Sunday 31 December 2017

My favourite reads this year.

This year I have not read as much as I would have liked to and what reading I have done has been a mixture of fiction and non-fiction.

In alphabetical order my favourite reads this year are.
Killing is my Business by Adam Christopher (Titan Books)
Another golden morning in a seedy town, and a new memory tape for intrepid Pl-turned-hitman-and last robot left in working order--Raymond Electromatic. When his comrade-in-electronic-arms, Ada, assigns a new morning roster of clientele, Ray heads out into the LA sun, only to find that his skills might be a bit rustier than he expected...

A Game of Ghosts by John Connolly (Hodder & Stoughton)
It is deep winter. The darkness is unending.  The private detective named Jaycob Eklund has vanished, and Charlie Parker is dispatched to track him down. Parker's employer, Edgar Ross, an agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, has his own reasons for wanting Eklund found.  Eklund is no ordinary investigator. He is obsessively tracking a series of homicides and disappearances, each linked to reports of hauntings. Now Parker will be drawn into Eklund's world, a realm in which the monstrous Mother rules a crumbling criminal empire, in which men strike bargains with angels, and in which the innocent and guilty alike are pawns in a game of ghosts

American Noir: The Pocket Essential Guide to US Crime Fiction, Film & TV by Barry Forshaw (Pocket Essentials)
The crime genre is as much about films and TV as it is about books, and American Noir is a celebration of the former as well as the latter. US television crime drama in particular is enjoying a new golden age, and all of the important current series are covered here, as well as key recent films.

The Book of Forgotten Authors by Christopher Fowler (Quercus)
Absence doesn't make the heart grow fonder. It makes people think you're dead.  So begins Christopher Fowler's foray into the back catalogues and backstories of 99 authors who, once hugely popular, have all but disappeared from our shelves.  Whether male or female,   domestic or international, flash-in-the-pan or prolific, mega-seller or prize-winner - no author, it seems, can ever be fully immune from the fate of being forgotten. And Fowler, as well as remembering their careers, lifts the lid on their lives, and why they often stopped writing or disappeared from the public eye.These 99 journeys are punctuated by 12 short essays about faded once-favourites: including the now-vanished novels Walt Disney brought to the screen, the contemporary rivals of Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie who did not stand the test of time, and the women who introduced us to psychological suspense many decades before it conquered the world.

The Nowhere Man by Gregg Hurtwiz (Michael Joseph)

He was once called Orphan X.  As a boy, Evan Smoak was taken from a children's home, raised and trained as part of a secret government initiative buried so deep that virtually no  one knows it exists. But he broke with the programme, choosing instead to vanish off grid and use his formidable skill set to help those unable to protect themselves.   One day, though, Evan's luck ran out ...  Ambushed, drugged, and spirited away, Evan wakes up in a locked room with no idea where he is or who has captured him. As he tries to piece together what's happened, testing his gilded prison and its highly trained guards for weaknesses, he receives a desperate call for help.  With time running out, he will need to out-think, out-manoeuvre, and out-fight an opponent the likes of whom he's never encountered to have any chance of escape.  He's got to save himself to protect those whose lives depend on him. Or die trying ...

Crime Fiction in German: Der Krimi by Katharina Hall (University of Wales Press
Crime Fiction in German is the first volume in English to offer a comprehensive overview of German-language crime fiction from its origins in the early nineteenth century to its vibrant growth in the new millennium. As well as introducing readers to crime fiction from Germany, Austria, Switzerland and the former East Germany, the volume expands the notion of a German crime-writing tradition by investigating Nazi crime fiction, Jewish-German crime fiction, Turkish-German crime fiction and the Afrika-Krimi. Other key areas, including the West German social crime novel, women's crime writing, regional crime fiction, historical crime fiction and the Fernsehkrimi (TV crime drama) are also explored, highlighting the genre's distinctive features in German-language contexts.  The volume includes a map of German-speaking Europe, a chronology of crime publishing milestones, extracts from primary texts, and an annotated bibliography of print and online resources in English and German.

Sirens by Joseph Knox (Transworld Publishers)
It starts with the girl. How it ends is up to Detective Aidan Waits.  Isabelle Rossiter has run away again.  When Aidan Waits, a troubled junior detective, is summoned to her father’s penthouse home – he finds a manipulative man, with powerful friends.  But retracing Isabelle’s steps through a dark, nocturnal world, Waits finds something else. An intelligent seventeen-year-old girl who’s scared to death of something. As he investigates her story, and the unsolved disappearance of a young woman just like her, he realizes Isabelle was right to run away.  Soon Waits is cut loose by his superiors, stalked by an unseen killer and dangerously attracted to the wrong woman. He’s out of his depth and out of time.  How can he save the girl, when he can't even save himself?

Bluebird Bluebird by Attica Locke (Profile Books)
Observer Southern fables usually go the other way around.   A white woman is killed or harmed in some way, real or imagined, and then, like the moon follows the sun, a black man ends up dead. But when it comes to law and order, East Texas plays by its own rules - a fact that Darren Mathews, a black Texas Ranger working the backwoods towns of Highway 59, knows all too well. Deeply ambivalent about his home state, he was the first in his family to get as far away from Texas as he could. Until duty called him home. So when allegiance to his roots puts his job in jeopardy, he is drawn to a case in the small town of Lark, where two dead bodies washed up in the bayou. First a black lawyer from Chicago and then, three days later, a local white woman, and it's stirred up a hornet's nest of resentment.   Darren must solve the crimes - and save himself in the process - before Lark's long-simmering racial fault lines erupt.
Kiss, Kiss Bang, Bang: The Boom in British Thrillers from Casino Royale to the Eagle Has Landed by Mike Ripley (Harper Collins)
An entertaining history of British thrillers from Casino Royale to The Eagle Has Landed, which reveals that, though Britain may have lost an empire, her thrillers helped save the world. When Ian Fleming dismissed his books in a 1956 letter to Raymond Chandler as `straight pillow fantasies of the bang-bang, kiss-kiss variety' he was being typically immodest. In three short years, his James Bond novels were already spearheading a boom in thriller fiction that would dominate the bestseller lists, not just in Britain, but internationally.  The decade following World War II had seen Britain lose an Empire, demoted in terms of global power and status and economically crippled by debt; yet its fictional spies, secret agents, soldiers, sailors and even (occasionally) journalists were now saving the world on a regular basis. From Ian Fleming and Alistair MacLean in the 1950s through Desmond Bagley, Dick Francis, Len Deighton and John Le Carre in the 1960s, to Frederick Forsyth and Jack Higgins in the 1970s.  Many have been labelled `boys' books' written by men who probably never grew up.  Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang, examines the rise of the thriller from the austere 1950s through the boom time of the Swinging Sixties and early 1970s, examining some 150 British authors (plus a few notable South Africans). Drawing upon conversations with many of the authors mentioned in the book, the author shows how British writers, working very much in the shadow of World War II, came to dominate the field of adventure thrillers and the two types of spy story - spy fantasy (as epitomised by Ian Fleming's James Bond) and the more realistic spy fiction created by Deighton, Le Carre and Ted Allbeury, plus the many variations (and imitators) in between.

Grandville: Force Majeure by Bryan Talbot. (Vintage)
In the middle of a gang war, wanted for murder, truly alone and outside the law, Detective Inspector LeBrock is on the run from both the police and gangster assassins, the victim of a diabolical scheme to annihilate himself and everyone he holds dear, engineered by mastermind crime lord Tiberius Koenig, one of the most despicable villains in the history of detective fiction. A detective thriller, featuring Grandville's trademark high-octane excitement, humour and deduction on a Holmesian scale as we finally meet LeBrock's mentor, Stamford Hawksmoor, and discover LeBrock's untold backstory. Featuring favourite characters Detective Sergeant Roderick Ratzi and LeBrock's vivacious fiancee, Parisian prostitute Billie are joined by a new badger in town! Enter Tasso, an Italian badger who's bigger, meaner and uglier than LeBrock - but is he a force for good or evil? A battle royale ensues as LeBrock fights against truly outrageous odds. How can he possibly survive? Prepare to be royally badgered!

The Man Who Died by Antti Tuomainen (Orenda Books)
A successful entrepreneur in the mushroom industry, Jaakko Kaunismaa is a man in his prime. At just 37 years of age, he is shocked when his doctor tells him that he's dying. What is more, the cause is discovered to be prolonged exposure to toxins; in other words, someone has slowly but surely been poisoning him. Determined to find out who wants him dead, Jaakko embarks on a suspenseful rollercoaster journey full of unusual characters, bizarre situations and unexpected twists. With a nod to Fargo and the best elements of the Scandinavian noir tradition.

The Force by Don Winslow (HarperCollins)
Detective sergeant Denny Malone leads an elite unit to fight gangs, drugs and guns in New York. For eighteen years he's been on the front lines, doing whatever it takes to survive in a city built by ambition and corruption, where no one is clean.  What only a few know is that Denny Malone himself is dirty: he and his partners have stolen millions of dollars in drugs and cash. Now he's caught in a trap and being squeezed by the Feds, and he must walk a thin line of betrayal, while the city teeters on the brink of a racial conflagration that could destroy them all. 

Honourable mentions also to the return of Charlie Fox in Zoe Sharp’s Fox Hunter, Prussian Blue by Philip Kerr, Insidious Intent by Val McDermid, The Furthest Station by Ben Aaronvitch, The Late Show by Michael Connelly and The Pictures by Guy Bolton.

Saturday 30 December 2017

In Memoriam

24 April 1940 - 28 December 2017

On Thursday 28th December 2017 the crime fiction world lost one of its pioneers. That person being Sue Grafton who was the author of the “Alphabet Series” featuring her determined and feisty private investigator Kinsey Milhone. 

Her daughter Jamie on her Facebook page made the sad news of her death after a two-year battle with cancer.  The whole message is as follows –

Hello Dear Readers. This is Sue's daughter, Jamie. I am sorry to tell you all that Sue passed away last night after a two-year battle with cancer. She was surrounded by family, including her devoted and adoring husband Steve. Although we knew this was coming, it was unexpected and fast. She had been fine up until just a few days ago, and then things moved quickly. Sue always said that she would continue writing as long as she had the juice. Many of you also know that she was adamant that her books would never be turned into movies or TV shows, and in that same vein, she would never allow a ghost writer to write in her name. Because of all of those things, and out of the deep abiding love and respect for our dear sweet Sue, as far as we in the family are concerned, the alphabet now ends at Y.

Her work as well as that of Sara Paretsky and Marcia Muller did much to influence other authors especially those that I love to read and still currently read. I am sure that I am not alone in accepting the fact that one did not solely read the Kinsey Milhone series for the social issues but more so for wanting to see what Kinsey was up to. Kinsey was human and we readers were forever grateful for being able to see that part of her as she undertook her investigations.

The series has been published in at least 26 different languages

Diamond Dagger Award 2008 
© Meg Gardiner
Before becoming a full-time writer she wrote screen plays and adapted the Agatha Christie A Caribbean Mystery and Sparkling Cyanide for television.  Her father was C W Grafton also a crime writer who died four months before the publication of the first book in the “Alphabet series”.

The first book in the series A if for Alibi was published in 1982 and was shortlisted for the Shamus Award for Best Novel in 1983. The most recent book in the series Y is for Yesterday was published in August 2017.

Grafton was honoured for her work a vast number of times. In 2009 she was made Grand Master alongside James Lee Burke. She received the Life Time Achievement Award from the Private Eye Writers of America in 2003, Malice Domestic in 2011, from Bouchercon in 2013 and also from Left Coast Crime in 2014. She was awarded the Ross McDonald Literary Award in 2004, the Cartier Diamond Dagger Award from the Crime Writers Association of Great Britain in 2008, the Life Time Achievement Award from Malice Domestic in 2011 and also from Left Coast Crime in 2014.  In 2014 she also received the “Hammer” from the Private Eye Writers of America for her character Kinsey Milhone.

She won her first Anthony Award for B is for Burglar (1986) and her second with C is for Corpse (1987).  She won her third Anthony Award in 1991 with G is for Gumshoe. B is for Burglar also won a Shamus Award in 1986 and so did G is for Gumshoe in 1991.  In 1995 K is for Killer won her another Shamus Award and was also shortlisted for an Anthony Award.

Her short story The Parker Shotgun won her a Macavity Award in 1987.

Her other books in the series E is for Evidence (1988) was shortlisted for both a Macavity Award and an Anthony Award in 1989.  I is for Innocent (1992) was shortlisted in 1992 for the CWA Gold Dagger.  V is for Vengeance (2011) was shortlisted for the 2012 Left Coast Crime Golden Nugget Award.  W is for Wasted (2013) was also shortlisted for the 2014 Shamus Award and the Left Coast Crime Squid Award.

An essay on A is for Alibi by crime writer Meg Gardiner can be found in the excellent anthology Books to Die For and is certainly worth reading.

The only time that I can recall meeting Sue Grafton was when she was awarded the Diamond Dagger in London in 2008. She was charming, friendly but I surprisingly was too shy to ask for a photograph.

Her passing is a great loss to so many; her family, authors and readers.

She will be sorely missed.

Friday 29 December 2017

Books to Look Forward to from Orenda Books

January 2018

One cold November night in 2014, in a small town in the north west of England, 26-year-old Arla Macleod bludgeoned her mother, father and younger sister to death with a hammer, in an unprovoked attack known as the 'Macleod Massacre'. Now incarcerated at a medium-security mental-health institution, Arla will speak to no one but Scott King, an investigative journalist, whose `Six Stories' podcasts have become an internet sensation. King finds himself immersed in an increasingly complex case, interviewing five witnesses and Arla herself, as he questions whether Arla's responsibility for the massacre was a diminished as her legal team made out. As he unpicks the stories, he finds himself thrust into a world of deadly forbidden `games', online trolls, and the mysterious Black-eyed Children, whose presence extends far beyond the delusions of a murderess... Hydra is by Matt Wesolowski.

February 2018
Blue Night is by Simone Buchholz.  After convicting a superior for corruption and shooting off a gangster's crown jewels, the career of Hamburg's most hard-bitten state prosecutor, Chastity Riley, has taken a nose dive: she has been transferred to the tedium of witness protection to prevent her making any more trouble. However, when she is assigned to the case of an anonymous man lying under police guard in hospital - almost every bone in his body broken, a finger cut off, and refusing to speak in anything other than riddles - Chastity's instinct for the big, exciting case kicks in. Using all her powers of persuasion, she soon gains her charge's confidence, and finds herself on the trail to Leipzig, a new ally, and a whole heap of lethal synthetic drugs. When she discovers that a friend and former colleague is trying to bring down Hamburg's Albanian mafia kingpin single-handedly, it looks like Chas Riley's dull life on witness protection really has been short-lived... 

March 2018
As Montrealer Catherine Day sets foot in a remote fishing village and starts asking around about her birth mother, the body of a woman dredges up in a fisherman's nets. Not just any woman, though: Marie Garant, an elusive, nomadic sailor and unbridled beauty who once tied many a man's heart in knots. Detective Sergeant Joaquin Morales, newly drafted to the area from the suburbs of Montreal, barely has time to unpack his suitcase before he's thrown into the deep end of the investigation. On Quebec's outlying Gaspe Peninsula, the truth can be slippery, especially down on the fishermen's wharves. Interviews drift into idle chit-chat, evidence floats off with the tide and the truth lingers in murky waters. It's enough to make DS Morales reach straight for a large whisky... We are the Salt of the Sea is by Roxanne Bouchard

Robert Finlay seems to have finally left his SAS past behind him and is settled into his new career as a detective. But when the girlfriend of his former SAS colleague and close friend Kevin Jones is murdered, it's clear that Finlay's troubles are far from over. Jones is arrested for the killing, but soon escapes from jail, and Finlay is held responsible for the breakout. Suspended from duty and sure he's being framed too, our hero teams up with MI5 agent Toni Fellowes to find out who's behind the conspiracy. Their quest soon reveals a plot that goes to the very heart of the UK's security services.  End Game is by Matt Johnson.

April 2018
The Ice Swimmer is by Kjell Ola Dahl. When a dead man is lifted from the freezing waters of Oslo Harbour just before Christmas, Detective Lena Stigersand's stressful life suddenly becomes even more complicated. Not only is she dealing with a cancer scare, a stalker and and an untrustworthy boyfriend, but it seems both a politician and Norway's security services might be involved in the murder. With her trusted colleagues, Gunnarstranda and Frolich, at her side, Lena digs deep into the case and finds that it not only goes to the heart of the Norwegian establishment, but it might be rather to close to her personal life for comfort.

Keeper is by Johana Gustawsson. Whitechapel, 1888: London is bowed under Jack the Ripper's reign of terror. London 2015: actress Julianne Bell is abducted in a case similar to the terrible Tower Hamlets murders of some ten years earlier, and harking back to the Ripper killings of a century before. Falkenberg, Sweden, 2015: a woman's body is found mutilated in a forest, her wounds identical to those of the Tower Hamlets victims. With the man arrested for the Tower Hamlets crimes already locked up, do the new killings mean he has a dangerous accomplice, or is a copy-cat serial killer on the loose? Profiler Emily Roy and true-crime writer Alexis Castells again find themselves drawn into an intriguing case, with personal links that turn their world upside down. 

May 2018
Absolution is by Paul E Hardisty.  It is 1997, eight months since vigilante justice-seeker Claymore Straker fled South Africa after his explosive testimony to Desmond Tutu's Truth and Reconciliation Commission. In Paris, Rania LaTour, journalist, comes home to find that her son and her husband, a celebrated human rights lawyer, have disappeared. On an isolated island off the coast of East Africa, the family that Clay has befriended is murdered as he watches. So begins the fourth instalment in the Claymore Straker series, a breakneck journey through the darkest reaches of the human soul, as Clay and Rania fight to uncover the mystery behind the disappearances and murders, and find those responsible. Events lead them both inexorably to Egypt, where an act of the most shocking terrorist brutality will reveal not only why those they loved were sacrificed, but how they were both, indirectly, responsible. Relentlessly pursued by those who want them dead, they must work together to uncover the truth, and to find a way to survive in a world gone crazy.
Lynn Waites gave up the job she loved when she married Ed, the love of her life, but it was worth it for the happy years they enjoyed together. Now, ten years on, Ed has been diagnosed with early-onset dementia, and things start to happen; things more sinister than missing keys and lost words. As some memories are forgotten, other, long buried, begin to surface ... and Lynn's perfect world begins to crumble. But is it Ed's mind playing tricks, or hers...?  The Old You is by Louise Voss

Fault Lines is by Doug Johnstone. A little lie ... a seismic secret ... and the cracks are beginning to show... In a reimagined contemporary Edinburgh, in which a tectonic fault has opened up to produce a new volcano in the Firth of Forth, and where tremors are an everyday occurrence, volcanologist Surtsey makes a shocking discovery. On a clandestine trip to The Inch - the new volcanic island - to meet Tom, her lover and her boss, she finds his lifeless body, and makes the fatal decision to keep their affair, and her discovery of his corpse secret. Desperate to know how he died, but also terrified she'll be exposed, Surtsey's life quickly spirals into a nightmare when someone makes contact - someone who claims to know what she's done..
June 2018
Big Sister is by Gunnar Staalesen Varg Veum receives a surprise visit in his office. A woman introduces herself as his half-sister, and she has a job for him. Her god-daughter, a 19-year-old trainee nurse from Haugesund, moved from her bedsit in Bergen two weeks ago. Since then no one has heard anything from her. She didn't leave an address. She doesn't answer her phone. And the police refuse to take her case seriously. Veum's investigation uncovers a series of carefully covered-up crimes and pent-up hatreds, and the trail leads to a gang of extreme bikers on the hunt for a group of people whose dark deeds are hidden by the anonymity of the Internet. And then things get personal... 

Helen is a wealthy, forty-year-old mother of three: six-month-old twins and a three-year-old boy who hasn't spoken since they were born. She is struggling to cope with the demands of two new babies and her husband Max suggests they employ a live-in nanny to help. Annie is eighteen, impoverished and desperate. Her mother is missing and Annie has been evicted for not paying the rent. She needs a job that will provide a roof over her head and, once she has it, she is determined to make herself indispensable. As she slowly transforms Helen's domestic life, Annie confides to Helen the truth about her childhood, and a deep friendship develops between the two women. Then someone is injured and it's discovered that Annie is hiding a secret ... a terrible, terrible secret that will shatter everything...  The Visit is by Sarah Stovell.