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ON MY SHELF . . . November 2022

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An autumn garland of goodness sits on my shelf today. Reading definitely gets easier as the days become shorter – one of the few compensations of winter.

THE FAMILY TREE MYSTERY by Peter Bartram

I love this series set in and around Brighton in the 1960s. The former journalist combines nostalgia, likeable characters, daft jokes, clever references to the politics and social habits of the time, and addictive story lines. In this latest episode the (possibly autobiographical) crime reporter for the Brighton Evening Chronicle – Colin Crampton – and his gorgeous Aussie girlfriend Shirley Goldsmith become entangled in a murder mystery involving a distant relative of Shirley’s, who is found murdered. The Family Tree Mystery is published by The Bartram Partnership, and the paperback is available now.

THE IMPOSTER by Leona Deakin

A welcome return here for Dr Augusta Bloom, a psychologist with a particular skill in solving criminal cases. In this, the fourth in the series, she is on the trail of an elusive serial killer whose victims include a stock-market trader is pushed from a high-rise balcony and falls to his death on the street below, and a member of the Saudi Royal Family, whose decomposing body is discovered in a car. This is published by Penguin and will be out in paperback on 24th November. Previous books in the series can be explored here.

THE SANDRINGHAM MYSTERY by Christina James

Mostly set in the Lincolnshire area known as South Holland, this novel also echoes a real life murder from 2012, when the remains of Latvian teenager Alisa Dmitrijeva was found on the late Queen’s estate near Sandringham. Lincolnshire copper, DI Tim Yates, becomes involved with the murder when the clothes the dead girl was wearing are identified as work-wear from a food processing factory, whose owner – Kevan de Vries – has come to the attention of the police when a pile of forged passports – and some long dead corpses – are found in the cellar of his mansion. This novel came out earlier this year, and is published by Bloodhound Books.

RUN TO GROUND by Stuart Johnstone

Tartan Noir now, with the third book by Stuart Johnstone featuring Edinburgh copper Don Colyear. Colyear has made the transition from his role as a Community Police Sergeant to a new position in Edinburgh’s CID, but the adjustment has not been easy. The workload and paperwork are one thing but being micro-managed by DCI Templeton as well is more than testing. When Colyear’s investigation into a mysterious death spirals into a complicated case centred on a massive consignment of Class A drugs, a double murder and a clash between low-level and professional criminals, his instincts are put to the test. This is from Allison & Busby, and you can get hold of a copy from 17th November.

MURDER UNDER THE TUSCAN SUN by Rachel Rhys

Scottish crime novels are routinely described as ‘gritty’, but the same adjective could never be used to describe this latest novel from Rachel Rhys. We are in post WW2 Italy, in the lush landscape of Tuscany, where the lavish villas are peopled by the rich and glamorous, including an ailing gentleman art-dealer, his dazzling niece, her handsome Fascist husband, their neglected young daughter, the housekeeper who knows everything – and Connie, the English widow working for them. But all is far from well for Connie. At night, she hears hears sinister noises and a terrible wailing inside the walls, and she fears she is losing her grip on reality. If this has whetted your appetite, then I’m afraid you will have to wait until March 2023 to find out more, but I shall be posting a full review of this Penguin publication a little nearer the time.

THE SIX WHO CAME TO DINNER by Anne Youngson

Not hardcore crime fiction, I suspect, but this collection of six linked stories includes: The village cleaning lady who holds everyone’s house-keys opens a boot to find some unexpectedly dead contents; a vengeful dinner party host serves more than just a roast to her six guests; and driven to distraction by his new young wife, a man resorts to two grisly acts, in a gripping re-imagining of a famous Irish ballad. Ripping away the polite façade of small communities, these stories of love, lies and revenge reveal the roiling emotions and frustration that can lead seemingly good people to do bad things. Rich in compassion, pathos and humour, Anne Youngson offers us her dark take on human foibles, pettiness and rivalry in this collection. My copy is a rather elegant and beautifully produced hardback. It is published by Doubleday, and is available now.

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THE POSTMAN DELIVERS . . . Lewis, Parry, Walls & Wilson

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THE SILENT OATH by Michael J Lewis

The Silent Oath is the fourth in The Oath series that depicts life at Blackleigh Public School in the 1950s. Jonathan Simon, 17, is in his fourth year at Blackleigh, but he is self-conscious about his appointment as one of five Prefects in Trafalgar House. Jonathan knows:
(1) The school code of conduct mandates no snitching on anyone.
(2) The student Prefects have absolute power to discipline.
(3) Mr. Phillip Temple the new Headmaster is determined to revise the school admission policy to achieve a more even playing field in education.
The pressure mounts during a school trip to Paris as the school’s Board of Governors as they oppose the new Head. They will stop at nothing to get their way. In his effort to strive to support the Headmaster’s goals, Jonathan will have to overcome far more than an oath of silence executed by his enemies to prevail. This was published by The Book Guild on 7th June.

A CORRUPTION OF BLOOD by Ambrose Parry

Ambrose Parry is the pen name of husband and wife writing team Chris Brookmyre and Marisa Haetzman. Their series of historical crime novels set in 1850s Edinburgh featuring Dr Will Raven and Sarah Fisher began with The Art of Dying. Next came The Way of All Flesh, and this is the paperback version of the third in the series. A package containing human remains is washed up on the shores of Leith, and Raven is dragged into the darker reaches of the city’s underworld. Meanwhile, his former lover Sarah Fisher is trying to make her way in the world of medicine against the determined prejudice of the establishment. This is published by Canongate Books and will be available on 4th August. For a full review of the novel, click this link.

IGOR AND THE TWISTED TALES OF CASTLEMAINE  by Ian J Walls & Richard L Markworth

Not my usual fare, this, but here goes. Following decades of torture at the hands of his cruel master Victor Frankenstein, the once-downtrodden and pathetic Igor finally rises up and walks out on Victor, in the hope of finding a fulfilling life-less-ordinary elsewhere. Instead, something wicked his way came, and Igor finds his way to Castlemaine, an accursed village nestled deep in the Carpathian Mountains, where terrors stalk the waking world and ale is more expensive than in London. Published by Matador, this is available now.

FERAL by Glenis Wilson

When a storm causes a low-flying Cessna to crash in the woods on his sheep farm, it proves a catalyst for Kent Evans and his little daughter, Rachel. Their lives become entangled with three other people: Phillip Lemmingham, air traffic controller, Anan Isooba, the Cessna pilot and Mr Smith, owner of Wild Ark Zoo (and drug dealer). The pilot is trapped in the wreckage and one piece of cargo, a crate carrying an illegally imported black panther, smashes open. The panther escapes. Desperate to save his business, Mr Smith is determined to track down and recapture the panther while also recovering the second secret part of the cargo; a consignment of cocaine. Meanwhile the pilot, unable to move, remains an easy meal for a prowling hungry panther. From The Book Guild, this was published on 7th June.

THE POSTMAN DELIVERS . . . Lisa Jewell & Andrea Mara

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Two examples here of what readers seem to be lapping up at the moment – domestic noir. Definition? Not exclusive or definitive, but these stories regularly feature ostensibly happy and successful families where, very often, a woman in the family is not all she seems to be, or has a dark secret. The background is often well-to-do suburbia, or perhaps the potent recipe for gossip and malice which exists at the school gate where mums meet twice a day engaged on the school run.

THE FAMILY REMAINS by Lisa Jewell

Screen Shot 2022-07-04 at 20.15.14Domestic noir is often notable for the fact that police investigations only play a tiny part in the plots, with the author concentrating mainly on the nasty things that people who live on bland suburban estates do to each other. The latest novel from Lisa Jewell (left) is different, in that one of the central characters is London copper DCI Samuel Owusu, who takes charge of an investigation prompted by the discovery of a bag on human bones washed up on the Thames mud.

Owusu’s investigations lead to a trail of clues, in particular the seeds of a rare tree which lead DCI Owusu back to a mansion in Chelsea where, nearly thirty years previously, three people lay dead in a kitchen, and a baby waited upstairs for someone to pick her up. The Family Remains will be published by Century on 21st July.

HIDE AND SEEK by Andrea Mara

Screen Shot 2022-07-04 at 20.13.51Ask any book reviewer with children – or grandchildren – what is the most painful crime plot they have to read and, if they are anything like me, they will say the trope of missing (presumed murdered) children. Still, it happens all too often in real life, and so it remains a legitimate subject for crime fiction. Dublin writer Andrea Mara (right) takes a stab at this most difficult of subjects in Hide and Seek.

A game of hide and seek has gone tragically wrong, and little Lily Murphy has done the ‘hide’ bit, but the ‘seek’ part is beyond the police and her distraught parents.She cannot be found. Years later, Joanna moves into what was the Murphy family home. What follows is an unsettling chain of apparent coincidences which not only threaten to unravel the mystery of Lily’s disappearance, but cast a shadow over Joanna’s sanity. Hide and Seek will be published by Bantam Press on 4th August.

ON MY SHELF . . . June 2022

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NOBODY’S AGENT by Stuart Field

Stuart Field Author PictureThis thriller is set in Finchley – not Mrs Thatcher’s old baileywick but a fictional (I believe) small town in upstate New York, where three bodies are discovered in an old mine. The local Sheriff is out of his depth, and asks the FBI for help. They persuade a former agent, Ronin Nash to take the case, but he discovers the town has a big secret which powerful people will go to any lengths to protect. The author tells us:

“Born in the West Midlands, Great Britain. Later I joined the armed forces where after 22 years of fun and adventure I left to start as a writer. Married with a daughter I still have not grown up which helps with the imagination. Love to travel and experience other cultures. Love to love life.”

Nobody’s Agent is published by Next Chapter and is available now.

LISTEN TO ME by Tess Gerritsen

Screen Shot 2022-06-10 at 20.48.18Detective Jane Rizzoli and Forensic Pathologist Maura Isles are, I think, crime fiction’s only female duo of investigators. They are certainly the best known, and the Massachusetts pair have a twelve book series (this is the thirteenth) and a popular TV show behind them. Here, they investigate the murder of a much loved nurse, Sofia Suarez, a woman much loved in the community and – seemingly – no enemies. In a parallel plot strand, Jane’s mother Angela is embarking on an investigation of her own, and it is one that will plunge both her and her daughter into danger. Published by Bantam (hardback) this will be out on 7th July.

HAWK MOUNTAIN by Conner Habib

Screen Shot 2022-06-10 at 20.49.28Described as a literary thriller, Hawk Mountain tells the story of a thirty-something man – Todd –  who is accidentally re-united with his high school tormentor. The Jack of old seems to be a reformed character, warm, radiant and sorry for his youthful misdemeanours. But is he? And was the chance reunion accidental at all? Cue a spiral of menace and entrapment which plumbs the very worst parts of the human psyche. Perhaps I don’t get out as much as I should, but I think this is the first thriller written by a former adult movie performer. He says:

“I’m the host of the podcast Against Everyone with Conner Habib, an author, a lecturer, and a sex workers’ rights advocate. I give lectures around the world about sexuality, spirituality, pornography, science, and art.”

Hawk Mountain is a Penguin book and will be out as a Kindle, audiobook and paperback on 21st July.

UNDER THE MARSH by GR Halliday

HallidayI missed From The Shadows, the first book in the DI Monica Kennedy series, but thoroughly enjoyed and reviewed the second, Dark Waters. Now, DI Kennedy returns with a case involving a serial killer – Pauline Tosh – who is jailed for life. When Tosh requests a visit, and hands Kennedy a sketch map of a remote marshy area with crosses marking the last resting places of more victims, the police officer is forced to take it seriously. What ensues creates a nightmare for the police and the relatives of long lost victims. Halliday creates a Scottish highlands which is a far cry from the glorious mountain vistas and the romantic skirl of the pipes. It is a place of dark secrets, bestial human behaviour and a landscape where the very stones are steeped in blood. Under The Marsh is a Vintage publication and will be on sale from 21st July.

THE WILL by Rebecca Reid

Screen Shot 2022-06-10 at 20.51.39‘The Reading of the Will’ used to be a standard trope in crime fiction years ago. Picture the scene, preferably in black and white. The fusty old solicitor addresses the family, gathered in the library of a stately old house. What he announces sets up the plot of the novel/film, and pitches different family members against each other. Rebecca Reid revives this chestnut, and gives it a modern slant, when the family of the recently deceased Cecily Mordaunt gather in Norfolk at Roxborough Hall, each hoping to leave the scene as significant beneficiaries of the old lady. Of course there is disappointment and joy – which will lead to chicanery and revenge. Rebecca Reid is a freelance journalist. She graduated from Royal Holloway’s Creative Writing MA in 2015. She is the author of Perfect Liars, Truth Hurts, Two Wrongs and The Power of Rude. The Will is her latest book, and joins two of the other novels in this post in being published on 21st July.

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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