Hall of Fame Review: First Blood by Angela Marsons

Friday 7 February 2020
Title: First Blood
Author: Angela Marsons
Publisher: Bookouture
Publication Date: 14th November 2019
Pages: 448
Source: Purchased
Rating: 5/5
Purchase: Amazon
When the body of a young man is found beheaded and staked to the ground in a secluded woodland area of the Clent Hills, Kim and her new squad rush to the crime scene.

Searching the victim's home, Kim finds a little girl's bedroom and a hidden laptop, but where is the child? And why does the man's own sister seem relieved that he's dead?

As Kim begins to unearth the shocking truth about the victim, a disturbing resemblance is spotted with the recent murder of a man found beneath the staircase of Redland Hall with multiple stab wounds.

Both these men had dark secrets and Kim discovers a link to a women's shelter. As a child of the care system herself, Kim knows all too well what it means to be vulnerable. Could the shelter be the key to cracking this case?

With the killer about to strike again, Kim is in deep water with a rookie squad. Inexperienced Stacey is showing signs of brilliance but struggling to hold her nerve and, while D.S. Bryant is reliable and calm, D.S. Dawson is a liability. With his home life in pieces, his volatile behaviour is already fracturing her fragile new team.

Can Kim bring Dawson in line and pull her crew together in time to catch the killer before another life is taken? This time, one of her own could be in terrible danger . . .

Hall of Fame reviews on my blog are for books that are extra special and are in my opinion above 5 stars, but I feel like First Blood needs a category all of its own. Angela Marsons is just incredible. I honestly think it is impossible for this woman to write a bad story. First Blood was a master class in crime fiction and I loved every page of it. I am just in awe of Angela every time I finish one of her books. Writing reviews on this book blog has allowed me to speak to many authors on a personal level, and few have been as generous and caring as Angela has to me. I’m sad to say that with my mental health making me retreat from blogging over the last few years, I feel those connections that I have made have maybe lessened, but this series of books has always got me through some difficult times and the signed books and letters that Angela has sent over the years have meant the world to me. There can’t be a crime fiction fan alive who hasn’t discovered this series, but if there is then this is an author and series that should not be missed.

The Kim Stone series fast became a favourite of mine with the release of Silent Scream back in 2015 when me and thousands of other people were introduced to what is now one of my favourite fictional detectives of all time, the one and only Kim Stone. It’s hard to believe that First Blood is now the 12th book in the series, but one that serves well as an introduction to the series itself as it is one of the best prequels I have ever read. Angela does such a good job of introducing these characters that we already know but that we learn so much more about in this story. It felt almost like when on Friends they have a flashback episode. We already know the characters but we are learning something new about them, we are seeing them meet each other for the first time. Angela sets the scene wonderfully and it was a pure joy to see these characters meet and start to settle down as the team that we all now know and love.

Often in crime fiction, either the main detective or the teams they work with can seem a little bit samey. That has never been the case with this series. Kim Stone herself is an enigmatic and intriguing character. To see her in this series working with these ‘new’ characters just made me love her even more. Would I want to work with her? Maybe not but I do know that I never want to stop reading about her. There’s so much that I want to say about Kim and these characters but so much of it centres around the plot lines of future books and I don’t want to spoil anything. What I can say is just how much I enjoyed reading about these characters before they became the characters we know in subsequent books. Dawson especially surprised me and I particularly enjoyed seeing a somewhat more naive Stacey who in the future is one of my favourite characters. All I can say is anyone reading this series who is new to Kim Stone and her team, you are in for such a treat and I am so jealous of anyone yet to read all of these incredible stories.

I feel like I have been writing for hours and haven’t even alluded to the plot yet but, as brilliant as it was, this book was all about the characters for me. That said, Angela Marsons knows how to tell one hell of a story and how to send the reader down multiple paths before eventually sending them down the right one at the last minute. The story here was masterfully told. Angela’s stories are full of emotion, and there’s plenty of that here. They are always thought-provoking, opening up many points for discussion and that is certainly the case here when those huge revelations arrive in the story. I have always loved the setting for Angela’s books, all across the Black Country. They are vividly brought to life and it’s easy to picture everything that Angela describes to the reader. The denouement itself in this story was brilliantly done and Kim just shone even more to me as a truly remarkable character.

As I read the closing scenes of First Blood I got goosebumps and then my eyes started to fill with tears. I can’t explain why. This is a fictional story. This series is the work of Angela’s imagination. But, for as long as I can remember, books have been a source of comfort to me and a place to escape from real life. I feel as if I know this cast of characters personally after following their stories over so many books. Angela does such a fantastic job of making them seem like real people, of making it easy to believe in them and to want to see them succeed. In Kim Stone she has created a character that perhaps not everybody can relate to, but which it seems everybody loves. I myself feel I can relate to her, especially in the wanting people to keep their distance department. And in DS Bryant especially I related to him here in his not wanting to succeed past the rank that he is in. Sometimes people are just happy where they are. And I felt emotion because I was reading this story knowing what was to come for these characters in their future adventures together. I finished First Blood and immediately wanted to read all of those stories again. Yes this is fiction, but to me this series and its author is something quite remarkable and I hope to be reading books by Angela Marsons for decades to come. It’s not often you can describe a book as faultless, but every single book in this series is exactly that. I have no idea where Angela Marsons’ magical writing powers came from, but I am so glad she shared them with the world and wrote all of these phenomenal books. This is THE best crime fiction series being written today, maybe even ever. (Actually I’m going to call it a tie between Kim Stone and Michael Connelly's Harry Bosch, but both are just the best). And on a personal note I want to say thank you to Angela Marsons for all the joy these dark and twisted stories have brought to my life, as weird as that sounds. Long may they continue.

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