Thursday, 17 January 2019

Harvill Secker acquires new political thriller from A D Miller

Liz Foley, Publishing Director at Harvill Secker, has acquired UK & Commonwealth rights (excluding Canada) to Independence Square by A.D Miller, from Zoë Waldie at Rogers, Coleridge and White.  It will be published by Harvill Secker in February 2020.

A young woman scrambles up the icy hill above Independence Square in Kiev, desperate to avert the bloody crackdown that threatens the protesters below. The outcome of a revolution, and her brother’s safety, depend on her.  Though neither of them realise it, so does the fate of the man she is frantic to see.

A decade later, Simon Davey, a disgraced British diplomat, follows Olesya Zarchenko into the Tube in London, convinced she was responsible for his ruin. When he tracks her to a riverside mansion he begins to see that Olesya’s life has not been what he thought it was, and neither has his own.

Independence Square is the story of a man struggling to understand his past and of a country striving to escape its history. It is about grand upheavals of state, agonising affairs of the heart and how they intersect.  It is also a story of how we live now: about thwarted idealism, money and corruption, and where, in the 21st century, power really lies.

Liz Foley, Publishing Director at Harvill Secker, says: ‘At Harvill Secker we’ve long admired A.D. Miller’s work and his command of pace, character and theme in Independence Square makes it both an utterly compelling and deeply thought-provoking read. It is a novel that illuminates both personal and political relationships and reflects powerfully on the world we are living in now. We are over the moon to welcome such an exceptional writer to the Harvill Secker list.’  

A.D. Miller says: Since my time as a foreign correspondent, I've wanted to set a novel during a revolution--with all the vertigo and hope, wild gambles and urgent moral choices that are involved. "Independence Square" is a story about people caught up in that euphoria, and in its aftermath. I'm thrilled to be telling it with Liz Foley and her great team at Harvill Secker, and to be joining their fantastic, worldly list.  

A.D. Miller studied literature at Cambridge and Princeton. His first novel, Snowdrops — a study in moral degradation set in modern Russia — was shortlisted for the Man Booker prize, the James Tait Black Prize, the Los Angeles Times Book Awards, the CWA Gold Dagger and the Galaxy National Book Awards; it has been translated into 25 languages. As Moscow Correspondent of The Economist he travelled widely across the former Soviet Union and covered the Orange Revolution in Ukraine; he is now the magazine’s Culture Editor and is based in London.

For more information contact:
Bethan Jones, Head of Publicity, Vintage
Tel: 020 7840 8543 / email: 

Wednesday, 16 January 2019

Fuller Award: Sara Paretsky

Huge congratulations go to Grand Master and Cartier Diamond Dagger Winner (CWA) Sara Paretsky for being given the prestigious Fuller Award by the Chicago Literary Hall of Fame. The award was created to acknowledge Chicago's greatest living writers.

Sara Paretsky will be officially honoured on at a reception on Thursday 9 May 2019 at Ruggles Hall

More information can be found here.

Sara Paretsky also won a CWA Gold Dagger Award in 2004 for Blacklist and was also honoured in 2011 with an Anthony Award Lifetime Achievement Award.  

Her most recent book Shell Game was published in 2018.

More information about Sara Paretsky and her work can be found on her website

Tuesday, 15 January 2019

Left Coast Crime - 2019 Lefty Award Nominees

The Left Coast Crime “Lefty” Awards are fan awards chosen by registered members of the Left Coast Crime convention. Nominations for awards to be presented at each annual convention are made by people registered for that convention and also the immediately prior convention. A ballot listing the official nominees is given to each registrant when they check in at the convention, and final voting takes place at the convention. The ballots are tabulated and that year’s Lefty Awards are presented at the Awards Celebration.

Left Coast Crime 2019 will be presenting four Lefty Awards at the 29th annual LCC convention in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. The Lefty awards will be voted on at the convention and presented at the Awards Banquet on Saturday, March 30, 2019, at the Hyatt Regency Vancouver.

Lefty for Best Humorous Mystery Novel
Mardi Gras Murder by Ellen Byron (Crooked Lane Books)
Hollywood Ending by Kellye Garrett (Midnight Ink)
Nighttown by Timothy Hallinan (Soho Crime)
Death al Fresco by Leslie Karst (Crooked Lane Books)
The Spirit in Question by Cynthia Kuhn (Henery Press)
Scott Free by Catriona McPherson (Midnight Ink)

Lefty for Best Historical Mystery Novel (Bruce Alexander Memorial) for books covering events before 1960
Four Funerals and Maybe a Wedding by Rhys Bowen (Berkeley Prime Crime)
The Long-Lost Love Letters of Doc Holliday by David Corbett (Black Opal Books)
Island of the Mad by Laurie R King (Bantam Books)
The Widows of Malabar Hill by Sujata Massey (Soho Crime)
A Dying Note by Ann Parker (Poisoned Pen Press)
It Begins in Betrayal by Iona Whishaw (Touchwood Editions)

Lefty for Best Debut Mystery Novel
Broken Places by Tracy Clark (Kensington Books)
Cobra Clutch by A J Devlin (NeWest Press)
The Woman in the Window by A J Finn (William Morrow)
A Lady’s Guide to Etiquette and Murder by Dianne Freeman (Kensington Books)
What Doesn’t Kill You by Aimee Hix (Midnight Ink)
Deadly Solution by Keenan Powell (Level Best Books)
Give Out Creek by J G Toews (Mosaic Press)

Lefty for Best Mystery Novel
November Road by Lou Berney (William Morrow)
Wrong Light by Matt Coyle (Oceanview Publishing)
Kingdom of the Blind by Louise Penny (Minotaur Books)
Under a Dark Sky by Lori-Rader-Day (William Morrow Paperbacks)
A Reckoning in the Back Country by Terry Shames (Seventh Street Books)
A Stone’s Throw by James W. Ziskin (Seventh Street Books)

To be eligible, titles must have been published for the first time in the United States or Canada during 2018, in book or ebook format. (If published in other countries before 2018, a book is still eligible if it meets the US or Canadian publication requirement.)

Nomination forms will be emailed to all 2018 and 2019 LCC registrants by January 1, 2019. Only nominations received between January 1st and January 14th will be tabulated. The Lefty Award nominees will be announced on January 16, 2019. Final voting will be by paper ballot at the convention in Vancouver.

Monday, 14 January 2019

Facing 2019 with Peter May

It has become a tradition for London’s literary critics [who appreciate Crime and Thriller Fiction], to usher a new year with the release of a novel from Peter May.

We’d gather in London’s West-End, to break bread with Peter May; all thanks to Quercus Publishing’s Hannah Robinson, Publisher Jon Riley, facilitied by our very dear bibliophile friend Sophie Ransom.

Over wine we would discuss the books we’d read over the Christmas break, discussing what was coming in terms of exciting work, as well as catching up on our lives, as we’ve all known each other for many years.

We’d also chat about what Peter May had been up to, and as a raconteur he would make us laugh, as we shared tales of the surreal, the curious and the weird.

In previous years, I would record the events, online at both Jeff Peirce’s The Rap Sheet [for US readers] and [via my work with my writing partner Mike Stotter] at Shots Magazine for UK Readers.

In 2014, Peter told us about the Award-Winning ENTRY ISLAND, and you can read more HERE and HERE

In 2015 it was Peter’s RUNAWAY, and you can read more HERE

In 2016, we travelled with Peter on COFFIN ROAD and you can catch us HERE

In 2017, Peter’s novel was CAST IRON and you can read more HERE

Last year, in January 2018 Peter published I’LL KEEP YOU SAFE which is HERE

All the above are now available in Paperback, from the Quercus Imprint riverrun, both US and Europe; as are all of Peter May’s backlist – and remember there is more to Peter May’s work than THE LEWIS TRILOGY that he’s probably best known for, due to the awards those books received, including the Barry Award, presented in 2013 at Bouchercon Albany, by George Easter [as voted for by the readers of Deadly Pleasures Magazine]. I was in the audience when Peter accepted the Barry, and a video clip is available HERE

The gathering Publisher Jon Riley and Hannah Robinson of Quercus / riverun organised, for Peter May’s 2019 novel was most eclectic, and amusing. As avid bibliophiles, writers, journalists, literary people, we often live within our ‘heads’ as well as staring at a PC screen; so when we meet-up in the real world, it is a delight.

To read the full report click here.

Photos © 2019 A Karim, Quercus Publishing, BBC Films [The ABC Murders], Miramax [Rounders] and Baby Films [Ripley's Game]

Saturday, 12 January 2019

New Edinburgh University Press Journal Crime Fiction Studies.

Call for Papers: Crime Fiction Studies 

Volume 1, Issue 1: Why Crime Fiction Today?

We are delighted to announce the call for papers for the first issue of our brand-new Edinburgh University Press journal Crime Fiction Studies. Arising out of Bath Spa University’s very successful Captivating Criminality conferences, organised by Fiona Peters, and the establishment of the International Crime Fiction Association in 2016, this journal is the first British university press journal focussing on the broad field of crime fiction studies. Crime Fiction Studies will be the newest addition to EUP’s stable of prestigious journals, and two issues will be published both in print and online each year. The inaugural issue will set the agenda for discussion of the most pressing issues in contemporary crime fiction studies, providing space for reflection on the ways in which this hugely popular, rapidly developing, and extremely influential genre – and the field of study itself – is changing in the twenty-first century. In the issues that follow, we will be encouraging exploration of diverse aspects of this increasingly important field of cultural production. As editors we believe that there is a real need for a new journal in this area to encourage high-calibre research, engender debate, and forge new directions in crime fiction studies.

We are thus asking for abstracts for the inaugural issue of Crime Fiction Studies that provide thought-provoking, innovative answers to the question ‘why crime fiction today?’ We expect contributions to be theoretically and critically informed, and to engage with current scholarly debates in the field.

Possible areas of focus for the first issue include, but are not limited to:
• True crime
• Gender and queer studies
• New approaches to historical crime fiction
• Crime fiction and science
• Crime fiction in the digital age
• Fandom and fan culture
• Generic and cultural status of crime fiction
• Crime fiction on screen
• New forms of crime fiction
• Ethnicity and crime fiction
• Re-Imagining classic/historic crime 
• Detectives and detection in the twenty-first century

Abstracts of 400 words are due by 31 January 2019 and finished articles of 7500 words will be due by 1 July 2019. This issue will be published in 2020.

Please send abstracts and a biographical statement of 150 words to the editors; Fiona Peters (editor), Eric Sandberg (assistant editor) and Ruth Heholt (assistant editor) using the email address:

Friday, 11 January 2019

Danish Criminal Academy Awards

Crimean author Jesper Stein has won the Harald Mogensen Award, which The Danish Criminal Academy is awarding for the best crime of the year. The prize goes to Stein's Crimea novel "Solo", which is the sixth volume in his popular and critically acclaimed crime scene with police officer Axel Steen as the protagonist.

The Danish Criminal Academy's debut award goes this year to Søren Sveistrup for the thriller novel "Kastanjemanden" (The Chestnut Man) Søren Sveistrup has also been the creator and author of, among other things, three seasons of "The Crime".  Both "Solo" and "The Crime" have been published by Politikens Forlag.

Credit Mark DeLong Photography
Finally, the Academy has awarded the American writer Michael Connelly the so-called Palle Rosenkrantz Award for this year's best foreign thriller novel for his book "Two Kinds of Truth" which is published by Klim.

All the awards are presented during the Crimean Fair in Horsens on the first weekend in April

The Palle Rosenkrantz Prisen recognizes the best crime fiction novel published in Danish. It is named in honour of Palle Rosenkrantz (1867-1941), who is considered the first Danish crime fiction author; his novel Mordet i Vestermarie (Murder in Vestermarie) was published in 1902. The Harald Mogensen Prisen recognizes the best thriller. It is named after Harald Mogensen (1912-2002), a Danish editor, in recognition of his contribution to the field of literary crime.

Thursday, 10 January 2019

CFP: Agatha Christie: Investigating the Queen of Crime

5-6 September 2019, Solent University, Southampton UK

The bestselling novelist of all time, Agatha Christie (1890-1976) is increasingly being recognised in scholarship and popular culture as one of the most influential writers of the twentieth century. In response to what Martin Edwards calls the ‘lazy critical cliché’ of branding Golden Age Detective Fiction as ‘cosy’, this conference will investigate the significance of the Queen of Crime and her writings within academia and popular culture. In line with previous Agatha Christie conferences, the 2019 conference will further establish and extend Christie Studies as an academic discipline, across and beyond the humanities. 

Responding to Christie’s ever-increasing popularity are the annual television adaptations such as 2018’s The ABC Murders, alongside a growing pool of continuation novels and fiction based around Christie’s life and work. Equally, we have academic texts in the new interdisciplinary field of Agatha Christie Studies, such as Agatha Christie Goes to War (2019). In short, as the centenary of her first novel approaches, Agatha Christie remains a phenomenon. All of this calls for an investigation into the Queen of Crime herself, her fictional works and her legacy. 

We invite 300-word proposals for 20 minute papers. Suggested topics include, but are certainly not limited to: 

• Examining Christie in the context of Golden Age crime fiction
• Analysing the meaning of ‘Queen of Crime’
• Screen adaptations
• The life and person of Agatha Christie 
• The role and influence of religion
• New theoretical perspectives on Christie as a writer of crime fiction
• Agatha Christie’s influence in popular culture
• Agatha Christie positioned against her modernist contemporaries
• Continuation novels and rewriting
• The influence of Christie on her crime writing contemporaries and beyond
• The Detection Club and its influence on the role, writing and significance of Christie
• The context, significance, and influence of war
• Intertextuality and metanarrative
• Reading, studying, and teaching Agatha Christie
• New directions in research and scholarship

In addition to traditional academic paper proposals, we welcome creative presentations and panel proposals.

Please send your 300 word proposal with a short biographical note to no later than 31 March 2019. Please direct all queries and enquiries to the same address.

Tuesday, 1 January 2019

Books I am looking forward to the first half of 2019.

Shadows of Athens (Orion) is by J M Alvey.  The Persian War is over and an unaccustomed decade of peace has come to ancient Athens. Philocles, an aspiring comic playwright, is making his living as a writer for hire; but this year is the highlight of his career - he has a play in the drama competition at the prestigious Dionysia Festival. The last thing he wants to find on his doorstep the day before is a body with its throat cut.  Just who is this dead man? Is it just a robbery gone wrong? With the play that could make his name on the horizon, Philocles must find out who this man is, why he has been murdered - and why the corpse was in his door way. He soon realises that he has been caught up in something far bigger than he could have imagined, and there are players in this game who don't want him looking any further...

After a hectic morning involving two rather irritating cases of mistaken identity, Inspector Montalbano finally arrives in his office ready find out what's troubling Vigata this week. What he discovers is unnerving. A woman on her way home from work has been held up at gunpoint, chloroformed and kidnapped, but then released just hours later - unharmed and with all her possessions - into the open countryside.  Later that day, Montalbano hears from Enzo, the owner of his favourite restaurant, that his niece has recently been the victim of the exact same crime. Before long, a third instance of this baffling overnight kidnapping has been reported.  As far as Montalbano can tell, there is no link between the attacker and the victims. So what exactly is this mystery assailant gaining from these fleeting kidnappings? And what can he do to stop them? Montalbano must use all his logic and intuition if he is to answer these pressing questions before the kidnapper finds his next victim . .The Overnight Kidnapper (Pan Macmillan) is by Andrea Camilleri.

This Body’s not Big Enough for Both of Us (Titan Books) is by Edgar Cantero. In a dingy office in Fisherman’s Wharf, the glass panel in the door bears the names of A. Kimrean and Z. Kimrean, Private Eyes. Behind the door there is only one desk, one chair, one scrawny androgynous P.I. in a tank top and skimpy waistcoat. A.Z., as they are collectively known, are twin brother and sister. He’s pure misanthropic logic, she’s wild hedonistic creativity. The Kimreans have been locked in mortal battle since they were in utero, which is tricky because they, very literally, share one single body. That’s right. One body, two pilots. The mystery and absurdity of how Kimrean functions, and how they subvert every plotline, twist, explosion, and gunshot – and confuse every cop, neckless thug, cartel boss, ninja, and femme fatale – in the book is pure Cantero magic.  Someone is murdering the sons of the ruthless drug cartel boss known as the Lyon in the biggest baddest town in California: San Carnal. The notorious A.Z. Kimrean must go to the sin-soaked, palm-tree-lined streets of San Carnal, infiltrate the Lyon’s inner circle, and find out who is targeting his heirs, and while they are at it, rescue an undercover cop in too deep, deal with a plucky young stowaway, and stop a major gang war from engulfing California. They’ll face every plot device and break every rule Elmore Leonard wrote before they can crack the case, if they don’t kill each other (themselves) first.  This Body’s Not Big Enough for Both of Us is a brilliantly subversive and comic thriller celebrating noir detectives, Die Hard, Fast & Furious, and the worst case of sibling rivalry, that can only come from the mind of Edgar Cantero.

Ray Celestin heads to New York City, for the third book in his award-winning City Blues quartet, The Mobster's Lament (Pan Macmillan).  Fall, 1947. New York City.  Private Investigator Ida Davis has been called to New York by her old partner, Michael Talbot, to investigate a brutal killing spree in a Harlem flophouse that has left four people dead. But as they delve deeper into the case, Ida and Michael realize the murders are part of a larger conspiracy that stretches further than they ever could have imagined.  Meanwhile, Ida's childhood friend, Louis Armstrong, is at his lowest ebb. His big band is bankrupt, he's playing to empty venues, and he's in danger of becoming a has-been, until a promoter approaches him with a strange offer to reignite his career . . .  And across the city, nightclub manager and mob fixer Gabriel Leveson's plans to flee New York are upset when he's called in for a meeting with the `boss of all bosses', Frank Costello. Tasked with tracking down stolen mob money, Gabriel must embark on a journey through New York's seedy underbelly, forcing him to confront demons from his own past, all while the clock is ticking on his evermore precarious escape plans.

A Book of Bones  (Hodder & Stoughton) is by John Connolly.  He is our best hope.  He is our last hope.  On a lonely moor in the northeast of England, the body of a young woman is discovered near the site of a vanished church. In the south, a girl lies buried beneath a Saxon mound. To the southeast, the ruins of a priory hide a human skull.  Each is a sacrifice, a summons.  And something in the darkness has heard the call.  But another is coming: Parker the hunter, the avenger. From the forests of Maine to the deserts of the Mexican border, from the canals of Amsterdam to the streets of London, he will track those who would cast this world into darkness. Parker fears no evil.  But evil fears him . .

A Dangerous Man  (Simon & Schuster) is by Robert Crais.  Joe Pike didn't expect to rescue a woman that day. When Isabel Roland, the lonely young teller at his bank, steps out of work on her way to lunch, Joe Pike witnesses her attempted abduction. Thanks to his quick thinking, the two men are arrested.   But the men soon make bail... and not long after, they're found murdered. The police suspect Pike and Isabel had a hand in it, especially when Izzy disappears. Convinced that she has been abducted again, Pike realises it is time to call on Elvis Cole to discover the truth.  And then all hell breaks loose. 

A Capital Death (Hodder & Stoughton) is by Lindsey Davis.  A tragic accident . . . or was it? Emperor Domitian has been awarded (or rather, has demanded) yet another Triumph to celebrate two so-called victories. Preparations are going smoothly until one of the men overseeing arrangements for the celebration accidentally falls to his death from a cliff on the symbolic Capitoline Hill.  But Flavia Albia suspects there's more to the incident than meets the eye, as there are plenty of people who would have been delighted to be rid of the overseer. He was an abusive swine who couldn't organise a booze-up in a winery and was caught up in a number of scams, including one surrounding the supply of imperial purple dye and a family of shellfish-boilers.  As Flavia finds herself drawn into a theatrical world of carnival floats, musicians, incense and sacrificial beasts, can she see to the heart of the matter and catch those responsible for the unpopular man's untimely death?

This Storm (Cornerstone) is by James Ellroy.  New Year's Eve 1941, war has been declared and the Japanese internment is in full swing. Los Angeles is gripped by war fever and racial hatred. Sergeant Dudley Smith of the Los Angeles Police Department is now Army Captain Smith and a budding war profiteer. He's shacked up with Claire De Haven in Baja, Mexico, and spends his time sniffing out fifth column elements and hunting down a missing Japanese Naval Attaché. Hideo Ashida is cashing LAPD paychecks and working in the crime lab, but he knows he can't avoid internment forever. Newly arrived Navy Lieutenant Joan Conville winds up in jail accused of vehicular homicide, but Captain William H. Parker squashes the charges and puts her on Ashida's team. Elmer Jackson, who is assigned to the alien squad and to bodyguard Ashida, begins to develop an obsession with Kay Lake, the unconsummated object of Captain Parker's desire. Now, Conville and Ashida become obsessed with finding the identity of a body discovered in a mudslide. It's a murder victim linked to an unsolved gold heist from '31, and they want the gold. And things really heat up when two detectives are found murdered in a notorious dope fiend hangout.

In Which Mr May Makes A Mistake And Mr Bryant Goes Into The Dark On a rainy winter night outside a run-down nightclub in the wrong part of London, four strangers meet for the first time at 4:00am. A few weeks later the body of an Indian textile worker is found hanging upside down inside a willow tree on Hamstead Heath. The Peculiar Crimes Unit is called in to investigate. The victim was found surrounded by the paraphernalia of black magic, and so Arthur Bryant and John May set off to question experts in the field. But the case is not what it appears. When another victim seemingly commits suicide, it becomes clear that in the London night is a killer who knows what people fear most. And he always strikes at 4:00am. In order to catch him, the PCU must switch to night shifts, but still the team draws a blank. John May takes a technological approach, Arthur Bryant goes in search of academics and misfits for help, for this is becoming a case that reveals impossibilities at every turn, not least that there's no indication of what the victims might have done to attract the attentions of a murderer that doesn't seem to exist. But impossibilities are what the Peculiar Crimes Unit does best. As they explore a night city where all the normal rules are upended, they're drawn deeper into a case that involves murder, arson, kidnap, blackmail, bats and the psychological effects of loneliness on Londoners. It's a trail that takes them from the poorest part of the East End to the wealthiest homes in North London - an investigation that can only end in tragedy...  The Lonely Hour (Transworld) is by Christopher Fowler.

Out of the Dark (Penguin Random House) is by Gregg Hurwitz. As a boy, Evan Smoak was taken from the orphanage he called home and inducted into a top secret Cold War programme. Trained as a lethal weapon, he and his fellow recruits were sent round the world to do the government's dirty work. But the programme was rotten to the core. And now the man responsible needs things to be nice and clean. All evidence must be destroyed. That includes Evan. To survive, Evan's going to have to take the fight to his nemesis. There's just one problem with that. Jonathan Bennett is President of the United States and Evan isn't his only victim. To save himself - and the country - Evan is going to have to figure out how to kill the most well-protected man on the planet...

Plotters are just pawns like us. A request comes in and they draw up the plans. There's someone above them who tells them what to do. And above that person is another plotter telling them what to do. You think that if you go up there with a knife and stab the person at the very top, that'll fix everything. But no-one's there. It's just an empty chair.  Reseng was raised by cantankerous Old Raccoon in the Library of Dogs. To anyone asking, it's just an 
ordinary library. To anyone in the know, it's a hub for Seoul's organised crime, and a place where contract killings are plotted and planned. So it's no surprise that Reseng has grown up to become one of the best hitmen in Seoul. He takes orders from the plotters, carries out his grim duties, and comforts himself afterwards with copious quantities of beer and his two cats, Desk and Lampshade  But after he takes pity on a target and lets her die how she chooses, he finds his every move is being watched. Is he finally about to fall victim to his own game? And why does that new female librarian at the library act so strangely? Is he looking for his enemies in all the wrong places? Could he be at the centre of a plot bigger than anything he's ever known?  The Plotters (Harper Collins) is by Un-su Kim.

The New Iberia Blues (Orion) is By James Lee Burke. Detective Dave Robicheaux first met Desmond Cormier on the backstreets of New Orleans. He was a young pretender who dreamt of stardom whilst Robicheaux had his path all figured out. Now, twenty-five years later, their roles have reversed. When Robicheaux knocks on Cormier's door, he sees a successful Hollywood director.  It seems dreams can come true. But so can nightmares.  A young woman has been crucified, wearing only a small chain on her ankle, and all the evidence points to Cormier. Robicheaux wants to believe his old friend wouldn't be capable of such a crime - but Cormier's silence is deafening. And he isn't the only ghost from Robicheaux's past which comes back to haunt him...

The Feral Detective (Atlantic Books & Corvus) is by Jonathan Lethem.  Phoebe Siegler first meets Charles Heist in a shabby trailer on the eastern edge of Los Angeles. She's looking for her friend's missing daughter, Arabella, and hires Heist - a laconic loner who keeps his pet opossum in a desk drawer - to help. The unlikely pair navigate the enclaves of desert-dwelling vagabonds and find that Arabella is in serious trouble - caught in the middle of a violent standoff that only Heist, mysteriously, can end. Phoebe's trip to the desert was always going to be strange, but it was never supposed to be dangerous...

The year is 1793, Stockholm. King Gustav of Sweden has been assassinated, years of foreign wars have emptied the treasuries, and the realm is governed by a self-interested elite, leaving its citizens to suffer. On the streets, malcontent and paranoia abound. A body is found in the city's swamp by a watchman, Mickel Cardell, and the case is handed over to investigator Cecil Winge, who is dying of consumption. Together, Winge and Cardell become embroiled in a brutal world of guttersnipes and thieves, mercenaries and madams, and one death will expose a city rotten with corruption beneath its powdered and painted veneer.  The Wolf and the Watchman (Hodder & Stoughton) is by Niklas Natt och Dag.

It's been a year since Leo Stanhope lost the woman he loved, and came closing to losing his own life. Now, more than ever, he is determined to keep his head down and stay safe, without risking those he holds dear. But Leo's hopes for peace and security are shattered when the police unexpectedly arrive at his lodgings: a woman has been found murdered at a club for anarchists, and Leo's address is in her purse. When Leo is taken to the club by the police, he is shocked to discover there a man from his past, a man who knows Leo's birth identity. And if Leo does not provide him with an alibi for the night of the woman's killing, he is going to share this information with the authorities. If Leo's true identity is unmasked, he will be thrown into an asylum, but if he lies... will he be protecting a murderer?  The Anarchists’ Club (Bloomsbury) is by Alex Reeve.

Six confined psychopaths. A killer on the loose.  1935. As Europe prepares itself for a calamitous war, six homicidal lunatics - the so-called 'Devil's Six' - are confined in a remote castle asylum in rural Czechoslovakia. Each patient has their own dark story to tell and Dr Viktor Kosarek, a young psychiatrist using revolutionary techniques, is tasked with unlocking their murderous secrets.  At the same time, a terrifying killer known as 'Leather Apron' is butchering victims across Prague. Successfully eluding capture, it would seem his depraved crimes are committed by the Devil himself.  Maybe they are... and what links him with the insane inmates of the Castle of the Eagles?  Only the Devil knows. And it is up to Viktor to find out.The Devil Aspect (Little, Brown) is by Craig Russell.

Blood & Sugar (Pan Macmillan) is the debut historical crime novel from Laura Shepherd-Robinson.  June, 1781. An unidentified body hangs upon a hook at Deptford Dock - horribly tortured and branded with a slaver's mark.  Some days later, Captain Harry Corsham - a war hero embarking upon a promising parliamentary career - is visited by the sister of an old friend. Her brother, passionate abolitionist Tad Archer, had been about to expose a secret that he believed could cause irreparable damage to the British slaving industry. He'd said people were trying to kill him, and now he is missing . . .  To discover what happened to Tad, Harry is forced to pick up the threads of his friend's investigation, delving into the heart of the conspiracy Tad had unearthed. His investigation will threaten his political prospects, his family's happiness, and force a reckoning with his past, risking the revelation of secrets that have the power to destroy him.  And that is only if he can survive the mortal dangers awaiting him in Deptford .

What is the secret which grips Corvus Hall?  Visiting the Great Exhibition to view the wax anatomical models of the famous but reclusive Dr Merlin Strangeway, Jem Flockhart and Will Quartermain find a severed arm, perfectly dissected and laid out amongst the exhibits. Assuming it to be a prank by medical students, they return it to Dr Strangeway, who works at Corvus Hall, a private anatomy school run by Dr James Crowe - one of  Edinburgh's most revered surgeons and teachers of anatomy. Jem's persistence reveals that a body does indeed lie in the school's mortuary, minus its right arm. But the body has no provenance. More macabre still, its face has been dissected, making identification impossible. Dr Strangeway denies all knowledge, and Dr Crowe seems unwilling to pursue the matter.  At Corvus Hall, Will is employed to illustrate Dr Crowe's new anatomy handbook. Soon, it becomes evident that all is not as it should be. Dr Crowe's daughter, Lilith, visits the mortuary in the dead of night and her twin sisters, Sorrow and Silence - one blind and one deaf - exert a malign influence over the students. Organs, freshly dissected, appear in the anatomy museum. Fear grips lecturers and students, even as something unseen binds them in a bloody pact of silence.  In a mystery that ranges from the wynds of Burke and Hare's Edinburgh to the dissecting tables of London's notorious anatomy schools, Jem and Will find that the stakes have never been higher. Surgeon’s Hall (Little, Brown) is by E S Thomson. 

In a hard-boiled city of crooks, grifts and rackets lurk a pair of toughs: Box and _____. They're the kind of men capable of extracting apologies and reparations, of teaching you a chilling lesson. They seldom think twice, and ask very few questions. Until one night over the poker table, they encounter a pulp writer with wild ideas and an unscrupulous private detective, leading them into what is either a classic mystery, a senseless maze of corpses, or an inextricable fever dream . . . Drunk on cinematic and literary influence, Muscle is a slice of noir fiction in collapse, a ceaselessly imaginative story of violence, boredom and madness.  Muscle (Faber & Faber) is by Alan Trotter

Sunday, 30 December 2018

My favourite reads of 2018

My favourite reads of 2018 have been a mixture of historical, true crime, debut novels, non-fiction and continuing series.  It has been rather difficult to narrow them down.  They all made me realise why I enjoy reading this genre so much and also why it is in such robust health. In alphabetical order my favourite reads are as follows –

Jonathan Abrams’s All The Pieces Matter: The Inside Story of The Wire (Oldcastle Books) is in my opinion a love affair to The Wire. Since its final episode aired in 2008, the acclaimed crime drama The Wire has only become more popular and influential. The issues it tackled, from the failures of the drug war and criminal justice system to systemic bias in law enforcement and other social institutions have become more urgent and topical. It is arguably without doubt one of the great works of art America has produced in the 21st century.  But while there has been a great deal of critical analysis of the show and its themes, until now there has never been a definitive, behind-the-scenes take on how it came to be made. With unparalleled access to all the key actors and writers involved in its creation, Jonathan Abrams tells the astonishing, compelling, and complete account of The Wire, from its inception and creation through to its end and powerful legacy.  It may be over ten years ago since the last episode of The Wire was shown but its impact has certainly not been dimmed and All The Pieces Matter just re-enforces why The Wire is such a seminal piece of writing.  If you are wishing for another season of The Wire then hopefully All The Pieces Matter will suffice.

Dark Sacred Night by Michael Connelly (Orion Publishing) picks up the story of detective Harry Bosch in the first novel in a new series, pairing Bosch’s talents with that of Renee Ballard, who made her entrance in the Ballard series-opener The Late Show.  At the end of a long, dark night Detectives Renee Ballard and Harry Bosch cross paths for the very first time.  Detective Renee Ballard is working the graveyard shift again, and returns to Hollywood Station in the early hours only to find that an older man has snuck in and is rifling through old file cabinets. The intruder is none other than legendary LAPD detective Hieronymus ‘Harry’ Bosch, working a cold case that has crept under his skin.  Unimpressed, Ballard kicks him out, but eventually Bosch persuades her to help and she reluctantly relents. Because Bosch is on the trail of a cold case which refuses to stay buried; investigating the death of fifteen-year-old Daisy Clayton, a runaway who was brutally murdered. It’s a case that haunts Bosch - who crossed paths with Daisy’s devastated mother on a previous case. As Bosch and Ballard are drawn deeper into the mystery of her murder, they find there are more surprises awaiting them in the darkness.  Michael Connelly is in top form with Dark Sacred Night and it is interesting to see him team up with another detective to solve a cold case.  Furthermore it is good to see Bosch realising that he can no longer do some of the things he used to be able to and has to rely on someone else. As usual impeccable writing, compelling storyline and incredibly descriptive. Michael Connelly never lets the reader down and in his case he has brought another brilliant partnership to our attention.

The Woman in the Woods by John Connolly (Hodder and Stoughton) features of course that eponymous private detective Charlie Parker who first came to our attention in the debut novel Every Dead Thing.  Since then John Connolly and Charlie Parker have consistently been amongst my favourite reads.  The Woman in the Woods is no exception. It is spring, and the semi-preserved body of a young Jewish woman is discovered buried in the Maine woods. It is clear that she gave birth shortly before her death. But there is no sign of a baby.  Private detective Charlie Parker is engaged by the lawyer Moxie Castin to shadow the police investigation and find the infant, but Parker is not the only searcher. Someone else is following the trail left by the woman, someone with an interest in more than a missing child, someone prepared to leave bodies in his wake...  Charlie Parker is a brilliant, sympathetic anti-hero that finds himself fighting a progressively sinister and complex world.  As a recurring series Charlie Parker is amongst the best.

I am always sceptical when authors are asked to continue long running series after the original author has passed away and tend to view and read them with a large dose of salt.  Some get it right, some don’t.  In the case of Money in the Morgue (Harper Collins), Stella Duffy got it spot on. It's business as usual for Mr Glossop as he does his regular round delivering wages to government buildings scattered across New Zealand's lonely Canterbury plains. But when his car breaks down he is stranded for the night at the isolated Mount Seager Hospital, with the telephone lines down, a storm on its way and the nearby river about to burst its banks.  Trapped with him at Mount Seager are a group of quarantined soldiers with a serious case of cabin fever, three young employees embroiled in a tense love triangle, a dying elderly man, an elusive patient whose origins remain a mystery ... and a potential killer.  When the payroll disappears from a locked safe and the hospital's death toll starts to rise faster than normal, can the appearance of an English detective working in counterespionage be just a lucky coincidence - or is something more sinister afoot? Roderick Alleyn is back in this unique crime novel begun by Ngaio Marsh during the Second World War and completed by Stella Duffy in a way that has delighted reviewers and critics alike.  Murder in the Morgue is so superbly written that as a reader one is in the unique position of reading a seamless book.  Fans of Ngaio Marsh also get to renew their acquaintance with an author who is considered to be one of the Queen’s of crime!  A wonderful book to read and savour.

The Poison Bed is by E C Fremantle (Penguin Books) and is a chilling, noirish thriller ripped straight from the headlines.  A king, his lover and his lover's wife. One is a killer.  In the autumn of 1615 scandal rocks the Jacobean court when a celebrated couple are imprisoned on suspicion of murder. She is young, captivating and from a notorious family. He is one of the richest and most powerful men in the kingdom. Some believe she is innocent; others think her wicked or insane. He claims no knowledge of the murder. The king suspects them both, though it is his secret at stake. Who is telling the truth? Who has the most to lose? And who is willing to commit murder?  The Poison Bed is a fascinating tale of intrigue and ambition and full of period detail.   It is dark, riveting and murderous and with its immaculate detail overwhelmingly atmospheric. This is a Jacobean mystery that does not pull any punches.

Mick Herron’s The Drop (Hodder and Stoughton) is a Slough House series novella.  Old spooks carry the memory of tradecraft in their bones, and when Solomon Dortmund sees an envelope being passed from one pair of hands to another in a Marylebone cafe, he knows he's witnessed more than an innocent encounter. But in relaying his suspicions to John Bachelor, who babysits retired spies like Solly, he sets in train events, which will alter lives. Bachelor himself, a hair's breadth away from sleeping in his car, is clawing his way back to stability; Hannah Weiss, the double agent whose recruitment was his only success, is starting to enjoy the secrets and lies her role demands; and Lech Wicinski, an Intelligence Service analyst, finds that a simple favour for an old acquaintance might derail his career. Meanwhile, Lady Di Taverner is trying to keep the Service on an even keel, and if that means throwing the odd crewmember overboard, well: collateral damage is her speciality.  A drop, in spook parlance, is the passing on of secret information.  It's also what happens just before you hit the ground.  Elegantly written, wry with a subtle wit The Drop is a welcome addition to the Slough House series.  Mick Herron’s redundant spies are a joy to be around and surely this must be the best series around featuring a wonderful team of inept and frustrating spies.  Unlike the novels, The Drop is much more of a classic spy novel with a traditional setting along with agents in the field.  However, this is novella is worth reading for the outrageous jokes alone. Sublime.

If you have never read Gregg Hurwitz Orphan X series then I suggest that you do so pretty quickly. It is one of those series that keeps on getting better and is full of intense action and emotional rollercoasters.  In Hellbent (Penguin Books) to some he is Orphan X. Others know him as the Nowhere Man. But to veteran spymaster Jack Johns he will always be a boy named Evan Smoak.  Taken from an orphanage, Evan was raised inside a top-secret programme designed turn him into a deadly weapon. Jack became his instructor, mentor, teacher and guardian. Because for all the dangerous skills he instilled in his young charge, he also cared for Evan like a son. And now Jack needs Evan's help.  The Orphan programme hid dark secrets. Now those with blood on their hands want every trace of it gone. And they will stop at nothing to make sure that Jack and Evan go with it.  With little time remaining, Jack gives Evan his last assignment: to find and protect the programme's last recruit. And to stay alive long enough to uncover the shocking truth ...  Hellbent is a brilliant twisty page turning thriller that will leave you gasping. This is the type of novel that in my opinion reiterates how well thrillers are doing and why they continue to be amongst the widest read.

Laura Lippman is one of the few authors whose books make me wish that I actually wrote novels. She is one of the best novelists around and her work constantly gives the reader not only hours of joy but food for thought.  Sunburn (Faber & Faber) is a noir gem of a novel that is reminiscent of James M Cain.  What kind of woman walks out on her family? Gregg knows. The kind of woman he picked up in a bar three years ago precisely because she had that kind of wildcat energy. And now she's vanished - at least from the life that he and his kid will live. We'll follow her, to a new town, a new job, and a new friend, who thinks he has her figured. So who is this woman who calls herself Polly? How many times has she disappeared before? And who are the shadowy figures so interested in her whereabouts?   There is a sultry femme fatale ambiance that permeates throughout the novel and this certainly brings a sense of noir to the fore despite the fact that the novel is set in the 1990s. If you haven’t done so already then read Sunburn and also Laura Lippman’s backlist. You certainly won’t regret it.

Everyone has a secret... Only some lead to murder. The House on Half Moon Street by Alex Reeve (Bloomsbury Publishing) introduces Leo Stanhope: a Victorian transgender coroner's assistant who must uncover a killer without risking his own future When the body of a young woman is wheeled into the hospital where Leo Stanhope works, his life is thrown into chaos. Maria, the woman he loves, has been murdered and it is not long before the finger of suspicion is turned on him, threatening to expose his lifelong secret. For Leo Stanhope was born Charlotte, the daughter of a respectable reverend. Knowing he was meant to be a man - despite the evidence of his body - and unable to cope with living a lie any longer, he fled his family home at just fifteen and has been living as Leo ever since: his secret known to only a few trusted people. Desperate to find Maria's killer and thrown into gaol, he stands to lose not just his freedom, but ultimately his life.  This is a mysterious Victorian crime novel with a troubled but fascinated narrator.   His transgenderisim is handled incredibly well along with the other resulting issues that take their toll.  Told in first person this is an enthralling psychological murder that is original and has a brilliant premise.  Wonderfully atmospheric The House on Half Moon Street is exactly what a Victorian murder mystery should be.

A Treachery of Spies by Manda Scott (Transworld Publishing) is an espionage thriller to rival the very best; a high stakes game of cat-and-mouse, played in the shadows, which will keep you guessing every step of the way. An elderly woman of striking beauty is found murdered in Orleans, France. Her identity has been cleverly erased but the method of her death is very specific: she has been killed in the manner of traitors to the Resistance in World War Two. Tracking down her murderer leads police inspector Ines Picaut back to 1940s France where the men and women of the Resistance were engaged in a desperate fight for survival against the Nazi invaders. To find answers in the present Picaut must discover what really happened in the past, untangling a web of treachery and intrigue that stretches back to the murder victim's youth: a time when unholy alliances were forged between occupiers and occupied, deals were done and promises broken. The past has been buried for decades, but, as Picaut discovers, there are those in the present whose futures depend on it staying that way - and who will kill to keep their secrets safe....  If you are a fan of espionage thrillers then this is a fascinating read. It is beautifully written and one of the best spy thrillers that has recently been written.

Stuart Turton’s debut novel The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle (Bloomsbury Publishing) is a brilliant, high concept murder with nods to Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie and Robert Altman’s Gosford Park.  Somebody's going to be murdered at the ball tonight. It won't appear to be a murder and so the murderer won't be caught. Rectify that injustice and I'll show you the way out.'  It is meant to be a celebration but it ends in tragedy. As fireworks explode overhead, Evelyn Hardcastle, the young and beautiful daughter of the house, is killed. But Evelyn will not die just once.  Until Aiden - one of the guests summoned to Blackheath for the party - can solve her murder, the day will repeat itself, over and over again. Every time ending with the fateful pistol shot. The only way to break this cycle is to identify the killer. But each time the day begins again; Aiden wakes in the body of a different guest. And someone is determined to prevent him ever escaping Blackheath...  A story within a story, a highly original read with an intriguing storyline and a depiction of Blackheath that will leave you fascinated. The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle is an unusual concept that plays with all the tropes and conventions of the Golden Age of detection and is certainly worth reading.   

The Real Lolita: The Kidnapping of Sally Horner and the Novel that Scandalized the World by Sarah Weinman (Orion Publishing).  For many Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita is one of the most beloved and notorious novels of all time. And yet, very few of its readers know that the subject of the novel was inspired by a real-life case: the 1948 abduction of eleven-year-old Sally Horner.  Weaving together suspenseful crime narrative, cultural and social history, and literary investigation, The Real Lolita tells Sally Horner's full story for the very first time. Drawing upon extensive investigations, legal documents, public records and interviews with remaining relatives, Sarah Weinman uncovers how much Nabokov knew of the Sally Horner case and the efforts he took to disguise that knowledge during the process of writing and publishing Lolita.  Sally Horner's story echoes the stories of countless girls and women who never had the chance to speak for themselves. By diving deeper in the publication history of Lolita and restoring Sally to her rightful place in the lore of the novel's creation, The Real Lolita casts a new light on the dark inspiration for a modern classic.  I will freely admit that I am not a big reader of true crime books.  However, I managed to devour The Real Lolita and was thoroughly captivated by the literary detective work that was clearly undertaken to bring to life the poignant story of Sally Horner.  A stupendous read that will make you look at Nabokov’s Lolita in a very different light.

Honourable mentions also go to Val McDermid’s Broken Ground (Little, Brown), The Darkness by Ragnar Jonasson (Penguin) The Syndicate by Guy Bolton (Oneworld Publishers) Robicheaux by James Lee Burke (Orion) and Name of the Dog by Elmer Mendoza (Quercus)