The Woman In The Woods

BOOKS OF THE YEAR 2018 . . . (2) Best thriller

For more detail about why The Woman In The Woods is  the Fully Booked Best Thriller 2018, click on the link:

THE WOMAN IN THE WOODS . . . Between the covers

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TWITWIn the dark woods of Maine a tree gives up the ghost and topples to the ground. As its roots spring free of the cold earth a makeshift tomb is revealed. The occupant was a young woman. When the girl – for she was little more than that – is discovered, the police and the medical services enact their time-honoured rituals and discover that she died of natural causes not long after giving birth. But where is the child she bore? And why was a Star of David carved on the trunk of an adjacent tree? Portland lawyer Moxie Castin is not a particularly devout Jew, but he fears that the ancient symbol may signify something damaging, and he hires PI Charlie Parker to shadow the police enquiry and investigate the carving – and the melancholy discovery beneath it.

Those who are familiar with the world of Charlie Parker may, as they say, look away now. Or, at least, skip to the next paragraph. New readers expecting a reprise of the standard US gumshoe who is a hard drinking, wise-cracking, fast moving womaniser, will not find Parker ticking those boxes. He is a deeply reflective man who bears the scars of tragic events. The physical scars are deep enough, true, but the mental and spiritual damage is far more severe. Years before, his wife and daughter were butchered in front of him by a man-creature not entirely of this world. Now Parker is literally haunted by the shade of that daughter, Jennifer, although he has played the relationship game again, but unsuccessfully. He now has another daughter, Sam, who shares his ability to see things that more mundane folk would would say are “just not there.” Parker scratches a living as an investigator, helped by two colleagues, Louis and Angel. It has to be said that they are both criminals but, if there are such things as good criminals, then that is what they are.

The crumbling remains of the woman in the woods give up few clues, but Parker slowly pieces together the jigsaw. The picture that emerges is not one to grace the top of a festive biscuit tin, nor is it likely to be reproduced as a popular wall decoration. Karis Lamb has had the misfortune to be in a relationship with a disturbing and menacing man called Quayle. She fled the abusive relationship carrying not only his unborn child, but an antique book from Quayle’s collection. Remember the story of Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad? The network of safe houses which formed a chain of refuges for escaped slaves? Parker learns that a similar system exists to aid abused and battered women and that Karis Lamb used it in her flight from Quayle. As individuals who provided refuge for the women go missing, or are found dead, Parker realises that he is in a deadly race with Quayle to find the missing book – and Karis Lamb’s child.

JCIn another life John Connolly would have been a poet. His prose is sonorous and powerful, and his insights into the world of Charie Parker – both the everyday things he sees with his waking eyes and the dark landscape of his dreams – are vivid and sometimes painful. Connolly’s villains – and there have been many during the course of the Charlie Parker series – are not just bad guys. They do dreadful things, certainly, but they even smell of the decaying depths of hell, and they often have powers that even a gunshot to the head from a .38 Special can hardly dent.

Connolly brings to the printed page monsters unrivalled in their depravity, and vileness unseen since the days when MR James created his dreadful beings that skipped, scraped, slithered and scrabbled into the terrified minds of the schoolboys for whom, it is said, he wrote the stories. Transpose these horrors into the modern world, and add all the ingredients of murder mysteries, police investigation and the nerve-jangling thriller and you have the distinctly uncomfortable – but wonderfully gripping – world of Charlie Parker. The Woman In The Woods is published by Hodder & Stoughton, and is out now.

An earlier Charlie Parker novel, Time of Torment, won our Best PI Novel Award in 2016.

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THE POSTMAN DELIVERS . . . Bartram, Connolly & Hall

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PBWelcome to Brighton, England – where they do like to murder beside the seaside…Want to know what it’s like when a quiet romantic dinner ends in murder? Ace reporter Colin Crampton and his feisty girlfriend Shirley Goldsmith are tucking into their meal when Shirley discovers more blood on her rare steak than she’d expected.

And once again Colin is on the trail of a big story that can only end in more murder. Colin reckons he’s cracked the story when he uncovers a plot involving a sinister figure from the past. A Tango Academy seems to lie at the heart of the conspiracy.

But nothing is quite what it seems as Colin peels away the layers of the mystery. He tangles with a cast of memorable characters including a professor of witchcraft, the former commander of an army mobile latrine unit, and a tango instructor with two left feet. Join Colin and Shirley for another madcap mystery in Swinging Sixties’ Brighton, where the laughs are never far from the action. The Tango School Mystery is out now, and a full review will be posted on very soon.

THE WOMAN in the WOODS by John Connolly

JCCharlie Parker – crime fiction’s most haunted private investigator – is back. As fans of the Portland, Maine detective know, death isn’t just part of the his natural human life cycle – it often assumes corporal form and walks alongside the living. The remains of a young woman are uncovered when a tree is uprooted, and when the body is examined, it is discovered that she had given birth shortly before her death. A Star of David has been carved in the bark of a tree, and Parker is hired by a Jewish lawyer to learn if the death has any anti-semitic overtones.

A mysterious – and  deadly – man named Quayle is also keen to learn more about the dead woman, but even more anxious to discover what became of the new-born child. Along with his companion – a creature named Mors who is truly from hell – Quayle’s path is destined to cross that of Parker. Charlie’s deadly pals Louis and Angel are in attendance, but Angel is there in spirit only, as he is recovering from an operation to remove a deadly tumour. Louis cannot comprehend why his partner has been chosen by the Cancer God, and his incomprehension turns to anger, which he vents on a young man who is unwise enough to have Confederate flags flying from his truck. The Woman In The Woods is published by Hodder & Stoughton and is out now.

OUR KIND OF CRUELTY by Araminta Hall

AHObsession, deception, emotional perversion, sexual mania, psychological sadism…? Yes, indeed. Araminta Hall ticks all of those toxic boxes in her eagerly awaited new thriller, which tells the tale of Mike and Verity. At the very heart of their unusual relationship is a game of seduction and danger, but with Verity’s impending marriage, the game has to end. At least it would in any normal relationship, but of all the adjectives that could be applied to what Mike and Verity get up to, the word ‘normal’ comes way, way, way down the list. So, what happens? Death is what has to happen, but the Grim Reaper seldom walks alone.


Our Kind of Cruelty is published by Century; it will be available as a Kindle on 19th April, in hardback on 3rd may, and in January 2019 as a paperback.

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KIndleKINDLE ROUNDUP, JULY 25th 2016. It has to be said, for all that it’s a wonderful invention, and has revolutionised reading, The Kindle (other devices are available!) can provide a pitfall for the book reviewer. While a physical To Be Read pile is ever visible, and sits in the corner looking at you in an accusing fashion, the equivalent stack of books on the digital reader quietly goes away when the power is turned off. So, with apologies to the writers and publishers who have trusted me with their offspring, here is my first, but belated, look at some great titles.

Mercedes MarieMercedes Marie by Fusty Luggs
Of the five canonical victims of Jack the Ripper, the one who has intrigued writers and Ripperologists the most is Mary Jane – or Marie Jeannette – Kelly. She was the youngest of them, and despite there being no photograph of her in life, some people have imagined her as beautiful and vivacious, so unlike the poor broken down women whose deaths preceded hers. The author takes an imaginative and compelling look at how a beautiful girl from Limerick, with friends in high places, came to end her life as a butchered corpse in a Whitechapel hovel. The author? She lives in Wiltshire, England, and the name has an interesting definition in The Urban Dictionary. She has a blog, and can also be found on Twitter. You can get hold of a copy  from Amazon in the usual way.

No AccidentNo Accident by Robert Crouch
Both the author and his central character, Kent Fisher, are Environmental Health officers. You might not have put that occupation at the top of a list of those likely to become amateur sleuths, but when Fisher is called to the ironically named Tombstone Leisure Park to investigate a fatal accident, you will soon learn that his eagle eye for detail and his scientific training make him more than a match for those trying to hoodwink the police. You can read more about Robert Crouch on his website and by checking out his Twitter feed. Just for a change, here’s a link to Waterstones, who are selling Robert’s book in paperback, but the Kindle version is downloadable in the usual way.

Falling SunsFalling Suns by J.A. Corrigan
This dark tale about a mother seeking revenge for her murdered child is a police procedural with a difference. Rachel has left the police force, but when her young son goes missing, and then is found murdered, her life spirals into depression, and then shapes into white hot anger. Her cousin Michael is convicted of the little boy’s murder, but is declared insane, and is sent to a secure institution. Rachel resumes her police career, but when she learns that Michael is being considered for release, she is faced with a terrible dilemma. Should she move on with her life, or use her official know-how to exact a terrible revenge? The author was a physiotherapist before turning to writing full time, and her website is here. Falling Suns is her second novel, and  it’s currently in stock in print at Waterstone’s, and Foyles. You can get your Kindle version at Amazon.

The Woman In The WoodsThe Woman In The Woods by Louise Mullins
Domestic Noir is certainly ‘the new black’, and the psychological thrills and chills that lurk behind suburban net curtains are employed with great relish here. Rachel Harper is a reporter whose career is maybe not quite on the rocks, but is certainly stuck in the low-tide mud. When a local student goes missing, and then is found dead, Rachel senses the chance to revive her journalistic CV. Her search for the truth behind the young woman’s death takes her to places where preserving her life becomes a higher priority than enhancing her Linkedin profile. Louise Mullins is based in Bristol, is a clinical psychologist who works with serious offenders. She has written seven previous novels, about which there are more details on her website. Go to Amazon to buy the Kindle version of this novel.

Unquiet SoulsUnquiet Souls by Liz Mistry
This police procedural introduces us to DI Gus McGuire. Central to the case is the horribly topical crime of child trafficking, and McGuire’s investigations are triggered when the dead body of a prostitute is found. When terrified children are found locked away in an attic, McGuire links the two cases, and soon finds he has to hunt a resourceful and evil criminal – nicknamed The Matchmaker. The author has written very frankly in Female First about how she suffered from depression, and thus found the completion of this novel an uphill struggle. The book is released at the end of July. Check here for further details.

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