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Simon Kernick

DIE ALONE . . . Between the covers

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Readers of a Simon Kernick thriller should know by now what they are getting. There will be violence a-plenty, betrayal, corrupt cops, unscrupulous politicians, improbable escapes from certain death and a narrative style which grips the reader from start to finish. Like many popular writers he has separate series on the go, but Kernick isn’t averse to cross-referencing characters. By my reckoning, Die Alone is the eleventh book to feature the abrasive and resourceful Tina Boyd – once a copper but, in this novel a private investigator. The main man I Die Alone is another copper – Ray Mason. He first featured in The Witness (2016). Then came The Bone Field (2017) and The Hanged Man (2018) but with Tina Boyd – and her former lover Mike Bolt – in attendance.

Die AloneWe start with Mason in the Vulnerable Prisoner wing at a high security British prison. He is serving life sentences for the killing of two deeply unpleasant characters in the course of his duties. The deaths were judged not to be judicial, and so Mason inhabits a world shared with paedophiles, rapists, child pornographers – and disgraced coppers. When he is injured on the periphery of a prison riot, he is taken off to hospital in a supposedly secure van, which is then hijacked – the target being Mason himself. He is taken to what seems to be some kind of safe house run on government lines and, after being well fed and housed for a couple of days, he is given an ultimatum by the masked official who is in charge of things – carry out a hit on a Very Important target. He is left in no doubt as to what will happen if he refuses, but he takes little persuading, as the intended victim is someone whose life Mason would have little compunction in ending.

By now Kernick has introduced us to the repulsive Alastair Sheridan, a millionaire former hedge fund manager who has found his niche in politics and is regarded as everyone’s favourite to reach the top because of his affable style, movie star good looks and undoubted charisma. What the adoring public, and a bevy of fellow MPs who are about to support his leadership don’t now is that Sheridan is a sadistic sexual killer with links to organised crime and some of the most evil people in Europe.

Implicated in a series of brutal murders reference in earlier books, Sheridan has so far deflected any efforts by the police to link him irrefutably to the crimes, but the shadowy people who sprang Mason from jail know that he is a frequent customer at a very exclusive London brothel, and it is here that Mason is to make the hit. Almost inevitably, as the attempt occurs quite early in the book, everything goes pear-shaped, and Mason is forced to face the fact he has been set up. He escapes the trap, but is now the number one wanted criminal in the country.

Securing the help of former colleague Tina Boyd gets Mason out of one scrape, but as he avoids the clutches of one set of villains, the next shootout or escape in the boot of someone’s car is just around the corner, with the action ranging from oily Tottenham car workshops, to rural Essex and then via Brittany to the bloodstained hills surrounding Sarajevo.

This is all good knockabout stuff, and even if there is a touch of “with one bound he was free” about Mason’s superhuman ability to avoid bombs, bullets and knives, such is Kernick’s skill as a storyteller that Die Alone is a brilliantly addictive addition to the thriller catalogue. It is published by Century, and will be available on November 28th.

TO WIN YOUR OWN COPY OF THIS NOVEL, JUST CLICK THIS LINK

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THE POSTMAN DELIVERS . . . October 2019

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I make not even the slightest trace of an apology for not jumping on the regrettable Halloween bandwagon. Someone on my Twitter timeline was emoting about “this time of darkness and evil deeds, when spirits of the dead walk the earth.” The only beings that walk the earth where I live are over-excited children dressed in plastic tat from ASDA (other suppliers of mass produced seasonal rubbish are available) disturbing my peace and begging for tooth-destroying sweets (also available from exploitative mass retailers in handy packs) while their aggressive parents lurk not far behind, ready to leap in with an oath or three should I reject the advances of their offspring. Rant over. Instead of pumpkins I offer publications – four of the best to get stuck into as the nights lengthen.

A MINUTE TO MIDNIGHT by David Baldacci

Atlee Pine is a female FBI agent with what some like to describe as a kick-ass attitude. Like all the best fictional law enforces she has a troubled past, and hers involves the abduction and presumed murder of her twin sister when they were little. She is convinced that a serial killer called Daniel Tor – now serving thirty life sentences in a Colorado jail – either did the deed or knows who did. When Pine takes enforced holiday leave after nearly battering a child rapist to death, she is drawn back into the search for the truth about what happened to sister Mercy all those years ago. Ignoring Nietzsche’s famous homily about the Abyss, Pine becomes snared in a web of secrets, lies – and indescribable evil. A Minute To Midnight is published by Macmillan and will be out on 14th November.

THE GRID by Nick Cook

Thrills of a different kind now, from celebrated defence analyst and journalist Nick Cook. His latest novel explores the complex and controversial world of surveillance and counter intelligence work. US Presidents have an unenviable record of becoming assassination targets, so much so that it might as well be in the job description. The current occupant of The Oval Office, President Thompson has been subject to vivid recurring dreams about his own demise, so much so that he confides in Josh Cain, his personal doctor. Cain’s background is in military psychiatry, but even his experiences of dealing with the trauma caused by battle doesn’t prepare him for what he is about to discover. When a sniper’s bullet ends a startling confession from a former US Marine, Cain is served dramatic notice that he is about to participate in his President’s nightmare. Also out on 14th November, The Grid is published by Transworld.

Authors

DIE ALONE by Simon Kernick

A novel with the words Simon Kernick on the front cover is pretty much guaranteed a second look from most readers who enjoy their crime with a political flavour. We may have our doubts about the respective merits of Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn (other party leaders are available) but I don’t think it is seriously suggested that either is a serial killer. Not so with Alastair Sheridan, the central character in Kernick’s latest novel. Suave, handsome and charming, Sheridan is everyone’s tip to become First Lord of The Treasury and occupant of London SW1 2AA. Everyone? Well, almost. A select group, a modern day illuminati, know that Sheridan is a killer, and they employ disgraced detective Ray Mason to kill him before he gains power and silences those who know the truth about his actions. Mason soon realises that things are not entirely what they seem, but how can he – to mix two body metaphors – keep both his hands clean and his head on his shoulders? Published by Century, Die Alone is out on 28th November.

GOLGOTHA by Guy Portman

It is a sad reflection of the state of British cultural life in this second decade of the 21st century that satirists like Guy Portman should have to go down the self-publishing route to bring his books to readers. Yes, his books shock. Yes, they direct a flamethrower into the bunkers inhabited by the politically correct and woke glad-handers in the publishing world. Yes, Portman fails to respect the notion that some cultural practices must remain immune from criticism.

His anti-hero is the delightfully despicable Dyson Devereux. We first met him as an iconoclastic manager of a municipal cemetery in Necropolis. His homicidal streak appeared to run into the buffers at the end of Sepultura, and Golgotha starts with him in an Italian jail awaiting his trial for murder. Guy Portman has an extraordinary talent to amuse – and raise eyebrows. Leave him alone if your sense of humour is only tickled by offence-averse sitcoms. If you were raised on a diet of M*A*S*H*, Catch 22 and American Psycho, then take a chance – if you injure yourself laughing, then blame me. You can buy Golgotha here.

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WE CAN SEE YOU … Between the covers

Whatever your view on lifestyle coaches, they certainly have a market, and perhaps nowhere more so than in the ever-so-socially-aware state of California. Brook Connor may not have cornered that market, but she has a best-selling ‘how to come out on top’ guide to her name, as well as wealthy clients and a regular spot on TV. She may not have absolutely everything – after all, her husband is a failed movie actor-cum-tennis coach with a roving eye, but her bank balance is healthy, her home is valued in the millions, and she has an adorable five year-old daughter.

 Correction. She did have an adorable five year-old daughter. She returns home after work one day to find both daughter Paige,and nanny Rosa gone,  and a chilling note explaining that they have been taken. A severed finger inside a prettily decorated gift box persuades Brook that these people are not fooling around.

 As ever in kidnap cases both real and fictional, the bad guys caution against any police involvement, and so Brook and husband Logan get the ransom money together and set off to make the exchange. Of course, the exchange doesn’t go to plan, and Brook is left concussed at the bottom of a gully out in the sticks, the money has gone, and there is the inconvenient matter of a body in the trunk of her SUV, lifeless mainly because of one of her own kitchen knives sticking out of his ribs.

 Brook goes on the run, confounded by her initial decision not to involve the police, and also the discovery of the body in the trunk of her car. There is nothing the media loves more than a celebrity criminal, and soon her face is plastered over every news channel. Armed only with her own automatic sidearm and a blazing desire to find her daughter, she leads the law enforcement agencies a merry dance until her race against time comes to an abrupt and bloody end in the personal gym of a notorious ‘businessman’ with links to the infamous cartels from south of the border, down Mexico way.

 Kernick very cleverly uses a split time narrative, with one showing Brook in custody facing multiple murder raps, and another detailing the events which have led to her arrest. He is not done with us, though; a seismic plot shift leads to a dramatic conclusion which even Nostradamus would not have seen coming.

This is breaking-the-sound-barrier thriller fiction at its very best; Kernick doesn’t miss a trick, and gives us the works – crooked cops, a body in the freezer, an embittered PI, an omnipotent and sadistic drug overlord (Mexican,of course), a kidnapped child and that most dangerous of creatures, a powerful female determined to protect her young. We Can See You is published by Century and is out today, 29thNovember.


ON MY SHELF . . . Kernick, Lanfermeijer & Mackenzie

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WE CAN SEE YOU by Simon Kernick

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Kernick is one of those writers who needs no introduction. If you need one, then I can only ask, “where have you been for the last seventeen years of so?”

He ventures into Taken territory with his latest novel, but instead of the main character being a vengeful ex-CIA man we have therapist Brook Connor, who returns to her San Francisco home to find that her daughter had been kidnapped.

What follows is an agonising and nail-biting journey through every parent’s darkest dream, where Connor has to put her own life – and that of her daughter – on the line.

Published by Century, We Can See You is out in hardback and Kindle at the end of November, and will be available in paperback in May 2019.

THE SOCIETY GAME by H Lanfermeijer

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Subtitled Olivia the Wife, this psychological thriller is narrated by Olivia Hopkins, a woman who makes a bad choice in marriage, but puts herself in harm’s way when she seeks an exit strategy.

Her choices force her to examine every aspect of her life – past, present and future – and also the way in which women can make fateful decisions based on distorted perceptions, fed by the manipulative and unscrupulous mass media. This is the first in what is intended to be a seven part series

Heather Lanfermeijer is on Twitter @HeatherLanferm1 and The Society Game is published by Matador, and is out now as a paperback and Kindle. The book also has a dedicated web page which is here.

THE BODY IN THE BOAT by A J Mackenzie

TBITB coverA J Mackenzie is the pseudonym of Marilyn Livingstone and Morgen Witzel, an Anglo-Canadian husband-and-wife team of writers and historians.

Organised crime in Georgian England? Well, yes, but don’t expect Albanian gangs, Yardies or Mafioso. Instead, the villains are very much home grown, and they earn a fine living by smuggling.

These smugglers are not the jolly Yo-Ho-Ho characters of children’s fiction, nor are they the gentlemen typified in Kipling’s wonderful poem:




“Five and twenty ponies,

Trotting through the dark –
Brandy for the Parson, ‘Baccy for the Clerk.
Laces for a lady; letters for a spy,
Watch the wall my darling while the Gentlemen ride by.”

Set on the English Channel coast of Kent, the novel introduces the unlikely but engaging partnership of Reverend Hardcastle and Mrs Choate, as they tangle with coffins in the dark, misty marshes, and desperate criminals.

The Body In The Boat, published by Bonnier Zaffre, is available now as a Kindle or in paperback.

 

THE HANGED MAN … Between the covers

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The tragic events described in Simon Kernick’s previous novel The Bone Field hang over this thriller like a pall of noxious smoke, darkening the landscape. Maverick police officer Detective Inspector Ray Mason staggers through the poisonous fog like Wilfred Owen’s soldier, stumbling and flound’ring like a man in fire or lime…” He and his partner Dan ‘Dapper’ Watts are, once again, trying to bring to justice an implacable criminal gang for whom murder is just too quick and simple. The gang leaders Cem Kalaman, Alastair Sheridan – and their sinister enforcer known only as Mr Bone – use Satanic rituals and blood sacrifice to spice up their recreational violence.

THM coverIn The Bone Field, Mason tried – and failed – to bring the gang down. The bloody conclusion to the confrontation at a remote Welsh farm haunts him. His bitterness and sense of a score still not settled drive him on, but he is now working under the mandate of the National Crime Agency – and they play by the rules. The fire and desire for retribution burning in Mason’s soul will force him to abide by those rules only as far as they suit him. His personal background – a childhood shaped by violence and cruelty – has endowed him with a sense of what is right and what is wrong which diverges dramatically from the code followed by his boss, Sheryl Trinder.

The novel starts with the Kalaman gang attempting to silence Hugh Manning, a lawyer who has become entangled with their misdeeds but is, at heart, a decent man caught up in a toxic spiral of temptation and his own weakness. He escapes the killers sent to eliminate him and goes on the run, pursued by both the gang and the police. He knows all too well that the gang have insiders within the criminal justice system, and he would be signing his own death warrant simply to walk into the nearest police station and offer his wrists for the handcuffs.

Kernick045Mason has a girl-friend. Tina Boyd is a former copper herself, but fate has forced her to ‘go private’ and she is now a successful and well-known enquiry agent. As she tries to unravel the complex tangle of relationships and loyalties which bind together the various members of Kalaman’s gang, she puts herself in harm’s way. She is smart and has a nose for danger, but does she have the killer gene which will enable her to tackle Mr Bone on his own terms?

As Mason rides roughshod over police procedure in his drive to avenge those who died at The Bone Field, his partner, Dan Watts, tries to reign him in and see the bigger picture, which is the one depicting Kalaman and his underlings tried in a court of law, and sentenced for their crimes. Watts, however, has secrets of his own, and these secrets make him particularly vulnerable to the manipulations of the unscrupulous men – and women – who he is trying to bring down.

Who is ‘The Hanged Man’ of the title? Kernick keeps his cards very close to his chest, but a quick internet search into the significance of the melancholy Tarot card suggests that he is:

“A martyr, renouncing a claim, putting self-interest aside, going one step back to go two steps forward, giving up for a higher cause or putting others first.”

 Or possibly:

“Having an emotional release, accepting what is, surrendering to experience, ending the struggle, being vulnerable and open, giving up control and accepting God’s will.”

I suspect that by the time you turn to the last page of this excellent thriller, you will have made up your own mind as the the identity of The Hanged Man. The book is published by Cornerstone/Century, and will be out in Kindle and hardback on November 16th.

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CORNERSTONE CELEBRITIES (and a cracker of a competition!)

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I was lucky enough to receive an invite to Crimenight, an event hosted by Cornerstone, which is part of the Penguin group and one of the most successful commercial imprints in the UK. It was a chance to rub shoulders and swap yarns with some of the biggest names in crime fiction – and a couple of people who have a foot on the first rungs of the ladder.

Back L-R: John Harvey, Phil Redmond, Anthony Horowitz, Tony Parsons, Simon Kernick
Front L-R: Araminta Hall, Selina Walker (Publisher, Century and Arrow), Amy Lloyd, Lisa Jewell

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Getting the celebrity name-drop out of the way first, it was brilliant to be able to shake hands and chat with Tony Parsons, one of my favourite current UK crime writers – check out the review of his most recent Max Wolfe novel Die Last, and you can see why. He is a genuinely nice guy and right up at the top of my list. Was I starstruck? Well, yes, just a little, because in addition to Tony, John Harvey, the creator of Charlie Resnick and Frank Elder, was in attendance, as was thriller specialist Simon Kernick, award-winning producer and screenwriter Phil Redmond (Grange Hill, Brookside and Hollyoaks look pretty good on his CV),and Lisa Jewell, who has a string of best-selling domestic thrillers like The Third Wife and  I Found You under her belt. You can win a copy of her latest, Then She Was Gone, at the end of this feature.

The amazingly versatile Anthony Horowitz was another of the guests who has featured on Fully Booked before. Horowitz, as well as having millions of us glued to the small screen on Sunday nights with his brilliant Foyle’s War series, and writing the best selling Alex Rider novels aimed at young adults, has also written Sherlock Holmes adventures and stand-alone CriFi. Take at a look at our review of The Word Is Murder, his most recent novel.

OKOC007It was a privilege to talk to two authors who represent the next generation of fine crime writers. Amy Lloyd is from Cardiff, but her debut novel is set far, far away in the badlands of Florida. The Innocent Wife tells the story of a convicted killer whose claims to innocence attract the attentions of the worldwide media – and those of Samantha, a young woman from England. She is obsessed with his case and, after an intense relationship based on letters, she leaves home and marries him. It is only when the campaign for his release is successful that Samantha’s problems begin in a deadly fashion. Amy, by the way, has already won the Daily Mail and Penguin Random House First Novel Competition with The Innocent Wife.

OKOC006Araminta Hall is no novice author, as she has written successful psychological thrillers such as Everything and Nothing. Her latest novel Our Kind Of Cruelty is due to be published in 2018, and it concerns a couple, Mike and Verity, whose relationship features a deadly game called the Crave. Mike describes the rules:

“The rules of the Crave were very simple. V and I went to a nightclub in a pre-determined place a good way from where we lived, but entered separately. We made our way to the bar and stood far enough apart to seem that we weren’t together, but close enough that I could always keep her in vision.”

Verity basically makes herself very visible, catching the eyes of any lone male who might be interested, and then drawing him into her web with her stunning looks and overt sexuality. Then, the game kicks in:

“We have a signal: as soon as she raises her hand and pulls on the silver eagle she always wears around her neck I must act. In those dark throbbing rooms I would push through the mass of people, pulling at the useless man drooling over her, and ask him what he was doing talking to my girlfriend.”

When the relationship eventually sours, and Verity needs to move, she finds to her cost that the perverse twist in her relationship with Mike cannot be simply cast off like an unwanted piece of clothing.

TSWGLisa Jewell knows a thing or three about locating the strings that pull on a reader’s senses, particularly those of anxiety, sympathy and tension. In Then She Was Gone she tweaks these strings to maximum effect with the story of a woman whose life is shattered when her fifteen year-old daughter disappears without trace or reason. Ten years pass and, while Laurel will never come to terms with Ellie’s disappearance, she has learned to live with the numbness. Her life seems to be taking a turn for the better when she is begins a relationship with an intriguing man called Floyd. The intrigue, however, turns to shock when she meets his young daughter – who is the spitting image of the her missing Ellie.

To win a hardback copy of Then She Was Gone, simply email us at the address below, putting Lisa Jewell in the subject box, or go to the Fully Booked Facebook page and ‘like’ the post. The winner will be drawn from all entries received. The competition closes at 10.00pm GMT on Sunday 8th October. On this occasion, we will be unable to send the prize to the USA due to postal costs.

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