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Anne Youngson

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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TRANSWORLD TAKES ON THE WORLD

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Larry FinlayI was lucky enough to be invited to the distinctly upmarket Charlotte Street Hotel in London’s Fitzrovia, as a guest of Transworld for their evening showcasing what they hope will be their best-sellers for 2018. Managing Director Larry Finlay (left) took the stage first, and showed his perfectly justifiable pride in how the group’s editors had managed to pick some astonishingly successful novels over the last few years. Judging what readers might want to read months – if not years –  ahead, taking a punt on the talent of someone as yet unknown to book fans, and then backing your judgment with publicity and marketing; these are the skills by which publishers stand or fall, and  Larry and his team at Transworld seem to be getting the hard bits right.

Journalist, editor and host of The Vintage podcast, Alex Clark, then invited the featured authors to join her on-stage. Ruth Jones is no stranger to the world of entertainment. Television viewers will know her as writer and co-star of Gavin and Stacey, and her compelling portrayal of Hattie Jacques in Hattie. Her debut novel, Never Greener is all about the dangers of taking second chances in life. Referring to the grass implied by the title, she says,”It’s still grass. Just a different patch of it, that’s all.” As to her writing, she says that she falls in love with her characters, and relishes the fact that this work doesn’t require the make-up trolley. Her tip? Always make a note of every experience, no matter how inconsequential – you never know when it will come in handy.

Ruth

Karen Cleveland had the furthest to travel for the event – a little matter of 4,000 miles or so – from her home in Virginia. Avid readers of espionage thrillers will be well aware of the principle employers in the town of Langley, Virginia – none other than the staple ingredient of most international conspiracy novels, The Central Intelligence Agency. Karen actually spent years behind The Agency’s high security gates, working as an analyst and specialising in identifying potential foul play from Russia. It’s no surprise then, that her debut novel Need To Know describes a young mother and CIA analyst digitally searching files in hopes of unmasking a Russian sleeper cell in the US, but then making a shocking discovery that threatens her job, her family and her life. Karen’s tip for tyro authors – fit in your writing in any time you can, no matter what other balls you have in the air at the same time.

Karen

Anne Youngson is one of my generation – she has reached her biblical allowance of three score and ten – but she is living proof that it is never to late to write a debut novel. Unsurprisingly, Meet Me at the Museum features two people with more of their lives behind them than ahead. Anne has a formidable CV away from her writing; she worked for Land Rover, as Chief Engineer, Defender replacement and, finally, MD of the Special Vehicle Operations. Her two fictional protagonists make an unexpected connection through a love of ancient history, personal treasures, and nature. Anne’s writing tip is simple, but powerful – the more you write, the better you get.

Anne

There is nothing more intriguing than other people’s houses. A bourgeois  obsession, maybe, but one to which many of us, given the thumbscrew treatment, would reluctantly admit. Rebecca Fleet’s debut novel makes the most of the darker side of the swap. A failing marriage, a  mutual loss of faith, no future except one in which personal conflicts guarantee to destroy love; Caroline and Francis hope that new surroundings will provide a jump start to their stalled relationship. Marrying domestic noir with the psychological drama, The House Swap is guaranteed to chill and thrill in equal measure. Rebecca was happy to quote Samuel Johnson as her writing tip.

A man may write at any time if he will set himself doggedly to it.”

Rebecca

Simon Mayo is a widely respected radio presenter. His weekly good-natured sparring with Mark Kermode on Friday afternoons on BBC Radio Five Live are not to be missed. But Mayo the writer? I have to put my hand up and say that I was unaware of his popular young adult fiction. My excuse is that I am certainly not young, and my detractors will query my being described as adult. However, Simon Mayo’s forthcoming debut in adult fiction sounds fascinating. The Anglo-American conflict of 1812 is one of history’s forgotten episodes, but as well as The White House being torched by British troops, many Americans were taken prisoner and shipped back to Britain, where they were incarcerated within the iconically grim granite walls of Dartmoor Prison. The Shakespearean title of Mayo’s novel is Mad Blood Stirring (Romeo and Juliet) and it tells the story of the violent consequences that followed the segregation of black and white prisoners in Dartmoor. Mayo offers this advice to aspiring novelists. (1) Write to find out, (2) Never be intimidated – if you have an idea that you believe in, stick with it, hold on to it, and to hell with the detractors.

Simon

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