Thursday 30 May 2019

Jake Woodhouse on Mental Health and the War on Drugs

PTSD is hot right now. It’s almost become de rigueur in TV cop shows and films. Where once
there was the alcoholic inspector, solving the case whilst battling the demon drink, we  now have conflict veterans and police diagnosed as suffering from varying forms of Post-Traumatic-Stress-Disorder. It’s gone so far that in Don Winslow’s Savages its even played as a joke; one of the characters, a returning Veteran from Afghanistan who is completely unfazed by the conflict he’s been involved with, is diagnosed by his closest friends to be suffering from extreme LPTSD, or Lack-of-Post-Traumatic-Stress-Disorder.

In one sense it’s good that PTSD is portrayed so widely, it’s made us more aware of the results of extreme stress and how that can impact on people, and therefore on society as a whole. But in another sense we’re running the risk that very ubiquity of it in fiction ends up belittling it in the process.

I’ve tortured my main character Inspector Jaap Rykel over the course of three books and for The Copycat I felt I needed to do something more; I needed to show the results of that torture. So I became interested in PTSD and after reading round the subject, mostly dry and academic, I decided to speak to the only people who could really tell me anything of note, the sufferers themselves. And what I found, time and time again, was that PTSD was something that they were having to treat on their own.

The majority of people found the medications prescribed did little to ease the symptoms and had such wide ranging and in some cases, devastating side effects, that they’d rather face the flashbacks and nightmares. The therapy sessions, if they were even available, were gone into with hope but soon transformed into something to be got through, a long hard slog with no real benefit. 

There is however an emerging acceptance of something which genuinely helps, is backed up by emerging science, and is incredibly cheap and side-effect free.  It just so happens that it’s also been a major enemy of a war waged for much of the twentieth century, the War on Drugs.

The postscript has yet to be written on the War on Drugs, mainly because it is still on-going today. This despite the fact that it’s widely acknowledged to be unwinnable and also, in the eyes of increasingly large numbers of people, and like so many other wars, one which should never have been started in the first place.  The sheer stupidity of such an approach, punishing people for their use instead of asking why they are using in the first place, will go down in history as one of the most damaging and inhumane policies ever put into force.

But propaganda is strong, especially when it aligns with the puritanical streak which, though sometimes hidden, nevertheless runs deep through western culture. Why should people be allowed to get ‘high’, it’s disgusting, think many whilst drinking their third or fourth glass of a lovely little white from the Loire valley, or a big fat Malbec from Argentina.

That’s certainly what the average Swiss citizen thought in the 1990’s. At the time Switzerland was in the grip of a Heroin epidemic, users were injecting in public parks, turning to crime and street prostitution to get money, money which would end up in the pockets of the dealers and ultimately the drug cartels. Stronger enforcement never seemed to work, so an incredibly brave and forward thinking woman put forward a radical idea. She argued that it wasn’t the heroin itself which was the problem, it was everything else around it. The lack of social support for those who needed it most as the real problem. 

What if heroin was made available for those who needed it, in a safe place with medical staff and clean needles? Would the street crime problems go away? It would be unthinkable for a politician, in twenty-first century Britain, to stand up with such a proposal in parliament even today, let alone enact such a policy. But in Switzerland it was enacted, because the woman with the radical idea was Ruth Dreifuss, who would go on to be the country’s first women President. 

Her proposal was to run a trial for five years and then hold a national referendum on whether to continue it or not. The critics called it mad, puritans up and down the cantons were disgusted by the idea and the general resistance was extremely high. Nevertheless, the trial went ahead and as promised five years later a referendum was held. The vote was almost unanimous; the trial was an astounding success and should be extended indefinitely. The people had spoken. 

So what changed the minds of so many Swiss who’d opposed it so vehemently when it was proposed? Maybe it was the fact that street crime plummeted, street prostitution disappeared, citizens could take their children to the park without the fear they’d jab themselves on a dirty needle, the black market for heroin virtually disappeared overnight. All of this in itself is enough to prove the war on drugs was deeply misguided. But there was more. And it has to do with mental health.

Because it turned out that once you stopped forcing people to go to the black market, and penalising them for using but instead allowed them to use in a safe place with access to medical facilities and a non-judgemental atmosphere, a large portion of the users found, and sustained, gainful employment whilst they were attending the heroin clinics.

Even more astoundingly, at least for many observers who’d been brought up with the propaganda that heroin would inevitably fry your brain – who can forget the ‘this is your brain on drugs’campaign where an egg was progressively scrambled in front of the viewer’s eyes – many users eventually weaned themselves off it all together. It needs to be said again; many users weaned themselves off it altogether.  This is astonishing, given the narrative surrounding heroin at the time. It has chemical hooks, we were told, once you started you’d never be able to stop. The rhetoric was endless and also, as the Swiss heroin clinics proved, completely, mind-bendingly wrong. 

What emerged was a different picture, one where heroin use was often to get them through a period of deep emotional stress which they were unable to cope with alone. They weren’t bad people, they were just in bad situations and had found a form of self-medication which helped them deal with it. Framed like this, what kind of extreme lack of compassion would we show as a society for punishing people who are down on their luck and need help? 

Which brings us back to PTSD. It turns out many suffers have found something to help with their particular bad situation, and that something is a plant in the rose family, and one which has a history as medicine stretching back centuries; Cannabis Sativa.

The whole sorry history of how this highly beneficial plant became illegal in the first place has been documented at length elsewhere and can’t be gone into here (see Johann Hari’s Chasing the Scream for an excellent and detailed investigation into this), but needless to say it had nothing to do with the plant being inherently dangerous or bad for you, it’s neither, and everything to do with racism entrenched in the US administration during much of the 20th Century. ‘Weed’ was the drug of Mexicans and Black people, both of whom the establishment hated, and the prohibition of Cannabis was in large part simply a tool to enable continued persecution, whilst claiming it wasn’t about race. 

In fact, medical research, hampered by so long because it was illegal, is gradually revealing just why Cannabis is so useful for so many conditions. The discovery in the 1980’s  of the endocannabinoid system which is both present and essential to all mammalian life (that’s right, you are ‘high’ on the endogenous cannabinoids flowing through your brain as you read this) has opened up new vistas in the treatment of a whole host of diseases which medicine is currently failing to make headway with.  The old arguments that it causes mental health issues, psychosis in particular, have not a single shred of compelling evidence which suggests causation. In actual fact, in an almost unbelievable twist of irony, Cannabis is now being studied for it’s anti-psychotic properties.

Turns out all those teenagers who went psychotic after ingesting the demon Skunk (Skunk, despite what the rabid tabloids are constantly screaming at us, is variety of cannabis with a particularly pungent aroma but which is no more powerful than any other variety) were actually self medicating an illness they most likely already had. But from the outsider’s point of view the equation was simple, Skunk equals mental health problems when in fact all those people were doing was, knowingly or unknowingly, self-medicating their illness the same way the heroin users in Switzerland were.

Which brings us back to Inspector Jaap Rykel in The Copycat.

He too has found a way to help deal with his PTSD, but when he’s compelled back onto the force to help on a case he’d closed years previously, his self-medication brings him into conflict with his peers and superiors. After all, he’s spent his life upholding the letter of the law, and now he’s forced, for his own mental health, to break it.

Wednesday 29 May 2019

In The Spotlight - Mary Paulson-Ellis

Name:- Mary Paulson-Ellis

Job:- Author

Twitter:- @mspaulsonellis

Mary Paulson-Ellis is a Scottish author whose debut novel The other Mrs Walkerwas Waterstones Scottish Book of the Year in 2017.  Her short stories  and non-fiction have been published in a variety of anthologies and magazines including the Guardian Weekend Magazine, New Writing Scotland, Gutter and The Herald.  Her next book is The Inheritance of Solomon Farthing(September 2019)

Current book?
The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker.

 Favourite book– 
Impossible to choose! But two that have stayed with me over many years are Toni Morrison’s Beloved and Ali Smith’s Free Love and Other Stories.

Which two characters would you invite to dinner and why?
I wouldn’t mind sharing a drink with Val McDermid’s very first sleuth, Lindsay Gordon. A self-declared cynical socialist lesbian feminist journalist would ensure lively conversation. Also the contrary and passionate Sybylla Melvyn from My Brilliant Career by Miles Franklin. Somehow I just know they’d get on.

How do you relax?
By reading, of course. Sometimes drinking wine. Also digging potatoes in the sun.

What book do you wish you had written and why?
Well, I don’t suppose it would have been the same book if I had written it, but I do read and read again When Will There Be Good News by Kate Atkinson to try and understand just how she does it. Suspense, mystery and wit combined with startling moments of truth and dark, dark humour. This celebration of life, love and literature is crime fiction at its unorthodox best.

What would you say to your younger self if you were just starting out as a writer.
Work hard. Don’t despair. You will be amazed. 

How would you describe your series character?
My series is as much about a world as it is about one specific character – what I call the territory of the dead in Edinburgh, all those who die without any next of kin to take them on. It is inhabited by a recurring ensemble cast that includes a finder of families for dead people, an heir hunter and an extreme cleaner, amongst others, all shepherding the abandoned and neglected (plus their money and belongings) to their final rest.

The Inheritance of  Solomon Farthing by Mary Paulson-Ellis (Published by Pan Macmillan) 
Solomon knew that he had one advantage. A pawn ticket belonging to a dead man tucked into his top pocket - the only clue to the truth . . .  An old soldier dies alone in his Edinburgh nursing home. No known relatives, and no Will to enact. Just a pawn ticket found amongst his belongings, and fifty thousand pounds in used notes sewn into the lining of his burial suit . . . Heir Hunter, Solomon Farthing - down on his luck, until, perhaps, now - is tipped off on this unexplained fortune. Armed with only the deceased's name and the crumpled pawn ticket, he must find the dead man's closest living relative if he is to get a cut of this much-needed cash.  But in trawling through the deceased's family tree, Solomon uncovers a mystery that goes back to 1918 and a group of eleven soldiers abandoned in a farmhouse billet in France in the weeks leading up to the armistice.  The Inheritance of Solomon Farthing is set between contemporary Edinburgh and the final brutal days of the First World War as the soldiers await their orders.

Information about 2019 St Hilda's College Crime Fiction Weekend and how to book tickets can be found here.

Tuesday 28 May 2019

If the Police always know where I am....

In writing Proximity, I started with a simple question. If the police always know where I do I kill you?
From a killers perspective, constant, accurate knowledge of where I am, or more importantly where I was at the time of the crime, may not stop me killing you, but it would almost certainly guarantee getting caught very easily. This would make for a very short and disappointing crime novel, but it does have an appeal in real life. 
The killer in Proximity needed to circumvent the total surveillance of the book. It may be fiction, but some of the surveillance described is already here - CCTV, ANPR, face recognition, phone tracking, etc. all exist. Our personal privacy is already compromised for the greater good.
I think that there would be a lot of good from total surveillance. The certainty of getting caught would reduce a lot of crime, so people would be safer. If everyone is tracked, then there would be no such thing as a missing child or person. The positives are easy to see. The argument is - if you have nothing to hide, then what’s the problem? But there are negatives. What if you are the missing person and are escaping an abusive situation? Most people are lucky and don’t face these sorts of issues, but how many want to see technology stopping them ‘pulling a sickie’, or everyone knowing about your hospital appointment? Would your affair being transparent lead to less infidelity or more divorce? Even your thoughtful trip to buy someone a surprise present wouldn’t be a surprise.
I think the real question is who knows where you are? The police knowing where you are to
solve a crime is one thing, but is a company knowing to personalise the adverts they send you acceptable? The tax office? Your boss? Who knows where you are ultimately determines if the data is used for good or bad. For convenience or control. Whether there is an invasion of privacy.
Fiction is very powerful as a mechanism for exploring different moral and philosophical outlooks. Different characters can have different personal boundaries on each subject. While reading a fast-paced crime thriller, Proximity asks you to consider whether a controlled life means a simpler, better future? How much of your freedom of choice you would trade away to live longer? What would you sacrifice personally to eradicate crime affecting others? 
Proximity is set in a near-future. Almost an alternate now - a world where, 'You can't get away with anything. Least of all murder.' Hopefully, it doesn’t act as a design template for our politicians.
Proximity by Jem Tugwell (Published by Serpentine Press)
Clive and Zoe's world might be closer than we think, but is it heaven or hell? How do we decide the perfect balance of free will and greater good?" DI Clive Lussac has forgotten how to do his job. Ten years of embedded technology - `iMe' - has led to complete control and the eradication of crime. Then the impossible happens. A body is found, and the killer is untraceable. With new partner Zoe Jordan, Clive must re-sharpen his detective skills and find the killer without technology, before time runs out for the next victim... Proximity by Jem Tugwell is Book 1 in the iMe Series.

Monday 27 May 2019

A Tale of Two Novels: Where Crime Fiction meets the Horrific

When two of the World’s greatest Thriller Writers decide to release their latest (and highly anticipated) work, in the UK, and on the same week, one has to admire the bravery of the publishers. Both Peter James and Thomas Harris have achieved both critical acclaim, as well as bestselling status for their highly acclaimed work.

Firstly, from the William Heinemann imprint of PenguinRandomHouse, we have Thomas Harris’s Cari Mora, his sixth published novel [a stand-alone] set in Miami and Columbia, and secondly from PanMacmillan we have Peter James’ fifteenth Roy Grace police procedural Dead at First Sight, set in Brighton, England as well Germany and America.

I pondered upon the diffuse line that separates crime, from the horror sub-genres of Thriller Fiction, as both Thomas Harris and Peter James could be considered as penning Crime Fiction work, that has a generous slice of the horrors that this world contains. It is well known that Peter James carries out extensive research for his Brighton based police thrillers. And Thomas Harris alludes chillingly to the New York Times, in a similar vein “I don’t make anything up, because everything I write about has happened”.

Read More HERE from Peter James as he explores the dark and dangerous side of internet dating, a prelude to his research for Dead at First Sight.

Read More HERE from Thomas Harris in this very rare interview from The New York Times, as he talks about Cari Mora.

That line between what we consider Criminal and what we term Horrific is indeed diffuse, as evidenced when you read either Peter James and Thomas Harris.

It seems like only yesterday when Barry Forshaw, Mark Timlin, Carla McKay and I sat with Peter, for lunch at The Wolsey. He had just embarked on the Police Procedurals, with Dead Simple out in Paperback [his first in the series], and Looking Good Dead just out in hardcover. I recall that lunch vividly, because looking back at the time, I actually discussed the work of Thomas Harris and the gothic character Dr Hannibal Lecter. Little did any of us know that later, much later Peter James’s Roy Grace Detective Series would beat Thomas Harris’ own work.

Then we shifted our conversation to the return of Thomas Harris and the release last week of Hannibal Rising. Mark and I were both enthusiastic about this fourth outing for Dr. Lecter, while we knew that Barry and Carla were lukewarm on the subject, at best. But like civilized people, we came to agreement on the opinion that Red Dragon (1981) and The Silence of the Lambs (1988) represent the twin pinnacles of Harris’ work. (It’s interesting, by the way, that Peter James references The Silence of the Lambs in his latest detective thriller.)

Read more HERE

Many of us recall Peter James’ early work, his film interests as well as his foray within the Horror Genre.

“……his early work in the horror genre, which had won him designation as “the British Stephen King.” I used to be heavily involved in that genre, and enjoyed some of Peter’s horror novels, such as Host, Possession, and Prophecy. But he’s not one to be constrained by genre boundaries; Peter has published thrillers as well as horror, and Dead Simple is the first entry in a police procedural series featuring Superintendent Roy Grace of the Brighton, England, constabulary.”

Read more about the early days HERE

You don’t know me, but I thought I knew you . . .

A man waits at a London airport for Ingrid Ostermann, the love of his life, to arrive. Across the Atlantic, a retired NYPD cop waits in a bar in Florida’s Key West for his first date with the lady who is, without question, his soulmate. The two men are about to discover they’ve been scammed out of almost every penny they have in the world – and that neither women exist.

Meanwhile, a wealthy divorcée plunges, in suspicious circumstances, from an apartment block in Munich. In the same week, Detective Superintendent Roy Grace is called to investigate the suicide of a woman in Brighton, that is clearly not what it seems. As his investigations continue, a handsome Brighton motivational speaker comes forward. He’s discovered his identity is being used to scam eleven different women, online. The first he knew of it was a phone call from one of them, out of the blue, saying, ‘You don’t know me, but I thought I knew you’. That woman is now dead.

Roy Grace realizes he is looking at the tip of an iceberg. A global empire built on clever, cruel internet scams and the murder of anyone who threatens to expose them.

Read the Shots Mag Review HERE from Gwen Moffat

And, what have readers in store from Thomas Harris’ CARI MORA?

Twenty-five million dollars in cartel gold lies hidden beneath a mansion on the Miami Beach waterfront. Ruthless men have tracked it for years. Leading the pack is Hans-Peter Schneider. Driven by unspeakable appetites, he makes a living fleshing out the violent fantasies of other, richer men.

Cari Mora, caretaker of the house, has escaped from the violence in her native country. She stays in Miami on a wobbly Temporary Protected Status, subject to the iron whim of ICE. She works at many jobs to survive. Beautiful, marked by war, Cari catches the eye of Hans-Peter as he closes in on the treasure. But Cari Mora has surprising skills, and her will to survive has been tested before.

Monsters lurk in the crevices between male desire and female survival.

Read the Shots Mag Review HERE from Ali Karim

Both these highly recommended crime thrillers, could be considered horrific in terms of what they reveal about what surrounds us - because both writers research heavily, and what they uncover is unsettling. They are also available as unabridged audio narrations, downloadable from as are many great novels, more information about the importance of the audio sector. Click HERE

The popularity in crime fiction reached a tipping point last year, when it was reported

British readers have become more gripped by crime and thriller novels, with sales up by 19% between 2015 and 2017, new figures suggest.

The rise has been fuelled by the growth of psychological thrillers and the success of big names like Lee Child, James Patterson and Dan Brown.

Last year, 18.7 million crime books were sold - 19% more than in 2015, data company Nielsen Bookscan says.

They overtook sales for general and literary fiction, which were down 16%.

Read More HERE

And many other great works of Crime and Thrillers on the UK Book Charts with authors leaving their Pitons on the Nielsen Bookscan with CHRIS CARTER, TIM WEAVER, JEFFERY DEAVER, MARK BILLINGHAM, MICHAEL CONNELLY, JAMES PATTERSON (in-concert with Bill Clinton), LEE CHILD, STEPHEN KING and HEATHER MORRIS

So as both Thomas Harris [the creator of Dr Hannibal Lector] and Peter James [the creator of the character Roy Grace] released their latest novels in the same week, what did Nielsen Bookscan [the industry standard in terms of book sales] report?

It seems, in a book chart dominated by Crime and Thriller Fiction, DEAD AT FIRST SIGHT by PETER JAMES was the Numero Uno in the UK.

In these days of anxiety, depression and worry, it has been widely acknowledged that reading novels is an excellent form of relief.

Read more about Bibliotherapy HERE

And both Peter James’ DEAD AT FIRST SIGHT and Thomas Harris’ CARI MORA read back-to-back is a great dose, to steer ones’ thinking, as counter intuitive as it may appear with such dark books.

Remember that to fight the fire, we sometimes have to use fire, as anyone who has worked in Oil Field and Chemical Incidents knows.

Below Peter James reads the first chapter from DEAD AT FIRST SIGHT, the biggest selling novel in the UK >

While below - the first appearance of Dr Hannibal Lecktor, as played by Brian Cox in Michael Mann's 1986 Manhunter featuring William Petersen playing Will Graham. Note Dr Lecter's name was spelled Lecktor for this adaptation of Thomas Harris' 1981 novel RED DRAGON

I would urge you to seek out these two outstanding novels of Crime that feature the Horrors that lie beneath the cracks of our reality.

Sunday 26 May 2019

Books to Look Forward to From Orion Publishing

July 2019

What happens when a private investigator ends up being the one uncovered?  Having lost everything after a failed marriage, Beverley Saunders now lodges in the basement flat of a house owned by her best friend Sophie and her husband, Tim. With Bev's former glittering marketing career in the gutter, she begins to do investigative work for other wronged women, gathering dirt on philanderers, bosses and exes.  But when Beverley takes on the case of Sophie's friend Angela, who is seeking to uncover grounds for divorce from her controlling husband, Jerry, the shadow Science Minister, she soon discovers that she isn't the only one doing the investigating... Beverley has a secret history she doesn't want coming out - but will she manage to stay hidden long enough to give Angela the freedom she deserves?  Tight Rope is by Marnie Riches.

Never Look Back is by A L Gaylin. She was the most brutal killer of our time. And she may have been my mother...  When website columnist Robin Diamond is contacted by true crime podcast producer Quentin Garrison, she assumes it's a business matter. It's not. Quentin's podcast, Closure, focuses on a series of murders in the 1970s, committed by teen couple April Cooper and Gabriel LeRoy. It seems that Quentin has reason to believe Robin's own mother may be intimately connected with the killings.  Robin thinks Quentin's claim is absurd. But is it? The more she researches the Cooper/LeRoy murders herself, the more disturbed she becomes by what she finds. Living just a few blocks from her, Robin's beloved parents are the one absolute she's always been able to rely upon, especially now amid rising doubts about her husband and frequent threats from internet trolls. Robin knows her mother better than anyone. But then her parents are brutally attacked, and Robin realises she doesn't know the truth at all...

Victim, survivor, abductor, criminal.  You will each become one. Your phone rings.  A stranger has kidnapped your child.  To free them you must abduct someone else’s child.  Your child will be released when your victim’s parents kidnap another child.  If any of these don’t happen your chid will be killed.  You are now part of the chain. The Chain is by Adrian McKinty.

August 2019

Four unsolved murders. In 1959, The Walker family murders shook Florida. At one time, 587 people were considered suspects - but 60 years later the investigation remains unsolved.   An FBI Agents final job. Former FBI agent Brigid Quinn is trying to enjoy life after work. But when the intriguingly complex Walker case comes up, she's only too happy to postpone retirement for a little longer.  A long forgotten killer.  At first, Quinn is reluctant to draw comparisons with another high-profile investigation of the time: the Clutter family murders, made infamous in Capote's In Cold Blood. But the similarities are impossible to ignore, and she is convinced that Perry Smith and Dick Hickok, executed at the time, weren't acting alone - in both cases . . .  We Were Killers Once is by Becky Masterman.

Welcome to the escape room. Your goal is simple. Get out alive.  In the lucrative world of Wall Street finance, Vincent, Jules, Sylvie and Sam are the ultimate high-flyers. Ruthlessly ambitious, they make billion-dollar deals and live lives of outrageous luxury. Getting rich is all that matters, and they'll do anything to get ahead.  When the four of them become trapped in an elevator escape room, things start to go horribly wrong. They have to put aside their fierce office rivalries and work together to solve the clues that will release them. But in the confines of the elevator the dark secrets of their team are laid bare. They are made to answer for profiting from a workplace where deception, intimidation and sexual harassment thrive.  Tempers fray and the escape room's clues turn more and more ominous, leaving the four of them dangling on the precipice of disaster.  If they want to survive, they'll have to solve one more final puzzle: which one of them is a killer? The Escape Room is by Megan Goldin.

Sanctuary is by V V James.  Sanctuary. It's the perfect town. . . to hide a secret.  To Detective Maggie Knight, the death of Sanctuary's star quarterback seems to be a tragic accident. Only, everyone knows his ex-girlfriend is the daughter of a witch - and she was there when he died.  Then the rumours start. Bereaved mother Abigail will stop at nothing until she has justice for her dead son. Her best friend Sarah will do everything in her power to protect her accused daughter. And both women share a secret that could shatter their lives.  It falls to Maggie to prevent her investigation - and Sanctuary itself - from spiralling out of control.

The Darker Arts is by Oscar de Muriel. Madame Katerina, Detective 'Nine Nails' McGray's most trusted clairvoyant, hosts a seance for three of Edinburgh's wealthiest families.  The following morning everyone is found dead, with Madame Katerina being the only survivor. When questioned she alleges a tormented spirit killed the families for revenge.  McGray, even though he believes her, must find a rational explanation that holds up in court, else Katerina will be sentenced to death.  Inspector Ian Frey is summoned to help, which turns out to be difficult as he is still dealing with the loss of his uncle, and has developed a form of post-traumatic stress (not yet identified in the 19th century).  This seems an impossible puzzle. Either something truly supernatural has occurred - or a fiendishly clever plot is covering a killer's tracks...

'Who am I? Why am I here? Why did my mother give me away?'  On the surface, Luke and his girlfriend Hannah seem to have a perfect life. He's an A&R man, she's an arts correspondent and they are devoted to their new-born son Samuel. But beneath the gloss Luke has always felt like an outsider. So when he finds his birth mother Alice, the instant connection with her is a little like falling in love.  When Hannah goes back to work, Luke asks Alice to look after their son. But Alice - fuelled with grief from when her baby was taken from her 27 years ago - starts to fall in love with Samuel. And Luke won't settle for his mother pushing him aside once again...  Mine is by Clare Empson.

September 2019

A locked room. A dead body. A secret that went to the grave.  When retired police officer Finlay Shaw is found dead in a locked room, everyone thinks it's suicide. But disgraced detective William 'Wolf' Fawkes isn't so sure. Together with his former partner Detective Emily Baxter and private detective Edmunds, Wolf's team begin to dig into Shaw's early days on the beat. Was Shaw as innocent as he seemed? Or is there more to his past than he'd ever let on?  But not everyone wants Wolf back - and as his investigation draws him ever deeper into police corruption, it will not only be his career on the line - but the lives of those he holds closest as well...  Endgame is by Daniel Cole.

Set in a remote valley town in the heart of Norway's ancient fjords, Lake Child is by Isabel Ashdown and centres on the mystery of 16-year-old Eva Olsen, as she wakes after an accident and finds herself confined to the attic room of her family's forest home.  When a young Norwegian woman wakes from an accident robbed of her most recent memories, she trusts her parents' advice that she must stay confined to her attic bedroom while she recuperates. But when Eva decides the time has come to break free of their caring incarceration, she discovers a world of secrets and lies, and a journey to discover her true identity begins.

Degrees of Guilt is by H S Candler.  Maria is on trial for attempted murder. 
She has confessed to the crime and wanted her husband dead.   Lottie is on the jury, trying to decide her fate.  She embarks on an illicit affair with a stranger, and her husband can never find out.   You will think you know who is guilty and who is innocent. You will be wrong. 

Philocles and his troupe of actors have taken their play, The Builders, on the road to Corinth. But when their local contact dies of a suspicious poison only hours after they arrive in the city, Philocles needs to start asking questions.  But in one of the busiest trading cities in the ancient world, with rival gangs roaming the streets and a seemingly ruthless poisoner on the loose.  Scorpions in Corinth is by J M Alvey.

The Postmaster looked over my shoulder. As I turned to look I saw a flicker of movement from across the street. I felt unseen eyes peer at me. He walked away without another word. I watched as he climbed onto his bicycle and sped away down the street. I turned back and looked over my shoulder. Someone had been watching us. 1904. Thomas Bexley, one of the first forensic photographers, is called to the sleepy and remote Welsh village of Dinas Powys, several miles down the coast from the thriving port of Cardiff. A young girl by the name of Betsan Tilny has been found murdered in the woodland - her body bound and horribly burnt. But the crime scene appears to have been staged, and worse still: the locals are reluctant to help.  As the strange case unfolds, Thomas senses a growing presence watching him, and try as he may, the villagers seem intent on keeping their secret. Then one night, in the grip of a fever, he develops the photographic plates from the crime scene in a makeshift darkroom in the cellar of his lodgings. There, he finds a face dimly visible in the photographs; a face hovering around the body of the dead girl - the face of Betsan Tilny.  A Shadow of the Lens is by Sam Hurcom.

October 2019

Under Occupation is by Alan Furst.  Occupied Paris in 1942, a dark, treacherous city now ruled by the German security services, where French resistance networks are working secretly to defeat Hitler. Just before he dies, a man being chased by the Gestapo hands off to Paul Ricard a strange looking drawing. It looks like a part for a military weapon; Ricard realizes it must be an important document smuggled out of Germany to aid the resistance. As Ricard is drawn deeper and deeper into the French resistance network, his increasingly dangerous assignments lead him to travel to Germany, along the underground safe houses of the resistance - all the way to the mysterious and beautiful Leila, a professional spy.

A tragic death. A dark family secret. A past you can't escape. How well do you really know those closest to you?  Sarah's world has descended into a nightmare. Her only hope of moving on is to find out the truth of what happened, and make sure the guilty are brought to justice. She is haunted by her dad's death, consumed by her grief and the memories of a cruel day that changed her life forever... she doesn't even know who she is anymore. But the future holds some hope for Sarah, as she tries to move forward. Nicola's future is not looking so hopeful. Since her husband died, the secret she's been keeping from her family - especially her daughter, Sarah - is eating away at her. The past is catching up with her, and the consequences will be devastating.  Bad Seed is by Jessica Eames.

When Gabriella is found unconscious on the banks of the canal, the first person DS Kate Munro wants to talk to is Gabi’s identical twin, Thea. There’s no evidence, but this attack seems personal.   The twins met for the first time in over a decade just last week. So what brought them back together so suddenly? With the attacker on the loose, no leads, and the victim still in a coma, DS Munro is determined to find out.  Ask Me No Questions is by Louisa de Lange.

The Night Fire is by Michael Connelly.  LAPD Detective Renee Ballard and Harry Bosch come together again on the murder case that obsessed Bosch's mentor - but was this flame kept alive, or a secret that was meant to be snuffed out?  Back when Harry Bosch was just a rookie homicide detective, he had an inspiring mentor who taught him to take the work personally and light the fire of relentlessness for every case. Now that mentor, J.J. Thompson, is dead, but after his funeral his widow hands Bosch a murder book that Thompson took with him when he left the LAPD 20 years before - the unsolved killing of a troubled young man in an alley used for drug deals.  Bosch brings the murder book to Renee Ballard and asks her to help him find what about the case lit Thompson's fire all those years ago. That will be their starting point.  The bond between Bosch and Ballard tightens as they become a formidable investigation team. And they soon arrive at a worrying question: Did Thompson steal the murder book to work the case in retirement, or to make sure it never got solved?

November 2019

Not saying Goodbye is the final novel in the internationally bestselling Erast Fandorin series by Bois Akunin..  Spring 1918. The young Soviet state is in a fever after the Revolution. For more than three years, Erast Fandorin has lain in a coma, faithfully cared for by his Japanese servant Masa. Now they are returning from the latest treatment with Dr Chang, a Chinese healer. Five months of séances have had a positive effect, but doctors remain cautious in their predictions – even if the state councillor does wake up, no one can say how his once prodigious mind might have been affected... 

False Value is by Ben Aaronovitch. Peter Grant is facing fatherhood, and an uncertain future, with equal amounts of panic and enthusiasm. Rather than sit around, he takes a job with emigre Silicon Valley tech genius Terrence Skinner's brand new London start up - the Serious Cybernetics Company. Drawn into the orbit of Old Street's famous 'silicon roundabout', Peter must learn how to blend in with people who are both civilians and geekier than he is. Compared to his last job, Peter thinks it should be a doddle. But magic is not finished with Mama Grant's favourite son.  Because Terrence Skinner has a secret hidden in the bowels of the SCC. A technology that stretches back to Ada Lovelace and Charles Babbage, and forward to the future of artificial intelligence. A secret that is just as magical as it technological - and just as dangerous.

Remember Me is by Amy McLellan.  Last night my sister was murdered. The police think I killed her. I was there. I watched the knife go in. I saw the man who did it.  And heard him laugh when he said he'd never be caught.  Because he knows I have prosopagnosia - I can't recognise faces. And if I don't find the man who killed my sister, I'll be found guilty of murder.

December 2019

For the Dead is by Lena Bengtsdotter.  She must find the truth about Francesca.   Before the past catches up with her...  DI Charlie Lager returns to investigate a long-buried disappearance.  A tragic past. Thirty years ago, the body of a teenage boy was found in Gullspang's lake, and his best friend vanished from her home. Paul Bergman's death was ruled a suicide; Francesca was never found.  An unsolved case.  Drawn back to Gullspang, Detective Inspector Charlie Lager is haunted by the strange house she knew as a child, and by the missing girl who once lived there. Convinced that the original investigation was flawed, Charlie is determined to uncover what really happened all those decades ago.  A crime that won’t stay buried.  But her interest in Francesca's disappearance begins to stir up long-hidden resentments, and half-forgotten memories. And if the truth is revealed, what will it mean for the living - and for the dead?

January 2020

Poison Ink is by Alison Belsham.  After old remains resurface in a heatwave, a young woman is attacked and left fighting for her life in hospital. Twenty-four hours later she dies and a deadly tattoo is discovered on her body. When another young woman disappears, Detective Francis Sullivan and his team fear a serial killer walks the streets of Brighton.   His team identify a suspect, Alex Mullins, son of his lover, Marni. Can Francis forget their shared past and save the next victim before it is too late? 

Can you ever really know your neighbours?  When human remains are found in a ground floor flat, the residents of Nelson Heights are shocked to learn that there was a dead body in their building for over three years. Sarah lives at the flat above and after the remains are found, she feels threatened by a stranger hanging around the building.  Laura has lived in the building for as long as she can remember, caring for her elderly father, though there is more to her story than she is letting on.  As the investigation starts to heat up, and the two women become more involved, it's clear that someone isn't telling the truth about what went on all those years ago... The Woman Downstairs is by Elisabeth Carpenter.