John Ray has spent years trying to escape the connotations of his family name. He's known in Leeds as the son of Tony Ray, notorious crime boss. After almost making a clean break he comes back to take on his Dad's garage, and make it legit. He even has a police officer girlfriend completing the veneer of respectability. That is until a dead girl is found in the boot of a vehicle that traces back to the garage. His employee and friend Freddy looks set to be charged with the murder, and initially disappearing then refusing to talk only makes him look more guilty. The police though are equally interested in the counterfeit money hidden in the boot, and John is under pressure from them and another local bad boy who wants to know who killed the girl. He finds himself doing some sleuthing to try and save himself and Freddy.
This book is the first in the John Ray LS9 series and our early encounters with John set him up as a man who has done well despite the early influences in his life. The story is told from his viewpoint and we find a man who's winning awards and living in a place he loves, with plans to retire early on a yacht somewhere. As the story unfolds the author gradually reveals more and more about him and he turns out to be a very complex character. It was like peeling away the layers on an onion and he became a well defined character with real depth to him. I really liked his assistant Connie, a distant relative who is a source of constant bemusement to John and would love to see more of her in future books. I enjoyed the feeling of dabbling in the underworld and felt the author portrayed a number of characters who might have been reprehensible almost sympathetically.
The plot wasn't overly complicated and I did spot a stand-out clue to where one of the threads was going, but with so many turns taken before the end it didn't feel predictable as I feared it might be. The pacing was good, taking enough time to paint a full picture of what was going on without being too ponderous, and it built to a satisfying finale. I also learnt a whole lot about counterfeiting and other scams, and it's always good to find a new crime series that doesn't feel too glossy and is set in good old Blighty for a change.
I really enjoyed this read and am pleased to share a guest post by the author in the next few days that gives some insight into the inspiration for the book, so if this sounds of interest keep an eye out for that!
Format: Kindle, review copy
Publisher: Storm Books
My Rating: 4*