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Looking for a gripping crime thriller which you won’t want to put down?


Val Marsh gets home to find her husband Russell shot through the head. Russell’s ‘angel investment’ company had made him many enemies. His business was struggling and his family and friends weren’t all on his side. But did any of them really want him dead?


Detectives Jim Neal and Ava Merry are called in to investigate a very complex murder.

Another body is found in the woods and the case gets much murkier.

There are some very dirty secrets hidden behind the seemingly happy lives of the families involved.

Then a drug dealer is shot and fatally wounded in London. It seems the murders are connected, but how?


Great for fans of Angela Marsons, Rachel Abbott, Ruth Rendell, or Mark Billingham.


258 pages, Kindle Edition

First published June 25, 2018

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Janice Frost

13 books128 followers

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5 stars
768 (41%)
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688 (37%)
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290 (15%)
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58 (3%)
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27 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 52 reviews
Profile Image for Linda Strong.
3,882 reviews1,625 followers
June 28, 2018

The wife of businessman Russell Marsh is headed home. She's spent the week taking care of her flu-ridden daughter and her husband and baby and she's looking forward to being home again. She's imagining him sitting at his desk looking at papers he brought home from work. She was half right .... he's at his desk, but he's not working. Actually he's bleeding all over the carpet from the gunshot wound in his head.

DI Jim Neal and DS Ava Merry are called in to investigate only to discover things are not as they seem. Everyone from his family to the house help to his business partner and his family all have secrets ... and a motive to kill.

And then someone close to the family is found dead in the woods. Neal and Merry are going to have to really dig deep to uncover all the secrets and stop the killer from taking another life.

I have been fortunate to read the prior 4 books in this series. DIRTY SECRETS is an excellent addition and can be read as a stand alone, although I highly recommend starting at the very beginning.

Neal and Merry are solid characters .... both driven to find justice for the victims. The rest of their team are just as memorable and it's a pleasure learning more about their personal lives as they go about the hunt for a killer.

This book seems a little slower paced than the others, but there are surprises around every corner, with plenty of suspects to keep you guessing. I look forward to seeing more of Neal and Merry and their future adventures.

Many thanks to the author / Joffe Books / Netgalley / Books N All for the advanced digital copy of this crime fiction. Opinions expressed here are unbiased and entirely my own.
38 reviews
December 18, 2022
Intriguing !

I always enjoy these stories with DI Neal and the team . Just when you think you might have worked out what is going on there’s another twist in the plot which makes you think again !
Profile Image for Joyce.
1,628 reviews29 followers
June 29, 2018
5 stars

DI Jim Marsh and DS Ava Merry are back in the latest installment of the series of police procedurals.

Wealthy businessman Russell Marsh is found dead by his wife upon her return from a week-long stay at her daughter Ruth’s home. He has been shot in the head. Neal and Merry respond to the call and at first what may be a suicide suddenly turns out to be a murder. They begin by questioning Russ’ wife Val. She insists it was not a suicide.

Neal and Merry then discover infidelities, dislikes and secrets that tie the Marsh family, their business associates and others together. When another body is found in the woods, Dana Schnell the live-in help at the Cornish family home, it seems the murder conspiracy extends farther than just Russell Marsh. Paul Cornish was Russ’ business partner.

The lies that the witnesses are telling are getting in the way of the police finding out the truth. Now that a kilo of cocaine has been found in Dana’s room, the team’s thoughts turn to drugs. From there, with another murder along the way, the story gets convoluted. All sorted out in the end, however, and the murder turns out to be no surprise – at least in my book.

This is a well written novel. There were only a couple of typos/grammatical errors, but none too glaring and they did not distract from the story. I liked DI Jim Neal and DS Ava Merry better in this novel than in the last two. Ms. Frost seems to have polished her characterization up and it shines brightly. The team of Jim, Ava, PJ and Tom work well together and like one another and that seems to help bring stability to a rather confusing, at times, novel. It was a very good book and I’m glad I gave reading Ms. Frost another chance. I will continue to look for her books.

I want to thank NetGalley and Joffe Books for forwarding to me a copy of this enjoyable book for me to read and review.
Profile Image for Donna Maguire.
4,308 reviews102 followers
July 9, 2018

This is the fifth book in the series and for me they are just getting better and better and I honestly do think that this is the best that has been released so far through Joffe Books!

I love Neal and Merry - they are strong characters in their own right and they work so well together. They come up against a really complicated and complex murder in this one and I loved what was unravelled about those involved as the story moves on.

I was addicted to this one from the first few chapters. No hesitation in giving this one a 5 star review - a great addition to a fantastic series of books!!
Profile Image for Amanda.
1,999 reviews42 followers
June 27, 2018
I have discovered lots of good authors via Joffe Books. Janice Frost is one such author. I have been a fan of hers for quite a while now and I eagerly read each and every book that she releases. When I found out that Janice was due to release ‘Dirty Secrets’, I knew it was one book that I just had to clear the decks to read. I am so glad I did as I absolutely loved ‘Dirty Secrets’ but more about that in a bit.
I loved the characters of DI Jim Neal and DS Ava Merry. DI Neal is a career police officer, who works seriously long hours. DI Neal is the sort of boss you would like to work for. He is kind, he is generous, he is supportive, he takes an equal share of the workload and he wouldn’t ask you to do anything that he wouldn’t be willing to do himself. He works well as part of a team but he can work equally well on his own. Neal shares a close working relationship with DS Ava Merry and they are that close that it was almost like they are brother and sister. Merry worries about Neal and never more so than when she realises that his ex-girlfriend is back on the scene and trying to get back with Neal. Neal’s sister is equally worried about him. DS Merry is one feisty, stubborn and courageous young woman. She is another one who works well either on her own or as part of a team. She tries to be as supportive as she can be to the other officers in her team. I especially liked the way in which she cares about DI Neal and the way in which she cares about another officer, whose boyfriend has a cancer scare.
The rest of the main characters in this book are a shifty bunch and I didn’t trust any of them. Each and every one of them are hiding secrets and they have several dozen skeletons in the closet. Some of them couldn’t tell the truth if their lives depended on it. The frustrating thing for the police is the fact they know that people are hiding things from them, which is a seriously bad move. It’s left to the police to unpick the tangled web that has been weaved.
Blimey oh riley I was hooked on this book from the moment I began to read. I just couldn’t get enough of this book and I even tried to ration how much I read all at once, because the intention was to prolong the enjoyment of the book but that intention soon went out of the window. I binge read the book in one sitting. I guess (no make that I know) that I am such a nebby Nora (a nosy person) that I just had to read on so I could snoop into other people’s lives, find out all their deepest and darkest secrets and watch the skeletons come tumbling out of the closet. The page numbers just flew past in a blur and before I knew what was happening I had finished the book, which I was so disappointed about, because I was enjoying the writing style, the storylines and the diverse set of characters so much that I just wanted the book to continue. I thought that only a couple of hours had passed so imagine my surprise when I found out that 4 and a bit hours had flown by. I love Janice’s writing style and the way in which you know that a surprise of one, way, shape or form is waiting for you just over the page. The author’s writing style is so realistic and vivid that reading this book was the literary equivalent of watching a police drama on the television. All the action is playing out in front of your eyes and you find yourself interacting with the book, as if the characters can hear you. I smugly thought that I had worked out who had done what and why, only to discover that I had completely got the wrong end of the stick and the real answers were down another path entirely.
Although this is the fifth book in the Neal & Merry series, it can be read as a standalone and you don’t need to have read the previous four for this book to make sense. As I am a bit OCD, I fully intend to dig out the other four books from my ever increasing ‘TBR’ mountain and reading the series in order.
In short I absolutely loved reading ‘Dirty Secrets’. ‘Dirty Secrets’ is one of those books that reels you in like a fish, captures your interest, grabs you by the throat and won’t let you go until you have finished reading the book. I wholeheartedly recommend this author and this series to anybody. I can’t wait to read what comes next from Janice Frost’s ever so slightly twisted mind. Here’s hoping that I don’t have too long to wait. The score on the Ginger Book Geek board is a well deserved 5* out of 5*.
Profile Image for Bev.
2,728 reviews73 followers
July 27, 2018
This story is very well written that it keeps the reader wondering what is going to happen next and to who. That in itself is the same problem the police are having. DI Jim Marsh and DS Ava Merry have too many things going on in this case to be able to narrow down on a particular person. Marsh is also going through some personal issues that really isn't helpful at this time. Can they get through all the 'dirty secrets' and find the killer and why? Read the book to find out. I received a copy of the book from Joffe Books.
2,791 reviews48 followers
July 1, 2018
I would like to thank Netgalley and Joffe Books for an advance copy of Dirty Secrets, the fifth novel to feature DI Jim Neal and DS Ava Merry, set in the fictional East Midlands town of Stromford.

When Val Marsh returns from staying with her daughter, Ruth, she finds her husband, Russ, dead from a gunshot wound. Neal and Merry soon establish that he has been murdered but finding the perpetrator will be difficult with the family and friends constantly lying to hide a morass of secrets.

I thoroughly enjoyed Dirty Secrets which is another, well plotted, compulsive read with some good twists. Who knew a family and their close friends could have so many secrets and dodgy characters? Once, however, you get over this moment of disbelief the novel is eminently readable because it is all about the team's efforts to uncover the truth in such a web of lies, deceit and manipulation and becomes quite compulsive as the reader tags along. I'm often quite critical of novels with a shifting perspective, as is the case in this novel, but it works really well here with the other characters' thoughts and actions amplifying the investigation rather than distracting from it.

Dirty Secrets is, in writing terms, a straightforward police procedural which doesn't try to be anything else. It is entertaining in that the reader can concentrate on a good plot which will hold their attention from start to finish and has some likeable characters in the form of the investigative team who bond well together and bring a warmth to the novel that offsets some bad behaviour from the other characters.

Dirty Secrets is a good read which I have no hesitation in recommending.
Profile Image for M.
1,377 reviews
July 3, 2018
A Cluster of Dysfunctional People

This well-written British police procedural and murder mystery is set in the East Midlands. The storyline is complex with several good twists, and I enjoyed this book as a stand-alone without reading any earlier books in this series.
The police characters are well-developed, and DI Jim Neal has an outstanding team working with him, without a lot of personal drama. It was refreshing that this team relied on hard work, interviews, intuition, etc. instead of concentrating on their computers, CCTV footage, HOLMES2, forensics, etc. However, from the way the murders were committed, I thought there was only one logical suspect.
The murder victim, his family, his partner & his family, and friends were all (to some degree) unlikeable, and they were in need of psychological counseling. Most of the secondary characters were so off-putting that I considered putting aside this book, but I liked the mystery, so I read to the end.
The greatest weakness in this short novel of 216 pages is too many secondary/tertiary characters. When first reading any mystery, I pay attention to characters and their names, because I don’t know how important each will be. In the first 10% of the book alone, there are over 20 named characters. After that, I stopped counting.

The author writes well, so I will probably read another book in this series.
Profile Image for Pól.
260 reviews5 followers
September 22, 2018
A wonderful read

I enjoyed the sense of place that the story evoked for me - small town England with a glimpse of a larger world. The characters have enough depth to be interesting and i was glad that for those involved in the crimes/plots did.not have all issues resolved at the end. I like having some outcomes left open-ended as is the case in life
57 reviews
August 30, 2018
Family secrets

Straightforward sensationalist murder. Neatly put together although rather predictable with little realistic police procedure.Easy to read but ultimately unrewarding overall.
204 reviews2 followers
July 8, 2018
Another great read

So enjoy these books and hope more are coming. Highly recommend all these books and can’t wait for more. Enjoy a good who done it and get hooked.
Profile Image for Marcia Sleeper.
74 reviews1 follower
September 2, 2018
Twists and Turns

I liked how she kept the flow exciting and mysterious. It was a story with many characters having their own issues that brought the story to its conclusion.
Profile Image for LJ (On The Shelf Reviews).
681 reviews29 followers
June 2, 2019
This is the fifth in the Neal and Merry series but can easily be read as a stand-alone without feeling like you’ve missed too much.

This is another book that it’s taken me almost a year to get round to, oops, but I heard that Janice Frost has another book out very soon (which I believe is a stand-alone) so it gave me the kick up the bum to actually read this one.

Dirty Secrets is a solid police procedural that really focuses on the investigation of the crime and everything that goes into it.

It centres around two families, the Cornishes and the Marshes, who put the dysfunctional in dysfunctional families, each relationship toxic in some way. Russell Cornish is found dead in his study, a gunshot to the head which sends both families into chaos, exposing deep buried family secrets.

We got a little bit more about Jim Neal’s background in this book, his ex and the mother of his son turns up out of the blue which complicates things between him and Merry. I don’t know if it was me but there seems to be a little something between the two police officer which I hope is built on in the next book.

I have to be honest, it was a little slower paced than the previous book and there weren’t as many shocks and surprises along the way, which made me zone out at times but of course that’s just my opinion.

I’d recommend Dirty Secrets to anyone who loves police procedurals revolving round toxic relationships.
Profile Image for Misfits farm.
1,670 reviews47 followers
June 25, 2018
A man is found with a bullet through his head by his wife who has been away looking after her daughter and family. Suicide? She is adamant that it isn’t. The victim was in business with a partner whom he regularly argued with, apparently in a good/’business way so no motive there. When the partners family domestic help also is killed there is more than a tentative link. What is behind the business and families and why all the secrets? DI Jim Neal and DC Ava Merry have a plot with more threads than a little to deal with. Is Hector dealing drugs? Is Ruth’s boyfriend back involved in drugs and if so why? Neal’s past catches up with him in the form of his sons mother. Will there be a reconciliation? This is one of those reads that you feel comfortable with from the start. Characters that you take to easily and a plot to keep you drawn into the pages. Subplots to keep the action moving and backgrounds to make the characters real. A thoroughly enjoyable read.
For more reviews please see my blog http://nickibookblog.blogspot.co.uk/
or follow me on Twitter @nickijmurphy1
4 reviews
August 5, 2018
Ive read a few books on crime and suspense but this was one of the best liked the characters in the story with different backgrounds and some well off some not and the way the story kept you guessing,The police finding the evidence they needed and worked together well

without all the tension between there colleges it was well put together and brilliant story well done keep going xx
Profile Image for Mary Johnson.
756 reviews17 followers
August 1, 2018
Yet again, a great story and the main characters are developing into my ‘friends.’ There is a lot to take in with myriad murders, drug involvement and the interconnected sexual nature of the cast. The author gives great detail about the background story of events and characters (sometimes too much with the ‘bit’ players) that helps put the here and now in the context of the there and then. It would help ebook readers if there was some differentiation when historical matters are raised relating to characters as it sometimes became confusing to unravel the two. I like the style of this author and know my five stars will come at some point.
Profile Image for Katherine Sunderland.
656 reviews22 followers
July 18, 2018

Imagine Val Marsh's horror when she comes home to find that her husband Russell has been shot through the head while sat at his office desk. His business has been struggling and it soon becomes clear that he had plenty of enemies - even amongst his own family and friends, but did they hate him enough to want him dead?

As with any good police procedural, the case becomes more complicated when another body is discovered. And then a drug dealer is shot dead in London which adds yet another layer to the storyline and further challenges for Neal and Merry as they try to work out the connections between the murders. As the investigation continues, more secrets are exposed and the relationships between the family members and characters are put under more pressure creating a well paced, fast moving storyline full of twists and turns.

This crime thriller has everything you could wish for in a police procedural. There are plenty of surprises and enough shocks and revelations to keep you guessing as to who is the murderer and how all the threads in the story will come together. Frost understands how to pace her plot, how to structure her reveals and how to balance the various sub plots so that the pages are full of tension, drama and action. Her characters are vivid and come to life on the page, pulling the reader along in a story which is full of crisis, danger and most importantly, dark, dirty secrets.

Dirty Secrets is an enjoyable crime thriller that is entertaining, well executed and full of characters that have their own backstory and plenty of flaws and failings. The relationship between the detectives is convincing and they also have their own personal challenges which makes them more three dimensional and realistic.
Profile Image for Nancy Silk.
Author 5 books70 followers
July 19, 2018
"All Characters In This Weird Story Need To Go Into Therapy"

This is a brilliantly written story which will embrace you as a gripping, crime thriller. Val Marsh arrives home and finds her husband shot in the head. Being an investment broker, he has several enemies. Detectives Jim Neal and Ava Merry are assigned to investigate the complicated case. More deaths are being found. This novel is intoxicating which I couldn't put down. I loved it!
Profile Image for Pat Simpson.
650 reviews6 followers
July 1, 2018
This is the fifth book in the series featuring DI Jim Neal and DS Ava Merry. The book opens when Val Marsh returns home after being away looking after her daughter, partner and baby. When she returns she finds her husband, Russ, shot dead. Suicide is quickly ruled out. The body of Russ’s business partner’s housekeeper is found. Both families are now under suspicion. There are lots of affairs, family secrets, drugs and money laundering that are factors in this investigation. I hope we see more development between Neal and Merry as the series builds. Good easyreading.
Thanks to NetGalley and Joffe Books for giving me the opportunity to read and review this book.
Profile Image for Sheila Howes.
559 reviews14 followers
July 18, 2018
The book opens with businessman Russell Marsh being discovered by his wife Valerie. He's slumped over his desk shot in the head. DS Merry and DI Neal are called to investigate. Within the first chapter it's ruled as murder.

Marsh runs an 'angel investment' company with a partner, Paul Cornish. Neal calls in a financial specialist as Valerie mentions the business is in trouble. But when another body turns up, things get far more complicated.

Although this is the fifth book in the Merry and Neal series, it was my first time reading the series. It works very well as a standalone, however I will be reading the previous books as I enjoyed it so much!

The story itself is a very interesting premise. Is the company covering something up, or is it linked to something else? As a family, the Marshes have had more than their fair share of problems and tragedy.

In terms of characters, both Merry and Neal are very likeable. We see something of their personal lives, but there is enough covered by the author that you don't feel like you have missed out on previous cases. The only part I could have manages without was the "will they, won't they" budding romance that is ongoing between the two - but that's my personal taste.
Profile Image for Aileen  (Ailz) Grist.
679 reviews10 followers
July 12, 2018
Another good book from Janice Frost. Neal & Merry make a good team. There is plenty of suspense here among the secrets. People are being killed to keep those secrets, but it'll all come out in the end.

Interesting and compelling read.
Profile Image for Joanna Larum.
Author 13 books8 followers
July 1, 2018
This is the 5th novel by Janice Frost in her series with Detectives Jim Neal and Ava Merry. I have read the others with great enjoyment and couldn't wait to read this new one. AND it didn't disappoint! A truly tremendous story which kept me hooked from the first sentence to the last.
A businessman (Russ Marsh) is found dead, sitting at his desk in his office at home. He has been shot at point-blank range and Jim Neal and Ava Merry are called in to investigate. Of course, Marsh's family members and his business partner are suspects and the team begin by interviewing them. What follows is a series of twists and turns where the participants seem determined to make the investigation as difficult as possible for the police, even getting together to lie in tandem. More murders follow, bringing in links to more organised crime and drug dealers.
At the same time, we are treated to more information about Jim Neal's personal life and I truly enjoyed learning about him. This is not a case of 'too much information' as can often happen but it does leave the reader wanting to know more and wishing that there can be a happy ending for him. I look forward to learning more in the next book!
If you enjoy police procedurals and you want a book which will keep you reading way past dinnertime and bedtime, then this is the one for you! I would heartily recommend it.
59 reviews1 follower
July 4, 2018
Love these Neal & Merry procedurals!

The author does a great job of having lots going on, yet the reader is fully aware of all the actions. She keeps one so involved in the story, that you can't put the book down! I highly recommend this author and this series. Can hardly wait for the next one to be available.
15 reviews
June 28, 2018
DI Jim Neal and DS Ava Merry feature again in this domestic murder novel by the excellent Janice Frost.Her red herrings trail is carefully laid. Drugs are hinted at, famiy tensions spill over into the investigation and then marital infidelity is revealed as another murder happens.

Jim Neal himself has difficulties at hope while Ava Merry can only look on helplessly. Janice constructs layer after layer of this complex story with complicated characters making it a real whodunit! I was left guessing until the last possible moment!
508 reviews6 followers
June 29, 2018
This police thriller is a juicy and gripping read that reels you in page by page and holds your attention to the very end. So easy to read but so unpredictable , you never know what is coming next. A new author for me I will be adding the rest of the series to my TBR list.
1,010 reviews10 followers
December 1, 2018
This is the first book in this series I have read by this author and it could stand alone quite well but I felt attempts to provide a little bit of background were a little forced. Quite a good story but too many of the characters were in need of a therapist, which did not ring too true. The fact that even the fairly innocent characters were lying to the police was a step too far Whether I would have felt more engaged if I had read the earlier books I am not too sure. An easy read but not the best, sorry.
Many thanks to Netgalley/Janice Frost/Joffe Books for a digital copy of this title. All opinions expressed are my own.
889 reviews9 followers
August 18, 2018
It was okay, but not an explosive novel.

I liked the story, but it didn't have that twist I wasn't expecting, or that explosive moment where you couldn't put it down. It was an okay story.
673 reviews5 followers
June 28, 2018
Val Marsh returns home from a visit to her daughter’s in Cambridge and finds her husband Russ dead from a gunshot wound to the head in his study. When interviewed by DI Jim Neal and DS Ava Merry she is adamant that he has been murdered, that he would never contemplate suicide. Russ had been concerned about his business before Val went away but she didn’t know what his concerns were. Family tragedy, family secrets, affairs, drugs and money laundering are all factors in the subsequent investigation. To complicate mattes for DI Neal the mother of his son, Archie, has been in contact and wants to meet with him and he can’t help but worry that she wants to take Archie away from him; this news doesn’t thrill DS Merry either. Really enjoyable read - look forward to the next one to see how their relationship develops.

Thanks to Joffe Books and Janice Frost for the ARC in return for an honest review.
Profile Image for Marion.
335 reviews3 followers
June 26, 2018
This latest case for Neal and Marry involves a businessman Russell Marsh, found dead with a gunshot wound to the head, in his study by his wife when she returns from daughters house.
She has been away for a week caring for Ruth and her husband who have had a bad case of flu and needed help caring for their baby.
The investigation reveals the whole family,the maid and Russells business partner and his family all have secrets which make them possible suspects in his murder.
When the maid is subsequently found murdered in the woods near Russells home Neal and Merry have more possibilities to consider than they first thought.
The author weaves an intricate plot that has so many threads intertwining your kept guessing right until the end.
I thoroughly enjoyed Dirty Secrets which is another great edition to what is an excellent series. Thanks to Joffe books for the chance to read this as an ARC.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 52 reviews

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