Fatal Fortune by Miranda Rijks

Thanks so much to Emma from @damppebbles for organising this blog tour!

Is someone trying to frame psychologist Pippa Durrant for the brutal murder of a woman she’s never even met?
It certainly seems that way when Pippa’s photo is found on the body of murdered lottery winner, Leanne Smith.
Pippa soon finds herself a suspect at the centre of a huge media storm. But she has an invaluable skill set – she is a human polygraph, expertly trained to spot lies and deceit. Skills she will need to help her to solve the mystery of who killed Leanne before it destroys her career – and her life.
But every cloud has a silver lining and this one arrives in the shape of DS Joe Swain. Initially suspicious of Pippa, he comes to trust her and to value her lie detection skills. Soon it’s clear there’s a definite spark between them….
Then, when another body turns up, Pippa realises her reputation isn’t the only thing in danger. Can she identify the killer before she becomes the next victim?

This book was definitely intriguing right from the start! There is seemingly no connection between Pippa, and the woman whose body her photo was left on. It’s genuinely quite mysterious and creepy, particularly the fact that they are described as looking alike.

I really liked Pippa as a character. She was really relatable and quite likeable, although also irritating at times – but then that’s what made her seem human. Her reaction to her photo being left on the body started as worried yet curious which turned into panic and fear – almost exactly as you’d imagine that situation would. She had a real determination to find out why she was being targeted like this, and I think the reader was really behind her the whole time, willing her to find out who was doing this. Her relationship with her son was interesting, and I feel like it’s something that will act as an over-arching storyline in future books.

The Smith family was a great opposing force to Pippa’s half of the story. Donna was kind of annoying, but you couldn’t help but feel intensely sorry for her after losing her mum. Watching her become more and more isolated and upset throughout the novel was hard, but again that’s what made her a relatable character. Her husband Ricky was super annoying, he was overly controlling and intense, and he did seem quite suspicious at times, but I never fully believed it was him either. He was clearly an emotional man, battling events and emotions from his past, and yet still trying to keep his family together in his own way. Their relationship was definitely a bit fractured, but there was clearly love there, which made later events of the novel really emotional.

I guessed who did it not too long before it was revealed, but it was definitely an interesting twist that I think worked really well. It linked it nicely with Pippa’s professional work, but also with her family life, so it had a definite personal touch. The character in question was brilliantly written, and it really was a sensitive and fascinating insight into mental health and personality.

I would definitely recommend this, and would love to read more Dr Pippa Durrant novels in the future!

Dead Inside by Noelle Holten

This was a really emotional and hard-hitting read, with a focus on domestic abuse and the pain it causes while also incorporating elements of a traditional detective mystery.

One by one they’re being killed off. Who’s behind it…?
DC Maggie Jamieson has just joined a new team. Confronted with getting to know her colleagues and trying to solve a brutal murder, she soon finds herself suspecting those she works with and knows well. As the body count rises and links between the victims appear, it’s clear this case is personal.
Soon, Probation Officer Lucy Sherwood’s husband is found dead. Maggie struggles to believe that Lucy could be capable of this, but no other suspects seem to be forthcoming.
Can Maggie solve this and find the truth in time?

This novel really built up the suspense, and despite there being lots of characters to keep track of, they were all written brilliantly. From the genuinely creepy Mick O’Dowd, to the strong-minded Shell Baker, and the trustworthy DC Maggie Jamieson, they were all perfectly written and interacted with each other wonderfully.

There were a lot of different types of relationships to include in this book, which Holten has written with nuance and emotion. Lucy and her husband Patrick were a fascinating but heartbreaking pair, and seeing Lucy’s pain was really hard to read in places. In places it was genuinely upsetting to read, but this is credit to the brilliant and emotive writing. Lucy’s reasoning with herself regarding Patrick’s behaviour and why she stayed was equally hard to read considering her job as Probation Officer, and the logic and determination she showed in that role. She was a perfect main character, with just enough focus on her to show the struggle she was going through, but still with enough focus on the crimes themselves.

The police officers themselves were great. PC Kat Everett was hilarious at times with her swearing, and offered a few light-hearted moments in an otherwise hard-to-read book. Her wild emotions and intense anger were also relatable, as was her colleague Mark’s disgust with the domestic abuse offenders they came across. It was interesting seeing how the officers balanced their personal feelings with their professional duties, and I felt their emotions were portrayed really believably.

Moving on to the actual crimes themselves, it was one of those mysteries that genuinely had me stumped as to who was committing them. I had some theories throughout the book, but it was so cleverly written that I almost didn’t have time to spend being too suspicious of anyone or working it out. There was so much going on, and it was nicely fast-paced, that I honestly didn’t think about who was responsible for the murders at all. Although I wouldn’t say I was totally shocked by who did it, I didn’t feel that this was a negative at all, as it felt like it was more about why they did it, the long-lasting effects that abuse has on people, and the person’s relationship with their past.

I also liked that the ending was sort of split in two (I’m trying not to give too much away…), and it wasn’t a clear wrapping up of all the deaths in one go. Lucy’s fragile state towards the end was devastating, but there was a real sense that her inner strength was still there, and she was definitely a survivor.

This book was brilliantly nuanced and emotive, the crimes themselves were fascinating, but the real depth is in the characters themselves. The writing is so clever, so emotional and just genuinely touching. I loved this, it’s a 5 star read, and I’d definitely recommend it.