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Panic Room

PRIZE DRAW . . . Win PANIC ROOM by Robert Goddard

The FULLY BOOKED competitions attract many entrants, and the prizes are always brand new editions of top quality crime novels by the best authors. The most recent winner is Stephen Fraser of Linlithgow, and he has a spellbinding Tom Thorne novel, from Mark Billingham, on its way to him now. The latest book on offer is another cracker. You can read our review of Robert Goddard’s thriller Panic Room by clicking the image below.

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PANIC ROOM . . . Between the covers

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There are some professions that give the noble art of lying a bad name. Politicians, for starters, and then their brothers and sisters in arms, lawyers. Have you ever noticed that both jobs share the same skillset? But I digress. It could be argued that novelists are born liars, but at least we know that what they are telling us never actually happened. But the true monarchs of misinformation, the sovereigns of sophistry and the bards of bullshit are, surely, estate agents (for any American readers, that’s what we call realtors here in Britain.)

Panic RoomDon Challenor is what Monty Python might have called at ex-estate agent. He is no more. He has over-egged his last pudding and hyped up his last hovel. The prestigious London property sellers Mendez Chinnery have, as the saying goes, let him go. He has been, to quote the late lamented Alan Clark, economical with the actualité once too often. He is at that stage of life when it is becoming harder and harder to slip into a new job. Not only is he sans employment, but he is also sans wife. Fran has married again and is still lawyering away, but with a new husband and his children. Challenor is surprised, then, when she makes contact to offer him a cash in hand one-off job. It sounds simple. He is to travel down to Cornwall, assess an executive-style property, and present her with a glowing file which will attract well-heeled buyers like moths to a flame. The house, Wortalleth West, was formerly owned by millionaire businessman Jack Harkness, but it has now been signed over to his former wife as part of a divorce settlement.

Wortalleth West is a futuristic building perched on a promontory overlooking the ocean, but as Challenor goes about his business he notices that within the house, the measurements don’t add up, and he comes to the conclusion that there is a hidden room within the building. Not only that, he has encountered a mysterious young housekeeper who calls herself Blake. Most troubling, however, is the fact that his visit to Cornwall has attracted the attention of a follower, complete with sinister dark glasses and blacked-out four-by-four vehicle.

Challenor had hoped for a breezy few days doing what he does best – romancing about the many virtues of a property and preparing an irresistible package of enhanced photographs and wildly colourful descriptions of its charms. Instead, he realises that Jack Harkness is on the run from the authorities for financial fraud, and deep within Wortalleth West lies a secret which desperate men are prepared to kill for.

Fran has insisted that Challenor send Blake packing, but things are not so simple. Blake has discovered a secret which links the fugitive Harkness to both a young woman who simply disappeared off the face of the earth many years earlier, and a local woman who appears to have supernatural powers.

The tone of the novel gets progressively darker with every page turned. The bland and eternally optimistic Challenor finds himself totally out of his depth in a swirling intrigue of financial fraud, a biochemical time-bomb and international gangsters who are determined to solve the mystery of Wortalleth West’s panic room.

I have read – and very much enjoyed – Robert Goddard’s trilogy (pictured below) set in the turbulent aftermath of The Great War, and featuring former pilot James Maxted, but Panic Room is the first of Goddard’s standalone novels I have come across. It is published by Bantam Books and will be available on 22nd March.

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THE POSTMAN DELIVERS . . . And how!

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Robert_Goddard_author_photographI became a firm fan of Robert Goddard (left) after reading and reviewing his excellent Maxted trilogy, set in the turbulent days after The Great War. The best novelists are, in a way, both gamblers and alchemists. They are never afraid to try something different, to alter the formula, to ‘go for it’ with a fresh set of characters or, in extreme cases like Graham Hurley’s Joe Faraday, kill off the golden goose and incubate a new brood. Due out on 22 March, Goddard’s Panic Room draws us away from the post-Versailles world of James Maxted, and positions us firmly in the modern era. Part political thriller, part psychological drama and part social nightmare, Panic Room deals with the trauma of a young woman escaping those who would do her harm. She takes refuge in a huge empty villa, perched on a wind-buffeted Cornish cliff top. It is vast, and its array of unexplored rooms contains that most modern of social constructs – a panic room. Can Blake find it, and will it be secure enough to save her life?

ParkerRobert Parker is one of CriFi’s ‘bright young things’. His debut novel, A Wanted Man was published in 2017, but hard on the heels of that tale of a released prisoner seeking revenge on his enemies in the violent criminal hinterland of Manchester, he returns with Crook’s Hollow. Who knew that there was a CriFi genre called Country Noir? Not me, but the ‘Country’ in this case is not pedal steel guitars, yee-haw, banjos and frilled shirts, but the rough and ready hardscrabble rural landscape of north west England. The isolated village of Crook’s Hollow is not Ambridge, and readers hoping for an everyday tale of country folk should look away now. The Loxley family, with their extensive farms, have exerted an almost feudal influence over the valley for generations. But now their hegemony is being challenged by rapacious property developers, hired muscle and – above all – another local family whose grudges go back a century or more, and will only be expiated in blood. Crook’s Hollow is out at the end of March.

McDermid-Val-author-photo_credit-Alan-McCredie-crop-318x318Some modern writers are so popular, so much read and so far down the road to becoming national treasures, that it almost seems like an affront to their status for (adopting Uriah Heep-like crouch and wringing hands) ‘umble reviewers to voice an opinion. Kirkcaldy’s First lady, Val McDermid, (left) is one such daunting figure. I have never had the pleasure of meeting Ms M, but she comes over on social media as being good- natured, endlessly patient and courteous to a fault. It goes without saying that she is a bloody fine writer and there can be few modern CriFi partnerships to match that of DCI Carol Jordan and Tony Hill. Now, heaven be praised, they return in paperback. Insidious Intent came out in Kindle and hardcover in summer 2017, but if you can hang on until the last week in February, you can get your paws on a paperback edition. Carol and Tony have to solve a macabre mystery; what is the true story behind the burned body found in a torched car on a remote country road?

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