Saturday, 20 April 2019

Books to Look Forward to from Head of Zeus

July 2019

The Heart Keeper is by Alex Dahl.  How do you mend a broken heart? It's been three months since Alison Miller-Juul's world fell apart when her six-year-old daughter, Amalie, died in an accident. Three months of sympathy cards, grief counselling and gritting her teeth, but it's still only the vodka and pills that seem to help. Across town, Iselin Berg's life is finally looking up. Her seven-year-old daughter, Kaia, has survived a life-changing operation. After years of doctors, medication and hope, they can now start thinking about the future. When Alison uncovers a dangerous secret, she is left in turmoil. She can now see a way to heal her broken heart, but will she risk everything to do so?

December, 1939. Having solved the case of the Suffolk Vampire, Inspector Betty Church and her colleagues at Sackwater Police Station have settled back down to business. There's the elderly Mr Fern who keeps losing his slippers, Sylvia Satin's thirteenth birthday party to attend and the scintillating case of the missing bookmark to solve. Though peace and quiet are all well and good, Betty soon finds herself longing for some cold-blooded murder.  When a bomb is dropped on a residential street, both peace and quiet are broken and it seems the war has finally reached Sackwater. But Betty cannot stop the Hun, however hard she tries. So when the body of one of the bomb victims is found stretched out like an angel on Sackwater's beach, Betty concentrates on finding the enemy much closer to home...  A Room of the Dead is by M R C Kasasian

August 2019

There's power in stories and this is a story of power. Dead bodies aren't unusual in the alleyways of Fenest. Muggings, brawls gone bad, debts collected - Detective Cora Gorderheim has seen it all. Until she finds a Wayward man with his mouth sewn shut. As
Cora pieces together the dead man's story, she's drawn into the most dangerous story in the Union of Realms: the election. All she wants is to catch the killer, but nothing is that simple in an election year. Dark forces conspire against the Union and soon she finds herself at the rotten core of it all. Cora will find the killer, but at what cost? Widow”s Welcome is by D K Fields

Bitterroots is by CJ Box. Former police officer Cassie Dewell is trying to start over with her own private investigation firm. Guilty about not seeing her son and exhausted by the nights on stakeout, Cassie is nontheless managing... until an old friend calls in a favor: she wants Cassie to help exonerate a man accused of assaulting a young girl from an influential family. Against her own better judgment, Cassie agrees. But out in the Big Sky Country of Montana, twisted family loyalty runs as deep as the ties to the land, and there's always something more to the story. As Cassie attempts to uncover the truth, she must fight against the ghosts of her own past that threaten to pull her back under. 

September 2019

The newspapers called it The Bad Place. A remote farm out on the Thames estuary, where six children were held captive for two weeks. Five of them got out alive.  That was twenty years ago. Now adults, they meet up annually to hold a candlelit vigil for their friend who died. The only rule is that no-one can talk about what happened the night they escaped. But at this year's event, one of them witnesses a kidnapping. A young girl, Sammi, is bundled into a van in front of their eyes. Is history repeating itself? Is one of them responsible? Or is someone sending them a twisted message? DI Sasha Dawson, of Essex Police, is certain that the key to finding Sammi lies in finding out the truth about The Bad Place. But she also knows that with every second she spends trying to unlock the past, the clock ticks down for the missing girl...  The Bad Place is by M K Hill.

November 2019

No Fixed Line is by Dana Stabenow... though there is no fixed line between wrong and right. There are roughly zones whose laws must be obeyed. It is New Year's Eve, nearly six weeks into an off-and-on blizzard that has locked Alaska down, effectively cutting it off from the outside world. But now there are reports of a plane down in the Quilak mountains. With the National Transportation Safety Board unable to reach the crash site, ex-Trooper Jim Chopin is pulled out of retirement to try to identify the aircraft, collect the corpses, and determine why no flight has been reported missing. But Jim discovers survivors: two children who don't speak a word of English. Meanwhile, PI Kate Shugak receives an unexpected and unwelcome accusation from beyond 

Who really killed Leo Fenton? Two years ago, Ben Fenton went camping with his brother Leo. It was the last time they ever saw each other. By the end of that fateful trip, Leo had disappeared, and Ben had been arrested for his murder. Ben's wife Ana has always protested his innocence. Now, on the hottest day of 2018's sweltering heat wave, she receives a phone call from the police. Leo's body has been found, in a freshly dug grave in her own local churchyard. How did it get there? Who really killed him? St Albans police, led by DCI Jansen, are soon unpicking a web of lies that shimmers beneath the surface of Ana's well-kept village. But as tensions mount, and the tight-knit community begins to unravel, Ana realises that if she wants to absolve her husband, she must unearth the truth alone.  The Scorched Earth is by Rachel Blok.

December 2019

Tobias Hawke was the tech genius boss of the British Institute for Deep Learning. Now his body has been found in his lab: he has been brutally murdered. Hawke was on the brink of an astonishing breakthrough in the field of Artificial Intelligence. His creation, 'Syd', a machine-learning device that mimics human thought, promised to change the face of humanity forever. But, in the wake of her creator's murder, Syd has gone into emergency
shutdown procedure. What secrets are her neural networks hiding? 
Michael North, ex-assassin and spy-for-hire, is the man to find out. But he can't work alone. Teenage hacker Fangfang, and Hawke's widow, a prize-winning ethicist, have their own reasons to solve the murder. But can they uncover the truth before it's too late?  Curse the Day is by Judith O’Reilly.
In the Net is by Chan Ho-Kei. Natasha, a librarian, lives a quiet life with her fifteen-year-old sister Anastasia. After a difficult, impoverished upbringing and the deaths of their parents, they are finally finding a bit of stability. Then one day, Natasha comes home to find her teenage sister has jumped to her death. Was it suicide, or was she pushed? And does it have anything to do with a recent trip on the Hong Kong subway which left Anastasia silent and withdrawn? Natasha cannot rest until she knows the truth about her sister - even if that means tracking down her sister's friends one by one and making them confess. Part detective novel, part revenge thriller, In the Net explores themes of sexual harassment, internet bullying and teenage suicide - and vividly captures the zeitgeist of Hong Kong today.

Blood Ties is by Helen Burnside.  Adele Robinson is behind bars. Having been convicted for the murder of her abusive father, she quickly realises that she’ll have to play it tough if she’s going to survive. Meanwhile, her brother Peter is building his criminal empire on the outside. But he soon comes to the attention of Manchester’s rival gangs, and a turf war breaks out. And when things start to get bloody, only Adele can step in to protect the family business. Will she get out in time to save Peter? After all, blood is thicker than water, and when family’s in trouble you can’t look the other way. 

Friday, 19 April 2019

2019 Arthur Ellis Awards Shortlists

2019 Arthur Ellis Awards Shortlists for Excellence in Canadian Crime Writing 

The annual Arthur Ellis Awards by Crime Writers of Canada recognizes the best in mystery, crime, and suspense fiction and crime nonfiction by Canadian authors. Winners will be announced on May 23rd at the Arthur Ellis Awards Gala in Toronto.  

Cape Diamond by Ron Corbett, ECW Press, 
Though the Heavens Fall by Anne Emery ECW Press

The Winters by Lisa Gabriele, Doubleday Canada
Kingdom of the Blind by Louise Penny, Minotaur Books
The Girl in the Moss by Loreth Anne White, Montlake Romance 

BEST FIRST CRIME NOVEL (Sponsored by Rakuten Kobo)
Cobra Clutch by A.J. Devlin NeWest Press
Operation Wormwood by Helen C. Escott, Flanker Press, 
Full Disclosure by Beverley McLachlin, Simon & Schuster Canada  
Why Was Rachel Murdered? By Bill Prentice, Echo Road, 
Find You in the Dark by Nathan Ripley, Simon & Schuster Canada 

BEST CRIME NOVELLA – The Lou Allin Memorial Award, 
The B-Team: The Case of the Angry First Wife, by Melodie Campbell Orca Book Publishers  
Blue Water Hues by Vicki Delany Orca Book Publishers
Murder Among the Pines by John Lawrence Reynolds Orca Book Publishers

BEST CRIME SHORT STORY (Sponsored by Mystery Weekly Magazine) 
A Ship Called Pandora by Melodie Campbell, Mystery Weekly Magazine   
The Power Man, Baby It's Cold Outside by Therese Greenwood Coffin Hop Press 
Game by Twist Phelan Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine
Terminal City by Linda L. Richards, Vancouver Noir, Akashic Books, 
Wonderful Life by Sam Wiebe, Vancouver Noir, Akashic Books 

Un dernier baiser avant de te tuer, by Jean-Philippe Bernié, Libre Expression 
Adolphus - Une enquête de Joseph Laflamme, by Hervé Gagnon Libre Expression 
Ces femmes aux yeux cernés by André Jacques, Éditions Druide
Deux coups de pied de trop, by Guillaume Morissette , Guy Saint-Jean Éditeur  
Rinzen la beauté intérieure, by Johanne Seymour, Expression noir 

Escape by Linwood Barclay, Puffin Canada
The House of One Thousand Eyes by Michelle Barker, Annick Press 
Call of the Wraith by Kevin Sands, Aladdin 
The Ruinous Sweep by Tim Wynne-Jones, Candlewick Press
The Rumrunner's Boy by E.R. Yatscoff, TG & R Books 

Dying for a Drink: How a Prohibition Preacher Got Away With Murder by Patrick Brode, Biblioasis 
The King of Con: How a Smooth-Talking Jersey Boy Made and Lost Billions, Baffled the FBI, Eluded the Mob, and Lived to Tell the Crooked Tale by Thomas Giacomaro and Natasha Stoynoff, BenBella Books, Inc, 
The Boy on the Bicycle: A Forgotten Case of Wrongful Conviction in Toronto by Nate Hendley, Five Rivers Publishing
Murder by Milkshake: An Astonishing True Story of Adultery, Arsenic, and a Charismatic Killer by Eve Lazarus, Arsenal Pulp Press, 
The Real Lolita: The Kidnapping of Sally Horner and the Novel that Scandalized the World by Sarah Weinman, Alfred A. Knopf Canada 

BEST UNPUBLISHED MANUSCRIPT – aka The Unhanged Arthur (Sponsored by Dundurn Press) 
Hypnotizing Lions by Jim Bottomley, 
Omand’s Creek by Don Macdonald
The Scarlet Cross by Liv McFarlane 
One for the Raven Darrow Woods, The Book of Answers by Heather McLeod,

Derrick Murdoch Award

CWC announces the 2019 Derrick Murdoch Award recipient Vicki Delany

The Derrick Murdoch Award is a special achievement award for contributions to the crime genre. Vicki Delany is a successful and prolific Canadian writer, author of (so far) 34 published books, both standalones and series. She has been a strong supporter and advocate for Canadian crime writers through her work with the Crime Writers of Canada, including serving two terms as Chair of the organization. She has also been a strong supporter of literacy and libraries across Canada and she is one of the founders of the Women Killing It literary festival, which has become a much sought after and sold-out event in Prince Edward County every year. 2019 Arthur Ellis Awards Shortlists for Excellence in Canadian Crime Writing 

Thursday, 18 April 2019

Alafair Burke: Behind The Better Sister

Here’s the quick summary of The Better Sister: Chloe Taylor thinks she has it all—a handsome husband (Adam), thoughtful stepson (Ethan), and thriving career (author, editor, budding cultural icon)—until she finds Adam murdered at their East Hampton beach house. Things manage to get even more complicated when police focus their suspicions on Ethan and his biological mother comes to town to try to help.

An added wrinkle? Ethan's mother (and Adam's ex-wife) is Chloe's estranged older sister, Nicky. 

Even that brief synopsis makes it clear that the book will delve into the fine line between sisterly loyalty and rivalry.  But I view The Better Sister as the third book in a thematic trilogy, following The Ex and The Wife, that explores the complexity of female relationships and the diverse roles that women play in contemporary society. As we juggle busy lives, we often show different faces to our spouses, exes, children, parents, siblings, and co-workers, all while trying to know and be true to ourselves.  

 Chloe and Nicky know each other only as siblings.  Adam knew them both as wives.  To teenaged Ethan, Chloe and Nicky are each a different type of mother to him.  And both women have independent existences where they can live without familial obligation.  It’s in that independent realm where the women of this trilogy of books have, I hope, provoked some thoughts about the often gendered nature of threats, abuse, and violence in our culture.

In The Ex, an accomplished criminal defense lawyer steps in to defend her ex after he’s accused of a mass shooting. The Wife is about Angela Powell, who’s dragged into the spotlight after her high-profile husband is accused of sexual assault, but has a survival story of her own. In The Better Sister, Chloe Taylor is a target for online threats and harassment because of her journalistic work related to the #MeToo movement. 

Each book in the trilogy shows smart, capable women searching for every ounce of fortitude to make their own mark on the world while also living up to obligations that fall to them in their status roles—as an ex, a wife, a mother, or a sister. Sometimes that work requires redefining what it means to be “better.

The Better Sister by Alafair Burke is published by Faber & Faber in April (£12.99)

Stasi 77 by David Young

With Deutschland 83 having just returned to the small screen, in the shape of Deutschland 86, you might think that – in setting my crime thrillers in the German Democratic Republic (more commonly known as East Germany) – I am simply following a fashionable trend.

That was never my aim. My original inspiration for the Stasi Child series -- which now continues with its fourth instalment, Stasi 77-- has been documented elsewhere. A decade or so ago, I started a little indie-pop band, we managed to blag a tour of Germany, and I was surprised and inspired by the amount of GDR infrastructure still visible in the eastern part of the country.

That led to a trial chapter from Stasi Childon a creative writing MA, and my tutor – Northern Irish crime writer Claire McGowan – encouraged me to turn it into a novel (despite, at every turn, telling me she hated my choice of title). But in researching Stasi ChildI discovered a wealth of weird and wonderful stories in East Germany, some of which I’ve now fashioned into novels.

It wasn’t a conscious choice to become a historical crime writer (Stasi Childwas fortunate enough to win the CWA’s 2016 history dagger for the best historical crime novel of the year), it was simply an automatic follow-on from choosing an East German setting. East Germany has disappeared. It’s a lost world. Unless I wanted to invent a parallel universe in the shape of Robert Harris’s Fatherland, I was automatically in the historical pigeon hole.

It’s quite a comfortable home for me, however. I’ve always been interested in history, and despite giving it up before ‘O’-levels (I was forced instead to do Latin, which I hated) my Humanities degree in the late 1970s at the then Bristol Polytechnic was pretty much – in effect – a history degree as a result of my module choices, and my dissertation on British attitudes to Stalin’s purges of the 1930s.

Stasi 77 is steeped in history – both from the GDR era, and that of the Nazi period. In fact, its inspiration was taken from a Nazi massacre in the final weeks of the Second World War, onto which I’ve bolted a fictional crime story set in 1977. Hence the novel’s title.

It’s a novel I thoroughly enjoyed researching and writing, despite its sometimes horrific content. Once again, as in my debut and the follow-ups – Stasi Wolf (2017) and A Darker State (2018) – there is a twin narrative. One is told in third person past through the eyes of my detective, Major Karin Müller of the People’s Police. 

The other – which I found particularly traumatic to write – is through the eyes of a French forced labourer at the Nazi’s V2 rocket factory near Nordhausen, who ends up enduring one of the infamous ‘death marches’ towards the end of the war.
Where that march ends, is where the action takes place – both in 1945, and in 1977.
It’s a novel that’s important to me, and I think it’s my best yet.

I hope you’ll read it and agree.

Stasi 77 by David Young (Published by Zaffre Publishing)
A secret State. A dark conspiracy. A terrible crime. Karin Muller of the German Democratic Republic's People's Police is called to a factory in the east of the country. A man has been murdered - bound and trapped as a fire burned nearby, slowly suffocating him. But who is he? Why was he targeted? Could his murderer simply be someone with a grudge against the factory's nationalisation, as Muller's Stasi colleagues insist? Why too is her deputy Werner Tilsner behaving so strangely? As more victims surface, it becomes clear that there is a cold-blooded killer out there taking their revenge. Soon Muller begins to realise that in order to solve these terrible crimes, she will need to delve into the region's dark past. But are the Stasi really working with her on this case? Or against her? For those who really run this Republic have secrets they would rather remain uncovered. And they will stop at nothing to keep them that way . . . 

Wednesday, 17 April 2019

Final call for entries for the McIlvanney Prize for Crime Fiction and the NEW debut prize for crime fiction

Final call for entries for the McIlvanney Prize for Crime Fiction and the
NEW debut prize for crime fiction
 AND revealing the debut authors selected for Alex Gray’s New Crimes

Best-selling crime writer Alex Gray created the Bloody Scotland International Crime Writing Festival with fellow author, Lin Anderson, in order to celebrate the best of crime writing and to support aspiring crime writers.

As the Festival celebrates 8 years Alex reveals her debut selections for this years New Crimes panel and reflects on the success stories which have emerged from it including Abir Mukherjee (‘lovely to see the trajectory of Abir’s writing career since then’), Felicia Yap (‘blend of futuristic novel and contemporary crime made it quite unique’) and Olga Wotjas (‘crime and humour are hard to combine but I laughed out loud several times’).

On Saturday 21 September four new crime writers will be taking the stage in Stirling all of which she praises for ‘how well the stories stuck in my mind and, more importantly, the superb quality of writing’:

Freefall by US author, Jessica Barry (Harvill Secker) was just one of those thrillers that creates a lasting impression long after finishing the story, a crime debut by a writer previously known for romantic fiction. Quite a leap!

Close to the Edge by Toby Faber (Muswell Press) was a story I thought I would not like, given that much of the setting is in the tunnels of the London Underground and I am horribly claustrophobic. Yet it kept me reading and I loved the setting and characters in equal measure.

Past Life by Dominic Nolan (Headline) combines Police Procedural with a harrowing account of one woman’s amnesia, not a tale for the faint-hearted and never falling into the trap of a predictable outcome but a book that grabs you and refuses to let go till the very end.

The Rumour by Lesley Kara (Bantam Press) takes what might be considered a small thing, a mere rumour, and build it into a thrilling story. The Rumour might be compared to the recent BBC drama, The Victim, but its resemblance is pure coincidence, just showing the zeitgeist prevailing right now.

None of the above books are eligible for the new McIlvanney Prize for debut fiction - which requires authors to be born in Scotland live in Scotland or set their books there - so there is still all to play for. Entries for the prize close at 5pm on Friday 26 April. PDFs of the book (published between 1 August 2018 and 31 July 2019) should be sent by email to Director, Bob McDevitt with McIlvanney Prize Entry 2019 plus the book title in the header. The winner will be selected from the highest scoring titles in the first round and judged by the board of Bloody Scotland, including crime writers Lin Anderson, Craig Robertson, Gordon Brown and Abir Mukherjee.

A new Scottish debut panel will precede Alex Gray’s New Crimes event so the morning of Saturday 21 September at Bloody Scotland is the place to be for discovering new crime fiction. The Scottish debut line up will be revealed after the programme launch on 3 June (in Stirling) and 4 June (in London).
For further information contact 07767 431846 @brownlee_donald

Tuesday, 16 April 2019

Books to Look Forward to from Pan Macmillan

July 2019

A Nearly Normal Family is a psychological thriller from M. T. Edvardsson and asks what would you do if your child was suspected of murder, how far would you go to protect them? Do you want to know the truth? Every murder case starts with a suspect. What if the suspect is your daughter?   Would you believe her, or the evidence against her?  The Father - Believes his daughter has been framed.  The Mother - Believes she is hiding something.  The Daughter - Believes they have no idea what she's truly capable of . . . There are three sides to the story.  And the truth will shatter this family to pieces.

It is 1949 and handsome, young ex-soldier Aloysius Archer arrives in Poca City, Oklahoma. On parole following a stint in prison back east when he was convicted of a crime he didn’t commit, Archer is looking for a fresh start and a peaceful life after his wartime experiences in Italy. However, he soon understands that there’s a lot more going on in this town than he’d bargained for as he meets some very colourful, extremely intriguing and often dangerous residents living above and below the law. All seem to have deeply buried secrets which he must uncover if he’s to avoid going back behind bars.  One Good Deed is by David Baldacci.

August 2019

Time for the Dead is by Lin Anderson and sees forensic scientist Rhona MacLeod discover that a terrifying war is unfolding on Scotland's Isle of Skye.  When forensic scientist Rhona MacLeod returns to her roots on Scotland's Isle of Skye, a chance encounter in the woods behind a nearby activities centre leads her to what seems to be a crime scene, but without a victim. Could this be linked to a group of army medics, who visited the centre while on leave from Afghanistan and can no longer be located on the island?  Enlisting the help of local tracker dog Blaze, Rhona starts searching for a connection. Two days later a body is found at the base of the famous cliff known as Kilt Rock, face and identity obliterated by the fall, which leads Rhona to suspect the missing medics may be on the island for reasons other than relaxation. Furthermore, elements of the case suggests a link with an ongoing operation in Glasgow, which draws DS Michael McNab into the investigation.  As the island's unforgiving conditions close in, Rhona must find out what really happened to the group in Afghanistan, as the consequences may be being played out in brutal killings on Skye . . .

Has the killer in DC Maggie Neville's cold case returned after a decade of silence?  Katy Pope was seventeen when she was brutally murdered on a family holiday in Majorca. Despite her mother's high rank in the Met and the joint major investigation between the British and Spanish police, Katy's killer was never caught. Ten years later, Katy's family return to the Spanish island to launch a fresh appeal for information, taking with them the now skeletal team of investigating Met detectives, and newly seconded Maggie as the family liaison officer.  But Maggie's first international investigation quickly goes from being more than just a press conference when another British girl there on holiday goes missing, and Katy's killer announces that it's time for an encore . . .  Dead Guilty is by Michelle Davies.

Desperate to put her past in the rearview mirror, Finn Hunt leaves the Midwest for Phoenix, Arizona, where no one knows her story.  While she's working a dead-end job, a chance meeting with Philip Martin, son of a prominent US Senator, leads Finn to a position as nanny for Amabel, his precocious four-year-old daughter. Quickly seduced into the Martins' privileged world, Finn can almost believe she belongs there, almost forget the dark past that haunts her.  Then, in the stifling heat of a desert summer as the Senator's re-election looms, a strange woman begins to follow Finn, claiming a connection to Philip and threatening to expose the family to scandal. As Finn tries to protect Amabel, and shield the Martins, she's inadvertently drawn deeper and deeper into their buried secrets.  The family trusts Finn, for now, but it will only take one mistake for everything she holds dear - the Martins' world, her new life - to fall apart . . .  Girl in the Rear View Mirror is by Kelsey Rae Dimberg

September 2019

Blood in the Water by Jack Flynn is a thriller set in Boston in the gritty world of mob bosses, con artists and gangs, where allegiances are formed with law enforcement and criminals just as easily as they are broken.   Homeland Security agent, Kit Steel, is committed to avenge terrorism. And she's after the blood of her nemesis, one of world's most ruthless and dangerous criminals, Vincente Carpio. He has the blood of her husband and young son on his hands, and Kit is unwavering in her determination to see him kept behind bars forever. Clever, calculating, and manipulative, Carpio has aid and influence on the outside, and he's waiting for the perfect moment when the final pieces of the jigsaw fall into place.  Harbour Union chief, Cormack McConnell, has lived his life close to the wire above and below the law, and he controls everything that happens on Boston's waterfront. Someone wants him out of the way, fast. After he narrowly survives a brutal attack on his bar, The Mariner, complications arise when Cormack believes he's been betrayed by one of his crew - a young man, Buddy Cavanaugh, who he's shocked to discover is the love of his precious nineteen-year-old daughter, Diamond.  Everyone has a game to play until it becomes apparent that there are much darker, far-reaching forces of evil at work which look to be preparing for the international stage. What follows is a gripping race against time, a rollercoaster action-packed story with international terrorism at its core and family at its heart.

The Long Call is the first book in a brand new series by Anne Cleeves.  In North Devon, where the rivers Taw and Torridge converge and run into the sea, Detective Matthew Venn stands outside the church as his father's funeral takes place. The day Matthew turned his back on the strict evangelical community in which he grew up, he lost his family too.  Now he's back, not just to mourn his father at a distance, but to take charge of his first major case in the Two Rivers region; a complex place not quite as idyllic as tourists suppose.  A body has been found on the beach near to Matthew's new home: a man with the tattoo of an albatross on his neck, stabbed to death.  Finding the killer is Venn's only focus, and his team's investigation will take him straight back into the community he left behind, and the deadly secrets that lurk there.

This is not a detective story, this is a story about the making of a detective . . .  William Warwick has always wanted to be a detective, and decides, much to his father's dismay, that rather than become a barrister like his father, Sir Julian Warwick QC, and his sister Grace, he will join London's Metropolitan Police Force.  After graduating from university, William begins a career that will define his life: from his early months on the beat under the watchful eye of his first mentor, Constable Fred Yates, to his first high-stakes case as a fledgling detective in Scotland Yard's arts and antiquities squad. Investigating the theft of a priceless Rembrandt painting from the Fitzmolean Museum, he meets Beth Rainsford, a research assistant at the gallery who he falls hopelessly in love with, even as Beth guards a secret of her own that she's terrified will come to light.  While William follows the trail of the missing masterpiece, he comes up against suave art collector Miles Faulkner and his brilliant lawyer, Booth Watson QC, who are willing to bend the law to breaking point to stay one step ahead of William. Meanwhile, Miles Faulkner's wife, Christina, befriends William, but whose side is she really on?  Nothing Ventured is by Jeffrey Archer.

The Fifth Column is a novel about the only man who can thwart a Nazi sympathizer uprising in New York during the Second World War, by Andrew Gross.  A Man in Trouble - February 1939 and Europe is on the brink of war. Charles Mossman is in a bar in Hell's Kitchen, New York, reeling from the loss of his job and his failing marriage, whilst outside thousands of Nazi sympathizers are attending a hate-spewing rally. As he confronts one, Charles makes a horrendous mistake with deadly consequences.  A City of Secrets - Two years later, Charles is released from prison and tries to reunite with his family. The US has kept out of the war for now but the pressure in the city is rising as those sympathetic to the Nazi cause lay the foundations for what lies ahead.  The Enemy Within -   As he tries to make amends with his wife and daughter, Charles starts to understand that surrounding them there are forces that will use any means necessary to bring about the downfall of his nation. And when his daughter is befriended by a seemingly amiable Swiss couple, it brings to the surface his fears of a 'Fifth Column' of embedded German spies in their new neighbourhood. All Charles wants is to redeem himself as a husband and father, but sometimes a man must do questionable things to stand up for his family and what he believes, even sacrificing his life to do so . . .

Solomon knew that he had one advantage. A pawn ticket belonging to a dead man tucked into his top pocket - the only clue to the truth . . .  An old soldier dies alone in his Edinburgh nursing home. No known relatives, and no Will to enact. Just a pawn ticket found amongst his belongings, and fifty thousand pounds in used notes sewn into the lining of his burial suit . . . Heir Hunter, Solomon Farthing - down on his luck, until, perhaps, now - is tipped off on this unexplained fortune. Armed with only the deceased's name and the crumpled pawn ticket, he must find the dead man's closest living relative if he is to get a cut of this much-needed cash.  But in trawling through the deceased's family tree, Solomon uncovers a mystery that goes back to 1918 and a group of eleven soldiers abandoned in a farmhouse billet in France in the weeks leading up to the armistice.  Set between contemporary Edinburgh and the final brutal days of the First World War as the soldiers await their orders, The Inheritance of Solomon Farthing is Mary Paulson-Ellis and shows us how the debts of the present can never be settled unless those of the past have been paid first . . .

The Other End of The Line is by Andrea Camilleri.  In Inspector Montalbano's coastal town of Vigata, a surge of migrants have been coming in by boat, and all the town's hands are on deck to help the arrivals. At the heart of the scene are the police - on the lookout for the people smugglers responsible - and long night-shifts are rendering Inspector Montalbano and his officers exhausted.  Then one night, while Montalbano is enduring yet another gruelling stint at the port, a separate crime is committed - unexplained, unexpected, and unpleasant. Elena, the dressmaker at the town's famous tailors, has been found dead - slaughtered by her own scissors . . .   As a swell of desperate people arrive in search of a better life, Inspector Montalbano finds himself trying to unravel the mystery of who murdered the dressmaker. But as he makes his enquiries, the Inspector can't help but wonder: what will happen if he keeps tugging on this thread? And what will he find at the end of the line?

December 2019

When the body of twenty-nine-year-old social worker Gloria Montoya, seven weeks pregnant with her first child, shows up on Chief New York City Medical Examiner Laurie Montgomery’s autopsy table, she’s baffled to find no apparent causes of death. With no clues to go on, Laurie enlists the help of Dr Tricia Albanese, a forensic pathology resident with a background in genetic science, to help her trace the identity of the unborn baby’s father using DNA from the mother and child. But when Tricia is found dead in her apartment in a manner strikingly similar to Gloria’s death, Laurie realizes she might have two linked homicides on her hands . . . and now it’s up to her, with the help of her husband, ME Jack Stapleton, to continue the tracking work Tricia had begun before a killer can strike again.  Genesis is by Robin Cook

Monday, 15 April 2019

Sam Shephard grills Vanda Symon

In which Vanda Symon is interrogated by Detective Sam Shephard...

SS       SS I will remind you that anything you say can be taken down as evidence and held against you at a later date.

VS       Noted. As long as you don’t whine about it.

SS      I don’t whine.

VS       Sure. 

SS       First up, why did you make me so bloody short?

VS       You’re not short, you’re vertically challenged. 

SS       (Withering look)

VS       Oooh, enough with the eye-daggers. There was good reason for that. My Mum was a shortie, she just squinked in over 5 foot tall, so she was small but mighty. One of the things she often complained about was that when you were short, people didn’t take you seriously, so I thought, it’s always good to give your characters a challenge to overcome, I’ll make her short.

SS       Gee, ta.

VS       You’re welcome. But there are distinct advantages to being short.

SS       Yeah, right. If there are I haven’t encountered them yet.

VS       Actually, you have. When people don’t take you seriously, they underestimate you. And dare I say it, Sam, people underestimate you at their peril.

SS       Okay, come to think of it you might have a point there. I’ll give you a begrudging thanks.

VS       Sometimes I happen to know what I’m doing. Not always, but occasionally I get it right.

SS       Hmmmmm. So, do people ask you if you are me? I mean, I am you? That sounds weird, but you know what I mean.

VS       People often ask me if I am you, but no. I have far better manners, don’t swear as much as you do and have better taste in pyjamas. But seriously, you are definitely your own woman. You arrived fully formed, full of the saSS, quirks and insecurities we love about you. If you insist on trying to find common ground, there is one characteristic of mine that you share, it is our hopeless optimism and faith in people. 

SS       So if you’re not me, who are you like?

VS       People tell me I’m a lot like my mum, which I take as an immense compliment, but if I was like anyone in your world, I am more of a Maggie – a steady Eddie.

SS       So if your mum was so cool, how come mine is such a battle-axe?

VS       Your mum is not a battle-axe. Sure she can be a bit stubborn and abrasive, and she seems a bit stand offish and judgemental with you, but she loves you to pieces, and don’t you ever forget that. Truth be told, you are both quite a lot alike.

SS       I’m nothing like her!

VS       Protest all you like. In case you hadn’t noticed, your dad’s besotted with the both of you. Doesn’t that tell you something?

SS       Hurrumph. 

So, if they happened to make a movie, or put me on telly one day, who would you want to play me?

VS       I don’t actually care, as long as the actor is short! I’d be a bit miffed if they cast a statuesque actor as your height informs so much of who you are, how people treat you and how situations pan out. They need to have a shortie. (So for all you vertically challenged actors out there – here’s your perfect role...)

SS       Who would you want to play you in a movie?

VS      I don’t think they could find anyone with frizzy enough hair to play me...

SS       True!

VS       One last question?

SS       Sure. Of all the things you could have made me addicted to, why was it a biscuit? Why Toffee Pops?

VS       Hellloooooo, Toffee Pops – does that need explaining?

SS       Good point

VS       And it does mean I have to do quality control research on them regularly - for your benefit, of course.

SS      Naturally, sacrifices you make.

VS       You have no idea.

The Ringmaster by Vanda Symon (Published by Orenda Books)
Death is stalking the South Island of New Zealand.  Marginalised by previous antics, Sam Shephard, is on the bottom rung of detective training in Dunedin, and her boss makes sure she knows it. She gets involved in her first homicide investigation, when a university student is murdered in the Botanic Gardens, and Sam soon discovers this is not an isolated incident. There is a chilling prospect of a predator loose in Dunedin, and a very strong possibility that the deaths are linked to a visiting circus... Determined to find out who's running the show, and to prove herself, Sam throws herself into an investigation that can have only one ending...

Fled by Meg Keneally

It’s an odd thing about historical fiction – the most outrageous, outlandish elements of a story are often the ones which are based on fact.
There’s the Flying Pieman, who dispensed philosophy along with his pies and engaged in “feats of pedestrianism” including outrunning the mail coach between Sydney and Windsor. The political prisoner who nearly managed to escape on a whaler sent to Van Dieman’s Land especially for him from America. The newspaper editor continually arrested for criminal libel, who calmly edited his paper from prison.
The people who inspired the characters actually existed, and I have gleefully fictionalised all of them. Yet as extraordinary as they are, none of them have anything on First Fleet convict Mary Bryant, the woman behind one of history’s greatest escapes.
It’s my first non-crime novel, but in a way it’s all about crime – the crimes which propelled 1,500 people, convicts and their guards, to an impossibly distant, unknown shore in one of history’s largest mass migrations.
It’s a cliché, in Australia at least, to talk about convicts who stole food for starving families. But it’s also the truth – the vast majority of crimes committed by convicts sent to Australia (including my great-great grandmother, who stole clothing in Limerick) were survival crimes.
Mary’s case, though, was a little more interesting. With two other girls, she robbed and assaulted a woman who was walking from the Plymouth ferry.
In other words, she was a highwaywoman.
She found herself transported alongside a range of other convicts, from those convicted of petty theft to embezzlers, prostitutes, smugglers and animal rustlers.
Mary eventually became part of a group of convicts who stole the governor’s cutter. She sailed it with her husband, children and nine other convicts from Sydney to West Timor, passing herself off as a shipwreck survivor before her luck ran out and her identity was revealed.
I first heard Mary’s story from my father, on long road trips in the days before iPads. I assumed he was making it up. Dead-of-night escapes? Sea chases? Survival against impossible odds? Surely such things didn’t happen.
But when I returned to the story as an adult, I was amazed to find he’d actually been quite restrained.
Mary’s story (and that of Jenny Trelawney, her fictional counterpart in Fled) contains so many twists and coincidences (lucky and unlucky), so many poignant and painful moments, that any writer who made it up out of whole cloth would be accused of melodrama. 
Her tale reads like fiction. 
A female highway robber, living in the forest and bailing people up while dressed in breeches, sent for her crime to the other side of the world.
An almost impossible voyage in a small, stolen open boat, over 5,000 kilometres, with the last 2,000 or so in uncharted waters, gripping onto two young children while facing monstrous seas and the constant threat of capsize, starvation and death from thirst.
Salvation, betrayal, recapture, and eventually a possible affair with one of the most famous men of the age, James Boswell.
One of the focal points of Mary’s tale, and of the novel, is of course the escape itself. But so many stars needed to align for it to happen at all.
Mary and the other escapees needed knowledge of the local conditions, tides and currents. This they got from Bennelong and other Aboriginals with whom they were friendly, with Mary’s husband Will taking Bennelong’s family out to fish in government boats.
They needed a destination, and a means of navigating there. Fortunately for them, Governor Arthur Phillip had a blazing row with a visiting Dutch sea captain, Detmer Smit. The Bryants befriended Smit, and eventually learned from him of the Dutch colony of Coepang (Kupang, West Timor). Crucially, he also gave them a quadrant and a chart. If he had not visited Sydney Cove, or if he had been on better terms with Phillip, the convicts would have had nowhere to go.
And they needed darkness. They got this on the night of March 28, 1791 – a new moon. That day, Detmer Smit’s ship had left, and the last remaining English ship had recently been sent to Batavia for provisions. Suddenly, there was no ship capable of pursuing them, just when the sky was at its blackest.
But while the details of Mary’s story are fascinating, the main reason she refused to leave me alone until I wrote about her was her character – her resourcefulness, her courage, and her refusal to be cowed. Since childhood, I’ve been captivated by the tale of a woman (and a convict at that) who navigated her way through a male-dominated world, and dragged her children to safety (at least for a while) across an angry sea.  

Fled by Meg Keneally (published by Zaffre Books) £7.99

She will do anything for freedom, but at what cost? Jenny Trelawney is no ordinary thief. Forced by poverty to live in the Devon forest, she becomes a successful highwaywoman - until her luck runs out. Transported to Australia, Jenny must tackle new challenges and growing responsibilities. And when famine hits the new colony, Jenny becomes convinced that those she most cares about will not survive. She becomes the leader in a grand plot of escape, but is survival any more certain in a small open boat on an unknown ocean?