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“The Josie Girls”
‘Keep Her Close’
by M.J. Ford

Tea, flowers and an open book on a table in the garden - Used to feature my book reviews


Cover Image of the book 'Keep Her Close' by author M.J. FordIt’s six months since DS Josie Masters saved her nephew from the clutches of the killer clown, but she’s still haunted by that terrible night. The Thames Valley police force, however, regard Jo as a hero – much to the jealousy of some of her colleagues.

When a young girl goes missing from Jesus College, Jo is assigned to the case, along with new recruit, the handsome DS Pryce. The city of Oxford goes into turmoil when two more girls disappear from Oriel and Somerville, and Josie soon realises that the killer is spelling out her own initials in a deadly game of cat and mouse. This time, the case is personal – but who is the perpetrator?

In a race against time, Jo hunts for the killer – but soon realises he could be a lot closer to home than she’d realised…


Image of author M.J. FordMichael (M.J.) Ford lives in the north of England with his wife, two young children and two dogs.

He studied English and Classics at Oxford University before working in publishing for many years.

He loves thrillers, historical and fantasy titles

He writes for both adults and children.

M.J. Ford discusses DS Josie Masters here

Connect with Michael on Facebook

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Cover Image of the book 'Keep Her Close' by author M.J. Ford


“Dr. Forster kept a box of tissues on the table, and for the last five weeks Detective Jo Masters had managed not to reach for a single one. It had become a point of principle during their sessions, a way of telling herself she was above all this. So she’d remained stubbornly dry-eyed through all five, sixty-minute meetings, even though they’d touched on plenty of painful subjects, personal and professional – her relationships with her parents, her brother, her colleagues, her aspirations, and her fears. And Ben, of course. Lots of Ben. The psychologist was surgical at times, probing with questions that slipped almost unfelt, like a scalpel blade into the deepest recesses of her past, exposing places, incidents, and people she hadn’t thought about for years.”

Cover Image of the book 'Keep Her Close' by author M.J. Ford


“Jo should have known the DCI would be listening in. He shook his head several times in a way that reminded Jo of her nephew Will, when he’d been three years old in his high-chair, refusing mashed cauliflower, even though she’d pretended it was a train and his mouth was a tunnel, complete with chugging sound effects.”

“Most missing person cases did get solved, because most of the time the missing didn’t want to stay that way.”

“All it took though was a psychopath with the right opportunity. When a person was unencumbered by a moral compass, they really were capable of anything.”

Cover Image of the book 'Keep Her Close' by author M.J. Ford


“They’ll always be two steps ahead of you”

Please don’t be put off reading this excellent police procedural / crime thriller, for me fully deserving of my 4 star rating, by what I am about to say …

Whilst, if you read Keep Her Close for what it is, it does work fine as a stand alone story, I personally feel that I would have benefitted hugely by having read its predecessor Hold My Hand, as the two stories are inextricably linked. Either that, or it would have made a tremendous difference if, in addition to the epilogue with which M.J. Ford has so generously concluded Keep Her Close, he might have considered furnishing any potential reader with a short prologue outlining past events and relationships, rather than often disjointedly, drip-feeding small insights throughout the narrative and dialogue.

All that said (and that is of course just my own personal point of view, which is what can make reviewing a book a very subjective exercise!), and despite one small hole in the storyline which I couldn’t correlate, but which I won’t mention here, as it would involve a massive ‘spoiler’, I still thoroughly enjoyed Keep Her Close and deem it worthy of the 4 stars I have awarded it.

I could instantly relate to Michael’s storytelling style with its strong narrative and dialogue, and his great characterisations which were so compelling that I could almost hear and visualize each individual stood before me as I was reading!

Of course for me, any crime thriller set in and around Oxford, has much to live up to, walking as it does in the footsteps of the late, great, ‘Morse’, but after the first few pages I was so engrossed that I almost didn’t give it a second thought.

There was also a good equal split between a plot and character driven story, which doesn’t often happen and made for a refreshing balance of emphasis.

There was never a dull moment in the fast-paced, heart-stopping action, which was narrated almost exclusively from the perspective of the police and their procedural tactics. The plot itself was very singular and focus driven, whilst at the same time being deep, multi-layered and definitely very troubling. I had my list of suspects, which grew and then dwindled, as I eliminated them from my enquiries. I was left with two names towards the end, but then it became obvious who the real antagonist was, yet I am still unsure whether this would have been the name I would have plumped for or not, if I had needed to guess!

None of the characters were particularly likeable, easy to connect with and definitely not emotionally well balanced, but then, their vulnerabilities were the fuel for the story, igniting the flames for me! Without their irritating ways, double standards in their professional dealings and raw disturbing turmoil in their personal lives, the plot wouldn’t have remained as finely balanced and compelling as it did, until almost the very last page.

Having tarred Josie with the same epithet as all her fellow characters in this case, I do still have high hopes for this as a continuing series and very much look forward to seeing her make the progress she deserves in her professional life and the finding the happiness she is constantly searching for in her private life. By the end of the book, things on both fronts seem to be getting off to a flying start, however such is Josie’s luck, that I’m not holding my breath!

Image of author M.J. Ford

A complimentary download of this book, published by Avon Books, was kindly made available and supplied by NetGalley

Any thoughts or comments are my own personal opinion and I am in no way being monetarily compensated for this, or any other article.

I personally do not agree with ‘rating’ a book, as the overall experience is all a matter of personal taste, which varies from reader to reader. However some review sites do demand a rating value, so when this review is posted to such a site, it will attract a 4 out of 5.

Written by

I can’t remember a time, even as a child, when I haven’t been passionate about books and reading.
I began blogging, when I realised just how many other people out there shared my passion for the written word and I have been continually amazed at the wealth of books that are available and the amount of great new friends I have made, from literally 'The Four Corners Of The World'.

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  • What an excellent review, Yvonne. I’m tempted by this as it sounds excellent but would take notice of what you say and read book one first. That kind of tip helps so thanks for recommending it.

    • Well you know you don’t have to worry about me picking this one up before I read its predecessor! It does sound like a fairly interesting series, but I just have so many other books getting my attention these days. As for crime stories, I’ve also been greatly influenced by some recent blog posts elsewhere to dip a little more into vintage crime (British) stories.

      I think you’ll agree with me, Yvonne… if only we had more time to read!

      • Hi Kelly,

        I have to admit that at the moment my reading schedule is pretty much being dictated by publishers, publicists and authors, and the books on my shelf and stored on my various devices, are being totally ignored!

        The down side is that I am not able to get to read any of the vintage classics, which like yourself and Cathy, I do enjoy The up side is that I will never need to buy another book in my entire life, but goodness help anyone who has to do the house clearance when anything happens to both of us!!

        Thanks for being kind enough to visit and comment, even though this may not be a series you will want to follow 🙂

    • Hi Cath,

      Thank you so much for your kind words, I always appreciate your support and comments.

      I enjoyed Michael’s writing so much, that I didn’t really want to mention any potential glitches with ‘Keep Her Close’, however the link between the first two books in the series is so strong that I felt it worth sharing, as I notice, did several other reviewers at Goodreads.

      If you can make the time to read both books, I don’t think you will be disappointed!

      Have a great weekend 🙂

  • Thanks for the great review, Yvonne. Several readers have commented on the continuity between books one and two of this series. It’s something I’m bearing in mind as I write the third. On the one hand I want a main character with a clear and credible arc, but equally I’d like readers to be able to be able to pick up the books out of order. A quandary!

    • Hi Michael,

      Thank you so much for taking the time to visit and especially for being kind enough to comment, I appreciate your support.

      I do hope that you didn’t think my comments about the continuity of the series, were in any way meant to demean the style or quality of your writing and the storyline.

      There are many other series authors out there who make it very difficult for readers like myself, who like to read a variety of authors and genres and who therefore end up by dipping in and out of a series. But I guess that is really our problem, not yours!

      With the ‘Josie Masters’ books however, I find that the storylines are so inextricably linked, that the backstory is almost as important as reading about real time events.

      As I indicated though, I am looking forward to following Josie as her career moves forward, hoping that she gets some of the breaks she deserves, so I am delighted to hear that there is a third book in the offing and I wish you every success with its production. 🙂

  • This one sounds good and the killer clown sounds terrifying. I like the cover also. I know what you mean, sometimes you just need to read the first book in the series. I tend to read series books out of order myself and as long as they are strong enough for stand-alones, I don’t mind it. Great review as usual!

    • Hi Naida,

      Don’t get me wrong, this book does work okay as a stand alone, however there was just so much happening in the first book which is relevant now, that a short introduction would have been really beneficial for a new to the series reader.

      I have always admitted that I am one of the worst offenders when it comes to out of order series reading. I start out with good intentions, but time pressures generally win out and I just have to mix my books and authors, or I would spend most of my reading time on one single author and series!

      Great to hear from you and I hope that all is well 🙂

Written by Yvonne