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    SERIES REVIEW: Blake Harte Mysteries Books 1-4 by Robert Innes

    The Blake Harte Mysteries is what it says on the tin: A head scratching collection of impossible crimes featuring Detective Sergeant Blake Harte, set in the small picturesque village of Harmschapel. Police procedural with dark themes and romantic undertones.

    The cases were locked room mysteries They were a tad predictable when it comes to the who part, but it’s the hows and whys of the crime that were really clever. The stories were nice, compact and to the point, revealing only the need-to-knows when you need to know them. The mysteries take center stage but the romantic subplot is equally compelling. I love how it was paced. It’s appropriately slow-burn and low-key yet very endearing. I also enjoyed the somewhat wry humor sprinkled throughout. Overall, there is a good balance between the different elements.

    Blake is good at what he does. I was immediately drawn to his personality and loved how that drove the stories. He is empathetic man of many talents, among which, a good singer. Harrison started out timid and scared and it’s great to witness how his character grew into a happier, more confident young man. I love the two of them together.

    Blake’s team were mostly compose of young, eager to please coppers, Mini Patil and Billy Mattison. He also has a prickly sergeant, Michael Gardner, with whom he had an antagonistic relationship having been the man who was after the position Blake now filled. Mini and Matti were great supporting characters. Their office romance added another exciting thread to follow. Meanwhile, Gardner is the kind of idiot that makes you wonder how he reached the position of sergeant. His blanket assumptions and acerbic comments provided some of the comic relief.

    Other characters include Jacqueline, Blake’s meddling landlady, Sally Ann, his best friend and also a detective from Manchester, and Betty, Harrison’s goat. Who takes an instant like? dislike? who knows, to Blake, head-butting him the every time they meet. This is a gag that runs throughout the series.

    This is a review of the first 4 books.

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    1. Blake Harte Mysteries: Untouchable – Robert Innes

    Harrison Baxter lives on a farm with his parents, on the outskirts of the village of Harmschapel. It’s picturesque, idyllic and tranquil – but Harrison is far from happy. His parent’s marriage is strained to say the least and on top of that, his boyfriend, Daniel, has been mentally and physically abusing him for years. After he finds himself with one bruise too many, Harrison has had enough. But when he plucks up the courage to finally end his violent relationship, Harrison’s life is changed forever when Daniel is found murdered in the most bizarre circumstances.

    Detective Sergeant Blake Harte has moved to Harmschapel after his own relationship ended in tatters. But moving to a quiet village after working his way up the ranks in a city brings its own set of problems and Blake soon finds himself at odds with new colleagues who aren’t used to his style of policing. But when he is called upon to investigate the mysterious and impossible murder at Halfmile Farm, Blake finds himself facing the most challenging case of his career.

    So how can Daniel have been shot in a locked shed that nobody could possibly have escaped from?

    Is anybody really Untouchable?

    Untouchable introduces DS Harte as he was moving to Harmschapel after a bad break-up with his ex-fiance who he found in bed with a woman. His first day on the job immediately lands him a case. This is where we meet Harrison, a victim of abuse from his ex-boyfriend who was also the murder victim.

    Blake and his team were called to handle some trouble at the Halfmile farm. Daniel, a repeat offender and Harrison’s boyfriend, was locked in the shed by Harrison’s father after he witness him beating his son. Harrison had just broken up with him and Daniel reacted badly. He was put in the shed, very much alive, held there until the police arrived. But when Blake opened the shed, out popped his corpse. Upon inspection, there was no way anybody could have shot him from inside or outside the shed.

    This books sets the noirish tone of the series. It tackled domestic abuse from a different perspective. Many of the twists caught me off guard although I found the motive, the set-up and murder weapon to be a bit far-fetched. It begged the question why go through all that trouble when there were simpler ways of getting rid of an unwanted person?

    Regardless of the believability, I found myself hooked. I’m glad that the author did not push the romance angle at this point, only leaving hints of a potential love interest at the end.

    4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bits

    Soundtrack: Untouchable
    Artist: Jacob Bellens
    Album: Polyester Skin

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    2. Blake Harte Mysteries: Confessional – Robert Innes

    Book 2 in The Blake Harte Mysteries series! A head scratching collection of impossible crimes featuring Detective Sergeant Blake Harte, set in the small picturesque village of Harmschapel. Police procedural with dark themes and romantic undertones.

    St Abra’s church is harbouring a dark secret. Several elderly parishioners have been found dead in the church’s confessions booth, all appearing to have suffered fatal heart attacks.

    But when another, much younger body is discovered in exactly the same way, Detective Sergeant Blake Harte must investigate how it is possible for the confessions booth to be killing off its occupants. Dark forces are at play, forcing Blake to believe it’s more than just tragic coincidence.

    Are the deaths a punishment for the sins confessed, or are there ulterior motives in play? In a race against the clock, only Blake can discover the long-kept secrets and lies hiding in the shadows before they tear apart the sleepy village of Harmschapel.

    The second book features an interesting take on the lock room mystery. Elderly people were dying from a heart attack inside a confessional. This would have been dismissed had it not been for the fact that a teenage also died a similar death in the same place.

    The story tackled the issue of family, gender and homosexuality in the church. One of the main suspects was a lesbian female priest who had conflict with the elderly people who died. Meanwhile, Harrison was befriended by the verger who was also the grandson of the vicar. After a day or two, they started a relationship.

    I liked how everything came together. The climax was very dramatic and tragic. It gave way for Harrison to finally realize how Blake felt about him.

    4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bits

    Soundtrack: Last Confession
    Artist: The Heavy
    Album: Hurt & The Merciless

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    3. Blake Harte Mysteries: Ripples by Robert Innes

    When Detective Sergeant Blake Harte is given the opportunity of a relaxing week away at a spa manor, he jumps at the opportunity. He can take one person with him – and who more than Harrison Baxter deserves time away from Harmschapel after everything he has been through?

    But once at the Manor of the Lakes, the rest and relaxation they both crave is quickly brought to an end, when Blake and Harrison witness a man being murdered, by a mysterious hooded figure who appears to have the ability to walk on water.

    How is it possible for someone to defy the laws of physics? And Blake’s problems are only just beginning. The visit to the manor finds him coming face to face with figures from his past – and one in particular who could ruin any chance of Blake and Harrison ever being happy together.

    The ripple effect is well and truly in play…

    The third book had Blake and Harrison locked inside a room while witnessing a murder happening outside.

    Before that, Jacqueline set them up for a vacation at a very picturesque manor with two lakes. They came together with the understanding not to rush things and just be friends because Harrison has things to sort out in his head.

    This is also where we meet Blake’s ex, Nathan and Divina, the woman with whom he cheated Blake with and who is now his wife. As to be expected, there was tension and things that needed closure. It is also safe to assume that they were both somehow involved in the case.

    This case was not in Blake’s jurisdiction but the off-duty detective couldn’t resist especially when it also involves showing up his grouchy old supervisor. The murder victim was a horrible person with no friends. The circumstances of the murder was very mysterious. There was a hooded figure, previously seen haunting the resort grounds, who seemed to walk on water and stab the victim in the middle of the lake. The investigations revealed feuding families, a Romeo and Juliet romance, a terminally ill woman and a contested property.

    4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bits

    Soundtrack: Had Enough
    Artist: Breaking Benjamin
    Album: Phobia

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    4. Blake Harte Mysteries: Reach by Robert Innes

    Seven years ago Thomas Frost was arrested for the murders of five women in the Manchester area and Detective Sergeant Blake Harte was the officer in charge of his arrest, saving the life of Kerry Nightingale in the process. Now, Frost has promised that Kerry was never safe and she’ll be dead within a few days.

    Sure enough, somehow, Kerry is found dead in her top floor apartment – a place that was being guarded by Blake and the apartment’s security. How is it possible for Kerry to have been murdered in her apartment when nobody could have gotten in or out?

    Did Thomas Frost somehow manage to murder Kerry from his prison cell? Who else could want to see her dead quite as much? As Blake and the team attempt to stop a killer who is seemingly capable of anything, he could never imagine that for somebody else in Harmschapel, time is also ticking

    This installment introduces the Moriarity to Blake’s Sherlock. The POV also shifted from Harrison’s to a new character who was up to his neck in trouble.

    The case of Thomas Frost, dubbed by the media as Jack Frost, was the case that earned Blake his detective title. Frost is a serial killer who strangled several women to death. He is currently locked in a high security prison but still managed to threaten a woman, his last victim who Blake was able to save seven year ago.

    The new POV was from Jamie, a young security guard who was madly in love with Kerry Nightingale, the victim. Even if I already have some inklings, the author still did a good job setting Jamie up as the prime suspect. I enjoyed the build up and the big reveal. Frost was also effective as the archvillain and it’s pretty obvious that we have not seen the last of Blake’s nemesis.

    Romance-wise, Blake and Harrison are doing well. They’re taking their relationship to the next level and Harrison is moving in. They have to do something about Betty though.

    4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bits

    Soundtrack: Reach
    Artist: Collective Soul
    Album: Hints, Allegations and Things Left Unsaid

    As I mentioned, I’m addicted to this series. I know this has mixed reviews and I agree with some of the negative comments but I really enjoyed the writing, the characters, Paul Woodson’s narration and most of all, the overall feel of the stories. Recommended if you like cozy mysteries with mind-boggling MOs, eager young coppers brimming with spark and enthusiasm, and dashing British detectives with cute boyfriends.