Barker & Jansen

Dead Wood

Dead Wood
Categories: ,
Published: June 17, 2014
Dundee International Book Prize winner 2009 Award winning crime novel set in Dundee, Scotland, A mystery and detective story which is a combination of police procedural, and woman in jeopardy. Book 2 of The Dundee Crime Series, with the popular DS Bill Murphy. Kara owes money to Dundee gangster Tony and takes to the streets to earn the cash. She narrowly escapes the clutches of a killer on the prowl, but stumbles across the bodies of his other victims. Hunted by the serial killer and the gangsters, Kara goes on the run. DS Bill Murphy teams up with newcomer, DC Louise Walker in the murder investigation. But Murphy is heading for a breakdown and it is up to Louise to catch the killer. One of the murder victims is the daughter of Dundee gangster, Tony, and he vows revenge. He is determined to mete out his own kind of justice to the killer. Who will find the killer first? Tony or the police. And what will happen to Kara? In the end what kind of justice will prevail?

Reviewed by Kevin J. Hallock

4.5, rounded up to 5. Dead Wood was a fast-paced murder mystery that kept me guessing throughout the story. The main characters were well-drawn, with histories, personal ambitions, likes, dislikes, and all operating in the gray ethical areas that make characters interesting. I like the way the murderer was handled throughout the story, and the crimes themselves were different from typical mysteries. All around, a fun read that I would recommend to people who enjoy mysteries.

A minor quibble was the number of point-of-view characters. There were too many for my personal tastes. But it is just a quibble. I thoroughly enjoyed the book.

I received this book free from Awesome Indies Books in return for an honest review.


Reviewed by Adan Ramie

Dead Wood by Chris Longmuir is a crime thriller centered around a serial killer whose orders come from a forest haunted by memories of victims past. It’s book #2 of the Dundee Crime series, but it works pretty well as a standalone.

Longmuir’s story is bleak. Most of the characters are sleazy, immoral, or downright evil, and there are A LOT of characters. One of my complaints about Dead Wood is the number of point-of-view characters whose personalities aren’t unique enough to differentiate them. It was confusing at first, and I didn’t really get interested in how the story would turn out until over halfway in.

Although I had problems getting into Dead Wood, I did enjoy the last third of the story. It was gripping, powerful, and kept me reading until the end. The conclusion, however, took some of the wind out of my sails; it was abrupt, and I thought some of the character reactions were unbelievable.

I gave Dead Wood three out of five stars; the story itself was a good one, despite its faults.



A Salt Splashed Cradle

A Salt Splashed Cradle
Life and Love in 1830s Scotland. Set in a Scottish fishing village the story reflects the living conditions and morals of the ordinary fisher folk of that time.   Life and Love in 1830s Scotland. When Jimmie Watt brings his new bride home his parents are horrified, because fishermen are expected to marry within their own community, and Belle is an incomer from the town across the water. Belle, an emotionally damaged and beautiful girl, struggles to find acceptance in the village but she is fighting a losing battle, and when Jimmie leaves the fishing village to sail to the Arctic with a whaling ship, she becomes increasingly isolated. With Jimmie gone, Belle falls for the charms of Lachlan, the Laird’s son and embarks on a tempestuous affair with him. When Jimmie returns she struggles with her feelings for him and for Lachlan. The women in the village now regard Belle as a Jezebel who will tempt their men away. A mood of hysteria engulfs them and they turn against Belle, in an attempt to force her out of the village. What will Belle do? And will she survive? This historical saga is set in a Scottish fishing village in the 1830’s and reflects the living conditions and the morals of the ordinary fisher folk of that time.

Missing Believed Dead

Missing Believed Dead
Missing children! Internet predators! Dead bodies! She crossed his arms over his chest, and placed the jade beads in his eyes. ‘To remind you of me,’ she said. Jade was 13 when she disappeared, five years ago, and DS Bill Murphy suspects someone from her family is responsible for recent Dundee murders. But is it her mother, Diane, who now suffers from OCD? Or Emma, her twin sister, who was catatonic for a year after Jade’s disappearance. Or Jade’s brother, Ryan, who enjoys dressing in women’s clothes and is going through a sexuality crisis, unsure whether or not he is gay. What happened to Jade? Is she alive or dead? Or has she returned to wreak a terrible revenge on all male predators?

Reviewed  Jan Needle

The (fictional) subject of grooming and targeting girls on the internet for sex is getting dangerously close to cliché, unfortunately. There’s hardly a TV thriller any more than doesn’t hinge on some form of child abuse, and – important subject though it is – it can feel just a wee bit hackneyed.

So when I started Chris Longmuir’s Missing Believed Dead, and entered the world of a mysterious, creepy man driving his van from Manchester to Scotland to meet ‘Jade’ for a cyber date, I must confess my heart sank a little – for the wrong reasons. Despite the taut scene setting and the quality of the writing, I feared I was in for yet another harrowing but essentially unsurprising trawl through the expected.

Wrong. Jade was indeed a victim, and white van man sure as hell hadn’t arranged to meet her to have a chat about any problems she might be having at school. His vehicle was bursting with the required gear. Mattress, eye-bolts welded to the floor, black-out, the lot.

And when both the innocent young lady and the dirty old man ended up together in the back, something very nasty did indeed happen. There was a corpse, with beads jammed into the eye sockets. Jade beads. Jammed in with violence and intent. Jammed in by Jade, though, not the man.

Next day however – next moment for the reader – the boot is suddenly on other foot, the more usual one. This girl is called Megan, and she is young, blonde, beautiful. She is laid out on a rug on a floor of dirt, and part of her ponytail has escaped and spread across her face. The worst is about to happen. As it had happened to another girl, another victim of this man.

This book, set in Dundee, in Scotland, is many things, and proceeds in several interlinked strands. By chapter three it has turned into a police procedural, with officers struggling to unravel the startling mystery at its heart. But it is also about families, and appalling loss, and it is not afraid to delve into the misery that crimes like this, and the revenge that follows, must bring.

There is another book about the same detectives, Kate Rawlings and Bill Murphy, and I hope there will be more. It is gripping, thoughtful stuff.

Review by Jan Needle


Night Watcher

Night Watcher
Two stalkers, one target! A mysterious stranger arrives in Dundee, with a mission to find a new Chosen One to punish. He selects Nicole, a woman with a weakness for men. One of Nicole’s paramours is found hanged and everyone assumes he has committed suicide. However, his estranged wife, Julie, knows better and blames his death on Nicole. Obsessed with the need to punish Nicole, Julie stalks her, unaware that there is another stalker, the deranged and dangerous Night Watcher. Who will exact punishment on Nicole first? What price will Nicole have to pay for her misdemeanors? Will Julie’s mind games drive Nicole over the edge? And what price will Julie have to pay for her obsession? Only the Night Watcher knows! Night Watcher is the first book in the Dundee Crime Series.1

The Death Game

The Death Game
A world of mystery and intrigue in Dundee during the year 1919. And a new sleuth unlike any other currently in print. Kirsty Campbell, former suffragette and a policewoman in Britain’s newly formed women’s police service, returns to her home town of Dundee to become the city’s first policewoman. Her struggle for acceptance in the all male police force is not easy, and she fights for recognition. But Kirsty is not easily intimidated and, despite police attempts to curtail her activities, she defies her superior officer to pursue an investigation into a murder which is linked to missing orphan girls. Kirsty is an unusual character with a fascinating history and background. She has demons of her own to fight, as well as becoming involved in a deadly game of sacrifice and death? But how will she cope when the sins of the past come back to haunt her?


I particularly enjoyed reading about one of Scotland’s pioneer policewomen in this first of a new series by Chris Longmuir. Towards the end of 1919, Kirsty Campbell moves from London to Dundee at the request of the Chief Constable, literally into uncharted territory as far as female police officers were concerned. Kirsty leaves behind a group of supportive friends in London, and a situation in which, if policewomen weren’t actually accepted, there were enough of them to band together and give each other strength. The fact that her family, from whom she has been estranged for a decade, lives in Dundee, is both a pull towards the city, and an additional source of anxiety for Kirsty.

A historical note at the end of the novel is useful in outlining the relationships between the suffrage movement and women entering the police force in the British Isles, and it’s no accident that Kirsty has been a suffragette. I found the historical details fascinating, from the uniform, which included knee-length army boots, to the duties women were considered capable of carrying out. They were often referred to as ‘statement takers’ though they were trained in jujitsu as a form of self-defense.

Kirsty’s relationship with her superior officer, Inspector Brewster, is well developed as the story unfolds, with Brewster ambivalent towards her, not knowing what to do with her, yet grudgingly admiring as well. The constables Kirsty has to work with are more inclined to mock than to give her a chance, and her father, when she plucks up the courage to visit him, is adamant that she should give up her foolish notions of independence. Her relationship with her parents is complicated by her relationship with her ‘sister’, Ailsa, who becomes a central figure in a plot involving missing girls.

I found the working out of this mystery less satisfying than other aspects of the novel, a mystery containing sexual predation, abuse and murder, spiraling around an orphanage and its staff, and the family of a man whom Kirsty knows from her former life in Dundee. Both the mystery and its resolution lacked depth, in my opinion. There was too much action and not enough reflection – the teasing out of possibilities and the weighing up of alternatives which can make a crime novel so enjoyable to read. It seemed inconceivable that Kirsty, given her intelligence, was gullible and blind where the main perpetrator was concerned.

That reservation aside, I enjoyed the historical setting and the characters and I would certainly be interested in reading the next book in the series.

I have given the book 4 stars.