March 2017

WILD CHAMBER … Between the covers

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When a woman is found strangled in one of those little gated parks within a square of houses, unique to London, the Metropolitan Police’s Peculiar Crimes Unit swings into action. Led – and sometimes misled – by its two extremely senior detectives, John Bryant and Arthur May, the other members of the PCU realise that they are faced with an outdoor version of the crime fiction staple – the locked room mystery.

51o95c8FyjL._SX309_BO1,204,203,200_Other murders follow, and each has been committed in one of the parks and gardens – the Wild Chambers – which are scattered throughout central London. Are the gardens linked, like some erratically plotted ley line? Why are the murders connected to a tragic freak accident in a road tunnel near London Bridge? Why are the murder sites speckled with tiny balls of lead?

For Arthur Bryant – and his creator – London’s past is like a great sleeping creature buried beneath the layers of the city’s history. Sometimes it stirs in its slumber, and the vibrations are felt far above, by those who wish to feel. On other occasions, it sighs, and its breath stirs the leaves in the trees of memory, but only people like Bryant, for whom the present is just a footnote in the chapter of life, can hear the rustling.

Bryant’s unique relationship with London’s vibrant and violent past is described thus:

“London’s lost characters were to him close companions, from the bodysnatchers of Blenheim Street to the running footman of Mayfair and the rat man of Tottenham Court Road. He saw Queen Elizabeth I dancing alone on rainy days in Whitehall Palace
and female barbers shaving beards in Seven Dials, but he could barely recall his mother’s face.”

Fowler came up with the brainwave of having Bryant undertake a course of experimental chemical therapy to treat a life-threatening condition. He recovered, but the drugs have left him prone to out-of-body experiences. These – and here is The Fairy Feller’s masterstroke – allow him to have occasional meetings with pivotal figures from London’s past, such as Sir William Gilbert and Samuel Pepys. Such is the spell that Fowler casts, that these seem perfectly natural and without artifice.

Fowler is, among other things, a comic genius. He mines the rich and productive seam of peculiarly English comedy which gave us George and Weedon Grossmith,
J B ‘Beachcomber’ Morton, the sublime pretensions of Anthony Aloysius Hancock and the surreal world of Basil Fawlty. The book is full of great gags and very good one-liners, such as the world view of a British Library researcher who is consulted for his erudition:

“I expect my libraries and churches to be like my ex-wife:
unlovely, unforgiving, and underheated when you’re inside them.”

Chris-FowlerAlong the way, Fowler (right) has the eagle eye of John Betjeman in the way that he recognises the potency of ostensibly insignificant brand names and the way that they can instantly recreate a period of history, or a passing social mood. At one point, Bryant tries to pay for a round of drinks in a pub:

“Bryant emptied his coat pocket onto the bar counter and spread out seventeen and sixpence three farthings in pre 1973 money, two tram tickets and a Benwell’s Aerial Bombshell left over from a long-past Guy Fawkes night.”

Sometimes Fowler throws in a literary reference that is tailor made for the job. When John May exclaims:

“God, it’s as cold as Keats’s owl in here..”

… I had to reach for my Oxford Book of English Verse to confirm a vague schoolboy memory of Keats;

“St. Agnes’ Eve—Ah, bitter chill it was!
The owl, for all his feathers, was a-cold”

Fowler has his own view of the modern world, and he occasionally treats himself to the luxury of having a character give voice to it. One of Bryant’s eccentric acquaintances lets rip:

“I’m staying where no one who’s interested in singing competitions or baking shows will ever venture. I pray that when we find life on another planet it turns out to be a lot more fun than ours and that they have relaxed immigration laws. I really do prefer 1752. If we’d had the internet back then people would have spent their days looking at Rembrandt’s Storm on the Sea of Galilee, not shots of Justin Bieber’s dick.”

Such is the rich entertainment that Fowler serves up – bravura writing, poignancy, compassion, complex plotting, biting humour and a unique view of London’s landscape – that it doesn’t really matter who did what to whom, but he stays staunch and true to the crime fiction genre and gives us the answer to the intricate whoddunnit he has constructed. I have read all the previous Bryant and May novels, and this gem more than maintains the high standard Fowler has set for himself. If you love an intriguing murder plot, sparkling humour, wonderful scene-setting and brilliantly stylish writing, then get hold of a copy of this. You won’t be sorry. Wild Chamber is out now.

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COMPETITION … Win a copy of Earthly Remains by Donna Leon

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Donna Leon’s Commissario Guido Brunetti  has become a firm favourite with crime fiction readers the world over, and now you have the chance to win a hardback copy of his latest adventure, worth £18.99, just days after its UK release.

Donna Leon 2Brunetti is feeling his age, and the constant pressure of the expectations of his bosses in La Questura has led to him making an error of judgment which threatens to derail his career. Rather like the football manager who substitutes a player before he can collect the second Yellow card, Brunetti’s wife insists he takes leave of absence, and packs him off to stay with a relative on the quiet and thinly populated island of Sant’Erasmo. But this, of course, is a crime thriller, and we all know that recuperating detectives always attract dark deeds. In this case it is the disappearance of Davide Casati, the caretaker of the house. Brunetti is drawn reluctantly but inevitably in the search for the man, and it soon becomes apparent that he would have had more rest if he’d stayed at home.

All you have to do
to be in with a chance of winning this book, is to email Fully Booked at the address below, and put the word Brunetti as the email subject.

Your name will go into the hat, and a winner will be drawn in the usual way. The competition closes at 10.00pm GMT on Sunday 9th April. Due to postage costs, the competition is restricted to residents of Great Britain and the Irish Republic.

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Some would say that no murder in British history has resonated so loudly – and for so long – as the killing of Stephen Lawrence on the night of 22nd April 1993. While waiting for a bus home on a street in the London suburb of Eltham, Lawrence was surrounded by a gang of white youths and fatally stabbed.

It has become axiomatic in the reporting of murdered black youths to say that they were promising footballers, ambitious musicians or innocent victims in gang warfare, but Stephen Lawrence was a genuinely decent person, with caring and supportive parents. He was working his way through the education system, and had no connection with the debilitating street culture which still condemns many such young men to lives of crime and hopeless underachievement.

Although immediate investigations into Stephen’s murder identified credible and likely suspects, the police who were involved at the time have been forever tainted with accusations of – at best – total incompetence, and – at worst – breathtaking corruption. The young men who were suspected of Stephen’s murder were all part of the criminal underworld in that part of London. Their parents were career criminals, and the grip that such people can have on a community has been seen time and time again, as in the case of the dreadful Sonnex family, whose fiefdom is the south east London district of Deptford.

Jamie Acourt, Neil Acourt and Luke Knight were the initial suspects in the investigation into the murder of Stephen Lawrence, alongside Gary Dobson and David Norris. All were, to differing degrees, the product of their upbringing by adults on the fringes of – if not deeply embedded in – institutionalised criminal behaviour, contempt for the law, and a visceral hatred of anyone outside their own tribal group.

After a bungled, and possibly corrupt, police investigation failed to bring anyone to court, Stephen Lawrence’s parents brought a private prosecution in 1994. Despite top QCs working pro bono, the case failed due to grave doubts about the reliability of the key witness, Duwayne Brooks, who had been with Stephen at the time of his murder.

KillersIn 1997, at the long-delayed inquest into the murder, the five men suspected of the killing refused to co-operate and maintained strict silence. Despite direction to the contrary by the Coroner, the jury returned the verdict that Stephen Lawrence was killed “in a completely unprovoked racist attack by five white youths.” Later that year, The Daily Mail named the five as Stephen’s killers, and invited them to sue for defamation. Needless to say, none of the five took up the challenge. Below, the five suspects run the gauntlet of a furious crowd after the inquest.


Also in 1997, the Home Secretary Jack Straw ordered an enquiry into the affair, headed by Sir William Macpherson. The findings, in 1999, were sensational. Among other conclusions, Macpherson stated that the original Metropolitan Police Service investigation had been incompetent and that officers had committed fundamental errors, including: failing to give first aid when they reached the scene; failing to follow obvious leads during their investigation; and failing to arrest suspects. Most damning of all was the view that The Metropolitan Police was institutionally racist.

Despite the devastating views of The Macpherson Report, the five suspects continued their criminal lives, occasionally being convicted, serving short sentences, and then returning to their normal lifestyle. It wasn’t until November 2011, eighteen years after Stephen Lawrence had been struck down, that two of the five suspects were brought to court for his killing. In conditions of absolute secrecy and press lockdown, Gary Dobson and David Norris were tried at The Old Bailey. On 3 January 2012, Dobson and Norris were found guilty of Lawrence’s murder. The two were sentenced on 4 January 2012 to detention at Her Majesty’s Pleasure, equivalent to a life sentence for an adult, with minimum terms of 15 years and 2 months for Dobson and 14 years and 3 months for Norris. The relative leniency of the sentences reflects the age of Dobson and Norris (below) at the time of the killing.

Dobson and Norris

And the legacy of that night on a chilly spring evening on a suburban London street, almost a quarter of a century ago? This is from a recent article in The Daily Telegraph.

“Ennobled last year (2013), the Baroness, 60, maintains a relatively high profile as an activist and arbiter on community relations, and has appeared everywhere from the Tate gallery (as the subject of a Turner Prize-winning painting) to the Olympic Games opening ceremony and Desert Island Discs. In public, she comes across as imperturbable, even detached from the fiercely emotional issues that surround her. There is an unmistakeable Britishness about her that speaks both to her generation and the manner in which she was brought up.”

Neville Lawrence, however has fared differently.

“Today, Mr Lawrence lives in Jamaica, a short distance from Stephen’s grave. The only public memorial to the teenager in Britain is a pavement plaque in Eltham, south-east London, close to where he died. It has been repeatedly defaced with eggs, excrement and racist graffiti, and the family decided that Stephen would rest more peacefully in their ancestral homeland.

The distance – physical and otherwise – between the Lawrences now is so great that neither can really say if it was Stephen’s death that ended their marriage. Baroness Lawrence has hinted that it was headed for trouble anyway, but Neville tends to differ.

“Our world began falling apart from the moment the hospital staff told us our son had died,” he has said. “For some reason that I have tried to understand, and can’t, we couldn’t reach out to each other. We stayed together for another six years, but from that day we never physically touched each other again.”

Below – Doreen and Neville Lawrence

Doreen and Neville




ON MY SHELF … 21st March 2017

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Last year I read and enjoyed Blood of the Oak, Pattison’s saga of revolutionary America, but now he returns with a very different kind of tale altogether, and it is the ninth novel in the series featuring Inspector Shan Tao Yun. Previous books in the series have highlighted how the Inspector has struggled with his conscience over his government’s treatment of Tibet. Now, Shan Tao Yunh has, ironocally, been exiled to a remote Tibetan town. His latest case involves a violent ghost and two corpses – one over fifty years old, and another all too recent. Once more, Pattison writes an engaging and intricate thriller while shining a light on the complex and sometimes murderous relationship between the ancient mountain kingdom and its powerful master. Available as a Kindle or in hardback from 13th April.

Walker-Author-Photo-cropFATAL PURSUIT by MARTIN WALKER
From troubled Tibet to deception in the Dordogne, as Martin Walker brings us another ‘ninth in the series’, but fans of Chief of Police Bruno Courreges will know not to expect political polemic, but something with rather more of a warm glow about it. They will not be disappointed as, against the inimitable backdrop of the the Périgord and what has been described as Gastroporn, Courreges takes time out from enjoying the good life to solve a mystery involving a mythically rare vintage car, a murdered researcher and – heaven forfend – links to international terrorism. Fatal Pursuit was published as a hardback and in Kindle in June 2016, and is now available as a paperback

michael_ridpath1AMNESIA by MICHAEL RIDPATH
“My way of life
Is fall’n into the sere, the yellow leaf,
And that which should accompany old age,
As honor, love, obedience, troops of friends,
I must not look to have..”
Macbeth’s lament could equally apply to Alastair Cunningham. Living alone in his lochside cottage in the Scottish Highlands, the retired doctor certainly lacks troops of friends. When he falls and knocks himself out, his recovery in a hospital bed is attended by a loss of memory. His confusion about his past – and present – is thrown into sharp relief when it the possibility arises that he could have been involved in a murder – that of his lover – decades earlier. A young woman named Clémence finds a manuscript in Cunningham’s cottage, and as she reads, she finds to her horror that the murder victim was none other than her grandmother. You can get hold of Amnesia in paperback and Kindle format from 4th May.

Joseph Kanon’s books have been described as “John le Carré meets Graham Greene” and he has certainly occupied the same territory as his illustrious fellow writers. With such best sellers as Leaving Berlin, Istanbul Passage and The Good German already regarded as classics of the genre, fans of the Pennsylvania-born author will be delighted that he has a new title due in the early summer. He takes us back to 1961. Stalin is eight years dead, and has been named and shamed as a vicious despot by Nikita Khruschev, who has tightened his grip on power in the Kremlin. When an American defector to the Soviet Union decides to publish his memoirs, they expose truths which shock both the CIA in their Virginia stronghold of Langley and their Soviet counterparts the KGB in Moscow’s Lubyanka. This will be on sale as hardback or as a Kindle from 1st June.

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DARK ASYLUM … Between the covers


E S Thomson delivers a tale of Gothick horror, which features a young medical apothecary trying to find who killed the senior physician at a gloomy and grotesque hospital for the mentally ill in Victorian London. Jem Flockhart is not what he seems, however. Mr Flockhart is actually a Miss, as he was born female, a surviving twin. For reasons that are not immediately clear, her father switched her with the stillborn brother at birth – a birth which was so traumatic that it killed the mother. Now an adult, helped by her lack of obvious feminine sexual characteristics, she has carved out for herself a persona as a respected medical gentleman and herbalist, a position which, given the prevailing nineteenth century attitude towards women in the medical profession, would have otherwise been unattainable.

Jem, and her companion Will Quartermain – who is unequivocally male – are summoned to view the body of Doctor Rutherford who is found with his ears cut off and stuffed in his mouth, a surgical implement jammed fatally into his brain, and his lips and eyes sewn shut with crudely executed surgical stitches. Amid the carnage, there is no shortage of suspects. The other doctors attached to the asylum are jealous of Rutherford’s eminence, but scathing about his obsession that phrenology – the study of the contours of the skull – is the only true means of understanding mental illness.

DAAs I got further into the book, I was beginning to wonder just what the point was of having Jem Flockhart cross-dressing, as it didn’t seem to have any real bearing on events. Just at the point when I was about to dismiss the idea as a conceit, Thomson delivered a beautifully written scene which made sense of Flockhart’s subterfuge, and added extra poignancy to the relationship between Jem and Will.

We learn that Jem has a disfiguring strawberry birthmark on her face, and Thomson writes with conviction on this issue, as her postscript to the story tells of how she suffered a temporary disfigurement herself, and how she came to be acutely aware of how people looked at her. I can say that this was a gripping read which drew me in to the extent that I finished the book in just a few sessions. The smells, sensations, sounds and social sensitivities of 1850s London are dramatically recreated, and provide much of the novel’s punch. Thomson has an eye for visceral horror and disease that David Cronenberg would approve of, and every time Jem Flockhart takes us into the room of one of the poorer denizens of London, we are inclined to hold our noses and be very careful where we put our feet.

Subtle, the book is not, but it is a dazzling, whirling, swirling riotous melodrama, which leaves little to the imagination. We have, in no particular order, people buried alive, heads being boiled in cauldrons, the shrieking, gibbering and cackling of the insane, a lunatic who keeps cockroaches as pets, the stench and degradation of prison transport ships, club-footed mad-women and the ghastly nineteenth century version of Britain’s Got Talent – the public execution.

Thomson also brings us some larger-than-life characters, none larger than the monstrous Dr Mothersole:

“His face was as smooth as a pebble, his mouth a crimson rosebud between porcelain cheeks. His head had not a single hair upon it and his lashes and brows were entirely absent, giving him a curious appearance, doll-like, and yet half complete….”

Also, very much to her credit, Thomson occasionally has her tongue firmly in her cheek. Why else would the dreadful and bestial Bedlam where most of the action takes place be called Angel Meadow, and what better name for a brothel keeper than Mrs Roseplucker? And what else are we to make of two of the charities patronised by Dr Mothersole, The Truss Society for the Relief of the Ruptured Poor, and The Limbless Costermongers Benevolent Fund ? I loved every page of this book. It is hugely entertaining and, unless something extraordinary happens, will be in the running for one of my books of the year. It is out now, and published by Constable.



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“Earlier on today, apparently, a woman rang the BBC and said she heard there was a hurricane on the way… well, if you’re watching, don’t worry, there isn’t!”

Poor old Michael Fish. To have spent a worthy professional life reassuring the British public about what weather was coming their way, only to have your career summed up in twenty eight words. Twenty eight words which couldn’t have been more inaccurate. However, the aftermath of The Great Storm of 15th October 1987 is where Kate London’s new novel begins.

Death Message005A 15 year-old girl, Tania Mills, walks out of her front door and out of the lives of her parents, her family and her friends. She becomes just another statistic. Just another missing person for the police to make a dutiful attempt to appear involved. Just another file, first of all gathering dust on a shelf, and then occupying a tiny space on someone’s hard drive.

Almost three decades later, after the meteorological catastrophe which laid waste to large areas of south-east England, and the emotional storm which devastated the life of Claire Mills following her daughter’s disappearance, a determined Met Police officer, DS Sarah Collins is haunted by the cold case, and is determined to find answers.

Her search for the facts of what really became of Tania Mills is hindered when she is inexorably drawn into a pressing new case of domestic violence. She and a vulnerable young police constable, Lizzie Griffiths, have something of a history, but as Sarah Collins attempts to safeguard a mother and daughter from a very real and present danger, she discovers that the past is not so much another country, but an adjacent room in the same house. Death Message is out on 6th April as a paperback and a Kindle, and is published by Corvus.

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BonomoThere have been many murders where a perpetrator has been allowed to roam, free to kill despite – with the glorious clarity afforded by hindsight – there being loud alarm bells ringing throughout the criminal justice system and, sadly, the offices of mental health professionals. One grim and grisly case was the double murder of two French students in New Cross in 2008. Laurent Bonomo (left) and Gabriel Ferez were gifted research scientists from Clermont Ferrand University finishing their Masters Degrees at Imperial College London.

FerezBonomo and Ferraz (right) were tied up, gagged, tortured and then subject to frenzied multiple stabbings over several hours. They were then doused in an accelerant, and set fire to. Their bodies were discovered by firefighters attending the blaze in their rented apartment at Sterling Gardens, New Cross, on 29th June 2008.

On 6 July 2008, police issued an image of a suspect, based on the descriptions of witnesses who had seen him running away from Sterling Gardens just after 10.00pm on the day that the two young Frenchmen were killed.He was described as “white, 30 to 40 years of age, of slight or slim build and wearing light coloured baseball cap, a dark top with the word Junfan on, blue jeans and white trainers”.

Following the precise description of the wanted man, a thin 33 year-old whose face and hands were badly burned had walked into Lewisham police station, apparently to confess to the killings. When he was told to wait in line at the reception by a civilian worker, he said: “I’ve got third degree fucking burns and they are not doing anything about it.” He was taken to hospital, eventually released,  and then nterviewed in custody by the police.

FarmerOn 10 July, Nigel Edward Farmer, 33, (left) unemployed and of no fixed abode, was charged with double murder, arson and attempting to pervert the course of justice when he appeared before Greenwich Magistrates’ Court. He was remanded in custody until 16 October,  at which point the case would be transferred to the Old Bailey.

The very next day, armed police arrested Daniel “Dano” Sonnex, 23, (below) in Peckham, south-east London, after Scotland Yard issued an alert to trace him. Described as “extremely dangerous” he was detained and investigated after his brother, Bernard, 35 and a woman, 25, handed themselves to the police and advised officers as to his whereabouts.


The trial of Daniel Sonnex and Nigel Farmer began on 24th April 2009 at the Old Bailey. The jury began to consider their verdict on 29th May 2009, and on 4 June 2009, Sonnex and Farmer were found guilty of murder. Sonnex was sentenced to serve a minimum of 40 years in prison, and Farmer was ordered to stay behind bars for at least 35 years.

And what of the two murderers?

Farmer had worked as a decorator on projects including the ITN and ICI buildings in central London, but his life spiralled downwards after his relationship with the mother of his twins broke down. He drifted between the homes of various associates after leaving the family home, and his drug-taking and self-harming worsened.

Farmer developed a £100-a-day crack and heroin habit and eventually ended up lodging with the Sonnex family in Deptford. He was given residential treatment for his mental health problems, but he walked out after four days saying he was not getting the help he needed. At his trial his barrister attempted to paint him as a bemused figure watching from the periphery while members of the Sonnex family committed a series of violent attacks.

Sonnex was a member of a notorious criminal family in the area, but the scale of ineptitude from the authorities beggars belief, as this chronology reveals.

8th February 2008: Sonnex is wrongly categorised as ‘medium risk’ and released from jail with only low level supervision after multi-agenct public protection meetings are cancelled, in part because of a broken photocopier at a probation office.

10th February 2008: No action is taken by either police of probation officers after Sonnex and an accomplice tie up and threaten a pregnant woman and her boyfriend.

23rd April 2008: Sonnex is charged with handling stolen goods after stealing a handbag in a pub, but the probation service is not informed for five days. Eventually, Sonnex was found, and remanded in custody.

16th May: Sonnex, who has been in custody for the handling charge, is granted unconditional bail by Greenwich Magistrates. he then goes on the run. During June, the legal process requiring Sonnex to return to prison is finalised, but the police fail to execute the warrant for his address.

29th June: The murdered French students are discovered. Police officers, unaware that Sonnex is involved, go to arrest him under the terms of the previous warrant, but he escapes over a garden wall.

This catalogue of ineptitude, misplaced trust and woolly minded optimism by liberal-minded members of the criminal justice system takes some beating, and would be hilarious were it not for the fact that two young men, with the world at their feet have been lying in a French graveyard for the last nine years. A final thought for those who believe that criminals are equally traumatised by their actions, and that they are secondary victims who deserve our sympathy and guidance. If you want to know how the Sonnex family was chastened and sobered by the actions of one of their own, you may like to read this extract from a north Kent local newspaper in 2014.

Louise Sonnex – older sister of the brutal killer Dano – last week admitted driving a car into a double decker bus full of passengers while drunk in June. The mother-of-two, from Ash View Close in Deptford, was arrested after police found her to be three times over the limit with drugs also discovered in a car she claimed belonged to a friend.

The 40-year-old has previously been convicted for glassing a woman while screaming “I’m going to open her up like a can of beans”. In 2009 she was also given a five-year sentence for attacking her father’s girlfriend with a golf club. She is just one member of a family which has haunted the area for many years with a string of disgracefully violent incidents.

When arrested for the killings in Sterling Gardens, Dano – nicknamed ‘Mad Dog’ – turned to a detective and said: “I’m going to bite your face off”. After his sentence, the 28-year-old, who needed to be sedated during his murder trial – mouthed the words: “Fuck you” to the father of one of his victims.

Since his conviction, he has appeared in court again for trying to escape from Broadmoor prison by fashioning a pair of wings made from refrigerator shelves. Meanwhile, Louise’s father Bernard Senior has more than 26 convictions and has been to prison six times while other brother Bernard has been in prison 10 times for at least 34 offences.

Louise, who turned up to an earlier hearing in a leopard-print onesie before toppling over in the courtroom, admitted drink driving, reckless driving, driving without insurance and driving without a licence on Thursday (November 20) at Bexley Magistrates’ Court.

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WRITTEN IN BONES … Between the covers

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“Falling, yes I am falling, and she keeps calling me back again.” So went the lyrics of one of my favourite Beatles songs, but the unfortunate victim who features in the opening pages of this excellent police procedural from James Oswald has little to sing about. He plummets through the chill air of an Edinburgh winter early dawn. His descent is broken violently and catastrophically by the unyielding branches of a tree. Had the ten year-old boy out walking under the tree with his dog been an expert on Shakespeare’s Roman plays, he might have said, “Oh, what a fall was there, my countrymen!” Instead, he is interviewed as the only witness to one of the more bizarre crimes ever investigated by Detective Inspector Tony McLean.

bonesAs the pathologists – literally – piece together the evidence they conclude that the shattered remains in the tree is that all that is left of Bill Chalmers, a copper who was not so much bent as tangled and doubled up on himself. After surviving a jail sentence for his misdeeds, he used his connections and his wits to found a drug rehabilitation charity, which drew immense support from the community.

Now, his good deeds are over. His remains are laid out on a mortuary table. The lad who witnessed Chalmers’ final fall from grace is, himself, remotely connected to Edinburgh gangland gentry. His late father was Tommy Johnston, a club owner and provider of female flesh to the gentry. Johnston was shot dead years earlier, but although there was no shortage of potential suspects, his killer has remained unidentified and at large.

There are so many Detective Inspectors walking the corridors of British crime fiction that to succeed, each must have something different, something which will grab the readers’ attention. McLean is, thanks to a serendipitous bequest from a distant relative, materially far better off than his constabulary colleagues. Despite his ability to buy the flashiest of upmarket motors, he insists on driving an aged Alfa Romeo. He lives in a large house, alone except for his neighbour’s cat, and his on-off girlfriend, Emma. He is not in the first flush of youth, certainly, but he has few vices outside of a perfectly natural love of the warmth and texture of obscure single malt whiskies.

McLean’s quest for answers to explain the dramatic death of Chalmers is hampered by his ever increasing suspicion that if he were to find the truth, it would implicate several serving members of Police Scotland, and these would be men way, way above his own pay grade. As the worst snow for a decade brings chaos to the streets of Scotland’s capital, McLean finds himself the target of not only the weather, but powerful members of an international crime syndicate.

If there is a tiny weakness of the novel, it is its reliance on the backstory, as McLean eventually homes in on the culprits. We are made aware of the resourcefulness and malevolence of the person behind the mayhem – the enigmatic Mrs Saifre. The problem is that there are broad hints of how McLean has suffered at her hands in previous episodes, but we are left having to take this on trust.

This reservation aside, I can recommend Written In Bones to anyone who likes an intense police procedural, with just a dash of the supernatural, lavish helpings of atmosphere, evocative landscape descriptions and beautifully drawn characters. A few words about the author. James Oswald has a day job. That job is probably the most demanding of any occupations, as James is farmer in Fife, where he looks after pedigree Highland cattle and New Zealand Romney Sheep. Written In Bones is published by Michael Joseph and is out now.


SINS OF THE FATHER … Sheryl Browne

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What if you’d been accused of one of the worst crimes imaginable?

SOTFDetective Inspector Matthew Adams is slowly picking up the pieces from a case that nearly cost him the lives of his entire family and his own sanity too. On the surface, he seems to be moving on, but he drinks to forget – and when he closes his eyes, the nightmares still come.

But the past is the past – or is it? Because the evil Patrick Sullivan might be out of the picture, but there’s somebody who is just as intent on making Matthew’s life hell, and they’re doing it in the cruelest way possible.

When Matthew finds himself accused of a horrific and violent crime, will his family stand by him? And will he even be around to help when his new enemy goes after them as well?

Sins Of The Father is published by the endearingly named Death By Choc Lit, and is out now in Kindle, with a print version due soon. You can click on the image bar below to see a snappy trailer for the first book in the series, After She’s Gone.

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Sheryl Browne
writes edgy, sexy contemporary fiction and psychological thrillers. This is the second in Matthew Adams series. Sheryl is a
member of the Crime Writers’ Association, Romantic Novelists’ Association and awarded a Red Ribbon by The Wishing Shelf Book Awards, Sheryl has several books published and two short stories in Birmingham City University anthologies, where she completed her MA in Creative Writing.If you click on the image below, it will take you to Sheryl’s website where you can learn more about her.



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