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THE POSTMAN DELIVERS . . . Kara & Rickman

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Two cracking new hardbacks arrived last week, one written by Lesley Kara, whose previous four domestic psychological thrillers have all been best-sellers and, the other by a writer who has created one of the most original amateur detectives that I have encountered. It has been five years since we had a Merrily Watkins novel from Phil Rickman, but now he brings her back in The Fever of the World.

THE APARTMENT UPSTAIRS by Lesley Kara

Screen Shot 2022-05-24 at 19.03.43Lesley Kara (left) specialises in creating tension between ordinary people in humdrum surroundings – in other words, normal circumstances experienced by the vast majority of us. I reviewed her excellent debut novel The Rumour, and her new book is centred around – as the name suggests – a murder that took place above Scarlett’s flat. The victim was her aunt, and as Scarlett tries to live as normal a life as possible with such a terrible event – almost literally – hanging over her head, it is up to her to make the funeral arrangements for her relative. As she does so, she meets Dee, the funeral director. Dee has problems of her own, but an unexpected link binds the two women together, and both are now in terrible danger. The Apartment Upstairs will be published by Bantam Press on 23rd June.

THE FEVER OF THE WORLD by Phil Rickman

Screen Shot 2022-05-24 at 19.07.31For the uninitiated, Merrily Watkins is a single mum, and vicar of a village in Herefordshire. She also serves as Diocesan Deliverance Consultant – aka an exorcist. The series began in 1998 with The Wine of Angels, and seemed to have terminated rather abruptly with All of a Winter’s Night in 2017. A new book titled For The Hell of It was billed to come out in 2020, but this seems to have been reimagined as The Fever of the World. Here, Merrily becomes involved in a murder investigation led by local copper David Vaynor who, in a previous life, was an expert in the poetry of William Wordsworth. Aficionados of the work of Wordsworth may well recognise the provenance of the book’s title, taken from the poem composed on the banks of the River Wye near Tintern Abbey:

“In darkness and amid the many shapes
Of joyless daylight; when the fretful stir
Unprofitable, and the fever of the world,
Have hung upon the beatings of my heart.”

My appreciation of the Merrily Watkins novels is here, and I am anxious to see what has become of the  repertory company of characters Rickman (above right) used in the earlier novels. The book is published by Atlantic Books, and will be out on 16th June.

AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT . . . LM Weeks and Mark Zvonkovic

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BOTTLED LIGHTNING by LM Weeks

Bottled Lightning is an international legal thriller set in Japan with a tech lawyer, Tornait “Torn” Sagara and his super-scientist client, Saya Brooks (both Japanese-Americans with past relationship issues) trying to protect themselves and the world-changing energy technology invention destined to make existing energy industries obsolete. Saya has invented what she calls lightning on demand. When dangerous operatives threaten to bury them and this bleeding edge technology, they are forced into survival mode even as their complicated personal relationship heightens the stakes.

Screen Shot 2022-05-17 at 18.38.37L. M. (Mark) Weeks is a Senior Counsel and former Partner in the global law firm of Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP. He has practiced law in New York and Tokyo for more than 30 years and served as Managing Partner of Orrick’s Tokyo office from 2007-17. Mark speaks, reads and writes fluent Japanese. In addition to his work at Orrick, Mark has done pro bono work with young HIV+ parents, indigent criminal defendants, and fisheries conservation organizations. Mark’s passion is tournament fly fishing for tarpon and record chasing. A traveling angler, he has fished all over the world. He was born in Anchorage, Alaska, and raised in Nampa, Idaho. Bottled Lightning is his debut novel, and will be available on 13the June.

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BELINDA by Mark Zvonkovic

Belinda “Lyn” Larkin is at a crossroads. A beautiful and experienced attorney who is married to the law, faces the end of a long and successful law practice at the hands of the “men in suits” who run her firm, when a man once her lover suddenly appears after a long and mysterious absence. Set in the conference rooms of white shoe Houston law firms and the stunning coastline of Baja California, Belinda is the story of a woman’s bravery and resourcefulness as she navigates the end of her career and a complex world of international intrigue, legal infighting, and unexpected romance. This character-driven third book in The Raymond Hatcher Collection (which easily reads as a stand-alone novel) explores questions of dedication, loyalty and love as Lyn contemplates what’s next in her life. Belinda will be out on 14th June.

Screen Shot 2022-05-17 at 18.55.11Mark Zvonkovic lives in Rosarito Beach, Baja California, Mexico with his wife Nancy and their two dogs, Finn and Cooper. He has written two novels. He also writes book reviews and essays that have appeared in several online publications. Before retiring to Mexico, Mark practiced law in Houston, Texas and in New York City. He attended college at Southern Methodist University and at Boston University, and his law degree is from SMU School of Law.

Both novels are handled by PR By The Book, who operate out of Round Rock, Austin, Texas. Their website is here.

ON MY SHELF . . . Mara, Massen, Perks & Spain

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There’s some good stuff in the offing for crime fiction fans judging by this quartet of fine  writers. In alphabetical order, we have:

HIDE AND SEEK by Andrea Mara

Screen Shot 2022-05-14 at 18.23.42Confession time: while I have read and enjoyed previous novels by mesdames Massen, Perks and Spain, Andrea Mara is a new name to me. Turns out she is a compatriot of Jo Spain, also lives in Dublin’s fair City, and her previous novel All Her Fault was a bestseller. So, the loss is all mine. In Hide and Seek, it’s worst nightmare time, especially if you are a parent or, like me, a grandparent. The back-story is that little Lily Murphy goes missing from her Dublin suburb and is never found. Years later, Joanna moves into what was Lily’s home and from here, things just become more scary and spine tingling. This will be published by Bantam Press on 4th August.

FROM THE ASHES by Deborah Masson

Screen Shot 2022-05-14 at 18.25.37Eve Hunter is well established now in the sharp-elbowed assembly of fictional Detective Inspectors. Her beat is The Granite City of Aberdeen. I reviewed – and enjoyed –  two earlier novels, Hold Your Tongue (2019) and Out For Blood (2020) Ms Hunter returns now in an investigation into a fatal fire in an Aberdeen house used as a home for underprivileged children. There appears to be only one person who perished, but further enquiries uncover a rats’ nest of secrets and guilt which means all of the adults who were paid to care for the children may be implicated in an awful crime. From The Ashes is from Transworld Digital/Penguin and will be available from 21st July’

THE OTHER GUEST by Heidi Perks

Screen Shot 2022-05-14 at 18.27.12Heidi Perks is another writer whose previous books The Whispers (2021) and Come Back For Me (2019) were seriously impressive. Click the links to read my reviews. Here, we are basking in the sun in White Sands, an expensive resort on a remote Greek island. Laila and her husband have paid top dollar for their holiday in the hope that they can repair their increasingly fractured relationship. She becomes  what might be called ‘over-interested’ in another family at the poolside –  a woman called Em, her husband and their teenage sons. Then there is a horrifying event which forces Laila to question her own sanity, and what follows involves the exposure of family secrets, and human frailty stripped back to the bone. This is a very early ‘heads-up’ for a book which will be available in January 2023.

THE LAST TO DISAPPEAR by Jo Spain

This is a tiny bit of a cheat, as I have already read this book on my Kindle, and reviewed it here. However, the publishers, in their wisdom, have sent me a mint hardback copy of the book, so I am offering it as a prize to anyone in UK or RoI who retweets this post. What are you waiting for?

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THE POSTMAN DELIVERS . . . Barton, Gough, Kellerman & Leavers

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LOCAL GONE MISSING by Fiona Barton

Detective Elise King moves to the apparently placid seaside town of Ebbing after illness threatens her career. What should be a period of rest and recuperation turns distinctly nasty when tension between locals and  rich weekender visitors bubbles over into violence. When two teenagers end up in hospital and a local man vanishes without trace, Elise searches for answers from the community, but all lips are sealed. This will be out on 9th June from Bantam Press. Back in 2019 I read and reviewed Fiona Barton’s The Suspect, and you can see what I thought by clicking this link.

THE CHEERLEADER by Richard Gough

The Cheerleader is a psychopathic serial killer who is terrorising London. On the trail is maverick Detective Chief Inspector Rachel Cortes who, with a reputation for arrogance and a very individual approach to policing, has to try to get inside the mind of a mentally disturbed person who – just like her –  makes their own rules. The Cheerleader is available now, and is published by The Book Guild.

THE BURNING by Jonathan  and Jesse Kellerman

The latest case for Deputy Coroner Clay Edison involves the mystery of a millionaire found dead in his luxury hilltop home. The matter becomes personal when, at the crime scene, evidence is found that links to Ckay’s own brother Luke, recently released from prison. This came out in hardback last year, and you can read my review here. This paperback edition will be out on 12th May and is published by Penguin.

DON’T PLAY DEAD WITH VULTURES by Jack Leavers

Author Jack Leavers is a former Royal Marine with over thirty-years’ experience spread across the military, private security, corporate investigations, maritime counter-piracy, and risk management. This fast paced novel reflects his own experiences, and features mercenary John Pierce as he battles greed, intrigue, a ferocious climate and international gangsters in the inhospitable jungle of what used to be known as French West Africa. Don’t Play Dead With Vultures is published by The Book Guild and is available now.

THE POSTMAN DELIVERS . . . Fuller & Jacobsen

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TREVIGGEN by Edward John Fuller

You won’t need to be an expert in English place names to work out where this is set – and no, it’s not a grim piece of domestic Noir set in Stoke-on-Trent. As the name suggests, we are in the brooding and romantic country of Cornwall, where Emma Courteis just wants to live quietly with her daughter in Cornwall and paint. Of course, that’s not how things turn out, and we are promised revenge, and a tale that is brutal, romantic and sensual. It is available now, published by Matador and, just for a change, here’s a link to buy it from somewhere other than Amazon.

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SHADOWS OF FURY by Keith Jacobsen

We remain in Cornwall, where a dying woman is suffocated in her hospital bed. Her last visitor, Madeleine Reed, is accused of the crime. There are no witnesses. Madeleine cannot recall committing the murder and has no motive. Claiming to be pursued by the Furies, punitive figures from Greek mythology, she is found guilty of manslaughter on grounds of diminished responsibility. After her release from a secure hospital she is drawn back to the Cornish coastal village where she lived before the murder and where her mother had died years before in mysterious circumstances.

Slowly, her memories begin to return. She knows that she must finally confront the hideous Furies who alone can bring the truth to light. But can she bear to uncover the horrific, distant memories she has repressed for so long? This is published by The Book Guild and is available now.

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ON MY SHELF . . . March 2022

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TALL BONES by Anna Bailey

Tall BonesWhatever other qualities the book may have, the name of the town in which it is set gets first prize for the most sinister sounding location – Whistling Ridge. You just know that this is a town with dark secrets and simmering tensions that have festered for generations. Throw in a charismatic hellfire preacher who seems to have the town in his thrall, a girl who inexplicably disappeared into the woods, and a mysterious outsider who fascinates the young folk but arouses deep resentment in their parents – and you have a crackerjack thriller. Published by Doubleday, Tall Bones is out on 1st April.

WHAT HIS WIFE KNEW by Jo Jakeman

WHWKA husband disappears, leaving only a one word scribbled note that says “Sorry“. As the police assume Oscar has committed suicide and put the case at the back of the file drawer, wife Beth is determined to find out the truth and, to re-use an old metaphor, when people turn over stones, they shouldn’t be dismayed at what they see scurrying about underneath. Expect elements of deceit, revenge and betrayal – with many a plot twist.  This is a Vintage publication, and is available now in audiobook, Kindle and paperback.

THE FATAL OATH by Michael L Lewis

TFOSchool stories, at least those written for younger readers, were once ‘a thing’ but something of a rarity these days. This book, the third in a series, is aimed at adult readers, and is set in 1957 within a boys’ boarding school in Yorkshire, and is centred on a Jewish teenager who is made to feel an outcast by senior boys who feel he is not “one of us“. His fate, and that of his friend, another ‘outsider’ is in the hands of a powerful clan of senior pupils who bully even the ineffectual school leadership team. The Fatal Oath will be available on 28th of March and is published by The Book Guild.

THE RETREAT by Sarah Pearse

RetreatSarah Pearse’s previous (and debut) novel The Sanatorium (click for review) was a huge commercial and critical success and now she returns with another psychological thriller based on the same theme – that of isolation, secrets, and mysterious death. There’s more than a touch of one of Agatha Christie’s most famous novels (choose the title you prefer!) here, as a group of people are stranded on an island retreat as a destructive storm prevents anyone leaving or arriving. It’s a case of “as soon as the weather clears..” but much can (and does) happen in the meantime! Published by Bantam Press, this will be available in July.

THE PEOPLE OPPOSITE by Georges Simenon

PeoplePenguin are publishing new translations of Simenon’s  stories. I’ve reviewed The Little Man From Archangel and Death Threats & Other Stories. This is another non-Maigret story, set in pre-war Russia, and tells the tale of Adil Bey, a lonely Turkish diplomat sent as consul to a dilapidated port on the Black Sea. He is viewed with suspicion by the locals, and when he develops a relationship with his Russian secretary, he soon learns that living in Stalin’s Russia as an outsider has many pitfalls. Translated by Sian Reynolds, this is a Penguin Classic, and is available now.

THE POSTMAN DELIVERS . . . Darkin-Miller and MacBride

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IT’S ALL ABOUT TEDDY by Lee Darkin-Miller

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This is the debut novel from Lee Darkin-Miller (left),  an award-winning composer and multi-instrumentalist whose work has featured in film, TV and video games. From first impressions it seems to be a blend of fantasy, black humour and crime, and it tells the story of a man called TC, “a hapless middle-aged widower desperate to find his green-eyed angel. The blurb tells us we can expect violent death, a mysterious cult, and a new street drug called Fudge, which is deadly to those who misuse it. It’s All About Teddy is published by The Book Guild and will be available from 28th March

NO LESS THE DEVIL by Stuart MacBride

Screen Shot 2022-03-17 at 19.24.30It seems like an eternity since I read a Stuart MacBride (right) novel, and it was back in his Logan McRae days. The last of those was All That’s Dead (2019) but this might be the start of a new police procedural series featuring Detective Sergeant Lucy McVeigh. We are once more in Aberdeen, and a serial killer known as The Bloodsmith is doing his grisly business,  McVeigh’s police team, working under the name Operation Maypole, having failed to get close to the killer. To add to her problems, she has to deal with a young man who, at the age of eleven, inexplicably killed a homeless man. He served his time, and now is out and about again – and convinced that a mysterious ‘they’ are out to kill him. Does McVeigh ignore him and concentrate on finding The Bloodsmith, or could she have another potential maniac on her books? No Less The Devil will be published by Bantam Press on 28th April.

ON MY SHELF . . . February 2022

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THE FEAR INDEX by Robert Harris

Harris is best-known for his best-selling historical novels such as  Pompeii, Enigma, Fatherland and Munich, but here he is bang up to date with a thriller set in the cut-throat world of modern financial markets, where fortunes can be made and destroyed with a keystroke. Alex Hoffmann has developed an algorithm for playing the financial markets that generates billions of pounds – and feeds on one essential aspect of human nature – the tendency to panic. When his system is threatened by an intruder who breaches the elaborate security of his lakeside home, his life becomes a living nightmare of violence and paranoia. This is a new Penguin edition of the novel that originally came out in 2011, and is a tie-in with a forthcoming Sky mini-series.

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WHAT HIS WIFE KNEW by Jo Jakeman

Domestic Noir seems to be the go-to genre these days, and this looks as though it ticks all those particular boxes. Beth’s husband Oscar has disappeared after leaving a scribbled note – which appears to be an apology for something. As she tries to unravel the mystery of his disappearance – and the mysterious apology – she becomes immersed in a nightmare of recrimination, revenge and betrayal. Jo Jakeman was born in Cyprus and  worked for many years in the City of London before moving to Cornwall with her husband and twin boys. What His Wife Knew is published by Vintage, and will be available from 17th February

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THE RISING TIDE by Sam Lloyd

The story centres on Lucy, one of those women crime writers love to put at the heart of their stories. She has the lot: a beautiful home high on the clifftops, a devoted husband and two beloved children. Then one morning, tit all goes pear-shaped. Their family yacht is recovered, abandoned far out at sea. Lucy’s husband is nowhere to be found and as the seconds tick by, she begins to wonder – what if he was the one who took the boat? And if so, where is he now? As a violent storm frustrates the rescue operation, Lucy pieces together what happened onboard. Then she makes a fresh discovery and it is one which makes a nightmare into a reality.

Sam Lloyd grew up in Hampshire, but now  lives in Surrey with his wife, three young sons and a dog that likes to howl. His debut thriller, The Memory Wood, was published in 2020. Out on 17th February, The Rising Tide is published by Penguin.

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SHAKING HANDS WITH THE DEVIL by Bryan J Mason

Set in the dying days of Margaret Thatcher’s premiership, this black – and bleakly funny – novel tells the tale of a Dennis Nilsen-like character who enjoys dismembering young men, and DCI Dave Hicks, a larger than life policeman determined to catch him. The killer – Clifton Gentle, DCI Hicks – and the next intended victim are on a collision course that Mason turns into a strange mixture of noir and slapstick.
This is from Vanguard Press and is available now

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ALL THAT LIVES by James Oswald

I am a huge fan of the Inspector Tony McLean novels by James Oswald. I love the way that there is a often a  subtle hint of the supernatural about these stories, and there is usually some connection with historical events, which draws me in like a magnet. In this case, an archaeological dig at the old South Leith parish kirkyard has turned up a mysterious body dating from around seven hundred years ago. Some suspect that this gruesome discovery is a sacrifice, placed there for a specific purpose. Then a second body is unearthed. This victim went missing only thirty years ago – but the similarities between her death and the ancient woman’s suggest something even more disturbing.

Drawn into the investigation, Inspector McLean finds himself torn between a worrying trend of violent drug-related deaths and uncovering what truly connects these bodies. When a third body is discovered, and too close for comfort, he begins to suspect dark purpose at play – and that whoever put them there is far from finished. Published by Wildfire, this will be out on 17th February

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THE AUTOMOBILE ASSASSINATION by MJ Porter

I read, reviewed –  and thoroughly enjoyed – the first book in this series, The Custard Corpses, and so I was delighted to see that Chief Inspector Mason of Birmingham’s Erdington Police is once more prevailed upon to solve a seemingly impossible case. Called to the local mortuary where a man’s body lies, shockingly bent double and lacking any form of identification, Mason and his assistant O’Rourke find themselves at Castle Bromwich aerodrome seeking answers that seem out of reach to them. The men and women of the royal air force stationed there are their prime suspects. Or are they? Was the man a spy, killed on the orders of some higher authority, or is the place his body was found irrelevant? And why do none of the men and women at the aerodrome recognise the dead man? From MJ Publishing, this is available now.

ON MY SHELF . . . January 2022

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TS Eliot thought that April was the cruelest month, but I reckon he was wrong. I’ll go for January, every time. The joys of Christmas are reduced to a few deflated plastic Santas, only the last dregs of that litre bottle of Baileys remain and – for some – a reckoning with a credit card provider awaits. Yes, the days are getting longer, by tiny increments, but the metaphorical rebirth that Spring brings seems an age away. Thank God, then, for books. I am grateful to publishers and publicists for these arrivals:

THE LENSKY CONNECTION by Conrad Delacroix

This political thriller is set in the uncertain days of post communist Russia, when the old certainties – grim as they were – were being replaced by a power struggle between oligarchs, gangsters, and those who hedged their bets as to which new power group was most likely to succeed. Major Valery Grosky is a Federal Security Bureau officer fighting organised crime, but when he is pulled off normal duties to build a case against one of the oligarchs, he finds links that run between the most powerful politicians in both Russia and America. This dangerous knowledge plunges Grosky into a fight to save not only his career – but his life. The Lensky Connection is published by Matador, and is available now.

HIVE by April Doyle

There can’t be too many books where bees are the main characters. I seem to remember that in A Slight Trick of The Mind, a Sherlock Holmes homage from Mitch Culln, bees played a pivotal part, but this novel is centred on a criminal conspiracy involving the death of bee colonies and the attempts of a research entomologist Dr Annie Abrams to prevent an ecological disaster. To enter a prize draw to win a copy of the book, go to April Doyle’s Twitter page which is @aprilcdoyle. This will be out on 28th January and is published by The Book Guild.

THE DIGNITY OF SILENCE by June Felton

This book begins in the turmoil of Prague in 1942, where the every breath taken and every move made by the Czech people are controlled by their Nazi masters.  Ernst – and his daughter – have managed to escape to London, but the ensuing years only enhance the sense of guilt he feels, and when he finally returns to the city of his youth, old grievances and bitter memories threaten his sense of himself, and what he once was. Also published by The Book Guild, The Dignity of Silence is out now.

ONE STEP TOO FAR by Lisa Gardner

Sometimes, being a book reviewer feels like wading through a fierce, tugging torrent of flood water. Make a wrong step, and you are done for. Fortunately, there are some authors who provide rock-solid and reliable stepping stones, and Lisa Gardner is one such. Her latest novel is the second in the Frankie Elkin series, following on from Before She Disappeared. You can read my review of that here, but now Frankie returns to discover the truth about a young man who disappeared years ago during a stag weekend. As Frankie and the missing man’s friends try to retrace his steps, they are unaware that they are heading into deep trouble.  This is a Penguin book, and will be published on 20th January. (The cover image is the proof copy)

A FATAL CROSSING by Tom Hindle

This debut novel is set on a transatlantic liner travelling to New York in 1924.  The Endeavour has 2,000 passengers – and a killer – on board, as well as James Temple, a dtermined Scotland Yard inspector. When an elderly gentleman is found dead at the foot of a staircase, ship’s officer Timothy Birch is ready to declare it a tragic accident. But Temple is certain there is more to this misfortune than meets the eye. This is a must for those who like period CriFi and locked room – albeit of a nautical kind – mysteries. Published by Penguin, A Fatal Crossing will be on the shelves from 20th January. Originally from Leeds, Tom Hindle now lives in Oxfordshire, where he lives with his fiancée. He is Inspired by masters of the crime genre, from Agatha Christie to Anthony Horowitz.

CITY OF THE DEAD by Jonathan Kellerman

I don’t know why I should term this “a confession”, but I absolutely love the Alex Delaware/Milo Sturgis novels. More erudite reviewers than I might scoff and summon up metaphors of comfortable slippers and cardigans, but they can go forth and multiply. Yes, there is a formula. Yes there are a several well-worn-grooves, like Milo’s gayness, his gluttony, Alex Delaware’s girfriend’s luthier skills, and the ever-present bloody dog, but the books are superbly written, and Kellerman deserves all the success that comes his way. Here, a corpse discovered almost by accident in a wealthy LA suburb proves to be a professional colleague of Alex, and the case takes on a disturbing – and deeply dangerous aspect. This is also from Penguin, but you will have to wait until 17th February to get your hands on a copy.

AND ON MY KINDLE

TBC KIndleA new book from Chris Nickson is always a joy, even if the times and circumstances he writes about are seldom a cause for celebration. His cerebral connection with the downtrodden and exploited people who once walked the streets of his native Leeds is almost tangible, and here his words burn white hot as his Georgian thief taker – Simon Westow – becomes involved in several cases at once. He is determined to avenge two boys brutalised in a local mill, while also trying to solve the mystery of a corpse dragged from the local river, throat cut and minus a hand. All this while unwillingly coming to the attention of one of the richest – and most dangerous men in the city. Expect another star turn from the enigmatic – but deadly – assassin known only as Jane, as a ghost from her past threatens to disturb her fragile equilibrium. The Blood Covenant is from Severn House and is available now. Regular visitors to Fully Booked will know I am a great admirer of Chris Nickson. My thoughts on his books are here.

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