Monday 30 November 2015

More November Book Reviews

South Downs Crime & Mystery

Not the SCROOGE you thought you knew...

Just in time for Christmas, available now to order at Amazon at a special price of just £1.99!
The Humbug Murders is the first title in the new Ebenezer Scrooge Mysteries series by New York Times bestselling author L.J. Oliver.
As the December nights grow long and cold in Victorian London, the Christmas geese are getting fat - as are the pockets of ambitious young moneylender Ebenezer Scrooge.
In his Cheapside counting house Ebenezer receives an early-morning visit from his old mentor, Reginald Fezziwig. Not that strange, except that Fezziwig claims to be dead. Murdered, in fact. And his ghost predicts other victims will follow - including Scrooge himself - unless Ebenezer finds the real culprit.
Aided by an unconventional female clerk named Adelaide Owen, the two mingle with some of the city’s most colorful characters - the Artful Dodger, Fagin, even a wily young reporter named Charles Dickens. But the truth is murkier than the Thames at twilight, and one misplaced word, one glance askew, and the ever-thrifty Scrooge and his fellow detective will be forced to pay the ultimate price...

Special Offer on the Mr and Mrs Darcy Series

For a limited time, you can enter the wonderful world of Mr and Mrs Darcy for only 99p!

Mr & Mrs Darcy, the joyous newlyweds from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, have not even left for their honeymoon when they find themselves embroiled in a mystery involving one of their wedding guests.

The lovely Caroline Bingley is engaged to marry a rich and charismatic American. Unfortunately, this windswept courtship is marred by many strange events - nocturnal wanderings, spooked horses, carriage accidents, and even an apparent suicide attempt. Soon the whole Bingley family seems the target of a mysterious plot, with only the Darcys recognising the danger.

Sinister forces are afoot and the Darcys must get to the bottom of this mystery before the blushing bride descends into madness - or worse.

And, if you fall in love with this charming series, the next two books in the series, Suspense and Sensibility and North by Northanger are only £1.99. Enjoy!

South Downs Crime & Mystery is a new independent publisher of cosy, historical and golden age mysteries. We believe crime doesn't always have to be bloody and that great characters, settings and plot are what make mysteries so satisfying.
Over the coming months we'll be announcing more wonderful titles and more offers. If you'd like to be kept up to date, please like the Facebook page.

Sunday 29 November 2015

Books to look forward to from Simon and Schuster


Joe Goldberg came to Los Angeles to start over, to forget about what happened in New York. But in a darkened room in Soho House everything suddenly changed. She is like no one he's ever met before. She doesn't know about his past and never can. The problem is, hidden bodies don't always stay that way.  Hidden Bodies is by Caroline Kepnes.

The Sign of Fear is by Robert Ryan.  The skies above London hum with danger. And in the Channel enemies lie in wait...  Autumn, 1917. London is not the city that Dr John Watson and Sherlock Holmes once bestrode like giants. Terror has come from the sky and Londoners are scurrying underground in fear. Then a twin tragedy strikes Watson. An old friend, Staff Nurse Jennings, is on a boat-ambulance torpedoed in the Channel with no survivors. And his concert-going companion, Sir Gilbert Hardy, is kidnapped. Then comes the gruesome ransom demand, for Sir Gilbert and four others, which will involve terrible mutilation unless the demands are met. Help comes from an unlikely source when Watson finds himself face-to-face with his old ruthless adversary, the "She Wolf" Miss Pillbody. She makes him a remarkable offer and so an unlikely partnership is formed - the enemy spy and Sherlock Holmes's faithful companion, a detective duo which will eventually uncover a shocking case of state-sponsored murder and find Watson on board a German bomber, with a crew intent on setting London ablaze.

A time of turbulence 1975. A summit has been arranged between the Rhodesian government and various nationalist leaders, and is due to take place in railway dining car 49, midway along Victoria Falls Bridge. But Matthew Charamba, a key player in the battle for majority rule in Rhodesia, is hiding a deadly secret. A time of terror Claire and Erik are living in Stockholm, raising their son, Ben. But their quiet life is about to unravel in explosive fashion. Each have hidden pasts, to which the other is oblivious, and those pasts have come back to find them. Time for Paul Dark to take action. When his family is kidnapped, Paul Dark, the most resourceful and dangerous double-agent of the 20th Century, must take action or lose the most precious people in his universe.  Spy Out the Land is by Jeremy Duns.

APRIL 2016

The Amber Shadows by Lucy Ribchester. Bletchley Park typist Honey Deschamps spends her days at a type-x machine in Hut 6, transcribing the decrypted signals from the German Army, doing her bit to help the British war effort. Halfway across the world Hitler's armies are marching into Leningrad, leaving a trail of destruction and pillaging the country's most treasured artworks, including the famous Amber Room - the eighth wonder of the world. As reports begin filtering through about the stolen amber loot, Honey receives a package, addressed to her, carried by a man she has never seen before. He claims his name is Felix Plaidstow and that he works in Hut 3. The package is postmarked from Russia, branded with two censors' stamps. Inside is a small flat piece of amber, and it is just the first of several parcels. Caught between fearing the packages are a trap set by the authorities to test her loyalty or a desperate cry for help, Honey turns to the handsome enigmatic Felix Plaidstow. But then her brother is found beaten to death in nearby woods and suddenly danger is all around...

MAY 2016

Berlin 1943. August Schlegel lives in a world full of questions with no easy answers. Why is he being called out on a homicide case when he works in financial crimes? Why did the old Jewish soldier with an Iron Cross shoot the block warden in the eye then put a bullet through his own head? Why does Schlegel persist with the case when no one cares because the Jews are all being shipped out anyway? And why should Eiko Morgen, wearing the dreaded black uniform of the SS, turn up and say he has been assigned to work with him? Corpses, dressed with fake money, bodies flayed beyond recognition: are these routine murders committed out of rage or is someone trying to tell them something...  The Butchers of Berlin is by Chris Petit.

JUNE 2016

The Lost Swimmer by Anne Turner.  Rebecca Wilding, an archaeology professor, traces the past for a living. But suddenly, truth and certainty are turning against her. Rebecca is accused of serious fraud, and worse, she suspects - she knows - that her husband, Stephen, is having an affair. Desperate to find answers, Rebecca leaves with Stephen for Greece, Italy and Paris, where she can uncover the conspiracy against her, and hopefully win Stephen back to her side, where he belongs. There's too much at stake - her love, her work, her family. But on the idyllic Amalfi Coast, Stephen goes swimming and doesn't come back. In a swirling daze of panic and fear, Rebecca is dealt with fresh allegations. And with time against her, she must uncover the dark secrets that stand between her and Stephen, and the deceit that has chased her halfway around the world.

Saturday 28 November 2015

A Confession by Barbra Leslie

Today's guest blog is by debut author Barbra Leslie

I have a confession to make.

Until the late 2000s, the only mystery books I’d ever read were Agatha Christies.  (I loved cozy English books when I was a child, and if there was murder in the drawing room at the same time, well, so be it!)  Like any writer, I have always been a reader: from my grandmother’s discarded Harlequin Romances when I was a girl to the Victorians by the time I was a young teenager, I read anything and everything I could get my hands on.  I went from Norman Mailer to George Eliot, from T.S. Eliot to (God help me) Ayn Rand.  But somehow – maybe because there weren’t any in the house when I was growing up, and maybe because my very limited pocket money (earned from working at Zellers, a local budget department store, one of the two big stores in the rural Nova Scotia town in which I grew up) meant that when I was set loose in a bookstore, I wanted to choose books I had heard of, read about, knew were considered classics.  I was a fervent autodidact.

Yes, I realize how painfully snobbish that sounds, now.  Snobbish was the last thing I could ever have been considered, however, growing up as I did.  I was the last of six children, living in an apartment over my family’s small grocery store in a rural village.  But I thought mysteries were, like science fiction (another favourite genre of mine now), the equivalent of the Harlequin Romances I had long ago discarded – perhaps entertaining, but throw-away fiction, to be picked up at the three-for-a-dollar bin at charity shops.

Fast forward to late 2007, perhaps 2008.  My mother had fallen and broken her ankle and foot badly, and needed someone with her – she wasn’t strong enough for crutches and she was unable to walk.  I flew from Toronto, where I live, to Nova Scotia to be with her for a bit.  In the years since I’d last stayed with my mother for any period of time – in other words, since high school – she had discovered her own love for mysteries, and her bookshelves were crammed with books I’d never read before.  For a book junkie like me?  Heaven.

And, I was hooked.

While I have since read more varied and widely within the genre, the first mystery/crime writers I read as an adult were those my mother loved.

James Lee Burke: I wish I could remember which of James Lee Burke’s Dave Robicheaux series I read first.  His writing is so lush, it’s like a hot, humid summer night in Louisiana – the setting for the series.  His hero is an Iberia Parish homicide detective/private detective/bait shop owner (the series spans many years), a Vietnam vet who struggles with sobriety and his often off-the-rails partner, Clete Purcell.   Dave’s moral code is what drives the series, his tortured goodness in the face of evil.  James Lee Burke was the first mystery writer I read, and was moved to tears while reading.  While I am loathe to pick a favourite of that series, I think The Tin Roof Blowdown, his post-Katrina Robicheaux, is one of the best American novels of that decade.  I haven’t yet read Burke’s Holland series – and as a book lover, is there any nicer feeling than having books from a favourite author to look forward to?

Dennis Lehane:  Dennis Lehane is an American treasure, and his Kenzie-Gennaro books probably had the most influence on me at the time, putting the bug in my ear to want to write my own crime fiction.  His style is more old-school noir than James Lee Burke’s almost Southern Gothic style.  The south Boston, urban P.I.-style books are deceptively simple, but they pick you up and don’t let you go.  The plots are tight, the violence feels absolutely real, and the supporting characters are as entertaining as the main ones – a great feat. 

Robert B Parker: My mother was a huge Robert B Parker fan - and I'm glad she got to see one of her favourite actors, Tom Selleck, play Parker's Jesse Stone in s series of TV movies.  (The fact that they were also filmed in Nova Scotia, where she lived, made it even more of a thrill for her.)  But her favourite series and mine- and most of Parker's readers, come to that - are the Spenser books.  Spenser, again, is like an old-school noir hero - the gentle tough guy who likes to crack wise.  He's smart, loyal and dogged, and doesn't suffer fools gladly; a Raymond Chandler character if ever there was one.  He was one writer who could make my mother laugh when she was reading; a memory of her that I treasure. 

My mother died in November 2010 of mesothelioma.  So while I have other favourites now – Nicola Griffith’s Aud series, Patricia Highsmith, Tana French’s Dublin Murder Squad series, off the top of my head – it’s the early mysteries I read and talked about with my mother that I will always have the most fondness for.

Cracked by Barbra Leslie Titan Books £7.99 (Out now)

Danielle Cleary is a nice middle-class girl with a bad habit. After her stormy marriage to the love of her life ends, the former personal trainer and amateur fighter jumps down the rabbit hole into a world of crack cocaine -- delivered to her door by a polite but slightly deranged dealer – and endless game shows, with her best friend Gene. But when Danny’s twin sister Ginger is murdered, Danny and her rock musician brother fly to California to find their nephews – and the people who killed their sister. Fighting withdrawal, nosy cops and crazy drug dealers, she kicks ass and takes names, embracing her inner vigilante in a quest to avenge her sister and save her family.  Cracked is a darkly comic roller-coaster ride to redemption.  From the streets of Toronto to the underbelly of Orange County; from private jets to the depths of the Maine wilderness, Danny struggles with bad guys and her own demons to find the killers.

You can follow her on Twitter (@barbrajleslie

Friday 27 November 2015

New Top Notch Thrillers from Ostara

The new titles from Ostara Publishing’s Top Notch Thriller imprint feature a bleak, almost Kafka-esque spy thriller set in London at the fag-end of the 1960’s and a poignant war story set on the Western Front in 1917, not so much in the trenches but under them.

Drawn Blanc, first published in 1970, was the debut novel of author, lecturer, screenwriter and artist Reg Gadney (who also painted the cover illustration). It starkly portrays the bleak world of the British Intelligence service trying to recover from the debacle of the Kim Philby years of betrayal. The new way of operating is to trust no-one at all and recruit small cells of agents on an ad hoc basis. One such recruit – a very reluctant volunteer – is Czech dissident O.B. Blanc who finds himself mounting a surveillance operation which rapidly turns violent and Blanc realises he could be the hunted rather than the hunter.

When first published, Drawn Blanc was praised by The Guardian for describing “territory bordering on Greene-land and Kafka country.”

In The Tunnellers, first published in 1986, Raymond Hitchcock (who served in the Royal Engineers during WWII until wounded on the Normandy beaches), tells the story of the young British Sappers who dug tunnels 90-feet below the German trenches on the Messines Ridge in Flanders in order to plant huge mines designed to blow an unsuspecting enemy sky high. Except the Germans are not unsuspecting…and are digging tunnels of their own.

Told through the eyes of two young Somerset lads transported from an idyllic rural life to the foul, damp darkness of trench warfare, Raymond Hitchcock’s tense and sensitive thriller pulls no punches when describing the brutality of the underground war conducted by the Sappers who know – with their casualties running at a thousand a month – they are expendable.
Top Notch Thrillers is the leading imprint for reviving and reissuing great British thrillers which do not deserve to be forgotten. Among its authors have been: Geoffrey Household, John Gardner, Duncan Kyle, Adam Hall and Brian Callison. The series editor is Mike Ripley.
Forthcoming titles in 2016: Smear Job and Bonfire Night – the last two ‘Callan’ novels by James Mitchell, plus Foiled Again and Cast Adrift – a brace of ‘Nick Madrid’ comic thrillers by Peter Guttridge.

For Further Information

Alex Blackmore on Hidden Truths

Today's guest blog post is by former city finance lawyer turned author Alex Blackmore.

I'm a big fan of plots that deliver a light bulb moment. When you read something and you think "no, that could never happen......or could it?"  I'm not a conspiracy nut but I think there's a lot we don't know about the world. For example, last year I interviewed the late Caspar Bowden who was Chief Privacy Adviser at Microsoft in 2011. He told his employer that selling cloud computing to non-American governments would effectively allow mass surveillance of those countries’ citizens’ data. Most dismissed him as a fantasist and a conspiracy theorist at the time. Then Snowdon happened and revealed PRISM i.e. everything Caspar said was spot on.

Hidden truths
My first book, Lethal Profit looked at this idea of hidden truths in the context of big business profiting from the sales of pharmaceuticals. In the book the organisation ACORN was manufacturing and distributing a virus for which only they had a cure. They were essentially living the corporate dream: creating a captive, desperate market and making themselves the sole supplier. I don't doubt that this happens in ‘the real world.’ I suspect that most of the time we have no idea of the extent to which corporates (and politicians being lobbied by them) don’t care about human lives and experiences, despite the fuzzy advertising campaigns.

Buying strategic control?
Ideas of profit motive run through Killing Eva too but this time based on the consequences of a completely free market. It seems to me that everything is effectively for sale now, from our book shops to our utilities companies, banks, food stores, some medical care and even - in a way - our government, given that we borrow so heavily. How easy would it be to hold these things ransom by innovatively/covertly buying up infrastructure and supply chains and then applying political pressure? We all assume that someone in the know must have put safeguards in place to stop a third party from ‘buying’ strategic control. But most of us have no idea.

The science bit – wreaking chaos
I have a bit of a taste for the sci fi too. It's odd as I'm not really a very sciency person but I love the potential it has to wreak chaos. In Lethal Profit it was a virus that could be 'held' in algae, injected into human bodies that would then self destruct (“not in existence but yes theoretically possible” said the man from Kings). In Killing Eva I'm looking at ideas of perception - how you could alter someone's perception by playing with their brain. It's not exactly advanced science I know but I couldn't stop think about how your perception of the world around is so very influenced by what's going on in your head not what’s actually there.

The protection of your DNA
I also thought a lot about the idea of security, something that’s so frequently in the headlines now. How could an individual ensure maximum protection for something priceless? We are so clever now, us humans, that we can break, replicate or hack just about everything – apart from DNA, that’s the only feature that remains individual to all humans. As far as we know.

The horror of suspense
I tend to steer clear of really gruesome torture and death scenes just because that doesn't have the same impact on me as something more psychological. I often think creating fear, terror, suspense is much more in what you don't say - planting those seeds of something awful and then just letting them grow in the reader's mind. Because we all love the suspense of a ruined house at midnight, an alpine village full of returning dead people or crime glimpsed from a passing train. As long as it's happening to someone else of course. Suspense is not something you can experience first hand.

Great shoes
At the centre of all this is my main character, Eva Scott, a young woman who knows nothing about science or the behind the scenes global political struggles, cartels or exploitation. She is drawn into the maelstrom when she starts receiving calls from her dead brother. Eva isn’t a policewoman or a spy so she’s very much on her own with what she discovers. However, she is a brave and instinctive character with a dogged determination that is totally relentless.  She also wears great shoes.

The trailer can be seen below.

Killing Eva by Alex Blackmore is published by No Exit Press, Paperback £7.99 and ebook

Witnessing a dramatic death at London's Waterloo Station triggers a series of events that shatter Eva Scott's world.  Dying words uttered on the station concourse awaken a history she had thought long buried.  But the past is about to be resurrected, in all its brutal reality.  Eva's life is soon out of her hands.  A genetic key is keeping her alive; but foreshadowing her death.  People from her past materialise and then disappear, testing the limits of her sanity. Inextricably linked to her survival is the potential takedown of an economic power, on which hang the lives of many others.  The only way out is through . . But Eva's life is no longer her own . .  And it's killing her.