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ON MY SHELF . . . Late September 2021

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Where should I be in late September? Back at school, obviously! I can’t ‘steal my daddy’s cue and make a living out of playing pool’, so I will have to tackle a shelf groaning under the weight of new books. Anyone baffled by the references in the previous couple of sentences should, perhaps, do some research into songs written by Rod Stewart and Martin Quittenton, but in your own time,obviously. Alphabetically heading up the book pile is Without Let or Hindrance by Geoffrey Charin.

WITHOUT LET

HUNT

BLINK

BLIND EYE

APPARITION

SAFE

NEIGHBOURS

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THE POSTMAN DELIVERS . . . Lloyd & Towles

I’ve had two rather special posts in the last couple of days, which is good to see, especially when one comes from America. Also, each came with some tasty ‘bits and bobs’! Neither is due out for a while, but I want to get the word out now, as they both look intriguing.

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THE BLOODLESS BOY by Robert J. Lloyd

This sounds like the literary equivalent of a Restoration banquet of many rich courses, each more piquant than the preceding one – and a dramatic contrast to the grim years of he Protectorate. From that broad hint you may already have guessed that the novel is set in the London of Charles II. it is 1678, and the main character is a man of whom I first became aware while struggling to comprehend ‘O’ Level Physics back in the 1960s. We had to study Hooke’s Law (and I failed, dismally) but Robert Hooke was a polymath who has been called “England’s Leonardo“, and he is the central character of this story. He is called upon to investigate the gruesome death of a boy, found on a London riverbank, completely drained of blood. To extend the banquet metaphor, the menu includes a suspected Catholic plot, sinister foreign assassins, wild political intrigue, and a London slowly being rebuilt after the disaster of 1666. The Bloodless Boy is published by Melville House, and will be available on 2nd November. Look out for a full review when the blog tour launches.

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NINETY-FIVE by Lisa Towles

Lisa Towles is a very smart lady who works in the California tech industry, and she also a fine writer. I reviewed two earlier books, The Unseen (2019) and Choke (2017) Her latest novel features a young man called Zak Skinner who is – to be blunt – something of a mess. Avoiding awkward decisions and ignoring reality are two of his predominant life-skills, and he has just solved problems he was having at New York University by running away – to the University of Chicago. Zak may not be someone on whom you would rely in a crisis, but he is not stupid, and when he discovers a campus crime scam that involves drugs, coercion and blackmail, his talent for being inquisitive unearths an even bigger criminal operation, which puts him in the gun sight cross-hairs of some very dangerous people. Ninety-Five will be available from Indies United Publishing House on 24th November, and I will write a review nearer the time.

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ON MY SHELF, AUGUST 2021 . . . Chevreau, Cobley, Davies, Simenon & Ward

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This month we have four relatively new names alongside an absolute giant of the genre. In surname order, take a look at:

THE HARVARD CURSE by MARTIN CHEVREAU

Three students disappear at the end of the 2019 autumn term at Harvard. The press dubs it ‘The Harvard Curse’ – but what has really happened? To solve this mystery, we must follow two of the young people, Clementine and Adrien in the months before they vanish – as the pair meet and run into a world of trouble together. Through the complicity of new and old friends alike, they disappear leaving a trail of evidence that readers must examine and decide who is to blame. A central character in this novel is the atmospheric  changing seasons of the New England university campus – a compelling backdrop to the tale as the secrets slowly reveal themselves. This is published by Book Guild and will be available on 28th August.

A HUNDRED YEARS TO ARRAS by J.M. COBLEY

This is not crime fiction, but as someone who is passionate about anything to do with The Great War, I couldn’t resist the chance to review it. It tells the tale of a young Somerset man who enlists to fight the Germans. On one level it is a chilling account of the mincing machine horror of WWI battles, but it also examines the profound links between landscape, history and memory. Check my tweets and main page for a full review. Available now, this book is published by Unbound Digital

THE CONSCRIPT by ALASTAIR B. DAVIE

This is the tale of an idealistic young man from 1940s northern England who is attracted to socialism after his own experience of poverty and hardship. He joins the Communist Party, is manipulated by unscrupulous Soviet agents, and feeds sensitive information to Stalin’s men. While Britain is, notionally, an ally of the Soviet Union, this is no problem, but when the war ends, and Europe is divided by political persuasion, Tom Pearson is faced with a totally different – and potentially deadly – conflict of interests. The Conscript is published by Book Guild and you can buy it here.

DEATH THREATS and other stories by GEORGES SIMENON

Georges Simenon is simply one of the giants of crime fiction. If ever a character could claim to be immortal, Jules Maigret (flanked, perhaps, by Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot) will be on the podium. This new collection of short stories is endorsed by the author’s son, John, and will delight all fans of The Master. Published by Penguin, this paperback will be out in September.

THE WRECKING STORM by MICHAEL WARD

We are in a turbulent England just before the outbreak of the English Civil War. As the chances of a peaceful resolution of the dispute between King and Parliament recede, Puritan radicals demand more concessions from the King. Bishops and lords are attacked in the streets as the Apprentice Boys run amok. Criminal gangs use the disorder to mask their activities while the people of London lock their doors and pray for deliverance.

No one is immune from the contagion. Two Jesuit priests are discovered in hiding and brutally executed – and soon the family of spice merchant Thomas Tallant is drawn into the spiral of violence. Thomas struggles to discover who is responsible, aided by the enigmatic Elizabeth Seymour, a devotee of science, mathematics and tobacco in equal measure. Together they enter a murky world of court politics, street violence, secret codes and poisoned letters, and confront a vicious gang leader who will stop at nothing to satisfy his greed. Published by Sharpe Books, The Wrecking Storm is available now.

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ON MY SHELF . . . July 2021

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I have a healthy To Be Read stack as July swelters its way towards August, as well as some interesting-looking blog tour stops to fulfil.

THE NAMELESS ONES by John Connolly

A new Charlie Parker novel is always one of the significant way-points in my reading year. Centre stage in this latest adventure for the Portland private eye is his loyal – but violent – friend, Louis. Instead of the customary Maine woods or the craggy North Atlantic shoreline, the actions shifts to Amsterdam, where an old friend of Louis’ has been murdered after tangling with Serbian war criminals. Fans of this excellent series will know what to expect – violence, a sense of deep unease that echoes Hamlet’s famous advice to Horatio, and a genuine present day battle between good and evil. The Nameless Ones is published by Hodder and Stoughton, and is available now.

INVITE ME IN BY Emma Curtis

The trope of the seemingly happily married woman with lovely children and and a handsome, supportive husband – but who is hiding a terrible secret – has become very popular in domestic thrillers, but Emma Curtis, in this account of what happens when Eliza Curran takes on a new tenant, gives it fresh legs. Published by Transworld Digital, Invite Me In is out now as a Kindle, and the paperback version will follow in September.

THE DAY OF THE JACKAL by Frederick Forsyth

As the late lamented Sandy Denny once sang, “Who Knows Where The Time Goes?” It was fifty years ago that former RAF pilot and journalist Frederick Forsyth’s political thriller was first published. If you want a copy of the UK first edition, you might need a grand or so to play with, but this 50th anniversary edition from Arrow – with the added bonus of an introduction by Lee Child – is much more reasonable. I won’t waste time and space by outlining the plot (which is still as original and compelling as when it was written) but you can get this paperback here and still have change from a tenner.

A SLOW FIRE BURNING by Paula Hawkins

In the publicity blurbs all the great and the good among contemporary crime fiction jostle to praise Paula Hawkins and her writing. The Zimbabwe-born author certainly hit the big time with her breakout bestseller The Girl on The Train and her second novel Into The Water. Can she make it a hat-trick of triumphs? All the ingredients seem to be there – female centred, tense, anxiety-driven and a complex emotional undertow which threatens to drag the unwary participants away. Three women – Laura, Carla and Miriam – face different challenges that force them to re-evaluate how they calibrate innocence, guilt – and danger. A Slow Fire Burning will be out on 31st August and is published by Transworld Digital

SAFE AT HOME by Lauren North

More domestic angst and tension now from Lauren North, whose debut novel was The Perfect Son (2019). Her latest novel features Anna James, described as “an anxious mother” When she has to leave eleven-year-old Harrie home alone one evening, she can’t stop worrying about her daughter. But nothing bad ever happens in the sleepy village of Barton St Martin. Except something does go wrong that night, and Anna returns to find Harrie with bruises she won’t explain. The next morning a local businessman is reported missing and the village is sparking with gossip. Anna is convinced there’s a connection and that Harrie is in trouble. But how can she protect her daughter if she doesn’t know where the danger is coming from? This is, again, from Transworld Digital and will be out as a Kindle at the beginning of September, and in paperback at the end of that month.

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THE POSTMAN DELIVERS . . . Curtis, Handsford and Japrisot

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INVITE ME IN by Emma Curtis

Emma Curtis is no stranger on the pages of Fully Booked,and if you click this link you can see more of her earlier work. She specialises in domestic thrillers where – for want of a better phrase – anxiety porn is the order of the day. Her milieu is the ostensibly happy home, the devoted couple, the perfect family, but where a tiny but lethal psychological time bomb is ticking away, ready to destroy everything. In this book, we meet Eliza Curran, and her delightful children, colour supplement home and wealthy husband. Who happens to be a control freak. When the charismatic, charming and sensitive Dan Jones enters the family circle. Eliza senses a breath of fresh air, so what could possibly go wrong? Invite Me In is published by Penguin, and will be out in Kindle on 22nd July, and in paperback on 2nd September.

STRANGER FROM BERLIN by Beverley Hansford

There can be few cities in Europe that are more at home with literary intrigue, danger and mystery than Berlin. Its unique history, particularly in the 20th century has made it an ideal setting for novels. Beverley Hansford tells the tale of an Englishman, Tim Mallon, who falls in love with Lena, the partner of Boris Smirnov, an old friend of Tim’s from university days. When Lena is abducted and taken back to Berlin, Tim is determined to find her and find the truth about her mysterious past. He soon finds himself out of his depth, and at the mercy of political and criminal undercurrents that will be familiar to readers of books by Philip Kerr, Len Deighton and Christopher Isherwood. This novel is published by Matador and is available now in Kindle and paperback.

RIDER ON THE RAIN by Sébastien Japrisot

This was the final novel (originally Le Passager de la pluie) by Sébastien Japrisot (1931 – 2003) a French author, screenwriter and film director. His pseudonym was an anagram of Jean-Baptiste Rossi, his real name. The origins of the novel go back to 1970 when Japrisot wrote the screenplay for a film of the same name, starring Charles Bronson and Marlène Jobert. It is the story of a young housewife, Mellie Mau,  in a rainy autumnal Riviera resort. Mellie Mau is raped, but then kills her assailant. Dobbs, a mysterious American arrives in town, and becomes involved with the young woman. His real identity is not revealed until later in the narrative, but his interest in Mellie Mau – and her rapist – involves drugs and huge sums of money. Published by Gallic Books, Rider On The Rain is translated by Linda Coverdale will be available in Kindle and paperback on 22nd July.

IN THE SILENCE LONG-FORGOTTEN, ALMOND TREES BLOSSOM . . . In brief

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This is certainly the longest title of the year, and the most poetic. I wondered if it was a quote from somewhere, but Google just directed me to the book itself. If any poetry experts can source the words, please let me know. There used to be an adjective used to describe long novels with a complex time structure – “sprawling”. I was never sure if it was entirely complimentary, but this book, with 425 pages and a time span ranging between 1985 and 2031 might fit the bill.

It is set in Libya, more specifically the ancient regions of Cyrenaica, Triplotania and Fezzan, which have been fought over almost since time began. Greeks, Romans, Ottomans, Italians, Nazi Germany, the British Empire – the sands are stained with the blood of fighting men.

Jack Meredith is the central figure in this saga. While working as a geologist in Libya in the 1980s he is thrown in prison but rescued by Bushra, a wealthy woman of Greek/Libyan parentage. Their relationship is not a happy one, however, and their twin children eventually go their separate ways, Emma to London and Stavros to Benghazi.

That was then, but Mayne imagines a future – 2024 –  where a rampant Russia reclaims the Baltic states it lost and seeks to dominate the Mediterranean. A desperate United Nations cedes Cyrenaica to the Russians, who also control Greece The remaining parts of Libya are held by The European Defence Alliance.

Skipping ahead even further, to 2031, Jack and Bushra are temporarily reunited, with their grand-daughter Isabel and their son Stavros both become involved in resistance movements against the Russians.

The cover describes the story as “a novel of love, tragedy, and reconciliation.” It is published by The Book Guild, and is out on 28th June.

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THE POSTMAN DELIVERS . . Kally Haynes, Chris Gray, Owen Matthews & Richard Trahair

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HOW DID I NOT SEE by Kally Haynes

HowThe first line of the book states:
“In the underground car park, I slip into the red Bentley and slam the heavy door.”
So, we are clearly not dealing with events taking place on a dingy Birmingham council estate. Kate (the driver of the Bentley) is clearly not short of a bob or two, but she does lack a Mr Right. She decides to enroll with a online dating agency. What could possibly go wrong?

After a couple of false starts she meets  –  and is smitten with – the impossibly handsome and disarmingly charming Greg. A breathless romance is followed by marriage, nothwithstanding Kate’s friends urging caution. She dreams of a match made in heaven and, hopefully, motherhood.

Inevitably, it all goes pear shaped. You can find out just how, exactly, by reading the book, which is published by the Book Guild and is available now.

KNOW MORE LIES by Chris Gray

KnowDefinitely not in the Bentley and up-market apartment league, but still in the Midlands, this novel tells the tale of Robbie Howard, a lying, thieving young chancer, grifting away on the slightly grubby streets of Leicester. To be fair, Robbie has not had it easy, having been effectively orphaned at the age of 8.

He now lives withand lies through his teeth to – his elderly and ailing grandfather. As is usually the way with petty crooks, it all becomes unraveled. Robbie tries to engineer a scam involving celebrity second hand clothes (once worn by a famous rock star) that have been donated to a charity shop.

Sadly for the 23 year-old his scheme upsets the wrong people and, in the words of the cover blurb, “COULD ROBBIE’S TIME BE RUNNING OUT?” To find the answer you will have to read the book, which is published by the Book Guild and out now.

RED TRAITOR by Owen Matthews

RedWhen you get to my age, you will not only remember where you were and what you were doing when Jack Kennedy was shot, but you will also recall the events of the previous autumn, when the Cuban Missile Crisis seemed to be pushing the world to the brink of war. In a sentence, the USA blockaded the Russian navy, who were intent on delivering nuclear missiles to Fidel Castro’s Cuba, a potential launch site which put every city in America within easy reach.

This novel is based on the real life presence of Russian nuclear submarines in the area, and the story of one Russian naval officer, tired and stressed, deep under the Caribbean, who is ordered to fire a torpedo at one of the American warships. We all know that he didn’t, but this deeply scary novel poses some very interesting “what-ifs”. Published by Bantam Press, Red Traitor is out on 29th July.

BLEAK ENCOUNTER AT THE CAPE by Richard Trahair.

BleakWe are in the south-west of England, Cornwall, to be precise, and book lovers will know that its rugged coastline and stormy Atlantic waves have long been a popular location for novelists. Richard Trahair may not yet be in the same league as Wilkie Collins (The Dead Secret) or Daphne du Maurier ( Rebecca, Jamaica Inn) but he brings us a spirited tale of a local volunteer coastguard who discovers a body on the rocks at Cape Cornwall.

When the police shelve the case due to lack of evidence and information, Petroc Tomlyn – and his sceptical wife – decide to mount their own investigation. Their search takes them far beyond Cornwall – to the shores of Lake Geneva – and they uncover a devastating conspiracy. Things come full circle, however, and the dramatic denouement of this novel takes place where it began – on the wild Cornish shore. The novel is published by the Book Guild and is out now.

THE POSTMAN DELIVERS . . . Lethal Response

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Readers first encountered Norman Townsend’s creation Paul Stafford back in 2018, in Trashed:

“Some ex-military men
find that civilian life is hard to deal with, but Paul Stafford is coping well. He has used his retirement pot to start a small recycling business and everything in the scrapyard seems to be rosy, until he wins a lucrative contract to run a further five sites. What should be a business triumph turns into a nightmare for Stafford when he realises that his new sites have been previously used by a powerful criminal organisation, and the bad guys do not take kindly to their work being interrupted. Murder and violence come as second nature to them, and when his own employees begin to feel the full clout of the gangsters, Stafford must stand and fight – both for them and his own integrity.

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lr cover017Stafford’s triumph has won him some influential friends, but also some deadly enemies. You don’t take on powerful international criminal gangs without there being a downside, and when two of Stafford’s long time buddies pay the ultimate price for being associated with him, it’s payback time. Stafford’s first job is to protect those around him from further harm, but once that is done, he will be taking no prisoners.

Something about the author. Norman’s Amazon page says:

“I’ve worked as a photographer, milkman, salesman, warehouse manager. I’ve been self-employed, I’ve bought and sold trash! Worked in the waste industry for thirty years or so, and though now retired, still buy and sell stuff. TRASHED is my first novel, and it’s based around the waste industry, recycling centres, to be specific. I’ve tried to make it a fast paced, exciting read. Literary Fiction it ain’t, but it’s getting good reviews from real readers. Thank you folks, for that”

Lethal Response is published by Matador/Troubadour and is available now.
 

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THE POSTMAN DELIVERS . . . Deakin & Kurian

The only remote downside to me for having received these two beauties in today’s post, is that they are both marked September 2021. I have always thought September to be the saddest month, for a variety of reasons: the dying of the summer light, the wretched return to the classroom ( I was a teacher for forty years) where I would cast artificial pearls before real swine, the looming end of the cricket season, and the girding up of loins to face yet another winter. By the time September comes I will have exceed my biblical span by four years, and I will be thinking of that beautifully sad poem by JRR Tolkein, where Bilbo says:

“I sit beside the fire and think
Of how the world will be
When winter comes without a spring
That I shall ever see.”

Enough of such morbid musings. There are books to look at! Leona Deakin’s character Dr Augusta Bloom first appeared in Gone (December 2019) – click to read the review – and then in Lost (October 2020). Now, Dr Bloom returns with another case, this time involving politics and counter terrorism. No less a figure than the Foreign Secretary is being held by the police on suspicion of terror offences. He will only talk if he is allowed to speak to Augusta Bloom. This results in Augusta having to put herself in the line of fire as a decoy. Does she have the skills to operate undercover? The Kindle is available now, but you will have to hang on until the summer fades to get the paperback. It will be published by Black Swan, which is a Penguin imprint, and will be on sale from 16th September

Vera Kurian’s book, according to the publicity, couldn’t be more different and, if I can be permitted to invent a triple-barreled genre, sounds as if it’s domestic-psycho-noir. Kurian, who is based in Washington DC, has penned a tale of a first year university student named Chloe. The blurb is very effective:

Meet Chloe. First-year student, ordinary, legging-wearing, girl next door and diagnosed psychopath with an !Q of 135. Her hobbies include yogalates, parties, and plotting to kill Will Bachman.

Quite what Will Bachman has done to incur Chloe’s wrath is not clear; neither is it down to me to say whether or not he survives her attentions. She says, however:

“I’ve never met someone like me, but when I do, eventually, I think it will be like two wolves meeting in the night, sniffing and recognising another hunter,”

Never Saw Me Coming will be published by Harvill Secker on 9th September.

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