The Fire Killer (DI Barton #5), by Ross Greenwood

Eight stars

Ross Greenwood returns with another great story in the DI Barton series. There is a spark to things here, keeping the reader in the middle of the action throughout this short, but impactful, piece. DI Barton is always keen to help those around him, but one wrong move and everything could go up in flames. A strong story and a great plot helps Greenwood pull readers into the middle of the action until the last chapter is left to smoulder.

After a fire takes the life of a woman, DI Barton and his team are called in to see what’s going on. While there does not appear to be much to the fire, Barton is left to wonder if this was a childhood prank gone wrong or perhaps a targeted attack with racial undertones. Either way, it should be a quick investigation. However, something does not appear entirely above board, which has Barton wanting to push the ashes around a little more to see what flares up.

True to his instincts, DI Barton realises that there have been a number of similar fires over the last number of years, made innocuous during early investigating because of their sporadic nature. As a clue crosses his desk, Barton is eager to follow it up, but finds himself chasing things down a rabbit hole for a time.

After a tip from someone on the streets who is sure she saw the arsonist first-hand, DI Barton follows the trail to see if there is a killer out there using fire as the ultimate weapon. There is no rhyme or reason to it all, but Peterborough will not rest until this killer is put behind bars. DI Barton is left to put all his resources into the case, worrying that there could be more dead before long, and his case would surely go up in smoke! A great addition to the series by Greenwood, showing his abilities front and centre.

Ross Greenwood has held my attention throughout this series which is always finding new ways to impress. The novels, which are based on strong narrative foundations, provide the reader with a great dual perspective, the DI Barton investigation and the killer. It is as though there is a game of cat and mouse taking place throughout the experience. A handful of key characters provide entertainment and offer up some continuity to the larger story, while also baffling the reader when new faces come along. Great plot twists that force everyone to take a second look at the crime, the backstory, and the events that shape the kills, provide just what the reader needs to push through the story. I have enjoyed the DI Barton series since its inception and with one book left, I hope things end well before Greenwood moves on to a new adventure.

Kudos, Mr. Greenwood, for keeping the reader in the middle of things in this hot addition to the collection.

The Santa Killer (DI John Barton #6), by Ross Greenwood

Eight stars

Always eager to get my hands on the writing of Ross Greenwood (and wanting a thriller to fit into my holiday season reading), I turned to this novel. Full of great police work and with some stellar criminal events, Greenwood takes the reader on an adventure like no other during the holiday season. As sharp as the other DI Barton novels, the reader can enjoy this piece and feel as though they are in the middle of it all, chasing a killer who resembles Father Christmas and appears to have multiple, skewed motives. Ross Greenwood impresses once more, providing a holiday gift like no other!

With Christmas only a few weeks away, the town is bursting with lights, busy shoppers, and holiday cheer. However, after a single mother is brutally attacked, things take a distinctive turn. DI John Barton and his team work to piece things together with the crime, but are baffled to discover that the victim has no sordid past and no enemies whatsoever. Could such a personal attack have simply been a random act? The only clue they have is the blurry witness statement by the victim’s special needs daughter, who is sure she saw Father Christmas (Santa) attacking her mom.

When others are attacked in the middle of the investigation, DI Barton can only wonder if there is a specific ‘Naughty and Nice List’ being enacted or if these are all random acts of violence. After someone confesses and is taken into custody, the case is presumed solved, but more people are attacked, with a new and completely different style. Could there be two killers on the loose, working independently or even in tandem? DI Barton will have to crack things side open, as Christmas inches closer.

All hands are on deck for this one, which has the police as baffled as ever. Random notes sent to locals purport to show that they, too, are in danger and could be next. Might this Santa Killer be more than a figment of the imagination, but actually a sharp and ruthless killer? DI Barton had better figure it all out before the magic of the season is lost for good! Ross Greenwood captivates readers with this thriller that pulls on all the strengths he has as as writer.

I found the work of Ross Greenwood years ago and have never looked back. His police procedurals are strong and full of detail, while balancing some humour and insightful sleuthing as well. Great themes and unique plot twists keep the reader unsure what they can expect around the corner, while they are also keen to flip pages well in the night. I can only hope that Greenwood’s next writing project is as addictive and that I can get my hands on an early copy.

Greenwood uses a strong narrative tho guide the reader throughout this well-paced novel. Police work is at the core of it and keeps the reader pushing on, in hopes of cracking the case. Great characters, many of whom receive decent development throughout the series, offer the reader something a little lighthearted throughout the heavy subject matter. A few key plot twits make this novel worth the time to read it, without being too predictive. One can only hope that Ross Greenwood will keep writing strong police procedurals, as he has developed a stellar series with DI Barton at the core.

Kudos, Mr. Greenwood, for another stunning thriller. I hope to see more soon and more killers pushing the limits as to what can be expected.

The Cold Killer (DI Barton #4), by Ross Greenwood

Eight stars

Ross Greenwood is back with another captivating crime thriller that is sure to keep the reader thinking. DI Barton is ready for another unique adventure that is sure to cause issues for many, as an elusive killer is exacting a sick form of revenge. When a older prisoner is found dead in his cell, some question if it was murder, while others suspect it might have been old age. As officials begin poking around, DI Barton is called in to assist with the investigation. Things take an odd turn when the prisoner’s family home is burgled and others are hurt. Could there be a connection and if so, what is it? DI Barton will have to use all of his resources to put the pieces together and find justice that has been years in the making. Greenwood does well keeping the series going with another great novel.

The death of an older inmate at the local prison forces officials to open an investigation. Might it have been a hit of some sort, or could this simply be old age? DI Barton is called to attend the investigation and give his own perspective on what’s taking place. Barton undertakes interviewing some of the other prisoners, all of whom have long histories of child abuse. Weighing all the evidence, Barton is fairly certain that it was natural causes that brought things to an end, rather than some revenge for hurting a child.

As DI Barton continues tying up loose ends with regards to the investigation, he learns that the prisoner’s house is burgled and the widow nowhere to be found. This raises some alarms for Barton, who needs to speak with her. After a suspicious fire takes down another witness, Barton is beginning to worry that the investigation might be more complicated than first suspected.

Soon, everyone Barton hopes to interview has either gone missing or turned up dead. Might there be a killer on the loose, trying to mute a collection of people who hold a secret? As Barton rushes for answers, he discovers that he’s hot on the trail of a killer with a grudge. Tracing it all back to the prison, Barton may have found the motive, but the killer remains elusive and things are only getting more dangerous, but eerily intense. Greenwood pens another winner with this piece, sure to impress fans of the series.

I stumbled upon this series by Ross Greenwood in its infancy and have not been able to stop reading them whenever a new book is published. He finds new and exciting ways to tell a police procedural in smaller tower England, keeping the reader on the edge of their seats throughout the piece. There is something to be said for this type of novel, where a serial killer and the police are eyeing one another on opposite sides of the narrative. As usual, I thoroughly enjoyed where things went and how Ross Greenwood was able to transport the reader there.

DI Barton has grown on me throughout the series, leaving me feeling a strong connection to him throughout the series. There were some personal hurdles that had to be overcome and that contrasted nicely with the intense case management throughout the story. Barton has suffered a great deal and uses his personal issues to fuel a passion to solve crimes. There is still a great deal left to explore with Barton, which I hope takes place over the coming few novels.

Ross Greenwood has always been able to cobble together a great deal of intriguing ideas in a short period of time, leaving the reader feeling highly entertained. This piece was no exception, as the story flowed well and kept my attention throughout. The narrative clipped along and told the story of two men, in a form of cat and mouse game, while always revealing a little more about the larger story. There were a number of strong secondary characters who supported Barton and the Cold Killer well, using their uniqueness to contrast with the preponderance of cop and robber that the story begged to highlight. Plot lines worked well and kept me guessing, while I was eager to delve deeper during my reading experience. I am eager to see what else Greenwood has for readers, particularly with this series. There’s still so much to learn.

Kudos, Mr. Greenwood, for a great addition to the series. I am eager to read more, when time permits.

Prisoner, by Ross Greenwood

Eight stars

Having enjoyed some of Ross Greenwood’s writing before, I was eager to get my hands on his latest novel. While Greenwood has always had an edgy and detailed writing style, this latest piece offers something even more intriguing. Pulling on his past working as a prison guard, Greenwood explores life for those behind bars, as well as the guards who spend time with them on a regular basis. A wonderful story that has a little of everything, Ross Greenwood shows how a little personal experience can go a long way when writing a novel.

Jim Dalton is a prison officer, working on the male side of HMP Peterborough, one of the few locations where both men and women are housed. Having worked in the prison for many years, he’s used to much of the bravado and the emotion-fuelled outbursts that take place on a regular basis. Dalton is no-nonsense and has been able to earn the respect of the inmates, at least to the point that no one’s coming after him.

Dalton’s personal life is not as smooth sailing, with a wife and two children who seem more to tolerate his work shifts, leaving him feeling on the outside of his own household. When a relative is sent to HMP Peterborough, Dalton is transferred to the female wing, ensuring there will be no favouritism. It’s an eye-opening experience for him, not only because these are all women, but he has been placed with some of the youngest offenders. It’s a chance that Dalton hopes will jumpstart some other changes in his life.

As his home life begins to deteriorate, Dalton focuses all his attention on work. He begins to see that working with young women is not as easy as it would seem. It’s not the work that causes him grief, as much as the temptations and flirtatious nature of the inmates. Faced with making a decision that could have major ramifications, Dalton takes a leap, knowing it could be one he will soon regret.

While I am used to Ross Greenwood telling stories about serial killers and trying to hunt them down, this novel’s change of pace is welcome and held my attention throughout. Pulling on his personal experiences, Greenwood takes readers inside the British prison system and ensures nothing is left to wonder. With strong storytelling and detailed interactions, Greenwood does well to captivate the reader from the opening pages.

Greenwood’s personal experiences surely help him to create a handful of great characters for the book, on both sides of the bars. Jim Dalton is relatable and surely someone with whom many readers will connect, even if some of his decisions are a tad problematic. The female prisoners bring their own issues to the story and are placed perfectly within the narrative, their characters developing throughout the piece.

Greenwood pulls on life experience to bring the story some added depth, keeping the narrative moving throughout with ease. The reader is pulled into the simplicity of the storytelling and cannot hep but want to know more about Dalton and what he experiences. With great characters and a plot that is easy to follow, the story works well and the reader can easily latch on to what’s being recounted. Prison novels are usually dark, though this one had more drama and even the odd hint of hope, something that will hep Greenwood stand out when readers compare this book to many others in the genre.

Kudos, Mr. Greenwood, for another winner. I thoroughly enjoy the adventures on which you have taken me and cannot wait to see what’s next.

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

The Ice Killer (DI Barton #3), by Ross Greenwood

Seven stars

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

Returning for the latest (and last) in the DI John Barton series, I turned to Ross Greenwood and this gritty police procedural. Known for writing the dual narratives of cops and killers, Greenwood seeks to pull readers onto the streets of Peterborough and tell a tale. While the delivery is there, some may say it lags a bit. Decent enough to keep my interest as the trilogy comes to an end!

After convalescing from injury during one of his recent cases, DI John Barton is thrust into the chaos that is known as Major Crimes in Peterborough. His first day back sees Barton sent into the DCI chair, replacing his superior who has taken maternity leave. Now, DCI Barton not only has to learn the ropes of the job, but also help hone the next generation of inspectors to see how they might make the leap into a more independent role within the police department.

Elsewhere, Ellen Toole is struggling to stay afloat. Her mother is ill and there is little that can be done. Working her dead-end job, Ellen does the best she can, but cannot help wishing she had it better. After her mother’s death, Ellen slips into a state that sees stress levels mount and self-care dwindle, which fuels poor judgment and a return to some of her old ways. As Ellen’s choices blur, so do some of her inhibitions and she finds herself engaging with people from her school days. This has violent and deadly ramifications, which only trigger Ellen’s mental health issues.

Acting DCI Barton seems to be making headway in the department, hoping to forge a new path all his own. When the team are called out to the scene of a triple murder, things look fairly gruesome. However, these are by no means salt of the earth people, leaving Barton and his team to wonder how much of an effort must be put into the investigation. Still, there are dead bodies and some video to indicate that a burly man might be behind it, so it is worth at least giving it all a try.

After Ellen lashed out at some of her old mates, she tries to justify the act as defence against rape. She cannot believe that she’s acted so harshly, but holds firm that past treatment led to this and kept her from being able to hold her temper. Ellen appears ready to take back her life and right all the wrongs that befell her, not caring who stands in her way. Medication be damned, she refuses to let herself be subservient to anyone!

Acting DCI Barton learns of a DNA hit that might help lead the team towards the killer, though it is familial. This takes the case down some interesting rabbit holes, as they discover the hit belongs to a man who had a psychotic break and turned his rage on others. Could this trait have been passed along to his offspring? Barton hones in on one Ellen Toole, but has little to concretely connect her to the case. He wants to walk a fine line, knowing that if the team strikes too soon, it could mean ruining the case and leaving them with nothing.

As Ellen comes to terms with what she’s done, she is not prepared to go without a fight. Her own mental illness and recent revelations about a past that was anything but calm leaves her ready to scapegoat anyone she can in order to stay two steps ahead of the cops and a certain arrest. What happens next is anyone’s guess. It’s up to the courts to decide, if it ever gets that far!

I have come to enjoy the past novels in Ross Greenwood’s series. This one worked well for me, though I did have a sense that there were some drawbacks that kept me from enjoying it as much as I would have liked. Decent characters and a plot that had potential buoyed the novel, though series fans will have to think on it a but before committing themselves to praising this piece. Not sure this was the series swan song Greenwood may have wanted.

DI John Barton returns for another decent protagonist role. He slides into his new job with ease and is able to keep the reader interested with everything that he has going on. His personal life seems to be reflected a tad more in this piece, though his rise in rank does see him less prominently displayed in this piece. There is some development of his character, but nothing stunning, which is somewhat saddening, as he ends the series back where he started.

Greenwood offers up a decent number of strong secondary characters, including Ellen Toole. Each brings their own flavouring to the story and keeps the reader entertained throughout. I did enjoy learning about their personal struggles and development, some of whom have played key roles in the past two cases, while others are new to the scene. Greenwood paints the Ellen story well here, tossing in those who shaped her as a person and it helps to see how her downfall was a long road to despair.

I must compliment Roos Greenwood for tackling the thorny issue of mental health well throughout this piece. While many convicted criminals do suffer from some form of mental health, it is also something many in the general public have to face daily. While there are dark and menacing sides, Greenwood tries not to tie mental health with criminality. He also tackles the inherited argument of mental illness and whether a parent can pass traits on. Interesting internal discussion for any reader curious enough to pick up the thread.

The story itself had moments of brilliance and others that lagged. There was a strong underlying plot, which permitted the reader to see both the killer and the hunt for her developing simultaneously. This developed in short, alternating chapters that kept the book’s momentum and offered varying sides of the same story arc. However, even with these ingredients, there was a sluggishness to the piece that I could not shake. Greenwood’s use of the ‘know who we hunt for’ has worked well in the past, but seemed to come up short. I found the story dragged at times and I just wanted the Ellen-Barton clash to occur, leaving the courts to offer the final verdict and see if there were twists therein. Perhaps it was just me, but this story seemed much longer than it needed to be and kept the reader tapping their finger between page turns. With the end of the trilogy and Greenwood promising a fresh standalone next, this may be a chance to tap the refresh button and explore new areas of the genre.

Kudos, Mr. Greenwood, for a valiant effort. I’m keen to see if things continue with this series and how you’ll take the piece in new directions, should some of the feedback mirror my own.

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

The Soul Killer (DI Barton #2), by Ross Greenwood

Eight stars

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

Returning for the second novel in this new series, I place my trust in Ross Greenwood to deliver something with as much punch as the debut book. Things are definitely different than the first time we encountered DI John Barton, but it is up to the reader to decide if they enjoy the ride. Years ago, a young boy lives under the watchful eye of his mother, a woman who has tried to put the fear of God into her son. She accepts no frills in life and is happy to punish him severely by tossing him into a cellar for long periods of time. This creates a young man who sees the world as one where sinners need to be punished, knowing that as long as he repents his sins, he will be able to rest peacefully in the afterlife. This still unnamed young man heads off to university, where he is put through trials and tribulations, only to see his anger rise slowly and his target become clearer. Moving to the present, DI John Barton and the rest of his Major Crime team attend the funeral of one of their own, lost in the field when another serial killer has exacted revenge. Barton hopes for a quiet Christmas, seeking to soak up all the time with his family that might be possible. When a member of the team is called to the scene of an apparent suicide, Barton later attends to substantiate the case; an old man who was dying chose to hang himself. In the background, the killer watches as his kills help him feel a sense of relief against those who would try to block him from feeling happiness. The dead man turns out to be the father of the killer’s girlfriend, and he hopes this will bring them closer, but she burrows away to be with her sister and brother-in-law. Wanting to push away any impediments to his happiness, the brother-in-law is next to go, but it is made to look like a drowning. From there, more killings, all apparently innocent accidents pile up, until Barton comes upon a skeleton hidden under a compost heap. The pieces begin to come together and murder becomes a word bandied about a little more freely. With the killer on the ropes, he begins what he feels is right, admitting that he might have been at the scene of a few of these accidents, but refuses to admit they were acts of aggression or murder. While repentance to a version of events might set him free, the fact that he is a cop within Major Crimes might turn his entire team against him, if they can find him. Greenwood does a masterful job at setting the scene in this piece, showing just how devious the game of cat and mouse can be. Recommended to those who enjoy a police procedural where both sides are constantly in search for one another, as well as the reader who enjoys getting inside the killer’s head.

I thoroughly enjoyed Greenwood’s debut and was pleased when I could get my hands on this one as well. He is able to tell a story effectively and with the added narrative touches that pull the reader in from the opening chapters. DI JOhn Barton is a great quasi-protagonist in this piece, offering leadership within Major Crimes while also balancing a busy home life. He is determined to get through the red tape and will not suffer fools. Forced to shepherd some of the newer recruits, Barton offers sage advice while not appearing to favour anyone. The cast of supporting characters does well to keep the reader entertain and enthralled, from cops to witnesses, and even the killer. The killer does comes across as being quite the odd character in the bigger scheme of things, acting in many ways one might not expect a person who has committed so many crimes. That said, there is a certain eeriness to him that makes the reader want to know more. Pacing out the crimes before squealing on himself at times seems an odd choice, but one that works well. Greenwood’s writing pushes the story forward and keeps the reader guessing, with two parallels narratives from Barton and the killer’s perspectives. They cross intermittently and the reveals throughout give the reader some sense of how things will come together, though there are enough twists to keep any spoilers at bay. After a slow start, the book picked up momentum and the short chapters push the story forward, as the reader wants to read ‘just a little more’. I am happy to see that Greenwood has more in store for his cast of characters, as I am eager to go on another adventure in the greater Peterborough area of England.

Kudos, Mr. Greenwood for another winner. I like the unique flavour you bring to your writing and this series looks to be getting better as things move forward.

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

The Snow Killer, by Ross Greenwood

Eight stars

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

I was eager to get my hands on this novel, having seen it being discussed all over Goodreads of late. New to the work of Ross Greenwood, I was also interested to see if this might be a new author to add to my ever-growing list of authors to follow. Fifty years ago, a family is gunned down in an apparent form of retribution. Left for dead in the snow, the one survivor plots revenge in an attempt to ensure the family did not die in vain. At present, DI John Barton is working in Peterborough, happy that the crime rate is much lower than in cities like London. As he plans to reconnect with his wife during a needed few days off, he is called to the scene of a crime. A local drug user is found stabbed multiple times in the back, his neck slit. Barton is a little shocked, as this community rarely sees a homicide, but he rushes into action. With few leads, Barton works with his colleagues to determine what must be going on. Meanwhile, the Snow Killer emerges with their own narrative, having exacted revenge for the deaths five decades ago. It would seem that the snow is a form of homicidal aphrodisiac, forcing new and needed victims to meet their end. As the Snow Killer continues to strike, DI Barton tries to piece the murders together, receiving a lead from a long ago ‘cold’ case of a family murdered in the snow. When the pieces fall into place, Barton cannot believe his luck, though there are still a few on the killer’s list and snow is expected in the forecast. A decent police procedural that keeps the reader flipping pages until the climactic ending. Recommended to those who love quick reads that are full of detail, as well as the reader who loves a British crime thriller with a twist.

Ross Greenwood does well with this series debut, pulling the reader into the middle of the story from the outset. The novel moves quickly and offers up a great deal of character development, hinting that the next few novels are in the works. DI John Barton proves to be a wonderful cop as well as a dedicated father. However, with these two jobs comes some needed sacrifices at times. With a wife he loves more than life itself, Barton has found a partner who is able to help him balance the rigours of work and three testy children. Barton reveals much in this debut, both personally and through his work, leaving his character development high and forcing the reader to pose many questions. Others within the book offer some slow development, hinting at the need to discover more in future books. Greenwood crafts his characters well and keeps the reader wanting more. The overall plot was well written and the theme proved useful as the narrative progressed. While it was not the most captivating or cliffhanging novel I have read this year, I found it highly entertaining. The mix of short and long chapters keep the reader pushing forward to learn just a little more before the final reveal and the race to the finish. I will return to follow the series, as I am eager to see what Ross Greenwood has in store for Barton and the rest of the Peterborough crew.

Kudos, Mr. Greenwood, on this series debut. The premise worked well and I hope to see more exciting adventures in the near future.

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