Wednesday 29 November 2017

From the writer of Double “O” Seven

A little while ago, Ayo Onatade, Muriel Karim and I enjoyed the hospitality of Cornerstone Publishing at their first Crime-Fiction Party. Of particular delight was an opportunity to meet and have a good chat with novelist and screenwriter Anthony Horowitz. We all know of Horowitz’ screen-work on Foyles War and Poirot as well as his Alex Rider novels – and his taking on the Ian Fleming mantle with the continuing adventures of James Bond 007, as he follows up Trigger Mortis.

I mentioned to this remarkable writer how much I enjoyed his after-dinner speech at the Crimefest 2017 Gala Dinner, and rarely had I laughed as much, which delighted Anthony Horowitz. I also told him how delighted I was seeing Felix Francis having a laugh too.

Since then I have reviewed his last two works, and found them remarkable – a real insight / reworking of what we term the British Golden Age Murder Mystery, with a nod to Dame Agatha Christie.

As a reader / reviewer who is always seeking ‘something new’, ‘something different’ – I would urge you to explore these two delightful and insightful novels of Murder, and of Mystery. I found the Audio versions from Audible to be excellent, with Actors Roy Kinnear, Allan Corduner & Samantha Bond bringing these elegant novels to life.

Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz [Paperback]

Horowitz’s love of the British Golden Age mystery is evident in this intricate homage to Dame Agatha Christie. Reviewers are often on the hunt for something new, something fresh; and “Magpie Murders” is just that - a most unusual take on the British Golden Age Mystery Novel.

The literary device utilised by Horowitz takes the shape of a “novel within a novel” as well as a reflection on British Crime Fiction Publishing, as there are some characters named after real-life figures, such as Angela McMahon [Horowitz’ own Publicity Manager] among others.

When literary Editor Susan Ryeland introduces bestselling author Alan Conway’s ninth novel about Greek / German detective Atticus Pünd, “Magpie Murders” - she indicates this novel changed her life. The novel opens with the funeral of Mary Elizabeth Blakiston, housekeeper to Sir Magnus Pye. It appears she tripped over a Vacuum cleaner cable and tumbled to her death down the staircase. It seems that Blakiston’s death was an accident; until the decapitated body of Sir Magnus Pye is discovered. This leads to Conway’s post-war sleuth Atticus Pünd and his assistant to head to Somerset from his London lodgings to investigate [assisting the local police]. It appears that Pünd is facing a terminal condition of his own, so it could be his last case, and one that features more Red Herrings than a Coastal Fishing Vessel.

However the genius of this novel is that Alan Conway’s murder mystery “Magpie Murders” appears populated by characters who are disguised versions of real-life people. The first problem is that Ryeland discovers that Conway appears to have committed suicide, but that perhaps his death is actually murder – and the clues as to the perpetrator lie within “Magpie Murders”. The second problem is that the final chapters of the manuscript of “Magpie Murders” are missing.

A most unusual Murder Mystery, and one that makes the reader work hard for the entertainment and insight torn from the devious mind of Anthony Horowitz.
In two words, “Magpie Murders” is “Bloody Good”.

The Word is Murder by Anthony Horowitz [Hardcover]

Following from the genius of “Magpie Murders” comes another murder mystery from the fevered imagination of Anthony Horowitz. Again, we have something fresh, something unusual and something very weird.

Horowitz casts himself as a character in this ingenious narrative - as a writer recording a murder investigation lead by a very odd consultant, the former Detective Daniel Hawthorne. The plan being that a true-crime narrative penned by Horowitz, entitled “Hawthorne Investigates” being the outcome.

Diana Cooper a sixty-year old widower is found murdered by strangulation, only hours after she arranged her own funeral arrangements. The London Police call upon Hawthorne to investigate, and he in turn calls upon Anthony Horowitz to record the investigation for the upcoming book “Hawthorne Investigates”. The trail is most curious, with strands reaching to Hollywood, as well as a seaside resort in Kent [England]. There is tragedy, there is grief as well as much curious machinations of the protagonists as Horowitz [like a stage magician] slowly reveals that the truth is submerged beneath a murky past, where past deeds and the dark edges of human nature converge.

There are many suspects in the murder of Diana Cooper, and the case is further complicated when another murder occurs, and one that is related to a tragedy that was far more convoluted than the police concluded. Though somewhat “weird” in terms of narrative structure, but “weird” in a good way, as Horowitz weaves real-life people into his story, including Publisher Selina Walker, among many others. We also get an insight into Horowitz’s own writing life, with his homages to Christie, Conan Doyle and Ian Fleming as well as his TV writing such as Poirot and Foyle’s War – as well as a nod to his Alex Rider novels. These insights prove fascinating for readers and writers of the British Murder Mystery.

Horowitz reveals his love of the crime / mystery genre as he probes the lives, the loves and the tragedy of his characters with their hidden motivations for murder. It reminded this reader of his After-Dinner speech at this year’s Crimefest convention.

More information available from

Tuesday 28 November 2017

Books to Look Forward to from Headline Publishing

February 2018

The Gone World is by Tom Sweterlitsch.  1997 - When ex Navy Seal Patrick Mursult's family are found murdered, he is the number one suspect. But NCIS Special Agent Shannon Moss isn't convinced, particularly after Patrick apparently commits suicide.  2014 - Years after the brutal killings, while working undercover, Moss stumbles across a witness from the Mursult case who unwittingly tells her far more than she had at the time. Inspired by this retrospective progress, Moss determines to travel through time to a host of potential futures to track down the killer and close this cold case once and for all.

A brilliant criminal psychologist, Alex works with the police to help solve the most complex of crimes in Los Angeles, city of illusions, glamour and infamy.  An affluent family returns home from Sunday dinner only to find the murdered and brutalized corpse of a total stranger in their house. This baffling, twisted tale tests Alex and Milo to their intellectual and emotional limits.  Night Moves is by Jonathan Kellerman.

March 2018

The Killing House is by Claire McGowan. When a puzzling missing persons' case opens up in her hometown, forensic psychologist Paula Maguire can't help but return once more.  Renovations at an abandoned farm have uncovered two bodies: a man known to be an IRA member missing since the nineties, and a young girl whose identity remains a mystery.  As Paula attempts to discover who the girl is and why no one is looking for her, an anonymous tip-off claims that her own long-lost mother is also buried on the farm.  When another girl is kidnapped, Paula must find the person responsible before more lives are destroyed. But there are explosive secrets still to surface. And even Paula can't predict that the investigation will strike at the heart of all she holds dear.

April 2018

Come and Find Me is by Sarah Hilary.  On the surface, Lara Chorley and Ruth Hull have nothing in common, other than their infatuation with Michael Vokey. Each is writing to a sadistic inmate, sharing her secrets, whispering her worst fears, craving his attention.  DI Marnie Rome understands obsession. She's finding it hard to give up her own addiction to a dangerous man: her foster brother, Stephen Keele. She wasn't able to save her parents from Stephen. She lives with that guilt every day.  As the hunt for Vokey gathers pace, Marnie fears one of the women may have found him - and is about to pay the ultimate price.

When millionaire Leo Speight is found poisoned at his Ayrshire mansion, Police Scotland has a tough case on its hands. The charismatic young Speight was a champion boxer with national hero status. A long list of lovers and friends stand to benefit from his estate. Did one of them decide to speed things up? Or was jealousy or rivalry the motive?  Suspecting links to organized crime, the Security Service wants to stay close to the investigation. They have just the man to send in: ex-Chief Constable Bob Skinner. Skinner might have retired from the police force, but solving crimes is in his blood. Combining forces with DI Lottie Mann and DS Dan Provan of Serious Crimes, he's determined to see Speight's murderer put away for a long, long time. But there's a twist even Bob Skinner couldn't see coming...  A Brush With Death is by Quintin Jardine

The Silenced is by Stephen Lloyd Jones.  Mallory Grace just killed a man. To survive the next hour, she'll have to kill again. To survive the night, she'll need a miracle.  Obadiah Macintosh doesn't seem like a miracle. He is a recluse who works alone at an animal sanctuary, and he has a secret. When the dogs in his care alert him to intruders hidden by the darkness, he knows they are coming for him.  Mallory and Obadiah were strangers, brought together for one purpose.  To give new light to a terrifying world.  But now they are on the run and evil intends to find them.

Now You See is by Max Manning.  I, Killer has posted two photos of his first victim online - Before Death and After Death. They've gone viral before DCI Fenton's team even discovers the body.  Soon, another victim's photo is similarly posted ...and so begins the killer's following.  DCI Fenton is determined to discover the identity of I, Killer. Then the murderer makes the hunt personal, and Fenton's search becomes a matter of life or death for him and his daughter.  But as I, Killer's body-count rises, his number of online followers is growing - and he loves to give his fans what they want...

June 2018

You don’t find him. He finds you. SADIE - Sadie Banner has been haunted by the Tall Man since she was a child. She hears his voice in her head, sees his shadow on the wall, and is so afraid of what he might make her do that she abandons her husband and one-week-old daughter. Sadie returns for Amber's sixteenth birthday, but has she brought the Tall Man back with her?  AMBER -Two years later Amber has just been acquitted of a murder charge in a high profile case. She's set to be the subject of a true-crime documentary - but who did she kill, and why?  The Tall Man is by Phoebe Locke.

Incorruptible is by Barbara Nadel.  In the backstreets of Istanbul, a young woman's body is found. Dumped in a dustbin and covered in cut flowers, she is the victim of a frenzied and vicious stabbing.  Inspector Ikmen discovers that the woman was well known in Istanbul. Newspapers had been calling her the blessed woman; cured of cancer in a Christian miracle and a proclaimed messenger of the Virgin Mary. These controversial claims had made her fierce enemies in the predominantly Islamic community and she had unwittingly stirred up divisions amongst the Christians of the city. But as Ikmen digs further into the case he uncovers powerful hatred and dark secrets lurking within her family. And to find the truth he must delve into a toxic world of fear, concealment and lies. The question is: was this a killing in the name of faith or does the answer lie somewhere else?


Monday 27 November 2017

Books to Look Forward to from John Murray Press

January 2018

Wine and murder - nothing is more likely to rouse Auntie Poldi's love of the chase.  Still relishing the notoriety from her spectacular resolution of the Candela case, Poldi is alive to the faintest whiff of criminality.  What to others might seem a series of misfortunes - the water supply cut off, a poisoned dog - is clearly, to Poldi, an escalation: the Mafia have had her in their sights ever since she solved Valentino's murder.  Poldi has tasted blood. No one is above suspicion. And trouble will surely follow.  Auntie Poldi and the Fruits of the Lord is by Mario Giordano

February 2018

London Rules is by Mick Herron.  London Rules might not be written down, but everyone knows rule one. Cover your arse.  Regent's Park's First Desk, Claude Whelan, is learning this the hard way. Tasked with protecting a beleaguered prime minister, he's facing attack from all directions himself: from the showboating MP who orchestrated the Brexit vote, and now has his sights set on Number Ten; from the showboat's wife, a tabloid columnist, who's crucifying Whelan in print; from the PM's favourite Muslim, who's about to be elected mayor of the West Midlands, despite the dark secret he's hiding; and especially from his own deputy, Lady Di Taverner, who's alert for Claude's every stumble.  Meanwhile, the country's being rocked by an apparently random string of terror attacks, and someone's trying to kill Roddy Ho.  Over at Slough House, the crew are struggling with personal problems: repressed grief, various addictions, retail paralysis, and the nagging suspicion that their newest colleague is a psychopath. But collectively, they're about to rediscover their greatest strength - that of making a bad situation much, much worse.  It's a good job Jackson Lamb knows the rules. Because those things aren't going to break themselves.

Friday 24 November 2017

Football anyone?

Being a writer from a distant, remote island somewhere in the Atlantic, I often get asked about facts and myths regarding my country. I am in general very proud of my country as it is quite an accomplishment for Icelanders having been able to survive in such harsh elements throughout the ages. But that is nothing compared to how proud I was when our national football team qualified for the European cup almost two years ago. Not only qualified but also got really close to winning, as I prefer to look at it; ending up in the top 8 and beating England on the way, as some people may remember. This was a great triumph for such a small nation. I was of course “all in” right from the start. I spent the summer in France where the competition was held and I went to see the team. When we qualified for the last 16, I was back in Iceland so I had to fly back to France to see the famous England game. And then I had to fly to France for the third time to see Iceland play in the last 8, where we did eventually lose to France (but we actually won the second half 2-1, though). Everything was about football!  And then the unbelievable thing just happened! We qualified for the World Cup, the smallest nation ever to do so! I've already bought tickets for all of Iceland's matches there, so there you go…next summer I will be in Russia. Good luck trying to reach me regarding anything else than football!

Whiteout by Ragnar Jónasson published by Orenda Books
Two days before Christmas, a young woman is found dead beneath the cliffs of the deserted village of Kálfshamarvík.  Did she jump, or dd something more sinister take place beneath the lighthouse and the old house on the remote rocky outcrop?  Wth Winter closing in and the snow falling relentlessly, Ari Thór Arason discovers that the victim's mother and young sister also lost teir lives in this same spot, twenty-five years earlier.  As the dark history and the secrets of the village are unveiled, and the death toll begins to rise, the Siglufjordur detectives must race against the clocks to find the killer, before another tragedy takes place.