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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.

ON MY SHELF . . . April 2021

The book deliveries have been pretty healthy lately so, helped by a few successful fishing expeditions on Netgalley, my TBR pile is looking good.

DOWN IN THE COUNTRY by James Bowring
Book Guild Publishing 28th April

When a couple return to their home in rural England from their holiday in Italy (remember when we could do that?) their welcome home present is a dead body – a woman,strangled – in their garden. The local senior police officer has been badly injured in an accident, and Acting Inspector Beauregard is the man who has to step up and investigate the murder. Unfortunately, Beauregard is soon overwhelmed by the case. Help is at hand, however. A nearby luxury hotel is run by a former policeman, ex Detective Inspector Clive Walsingham. Walsingham is finding the relative sanity, safety and security of civilian life something of a bind, and he leaps at the chance to help Beauregard solve the  crime. The dead woman, however, had “something of a past”, and was connected to a notoriously crooked local businessman. When the case is further complicated by the disappearance of the daughter of a local aristocrat, Walsingham has to use every ounce of his experience to bring the case to a close.

PATHFINDERS by Cecil Lewis
Imperial War Museum 20th May

Lewis was one of the band of brothers who served with distinction in both world wars. He joined the Royal Flying Corps in 1915, after lying about his age and learned to fly at Brooklands. In 1916, he flew with No. 3 Squadron and was awarded the MC for his actions during the Battle of the Somme. Flying over the battlefield on 1st July 1916 to report on British troop movements, he witnessed the blowing of the mines at La Boiselle. He later described the early morning scene in his book “Sagittarius Rising”. Pathfinders focuses on just one night in 1942, when each member of the crew of a Wellington bomber prepares for a raid in his own way, with his own hopes and fears.

SUMMON UP THE BLOOD by RN Morris
Severn House 22nd April

I have become a firm fan of RN Morris’s likeably eccentric London copper, Detective Silas Quinn. Click this link to read my reviews of a couple of earlier novels in the series. We are, as before, in that fateful year 1914, but it is March; the events  of June in far-off Serbia were still months away, and that last long Edwardian summer of innocence was yet to begin, but in London, however, there is a bizarre precursor of the ensuing bloodshed – except there is no blood. A killer is claiming victims in the dark alleys and byways of the city – and each corpse is found to have been completely exsanguinated. Quinn, considered something of an oddball by most of his colleagues, is in charge of Scotland Yard’s Special Crimes Department, and if ever there were a case that called for Quinn’s peculiar skill-set, it is this one.

BLACKSTOKE by Rob Parker
Red Dog Press out now

Parker is a gifted writer who injects energy and vitality into every paragraph he writes. He has an ongoing series of action thrillers (see below), but he obviously enjoys exploring the darker divisions between the world we inhabit and the nameless beings of the supernatural world. Blackstoke is a high-end housing development, but the land on which it has been built has a history all of its own, and is not a happy one. As the eager new owners move into their luxury homes, ancient and bloodstained memories, thought to be safely buried, begin to stir, and a nightmare becomes a reality for terrified families.

THE WATCHMAN by Rob Parker
Lume Books 24th June

Ben Bracken is an ex-special forces operative who has done jail time for a crime he didn’t commit, has escaped from prison, and has lived a precarious life of aliases, assumed identities – and forever looking over his shoulder. Like all the best action heroes who try to avoid trouble, it usually finds him. The previous Ben Bracken books (click here for reviews of a couple) have been firmly rooted on home soil, but now Ben – newly settled down to family life –  decides to do a favour for an old military chum, and this takes him across the Atlantic to New York, where all he has to do is to collect an envelope from someone in Central Park. Big mistake, Mr Bracken. Pursued by the FBI, the CIA – not to mention The Mob – Ben’s little overseas jolly turns into a fight for survival.

SWORD OF BONE by Anthony Rhodes
Imperial War Museum 20th May

The author served in the British Army during World War II and was involved with retreat of the British Army from Dunkirk. Sword of Bone is his account of the evacuation, in a style that reminded reviewers of Evelyn Waugh’s Sword of Honour trilogy in its account of the minutiae of military life. After being promoted to captain he lectured in Canada and the United States, where he met and married a niece of Gustav Mahler. The marriage was short-lived and led to a nervous breakdown. He was invalided out of the Army in 1945. Dunkirk is a potent word, and is often evoked to conjure up images of pluck, resolution and indomitable spirit, but it was also a significant military defeat, with the BEF out manoeuvred by the German army.

FALSE TRUTH by CD Steele
Book Guild Publishing 28th April

CD Steele’s debut thriller introduces us to former MI6 agent – and now private investigator – Joe Wilde. As he investigated the disappearance of a young and promising football star, his path crosses that of DI Carl Whatmore of the Met Police. As is ever the case when PIs and regular coppers meet, sparks fly, at least initially. The young footballer – Liam Devlin – seemed to have led a blameless life, but with the help of old MI6 buddy Mark Thompson, Wilde turns over a few stones, and what they see scuttling about spells problems for the investigators, the police – and Devlin’s worried mother Sally.

ON MY SHELF . . . Gardner, Grisham, Macmillan and Perry

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OUTBREAK by Frank Gardner

OutbreakFrank Gardner’s life has been like a thriller in itself. The former army officer had a glittering career in broadcast journalism until he narrowly escaped death at the hands of al-Quaida gunmen in Saudi Arabia. After numerous operations, he resumed his career withe BBC, albeit confined to a wheelchair. This is his third novel, coming after Crisis (2016) and Ultimatum (2018), and again features MI6 operative Luke Carlton. Carlton has his most desperate case yet, as he tries to get to the bottom of a terrifying contagion that seems to have its source in a desolate research station in the Arctic Circle. Outbreak is out in hardback on 27th May, and is published by Bantam Press.

THE FIRM by John Grisham

Firm019The author’s work has pretty much become the industry standard for legal thrillers, and this edition is the latest reprint of the book that made his name, way back in 1991. The cover looks like that of the 25th anniversary edition (2016) but with a different colour filter on the cover illustration. The novel tells the tale of a brilliant Harvard educated lawyer, Mitch McDeere, whose first job is a dream come true – especially with an astonishing salary, a new home, and keys to a gleaming new BMW. When he realises that Bendini, Lambert & Locke are little more than a front for the Mafia, he realises he is in deep, deep trouble. This will be available as an Arrow paperback on 1st April.

TO TELL YOU THE TRUTH by Gilly Macmillan

TTYTTLucy Harper is a best-selling writer of thrillers, whose talent for macabre invention and stunning plot-twists has earned her a small fortune and tens of thousands of devoted fans. What few of these readers know, however, is that when Lucy was just nine years old – thirty years ago – her brother mysteriously disappeared, and she was the only witness. The case was never solved, but now her husband Dan has also disappeared. What does Lucy know? Is this collision of past and present just a coincidence, or is there something more sinister going on? To Tell You The Truth came out in hardback in June 2020, but this paperback edition will be on sale (Arrow books) from 13th May.

THE HERETIC’S MARK by SW Perry

HereticsThe Nicholas Shelby books – known as  the Jackdaw Mysteries, after a London tavern –  are great fun, and rich in period drama and detail. Nicholas Shelby is a somewhat unorthodox physician in Elizabethan England, and he has dealings – somewhat reluctantly – with the Queen’s spymaster Robert Cecil. Here, Gloriana’s personal doctor has been executed for treason. Shelby and his wife Bianca are caught up in the wave of suspicion and conspiracy which follows, and are forced to flee to Italy before their necks are also on the axeman’s block. I have reviewed – and thoroughly enjoyed – earlier books in this excellent series, so click here for more detail.This latest ‘Mark’ will be available from 1st April, and is published by Corvus.

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THE POSTMAN DELIVERS . . . A thing of beauty

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ch011Yes, my reviews always carry the banner  ‘between the covers‘ and, at the end of the day, it’s the written content which counts. Carefully worked covers are part of the package for me, though. Of course we have to live with – and work with – digital editions, and they have their moments. They’re cheaper and in some ways more convenient, but a physical book, decently printed and bound is for many of us the nonpareil. The cover designs for – to name just a few – books by Christopher Fowler, John Connolly, Jim Kelly and Stacey Halls always add to the experience, and now Penguin have done something rather marvellous and secured images by Romare Bearden to grace their new editions of the superb Coffin Ed Johnson and Gravedigger Jones novels by Chester Himes.

Bearden (September 2, 1911 – March 12, 1988) was an artist of many talents who, as well as being a semi-professional baseball player, also composed music. He served with the American army during WW2, but it is his pioneering work with collage that has attracted the editors at Penguin. The  cover of A Rage In Harlem is Summertime 1967, which is owned by The Saint Louis Art Museum. They say:

“This work….. which belongs to a small number of large-scale collages he created in the 1960s, exemplifies the artist’s commitment to the African-American experience. A woman eats an ice-cream cone in front of a brownstone, a man sits on a chair, and two oversized faces peer from behind window shades. The ice cream and open windows evoke the summer’s heat. The woman’s pose suggests a singer holding a microphone, and the title summons Cole Porter’s lyric that “the living is easy.”

Enjoy the artwork, and look out for my review of A Rage In Harlem coming up soon.

THE POSTMAN DELIVERS . . . Katz, Perks & Spain

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I haven’t done a ‘Postman Delivers’ feature for ages, mainly because during our annus horibilis of 2020, books have come in dribs and drabs. Maybe today’s “thump, thump, thump” of books hitting the doormat are a sign of better things to come, in all sorts of ways. Let’s hope so.

A GOOD MAN by Ani Katz

A Good Man023Fans of dark domestic drama should love this. The ‘good man’ in question is Thomas Martin. He was the perfect family man, husband, father son and brother. He had a dream job and a lovely home. But when disaster strikes, and dreadful suffering is inflicted on those he loves, he is forced to conduct the most forensic examination of his own personality, motivation and actions. Ani Katz is a writer, photographer and teacher. She was born and raised on the south shore of Long Island, and holds a MFA in photography from Columbia College, Chicago, and a BA from Yale. She lives in Brooklyn. A Good Man is published by Windmill/Penguin Random House. It came out in hardback in January last year and the paperback will be out on 11th February.

THE WHISPERS by Heidi Perks

The Whispers025I reviewed – and loved – an earlier Heidi Perks novel back in 2019, when Come Back For Me was published. Her latest novel tells the story of Anna Robinson, a woman with the perfect family, and everything in the world going for her. One night she goes out to have some fun with four old friends. And never returns. Why would she do this? What has happened to her? Are the rumours at school gates true?

Heidi Perks lives by the sea in Bournemouth with her husband and two children.She graduated from Bournemouth University with a BA (Hons) in Retail Management, and then enjoyed a career in Marketing before leaving in 2012 to focus on both bringing up her family and writing. The Whispers is published by Cornerstone Digital/Century and will be available from 18th March as a KIndle, and 15th April in paperback and hardback.

THE PERFECT LIE by Jo Spain

Perfect Lie024Jo Spain is, in my opinion, one of the most gifted writers we have. She is based in Dublin, and not content with creating a hugely popular police procedural series featuring Detective Tom Reynolds, she writes scripts and screenplays for television and cinema, and also managed to write superb standalone thrillers. The Perfect Lie belongs to the latter category, but moves the action from Ireland to America’s east coast. Erin Kennedy lives in Newport, Long Island with her detective husband Danny. Her idyllic life turns into a nightmare when he jumps to his death from their fourth-floor apartment.

In the traumatic months that follow his death, Erin learns that Danny was not the ‘regular guy’ everyone thought he was. If those revelations weren’t bad enough, she is then arrested and charged with his murder. Her previous life has morphed into something spectacularly dreadful – The Perfect Lie. Click this link to learn more about Jo Spain and her books.The Perfect Lie is published by Quercus and will be available in all formats from 13th May.

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