also trying to better understand the Chief Inspector’s drastic final act. Fields has not lost any of the momentum with this series and is sure to appease series fans and those who love intense police procedurals.

I am happy to be able to continue this high-impact series that almost fell into my lap not too long ago. Fields is able to pull on all aspects of a well-developed police procedural without getting bogged down by too much of the frivolous banter. Fields has developed her characters perfectly and brings life to them with her subtle development of their personal foibles alongside their abilities to solve cases. DI Callanach continues to show why he is the perfect fit for the Major Investigative Team, while remaining highly vulnerable as he struggles to piece together some personal travesties that have befallen him. He contrasts nicely with DCI Turner, who is not only still compartmentalising the horrors of her past traumas, but also seeking to make a name for herself in a male dominated industry. Fighting to show compassion while not being deemed incapable, Turner puts on a hard exterior and demands much of her team. The rest of the characters work well to build a strong foundation for the story, which gets better as it builds. This more unique aspect of a serial killer lurking in plain sight is sure to work well for the dedicated reader, who gets glimpses into their own struggles while also watches as the victim total grows. I have loved all three of the series novels and am eager to get my hands on the fourth, set for release this coming summer. Those who enjoy this type of book should make a little more space on their to be read shelf, for they will not be disappointed.

Kudos, Madam Fields, for keeping things intense and allowing readers to bask in a well written procedural.

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

Perfect Prey (D.I. Callanach #2), by Helen Fields

Nine stars

Helen Fields returns with an equally powerful follow-up novel that places Detective Inspector Luc Callanach in the centre of a truly baffling crime. When a murder is reported at a summer music festival in Edinburgh, D.I. Callanach is happy to take the lead in order to find the killer. However, the limited witness statements and video footage of use from the event leaves Callanach unsure of how to proceed. Soon thereafter, a piece of vandalism emerges, perhaps a reaction to the crime, as if the world needs a permanent memory of this summer crime. When a primary school teacher and librarian are murdered in short order, D.I. Callanach learns that they, too, are being listed on graffiti around town. An online journalist receives telling information that opens the investigation wide. Could these ‘tags’ have been made beforehand, as a precursor to the crimes? Also, with each crime being vastly different, might there be more than one killer on the loose, working in tandem? Callanach continues to struggle and turns to his fellow D.I., Ava Turner, whose past friendship with him seems to be clouding his judgment about what might follow for them. While Turner does not appear to feel anything romantic towards Callanach, the story’s protagonist stumbles trying to make sense of his feelings while a major murder case continues to haunt him. Turning to an unlikely source, Callanach takes to the world of coding and digital breadcrumbs, which causes many issues with other branches of Police Scotland. With the killer (or killers) continuing the rampage, Callanach must use all the resources at his disposal to stop the bloodshed, and pinpoint who might be the next victim. Fields has done it again, keeping the reader on the edge of their seat while pulling on a variety of approaches to allow the case to progress. Fans of police procedurals and crime thrillers will surely find something worthwhile in this novel, as well as the debut, which lays the groundwork for the complex life of D.I. Luc Callanach.

I recently discovered Helen Fields and am pleased to be able to promote her work here, which is a definite jolt of fresh air in a supersaturated genre. D.I. Callanach continues to present himself as a dedicated copper, though one who struggles with life outside the office. Choosing to throw himself into his work, Callanach seems keen on tracking down all the leads in his murder investigations, but is not able to pick up on the most subtle nuances in his personal life. He struggles with the stigma that chased him from INTERPOL while still trying to assert his rightful place in Police Scotland. The ongoing work and personal banter with D.I. Ava Turner takes on a new level of intrigue, something fans of the debut novel may enjoy, though it does tend to cloud the plot at times. Fields continues to use a strong cast of secondary characters to propel the story forward and uses a more veiled approach when dealing with the antagonist, the person pulling the strings on this murder spree. The story itself is strong and pulls on some genuinely intriguing technology to decipher the larger set of crimes, but also pushes the Luddite ‘tag’ system of graffiti, which caters to readers of all backgrounds. The reader can rest assured that there is not a textbook full of ‘techie’ language to cause confusion, though Fields does not dilute the form of crime fighting when necessary. I found myself unable to stop listening to the book at certain points, as the story captivated me until the very end. I will have to wait patiently until mid-January to get my hands on the third novel, but rest assured I will not let it collect much dust on by TBR list, for I am just that eager to sink my teeth into the next instalment of D.I. Luc Callanach and his unique style of crime investigation.

Kudos, Madam Fields, for keeping me hooked yet again. You are certainly one author that many should take note of and push other TBR novels aside to delve into this series.

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