Thursday, 31 December 2020

Books I am looking forward to in the first half of 2021

 

The Last Thing to Burn by Will Dean (Hodder & Stoughton) He is her husband. She is his captive. Her husband calls her Jane. That is not her name. She lives in a small farm cottage, surrounded by vast, open fields. Everywhere she looks, there is space. But she is trapped. No one knows how she got to the UK: no one knows she is there. Visitors rarely come to the farm; if they do, she is never seen. Her husband records her every movement during the day. If he doesn't like what he sees, she is punished. For a long time, escape seemed impossible. But now, something has changed. She has a reason to live and a reason to fight. Now, she is watching him, and waiting ...

Daughters of Night by Laura Shepherd Robinson (Pan Macmillan) London, 1782. Desperate for her politician husband to return home from France, Caroline 'Caro' Corsham is already in a state of anxiety when she finds a well-dressed woman mortally wounded in the bowers of the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens. The Bow Street constables are swift to act, until they discover that the deceased woman was a highly paid prostitute, at which point they cease to care entirely. But Caro has motives of her own for wanting to see justice done, and so sets out to solve the crime herself. Enlisting the help of thieftaker Peregrine Child, their inquiry delves into the hidden corners of Georgian society, a world of artifice, deception and secret lives. But with many gentlemen refusing to speak about their dealings with the dead woman, and Caro's own reputation under threat, finding the killer will be harder, and more treacherous, than she can know . . .

Slough House by Mick Herron (John Murray Press) 'Kill us? They've never needed to kill us,' said Lamb. 'I mean, look at us. What would be the point?' A year after a calamitous blunder by the Russian secret service left a British citizen dead from novichok poisoning, Diana Taverner is on the warpath. What seems a gutless response from the government has pushed the Service's First Desk into mounting her own counter-offensive - but she's had to make a deal with the devil first. And given that the devil in question is arch-manipulator Peter Judd, she could be about to lose control of everything she's fought for. Meanwhile, still reeling from recent losses, the slow horses are worried they've been pushed further into the cold. Slough House has been wiped from Service records, and fatal accidents keep happening. No wonder Jackson Lamb's crew are feeling paranoid. But have they actually been targeted? With a new populist movement taking a grip on London's streets, and the old order ensuring that everything's for sale to the highest bidder, the world's an uncomfortable place for those deemed surplus to requirements. The wise move would be to find a safe place and wait for the troubles to pass. But the slow horses aren't famed for making wise decisions.

Edge of the Grave by Robbie Morrison (Pan Macmillian) A dark historical crime novel set in Glasgow, 1932. A city still recovering from the Great War; split by religious division and swarming with razor gangs. When Charles Geddes, son-in-law of one of the city's wealthiest shipbuilders, is found floating in the River Clyde with his throat cut, his beautiful widow Isla Lockhart asks for Inspector James Dreghorn to lead the murder case. Dreghorn has a troubled history with the powerful Lockhart family that stretches back to before the First World War and is reluctant to become involved. But facing pressure from his superiors, he has no choice in the matter. The investigation takes him and his partner 'Bonnie' Archie McDaid from the flying fists and flashing blades of the Glasgow underworld to the backstabbing upper echelons of government and big business in order to find out who wanted Charles Geddes dead and why. As the case deepens, the pair will put their lives on the line in the pursuit of a sadistic killer who is ready to strike again . .

Psychopaths Annoymous by Will Carver (Orenda Books). When AA meetings make her want to drink more, alcoholic murderess Maeve Beauman sets up a group for psychopaths.

Prodigal Son by Gregg Hurwitz (Penguin Books) He can escape anything. Except his own past . . . 'Evan. It's your mother. I heard you help people . . ' Evan Smoak used to be known as Orphan X: a figure as elusive as a rumour, until he came to the rescue of those who most desperately needed his help. The kind of help no one else could provide. The kind that caused concern in the corridors of power. As a boy he'd been plucked from a foster home and trained as an off-the-books assassin inside a top secret US government programme. Which is why, even forced into early retirement, he dare not trust the phone call. Nor the caller claiming to be his mother. Asking him to protect a complete stranger who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. None of it stacks up. Yet it bears the tell-tale signs of the secret world that made him. And from inside it, a deadly new threat to the nation's security.

Lightseekers by Femi Kayode (Bloomsbury) When three young students are brutally murdered in a Nigerian university town, their killings - and their killers - are caught on social media. The world knows who murdered them; what no one knows is why. As the legal trial begins, investigative psychologist Philip Taiwo is contacted by the father of one of the boys, desperate for some answers to his son's murder. But Philip is an expert in crowd behaviour and violence, not a detective, and after travelling to the sleepy university town that bore witness to the killings, he soon feels dramatically out of his depth. Will he finally be able to uncover the truth of what happened to the Okiri Three?

The Drowned City by K J Maitland (Headline) 1606. A year to the day that men were executed for conspiring to blow up Parliament, a towering wave devastates the Bristol Channel. Some proclaim God's vengeance. Others seek to take advantage. In London, Daniel Pursglove lies in prison waiting to die. But Charles FitzAlan, close adviser to King James I, has a job in mind that will free a man of Daniel's skill from the horrors of Newgate. If he succeeds. For Bristol is a hotbed of Catholic spies, and where better for the lone conspirator who evaded arrest, one Spero Pettingar, to gather allies than in the chaos of a drowned city? Daniel journeys there to investigate FitzAlan's lead, but soon finds himself at the heart of a dark Jesuit conspiracy - and in pursuit of a killer.

The Oxford Brotherhood by Guillermo Martinez (Little Brown) Mathematics student G is trying to resurrect his studies, which is proving difficult as he finds himself - and not for the first time - drawn into investigating a series of mysterious crimes. When Kristen, a researcher hired by the Lewis Carroll Brotherhood, makes a startling new discovery concerning pages torn from Caroll's diary, she hesitates to reveal to her employers a hitherto unknown chapter in his life. Oxford would be rocked to its core if the truth about Lewis Carroll's relationship with Alice Liddell - the real Alice - were brought to light. After Kristen is involved in a surreal accident and members of the Brotherhood are anonymously sent salacious photographs of Alice, G joins forces with Kristen as they begin to realise that dark powers are at work. More pictures are received, and it becomes clear that a murderer is stalking anyone who shows too much interest in Carroll's life. G must stretch his mathematical mind to its limits to solve the mystery and understand the cryptic workings of the Brotherhood. Until then, nobody, not even G, is safe.

Repentance by Eloisa Diaz (Orion Publishing) BUENOS AIRES, 1981. Argentina is in the grip of a brutal military dictatorship. Inspector Joaquin Alzada's work in the Buenos Aires police force exposes him to the many realities of life under a repressive regime: desperate people, terrified people and - worst of all - missing people. Personally, he prefers to stay out of politics, enjoying a simple life with his wife Paula. But when his revolutionary brother Jorge is disappeared, Alzada will stop at nothing to rescue him. TWENTY YEARS LATER... The country is in the midst of yet another devastating economic crisis and riots are building in the streets of Buenos Aires.This time Alzada is determined to keep his head down and wait patiently for his retirement. But when a dead body lands in a skip behind the morgue and a woman from one of the city's wealthiest families goes missing, Alzada is forced to confront his own involvement in one of the darkest periods in Argentinian history - a time of collective horror and personal tragedy.

The Bones of Wolfe by James Carlos Blake (No Exit Press/ Oldcastle Books) In the newest Wolfe-family adventure. Rudy and Frank Wolfe are engaging in routine miscellaneous business - some legitimate and some less so - for their family when they stumble upon a stash of high-quality pornographic films in a raid. The plot thickens when their Aunt Catalina, the family matriarch aged 115, recognises her long-lost sister in one of the young performers. Catalina tasks the boys with tracking the girl down, however improbable a connection may be. This proves to be no simple task. Soon, Rudy and Frank find themselves moving away from world of porn and towards the upper echelons of the Sinaloa drug cartel, where the mysterious woman has become a particular favourite of the head narco.

The Royal Secret by Andrew Taylor (HarperCollins) Two young girls plot a murder by witchcraft. Soon afterwards a government clerk dies painfully in mysterious circumstances. His colleague James Marwood is asked to investigate - but the task brings unexpected dangers. Meanwhile, architect Cat Hakesby is working for a merchant who lives on Slaughter Street, where the air smells of blood and a captive Barbary lion prowls the stables. Then a prestigious new commission arrives. Cat must design a Poultry House for the woman that the King loves most in all the world. Unbeknownst to all, at the heart of this lies a royal secret so explosive that it could not only rip apart England but change the entire face of Europe...

Wednesday, 30 December 2020

2020 Nero Award & Black Orchid Novella Award Winners

 

The Nero Award is presented each year to an author for the best American Mystery written in the tradition of Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe stories. It is presented at the Black Orchid Banquet, traditionally held on the first Saturday in December in New York City. 

The Nero is considered one of the premier awards granted to authors of crime fiction. This year, the winner is David Baldacci's One Good Deed (Hatchette Book Group, an imprint of Grand Central Publishing). 

The Black Orchid Novella Award is presented jointly by The Wolfe Pack and Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine to celebrate the novella format popularized by Rex Stout. This year's winner is Tom Larsen. El Cuerpo en el Barril (The Body in the Barrel). It will be published in July 2021 issue of Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine. 

Both award winners were announced and recognized at an online Wolfe Pack event on December 5, 2020. The Wolfe Pack hopes to present the awards in person at the 2021 Black Orchid Banquet in New York City on December 4, 2021. 

About the Wolfe Pack 

The Wolfe Pack, founded in 1977, is a forum to discuss, explore, and enjoy the 72 Nero Wolfe books and novellas written by Rex Stout. The organization promotes fellowship and extends friendship to those who enjoy these great literary works of mystery through a series of events, book discussions, and a journal devoted to the study of the genius detective, Nero Wolfe, and his intrepid assistant, Archie Goodwin. The organization has more than 500 members worldwide. 

For further information, please see - www.nerowolfe.org

Wednesday, 23 December 2020

Books to Look Forward to From Faber and Faber

 January 2021

Once You Go This Far is by Kristen Lepionka. After the death of her cop father, PI Roxane Weary did everything she could to lose herself in her work - but she's getting tired of the hangovers, of fighting with her ex-girlfriend, and of avoiding her mother. When she's asked to investigate a suspicious death, she delves into the case with her usual stubborn determination. Pulling her far from home, and into an insular and controlling evangelical community, the case might just be bigger than Roxane can handle alone. But is it too late, or too dangerous, to call on the people she needs?


March 2021

After a whirlwind, fairytale romance, Abigail Baskin marries freshly-minted Silicon Valley millionaire Bruce Lamb. For their honeymoon, he whisks her away to an exclusive retreat at a friend's resort off the Maine coast on Heart Pond Island. But once there, Abigail's perfect new life threatens to crash down around her as she recognises one of their fellow guests as the good looking, charismatic stranger who weeks earlier had seduced her at her own Bachelorette party... Every Vow You Break is by Peter Swanson.

April 2021

My Life as a Villianess (Essays) is by Laura Lippman. I knew something new about venality - my own. I realized I had become the bad guy in someone else's story. And I deserved it. Laura Lippman's first job in journalism was a rookie reporter in Waco, Texas. Two decades later she left her first husband, quit the newspaper business, and became a full time novelist. I had been creating villains on the page for about seven years when I finally became one. Her fiction has always centered on complicated women, paying unique attention to the intricacies of their flaws, their vulnerability, and their empowerment. Now, finally, Lippman has turned her gimlet eye on a new subject: herself. My daughter was ten days old the first time I was asked if I were her grandmother. In this, her first collection of essays, Lippman gives us a brilliant, candid portrait of an unapologetically flawed life. Childhood, friendships, influences, becoming a mother in later life - Lippman's inspiring life stories are at once specific and universal.

May 2021

Love and Theft is by Stan Parish. When Alex Cassidy and Diane Alison meet by chance at a party in Princeton, New Jersey, there are instant sparks. Both are single parents living in wealthy suburbia, independent, highly competent and seemingly settled in their lives. She runs a successful catering business. He's part of a crew that robs banks, casinos and jewellery stores around the world. Neither realises initially that their lives have overlapped before, or that their shared history and burgeoning relationship will come to threaten everything they love. As Alex prepares for one final, daunting job, he discovers that he's not the only one with secrets - and that both of them are playing for the highest stakes imaginable.

June 2021

The Occupation had a hangover, but still the Occupation went to work. Tokyo, July 1949, President Shimoyama, Head of the National Railways of Japan, goes missing just a day after serving notice of 30,000 job losses. In the midst of the US Occupation, against the backdrop of widespread social, political and economic reforms - as tensions and confusion reign - American Detective Harry Sweeney leads the missing person's investigation for General MacArthur's GHQ. Some men go mad, some men go missing . Fifteen years later and Tokyo is booming. As the city prepares for the 1964 Olympics and the global spotlight, Hideki Murota, a former policeman during the Occupation period, and now a private investigator, is given a case which forces him to go back to confront a time, a place and a crime he's been hiding from for the past fifteen years. Some men do both . Over twenty years later, in the autumn and winter of 1988, as the Emperor Showa is dying, Donald Reichenbach, an aging American, eking out a living teaching and translating, sits drinking by the Shinobazu Pond in Ueno, knowing the final reckoning of the greatest mystery of the Showa Era is down to him. Tokyo Redux is by David Peace.



Tuesday, 22 December 2020

Crime Fiction and Legal Truth

 


In this special online event, a panel of experts in crime fiction, thriller writing and Law discuss the intersection between crime fiction and legal truth. What is the relationship between crime fiction and true crime? And to what extent must the crime writer become a legal expert? 

A session full of suspense focusing on European crime fiction featuring eminent barrister and Head of Swansea University's Hillary Rodham Clinton School of Law, Professor Elwen Evans QC, along with Swansea-born Philip Gwynne Jones, author of the hugely successful "Nathan Sutherland" crime novels (set in Venice), and translator and editor Dr Kat Hall, a specialist in German thriller writing and creator of 'Mrs Peabody Investigates.'

In conversation with Professor D.J. Britton, Playwright and Head of English Literature and Creative Writing at Swansea University.The event is part of the UK-Russia Creative Bridge Programme 2020-21 organised by the Cultural and Education Section of the British Embassy in Moscow with the support of the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office

Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation. 

The Maxim Gorky Institute of Literature and Creative Writing Moscow

Date 26 January 2021 at 4:00pm (16:00)

Register here.

Friday, 18 December 2020

CWA Library Initiatives

Crime writing award shines a spotlight on the importance of libraries to readers and writers alike

 Many libraries are struggling during the pandemic restrictions, so it's more appropriate than ever that the Crime Writers' Association (CWA) should champion them through its annual award, the Dagger in the Library.

The world-famous CWA Daggers have been synonymous with quality crime writing for more than half a century. Only library staff can nominate authors for the CWA Dagger in the Library. Nominations are open until February 26, 2021 and up to three members of staff from each UK library can nominate.

The award not only recognises a writer whose books are frequently borrowed and enjoyed in libraries nationwide, but who also works to support libraries. Previous winners include Martin Edwards, Elly Griffiths, Mari Hannah and Kate Ellis.

Strengthening its work to highlight the importance of libraries for readers and writers alike are the CWA’s two Library Champions, crime novelists Priscilla Masters, covering England and Wales, and John Dean, Scotland.

John Dean said: “As Library Champions, we want to raise awareness of the value of libraries and their staff, and shine a spotlight on their importance.

All genres owe a lot to the work done by libraries, but crime fiction is the most borrowed with authors such as Lee Child, M C Beaton and James Patterson dominating the Top 10 most borrowed lists.

The CWA is not only encouraging librarians to nominate authors for the annual Dagger, but to register with them so they can keep informed of relevant work and developments.

The Library Champions will be linking libraries who want crime writers as speakers, or to feature in events, with authors in their area and encouraging library users to become part of the Crime Readers’ Association.

Priscilla Masters said: “The role of libraries in helping crime writers to raise their profile is invaluable. They go far beyond just lending books. During National Crime Reading Month – a CWA/CRA (Crime Readers' Association) initiative – and throughout the year they hold talks and panels with authors and promote their work as a result.”

Chris Brookmyre, who won the CWA Dagger in the Library 2020, acknowledged the importance of libraries: “One of the great pleasures and privileges of this job is doing library events, where I find many of the warmest and most receptive audiences. It is one of the things I have missed most during the pandemic, which makes it particularly gratifying this year to feel the warmth from libraries reflected in this way.”

 The Library Champions will also speak out in support of libraries in a non-political way when they are threatened by closure and cutbacks, something which is of increasing concern as local authorities confront tight budgets and financial pressures caused by Covid-19.

Library staff can go https://thecwa.co.uk/libraries to register with the CWA. Staff can nominate authors for the CWA Dagger in the Library at: https://thecwa.co.uk/cwa-dagger-in-the-library where they’ll find a list of eligible candidates drawn up by the CWA, and a short online form.

Library staff can also contact the CWA Library Champions, Priscilla Masters: priscilla.masters@btinternet.com and John Dean: deangriss@btinternet.com

 Quotes from Dagger in the Library Winners -

Kate Ellis, Winner 2019

I'm really thrilled and honoured to have been awarded the CWA Dagger in the Library. The fact that the winner is decided by the nation's library staff makes it particularly special as I have loved and supported libraries for as long as I can remember. The thought of all those thousands of readers in libraries enjoying my books is so wonderful and rewarding.

Martin Edwards, Winner 2018

Receiving this award is a tremendous honour, and one of the great thrills of my writing career. Libraries have always played an important part in my life, both as an author and as a reader, and it’s absolutely right that the CWA should celebrate them, just as libraries celebrate authors and their work. I’m a huge admirer of the contributions made by libraries and their tireless staff, not only to local communities but also to society as whole. Our libraries are invaluable, and they are a treasure we must prize.

Mari Hannah, Winner 2017

It’s been quite a journey! I’ve been a member of the Crime Writer’s Association since 2011. I joined on the recommendation of my agent and authors I admire. I can remember how excited I was. This was the day that I was no longer aspiring, but an actual author linked through the association to writers who gave me inspiration, top names of international, multi-award-winning status. I’d finally arrived. Fast forward to the Dagger in the Library 2017. To receive this award is such an honour so early in my career. I’m still pinching myself! It means so much because, in the early stages, it was librarians and readers who voted me onto the longlist. I’m thrilled!

 




Sunday, 13 December 2020

My Favourite Non-Fiction Reads 2020

For the first time I have had to split my favourite reads this year into fiction and non fiction. This year I have read an eclectic range of non-fiction crime books and it has been great to see such a wide range of books being written. My favourite Non Fiction reads are as follows -

Agatha Christie's Poirot: The Greatest Detective in The World by Dr Mark Aldridge (HarperCollins Publishers) From the very first book publication in 1920 to the upcoming film release of Death on the Nile, this investigation into Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot celebrates a century of probably the world's favourite fictional detective.This book tells his story decade-by-decade, exploring his appearances not only in the original novels, short stories and plays but also across stage, screen and radio productions. The hardback edition includes more than 400 illustrations. Poirot has had near-permanent presence in the public eye ever since the 1920 publication of The Mysterious Affair at Styles. From character development, publication history and private discussion concerning the original stories themselves, to early forays on to the stage and screen, the story of Poirot is as fascinating as it is enduring. Based on the author's original research, review excerpts and original Agatha Christie correspondence, Poirot: The Greatest Detective in the World is a lively and accessible history of the character, offering new information and helpful pieces of context, that will delight all Agatha Christie fans, from a new generation of readers to those already highly familiar with the canon.

Howdunit: A Masterclass in Crime Writing by Members of The Detection Club Edited by Martin Edwards (Collins Crime Club). Ninety crime writers from the world’s oldest and most famous crime writing network give tips and insights into successful crime and thriller fiction.  Howdunit offers a fresh perspective on the craft of crime writing from leading exponents of the genre, past and present. The book offers invaluable advice to people interested in writing crime fiction, but it also provides a fascinating picture of the way that the best crime writers have honed their skills over the years. Its unique construction and content mean that it will appeal not only to would-be writers but also to a very wide readership of crime fans. The principal contributors are current members of the legendary Detection Club, including Ian Rankin, Val McDermid, Peter James, Peter Robinson, Ann Cleeves, Andrew Taylor, Elly Griffiths, Sophie Hannah, Stella Duffy, Alexander McCall Smith, John Le CarrĂ© and many more. Interwoven with their contributions are shorter pieces by past Detection Club members ranging from G.K. Chesterton, Dorothy L. Sayers, Agatha Christie and John Dickson Carr to Desmond Bagley and H.R.F. Keating

Russian Roulette: The Life and Times of Graham Greene by Richard Greene (Little Brown) Probably the greatest British novelist of his generation, Graham Greene's own story was as strange and compelling as those he told of Pinkie the Mobster, Harry Lime, or the Whisky Priest. A restless traveller, he was a witness to many of the key events of modern history - including the origins of the Vietnam War, the Mau Mau Rebellion, the betrayal of the double-agent Kim Philby, the rise of Fidel Castro, and the guerrilla wars of Central America. Traumatized as a boy and thought a Judas among his schoolmates, Greene tried Russian Roulette and attempted suicide. He suffered from bipolar illness, which caused havoc in his private life as his marriage failed, and one great love after another suffered shipwreck, until in his later years he found constancy in a decidedly unconventional relationship. Often called a Catholic novelist, his works came to explore the no man's land between belief and unbelief. A journalist, an MI6 officer, and an unfailing advocate for human rights, he sought out the inner narratives of war and politics in dozens of troubled places, and yet he distrusted nations and armies, believing that true loyalty was a matter between individuals. A work of wit, insight, and compassion, this new biography of Graham Greene, the first undertaken in a generation, responds to the many thousands of pages of lost letters that have recently come to light and to new memoirs by those who knew him best. It deals sensitively with questions of private life, sex, and mental illness; it gives a thorough accounting for the politics of the places he wrote about; it investigates his involvement with MI6 and the Cambridge five; above all, it follows the growth of a writer whose works changed the lives of millions.

Cover Me The Vintage Art of Pan Books: 1950-1965 – An Appraisal by Colin Larkin (Telos)  An affectionate and thoroughly-researched celebration of the classic Pan Books paperbacks, beautifully illustrated with sumptuous full-colour reproductions of over 300 of the original cover artworks.

Detective in The Shadows: A Hard-Boiled History by Susanna Lee (John Hopkins University Press) Steadfast in fighting crime, but operating outside the police force―and sometimes even the law―is the private detective. Driven by his own moral code, he is a shadowy figure in a trench coat standing on a street corner, his face most likely obscured by a tilted fedora, a lit cigarette dangling from his hand. The hard-boiled detective is known by his dark past, private pain, and powers of deduction. He only asks questions―never answers them. In his stories he is both the main character and the narrator. America has had a love affair with the hard-boiled detective since the 1920s, when Prohibition called into question who really stood on the right and wrong side of the law. And nowhere did this hero shine more than in crime fiction. In Detectives in the Shadows, literary and cultural critic Susanna Lee tracks the evolution of this truly American character type―from Race Williams to Philip Marlowe and from Mike Hammer to Jessica Jones.Lee explores how this character type morphs to fit an increasingly troubled world, offering compelling interpretations of The Wire,True Detective, and Jessica Jones. Suddenly, in the present day, the hard-boiled detective wears his―or her―fatigue outwardly, revealing more vulnerability than ever before. But the detective remains resolute in the face of sinister forces, ever the person of honor. For anyone interested in crime fiction and television, or for those wanting to understand America's idolisation of the good guy with a gun.

From Aconite to the Zodiac Killer: The Dictionary of Crime by Amanda Lees (Little Brown). This is an indispensable guide for fans of true crime and crime fiction, whether in books, film or on TV, who want to look behind the crime, to understand the mechanics of an investigation, to walk in their favourite detectives' shoes and, most importantly, to solve the clues. To do that, one needs to be fluent in the language of the world of crime. We need to know what that world-weary DI is talking about when she refers to another MISPER. We have to immediately grasp the significance of the presence of paraquat, and precisely why it is still a poison of choice. If you want to know how many murders it takes for a killer to be defined as a serial killer, what Philip Marlowe means when he talks about being 'on a confidential lay' and why the 'fruit of a poisonous tree' is a legal term rather than something you should avoid on a country walk, this is the reference book you've been waiting for. It covers police and procedural terms and jargon of many different countries; acronyms; murder methods; criminal definitions, including different types of killers; infamous killers and famous detectives; notorious cases often referred to in crime fiction and true crime; gangster slang, including that of the Eastern European mafia; definitions of illegal drugs; weapons; forensic terminology; types of poisons; words and phrases used in major crime genres, including detective fiction, legal thrillers, courtroom dramas, hardboiled crime, Scandi and Tartan Noir, cosy crime and psychological thrillers; criminology terms; and the language of the courts and the legal systems of British, American, French, Nordic and other countries.

The Reacher Guy: The Authorised Autobiography of Lee Child by Heather Martin (Little Brown) The Reacher Guy as a compelling and authoritative portrait of the artist as a young man, refracted through the life of his fictional avatar, Jack Reacher. Through parallels drawn between Child and his literary creation, it tells the story of how a boy from Birmingham with a ferocious appetite for reading grew up to become a high-flying TV executive, before coming full circle and establishing himself as the strongest brand in publishing. Heather Martin explores Child's lifelong fascination with America, and shows how the Reacher novels fed and fuelled this obsession, shedding light on the opaque process of publishing a novel along the way. Drawing on her conversations and correspondence with Child over a number of years, as well as interviews with his friends, teachers and colleagues, she forensically pieces together his life, traversing back through the generations to Northern Ireland and County Durham, and following the trajectory of his extraordinary career via New York and Hollywood until the climactic moment when, in 2020, having written a continuous series of twenty-four books, he finally breaks free of his fictional creation.

Southern Cross by Craig Sisterton (No Exit Press) Southern Cross Crime is the first comprehensive guide to modern Australian and New Zealand crime writing. From coastal cities to the Outback, leading critic Craig Sisterson showcases key titles from more than 200 storytellers, plus screen dramas ranging from Mystery Road to Top of the Lake. Fascinating insights are added through in-depth interviews with some of the prime suspects who paved the way or instigated the global boom, including Jane Harper, Michael Robotham, Paul Cleave, Emma Viskic, Paul Thomas, and Candice Fox.

Unspeakable Acts: True Tales of Crime, Murder, Deceit, and Obsession by Sarah Weinman (Ecco) The appeal of true-crime stories has never been higher. With podcasts like My Favorite Murder and In the Dark, bestsellers like I'll Be Gone in the Dark and Furious Hours, and TV hits like American Crime Story and Wild Wild Country, the cultural appetite for stories of real people doing terrible things is insatiable. Sarah Weinman brings together an exemplary collection of recent true crime tales. She culls together some of the most refreshing and exciting contemporary journalists and chroniclers of crime working today. Michelle Dean's "Dee Dee Wanted Her Daughter To Be Sick" went viral when it first published and is the basis for the TV show The Act and Pamela Colloff's "The Reckoning," is the gold standard for forensic journalism. There are 13 pieces in all and as a collection, they showcase writing about true crime across the broadest possible spectrum, while also reflecting what makes crime stories so transfixing and irresistible to the modern reader.














Saturday, 12 December 2020

My favourite fiction reads in 2020

My favourite reads this year have been quite eclectic and they have also included a number of non-fiction titles as well. It has of course been extremly hard to draw up a shortlist of books and I could have easily made this list longer. I have therefore decided to split (for the first time) my list into fiction and non-fiction. I am also putting them in alphabetical order purely because it makes my life easier!

Up first are my favourite fiction reads in alphabetical order  - 

The Law of Innocence by Michael Connelly (Orion Publishing) Defense attorney Mickey Haller is pulled over by police, who find the body of a client in the trunk of his Lincoln. Haller is charged with murder and can’t make the exorbitant $5 million bail slapped on him by a vindictive judge. Mickey elects to defend himself and must strategize and build his defense from his jail cell in the Twin Towers Correctional Center in downtown Los Angeles, all the while looking over his shoulder–as an officer of the court he is an instant target. Mickey knows he’s been framed. Now, with the help of his trusted team, including Harry Bosch, he has to figure out who has plotted to destroy his life and why. Then he has to go before a judge and jury and prove his innocence.

Dirty South by John Connolly (Hodder & Stoughton) It is 1997, and someone is slaughtering young black women in Burdon County, Arkansas. But no one wants to admit it, not in the Dirty South. In an Arkansas jail cell sits a former NYPD detective, stricken by grief. He is mourning the death of his wife and child, and searching in vain for their killer. He cares only for his own lost family. But that is about to change . . . Witness the becoming of Charlie Parker.    

Blacktop Wasteland by S A Cosby (Headline) It's a crime that history repeats itself. Beauregard "Bug" Montage: honest mechanic, loving husband, devoted parent. He's no longer the criminal he once was - the sharpest wheelman on the east coast, infamous from the hills of North Carolina to the beaches of Florida. But when his respectable life begins to crumble, a shady associate comes calling with a clean, one-time job: a diamond heist promising a get-rich payout. Inexorably drawn to the driver's seat - and haunted by the ghost of his outlaw father - Bug is yanked back into a savage world of bullets and betrayal, which soon endangers all he holds dear.

Like Flies From Afar by K Ferrari (Cannongate). Luis Machi has had enemies for a long time: after all, he's built his success on dirty deals - not to mention his cooperation with the military junta's coup years ago, or his love life, a web of infidelities. What's new is the corpse in the boot of his car. A body with its face blown off, detained by a pair of furry pink handcuffs that Machi knows well . . .Someone is trying to set him up, but the number of suspects is incalculable. Machi is stuck dredging his guilty past for clues and trying to dispose of the mystery corpse. But time is just another enemy and it's running out fast.

Into the Fire by Gregg Hurwitz. Evan Smoak lives by his own code. As a boy he was taken from a foster home to be raised and trained as an off-the-books government assassin codenamed Orphan X. Then he broke free to live in the shadows as the Nowhere Man, using his unique skills to help those in desperate need. But all good things must come to an end. He'll take on one last mission then go out on a high note. Clean, neat and tidy, just the way he likes it. And then he meets Max Merriweather. Max Merriweather hasn't got much left to lose. Bad luck and trouble have seen off his marriage, his home and his career. On the face of it he's the last guy you'd expect to be trusted with a deadly secret. Which is exactly why his cousin gave him an envelope with the instruction: 'If anything ever happens to me, call the number inside.' Now his cousin is dead and Max's own chances of survival look bleak. On the run and stalked by death, he meets the one man who might save him: Evan Smoak. With Max now under his protection, Evan realizes that the forces against them pose as daunting a threat as he has ever faced. He'll be lucky just to get through it alive . . .

The Less Dead by Denise Mina (Vintage) When Margo goes in search of her birth mother for the first time, she meets her aunt, Nikki, instead. Margo learns that her mother, Susan, was a sex worker murdered soon after Margo's adoption. To this day, Susan's killer has never been found. Nikki asks Margo for help. She has received threatening and haunting letters from the murderer, for decades. She is determined to find him, but she can't do it alone...

The Lost and the Damned by Oliver Norek (Quercus Publishing) A corpse that wakes up on the mortuary slab. A case of spontaneous human combustion. There is little by the way of violent crime and petty theft that Capitaine Victor Coste has not encountered in his fifteen years on the St Denis patch - but nothing like this. Though each crime has a logical explanation, something unusual is afoot all the same, and Coste is about to be dragged out of his comfort zone. Anonymous letters addressed to him personally have begun to arrive, highlighting the fates of two women, invisible victims whose deaths were never explained. Just two more blurred faces among the ranks of the lost and the damned.

Eight Detectives by Alex Pavesi (Penguin Books) All murder mysteries follow a simple set of rules. Grant McAllister, an author of crime fiction and professor of mathematics, once sat down and worked them all out. But that was thirty years ago. Now he's living a life of seclusion on a quiet Mediterranean island - until Julia Hart, a sharp, ambitious editor, knocks on his door. His early work is being republished and together the two of them must revisit those old stories. An author, hiding from his past, and an editor, probing inside it. But as she reads the stories, Julia is unsettled to realise that there are parts that don't make sense. Intricate clues that seem to reference a real murder. One that's remained unsolved for thirty years . . . If Julia wants answers, she must triumph in a battle of wits with a dangerously clever adversary. But she must tread carefully: she knows there's a mystery, but she doesn't yet realise there's already been a murder . . . 

These Women by Ivy Pochoda (Faber and Faber) In West Adams, a rapidly changing part of South Los Angeles, they're referred to as "these women." These women on the corner ...These women in the club ... These women who won't stop asking questions ... These women who got what they deserved ... They're connected by one man and his deadly obsession, though not all of them know that yet. There's Dorian, still adrift after her daughter's murder remains unsolved; Julianna, a young dancer nicknamed Jujubee, who lives hard and fast, resisting anyone trying to slow her down; Essie, a brilliant vice cop who sees a crime pattern emerging where no one else does; Marella, a daring performance artist whose work has long pushed boundaries but now puts her in peril; and Anneke, a quiet woman who has turned a willfully blind eye to those around her for far too long. The careful existence they have built for themselves starts to crumble when two murders rock their neighbourhood.

Rules For Perfect Murder is by Peter Swanson (Faber & Faber). If you want to get away with murder, play by the rules. A series of unsolved murders with one thing in common: each of the deaths bears an eerie resemblance to the crimes depicted in classic mystery novels. The deaths lead FBI Agent Gwen Mulvey to mystery bookshop Old Devils. Owner Malcolm Kershaw had once posted online an article titled 'My Eight Favourite Murders,' and there seems to be a deadly link between the deaths and his list - which includes Agatha Christie's The ABC Murders, Patricia Highsmith's Strangers on a Train and Donna Tartt's The Secret History. Can the killer be stopped before all eight of these perfect murders have been re-enacted?

City of Spies by Mara Timon (Bonnier Zaffre). LISBON, 1943: When her cover is blown, SOE agent Elisabeth de Mornay flees Paris. Pursued by the Gestapo, she makes her way to neutral Lisbon, where Europe's elite rub shoulders with diplomats, businessmen, smugglers, and spies. There she receives new orders - and a new identity. Posing as wealthy French widow Solange Verin, Elisabeth must infiltrate a German espionage ring targeting Allied ships, before more British servicemen are killed. The closer Elisabeth comes to discovering the truth, the greater the risk grows. With a German officer watching her every step, it will take all of Elisabeth's resourcefulness and determination to complete her mission. But in a city where no one is who they claim to be, who can she trust?

The Devil and the Dark Water is by Stuart Turton (Bloomsbury Publishing) A murder on the high seas. A detective duo. A demon who may or may not exist. It's 1634 and Samuel Pipps, the world's greatest detective, is being transported to Amsterdam to be executed for a crime he may, or may not, have committed. Travelling with him is his loyal bodyguard, Arent Hayes, who is determined to prove his friend innocent. But no sooner are they out to sea than devilry begins to blight the voyage. A twice-dead leper stalks the decks. Strange symbols appear on the sails. Livestock is slaughtered. And then three passengers are marked for death, including Samuel. Could a demon be responsible for their misfortunes? With Pipps imprisoned, only Arent can solve a mystery that connects every passenger onboard. A mystery that stretches back into their past and now threatens to sink the ship, killing everybody on board. 

Honourable mentions also go to -

Box 88 by Charles Cumming (Harper Collins), 

Midnight Atlanta by Thomas Mullen (Little Brown) 

A Song for The Dark Times by Ian Rankin (Orion), 

The Last Protector by Andrew Taylor (HarperCollins), 

The Silver Collar by Antonia Hodgson (Hodder & Stoughton) and 

Angel's Inferno by William Hjortsberg (No Exit Press)

A Private Cathedral by James Lee Burke (Orion)

My favourite non-fiction reads will be posted separately.


















Saturday, 5 December 2020

Books to Look Forward to From Bookouture

 January 2021

I will do anything to protect my daughter. She’s all I’ve ever wanted and all I really have, but the moment I opened that letter and accepted the inheritance, I walked us right into a dangerous trap. I know I should have got her to tell me who she’s been talking to on the phone late at night, and where she was the day I went to pick her up from school and couldn’t find her, but she’s not spoken a word since she found that little pile of bones buried in the garden. And now she’s missing… Single Mother is by Samantha Hayes.

The Missing Woman is by Georgina Cross. They live in the big houses on the pretty street. Those other women, as we call them. And to think I used to want to be like them, to have their money and happiness, to live and laugh and play like them. Not any more. It’s the fourth of July and the whole town is gathered at the local pool. Through the sweltering afternoon, we single mothers don’t mix with the other women—the ones with the perfect lives and happy marriages. Women like Sabine Miller. But when Sabine shoots me a desperate look across the water and suddenly disappears, my blood runs cold…Running to the back gate, all I find is a silver charm bracelet she dropped on her way out. I convince myself I’m imagining things until Sabine’s husband Mark appears. When he realizes she’s missing, he phones the cops straight away. “Someone has been threatening Sabine,” he says. “Now they’ve kidnapped her.” Hours later, I wish I’d run faster. The whole town is searching the streets, calling Sabine’s name over and over. On the TV, Mark is begging for someone to bring his wife home. The truth is, I was the last person to see her alive—and it’s killing me inside. Now the cops are at my door asking questions. I’m terrified they’ll find out what happened years ago between me and Sabine. Something I’ve never told anyone. But I need to tell someone. Can you keep a secret?

Two women are dead. They both look like you. The giant stretch of frozen river was melting and the light made the lake glitter like crystals. The women lay side by side on the shore, eyes open and glassy. Their long, dark hair was like tangled rope, their faces a reflection of each other… When two bodies are found dumped in one of the vast lakes in Lakemore, Washington, DetectiveMackenzie Price is first on the scene. She identifies one of the victims as Katy Becker, a local known for her work helping the community. The other victim looks strikingly similar. Still grappling with a shocking revelation from her past, Mack is only too happy to throw herself into the case. But when she goes to break the news to Katy’s husband, the investigation takes an unexpected turn: Katy is very much alive, and has never met the women who resemble her so closely. Now the race is on to find the killer before Katy becomes the next victim. But when Mack unearths a disturbing connection to a sixteen-year-old suicide, she realizes they could be hunting someone whose crimes span decades –and there are more lives than just Katy’s at stake. Their Frozen Graves is by Ruhi Choudhary


The Patriot is by Nick Thacker. “I can help you find the man who killed your wife.” It’s the last thing Jake Parker expects to hear from an old friend from his military days at West Point, Lt Colonel Douglas McDonnell. Officially, Jake’s wife Mel was an unlucky bystander during a sudden terrorist attack, but Jake has always felt there was a missing piece of the puzzle. When McDonnell tells him that his team has been tracking the group responsible, it’s Jake’s opportunity to finally lay Mel’s ghost to rest.  McDonnell believes that the terrorist cell is linked to one of the big pharma companies operating out of Puerto Rico, and he needs Jake’s skills on his team for one specific task: find the link and take them down. But as soon as Jake arrives, the plan begins to crumble. Focused on targeting the group members one at a time, the team on the ground won’t listen to Jake’s insistence that they look at the bigger picture.  When Jake meets bio-chemist Veronique, they hit it off. But when she confesses her fears that her employer is manufacturing a drug for the US market with deadly side effects, Jake realises that the terrorists have raised the stakes, and more innocent lives are at risk if he doesn’t act fast. Then Veronique is kidnapped. Unable to trust anyone around him, Jake is pushed as never before to find Vero while taking down the evil organisation before they strike at the US population…

Detective Amanda Steele stops just inside the doorway, recognizing the victim’s face instantly. He seems so vulnerable in death; soft, human, even harmless. But she can never forget the evil he has inflicted. Her heart is hammering as she remembers her precious daughter, with her red curls and infectious laugh, and how she was lowered into that little grave… It’s been five years since Detective Amanda Steele’s life was derailed in the path of an oncoming drunk driver. The small community of Dumfries, Virginia, may have moved on from the tragic deaths of her husband and daughter, but Amanda cannot. When the driver who killed her family is found murdered in a motel room, she can’t keep away from the case. Fighting her sergeant to be allowed to work an investigation with such a personal connection to her, Amanda is in a race to prove that she can uncover the truth. But the more she digs into the past of the man who destroyed her future, the more shocking discoveries she makes. And when Amanda finds the link between a silver bracelet in his possession and the brutal unsolved murder of a young exotic dancer, she realizes she’s caught up in something darker than she ever imagined and suspects that more girls could be in danger. But as Amanda edges toward the truth, she gets closer to a secret as personal as it is deadly. Amanda has stumbled upon a dangerous killer, and she must face some terrible truths in order to catch this killer – and save his next victim as she couldn’t save her own daughter…The  Little Grave is by Carolyn Arnold.

The Woman Inside is by Anna Lou Weatherly, Daisey Garrett wakes up in a hospital bed. She remembers her boyfriend has left her for another woman but she doesn’t remember what happened to her. The night she was attacked in her own home. Daisey shouldn’t be alive but against all odds, she’s survived an ordeal most would never recover from. And her new friend and roommate Iris will help her get back on her feet. But Daisey’s mind is broken. She’s on edge, drinking too much and as she sits across from her cheating ex, Luke, in the beautiful home they once shared together, she can’t shake the feeling that she is being watched. Yet tiny fragments of Daisey’s memory are starting to come back to her.  The missing pieces of that fateful summer night are beginning to surface… The lies she told the police. The lies Luke told her. Iris will help her find the truth, won’t she?

The little boy played with his toy trains in the bedroom, keeping quiet so as not to wake his mother. He stayed silent as he watched his window creaking open and heard the whisper from outside. A minute later, Tommy and the trains were gone. An unrelenting heatwave sweeps the country and starts a fire which uncovers the charred remains of a young woman. But when DI Eleanor Raven attends the post-mortem it reveals some disturbing details—the girl was dead long before the fire, her body had been lovingly preserved before being dressed up, her hair perfectly arranged, and a lime-green scarf knotted around her neck. With little evidence surviving the fire, Eleanor and her team have no solid leads. But back on duty after six months’ enforced leave, Eleanor is determined to prove herself fit for service, and she won’t accept that this case could prove impossible. Following a tenuous link to an old missing-persons case, Eleanor discovers the poor woman’s identity: Giselle Baker was a young dancer at a local bar before she disappeared two years ago, leaving behind a worried roommate and, concealed amongst her things, a curious wooden carving of a snake. Before Eleanor can uncover the significance of the toy though, another woman goes missing, and then, a little boy… It seems that someone is collecting a family for themselves. As Eleanor battles her own demons, she pushes herself to the limit to find the killer. But her fight to save his last innocent victim may become a battle to save herself… Perfect Little Dolls is by Karen Long.

The Newlyweds is by Arianne Richmode One marriage. One lie. Two sides to the story. The moment Vivien meets Ashton, she knows she will be his wife and absolutely nothing will stop her. Powerful, rich and from a good family, Ashton is everything Vivien is not. So, she molds herself into Ashton’s perfect soulmate. Pouring his favorite vintage wine, whispering ‘I love you’ over dinner in front of friends and biting her tongue when she disagrees with him are simple sacrifices for the perfect marriage she has always craved. When people begin to notice the bruises on her cheek, she holds their stares. There is no cry for help from Vivien. She simply keeps her mouth shut and lets the gossip continue. If you saw Vivien nursing a black eye, you might be forgiven for thinking what everyone else does—that she is the victim in her marriage, but you’d be wrong. Vivien and Ashton’s life together is much more complicated than that. You will never guess the true story behind Vivien’s undying devotion to her husband. Nor could you possibly predict what she does next…

It’s a crisp spring morning when the small-town community around Briar Ridge Elementary School is shattered by devastating news. Bright and shy five-year-old Nicole has disappeared at recess. Nicole’s mother, Gia, is lost in her grief. On the same day her baby girl vanished, Gia found out she was pregnant with the sister Nicole had begged for. Gia is also devastated that her best friend Karen was supervising the playground when Nicole was taken. And when Nicole’s body is discovered, Gia can’t help but ask: why didn’t Karen protect her little girl? Someone knows what happened in school that day and Detective Jo Fournier is determined to find the truth. Jo’s little nieces also attend Briar Ridge and she would cross mountains to keep them safe. As she starts to dig into the mothers’ secrets, she begins to wonder if anyone is telling the truth. Gia’s been hiding a part of herself for years and Jo can tell it’s eating her apart. And Karen is definitely lying—but what is more important than finding the killer of her best friend’s daughter? As Gia and Karen struggle with their guilt, a teacher at Briar Ridge dies in what looks like a tragic accident. But with two deaths in such a short time, Jo knows better than that. In this school, where soccer moms flock to the gates with cookies for teachers, someone is willing to kill to keep a secret.The only question is who. The Other Mothers is by M.M. Chouinard.

You thought your little girl was safe at summer camp. You were wrong. She drags her eyes open, realizing she’s starting to fade. Did she imagine the voices, or were they real? She tries calling out—“Daddy?”—using all her remaining strength. But she’s too late and her little voice just isn’t loud enough… When Detective Madison Harper arrives at a remote summer camp in Shadow Falls, northern California, her heart breaks for Jenny, the sweet little girl last seen splashing in the lake with her friends before she vanished. Peering into the silent cabins filled with rows of neatly made beds, Madison knows this idyllic place is hiding a terrible secret. The girl’s parents are distraught, and the local police have no leads—they desperately need Madison’s help. She’ll do whatever it takes to crack this case, because it’s the only way back to the son she lost to the care system years ago when she was framed for a crime she didn’t commit. But with the camp staff keeping tight-lipped and her new partner on the edge of a breakdown, Madison can’t find any truth to her instinct that there is more to Jenny’s perfect parents than meets the eye. Until she discovers a disturbing family portrait Jenny drew at the local library. Was this angelic girl more troubled than anybody knew? Was she in danger from those she trusted most?  One thing is certain, if Madison doesn't find the answers soon, the lives of more innocent children will be at risk… Find My Child is by Wendy Dranfield.

The Secret Within is by Lucy Dawson. I need the two men sitting on the other side of the interview table to trust me. My family’s happiness is riding on my getting this job. I smile, knowing that first impressions are key. There’s no link between having a friendly face and being trustworthy, but humans are built to think there is. Even us doctors, who should know better. If only I could keep my past secret from these men, but they’ll have read about me in the papers – the court case, the threats, the lies that were told. But what’s important now are my son and daughter: a new house, new school, a new start away from the city. Away from my ex, my old job… and the scandal that nearly ruined me. What I don’t know yet is that if I convince them to hire me, I’ll be putting my children in terrible danger. I’m trying to make things right, but this is when it starts to go wrong. And when one of my precious children goes missing, I’ll realise that the nightmare is far from over. In spite of everything I’ve gone through, I will fail to recognise the evils a friendly face can hide.Sometimes it’s the people who want to be closest to you that you should be most afraid of. They’re the ones who know your secrets. Who want to make you pay.

Before She Wakes is by Ed James. She opens her eyes and focuses on the room around her. Everything is in place, yet something isn’t right. She walks towards her daughter’s room, calling her name, as she does every morning. But this morning is different. This morning there is no response, Marissa’s daughter has vanished. Single mother Marissa Bukowski stands in her daughter’s untidy room. Olivia’s phone is still charging at the wall and her clothes are still hanging in her closet. The mirror above her daughter’s desk is cracked and a message written in red ink reads ‘Never Forget’. As FBI special agent Max Carter is called in to investigate, he delves into the lives of Marissa and her quiet, studious teenage daughter, and soon discovers that Olivia has been lying to her mother. Not only did she have a secret boyfriend, but she had also been talking to her guidance counsellor in the weeks before she disappeared. What was so big that Olivia couldn’t tell? When a blood test reveals that Marissa was drugged the night Olivia went missing, Carter turns his sights towards Marissa’s estranged husband, only to find that he too has vanished without trace. And when he uncovers a family secret that could put the teenager’s life in danger, it’s clear that time is running out for Marissa’s beloved daughter. Can he discover the truth about Olivia’s family and find her before it’s too late?