Sunday 31 August 2014

The Singing Sands by Josephine Tey

This Folio Society edition of Josephine Tey’s The Singing Sands breathes new life into a piece of classic crime writing.  The new hardback features the eminently stylish illustrations of Mark Smith, which perfectly capture the book’s atmosphere of quiet suspense.  One of these enigmatic drawings appears on The Singing Sand’s cover, which is bound in red buckram.

In her newly commissioned introduction, the critically acclaimed crime writer Val McDermid explores Tey’s enduring popularity among readers and novelists alike.  She also comments on her unconventional characterisation, including Grant’s ambiguous character and his susceptibility to the forces of ‘Unreason’ – both uncommon traits in a golden-age detective.  For McDermid, Tey was the bridge between that era and contemporary crime fiction, opening up the genre for writers such as Patricia Highsmith and Ruth Rendell.  Like the earlier Brat Farrar and The Franchise Affair, Tey’s 1952 novel is a classic mystery, but one that is unusually sensitive to the frailties and oddities of human psychology.

Diagnosed with ‘overwork’ and in the grip of debilitating claustrophobia, Inspector Alan Grant takes leave from Scotland Yard and heads for the peaceful home of his cousin Laura, who lives with her family in the Scottish Highlands.  As the London mail draws into Inverness, he sees the surly sleeping-car attendant trying to rouse an unresponsive young man.  He is compelled; firstly, to point out that the passenger is dead, and secondly to pick up the newspaper that has slipped onto the compartment floor.  On it the deceased, who appears to have drunk himself into oblivion, has scrawled an elusive poem about a paradise guarded by ‘singing sand’.  Grant is soon fascinated by the hopes and dreams of the dead man with ‘tumbled black hair and … reckless eyebrows’.  And though he has planned to do nothing in Scotland but fish, he cannot help but act on the growing suspicion that a far more sinister story is waiting to be uncovered … 

Illustrations © Mark Smith 2014

For Editors –

For over 65 years The Folio Society has been publishing beautiful illustrated editions of the world's greatest books, in the belief that the literary content of a book should be matched by its physical form. With specially commissioned and researched illustrations, many Folio editions are further enhanced by introductions written by leading figures in their fields: novelists, journalists, academics, scientists and artists.

There are hundreds of Folio Society editions currently in print, covering fiction, biography, history, science, philosophy, children's literature, humour, myths and legends, and more. Exceptional in content and craftsmanship, and maintaining the very highest standards of fine book production, Folio Society editions are created to last for generations.

Folio Society titles can be bought from, by telephone on 0207 400 4200 or by visiting The Folio Society Bookshop, 44 Eagle Street, London, WC1R 4FS.

For media enquiries or interview requests please contact Kate Cooper or Annabel Robinson at FMcM on 0207 405 7422 or email /

Saturday 30 August 2014

Big Down Under!

Crime fans in New Zealand are eagerly awaiting the new Paul Thomas novel, Fallout, which will feature the maverick Maori detective Tito Ihaka.  The forthcoming New Zealand edition comes with a front cover recommendation from Ian Rankin.  But even more interesting is the back cover endorsement which records that Thomas’ previous Ihaka book, Death on Demand, was Shots’ 2013 Crime Novel of the Year as judged by “UK Crime Fiction Guru Mike Ripley.

 Tito Ihaka, the unkempt, overweight Maori cop was demoted to Sergeant due to insubordination and pig-headedness.  He investigates the unsolved killing of 17-year-old girl at an election night party in a ritzy villa near Auckland.  Ihaka is also embroiled in a very personal mystery.  A freelance journalist has stumbled across information that Ihaka's father Jimmy, a trade union firebrand and renegade Marxist, didn't die of natural causes.  The stories weave themselves into an exciting climax in an atmosphere of political manoeuvring and intrigue surrounding the USA's confrontation with New Zealand over its anti-nuclear stance.

Friday 29 August 2014

The Black Death of the Modern Age

In the autumn of 2008 a special crime case was all over the news in Norway. It concerned several well-known persons from my hometown: the coastal city of Stavanger, the oil capital of Norway, the city I, somewhat exaggeratingly, have labelled ‘the richest city in the world’; an untrue phrase that feels true.

The case came to be known as The Baasland Case. In short it went like this: Bjarte Baasland, the son of the respected Stavanger bishop Ernst Baasland, had a debt amounting to more than 60 million Norwegian kroners (6 million GBP). Over the last few years he had been gambling on the internet and, operating with false identities, he had swindled his mother, his father, his family and the whole Christian community. And suddenly this strange prince of internet darkness went down. His bubble burst, the lies became too many to handle; it became dangerous.

Now, See You Tomorrow, the novel I had begun writing, does not deal with the problems of the religious upper class. But what was interesting to me was that just when this case emerged, I was writing a novel about a little man from the huge Norwegian middle class who was about to ruin his – and his daughters’ – life as a result of internet gambling. My character, Pål, was a man like you and me.

But still, the chillingly fascinating and gruesomely dark tale of the lonely son of a bishop and his fall into colossal debt inspired me as it covered page after page in the papers during those months. It was as if my emerging novel had a twin, or a shadow; it was almost like an assurance that what I was dealing with could really happen, and my Pål became something of a twin brother to Bjarte Baasland. All of the parallels made me confident that I was writing about something real, something strong and acute.

For me it started with that damned internet. I love it, like everyone else, and I enjoy the new pace of life it brings. I am glad that I can get instant access to the new songs by my favourite bands, even though I sometimes get nostalgic for the times when I had to wait for weeks before the 7’ arrived in my local record store. But I also hate it. Really, really hate it. And there’s one thing in particular that has bothered me for years, which I am sure has inspired See You Tomorrow in a way that I cannot fully cover. Gambling is as old as the hills; novels have been written about the subject for ages, even good old Dostoyevsky wrote one (himself also a considerable gambler). But these days it is something else. You do not enter a saloon or a gambling hall. All you need is that one click.

The loneliness of the internet.
            We’re all sitting there. It’s such a bleak situation.
            Gambling in the night.
            Man and machine. Access to everything. And nothing.

I do not have the right words for this, not even now, after six years of writing a novel about a man who destroys everything with the aid of that damned internet. But I think everybody knows what I mean. It’s addictive. It gives us the feeling of being there, all the time.
But we’re not.
            It just feels that way.
            It’s all loneliness. It’s all lies. It’s all crap.
            And – Pål and Bjarte – you do not get rich from it.
            It just feels that way.
            It drags you by the hair to hell.

I have a friend in my novel. I will admit that. Rudi, the petty criminal with ADHD and a pounding heart for heavy metal is the strongest enemy the internet has out there. He calls it ‘The Black Death of the Modern Age’. In one scene in the book he is approached by our sorry hero, Pål, who contacts him for help with his desperate debt. Here is Rudi’s reply:

‘Remember: the internet is the root of all evil. So don’t you go turning on that computer now, dude! Set aside a little time with a few good records instead. The Number of the Beast! Overkill! Sabbath Bloody Sabbath! Or what do I know; maybe you listen to Coldplay when nobody’s around? … Okay, brother. See you tomorrow!’

See You Tomorrow by Tore Renberg is published by Arcadia Books, £14.99 hardback

You can find more information about Tore Renberg and his writing on his website.  He can also be found on Facebook and you can follow him on Twitter @ToreRenberg.

Thursday 28 August 2014

Bones Never Lie - An Evening With Kathy Reichs

Join Barts Pathology Museum for a very special evening with bestselling author and forensic anthropologist Kathy Reichs who will be appearing at Barts Pathology Museum on 16th September 2014! This exclusive evening is Kathy’s first stop on her UK tour to mark publication of her new novel Bones Never Lie. She will be giving a fascinating illustrated talk on forensic anthropology and how forensics has influenced her writing career. 

From teaching FBI agents how to detect and recover human remains, to separating and identifying commingled body parts in her Montreal lab, as a forensic anthropologist Kathy Reichs has brought her own dramatic work experience to her mesmerising thrillers. For years she consulted to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in North Carolina, and continues to do so for the Laboratoire de Sciences Judiciaires et de Médecine Légale for the province of Québec. Dr. Reichs has travelled to Rwanda to testify at the UN Tribunal on Genocide, and helped exhume a mass grave in Guatemala. As part of her work at JPAC (Formerly CILHI) she aided in the identification of war dead from World War II, Korea, and Southeast Asia. Dr. Reichs also assisted with identifying remains found at ground zero of the World Trade Center following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Dr. Reichs is one of only eighty-two forensic anthropologists ever certified by the American Board of Forensic Anthropology. She served on the Board of Directors and as Vice President of both the American Academy of Forensic Sciences and the American Board of Forensic Anthropology, and is currently a member of the National Police Services Advisory Council in Canada. She is a Professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte. A native of Chicago, she now divides her time between Charlotte, NC and Montreal, Québec.

Tickets cost £13.90 and can be bought from Eventbrite.

Barts Pathology Museum (3rd Floor Robin Brook Centre)
St Bartholomews Hospital (Outpatients Entrance)
West Smithfield EC1A 7BE London
United Kingdom

Tuesday, 16 September 2014 from 18:30 to 21:00 (BST)

Wednesday 27 August 2014

Books to look forward to from Allison & Busby

By July 1914, the ties between Kezia Marchant and Thea Brissenden, friends since girlhood, have become strained - by Thea's passionate embrace of women's suffrage, and by the imminent marriage of Kezia to Thea's brother, Tom, who runs the family farm. Yet when Tom enlists to fight for his country and Thea is drawn reluctantly onto the battlefield, the farm becomes Kezia's responsibility. Each must find a way to endure the ensuing cataclysm and turmoil. As Tom marches to the front lines, and Kezia battles to keep her ordered life from unravelling, they hide their despair in letters and cards filled with stories woven to bring comfort. But will well-intended lies and self-deception be of use when they come face to face with the enemy.  The Care and Management of Lies is by Jacqueline Winspear and was published in July 2014.

Crooked Herring is by L C Tyler and is due to be published in September 2014.  Ethelred Tressider, mid-list crime writer, is surprised when fellow author Henry Holiday unexpectedly turns up on his doorstep. He's even more surprised when Henry confesses that he may have committed murder while drunk on New Year's Eve. Though he has little recollection of the night, Henry fears he may have killed drinking companion and fellow crime writer Crispin Vynall, and asks Ethelred to discreetly make enquiries in order to discover the truth. As Ethelred and his trusty agent Elsie begin to investigate, they discover that Henry has been set up, and now all that remains is for them to find out why and, more importantly ...whodunnit?

The Coniston Case is the third book in the Lake District series by Rebecca Tope and was published in July 2014.  Valentine's Day is fast approaching and Persimmon 'Simmy' Brown's flower shop near Lake Windermere is doing good business. But when Simmy receives a string of anonymous delivery orders, each one causing their recipient great distress, she begins to suspect that the messages they contain mask a sinister intent. When one of the recipients disappears, it would seem that her worst fears have been confirmed. As if that isn't enough, Simmy's friend Kathy turns up, on the trail of her wayward daughter Joanna, who she fears has grown unhealthily close to one of her university tutors. When Kathy attempts to reason with her daughter she finds that Joanna's older lover may be even more menacing than she had imagined. With both Kathy and Joanna in peril, Simmy and her friends find themselves caught up in a web of deception, blackmail and murder. It seems that Simmy Brown faces her most puzzling, and perhaps her most dangerous, case yet.

Eva Jackson is Rosemary's cousin ( 'umpteen times removed' ) and she has moved back to her childhood home in Taviscombe after the untimely death of her beloved husband Alan. As is the way of the village, Eva has been pounced upon by the local charities, and it is during a coffee morning that she mentions to Sheila Malory that she fears Alan might have died an unnatural death ...Sheila is intrigued and sets out to find out more. But when Eva's body is discovered after a supposed insulin overdose, Sheila wonders if the killer might still be at large in the charming Devon countryside ...  Death is a Word is by Hazel Holt and is due to be published in September 2014.

Twenty-two brand new short stories which are guaranteed to delight fans and win the author many more. The indefatigable detective Inspector Sloan reappears in many of these stories with his sidekick Crosby. But there are also new characters to be met, such as the mysterious Malcolm Venables of the Secret Service. Full of delicious twists and turns, Last Writes will be a collection to curl up with and savour.  Last Writes is by Catherine Aird and was published in July 2014.

Amory Ames is a wealthy young woman who regrets her marriage to her notoriously charming playboy husband, Milo.  Looking for a change, she accepts a request for help from her former fiance, Gil Trent, to stay at the Brightwell Hotel in Devon and help circumvent his sister’s marriage toa disreputable ladies’ man Rupert Howe. When the groom-to-be is murdered and Gill arrested for the crime, Amory is embroiled in the investigation not knowing that will test not only her friendship with Gil, but will upset the status quo with her husband and she must catch the killer before  she becomes a victim herself.  Murder at the Brightwell is by Ashley Weaver and is due to be published in October 2014.

Monsieur Pamplemousse and the Tangled Web is by Michael Bond and was published in July 2014.  When Monsieur Pamplemousse is summoned into the head office of Le Guide by the director, Henri Leclercq, he is unaware of the chaos that is about to erupt. Accompanied by his faithful bloodhound, Pommes Frites, Pamplemousse attempts to solve Leclercq's plaintive conundrums - all of which relate back to his mobster uncle-in-law. The crime-solving duo gallivant around Paris and become tangled up in seemingly arbitrary problems; a letter about a juicy steak horrifyingly turned into a brisket; a dead restaurant owner; a giant truffle delivered by post and the imminent arrival of the vivacious Caterina, the mobster's niece.With all these obstacles at hand, Pamplemousse attempts to unravel each dilemma but it quickly proves impossible as they overlap and tangle at every turn. As he battles with this confounding case, it becomes apparent that these events are much more sinister and inextricably linked than first thought ...

In June 1916, a young woman is found murdered in a cinema. Harvery Marmion and Joe Keedy set out to find the killer who so elusively fled in the dark. Before long, two more victims, of striking similarity but differing backgrounds, are found dead around the city.  Meanwhile, miles from home, Marmion s son Paul prepares for life on the front line as he marches towards the Battle of the Somme. Suffering a vicious blow in No Man s Land, Paul is left blinded for the rest of his life. Marmion must come to terms with the permanent darkness of his son s life, while continuing to search for the brutal killer who only strikes in the dark."  Deeds of Darkness is the fourth book in the Home Front Detective series by Edward Marston and is due to be published in October 2014.

The Balmoral Incident is by Alanna Knight and is due to be published in October 2014.  Rose McQuinn is invited to stay with her friend Olive who has a small cottage on the Balmoral Estate. As Rose travels on the train with her trusty dog Vane and her niece Mabel, she wonders what exciting adventures await them at the Royal household. Little does she realise that within just 48 hours of their arrival, death will have visited the great castle ...can Rose find out what happened and prevent any more bloodshed?

Tuesday 26 August 2014

Does crime fiction always have to be about murder?

Lisa Cutts is a serving full-time detective constable with Kent police’s Major Crime Department. She is the author of two crime fiction novels in the DC Nina Foster series, Never Forget and Remember, Remember.

Most people wouldn’t even think about taking another’s life, but the subject seems to fascinate people. When it happens for real it wrecks lives and devastates communities, and the aftermath is horrific. Reading about its fictional counterpart is far safer and less intrusive. I’ve read about many more murders than the fifty or so I’ve investigated, but still I have that sense of ‘I have to know who done it’ – whether it’s my actual job or I’m off duty and reading a book. What every reader, as well as police officer, wants to know is why did they do it?

I think this is where readers’ interest is piqued, and not I hope because of the gruesomeness and finality of it all. It’s trying to understand what makes us do the things we do. As a species, we can be nasty and cruel to each other.

Of course, there are other serious crimes that have devastating and far reaching consequences but they are often more difficult to write about, to read about and sometimes more difficult to find out about.

As a serving police officer, there are things I’m not able to reveal in my crime fiction books, or anywhere else for that matter, because they may either jeopardise an investigation or result in the collapse of a trial. Apart from not wanting to face disciplinary action and get fired, I don’t want to see people get away with committing crime. I also wouldn’t want to put my colleagues’ lives or those of the public in danger.

An example of where investigative methods must be kept confidential is those used in hostage situations. Kidnaps are crimes in action and preservation of life is always the main priority. Some means of getting a hostage back safe and unharmed are subject to PII (public interest immunity) and won’t be discussed in open court or defence counsel made aware of all the facts. There’s a very real and obvious reason for that, but it doesn’t stop people wanting to know what really happened.

This makes it impossible to write about such a crime without either putting life in danger,
or getting the facts wrong. Personally, I’d rather write inaccurate procedures than equip people with all they need to abduct and kidnap. I’ve prided myself on the procedural accuracies of Never Forget and Remember, Remember, so I’ve had to shy away from some such crimes. It’s also true that many people have been the victim of crimes which haven’t threatened their life, such as burglary or theft. While no one denies that these crimes can greatly affect people, especially if it’s something that has happened in their homes it doesn’t usually result in death. Murder gets more media attention, it whips people into more of a frenzy and it is bound to see the police pull out all of the stops.

That aside, I haven’t limited Never Forget or Remember, Remember to murder but I’ve included drug dealing, artifice burglaries, handling stolen goods and assault on police. Those that commit murder don’t usually start off killing someone – there’s a whole host of other misdemeanours they usually engage in first.

Even if a writer choses to write about something other than death, there’s so much crime out there, we’ll never run out of things to put in novels and stories.

More information about Lisa can be found on her website and you can also follow her on Twitter @LisaCuttsAuthor.  You can follow her musings on her blog.  

Sunday 24 August 2014

The Newly Discovered Diaries of Doctor Kristal according to Russell James

Russell James is a British writer whose first books were hard-hitting, low-life thrillers, mainly set in south east London.  Later he added non-fiction, historical and other novels to his repertoire, and to date he has written ten crime novels, four historical novels and one more personal novel, along with short stories and four biographical encyclopaedias.  (He was also a main contributing editor to Harcourt’s Encyclopaedia of British Crime Writing.)  In 2001 he was elected Chairman of the Crime Writers Association.

As a crime writer Russell was named by GQ magazine as ‘the great unknown talent of British crime writing’, by Ian Rankin as ‘the Godfather of British Noir’ and by the Times as ‘surely the best of Britain's darker crime writers’.

After several years writing in different genres he has now returned to crime with what at first sight appears to be, but as it turns out is not a more traditional tale, The Newly Discovered Diaries of Doctor Kristal (subtitled: whose Strange Obsessions caused him to Murder some annoying patients).

Shots:  That’s a mouthful of a title!
RJ:   Yes, it’s long – but why not?  It’s my first crime book for five years, and I had lots to say!

Shots:  It’s not the kind we would expect from you.

RJ:   Not even set in London!  No, it was time for a breakaway, I guess, though the book still has more than a touch of British noir.  It is, I hope, a wry and somewhat outrageous psychological crime story, and I’ve chosen to tell it in diary form, the diary having been written in secret by the prissy and pedantic Doctor Kristal, a 35 year old virgin –

Shots:  A virgin – at 35?

RJ:   He is not, shall we say, a normal man – and sex, or rather, his 35 years without it is what stirs up the strange obsessions which lead him to start murdering his patients.

Shots:  Hardly a normal doctor!  Harold Shipman, perhaps?

RJ:   Any resemblance . . .  No, my doctor is quite different, based on no one you could identify – I hope.

Shots:  And why does he –

RJ:   Oh, his intentions are strictly honourable!  He only wants to help.  Among his patients, you see, is an attractive young 19-year-old, grateful for some help he gave before but now saddled with an unwanted pregnancy.  (This is 1963, remember.)  Then there’s the beautiful Eleanor, something of a hypochondriac and unhappily married to a sexually voracious and overweening actor more than a decade older than her.  Another woman faces a more unpleasant dilemma, and it’s in helping her that the doctor finds himself in hot water.

Shots:  You’ve set the novel in 1963. Why?

RJ:   It was a tumultuous time – the year when ‘sex was discovered’ supposedly, which makes his virgin state all the more peculiar.  In the background lies the Profumo affair and the assassination of President Kennedy and, against these, Doctor Kristal’s provincial life may seem of little significance –

Shots:  Not to his victims!

RJ:   No, and unfortunately, although he means well, none of his solutions go to plan.  People get in the way – like, there are two other doctors in the town, and they both have plans for Doctor Kristal.  His own plans are . . . a little wacky, shall we say?
Shots:  Does he get away with it?

RJ:   Oh, come on – you want the end of the book?  Whether he does or not is not the main point; the fun comes in seeing how his obsessions gradually take him over – which he can’t see but you can – and how his devious schemes pan out.

Shots:  We’ve had to wait 5 years for this.

RJ:   Well, I do have an excuse!  In these interim years I’ve written those 4 biographical picture books, 2 historical novels and a modern-day straightforward one (Exit 39).  So I haven’t been idle.  You can, of course, get all the background on my website, or take a look at the Kindle version of the book itself at

You can also find out more about Russell James and his books on his website.  Russell can also be found on Facebook and you can follow him on Twitter @getRussellJames