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fullybooked2017

A retired Assistant Head Teacher, mad keen on guitars. Four grown-up sons, one delightful grandchild. Enjoys shooting at targets, not living things. Determined not to go gently into that good night.

JIM KELLY: A Landscape of Secrets

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Jim Kelly’s brooding and atmospheric crime novels are set in the eastern counties of Norfolk and Cambridgeshire. I am a huge admirer of his books, and you can click the link below to watch a short video which tries to distill the essence of his work into a brief juxtaposition of images and music.

JIM KELLY: A Landscape of Secrets

LAST TIME I LIED . . . Between the covers

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Riley SagerI was working in Australia when Peter Weir’s 1975 film Picnic At Hanging Rock premiered. I remember pub and dinner party talk for months after being dominated by interpretations and explanations about what might have happened to the ‘lost girls’. In the endpapers of Last Time I Lied American author Riley Sager, (left) acknowledges his debt to this film (and the short story on which it was based). Instead of a 1900 Melbourne, Sager beams us into up-country New York State in, more or less, our times.

When Emma Davis, a skinny and gawky thirteen year-old just on the verge of young womanhood, wins a place at a prestigious summer camp for privileged teenagers, she falls under the spell of three older girls with whom she shares a cabin. In particular, the assured and sexually aware Vivian captivates Emma, just as she has captivated the other two, Natalie and Allison.

Camp Nightingale was created by a timber baron in the early years of the twentieth century. His master design featured a lake and, as there wasn’t one to hand, he simply evicted the inhabitants of a nearby valley, dammed the river and created his own huge water feature, Lake Midnight. Now the property is in the hands of his descendant, Francesca Harris-White, who presides in benign dictatorship over the gathering of rich city girls every summer.

LTILEmma’s summer idyll is destined to come to an abrupt and tragic end, however, when the three older girls in the cabin disappear one night, never to return. Despite the massive search and rescue operation, Vivian, Natalie and Allison remain missing, and Franny is forced to close the camp in disarray.

Now, fifteen years on, Emma Davis is a successful artist who is on the verge of giving up her day job in an advertising agency to paint full time. Her huge canvases create a stir in the New York art world, but they contain a hidden image known only to the artist. Each painting begins as a depiction of the three missing Camp Nightingale girls, who are progressively painted over by ever more intense foliage until only tantalising glimpses of them remain.

Emma is shocked when she receives an invitation to have lunch with Franny, and her shock turns to panic when she learns that the heiress plans to reopen Camp Nightingale and wants Emma to return for the season as artist in residence. Can she bear to relive the tragic events of that fateful summer? What is Franny’s real motive for reopening the camp? And, most importantly for us as readers, is Emma providing us with a classically misleading unreliable narrative?

Emma does return to Camp Nightingale and, naturally enough, since this is a thriller all about fate and coincidence, she has to sleep in the cabin called Dogwood – the selfsame one which she shared with Vivian, Natalie and Allison. Her new companions are Miranda, Krystal and Sasha. But now, of course, they are the giggly fifteen year-olds, and she is the mature and experienced woman.

Riley Sager packs the story with the literary equivalent of Improvised Explosive Devices, destined to go off at any moment with devastating consequences. We have Theo, Franny’s adoptive son, the subject of Emma’s massive and breathless crush all those years ago. There is Ben, the moody ‘bit of rough’ who has always been the camp maintenance man. Added to the mix are Lottie and Becca, both ‘survivors’ of the first downfall of Camp Nightingale. Above all – or, better, beneath all – is the moody presence of Lake Midnight itself, beneath which lie the stone memories of the displaced villages from over a century ago. Incidentally, if anyone can think of something more dramatically Gothick than Sager’s drowned lunatic asylum, whose roof appears only when the lake suffers from drought, I will give them a prize!

Bitte bei Verwendung Hinweis an: bilder@joexx.de

Last Time I Lied cleverly alternates between Emma’s recollections and the present time. Events in the reopened Camp Nightingale come to resemble nothing more nor less than a disturbing re-enactment of a cold-case crime, where the spectral presence of the fifteen-years-lost girls looms larger and larger with every page.

The eventual solution to what happened to the three girls is dazzling, ingenious, gasp-provoking – and fairly improbable – but, hey, this is a cleverly constructed and blissfully entertaining novel and no lesser person than Aristotle, in his Poetics, declared

“for it is probable that many things may take place contrary to probability.”

Riley Sager is the pseudonym of a New Jersey author who has published several mysteries under his own name, Todd Ritter. Last Time I Lied is published by Ebury Press (an imprint of Penguin Random House) and will be out on 12th July.

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PAST TIMES – OLD CRIMES . . . The Best of Winter’s Crimes

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MR BULMER’S GOLDEN CARP by John Bingham (1971)

Author John Bingham, the 7th Baron ClanmorrisMr Bulmer is a uniquely repulsive little man who manages a dry cleaning shop in Mayfair, and uses the opportunity of searching through the jackets and trouser pockets of wealthy individuals to service his own very profitable blackmail industry. His malignant little sideline has provided him with a regular income – and driven at least one of his victims to suicide. When he seizes upon what he sees as the opportunity of a lifetime, he is unaware that is about to be snared by his own hook. John Bingham, in addition to being a writer of distinction, was also a highly placed official in British Intelligence operations.

WE KNOW YOU’RE BUSY WRITING… by Edmund Crispin (1969)

crispinCrispin, aka Robert Bruce Montgomery, is best known for his Gervase Fen novels but here he spins a delightfully black tale of a struggling writer whose hospitality is impinged upon by a pair of runaways, both seeking a new life away from their spouses. Crispin intersperses the narrative with vivid accounts of a writer desperately searching for the words which will bring his latest novel to life. Sadly for the would-be lovers, their fate is to be organic fertiliser for Mr Bradley’s vegetable plot.

INDIAN ROPE TRICK by Lionel Davidson (1981)

DavidsonDavidson’s internationally themed thrillers were his bread and butter, but we must not forget that he was a writer of immense sensitivity with a wide range of influences. His own upbringing as a child of a hard-scrabble Polish-Jewish family might have made it unlikely that he would compose a chilling tale of murder on the banks of s Scottish river frequented only by rich Englishmen with the money to buy the rights to snare incoming salmon. A man whose sexual abilities have been devastated by a potentially fatal illness plans revenge on a friend whose libido remains undiminished. The denouement takes place on the banks of Scotland’s sacred salmon river – the Spey.

AT THE LULU-BAR MOTEL by Colin Dexter (1981)

DexterColin Dexter? Cue Oxford, an irascible senior policeman, pints of English beer and crossword puzzles? Think on. When this story was published, Dexter was already four books into his Inspector Morse series, but the TV adaptations were still six years away. In this tale, Dexter takes us to, of all places, rural America, where a coach load of middle-aged and elderly tourists take a rest stop at the eponymous wayside hotel. The action is centred around a game of vingt-et-un, designed to empty the wallets of the gullible travellers. Dexter describes a scam-within-a -scam -but saves until the last few paragraphs a chilling finale in which the scammer becomes the scammed.

DEATH OF AN OLD DOG by Antonia Fraser (1978)

FRaserPeople might forget that Antonia Fraser, as well as being the daughter of Lord Longford the widow of Harold Pinter and a superb historical biographer, is no slouch when it comes to crime fiction. Here, she taps into that strange love affair that English people have with their dogs. Richard Gavin is a successful barrister (is there ever another sort?) who has kept his upper lip stiff and tremble-free during the death of his first wife, and remarried. The new lady of the Gavin household is Paulina – young. bright and adorable. Her judgment, however is brought into question, when her decision to put an aged, smelly and incontinent spaniel out of its misery coincides with Richard opening an ominous letter from his London doctor.

THOSE AWFUL DAWNS by Patricia Highsmith (1977)

HighsmithThis is the most shocking and slap-in-the-face story in the collection. I would go as far as to suggest that it would not have been written – let alone published – today, with our heightened awareness of child abuse and domestic violence. As an account of casual violence, domestic cruelty, alcohol abuse – and the pervasive power of the Roman Catholic church – it makes for uncomfortable reading. Highsmith’s misanthropy can never have been more glaringly or honestly displayed. her publisher wrote:
“She was a mean, cruel, hard, unlovable, unloving human being…I could never penetrate how any human being could be that relentlessly ugly…. But her books? Brilliant.”
Otto Penzler was right, and his verdict resonates in every single sentence of this account of the misfortunes of Eddie, Laura – and their children.

MARY by PM Hubbard (1971)

hubbard1Like Hubbard’s longer works, which are examined in this feature, a dream-like quality pervades this story, but the dreams are not necessarily pleasant ones. The first words are:
“The nastiest house I have ever been in was the Margesons’ house at Marlowe.”
Bill, the narrator is referring to the style and decor, rather than anything more sinister, but the darkness is about to descend. The lawn stretches down to the river and one day when Bill is sitting outside with Gerald and Janet Margeson, a waif-like teenage girl dressed only in a swimming costume walks up the path from the river. The girl, Mary, has thus invited herself into the otherwise humdrum world of the Margesons, and so  begins a subtly erotic tale of obsession, betrayal and, ultimately, murder.

THE GIRL WHO LOVED GRAVEYARDS by PD James (1983)

PD JamesThis exquisite masterpiece tells of a nameless girl, an orphan, who is brought up in a loveless terraced house in east London, the home of her Uncle Victor and Aunt Gladys. Her only joy is the adjacent cemetery which becomes a place of mystical and endless attraction:
“Even the seasons of the year she experienced in and through the cemetery. The gold and purple spears of the first crocuses thrusting through the hard earth. April with its tossing daffodils. The whole graveyard en fête in yellow and white as mourners dressed the graves for Easter. The smell of mown grass and the earthy tang of high summer as if the dead were breathing the flower-scented air and exuding their own mysterious miasma. Seeing the cemetery transformed by the first snows of winter, the marble angels grotesque in their high bonnets of glistening snow.”
Amid the poetry, however, James does not lose sight of the fact that we readers are in search of shocks and sensation. When the girl becomes a young woman, and is determined to find the grave of her dead father, we sense that her quest will end in tears. And so, in a drab suburb of Nottingham, so it does – but not quite in the manner which we have been led to expect

The Best Of Winter’s Crimes 1 has long been out of print, but as it was meant for mass circulation there are plenty of second-hand copies available from dealers such as Abe Books for less than the price of a pint.

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PAST TIMES-OLD CRIMES . . . The Big Bow Mystery by Israel Zangwill

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CRIME FICTION HAS A DISTINGUISHED LITERARY PEDIGREE and although the label has sometimes been used in a pejorative way, wherever and whenever people read books, CriFi will continue to entertain, shock and engage readers. LP Hartley said, “The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.” Yes, CriFi from times past can be very different. Language changes, as do social perceptions. But one thing remains constant. People do bad things to each other, and there will always be (mostly) decent people, either officers of the law or concerned individuals, who believe that actions have consequences, and that bad deeds should not go unpunished. In this series, expect to read about old favourites but also novels which have, for whatever reason, slipped below the radar.

THE BIG BOW MYSTERY by ISRAEL ZANGWILL

The locked room mystery and its variants – a murder that could not have possibly been committed by human hand because of the aforesaid bolted and barred door, or some other restraint – are an endearing and enduring feature of crime fiction. Not so frequent these days, true, but occasionally modern writers take up the trusty sword and use it to good effect. Witness Christopher Fowler’s latest – and delightful –  Bryant & May mystery, Hall Of Mirrors. An early – but not the earliest – example of the genre is the 1892 novel The Big Bow Mystery, written by Israel Zangwill (below).

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Zangwill was the child of a Latvian father and a Polish mother. He was expensively educated in the best British schools, and became widely admired abroad, particularly in America. He was also that rarest of beasts – a social campaigner with a wicked sense of humour.

BBMThe ‘Bow’ in the title is not some fabric adornment, but the working class district in East London. If you were born within earshot of its church bells, then you were said to be a true Cockney. It’s December, and the nineteenth century is on its last legs. A dense morning fog, aided and abetted by the smoke of a million coal fires, swirls around the mean streets.

“From Bow even unto Hammersmith there draggled a dull wretched vapour, like the wraith of an impecunious suicide come into a fortune immediately after the fatal deed.”

At 11 Grover Street, however, the landlady is unconcerned. Zangwill describes her thus:

“Mrs Drabdump was one of the few persons in London whom fog did not depress. She went about her work quite as cheerlessly as usual,”

bigbowmysteryilloThe formidable lady has overslept, but after lighting the downstairs fire, she remembers to wake one of the lodgers. Arthur Constant is an idealist, and a campaigner for workers’ rights. She bangs on his bedroom door, then makes the day’s first pot of tea. Taking a tray upstairs, she calls again. Still no response. She peeps through the keyhole, but the key is firmly in place. As she pounds on the door once again, she has a premonition that something is very, very wrong. So she summons her neighbour, the redoubtable retired detective Mr George Grodman. He batters down the door, which was locked and bolted from the inside, and is forced to cover Mrs Drabdump’s eyes from the horrors within…

Constant’s demise is investigated by the coroner, and his verdict sets up the mystery beautifully. He explains.

““It seems clear that the deceased did not commit suicide. It seems equally clear that the deceased was not murdered,”

What follows is a hugely entertaining journey through the social and legal conventions of late Victorian society. The cast includes a scolding wife, an alcoholic poet, a bumbling policemen and – in a masterstroke cameo appearance – even William Ewart Gladstone. The Dickensian names like the policeman Edward Wimp and Mr Spigot QC add a sparkle to the dialogue. Zangwill wrote the book in 14 days and it was serialised in the The Star, an evening newspaper already well known for printing letters signed by Jack The Ripper. The serialisation meant the author was able to engage in lively public exchanges with readers as to the identity of the killer, which must have been like a wonderful early version of the modern day phone-in, interactive TV, or even Twitter.

220px-Diary_of_a_Nobody_firstSome contemporary critics were puzzled and irritated by Zangwill’s satirical style. They felt that there was no place for comedy in the tale of a young man, dead in his bed, his throat cut from ear to ear. The exchanges in the court scenes between pompous officials and outspoken ‘low life’ types on the jury are delightfully reminiscent of similar encounters between Mr Pooter and disrespectful tradesmen in that classic of English humour, The Diary of A Nobody.

Zangwill may not have been the first to use the humour of cruelty, nor will he be the last. However, in the trial scene – which takes up most of the second half of the book – he takes aim at almost every social convention and literary stereotype available to him, and his arrows find the target every time. Thirdly, and most importantly, he fools us with the solution to the murder of Arthur Constant. I missed several clues and I suspect, unless you have the most forensic of minds, you may well miss them too, as Zangwill is a master of misdirection. Some years after the publication of The Big Bow Mystery he added an introduction which is a little masterpiece in its own right, full of elegant use of language and subtle humour. He says:

“The only person who has ever solved The Big Bow Mystery is myself. This is not paradox, but plain fact.”

If this brief review of an enchanting novel has whetted your appetite, you will be delighted to know that you can download a digital version for the princely sum of £0.00 by clicking the image below.

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THE POSTMAN DELIVERS . . . Heaton and Whitelaw

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KNOXLEY HALL by Eddie Heaton

This gritty police procedural is acted out against the backdrop of the ruinous London riots of 2011, and also focuses on what remains an unresolved scandal – the historic allegations of paedophilia among the great and the good of British political life. Terry DeHaviland has made his mark as a journalist by digging for dirt in the fertile ground of the celebrity secrets, but when he is murdered, Detective Sergeant Todd has to risk his career to find the killer, who is at the beck and call of some of the most powerful – and ruthless – people in the land. Knoxley Hall, by Eddie Heaton (below left) is published by Matador and is on sale now.

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HELLCORP by Jonathan Whitelaw

There has to be something satisfying about a book whose first page describes how the Pope, tired after a long day’s infallibility, trudges back to his private apartment and lets rip a luxuriously long and relieving fart. That being done, however, his life becomes a whole lot more complicated. One hell of a lot, one might say, as he is visited by none other than his adversary, The Devil. Back on earth to solve an ancient crime, he of the scaly tail leaves The Vatican reeling in his wake before blundering his way through twenty-first century Scotland in this highly original – and occasionally scabrous – black comedy from Jonathan Whitelaw (above right). Hellcorp is published by Urbane Publications and will be available in early July.

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KILL THE ANGEL . . . Between the covers

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“I pledge my allegiance to the Italian Republic,
to faithfully observe and execute its Constitution
and the laws of the state, and to comply with the duties
of my office in the interestof the administration for the public good.”

Well said, Signorina! Well sworn! Thus spake Colomba Caselli when she joined the Italian police force. Now she is Deputy Chief Caselli of the Third Section of Rome’s Homicide Squad, but this outrageously entertaining novel details a thousand and one different ways in which Caselli – “thirty-three years old in her body but a few years older in the green eyes that changed hue with her mood.” – breaks her vow to be an obedient police officer.

kill-the-angel-9781471165528_hrSide by side with a pharmaceutically-addicted genius called Dante Torre she attempts to solve a grotesque mass murder. The express train from Milan to Rome arrives safely. Safe, that is, except for the passengers in the first class compartments who have all died in grotesque agony. Their bodies are discovered by an officer of the Railway Police and when he alerts his superiors,la merda colpisce il ventilatore..” as they might (but probably don’t) say in Rome. Ironically, it is the fan from the air conditioning unit which has spread the deadly gas.

Despite the usual suspects – none other than the “Allahu Akhbar”- chanting killers from ISIS – claiming responsibility for the atrocity, Caselli smells a particularly putrid rat, and she breaks away from official shackles to track down the real killer. Dazieri does a fair job of explaining relationship between Colomba Caselli and Dante Torre, but the full picture relies quite heavily on the back story which played out in the earlier novel, Kill The Father. It seems that Torre had been held captive by a malevolent psychopath – The Father – but, with the help of Caselli has escaped, but not before both he and the policewoman have sustained significant physical and mental damage.

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As readers, we learn that the real killer sought by Caselli and Torre is an almost supernaturally gifted killer, a woman known as Giltine, the Lithuanian Angel of Death. The action spins back and forth between Rome, Venice and Berlin and, just as peeling an onion reveals further layers, a complex collision of events is revealed. At the root of the malevolent and seemingly indestructible Giltin’s thirst for violent revenge is something which happened in a remote region of Ukraine on 25th April 1986. Watch out, though, for a very, very clever twist regarding the avenging angel. A clue, but no plot spoiler, I hope – have any of you ever read Harry Bingham’s amazing Fiona Griffiths novels?

shugaar-picture2Kill The Angel, translated from the Italian by Antony Shugaar (right), is ridiculously entertaining. The narrative constantly breaks the speed limit, and Colomba Caselli and Dante Torre are wonderfully imagined character. We can boo and hiss as Colomba is screwed – in all senses of the word – by sinister global forces, but she is a truly modern kick-arse (‘ass’ for US readers) heroine and she scorches her way across the pages of this gripping novel.

Be warned: even readers who might think themselves strong of stomach and with a healthy capacity to absorb horrors might find themselves reaching for Aunt Maud’s smelling salts. Visions from Hell loom large, like the child forced to sit with a deadly arachnid sealed in his mouth, or the hideously scarred man who, having survived a catastrophic fire in a night club, recovers – only to be eviscerated with a shard of mirror glass wielded by an enraged sociopath. ‘Kill The Angel, by Sandrone Dazieri (below) is published by Simon and Schuster, and is out now.

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THE KILLING HABIT . . . Between the covers.

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Mark Billingham’s perpetually disgruntled and discomforted London copper DI Tom Thorne returns in The Killing Habit for another three way battle. Three way? Yes, of course, because Thorne and his resolute allies sit on their stools in one corner of the triangular boxing ring, while in the blue corner are his politically correct bosses. In the red corner, of course, are the various chancers, petty and not-so-petty crooks who challenge the law on a daily basis.

TKHThe Thorne novels have a recurring cast list. As Salvatore Albert Lombino, aka Ed McBain said, quoting a 1917 popular song, “Hail, Hail, The Gang’s All Here!” Indeed they are. Its members include Helen, Tom Thorne’s long suffering partner plus little boy Alfie, and the bizarrely tattooed and pierced Mancunian pathologist Phil Hendricks. We have Nicola Tanner the police officer scarred by the murder of her alcoholic partner, Susan, and the perpetually cautious DCI Russell Brigstocke. Between them, they pursue two killers; one who murders losers-in-the-Game-of-Life on the periphery of a drugs gang, and another who seems to be targeting lonely women via a match-making service.

It’s a staple of serial killer crime fiction that the bad guy starts out as a youngster by pulling wings off flies or torturing hamsters before graduating to ever darker deeds. Either that, or he is the victim of some terrible childhood trauma which poisons his view of humanity. I say ‘he’ and realise that I may be risking the wrath of the Equal Opportunities Police here, but I don’t recall reading a novel about female mass murderers. They may be out there. Numbered among their ranks may be homicidal Two Spirit Persons or Gender Fluid Otherkins. I do not know. If I have offended any potential killers by using the wrong pronoun, please accept my (almost) sincere apologies.

But I digress. Billingham puts Thorne on the trail of a serial killer – of cats. Why on earth? Two reasons. One is that nothing inflames the fury of Middle England like the killing of domestic animals. The debate that compares this crime with that of the murder of humans is for another day, but Billingham recognises that we are more likely to become incandescent over the death of a domestic pet than the death of a child. The second reason I have already suggested. If someone is waging a covert war on cats, is this just a prelude to something far, far worse? Indeed, it seems so. A succession of women meet their deaths at the hands of a killer who has hacked into the database of Made In Heaven, a low-rent match-making website.

Billingham gives us a parallel plot which eventually converges with the main story. A shadowy but powerful criminal organisation smuggles addictive synthetic drugs into British prisons. The recipients, grateful at the time, are eventually released into the wider world owing the gang an impossible amount of money, repayable only by becoming foot soldiers of the gang itself. An elderly woman, known only as “The Duchess” plays Postman Patricia in this deadly cycle of addiction and dependence and, when her role as amiable ‘auntie’ visiting prisoners is exposed, the connection between the drug scam and the dating killer is made.

As with every Mark Billingham novel, The Killing Habit is incisively written, impeccably authentic as a police procedural and, above all, totally human. No character walks onto the stage without their weaknesses and their frailties becoming exposed in the icy blue of the spotlight. We are not reading about cardboard cut-out people here: they are real, fallible and convincing. They may even be living a couple of doors down from you.

1430895baJust when you think that he has provided all the answers to the complex plot, and the characters are, to quote the only bit of Milton I can remember from ‘A’ Level, “calm of mind and all passion spent,” Billingham (right) provides a breathtaking epilogue which, in addition to turning my preconception on its head, (feel free to add your own metaphor) bites you on the bum, punches you in the gut, hits you over the head with a piece of four by two, takes the wind out of your sails and grabs you by the short-and-curlies. Hopefully recovering from this multiple assault, you will be hard pushed to disagree with me that this is a brilliant crime thriller written by a master storyteller at the very top of his game.

The Killing Habit is published by Litte, Brown and will be available on 14th June. For a review of the previous Tom Thorne novel, click the link to Love Like Blood.

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CORRUPTED . . . Between the covers.

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Corrupted is the fourth novel in the 1960s London crime series written by Simon Michael. Its predecessors were The Brief (2015), An Honest Man (2016) and The Lighterman (2017). Each has, as its central character, Charles Holborne. Corrupted is good – very good – but let’s first take a look at the real life events which form the backdrop to the story.

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Whichever definition you choose, it is hard to escape the conclusion that the Kray twins and their misdeeds have become the stuff of legend. The villains who were minor fragments in their constellation have made an honest living – of a sort – by producing ghost-written autobiographies. There are popular websites which are nothing more than broadside ballads featuring the Bethnal Green brothers. The real life twins Gary and Marin Kemp played them on the wide screen, as did – more convincingly – a doppleganger Tom Hardy. They even appeared, as the Piranha Brothers, in a Monty Python sketch, although some would argue that this owed more to the equally diabolical Richardson brothers, inimical foes of Reg and Ron from south of the river. Authors such as Jake Arnott and John Lawson have used the twins in novels, and Simon Michael has added his four penn’orth with his Holborne stories.

Holborne was born Horowitz, son of an East End Jewish tailor. After an adventure-strewn youth working as a lighterman on the bustling River Thames in post-1945 London, he has become a successful barrister, having anglicised his name to smooth his way through the distinctly sniffy – and anti-semitic – world of London’s law chambers. Existing readers of the series will know that our man has already crossed swords with the dangerous and vengeful Krays.

CorruptedIt is 1964, and Alec Douglas-Home’s Conservative government is on its last legs. The sex scandals which brought down his predecessor Harold Macmillan may have faded, but another one threatens to be just as explosive. Holborne is persuaded to defend a teenage boy accused of murdering one of the Krays’ stooges, but the fact that the youngster is what we would now call a rent boy sees Holborne accused of bringing his chambers into disrepute.

As Holborne digs deeper into the affair, he realises he is touching the tip of a scandal which, if exposed, will have devastating political consequences. The fact that important figures in both the Conservative party and the Labour opposition are involved means that the barrister is pitting himself not just against Reg and Ron Kray, but the entire British establishment.

Corrupted is a brilliant piece of historical crime fiction, and the court room scenes, which are both intriguing and authentic, are informed by Simon Michael’s career and experience as a barrister in the criminal courts. Many real life figures play a part in the drama: the Krays – particularly the psychotic Ron – are totally convincing; Bob Boothby and Tom Driberg, both dripping corruption, send a shiver of revulsion down the spine, while the larger-than-life figure of Lord ‘the Blessed Arnold’ Goodman is horribly oily and manipulative.

SM-boxing-gloves-2-278x300Charles Holborne is a powerful and attractive central figure, but he is far from perfect. His chaotic private life reveals both passion and weakness. His judgement of human character also leaves something to be desired, as Simon Michael (right) shows, with a delicious and unexpected plot twist in the final pages of the novel. Corrupted is published by Urbane Publications and will be available on 21st June.

Simon Michael’s website is here, and you can follow the link to read the Fully Booked review of The Lighterman

 

ON MY SHELF . . . May 2018 (2)

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LONDON, TOKYO, ROME, RURAL ENGLAND, WASHINGTON DC – and TRANSYLVANIA! Anyone fancy a round the world trip via the pages of crime and mystery thrillers? If so, stay tuned. We are hardly ten days into May, and the intriguing books keep thudding onto my front door-mat.

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Kill Angel

rocambolesqueTHEY SAY THAT YOU’RE NEVER TOO OLD TO LEARN – and reading the Amazon description of Dazieri’s novels I came across the amazing word Rocambolesque. As ever, Google had an answer of sorts, and I am now waiting for the opportunity to drop the word into casual conversation with my friends and family. That aside, Dazieri returns with another case for detectives Torre and Caselli. An express train from Milan arrives in Rome, but several of its passengers and train crew won’t be disembarking, at least without the help of medical teams, stretchers and body bags. This is Italian Noir at its finest, and not for the faint of heart. Published by Simon & Schuster, Kill The Angel is translated by Anthony Shugaar, and is out now.

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I’LL RISK A SMALL WAGER WITH YOU. I say a word, and you respond instantly with another word. Yes, I know, it’s that old word association game associated with bogus psychiatrists and psychotherapists. Anyway, I have written two words on a slip of paper, and I win if either is the word you come up with. Ready? OK, here goes…

“TRANSYLVANIA”

VVIf you said either “Dracula” or “Vampire”, I win. But maybe you’ve been reading the novel by Irish-Hungarian actress and poet, Vivienne Vermes? If so, you’ll know that her novel The Barefoot Road definitely doesn’t involve teeth, cloaks, garlic or unconventional blood transfusions. It dos however, involve blood which is shed by violence. A young woman is found near a Romanian village. She is unconscious, half -starved, and barely alive. She is from an ethnic group which were brutally expelled by the ancestors of the present villagers. Humanity temporarily triumphs over tribal bigotry and she is nursed back to health, but when she begins a relationship with one of the villagers, and a child disappears, the embers of old hatreds burst into flames. The Barefoot Road is published by Matador, and is available as a Kindle or a paperback.

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