Posted in Red Dog Press

Roses for the Dead by Chris MacDonald

What will I do without Erika Piper? This is the last of three novels featuring the detective and each one had me hooked at page one!



Rockstar Johnny Mayhem sits on his bed, holding a bloody baseball bat. On the floor, clutching a lavender rose in her fist, is his wife, Amanda, who he has just beaten to death. Erika Piper knows this because she is one of the first on the scene. Mayhem is arrested and led away, screaming that they’ve got the wrong man. But the evidence is irrefutable and when Mayhem is sentenced to life in prison, no one is surprised.


Thanks to new evidence, Johnny Mayhem is a now free man. During a television interview, he issues a thinly veiled threat to those involved in the original case before seemingly disappearing off the face of the Earth. When the body of Mayhem’s dealer is found, Erika Piper is pulled from the safety of her desk job and thrown into the hunt for the Rockstar. Can she find Mayhem before he can enact his revenge on everyone involved, including Erika? Or, has he been telling the truth all along? Did the police really get the wrong man?

Our novel begins just as Erika is returning to work after maternity leave. She’s taken a back seat for her return role, providing admin support and for the first time doing a 9-5 desk job. This was a decision made by Erika and her partner, because now they have a baby it seemed safer to leave the stressful, late hours behind. Erika already has one thing getting her up in the night, so agonising about cases too, might be too much. I sensed that she was resigned to the decision rather than enthusiastic. I was surprised at how well Erika had taken to being a Mum, but she was always going to be a Mum with a difference. Within hours of starting her desk job, Erika is summoned upstairs by her new boss, who wants to know why someone with her skills isn’t doing the job she was trained for. She dangles a carrot in front of Erika by saying it can be for just this one this case if she wants, to see how it works for her, especially since she was there at the beginning. Erika is surprised to hear herself accepting the role, not because she doesn’t want it, but because she has jumped in with both feet before talking to Tom even. The logistics of childcare and breaking the news to Tom, came second and third behind how hungry she was to be back out there.

Our case is an old one for Erika. Rock star Johnny Mayhem was arrested by Erika for the murder of his wife, Amanda. It was an open and shut case, with Johnny clutching the bloody baseball bat. He has always protested his innocence and now, 7 years later, he is out, thanks to the testimony of a witness. A documentary maker who visited him in prison caught him making a clear and precise threat to the witness, for waiting 7 years to bring forward this information that could have freed him sooner. So, when the witness is found dead, clutching a lavender rose, Erika is on the case. This was a great mystery because it seemed such a cut and dried case, I couldn’t imagine it being anyone else but Johnny. Then the author starts throwing some red herrings into the case and even Erika keeps questioning; if Johnny did want to get his revenge, would he do it in such a public way and recreate the lavender rose calling card? Surely it would have made more sense to wait a while after returning from prison, to mix up the murder weapon and not draw attention with calling cards. Slowly, even though she was his original arresting officer, Erika starts to wonder whether Johnny is behind this at all.

I really enjoyed being in Erika’s company again and at this interesting crossroads of becoming a working Mum. I was so relieved when she threw aside the desk job and plunged straight into the investigation. The mystery is full of twists and turns, and I love the way the author has taken, what looks like an open and shut case, and turned it into anything but. The killer is very unexpected and I wasn’t sure the case would be solved at all. Finally, I am sorry that this is the final novel in the Erika Piper series. She’s a great, feisty and intelligent woman and makes a brilliant detective. I love that she’s so competent at work, and while not perfect, she’s more than coping at home too. Most importantly, she’s a woman I could imagine having as a friend and I would happily enjoy her company for a night out. I think she has more adventures left in her so I’m very sorry to see her go.

Meet The Author

Chris McDonald grew up in Northern Ireland before settling in Manchester via Lancaster and London. 

He is the author A Wash of Black, the first in the DI Erika Piper series, as well as the forthcoming second – Whispers In The Dark. He has also recently dabbled in writing cosy crimes, as a remedy for the darkness. The first in the Stonebridge Mysteries will be released in early 2021. 

He is a full time teacher, husband, father to two beautiful girls and a regular voice on The Blood Brothers Podcast. He is a fan of 5-a-side football, heavy metal and dogs.


Hello, I am Hayley and I run Lotus Writing Therapy and The Lotus Readers blog. I am a counsellor, workshop facilitator and avid reader.

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