Blog tour: Choke Back The Tears by Mark Richards

Another new crime novel that I’ve loved. Oh dear …

I’ve said before that I’ve been a crime fiction addict ever since I picked up my first Agatha Christie novel at the age of 12. But actually, that’s not true. I became hooked on Enid Blyton’s ‘Famous Five’ and ‘Mystery of …’ series almost as soon as I learnt to read, and whilst these stop short of murder – though in a few cases, they come scarily close – they’re full of kidnapping, drug smuggling and theft.

I then moved on to Roald Dahl, which aren’t crime fiction, I hear you say. Really? What are the kidnapping of a child by a giant, poaching on a grand scale and a plot to rid England of all its children then?

Whatever. Perhaps that’s why, after reading my first Agatha Christie, I spent the next few years pretty much devouring her entire catalogue before moving on to P D James’ Adam Dalgliesh books, Minette Walters’ stand-alone crime novels, R D Wingfield’s DI Frost novels and Ian Rankin’s Rebus series.

This took me till about the mid-2000s, and that was fine. Because it was then that I discovered Peter James’ Roy Grace series and Peter Robinson’s DCI Banks novels. Both of those authors continue to publish one new book each year, which I buy without fail.

My problem – and I admit, it’s a wonderful problem to have – is that in the last few years, the publication of new crime fiction novels has gone beserk. Angela Marsons has written sixteen – I think, although I may have lost count – books featuring DI Kim Stone since 2015, and continues to release two new books each year. I love them so much that the need to read the next instalment as soon as it comes out is something of an addiction. I still have Noelle Holten’s latest book, Dead Mercy, to read even though I really enjoyed her four previous ones. I read the first book by Rachel McLean, published as recently as 2020 featuring DI Zoe Finch and instantly downloaded the rest of the series onto my kindle … where they remain unopened. Likewise the next book by Mel Sherratt featuring Grace Allendale and the entire DCI Ryan series by L J Ross, which started out in 2015 and which I recently saw was the second-bestselling series of all time on Amazon UK. I really want to read them all. But there are just too many of them, and I simply don’t have the time.

This arguably means that my asking to join a blog tour for Choke Back The Tears by Mark Richards, which is the fourth instalment in yet another crime fiction series, was the worst thing I could have done. Especially given that I haven’t read the previous three, and who knows when if ever I’ll get round to doing so. But here’s the thing. I’m glad I did. I loved it.

Let’s start with what this book isn’t. It’s not a fast-paced, action-packed plot featuring a high body count. And that’s fine, because it means that the book doesn’t have to compete with the Kim Stone books by Angela Marsons. Nor is it really a police procedural, unless you really can accept that police murder investigation teams in North Yorkshire feature only four people, overseen by an absent **** of a boss. Again, this is fine, because if you want a detailed police procedural let me direct you to the Roy Grace series by Peter James.

But what neither of these authors manage to do – fabulous though they both are – is to portray the psychology of their main character as well as Mark Richards does. After reading just one book, I feel I know DI Brady well enough to talk to him if I met him tomorrow. His inability to stop the details of the case from going round in his head, convinced he’s missed something but unable to see it. I wasn’t so much cheering him on as I read, as there, inside his head, sharing his thoughts.

I also loved the portrayal of his working relationship with his colleague Frankie, which is exactly the same as one that I had with a female colleague young enough to be my daughter a few years ago. There was no question of it becoming personal. We just loved working together. And when she left to pursue the better things that she was absolutely capable of, I found myself missing her terribly. And then there’s his personal relationship with his teenage daughter, following the death of his wife. They love each other. They want to help each other. But they really don’t know how.

The setting is wonderful, too. Whitby, with it’s picturesque setting both comparing and contrasting to the desolation of the surrounding North Yorkshire moors, it’s long Gothic history and its fishing and tourism industries – both somewhat faded from what they once were and yet still integral to the town – is such a fantastic place to set a crime fiction series that I struggled to believe it hadn’t been done before. I can even see Michael Brady tours of Whitby becoming a thing in the way that Rebus tours of Edinburgh have done.

If I have a criticism of the book, it’s that the ending to the police case seemed to jar a little bit with the rest of the book. It just seemed to happen a bit too quickly and felt a bit too dramatic. But at the same time, I really didn’t care because I laughed out loud at it.

I can’t make any promises as to when I’ll read the rest of the series, much as I really, really now want to. I’ve made promises like that to other authors in recent years that I haven’t been able to keep. But I have a feeling I’m going to remember this one for a while.

My thanks to the author and to Donna Morfett for my inclusion on the blog tour. I will post my review on Goodreads and Amazon.

My rating:  ★★★★★

2nd July 2022

The blurb

Michael Brady looked at Sandra Garrity’s face. Grey skin. Bloodshot eyes open. Blue lips, her tongue protruding.
“Did you watch your husband die, Sandra? Or did he watch you die?”

“Brilliant. Brady is fast becoming the Yorkshire Rebus.”

Billy and Sandra were childhood sweethearts.
Writing their names on a lovelock. Fastening it to the end of Whitby pier. Throwing the key into the sea.
A lifetime together. A happy retirement in a peaceful hamlet on the North Yorkshire Moors.
Until the day they were brutally murdered.
“Whoever did this – he didn’t do it quickly. And he enjoyed it…”

Billy was a fisherman, making a living in the cold, cruel North Sea. One night his boat went down. Two crewmen drowned. Billy survived.
Are the families looking for revenge? It’s the obvious conclusion.
But why have they waited so long?
Why have they killed Billy and Sandra?
And why kill them in such a barbaric way? “This isn’t a murder, Mike. It’s an execution. A medieval execution.”

Choke Back the Tears is the fourth book in the Michael Brady series.
Kershaw’s away, Brady’s in charge. The bucks stops on his desk. But at least Frankie Thomson is back to help him. For now…
There are no clues. No motives. It’s a perfect crime scene.
All Brady has is his experience and his intuition. And his small team is gettng smaller by the day…
Meanwhile he’s battling problems in his personal life. His daughter Ash wants to know the truth about her mother’s death. Brady can’t put off telling her any longer.
He’s having doubts about everything. Even the memory of his dead wife.

Choke Back the Tears is the most personal Brady book yet.
He has to find the killer.
He has to keep his team together.
And he owes his daughter an explanation.
Michael Brady needs a friend.
But he doesn’t have one…

The Michael Brady books are perfect for fans of J D Kirk, Jason Dalgleish, David Gatward, T G Reid – and anyone who likes characters you’ll come to think of as friends.

About the author

“Once upon a time I had a business in financial services: nice suits, smart shirts, stripy ties. But always with a small voice inside me. “Let me out,” it said, “I’m a writer.”

I kept the small voice securely under lock and key but then – in 2009 – my brother died of cancer. It was one of those pivotal moments in life. I either let the small voice out and pursued my dream, or I forgot about it for good. So I sold my business, sent my stripy ties to the charity shop and started writing.

Now my time divides between writing for clients – copywriting, ghostwriting – and writing for myself.

In the spring of 2016 I suffered the latest in a long line of mid-life crises and invited my youngest son to come for a walk with me. That led to Father, Son and the Pennine Way – the first of three books ostensibly about walking, but really about my ever-changing relationship with my son.

…And now – in September 2020 – I’ve turned my attention to novels. Salt in the Wounds in the first book in the Michael Brady series and, when that’s finished, I’ll look to develop two other crime series.”

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