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Allison & Busby

THE POSTMAN DELIVERS … Knight & Scragg

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OH….SEPTEMBER … Such a cause for melancholy. Even though it is six years since the end of August, for me, meant one terrible truth. The days ahead would mean a return to work. A return to the classroom.  A return to hour upon hour of dreadful, pointless and unproductive staff meetings. A return to the sight of six hundred – well maybe twenty or thirty – shining young faces turned in my direction, desperate to hear my wise words, to share my hard-earned wisdom, to rejoice in a mutual love of learning. (Spot the bare-faced lie or three)

OH….SEPTEMBER … even though I am retired your first dawns still bring a little shiver of fear, but then I roll over in bed, hug my Teddy, and lapse into a smug sleep, safe in the knowledge that I am no longer responsible for shaping the lives of Britain’s future leaders, scientists, composers, authors and philosophers. Nor the lives of apprentice muggers, drug dealers, drunk drivers, sex pests, wife beaters and Jeremy Kyle guests.

OH….SEPTEMBER … thank you for new books, new plots, new writers and the prospect of afternoons spent feet up on the sofa, worlds away from the beige mundanities of small town Cambridgeshire, transported to the world of murder, deception, intrigue and violence. New books, then.

KNIGHTSCRAGGS2Renée Knight worked for the BBC directing arts documentaries before beginning her writing career. She has written television and film scripts for the BBC, Channel Four and Capital Films. Her first screenplay, Mother’s Day, made it onto the 2010 Brit List of best unproduced scripts of that year.

Her first novel, Disclaimer, was published by Transworld in 2015, and she is currently adapting for the screen for Fox Searchlight. Renée lives in London with her husband and two children.

Her new novel, The Secretary, is a psychological thriller based around the concept of someone who is largely ignored and taken for granted, but is always there listening, making mental notes of indiscretions, weaknesses and fallibility. What if that someone, Christine Butcher for example, is pushed to her limit and needs to strike out? Her knowledge and little book of secrets may well prove to be fatally powerful. The Secretary is published by Doubleday, and will be out in early 2019.

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KNIGHTSCRAGGS2What Falls Between The Cracks is the first published novel from Robert Scragg.He is a northerner born and bred, and has had a random mix of jobs to date, including bookseller, pizza deliverer, Karate instructor, and Football Coach. He originally intended to join the legal profession, but after getting his degree, ended up with a job in Telecoms.

Writing was something he hadn’t done much of since he left school, until around seven years ago when an idea for a book popped up that he found too interesting to ignore, and his lead character, Jake Porter, plus his partner Nick Styles started to nag him to write it. His first novel, What Falls Between the Cracks, is the first in the Porter & Styles series. It was pitched during the 2016 Theakston’s Crime Festival at the “Dragon’s Pen”, to a panel of agents and editors, managing to get four ‘yes’ votes, and has since been picked up by Allison & Busby. It was released in hardback and e-book on 19th April 2018, and the paperback follows on 20th September.

Robert lives in Tyne & Wear, with his wife, children and dog. Away from work and writing, he’s a long-suffering follower of Newcastle United, fan of all things martial arts, scuba diving and mountain climbing, and self-confessed crime fiction junkie. His favourites in the genre include Harlan Coben, Robert Crais, Linwood Barclay, Lee Child, Michael Connelly, Sarah Hilary, Mari Hannah, Mark Billingham and Howard Linskey to name but a few.

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UNLEASHED … Between the covers

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Matt Hunter was once a man of God. Now he is a man of gods. The beliefs that led him to ordination and the ministry of the church have, like Prospero’s insubstantial pageant,

“ .. melted into air, into thin air:
And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp’d towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind.

“Not a rack behind…”? Not strictly true. His former faith has left a bequest in the form of an encyclopaedic knowledge of religious symbols, liturgies both sacred and profane, and profound knowledge of different theologies across the world. The former Reverend Hunter is now Professor Hunter, and he lectures in the Sociology of Religion. He also acts as unpaid advisor to the police in cases where there seems to be a supernatural element.

UnleashedIf the South London suburb of Menham could be described as unremarkable, then we might call the down-at-heel terraced houses of Barley Street positively nondescript. Except, that is, for number 29. For a while, the home of Mary Wasson and her daughters became as notorious as 112 Ocean Avenue, Amityville. But the British tabloid press being what it is, there are always new horrors, fresh outrages and riper scandals, and so the focus moved on. The facts, however, were this. After a spell of unexplained poltergeist phenomena turned the house (almost literally) upside down, the body of nine year-old Holly Wasson was found – by her older sister Rachel – hanging from a beam in her bedroom.

Now, years later, Menham hits the headlines again. At an otherwise uneventful open evening for future parents of a local primary school, events take a tragic and horrific turn. A much loved music teacher is found dead in her own store cupboard, the life ripped out of her, apparently by her own pet dog. The dog, crazed and covered in blood, is battered to death by panic-stricken dads who, expecting a recorder ensemble, are instead treated to a scene more suited to the hellish imagination of Hieronymus Bosch.

The local police are totally unable to make any sense of the carnage in the classroom and are puzzled by several pieces of evidence which seem to indicate a supernatural – or at least Satanic – element to the death of Steph Ellis. Investigating officer DS Larry Forbes enlists the help of Matt Hunter, who soon discovers a sinister collection of potential ‘persons of interest’, including a pair of self-styled demonologists and a troubled – and troubling – evangelical sect. For good measure we have a dark history of child abuse carried out in old air-raid shelters far beneath the local park, and a terrifying witch’s familiar straight from the pages of a seventeenth century grimoire.

LawsLaws (right) takes a leaf out of the book of the master of atmospheric and haunted landscapes, M R James. The drab suburban topography of Menham comes alive with all manner of dark interventions; we jump as a wayward tree branch scrapes like a dead hand across a gazebo roof; we recoil in fear as a white muslin curtain forms itself into something unspeakable; dead things scuttle and scrabble about in dark corners while, in our peripheral vision, shapes form themselves into dreadful spectres. When we turn our heads, however, there is nothing there but our own imagination.

Unleashed is terrific entertainment. Laws lays on the shocks thick and fast, but never loses sight of the fact that he is writing a well-plotted crime story. We certainly have victims but, in the end, we also have flesh and blood criminals. Unleashed is out now, and you can read a review of the first Matt Hunter novel, Purged, by clicking the blue link.

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ON MY SHELF … 18th November 2016

 

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james-letoileAt What Cost by James L’Etoile
No-one can accuse the author of a lack of experience of the darker paths taken by men and women when they cross the line which separates citizenship from criminality. L’Etoile has worked as prison warden, parole director, hostage negotiator and probation officer. Whatever is foul and dreadful in this world, he has probably seen it at first hand.

Now he has turned to fiction, and his debut novel tells the grim tale of a Sacramento detective – John Penley – who is working on the impossible balancing act between a demanding police career, and being father to a very sick young boy who urgently needs a new kidney. When his latest case involves a killer who eviscerates his victims, that is bad enough. But when the psychopath offers to provide Penley’s son with a new kidney – at a price – the cop is faced with a terrible dilemma. Crooked Lane Books – 13th December

Dead End by Daniel Pascoe
dead-endPascoe is a retired oncologist, and he attracted good reviews of his first novel, The London Sniper, which came out in 2015. He is back in print with the saga of Matthew Crawford, and his traumatic attempt to find a daughter he never knew. Crawford fathered the child when he was still a teenager, but has gone on to lead a relatively normal family life. We pick up his story when he is about to make the traditional father’s speech at the wedding of his other daughter, Annabel. He speaks of his loves and loss, the personal tragedy of the death of his wife, Rachel, and some other family stories of joy, interspersed with the usual jokes

The long-absent Sophie is never far from his mind, however, and as he runs through the expected clichés, he decides to search for his missing child. That decision brings not only danger and disruption to him, but drags his long-lost child into a deadly war between drug dealers and corrupt politicians.
Book Guild Publishing – out now

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Purged by Peter Laws
Laws is a member of a very exclusive club – that of Baptist ministers writing crime fiction with a touch of the supernatural. If he has fellow members who are reading this, please get in touch! We meet Matt Hunter, a cleric who has abandoned the certainties of religious doctrine for the far fluffier world of sociology.

Hardened CriFi buffs will know that there are few places on God’s Earth (other deities are available) more sinister and receptive to the powers of evil than an apparently tranquil English village. So it is that Hunter and his family take what turns to be an ill-advised holiday in the Oxfordshire village of Hobbs Hill. Hidden within the warm Cotswold stone, the thatch and the dreamy, drowsy torpor of rural England, there are several distinctly malevolent entities at work. A local girl disappears without trace, followed by another. Hunter is certain that something much darker than common criminality is at work and, despite police scepticism, he becomes involved in an investigation that will come to threaten his own sanity and the safety of his family. If you are a fan of John Connolly’s Charlie Parker, or Phil Rickman’s Merrily Watkins, this may well be your first ‘must-have’ of 2017. Allison & Busby – 16th February 2017

rwdRendezvous With Death by Gil Hogg
Gil Hogg, although living in the West London district of Fulham, is a New Zealander. His novel Rendezvous With Death is far from a debut, as Hogg’s first novel A Smell of Fraud was published as long ago as 1976. He returns with a story which begins in the explosive atmosphere of present day Pakistan.

Nick Dyson has abandoned his career as a barrister in London to act as personal assistant to a British diplomat – Robert Laidlow –  in Islamabad. What seemed like a smart career move goes dramatically wrong when the diplomat is kidnapped. While the authorities are busy blaming the usual suspects – Islamic extremists – it dawns on Dyson that the criminals may in fact be working for a powerful European businessman with an implacable grudge against Laidlow and his family, and that his own head may be the next to roll.

Rendezvous With Death came out at in Kindle at the end of September and you can take a closer look plus a glimpse of Gil Hogg’s earlier books by visiting his author page. If you fancy a print version, then you can order one from the Troubador home page. Matador/Troubador – out now

Tokyo Nights by Jim Douglas
We are in present day Tokyo, and submerged in the frenetic noise, neon and night-time Nirvana of a city that rarely sleeps. The contrast between the brash and gaudy streets of the Japanese capital and the other-worldly, two-dimensional serenity of the country’s traditional image is probably lost on maverick ex-pat Charlie Davis. He takes a long term view of life – he lives for tomorrow rather than the next two hours, but when he becomes involved with Colin McCann, a reluctant PI hired to look into the death of a wealthy businessman’s daughter, his live-and-let-live philosophy comes under extreme pressure.

Jim Douglas is the pen name of a writing partnership between Jim Hickey and Douglas Forrester. Jim and Doug wrote together in their adopted city of Tokyo where Jim still lives. Doug returned home to Glasgow early in 2016 for medical treatment and to be with his family. He died in September 2016 shortly before the publication of this, his first novel, Hence the poignant dedication at the beginning of the book. Fledgling Press – just out now.

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