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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.

DOUBLE AGENT . . . In brief

DA 1Political journalist, TV news presenter – and novelist – Tom Bradby is as close to the centre of British international relations as it is possible to get without signing The Official Secrets Act. His first novel, Shadow Dancer, was published in 1998, and now his eighth book – Double Agent – which came out in hardback earlier this year, is available from 7th January in paperback.

The central character in this spy thriller is MI6 agent Kate Henderson, and fans of Bradby’s work will know her from Secret Service, which came out in 2019. Then, as now, the villains of the piece are the Russians – and those in the West who share the Russian ideology behind a mask which allows them to operate at the very centre of the British establishment.

51UTZczpwoL._SX324_BO1,204,203,200_If this has an echo of the late and much-lamented David John Moore Cornwell, better known to us as John le Carré, then so be it. Bradby carries the torch for a younger generation of novelists who are intrigued by the complex relationship between the Russian soul and the British mind. In Double Agent, Kate Henderson becomes the reluctant keeper of a terrible secret – the British Prime Minister is working for the Kremlin.

How she handles this potentially deadly information makes for a riveting read for anyone who likes political thrillers. Double Agent is published by Corgi/Penguin, and is available here, and from all good bookshops. Fans of Kate Henderson will be pleased to know that a third book in this series – Triple Cross – will be out in May this year.

THE POSTMAN DELIVERS . . . People of Abandoned Character

There is no single real-life criminal event in history which has captured the imagination of readers, writers, historians and criminologists like the gory saga of the Whitechapel Murders. The word ‘enthusiast’ seems inappropriate to describe someone drawn to the butchering of five women in that dreadful autumn of 1888. How can someone be ‘enthusiastic’ about such carnage? Ripperologist doesn’t work, either, as it seems to conjure up images of a harmless hobby like stamp collecting or fossil hunting.

POAC001There have been countless non-fiction books written on the subject, some providing solutions, but none conclusive. Several fictional detectives have gone head-to-head with The Ripper, and if you click this link, you can read a piece I wrote about the genre. Most recently, Hallie Rubenhold’s book The Five sought to transform the murdered women from mere corpses to real people.

Now, first-time author Clare Whitfield enters the lists with People Of Abandoned Characters, which centres on a  woman who begins to suspect that her new husband, a doctor, may be involved with the unfolding horror of the Whitechapel murders. Do his absences really coincide with the grisly discoveries of the murdered women, or is she putting two and two together and making five?

The advanced publicity says that People Of Abandoned Character:

“… explores the smoke and mirrors of perceived social mobility, the role of wealthy society and the responsibility to the poor (or not as it may be the case), toxic relationships and narcissistic abuse, gender equality and freedom to pursue personal ambition.”

The printed book looks and feels absolutely gorgeous, and I hope the story lives up to the advanced publicity. It is published by Head Of Zeus and will be out on 1st October. Watch this space for the detailed review.

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ON MY SHELF . . . August 2020

OMS headerIt looks as though the bastards at WordPress have done their worst, and inflicted the ‘new improved’ system on us. Bastards. I rarely swear in print, but this time I have a good excuse.The good news, however, is that I have some lovely new books in my shelf. Full reviews will follow in due course, but here’s a little introduction to each.

A PRIVATE CATHEDRAL by James Lee Burke

The great man is knocking on 84 years old, but he has lost none of his creative drive. Dave Robicheaux and his explosive buddy Cloetus Purcel are back in A Private Cathedral, another dose of Southern Noir for addicts like myself. It seems that Dave, long prone to seeing visions of dead Confederate soldiers, is about to enter an even more terrifying supernatural world, as he tries to dampen down a violent feud between two Louisiana crime families – and combat an adversary who is not constrained by normal human bounds. A Private Cathedral is out now, from Simon & Schuster.

GATHERING DARK by Candice Fox

Last year I reviewed Gone By Midnight by the Australian writer Candice Fox, and I was very impressed. Now, she crosses the ocean to Los Angeles and introduces us to two strong women – Detective Jessica Sanchez and Blair Harbour, a former top surgeon jailed for a murder she didn’t commit, and now caught up in a vendetta which involves crooked cops and senior gangland figures. The Kindle for Gathering Dark came out in March this year, the paperback is due on 3rd September, but hardback fans will have to wait until next year for a copy. Publishers are, respectively, Cornerstone Digital, Arrow, and Forge.

AND THE SEA DARKENED by Vicki Lloyd

It sounds as if we have a touch of the Agathas here – a remote island, a storm closing in, an intractable and violent sea and – of course – a relentless killer on the loose. Throw into the mix an outside world bitterly split by false news and tribalism, and brothers Magnus and Nick, habitually at each other’s throats, are at first captivated by the arrival of a young academic called Jasmin, but then her presence threatens to turn a bleak situation into a catastrophe. And The Sea Darkened is published by Book Guild and is out on 28th August.

STILL LIFE by Val McDermid

A new book by the most celebrated supporter of Raith Rovers is always an event. 2019 saw the latest episode in the troubled saga of Tony Hill and Carol Jordan, How The Dead Speak, but now we have a book featuring another long-term favourite, DCI Karen Pirie. A body washed up on a bleak shore by fishermen spells the beginning of a traumatic investigation in which Pirie must confront a legacy of secrets, conspiracy and betrayal involving some very high profile names. Still Life is published by Little, Brown in Kindle and hardback on 20th August, and a paperback is due next year.

ON MY SHELF . . . July 2002

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CHAOS by AD Swanston

Dr Christopher Radcliff is an ‘Intelligencer’ for the security services of Queen Elizabeth 1st. Despite the bitter winter weather of 1574, the threats of Catholic plots and rumours of a Spanish invasion are producing a political fever which has nothing to do with the temperature on the streets of London. Radcliff and his agents must use all the wiles of their devious trade to combat a threat against the Queen herself. Bantam Press, 20th August.

KILLING IN YOUR NAME by Gary Donnelly

I was hugely impressed with Donnelly’s debut police thriller Blood Will Be Born (click for review) and now London copper DI Owen Sheen tackles the second case of his secondment to the Police Service of Northern Ireland. As before, the misdeeds and brutality of The Troubles are never far away as Sheen and his colleague DC Aoife McCusker search for justice for an unnamed boy whose body has been found in bogland. Alison & Busby (Kindle) 20th August

A PHILOSOPHCAL INVESTIGATION by Philip Kerr

Kerr’s untimely death has been ameliorated, at least in a literary sense, by the republication of some of his earlier stand-alone novels. This novel, first published in 1993, looks forward to 2013 and we are in a London terrorised by a serial killer who uses algorithms to identify potential violent criminals, and then executes them – even if they have not yet committed the predicted misdemeanours. Quercus, out now.

KEEP HER QUIET by Emma Curtis

A must for fans of domestic angst and tortured family life, Keep Her Quiet tells the story of an adored new born baby, a cheated husband and another young mother whose baby has died at her side. Guilt, grief, secrets and betrayal fester for years until pay-back time turns their world upside down. Black Swan, Kindle 6th August, PB 17th September.

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THE POSTMAN DELIVERS . . . Riviera Gold

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I haven’t written one of my The Postman Delivers features for a while – because he hasn’t! I don’t know about other reviewers, but while my Kindle is pretty much bursting at the seams, print copies have been like hens’ teeth since The Great Lockdown began back in March.

But today a real book arrived, reassuringly solid, with a beautifully designed cover and actual pages to turn. The Mary Russell series, written by Laurie R. King, is apparently a big seller in the States, but although this is the sixteenth, the books have passed me by up until today.

It is 1925, and we are in the exotic and sun-soaked French Riviera and amateur detective Mary Russell is teamed up with the man himself, none other than Sherlock Holmes who must be fairly elderly by now!

What the pair get up to is, for now, a mystery, but I have bumped it to the top of my (mostly digital) TBR pile and when I have discovered what is going on, you will be the first to know.

Riviera Gold is published by Allison & Busby, and is out now.

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THE POSTMAN DELIVERS . . . Making Wolf

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I don’t know how other reviewers are getting on, but here in the Fens the lock-down in publicity departments has meant that the normal flow of printed ARCs has shrivelled. I know of several launch dates that have been postponed until happier times, so I was especially pleased to receive an actual printed book this week.

Making Wolf by Tade Thompson tells the tale of a London supermarket security bloke who travels to his former home in West Africa to attend a funeral. As the beer flows and he meets old friends, Weston Kogi can’t resist egging the pudding a little by telling his mates that he is a murder detective in far-off London.

His little charade explodes in his face, however, when he becomes involved in a bloody feud between two political factions, and made to investigate a real life killing.

Making Wolf is published by Constable, and will be out on 7th May. I will be reading the book soon, and writing a full review.

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