Monday 30 November 2020

Memories and Secrets by Susi Holliday


Anyone who has read any of my books will know by now that I don’t stick to a formula. I’ve gone from police procedurals to serial killers at Christmas, to ghosts mixed with coercive control, to psychotic females on the Trans-Siberian Express – and now to a bunch of gleefully unlikable strangers trapped on an island with a scarily plausible memory-tracking device pinned behind their ears.

 Why? Because this is how I read.

When I first started writing seriously back in 2011, I battled for a long time with myself on what I was going to write. I knew I wanted to be traditionally published, and as a voracious reader of crime, horror, speculative fiction and even what’s annoyingly called “women’s fiction”, I was a bit torn. OK, not that torn. I knew my first book was going to be dark, and it’s so dark, I called it Black Wood. I settled on the story after realising that I needed to write about something I knew – and I based it on an even that happened to me as a child. All of my books since then have contained elements of things I know, merged with things I wanted to know – this is what research is for, after all.

But fast forward to Book 7 (how did that happen?!) and I’ve gone back to childhood again. Not mine, specifically. But the book opens with a couple of childhood friends – or seemingly so – who’ve met while holidaying on an island and formed an immediate strong bond. A bond that is cemented when something awful happens that only the two of them know about. 

Their little secret.

I’m fascinated by secrets, as I think all psychological thriller writers are. And I’m also fascinated by the way that children can be manipulated into keeping secrets, while their brains remain both susceptible and trusting. I’m also interested in childhood friendships, and how, without the shackles of “adulting” they can be formed quickly, intensely and cause utter devastation when they end, only for the memories to slowly fade as new friendships come along to replace them.

I can still remember the first friend that I “lost” as a child. She was in my Primary 1 class and her name was Vicky. She had neat blonde hair, to my hard-to-manage brunette, and she was fun. Other than that, I remember nothing about her – apart from the sheer devastation I felt when her family moved away and she was no longer my friend. But being five, I got over it.

There were others.

Every time I went on holiday with my parents, I met a new best friend. One of these friends was called Melanie, and my parents became friendly with hers, so we arranged to meet up back home. And we did. They lived about an hour or so from us, but in Scotland in the 80s, that seemed like a million miles away. We went to visit them, they came to visit us. But then it trickled off – obviously because it wasn’t really a priority for either set of parents. And while I was sad for a while, again, I moved on.

But as I was planning The Last Resort, I started thinking about these friends, and others. These people who are so incredibly important one minute, and forgotten the next. I realised I could barely remember a thing about these girls, but I remember playing with them, and having fun with them, and I remember that Melanie had short dark hair, styled page-boy-esque like mine was for a while. We were both victims of that unfortunate trend. I started thinking about memories, and what sticks with you from a young age… and what doesn’t. When I ask my parents about certain things that I am sure happened, they have different recollections. I often wonder if Vicky or Melanie remember me; if they even remember my name. Memory is such a fallible thing, which is why I wanted to create a device in my story for harvesting memories. For bringing those long-lost friendships back to the surface.

What if not everyone has such fleeting memories of their childhood friends?

For all I know, they could have been searching for me for years… 

 The Last Resort by Susi Holliday (Published by Thomas & Mercer) Out 1 December 2020

When Amelia is invited to an all-expenses-paid retreat on a private island, the mysterious offer is too good to refuse. Along with six other strangers, she’s told they’re here to test a brand-new product for Timeo Technologies. But the guests’ excitement soon turns to terror when the real reason for their summons becomes clear.  Each guest has a guilty secret. And when they’re all forced to wear a memory-tracking device that reveals their dark and shameful deeds to their fellow guests, there’s no hiding from the past. This is no luxury retreat—it’s a trap they can’t get out of.  As the clock counts down to the lavish end-of-day party they’ve been promised, injuries and in-fighting split the group. But with no escape from the island—or the other guests’ most shocking secrets—Amelia begins to suspect that her only hope for survival is to be the last one standing. Can she confront her own dark past to uncover the truth—before it’s too late to get out?

Sunday 29 November 2020

Books to Look Forward To From Europa Editions

January 2021 

The third and final installment in the remarkable Marseilles Trilogy (Total Chaos, Chourmo), Solea continues Jean-Claude Izzo’s distinctive brand of vibrant crime writing, skillfully evoking a time and place that has captured the hearts and imaginations of readers the world over. Marseilles’ simmering issues of race, politics, organized crime and big business come to a rolling boil. Ex-cop, loner, would-be bon vivant, Fabio Montale is back and his heartfelt cry against the criminal forces devastating his beloved Marseilles provides the touching conclusion to a trilogy that epitomizes the aspirations and ideals of the Mediterranean noir movement. 

May 2021

It’s the middle of a long hot summer on the French Mediterranean shore and the town is full of tourists. Sebag and Molina, two tired cops who are being slowly devoured by dull routine and family worries, deal with the day’s misdemeanors and petty complaints at the Perpignan police headquarters without a trace of enthusiasm. Out of the blue a young Dutch woman is brutally murdered on a beach at Argelès, and another disappears without a trace in the alleys of the city. A serial killer obsessed with Dutch women? Maybe. The media goes wild. Gilles Sebag finds himself thrust into the middle of a diabolical game. If he intends to salvage something—anything—he will have to put aside his domestic cares, forget his suspicions of his wife’s unfaithfulness, ignore his heart murmur, and get over his existential angst. “He waits joylessly, patiently, and lets himself go. The stone house may end up being his grave. Who’s doing what, who’s chasing who? Who is the mouse, and who’s the cat?” Summertime, All the Cats are Bored is by Phillippe Georget.

June 2021

In the Shadow of the Fire is by Hervé Le Corre. A breathless criminal investigation set against the bloody canvas of the Paris Commune The Paris Commune’s “bloody week” sees the climax of the savagery of the clashes between the Communards and the French Armed Forces loyal to Versailles. Amid the shrapnel and the chaos, while the entire west side of Paris is a field of ruins, a photographer fascinated by the suffering of young women takes “suggestive” photos to sell to a particular clientele. Young women begin disappearing, and when Caroline, a seamstress who volunteers at a first aid station, is counted among the missing, her fiancé Nicolas, a member of the Commune’s National Guard, and Communal security officer Antoine, sets off independently in search of her. Their race against the clock to find her takes them through the shell-shocked streets of Paris, and introduces them to a cast of fascinating characters. 

Friday 27 November 2020

Books To Look Forward To From Michael Joseph Books

 January 2021

What if your experience of motherhood was nothing like what you hoped for - but everything you always feared? The women in this family, we're different . . .' The arrival of baby Violet was meant to be the happiest day of my life. A fresh start. But as soon as I held her in my arms, I knew something wasn't right. I have always known that the women in my family weren't meant to be mothers. My husband Fox says I'm imagining it, but she's different with me. Something feels very wrong. Is it her? Or is it me? Is she the monster? Or am I? Push is by Ashley Audrain.

The Burning Girls is by C J Tudor. 500 years ago: eight martyrs were burnt to death. 30 years ago: two teenagers vanished without trace. Two months ago: the vicar committed suicide. Welcome to Chapel Croft. For Rev Jack Brooks and teenage daughter Flo it's supposed to be a fresh start. New job, new home. But, as Jack knows, the past isn't easily forgotten. And in a close-knit community where the residents seem as proud as they are haunted by Chapel Croft's history, Jack must tread carefully. Ancient superstitions as well as a mistrust of outsiders will be hard to overcome. Yet right away Jack has more frightening concerns. Why is Flo plagued by visions of burning girls? Who's sending them sinister, threatening messages? And why did no one mention that the last vicar killed himself? Chapel Croft's secrets lie deep and dark as the tomb. Jack wouldn't touch them if not for Flo - anything to protect Flo. But the past is catching up with Chapel Croft - and with Jack. For old ghosts with scores to settle will never rest . . .

Thomas Cale has been running from his enemies. Raised and trained in an underground programme - the Sanctuary - he was sent to destroy God's greatest mistake, mankind itself. Cale is a paradox: arrogant and innocent, generous and pitiless. Feared and revered by those that created him, he has already used his terrifying talent for violence and destruction to bring down the most powerful civilisation in the world. But Thomas Cale has been caught. He's been given a choice. Bring down the world's best hope for order, for honesty and for progress, or condemn his soul to hell. The fate of humankind rests on Cale's decision. The White Devil is by Paul Hoffman.

February 2021

Prodigal Son is by Gregg Hurwitz. He can escape anything. Except his own past . . . 'Evan. It's your mother. I heard you help people . . ' Evan Smoak used to be known as Orphan X: a figure as elusive as a rumour, until he came to the rescue of those who most desperately needed his help. The kind of help no one else could provide. The kind that caused concern in the corridors of power. As a boy he'd been plucked from a foster home and trained as an off-the-books assassin inside a top secret US government programme. Which is why, even forced into early retirement, he dare not trust the phone call. Nor the caller claiming to be his mother. Asking him to protect a complete stranger who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. None of it stacks up. Yet it bears the tell-tale signs of the secret world that made him. And from inside it, a deadly new threat to the nation's security. But this time the danger is more personal than he could have ever imagined. Because blood runs deep … 

Louise wakes up. Her head aches, her mouth is dry, her memory is fuzzy. But she suspects she's done something bad. She rolls over towards her husband, Niall. The man who, until recently, made her feel loved. But it's not Niall who's lying beside her. In fact, she's never seen this man before. And he's dead . . . As Louise desperately struggles to piece her memories back together, it's clear to Detective Jonah Sheens and his team that she is their prime suspect - though they soon find she's not the only one with something to hide. Did she do it? And, if not, can they catch the real killer before they strike again? Lie Beside Me is by Gytha Lodge.

March 2021

Get ready to meet Rebekah in Missing by Tim Weaver's in his first standalone. She is stranded on an island, left for dead and determined to get home, but danger will continue to stalk her . . . Crow Island was meant to be the perfect break. A chance for Rebekah to reconnect with her brother Jonny and forget about her crumbling marriage. But stepping onto this island puts her in more danger than she could ever imagine. After finding themselves in the forest Rebekah and her brother are attacked. When she wakes up her phone is missing and Jonny has vanished. At that moment Rebekah realises the island has become her living hell. By the time she makes it back to safety the island has closed for the season – and it'll be seven months before anyone returns.With her brother missing and no boats, no phones, no people, Rebekah must survive and make her way off this island. But is finding a way back to the mainland the end of her nightmare, or just the beginning? 

This Nowhere Place is by Natasha Bell. 'That's the thing about our town: people only come here if they're going somewhere else.' One grey afternoon, high on the cliffs of Dover, two girls agree to help a stranger. Within months, two of the three girls are dead. In the years that follow, local legend grows around the events of that summer - and, with the one survivor refusing to speak, it seems the truth will never emerge. Until a documentary-maker arrives, determined to solve the mystery of the Dover Girls. But some will stop at nothing to keep this town's secrets...

In the early days of World War II, the infamous German Luftwaffe embark upon an expedition to Antarctica, hoping to set up a military base to support their goal of world domination. Though the military outpost never comes to fruition, what the Nazis find on the icy continent indeed proves dangerous...and will have implications far into the future. In the present day, Kurt Austin and his assistant Joe Zavala embark for the freezing edge of the world after a former NUMA colleague disappears in Antarctica. While there, they discover a photo of the Luftwaffe expedition of 1939, and are drawn into a decades-old conspiracy. Even as they confront perilous waters and frigid temperatures, they are also are up against a terrifying man-made weapon--a fast-growing ice that could usher in a new Ice Age. Pitted against a determined madman and a monstrous storm, Kurt and the NUMA team must unravel the Nazi-era plot in order to save the globe from a freeze that would bury it once and for all. Fast Ice is by Clive Cussler and Graham Brown. 

April 2021

The Saboteurs is by Clive Cussler and Jack Du Brul. Detective Isaac Bell's wife has said that he is always in the wrong place at the right time. This is certainly the case when Bell thwarts the attempted assassination of a United States Senator shortly after meeting the man. This heroic rescue is just the start of the mystery for Bell, who suspects that the would-be assassins have a much larger and more dangerous agenda--one involving the nearly constructed Panama Canal. While the Senator supports the building of the canal, there are many, including a local Panamanian insurgency known as the Red Vipers, who never want to see the its completion. With millions of dollars and the fates of two nations at stake, Bell heads to Panama to find answers. After a deadly bombing at the Canal's construction site, he is determined to stop the insurgents--or whoever is funding them--before they can attack again.

The teacher wanted on the edge of the world. Una knows she is struggling to deal with her father's sudden, tragic suicide. She spends her nights drinking alone in Reykjavik, stricken with thoughts that she might one day follow in his footsteps. So when she sees an advert seeking a teacher for two girls in the tiny village of Skalar - population of ten - on the storm-battered north coast of the island, she sees it as a chance to escape. But once she arrives, Una quickly realises nothing in city life has prepared her for this. The villagers are unfriendly. The weather is bleak. And, from the creaky attic bedroom of the old house where she's living, she's convinced she hears the ghostly sound of singing. Una worries that she's losing her mind. And then, just before Christmas, there's an unexplained death and Una's life going from bad to worse..... The Girl Who Died is by Ragnar Jónasson.

Don't let Him In is by Howard Linskey. He's always been there. Now he's looking for you.  There have always been deaths in the small town of Eriston over the years - more than can easily be explained. People dying in their houses, behind locked doors. Sean Cole thought he'd spotted a pattern. Thought he was on the trail of a killer. Now he's dead too. When his daughter Rebecca returns to the town, she realises that her father might have been onto something. But can she find the murderer before he finds her? Because if she can't, her father's shabby old Victorian house is no place to hide.

May 2021

An unlikely spy. July 1940. As Britain braces itself for invasion, ex-Tommy and safecracker Bill O'Hagan is glad to have escaped the battlefield. But when a job goes wrong, he finds himself forced to serve his country once more. A former king. Spurned by his government and fearing for his life, the Duke of Windsor flees to Portugal with the woman for whom he abdicated the throne, Wallis Simpson. As a web of Nazi trickery threatens to ensnare him, his fate and the fate of Britain rest on one man. The fate of a nation in their hands. Dropped on an occupied Channel Island without backup, Bill must crack an enemy safe and get its contents to safety. Failure will devastate any hope Britain has of winning the war. But with the layers of deception and intrigue drawing ever more tightly around them, Bill and the Duke both learn they aren't the only players in this game. And Berlin - which has the Duke in its own sights - is plotting its greatest move yet... Island Reich is by Jack Grimwood.

In Harm's Way is by Anthony Mosawi. Sara Eden isn't like other agents. She was the greatest asset MI5 had ever had. But then she disappeared without a trace. Now, she's out of hiding. And she'll do whatever it takes to save innocent lives. Robert Waterman is the director of GCHQ. He trusts numbers. He trusts data. He's learned that whilst humans are unreliable, patterns and codes never lie. But then he meets Sara. What Sara can do isn't rational. What Sara can do defies logic. He can't trust her - but he needs her.

June 2021

Scorpion is by Christian Cantrell. Around the world, twenty-two people have been murdered. The victims fit no profile, the circumstances vary wildly, but one thing links them all: in every case the victim is branded with a number. With police around the globe floundering and unable to identify any pattern, let alone find a killer, CIA Analyst Quinn Mitchell is called in to investigate. Before long, Quinn is on the trail of an ice-hearted assassin with seemingly limitless resources - but she's prepared for that. What she isn't prepared for is the person pulling the strings.

Thursday 26 November 2020

Agatha Christie’s Poirot: Piecing Together the Evidence by Mark Aldridge


Like so many books, Agatha Christie’s Poirot: The Greatest Detective in the World (HarperCollins, 2020) had a long genesis, drawing as it does on research that began eight years ago. However, it hasn’t been a straightforward journey from the inception of the idea to the final product, as I first undertook serious research about Agatha Christie for my 2016 book Agatha Christie on Screen. At the time I was puzzled by the fact that there had never been a detailed overall history of the development of the many film and television adaptations of Christie – something especially curious when I knew how perennially popular they were. So, for that book (published as part of Palgrave Macmillan’s Crime Files series) I decided to start my research from scratch, working my way through the various archives that held Christie-related material. Had I known that there was so much, I may have reduced my plans, as the result was a mammoth tome running to over 160,000 words – twice as long as my publisher had agreed! 

Nevertheless, Agatha Christie on Screen was published in its entirety and seemed to attract a fair amount of attention from Christie fans as well as the academic community. I knew that I’d found a lot more in my research than just material covering the adaptations, and as a Christie fan myself I knew that I still had more to say. It then it occurred to me that there really wasn’t an up-to-date volume that both casual fans and aficionados could consult that would give them background information on of Christie’s original works as well as the adaptations, which could also highlight points of interest and give an idea of how each story or production was received. And so, once again, I decided that if the book didn’t exist, then I should write it! Obviously a single volume covering the entirety of Christie’s works would be far too long, but then I thought about Poirot’s centenary in 2020, which seemed to be very good timing. Thankfully, both HarperCollins and Agatha Christie Ltd agreed that my plans to tell the full story of the detective’s various appearances seemed worthwhile, which meant that work could begin on a book dedicated to the adventures of Hercule Poirot on page, stage, screen – and beyond. 

One thing that was very important to me was that I wanted to make sure that the book featured new information, in order to ensure it was really good value for fans who might think that they had heard everything before. This meant many days at various archives, combing through information looking for the slightest detail that told us more about Christie’s plans, or those who adapted her work – whether it was an incomplete idea for a play of The Mysterious Affair at Styles buried at the back of one of her notebooks, or the original (radically different) plans for the television series that would eventually lead to David Suchet’s Poirot, I found that there was a lot still to discover, and frankly I couldn’t wait to share it all with other devoted fans. This new material included previously unpublished Christie correspondence and extracts from various writings that hadn’t seen the light of day before – all important when thinking about the wider story that influenced the Poirot stories, and a special bonus for fans who have read everything else written by the Queen of Crime.

I discovered both Christie’s original stories and the adaptations of them at pretty much the same time when I was a young child, so for me their stories have always been intertwined – and I was interested to see how often that was true in the past as well, especially from the 1960s onwards. It was because of these related histories that I decided to structure my book chronologically, with each book, short story collection, play, film or television series having its own section. This meant that everything that falls under the broad ‘Poirot’ banner could either be read individually (if the reader is just dipping in to sections that particularly interest them) or as part of the larger tapestry. I also decided to make the main text of the book spoiler-free, so that those who are new to Poirot can still enjoy all of the mysteries as they were intended to be read – without the solution being given away in advance!

With the addition of over 400 pictures in the hardback edition, the final result is a book that I hope achieves its aims of being a perfect introductory guide to the world of Agatha Christie’s creation, while still showing us that there is much still to learn about the sleuth who considers that he is probably The Greatest Detective in the World

Agatha Christie’s Poirot: The Greatest Detective in the World (HarperCollins, 2020)

From the very first book publication in 1920 to the film release of Death on the Nile in December 2020, this investigation into Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot celebrates a century of probably the world's favourite fictional detective. This book tells his story decade-by-decade, exploring his appearances not only in the original novels, short stories and plays but also across stage, screen and radio productions. The hardback edition includes more than 400 illustrations. Poirot has had near-permanent presence in the public eye ever since the 1920 publication of The Mysterious Affair at Styles. From character development, publication history and private discussion concerning the original stories themselves, to early forays on to the stage and screen, the story of Poirot is as fascinating as it is enduring. Based on the author's original research, review excerpts and original Agatha Christie correspondence, Poirot: The Greatest Detective in the World is a lively and accessible history of the character, offering new information and helpful pieces of context, that will delight all Agatha Christie fans, from a new generation of readers to those already highly familiar with the canon.

Dr Mark Aldridge is a senior lecturer at Solent University, Southampton, and author of the book Agatha Christie’s Poirot: The Greatest Detective in the World.

Tuesday 24 November 2020

Outstanding crime fiction from Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden shortlisted for the 2020 Petrona Award


Six outstanding crime novels from Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden have been shortlisted for the 2020 Petrona Award for the Best Scandinavian Crime Novel of the Year. The shortlist is announced today, Tuesday 24 November.

THE COURIER by Kjell Ola Dahl, tr. Don Bartlett (Orenda Books; Norway)

 INBORN by Thomas Enger, tr. Kari Dickson (Orenda Books; Norway)

 THE CABIN by Jørn Lier Horst, tr. Anne Bruce (Michael Joseph; Norway)

 THE SILVER ROAD by Stina Jackson, tr. Susan Beard (Corvus; Sweden)

 THE ABSOLUTION by Yrsa Sigurðardóttir, tr. Victoria Cribb (Hodder & Stoughton; Iceland)

 LITTLE SIBERIA by Antti Tuomainen, tr. David Hackston (Orenda Books; Finland)

 The winning title, usually announced at the international crime fiction convention CrimeFest, will now be announced on Thursday 3 December 2020. The winning author and the translator of the winning title will both receive a cash prize, and the winning author will receive a full pass to and a guaranteed panel at CrimeFest 2022

 The Petrona Award is open to crime fiction in translation, either written by a Scandinavian author or set in Scandinavia, and published in the UK in the previous calendar year

The Petrona team would like to thank our sponsor, David Hicks, for his continued generous support of the Petrona Award. We would also like to thank Sarah Ward, who has now stood down from the judging panel, for her valuable contributions over many years. We wish her every success with her new Gothic thriller, The Quickening, published under the name Rhiannon Ward. We are delighted to have Jake Kerridge, The Daily Telegraph’s crime fiction critic, join the Petrona team as a guest judge for this year’s Award.

The judges’ comments on the shortlist: There were 37 entries for the 2020 Petrona Award from six countries (Denmark, Finland, France, Iceland, Norway, Sweden). The novels were translated by 24 translators and submitted by 21 publishers/imprints.

There were 13 female and 24 male authors. This year’s Petrona Award shortlist sees Norway strongly represented with three novels; Finland, Iceland and Sweden each have one. The crime genres represented include the police procedural, historical crime, literary crime, comedy crime and thriller.

The Petrona Award judges selected the shortlist from a rich field. The six novels stand out for their writing, characterisation, plotting, and overall quality. They are original and inventive, often pushing the boundaries of genre conventions, and tackle highly complex subjects such as legacies of the past, mental health issues and the effects of grief. Three of the shortlisted titles explore the subject of criminality from an adolescent perspective. We are extremely grateful to the six translators whose expertise and skill have allowed readers to access these gems of Scandinavian crime fiction, and to the publishers who continue to champion and support translated fiction.

The judges’ comments on each of the shortlisted titles:

THE COURIER by Kjell Ola Dahl, tr. Don Bartlett (Orenda Books; Norway)

 Kjell Ola Dahl made his debut in 1993, and has since published seventeen novels, most notably those in the ‘Gunnarstranda and Frølich’ police procedural series. In 2000, he won the Riverton Prize for The Last Fix, and the prestigious Brage and Riverton Prizes for The Courier in 2015. In much the same way as Icelandic author Arnaldur Indriðason, Dahl explores the experience of the Second World War by moving away from the linear murder mystery to something far more searching and emotionally driven. The Courier is an intelligent and absorbing standalone that offers a perceptive and highly moving exploration of Scandinavian history. It traverses changing times and cultural norms, and traces the growing self-awareness of a truly memorable female protagonist.

INBORN by Thomas Enger, tr. Kari Dickson (Orenda Books; Norway)

Thomas Enger worked for many years for Norway’s first online newspaper, Nettavisen, and as an author is best-known for his five novels featuring the journalist-sleuth Henning Juul, one of which – Pierced – was shortlisted for the Petrona Award in 2013. He has also won prizes for his thrillers for young adults. Inborn, his first standalone novel to be translated into English, tells the story of a murder trial from the perspective of the seventeen-year-old defendant, and combines a gripping courtroom drama with a tender and intriguing portrait of Norwegian small-town life, and the secrets bubbling away beneath its surface. 

THE CABIN by Jørn Lier Horst, tr. Anne Bruce (Michael Joseph; Norway) Having previously worked as a police officer, Jørn Lier Horst has established himself as one of the most successful Scandinavian authors of the last twenty years. Horst’s previous ‘William Wisting’ novel, The Katharina Code, won the 2019 Petrona Award for Best Scandinavian Crime Novel, as well as the Nordic Noir Thriller of the Year in 2018. The Cabin sees Chief Inspector Wisting juggling the demands of two testing cases, leading him into the path of an old adversary and plunging him into the criminal underworld. Horst has once again produced an impeccably crafted police procedural with a deft control of pace and tension. 

THE SILVER ROAD by Stina Jackson, tr. Susan Beard (Corvus; Sweden)

The Silver Road is Stina Jackson’s highly accomplished debut. It has achieved remarkable success, winning the 2018 Award for Best Swedish Crime Novel, the 2019 Glass Key Award, and the 2019 Swedish Book of the Year Award. Set in northern Sweden, where Jackson herself grew up, the novel explores the aftermath of teenager Lina’s disappearance, and her father Lelle’s quest to find her by driving the length of the Silver Road under the midnight sun. Three years on, young Meja arrives in town: her navigation of adolescence and first-time love will lead her and Lelle’s paths to cross. The Silver Road is a haunting depiction of grief, longing and obsession, with lots of heart and a tremendous sense of place. 

THE ABSOLUTION by Yrsa Sigurðardóttir, tr. Victoria Cribb (Hodder & Stoughton; Iceland) A full-time civil engineer as well as a prolific writer for both adults and children, Yrsa Sigurðardóttir is one of Iceland’s best-selling and most garlanded crime novelists, and the winner of the 2015 Petrona Award for The Silence of the Sea. The Absolution is the third entry in her ‘Children’s House’ series, and features a very modern killer who targets teenagers with an MO involving Snapchat. This artfully plotted and thought-provoking book continues the series’ focus on the long-lasting impact of childhood trauma, with welcome light relief provided by the mismatched investigators, detective Huldar and child psychologist Freyja.

LITTLE SIBERIA by Antti Tuomainen, tr. David Hackston (Orenda Books; Finland) Antti Tuomainen is a versatile crime writer, whose works draw on genres as varied as the dystopian thriller and comedy crime caper. His third novel, The Healer, won the Clue Award for Best Finnish Crime Novel in 2011 and he has been shortlisted for the Glass Key, Petrona and Last Laugh Awards, as well as the CWA Crime Fiction in Translation Dagger. Little Siberia, set in an icy northern Finland, opens with a bang when a meteorite unexpectedly lands on a speeding car. Transferred to the local museum for safe keeping, the valuable object is guarded from thieves by local priest Joel, who is grappling with both a marital crisis and a crisis of faith. Absurdist black humour is expertly combined with a warm, perceptive exploration of what it means to be human.

The judges

Jackie Farrant – Crime fiction expert and creator of RAVEN CRIME READS; bookseller for eighteen years and a Regional Commercial Manager for a major book chain in the UK.

Dr. Kat Hall – Translator and editor; Honorary Research Associate at Swansea University; international crime fiction reviewer at MRS. PEABODY INVESTIGATES.

Jake Kerridge – Journalist and literary critic. He has been the crime fiction reviewer of the Daily Telegraph since 2005 and has judged many crime and thriller prizes.

Monday 23 November 2020

MWA Announces the 2021 Grand Masters

Today Mystery Writers of America (MWA) announces the recipients of its special awards. The board chose Charlaine Harris and Jeffery Deaver as the 2021 Grand Masters, and the 2020 Raven Award recipient is Malice Domestic. They will receive their awards at the 75th Annual Edgar Awards Ceremony, which will be held April 29, 2021. 

"Mystery Writers of America is thrilled to honour Jeffery Deaver and Charlaine Harris as MWA's 2021 Grand Masters," said MWA President Meg Gardiner. "Over the course of decades, Deaver and Harris have gripped tens of millions of readers while broadening the reach of the genre with transformative books—notably, Deaver's Lincoln Rhyme series, and Harris's Sookie Stackhouse novels—and while generously encouraging and supporting fellow writers and the reading public. We're delighted to recognize their achievements."

MWA's Grand Master Award represents the pinnacle of achievement in mystery writing and was established to acknowledge important contributions to this genre, as well as for a body of work that is both significant and of consistent high quality. Jeffery Deaver has published more than forty novels since the early 1990's, including two series besides the Lincoln Rhyme novels, numerous stand-alone and short story collections.  On being notified of the honor, Deaver said, "When I was a (relatively) young writer new to this business of penning novels, many years ago, the first professional organization I joined was Mystery Writers of America. Signing on felt to me like coming home—being welcomed into a community of fellow authors willing to share their expertise and offer support in a profession that was largely, well, a 'mystery' to me. Besides, how could I not join? MWA was the real deal; for proof, one had only to look at those in the ranks of the Grand Masters: Agatha Christie, Rex Stout, Ellery Queen, James M. Cain . . . and so many others whose works populated my bookshelves. Yet it never once occurred to me, in all my years as a member and my two terms as president, that I might be invited into those very ranks. I wish to express by boundless gratitude to MWA for this honor, which stands, without question, as the high point of my career."

Charlaine Harris has published 13 novels in the Southern Vampire series (adapted into the popular HBO series True Blood), which proved so popular that at one point her novels took half of the top ten slots on New York Times' bestseller list. Her other series include the Aurora Teagarden novels, the Lily Bard (Shakespeare) books, the Midnight Texas trilogy (adapted for television) and numerous others, as well as several standalones. Harris said, "This is like winning the lottery and the Pulitzer Prize in one day. I am so honored and thrilled to join the ranks of revered writers who are Grand Masters. I thank the MWA Board from the bottom of my heart."

Previous Grand Masters include Barbara Neely, Martin Cruz Smith, William Link, Peter Lovesey, Walter Mosley, Lois Duncan, James Ellroy, Robert Crais, Ken Follett, Martha Grimes, Sara Paretsky, James Lee Burke, Sue Grafton, Stephen King, Mary Higgins Clark, Lawrence Block, P.D. James, Ellery Queen, Daphne du Maurier, Alfred Hitchcock, Graham Greene, and Agatha Christie, to name a few.

The Raven Award recognizes outstanding achievement in the mystery field outside the realm of creative writing. For 2021, Mystery Writers of America selected the Malice Domestic mystery conference, founded in 1989 and held every spring since. Malice Domestic focuses primarily on traditional mysteries, their authors and fans, and also presents the Agatha Awards, with six categories. "Who says Friday the 13th is an unlucky day?" said Verena Rose, currently chair of the Malice Domestic Board of Directors. "Certainly, not me. This morning I received a call from Greg Herren, Executive Vice President of Mystery Writers of America, letting me know that Malice Domestic has been selected to receive the Raven Award in 2021. What an absolutely, amazing surprise and as the Chair, I can't wait to give my fellow Board members the news. This is an honor we are beyond thrilled to receive." Previous Raven winners include Left Coast Crime, Marilyn Stasio, Kristopher Zgorski, Dru Ann Love, Raven Bookstore in Lawrence, Kansas, Sisters in Crime, Margaret Kinsman, Kathryn Kennison, Aunt Agatha's Bookstore in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Oline Cogdill, The Mysterious Galaxy in San Diego, Centuries & Sleuths Bookstore in Chicago, Once Upon a Crime Bookstore in Minneapolis, Mystery Lovers Bookstore in Oakmont, PA, Kate's Mystery Books in Cambridge, MA, and The Poe House in Baltimore, MD.

The Edgar Awards, or "Edgars," as they are commonly known, are named after MWA's patron saint Edgar Allan Poe and are presented to authors of distinguished work in various categories. MWA is the premier organization for mystery writers, professionals allied to the crime-writing field, aspiring crime writers, and those who are devoted to the genre. The organization encompasses some 3,000 members including authors of fiction and non-fiction books, screen and television writers, as well as publishers, editors, and literary agents. For more information on Mystery Writers of America, please visit the website:


Friday 20 November 2020

Books to Look Forward to From Bloomsbury Publishing

 January 2021

Wicked deeds require the cover of darkness... A struggling silhouette artist in Victorian Bath seeks out a renowned child spirit medium in order to speak to the dead - and to try and identify their killers - in this beguiling new tale from Laura Purcell. Silhouette artist Agnes is struggling to keep her business afloat. Still recovering from a serious illness herself, making enough money to support her elderly mother and her orphaned nephew Cedric has never been easy, but then one of her clients is murdered shortly after sitting for Agnes, and then another, and another... Desperately seeking an answer, Agnes approaches Pearl, a child spirit medium lodging in Bath with her older half-sister and her ailing father, hoping that if Pearl can make contact with those who died, they might reveal who killed them. But Agnes and Pearl quickly discover that instead they may have opened the door to something that they can never put back... What secrets lie hidden in the darkness? The Shape of Darkness is by Laura Purcell.

Post Mortem is by Gary Bell. Can Rook keep his criminal past a secret when facing the most dangerous case of his life? Thirteen men have died in a London prison. Barrister Elliot Rook QC, who risks losing everything if his secret criminal past is revealed, must defend Charli Meadows, the vulnerable single mother accused of smuggling the deadly tainted drugs inside. But just as Rook becomes suspicious of those closest to Charli, a note arrives at his flat - threatening violence if the trial is not called off. While Rook battles to defend Charli and protect himself, his young protege Zara Barnes is fighting for her livelihood. In a few short weeks, only one tenancy at the legal chambers will be available to the ever-multiplying mass of pupils. Determined to make it hers, Zara takes on her biggest solo case yet. But will her gamble pay off?

Devils, Lusts and Strange Desires: The Life of Patricia Highsmith is by Richard Bradford. Made famous by the great success of her psychological thrillers, The Talented Mr Ripley and Strangers on a Train, Patricia Highsmith is lauded as one of the great modern writers. However, there has never been a clear picture of the woman behind the books. The triangular relationship between Highsmith's lesbianism, her fraught personality - by parts self-destructive and malicious - and her fiction has been largely avoided by other biographers. She was openly lesbian and would, in modern times, be venerated as a radical exponent of an LGBT lifestyle. However, her status as an exemplar of gay radicalism is undermined by the incontrovertible fact that she was gratuitously cruel and exploitative of her lovers. In this new biography, Richard Bradford brings his sharp, incisive style to one of the great, and most controversial, writers of the twentieth century. He considers Highsmith's best-sellers in the context of her troubled personal life; her alcoholism, her anti-Semitism and her misogyny.

February 2021

Lightseekers is by Femi Kayode. Three young students are brutally murdered in a Nigerian university town, their killings - and their killers - caught on social media. The world knows who murdered them; what no one knows is why. As the legal trial begins, investigative psychologist Philip Taiwo is contacted by the father of one of the boys, desperate for some answers to his son's murder. Philip is an expert in crowd behaviour and violence but travelling to the sleepy university town that bore witness to the killings, he soon feels dramatically out of his depth. Years spent first studying, then living in the US with his wife and children mean he is unfamiliar with many Nigerian customs and no one involved in the case seems willing to speak out. The more Philip digs, and the more people he meets with a connection to the case, the more he begins to realise that there is something very wrong concealed somewhere in this community.

March 2021

The Mystery of the Parsee Lawyer is by Shrabani Basu. In the village of Great Wyrley near Birmingham, someone is mutilating horses. Someone is also sending threatening letters to the vicarage, where the vicar, Shahpur Edalji, is a Parsi convert to Christianity and the first Indian to have a parish in England. His son George - quiet, socially awkward and the only boy at school with distinctly Indian features - grows up into a successful barrister, till he is improbably linked to and then prosecuted for the above crimes in a case that left many convinced that justice hadn't been served. When he is released early, his conviction still hangs over him. Having lost faith in the police and the legal system, George Edalji turns to the one man he believes can clear his name - the one whose novels he spent his time reading in prison, the creator of the world's greatest detective. When he writes to Arthur Conan Doyle asking him to meet, Conan Doyle agrees. From the author of Victoria and Abdul comes an eye-opening look at race and an unexpected friendship in the early days of the twentieth century, and the perils of being foreign in a country built on empire.

Musician Charlotte Dove has vanished after playing in a concert for a prestigious orchestra led by a conductor world-renowned as a charismatic, obsessive genius who pushes his musicians to their very limit. The police insist that there are no signs of foul play and that with Charlotte's passport missing, she is unlikely to be in any danger. But where did Charlotte go? And why would she leave without a word to her husband, fellow musician Henry, having just secured the job of a lifetime? Journalist Richard Blake is struggling to find work in the new online world. He sees Charlotte's disappearance as an opportunity to restart his career by exploiting the growing obsession with true crime podcasts. But the more he delves into Charlotte's past, and the more his audience grows, bringing him into direct conflict with the police, the murkier her story becomes... The Disappearance of Charlotte Dove is by Alice Clark-Platts.

April 2021

Greenwich Park is by Katherine Faulkner. Helen has it all... Daniel is the perfect husband. Rory is the perfect brother. Serena is the perfect sister-in-law. And Rachel? Rachel is the perfect nightmare. When Helen, finally pregnant after years of tragedy, attends her first antenatal class, she is expecting her loving architect husband to arrive soon after, along with her confident, charming brother Rory and his pregnant wife, the effortlessly beautiful Serena. What she is not expecting is Rachel. Extroverted, brash, unsettling single mother-to-be Rachel, who just wants to be Helen's friend. Who just wants to get know Helen and her friends and her family. Who just wants to know everything about them. Every little secret...

May 2021

When the police are called to the report of a late-night shooting, they expect it to be drugs or gang-related. They don't expect to find a young student executed on his way home. Jordan Radley was an aspiring journalist: hard working, well-liked, dedicated. His first major story - looking at the fallout following the closure of a major local factory - had run recently and looked to be the first step in his longed-for career. Even after the story ran, Jordan continued to stay in contact with those he interviewed: he was on his way back from their social club the night he was murdered. But as the detectives quickly discover, not only was Jordan killed, but those responsible also broke into his house, taking his laptop and notes. What was he researching that might have led to his death? And can this really be linked to another case - long ruled an accident - in the same area or are the police being forced to prioritise those with the best connections rather than the ones that most need their help? One Half Truth is by Eva Dolan.

June 2021

I know What I Saw is by Imran Mahmood.  I saw it. He smothered her, pressing his hands on her face. The police don't believe me, they say it's impossible - but I know what I saw. This is Xander Shute: once a wealthy banker, now living on the streets. As he shelters for the night in an empty Mayfair flat, he hears its occupants returning home, and scrambles to hide as the couple argue. Trapped in his hiding place, he soon finds himself witnessing a vicious murder. But who was the dead woman, who the police later tell him can't have been there? And why is the man Xander saw her with evading justice? As Xander searches for answers, his memory of the crime comes under scrutiny, forcing him to confront his long-buried past and the stories he's told about himself. How much he is willing to risk to understand the brutal truth?

Wednesday 18 November 2020

Call for Papers (Extended) - New York State of Crime

Mean Streets

Call for Papers--Extended

Mean Streets: A Journal of American Crime and Detective Fiction

Issue 2

Topic: New York State of Crime

Proposals: November 30, 2020

Final essays: February 15, 2021

For the second issue of Mean Streets, the editors seek proposals focusing on crime literature of New York City or elsewhere in the Empire State. The “extended” CFP will give particular preference to crime literature set in New York outside of New York City. 

This “extended” CFP also invites proposals dealing with detective/crime fiction in urban environments in which the urban setting is given particular significance.

Raymond Chandler’s “mean streets” were the deceptively sun-dappled streets of Los Angeles, but the streets of New York City and its environs have a longer history of association with crime fiction. The vice-filled streets upon which Horatio Alger’s ragged newsboys trudged were the gritty New York City streets of the 1860s. Detective Nick Carter made his first appearance in the New York Weekly in September of 1866 in a serial focused on a crime in Madison Square, the original location of Madison Square Garden.

Decades later, Rex Stout, Chester Himes, Elizabeth Daly, Ed McBain, Ellery Queen, S.S. Van Dine, Amanda Cross, George Baxt, Julia Dahl and so many others found in New York the perfect setting for crimes, genteel or gruesome. The neighborhoods, bars, waterfronts, police precincts, theaters, subway tunnels and gleaming towers of New York have provided rich settings for sordid activities. Upstate New York—the Westchester and Long Island suburbs, Hudson Valley hamlets, the political cauldron of Albany, the once-thriving Catskill resorts, the Rust Belt, and the Snow Belt—has been featured in much crime writing, too.

Mean Streets is essentially a literary journal, so while discussion of film or other media is welcome, the balance of discussion will deal with literature.

Abstracts of 250 words with proposed title should be directed no later than November 30 to the editors: Rebecca Martin ( and Walter Raubicheck (

Final papers of 7000-8000 words will be due by February 15, 2021, with publication anticipated in spring 2021. Feel free to send questions to both editors.

About Mean Streets

This journal is published by the Pace University Press (New York City), which has been sponsoring scholarly journals since the 1980s.

Mean Streets is a refereed journal edited by two scholars in literature and film and guided by an Editorial Board comprised of distinguished scholars from several disciplines. Submissions will be reviewed by the editors and selected Board members.

The journal’s first issue appeared in spring 2020. Copies may be ordered at