Friday 30 April 2021

The Riverton Prize Winner


The Riverton Prize for Best Norwegian Crime story was awarded to Sven Petter Næss for his second book “Skjebnesteinen” (Fate of Stone/ Stone of Destiny)was chosen as the best detective novel of the last year and he received the generous Rivertonprisen crime prize in Slottsparken near Litteraturhuset in Oslo on Thursday 29 April 2021. 

The Fate of Stone/ Stone of Destiny’ is the second book in the Harinder Singh-series. 

According to the jury - ‘The Fate Stone/ Stone of Destiny’ is a crime novel of the best brand: well written, well structure, with intricate crimes and correspondingly difficult police work. They go on to say that the prize goes to a book that satisfies all the requirements of a crime novel with realistic and credible description of police work, while it also creates unrest, fear and excitement in the reader. Nothing is accidental or unclear in ‘The Fate Stone/ Stone of Destiny’'

The Riverton Prize (Norwegian: Rivertonprisen) is a literature award given annually to the best Norwegian crime story (novel, short story, play, original screenplay). The prize is named after the Norwegian journalist and author Sven Elvestad (1884-1934) who published detective stories under the pen name Stein Riverton.

Thursday 29 April 2021

2021 Edgar Allan Poe Award Winners


Mystery Writers of America is proud to announce the Winners for the 2021 Edgar Allan Poe Awards, honoring the best in mystery fiction, non-fiction and television published or produced in 2020. The Edgar® Awards were presented via a live presentation on Zoom and can be found here: YouTube or Facebook


Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line by Deepa Anappara (Penguin Random House – Random House)


Please See Us by Caitlin Mullen (Simon & Schuster – Gallery Books)


When No One Is Watching by Alyssa Cole (HarperCollins Publishers – William Morrow)


Death in Mud Lick: A Coal Country Fight Against the Drug Companies that Delivered the Opioid Epidemic by Eric Eyre (Simon & Schuster – Scribner)


Phantom Lady: Hollywood Producer Joan Harrison, the Forgotten Woman Behind Hitchcock by Christina Lane (Chicago Review Press)


Dust, Ash, Flight,” Addis Ababa Noir by Maaza Mengiste (Akashic Books)


Premeditated Myrtle by Elizabeth C. Bunce (Workman Publishing – Algonquin Young Readers)


The Companion by Katie Alender (Penguin Young Readers – G.P. Putnam’s Sons BFYR)


Episode 1, Photochemistry” – Dead Still, Written by John Morton (Acorn TV)


The Bite, Tampa Bay Noir by Colette Bancroft (Akashic Books)

* * * * * *


The Cabinets of Barnaby Mayne by Elsa Hart (Minotaur Books)


Vera Kelly Is Not a Mystery by Rosalie Knecht (Tin House Books)

Congratulations to all the nominated authors and winners.  The complete list of nominated authors can be found here.

Congratulations also go to Charlaine Harris and Jeffery Deaver who were named Grandmasters.

CWA Announce New Chair - Maxim Jakubowski


CWA Announce New Chair


Maxim Jakubowski, a long-standing and influential figure in the publishing world, is announced as the new Chair of the world-famous Crime Writers’ Association (CWA).


Maxim’s career has encompassed every aspect of publishing as an editor, translator, publisher, author and critic. Born in England by Russian-British and Polish parents, but raised in France, Maxim has also lived in Italy and travelled extensively.


Following a lengthy editorial career in both France and the UK, during which time he launched several crime imprints, including Black Box Thrillers and Blue Murder, he opened the Murder One bookstore in London, which became an institution for 20 years. He now writes and edits full-time.


Maxim said: "As a member for several decades of the CWA, I am excited to take the helm of a vital organisation, which is constantly in the process of reinventing itself and am keen to see it becoming even more relevant to writers in a changing literary and publishing landscape, and currently troubled social landscape. With board members past and new at my side, I hope that my stewardship will do honour to my illustrious predecessors in the chair."


Maxim has compiled over 120 anthologies including the Mammoth Book of Best British CrimePulp Fiction, Vintage Crime, Future Cops and London, Paris, Rome and Venice Noir. He won the Anthony award for non-fiction for 100 Great Detectives. He is also the author of 20 novels, several of which have made The Sunday Times Top 10 bestseller list in another genre.


A director of London’s past Crime Scene festival, Maxim was also the co-chair of the Nottingham Bouchercon and is a regular broadcaster on matters literary on TV and radio, and a frequent participant in crime festivals around the world. He was for 12 years the Guardian's crime reviewer.


The CWA was founded in 1953 by the prolific crime writer John Creasey. Its aim is to support, promote and celebrate the genre and its authors. It runs the prestigious annual CWA Dagger Awards, which celebrate the best in crime writing.


A thriving, growing community with a membership encompassing authors of all ages and at all stages of their careers, the CWA is UK-based, yet attracts many members from overseas. It also supports libraries and booksellers, with two Library Champions and a Booksellers Champion, and has links with various festivals and many other writers’ organisations such as the Society of Authors.


Maxim was voted in unanimously as Chair at the CWA’s annual general meeting this April. He was elected to its committee in 2014, and held the role of Joint Vice Chair from 2017 and Publishers Liaison Officer from 2019. He is replacing the outgoing chair, Linda Stratmann, after she served the maximum two-year term in the role.


Dea Parkin, Secretary at the CWA, said: “We are extremely grateful to Linda for her service at the CWA as Chair during especially challenging times. She has helped our organisation grow and innovate. Maxim is a true polymath of the genre, with a wealth of experience on both sides of the fence, as an author and publisher. We’re excited to welcome him as our new Chair.”


The AGM also saw two new faces join the committee. Vanessa Fox O’Loughlin joins as a board member. Vanessa writes best-selling crime novels as Sam Blake and is founder of the multi-award-winning writing resource website, and Murder One, Ireland’s international crime writing festival. She’s joined by Simon Michael, a barrister since 1978, who began writing crime fiction in the 1980s alongside a successful Legal 500 career and retired early in 2016 to resume his writing career. Simon has also established and managed a national charity.

Photo Credit: Fenris Owen

Based on A True Story by Kate Morgan

The words ‘based on true events’ always adds an extra frisson to dramas or films, especially those that involve that most notorious of crimes – murder.   While researching my book ‘Murder: The Biography’, I came across this collision of fact and fiction time and time again.  The recurring influence of these stories in dramas, books and films shows that our collective fascination with murder and murderers continued unabated.  It predates our contemporary obsession with true crime documentaries by several centuries.  In the Middle Ages, strolling minstrels composed and sang ‘moritats’ (‘murder ballads’) about infamous crimes.  These warbled morality tales were the earliest true crime documentaries, turning tales of murder into a macabre oral history, with a heavy dash of folklore to boot.

By the early years of the nineteenth century, the tradition of the murder ballad had evolved into depictions of grisly cases on the stage.  The 1817 murder of Mary Ashford in the countryside around Birmingham was a prime example.  Mary’s body was dredged from a pond early one spring morning; her assumed assailant Abraham Thornton was acquitted of her murder at trial and the case has never been officially solved.  Her death was the subject of inspired several stage plays, all of which leaned  heavily towards melodrama.  I didn’t have room to include the infamous Red Barn murder in the book, but in a similar vein, this 1827 shooting of Maria Marten in Suffolk inspired a cottage industry of novellas, plays and songs.  Like the Ashford case, the brutal killing of a young woman in a rural setting caught the public imagination and plenty of dramatic licence was used to fill in the gaps and translate the story to the stage.

Towards the end of the century, the burgeoning tabloid newspaper industry spotted the draw of crime stories and a new national obsession was born.  The Illustrated Police News was the go-to publication for true crime fans and I came across its lurid stories while researching cases from that era.  It’s coverage of the Whitechapel Murders in 1888 made it famous and the News’ depictions of Jack the Ripper’s victims are instantly recognisable even today.  The paper’s bloodthirsty coverage of the trial of Frederick Baker for the murder of eight year old Fanny Adams was a useful source on the case and a revealing insight into contemporary attitudes to murder and its depiction in the press.  In another mingling of fact and fiction, historian Peter Ackroyd quoted apocryphal coverage from the Illustrated Police News in his novel Dan Leno and the Limehouse Golem, to add period atmosphere to his story of a string of brutal murders in East London, inspired by the Ripper. 

In the twentieth century, our tastes for true crime became a little more nuanced and some controversial cases would cast long shadows, both in society and in pop culture as well.  The book looks in some detail at the 1950s murder convictions of Ruth Ellis, Derek Bentley and Timothy Evans; and there was no shortage of material, both factual and dramatic, to plough through on each of these cases.  All three were executed for murder with heavy question marks looming over their convictions.  Evans was wrongly scapegoated for murders at Rillington Place in London, which were actually the work of serial killer John Christie; Bentley was put to death for the murder of a policeman despite the fact that he had not fired the fatal shot; and Ellis hanged for the shooting of her abusive boyfriend outside a Hampstead pub.  The cases were all the subject of films – 10 Rillington Place, Let Him Have It and Dance with a Stranger respectively, each of which is a minor gem of British filmmaking.  The contentious executions at the heart of each case meant that hangman Albert Pierrepoint made a cameo appearance in all three of the stories, and I read plenty about the amiable executioner, who ran a pub when he wasn’t presiding over executions.  He finally got his own biopic in 2005, when he was played by Timothy Spall in the film Pierrepoint

With her platinum blonde hair and a Smith & Wesson clutched in her manicured hand, Ellis herself could have sprung from the pages of a noir fiction novel.  Indeed, her case caught the attention of American novelist Raymond Chandler, creator of private eye Philip Marlowe, who was in London at the time of her trial.  He was sufficiently moved by the death sentence to write to the London Evening Standard to protest at the savagery of the English courts in hanging a woman. 

With a topic as big as murder, it’s impossible to fit in every case I came across, even some of the really juicy ones.  With regret, I had to bypass the cautionary tale of Edith Thompson and Frederick Bywaters, the lovers who were both executed for murder in 1923, after Bywaters had fatally stabbed Thompson’s husband.  I’d already decided to use the sad story of Derek Bentley to cover the tricky issue of joint enterprise posed by the case.  But the glamorous Thompson and her lodger turned lover Bywaters have inspired a wealth of crime fiction – Agatha Christie alluded to the case in a couple of books and Dorothy L. Sayers’ novel The Documents in the Case draws heavily on the murder.  More recently, the influence of the story can be seen in Sarah Waters’ The Paying Guests.

My book is very much rooted in the factual, exploring the history of the law of homicide and the real-life cases that have shaped it down the centuries.  But I found that these fictionalised accounts can tell their own stories about infamous murders and more widely, about our obsession with crime in all its forms.  After all, the scariest stories are always the ones that are true. 

Murder: The Biography by Kate Morgan (Harper Collins) Out Now

Murder: The Biography is a gruesome and utterly captivating portrait of the legal history of murder.  The stories and the people involved in the history of murder are stranger, darker and more compulsive than any crime fiction.  There's Richard Parker, the cannibalized cabin boy whose death at the hands of his hungry crewmates led the Victorian courts to decisively outlaw a defence of necessity to murder. Dr Percy Bateman, the incompetent GP whose violent disregard for his patient changed the law on manslaughter. Ruth Ellis, the last woman hanged in England in the 1950s, played a crucial role in changes to the law around provocation in murder cases. And Archibald Kinloch, the deranged Scottish aristocrat whose fratricidal frenzy paved the way for the defence of diminished responsibility. These, and many more, are the people - victims, killers, lawyers and judges, who unwittingly shaped the history of that most grisly and storied of laws.


Wednesday 28 April 2021

Before the Ruins by Victoria Gosling - reviewed by Gwen Moffat


Serpent’s Tail. £12.99. Published June 06 2021

This story is skewed from the start. It’s a confusion of the prosaic and the odd, at times even suggesting a fantasy as told by Andy: a woman who hears images. Intelligent and inquisitive, she is burdened with a distressing legacy of abuse, and the current task of caring for her violent and alcoholic mother. 

But Andy is a survivor and she has close friends. Four of them break into an unoccupied manor to smoke and drink and play childish games. Hackles rise when one realises that these children are eighteen and over: tinder waiting for a spark.

It arrives in the person of David, supposedly a friend of the manor’s owners: a school drop-out and petty criminal; clever and seductive, he is the catalyst that one way or another forces the four friends to grow up.

David has a story of fabulous diamonds stolen in the manor’s heyday, the thief tracked down but dying of a heart attack before revealing where he had cached his haul. The gems were never found and must be hidden somewhere in the grounds. David proposes they buy an imitation necklace and play a game of hiding and finding it, the motivation being that during an otherwise pointless exercise the real diamonds will be discovered. One is asked to suspend disbelief that intelligent young men and women should agree to an infantile game of Hunt the Thimble in pursuit of treasure that may be no more than the idle invention of a rogue.

Much of the first half of this story is repetitive and nebulous; you don’t know where you are in time and space and you don’t much care. Things start to jell and turn nasty as shadows are identified and innuendos fleshed out. The grim secret in Andy’s childhood is exposed but neatly balanced by the kindness of Uncle Darren – qualified by the suspicion that even cosy Uncle Darren may have a hidden agenda.

This is a novel imbued with sex but it’s cerebral rather than graphic: nothing to scare the horses. The friends mature: Em has a secret affair with Marcus but Marcus endures a loveless marriage with Andy who has a sudden flare of lust for David while all the time she has adored Peter who is gay and himself obsessed with David.

Such convoluted relationships form the bulk of the book, eventually enlivened with one mysterious death and a murder that is precise and curiously ingenuous. Yet none of this seems to relate to the stated theme of the novel which opens with the disappearance of Peter and his return without fanfare before the end.

Here we have five people: initially bonded, then separating, to coalesce eventually: their several journeys recorded by one of their number in a highly subjective narrative that’s further distorted by her imagination. Symbolism is all so it’s a nice touch that resolution should be achieved in a secret cavern where prehistoric man recorded his own prowess in hunting magnificent aurochs across the limestone walls. 

VICTORIA GOSLING is the founder of The Reader Berlin and The Berlin Writing Prize. Her debut novel is BEFORE THE RUINS. Alongside directing The Reader’s day-to-day activities, Victoria works as a freelance editor, writer and consultant and is a former contributing editor of Berlin Stories for NPR. Offering manuscript assessments, mentoring, expert feedback and guidance, she has worked with hundreds of writers and consulted on a wide range of publications currently available in print and online.

Gwen Moffat is a British mountaineer and writer, whose novels are set in remote communities ranging from the Hebrides to the American West. 

Tuesday 27 April 2021

Books to Look Forward to From Pan Macmillan

July 2021

The Killling Tide is by Lin Anderson. After a fierce storm hits Scotland, a mysterious cargo ship is swept ashore in the Orkney Isles. Boarding the vessel uncovers three bodies, recently deceased and in violent circumstances. Forensic scientist Dr Rhona MacLeod's study of the crime scene suggests that a sinister game was being played on board, but who were the hunters? And who the hunted? Meanwhile in Glasgow DS Michael McNab is called to a horrific incident where a young woman has been set on fire. Or did she spark the flames herself? As evidence arises that connects the two cases, the team grow increasingly concerned that the truth of what happened on the ship and in Glasgow hints at a wider conspiracy that stretches down to London and beyond to a global stage. Orcadian Ava Clouston, renowned investigative journalist, believes so and sets out to prove it, putting herself in grave danger. When the Met Police challenge Police Scotland's jurisdiction, it becomes obvious that there are ruthless individuals who are willing to do whatever it takes to protect government interests. Which could lead to even more deaths on Scottish soil . . .

A daring escape from a Cairo prison. An assassin who kills with a single touch. A vicious drug war on the streets of America. Suspecting these events are related, ex-MI6 officer Scott Pearce uncovers a chilling plot to unleash a terrifying new toxin on an unsuspecting world. When Pearce's team deploy to fight the menace on two fronts an undercover operation goes horribly wrong, leaving Pearce in a race against time to stop this deadly new threat. Pearce has burned the espionage rulebook, but now he is about to find out he's not the only one who can light a fire, and his enemies are determined to see the world burn . . . Red Wolves is by Adam Hamdy.

August 2021

Brian Murphy and his family are enjoying a relaxing summer vacation when his wife, Emma, comes down with mild flu-like symptoms. Their leisurely return home to New York City quickly turns into a race to the ER when her condition dramatically deteriorates. At the hospital, she is diagnosed with Eastern Equine Encephalitis, a rare and highly lethal mosquito-borne viral disease caught during one of their evening cookouts. Worse still, Brian and Emma's young daughter exhibits alarming signs of the same illness. An already harrowing hospital stay turns even more fraught when Brian receives a staggering hospital bill that his insurer refuses to pay out on, citing dubious clauses in his policy. Forced to choose between the health of his family and bills he can't afford, and furious at both an indifferent healthcare system and the lack of public awareness about a virus that poses a growing threat, Brian vows to seek justice.As he uncovers the dark side of a historically ruthless industry that preys on the sick and defenceless, it becomes clear he must take his revenge against those responsible by whatever means necessary Viral is by Robin Cook.

The Guilt Trip is by Sandie Jones. They went away as friends. They came back as suspects . . .Jack and Rachel. Noah and Paige. Will and Ali. Five friends who've known each other for years. And Ali, Will's new fiancee. To celebrate the forthcoming wedding, all three couples are having a weekend get-away together in Portugal. It's a chance to relax and get to know Ali a little better perhaps. A newcomer to their group, she seems perfectly nice and Will seems happy after years of bad choices. But Ali is hiding more than one secret . . . By the end of the weekend there'll be one dead body and five people with guilty consciences wondering if they really know each other so well after all. Because one of them has to be the killer . . .

September 2021

The Heron's Cry is by Ann Cleeves. North Devon is enjoying a rare hot summer with tourists flocking to its coastline. Detective Matthew Venn is called out to a rural crime scene at the home of a group of artists. What he finds is an elaborately staged murder - Dr Nigel Yeo has been fatally stabbed. His daughter Eve is a glassblower, and the murder weapon is a shard of one of her broken vases. Dr Yeo seems an unlikely murder victim. He's a good man, a public servant, beloved by his daughter. Matthew is unnerved though to find that she is a close friend of Jonathan, his husband. Then another body is found - killed in a similar way. Matthew finds himself treading carefully through the lies that fester at the heart of his community and a case that is dangerously close to home …

The Vacation is by John Marrs. How far would you run to escape your past? Venice Beach, Los Angeles. A paradise on earth. Tourists flock to the golden coast and the promise of Hollywood. But for eight strangers at a beach front hostel, there is far more on their mind than an extended vacation. All of them are running from something. And they all have secrets they'd kill to keep...

October 2021

State of Terror follows a novice Secretary of State who has joined the administration of her rival, a president inaugurated after four years of American leadership that shrank from the world stage. A series of terrorist attacks throws the global order into disarray, and the secretary is tasked with assembling a team to unravel the deadly conspiracy, a scheme carefully designed to take advantage of an American government dangerously out of touch and out of power in the places where it counts the most. This high-stakes thriller of international intrigue features behind-the-scenes global drama informed by details only an insider could know. State of Terror is by Hilary Rodham Clinton and Louise Penny.

'Contrary to what you think, I'm carrying out this investigation as best I can. But let's do this: if I get stuck, if I find I can't go forward or back, then I'll let you know, and you can step in. And offer me a way out. You've gained a bit of detective work through me, haven't you? What do you say?' I'm game,' said the Author . . . When Inspector Montalbano receives an early-morning phone call it proves to be the start of a very trying day. For the caller expects Montalbano to arrive imminently at a rendezvous with some friends. But before he can reply the caller announces himself as someone called Riccardino and hangs up. Later that day news comes in of a brutal slaying in broad daylight by an unknown assassin who makes his getaway on a motorbike. And when the Inspector learns of the victim's identity - a man called Riccardino - his troubles are only just beginning. For soon he must contend with the involvement of a local bishop and a fortune teller who reports some strange goings-on in her neighbourhood. All roads soon lead to a local salt mine but the case proves stubbornly intractable until Montalbano receives another unexpected call . . . Riccardino is by Andrea Camilleri.

The Lonely Ones is by Håkan Nesser. A trip behind the Iron Curtain would change their lives forever . . . It begins in 1969. Six young people arrive in Uppsala. Different circumstances push the three young couples together and, over the course of a few years, they become friends. But a summer trip through Eastern Europe changes everything, and when their time at Uppsala University is over it also signals the end of something else. Years later, a lecturer at Lund University is found dead at the bottom of a cliff in the woods close to Kymlinge. And chillingly, it is the very same spot where one of the Uppsala students died thirty-five years before. Detective Inspector Gunnar Barbarotti takes on this ominous case of history repeating itself, and is forced to confront an increasingly grave reality.

November 2021

Sunset Swing is by Ray Celestin. Los Angeles. Christmas, 1967. A young nurse, Kerry Gaudet, travels to the City of Angels desperate to find her missing brother, fearing that something terrible has happened to him: a serial killer is terrorising the city, picking victims at random, and Kerry has precious few leads. Ida Young, recently retired Private Investigator, is dragged into helping the police when a young woman is discovered murdered in her motel room. Ida has never met the victim but her name has been found at the crime scene and the LAPD wants to know why . . . Meanwhile mob fixer Dante Sanfelipe has put his life savings into purchasing a winery in Napa Valley but first he must do one final favour for the Mob before leaving town: find a bail jumper before the bond money falls due, and time is fast running out. Ida's friend, Louis Armstrong, flies into the city just as her investigations uncover mysterious clues to the killer's identity. And Dante must tread a dangerous path to pay his dues, a path which will throw him headlong into a terrifying government conspiracy and a secret that the conspirators will do anything to protect . . .

The Adventures of Arsène Lupin, Gentleman-Thief is by Maurice Leblanc. The inspiration for the hit Netflix show, LUPIN, Arsène Lupin is charming, clever and bold. A master of disguise, he steals from the rich, he always outsmarts the police and he’s generous to those in need. And above all, he never takes himself too seriously. This gallic Robin Hood has charmed readers for generations and the stories about his dazzling escapades have been adapted countless times for television, stage and film. Part of the Macmillan Collector’s Library; a series of stunning, clothbound, pocket-sized classics with gold foiled edges and ribbon markers. These beautiful books make perfect gifts or a treat for any book lover. This edition of The Adventures of Arsène Lupin, Gentleman-Thief uses the classic English translation by Alexander Teixeira de Mattos with an introduction by Emma Bielecki. In the opening stories, Lupin is arrested, only to engineer his own incredible escape. What follows are wonderfully entertaining and action packed stories that finish with a brief encounter with none other than Sherlock Holmes. These stories were first published together in 1907. 

Also published in November is Never by Ken Follett and Mercy by David Baldacci

Monday 26 April 2021

SARAH ARMSTRONG on The Language of Spies

Sarah Armstrong is the author of four novels, most recently The Wolves of Leninsky Prospekt and The Starlings of Bucharest. She is also the author of A Summer of Spying, a short non fiction work about her experience of jury service during the Covid-19 pandemic, authority, truth, and the surveillance we are all exposed to.


There are some jobs which just seem to suggest spying. Among the most obvious is any position in a foreign embassy, and this is the association I drew on in my first Moscow Wolves novel, The Wolves of Leninsky Prospekt. My protagonist, Martha, has entered into a marriage of convenience with a diplomat working at the British Embassy in Moscow. Martha doesnt work both because she doesnt need to and because wives were not encouraged to. From a writing perspective, this freed her up to explore Moscow at her leisure, and allowed me to explore it too. Martha is never quite sure whether her husband, or any of his colleagues, are more than diplomats. What Martha never doubts is that at least one of them must be a spy.


This is an assumption which, like most speculation about spies, has been fed by novels and films. Autobiographies published by agents who have defected confirm that it isn’t a lazy stereotype, it is indeed based on fact. And yet, when it comes to the world of spies, as Mick Herron has exploited in his Slough House series, no one can disprove the facts you make up about spies. The world of spying is a closed one, and that allows writers all kinds of latitude.


For the sequel to The Wolves of Leninsky Prospekt, I wanted to explore different types of work that might fit into the world of espionage. One of the first things I do when starting a new novel is to look up what happened in the year and place I’ve chosen. In 1975 Moscow was host to the Soviet International Film Festival. In The Starlings of Bucharest, I decided that my protagonist, Ted, would be an accidental film critic with aspirations to become a news reporter. A job as a reporter would be a useful cover for a spy but it felt a little too obvious, so I resisted giving Ted this job. Instead, the idea of Ted making a temporary visit to Moscow was a better solution as it provided a way to experience the city which contrasted directly with the months that Martha lived in her flat in the first novel. While researching the range of film festivals across Eastern Europe, it also struck me that being a film critic had huge potential for covert meetings and socialising with people from suspect places in a way which would often be difficult to observe. 


The film festivals of the 1970s were highly organised international affairs showing films from dozens of countries in dozens of languages. This meant that translators became a crucial part of the festivals too, and I found some fascinating pieces written by Elena Razlogova which discuss the simultaneous translations which enabled the Moscow International Film Festival, and other international festivals and film tours, to take place. Four of the translators that Razlogova discusses are her relatives, and this gives her discussion of live film translation some fabulous and telling details - often the film had not been seen before, let alone a script provided. The skills of great film translators were widely celebrated, but I was most interested in the power they held. Any translator sitting between two people who don’t share a language has the power to bend the conversation in any direction they like. And if one of the people does, in fact, understand what is being said by the other, the transfer of power becomes even more interesting.


In The Wolves of Leninsky Prospekt, I introduced the idea of layers of communication, of someone secretly trying to communicate messages through the medium of fairy tales. The idea of hidden meanings within words is something which fascinates me. In The Starlings of Bucharest, the same power and influence comes from the ability to speak more than one language. In spy novels there are many ways to listen into conversations, with tapped phones and bugs in lampshades, but no one can spot and remove language skills. As superpowers go, it’s a pretty easy one to access, but one which many of use never bother to acquire. At least, that’s what we tell people. 

The Starlings of BucharestPublisher: Sandstone Press LtdPublication Date: 22/04/2021

Gianrico Carofiglio in conversation with Sheldon Zenner


Gianrico Carofiglio in conversation with Sheldon Zenner, a former federal prosecutor and a defense attorney in the United States. They will discuss Carofiglio's new novel as well as his career path from anti-Mafia prosecutor to full-time writer.

Join them for a stimulating and lively conversation as they cross the globe – Gianrico Carofiglio will join us from Italy and Sheldon Zenner from Chicago – to discuss The Measure of Time, Carofiglio's inspiration and writing life, and an inside look at the intricacies of the Italian justice system from two brilliant legal minds.

it’s going to be hosted virtually in NYC but UK residents can watch it here in the UK from 6pm onwards on 6th May. It’s being co-hosted by the Italia Cultural Institutes on both sides of the pond.

The event is free by registration is required through this link.

The Measure of Time, translated by Howard Curtis, is the latest book in Carfofiglio's Guido Guerrieri crime series (just published in spring 2021 by Bitter Lemon Press).

One spring afternoon, defence attorney Guerrieri is confronted with an unexpected spectre from his past. In her youth, Lorenza had been a beautiful and unpredictable girl with dazzling charm. A changed woman faces him in his office that day. The ensuing years have ravaged her appearance and embittered her mind. As if that weren't enough, her son Jacopo, a small-time delinquent, stands convicted of the first-degree murder of a local drug dealer. Her trial lawyer has died, so, for the appeal, she turns to Guerrieri as her last hope. Guido is not convinced of the innocence of Lorenza's son, nor does he have fond memories of the way their relationship ended two decades earlier. Nevertheless, he accepts the case; perhaps to pay a melancholy homage to the ghosts of his youth. His old friend Carmelo Tancredi, a retired police inspector, and his girlfriend, the charming investigator Annapaola Doria are once again by his side. A masterful, compassionate novel, striking a balance between a straightforward trial story -some say the purest distillation of human experience - and the sad notes of time as it passes and exhausts itself.

The Starlings of Bucharest by Sarah Armstrong - Reviewed by Adam Colclough


The Starlings of Bucharest

Sarah Armstrong

Sandstone Press, Pbk £8.99  April 22, 2021

Ted Walker a working-class young man with aspirations to be a journalist moves to London from the provinces in the mid-seventies. Down on his luck he takes a job with reviewing films for a magazine that seems forever one issue away from going under. Sent to Romania and then Moscow to cover the film festivals Walker finds himself immersed in the looking glass world of the Cold War. As a useful innocent both sides have plans to use him as a piece in a game he barely understands.


This is one of the most intelligent espionage novels I have read in the past couple of years. For once the comparisons Armstrong has drawn with le Carre is more than just reviewer’s hyperbole.


Like the master of the genre, she presents the spaying game as being anything but glamorous. There are no battles with super villains bent on world domination here, just a lot of grubby tail chasing that might produce a small advantage; then again it might just as well not.


Armstrong gives her central character a voice that is by turns touchingly naïve and strikingly observant of the action playing out around him. This is convincingly a story told by a young man just waking up to his capacity to make sense of what might be going on behind the surface of life.


She also describes the grimy and angst-ridden London of the seventies with an accuracy that means you can almost smell the Britain in decay. Her portrayal of life behind the Iron Curtain is equally grim, showing us a society in which revolutionary fervour of revolution has fossilized into inept bureaucracy. The reports written on Walker and his activities by the various agencies watching him are masterpieces of paranoid assumption that are both comical and alarming.


Anyone who thinks the Cold War spy novel sank without trace years ago weighed down by its own cliches should read the work of Sarah Armstrong and change their mind.

Sarah Armstrong is the author of four novels, most recently The Wolves of Leninsky Prospekt and The Starlings of Bucharest. She is also the author of A Summer of Spying, a short non fiction work about her experience of jury service during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Adam Colclough lives and works in the West Midlands, he writes regularly for a number of websites, one day he will get round to writing a book for someone else to review. 

Irons in Different Fires by Solveig Pálsdóttir.


Some writers can have irons in a variety of fires at the same time. I’m not one of those. Having finished a book, I always need time to distance myself from it, to let go of it, get it out of my system. I’ve also noticed that I make use of the time between putting the finishing touches to the manuscript and the book appearing to explore other things. At first this was an unconscious process, but now I’ve come to understand how important this is.

I travel around my own country and spending time with nature is always uplifting. Sometimes I involve myself in activities that demand being out and about, meeting a lot of people, such as organising cultural events, teaching or artistic activities. This is refreshing, as writing is a solitary activity.

A new book usually appears in October and time goes into interviews here and there, events and readings. Books published towards the end of the year become part of the ‘Christmas Book Flood’, as the majority of books published in Iceland appear between January and December, so that’s Iceland’s book season. Many people give books as presents, and Icelanders frequently discuss the newest books during those three months.

Book publishing and all kinds of related events are an integral part of getting ready for Christmas in Iceland. So authors tend to be busy people in the weeks leading up to Christmas, rushing from one place to the next with armfuls of books. It’s demanding, but also a lot of fun, and I always enjoy meeting readers and other authors. It’s also interesting to see and hear which incidents or passages in each book hold the reader’s attention, as often the author isn’t aware of this.

Everything to do with the Christmas Book Flood means that you don’t catch your breath properly until January, and it’s not until then that I can distance myself properly from the last book. I need some peace and quiet to start work on something new, and all those distractions at the start of a new story don’t sit well with me.

I have gradually come to realise that my refreshment time – between delivering the finished manuscript and publication – is the time when the seeds are sown for new ideas. It stews gently in my unconscious and when things calm down in January is the time to start watering those seeds in the hope of a harvest.

There are many things that provide me with inspiration. Here are a few, and not necessarily in any order of priority.

Let’s start with Iceland’s nature and society. For the last fourteen years I’ve spent around six weeks a year travelling around the country, both the uninhabited areas and the communities around the country. These travels have given me a huge amount of inspiration. I make a definite effort to get to know the places I write about, and to get to know the people living there.

People are important. As an author (and formerly as an actor and teacher) I find it vital to get to know all kinds of people, with different backgrounds, with varying opinions, and of all ages. I make efforts to listen to their stories and understand their attitudes, and to try to understand where those opinions and attitudes come from. New experiences get the imagination working.

All kinds of art and culture inspire me. I often go to the theatre, and to concerts, and enjoy all kinds of art.

Social issues are fascinating. I can’t just start writing with no starting point. The story has to have its roots in some undercurrent in society. But don’t get me wrong... I’m not here too stuff any opinions down the reader’s throat. I’d never do that – I loathe propaganda! But I like to give readers food for thought, assuming they are open to it. If not, then there’s nothing wrong with enjoying the story as a straightforward mystery.

Tranquillity is something I need to have when I start a new book. I try to minimise distractions, but make sure I find time to walk and swim. Despite the turbulence of the last few months due to Covid, I’m getting to the point of being able to focus 100% on the next book...

Silenced by Solveig Pálsdóttir (Published by Corylus Books Ltd)

As a police team is called in to investigate a woman’s suicide at the Hólmsheiði prison outside Reykjavík, to detective Guðgeir Fransson it looks like a tragic but straightforward case. It’s only afterwards that the pieces begin to fall into place and he takes a deeper interest in Kristín Kjarr’s troubled background, and why she had found herself in prison. His search leads him to a series of brutal crimes committed twenty years before and the unexplained disappearance of the prime suspect, whose wealthy family closed ranks as every effort was made to keep skeletons securely hidden in closets – while the Reykjavík police struggle to deal with a spate of fresh attacks that bear all the hallmarks of a copycat.

Sunday 25 April 2021

Yellow Brick Road by Jenna Kernan


Why would anyone pack a brick in their carry-on? 

In chapter one of The Hunted Girls, my forensic psychologist deplanes with her carry-on made heavier by the brick tucked inside. Forensic psychologist Nadine Finch earned this odd item by completing a very special challenge at the FBI National Academy. This isn’t just a brick, covered in yellow paint, its precious cargo presented only to trainees who complete a unique fitness challenge.

Have you heard of the Yellow Brick Road? 

I’m not referring to the one from the movie, but the one in Quantico, Virginia. After completion of their FBI training at the national academy, each graduating class gathers at the start of the grueling 6.1-mile obstacle course, fondly referred to as the Yellow Brick Road. This is a brutal course, attempting it is optional, and completion is a mark of honor. Since this is a virtual race, you can run, jog (or walk) from any location you chose.

Why is the course called The Yellow Brick Road?

Initially, US Marines built the obstacle course in a hilly forested area on the grounds of the training facility. The yellow bricks served a practical purpose. The bright color helped marked the trail and kept runners from veering off course in the dark, muddy and sometimes gloomy woodland trail. Inadvertently, these bricks gave the famously tough course its moniker. The Yellow Brick Road was born.

Sometime later, a yellow brick became the trophy that marked its completion. This is not a fancy gold-colored brick or a representation of a brick. It is an actual brick, painted bright yellow and presented to each graduate who completes the run. Written in black, on the surface of the repurposed building block, are the words YELLOW BRICK ROAD FBINA and the graduating class number. For example:


What exactly is on that obstacle course?

There are YouTube videos showing the event. This strenuous run crisscrosses over uneven ground. Runners climb large rocks, scramble up steep inclines and down daunting declines. Along the way runners scale climbing walls, ascend rock faces, clamber over cargo nets, dash through streams and crawl under barbed wire.

Want to try your own YBR?

This year there is a virtual run sponsored by the FBIAA Charitable Foundation. This gives all of us a chance to get out and get moving. You can register at The fundraiser helps support law enforcement professionals. Just complete the challenge anytime between April 1 and July 18, 2021. The entrance fee is $50 and includes a T-shirt, bib and race metal. Not a runner? Support this charity by buying merch.

Nadine and her yellow brick.

So you see why my protagonist, Nadine Finch, having completed the Yellow Brick Road, returns home with her prize in her carry-on because this article is too precious to check. She is eager to show this mark of her achievement to her partner, Homicide Detective Clint Demko and her friends, but upon arrival, she receives her first assignment and must leave before unpacking. Throughout the story, Nadine is so busy with the investigation, she never has a chance to unpack her roller bag or to show her friends her precious yellow brick. Instead, she moves several times, dragging the suitcase containing the brick around with her. Having Nadine lug this brick from place to place just tickled me. That yellow brick serves as a running gag for me and the reader and toting it about acts as an obstacle course of its own, so that when she finally unpacks that brick, we all breathe a sigh of relief.

I suppose anyone strong enough to complete the Yellow Brick Road would find transporting a brick in a roller bag to be no challenge at all!

The Hunted Girls by Jenna Kernan (Published by Bookouture) Out Now

Stumbling through the pitch-black forest, twigs scratching her bare feet, she sobs as she imagines her children crying for their mommy to put them to bed. By now everyone will know she is missing. Please, please let me find the way home. Before he comes back. As Agent Nadine Finch rushes to investigate the murder of newlywed Nikki Darnell in Ocala National Forest, Florida, fear floods her body. She swore she’d never set foot here again, not since the case fifteen years ago which tore her life apart. But taking in the triangular cuts scarring Nikki’s perfect pale skin, she knows she must put her own traumatic past aside to find justice for Nikki’s inconsolable husband.  Discovering water in Nikki’s lungs, and certain the triangular wounds were made by arrowheads, Nadine must convince her team of her terrifying theory: that Nikki was hunted down and drowned before being left for them to find. But what monster would do such a thing? And why? Then another woman, a mother of two, is discovered in the woods, tell-tale arrow marks all over her body. Recognizing the victim as a local waitress, Nadine fears the killer has started attacking women known to her. And the moment she traces the arrow heads to a nearby outdoors store, her own partner disappears. Frantic, Nadine follows the trail to a lonely cabin deep in the Florida wetlands where she finally learns the heart-stopping truth. To save one of her own, she must confront a deadly hunter obsessed with the case that’s haunted her whole career. Will Nadine have to make the ultimate sacrifice to stop him taking more innocent lives?

More information about Jenna Kernan and her books can be found on her website. You can also follow her on Twitter @JennaKernan

Saturday 24 April 2021

Murder at Monk's Barn (and more) by Cecil Waye - Reviewed by L.J. Hurst


Dean Street Press, Feb 01, 2021 pbk £10.99 / eBook £1.89


Perhaps you remember the excitement of a few years ago when we learned, via Geoff Bradley’s magazine CADS: Crime and Detective Stories, that more gold had been discovered in the hinterland of crime fiction. We learned that John Rhode, who also wrote as Miles Burton, had for three years and four titles had a third identity. He had been Cecil Waye (his real name was Cecil Street, hence ‘Rhode’ and ‘Waye’, and had lived near a village named Bruton which in an act of metathesis became ‘Burton’). There was only one problem: Cecil Waye’s titles were so rare as to be impossible to find. We despaired. Thanks now to Dean Street Press we need despair no longer: all four books are in print, each using an introduction by Tony Medawar.

Rhode had his series characters (police officers Hanslet and Waghorn and brain Dr Priestley), as did Burton (Inspector Arnold and gentleman detective Desmond Merrion). Cecil Waye varied his approach slightly, his books revolve around Perrins’s detective agency, run by brother and sister Christopher and Vivienne Perrins. DSP label the covers ‘A “Perrins” Private Investigations Mystery’ and number the books 1 to 4, which is useful, for while each book in this series can be read alone the presence of Christopher and Vivienne or their absence, or their abode, is explained as the books progress. 

Vivienne is the prominent detective in Murder at Monk’s Barn, as a local industrialist calls in the agency when the local police suspect that he murdered his brother. This book is also the one most like John Rhode’s other detective stories in the complexity of the murder (the first victim is shot through a curtained window apparently from a vantage point in the air; a later victim is poisoned), though neither Rhode nor Burton tended to emphasise marital difficulties and problems of obtaining grounds for divorce as we find here. It is Vivienne, too, who explains ultimately the elaborate machinations required for the placing of the weapon, though coolly or cruelly it is to the murderer that she reveals how the crime was committed, which should give them the chance to take the easy way out. Unfortunately, again, that is not what happens.

Closing events mean that Vivienne is absent from the second book in the series, The Figure of Eight (ISBN13: 9781913527853). Again this begins with a mysterious death (a bus passenger who has been thought to be asleep for too long) but develops into more of a thriller based around rival struggles in London of the diplomats and their agents of two South American countries. This, though, is far above the standard thriller of the inter-war years and progresses through detection. Three dead men in an upstairs office when only one of them was seen to go in and no one was seen emerging is the nexus of the puzzle. Waye introduces here what will become an element in the later books: never trust the driver of a hire car or taxi.

The End of the Chase (ISBN13: 9781913527877, Perrins number three) in distinction to The Figure of Eight, which had foreign battles in London, moves across Europe as Christopher Perrin first helps nab a crook in Belgium, then must travel to Vienna and Budapest. Tony Medawar’s Introduction provides some help here: Cecil Street had been in military intelligence and then in the 1920s had written about the politics of a number of European countries. His familiarity with these places – he adds little just for the sake of local colour – helps to make the gathering of international crooks and their stooges from them more believable. The most interesting point about this is that the crooks—in a smaller scale version of Goldfinger’s plan to rob the international gold reserves – intend to make use of a German Weimar (this was published in 1932, remember) scheme to merge with Austria (years before the Nazi Anschluss) and so to play havoc with the international banking system, which in turn would lead to war. A character with multiple identities and a love interest too close to the villains all help to confuse the issue. Is there a problematic car drive? At least Christopher Perrins gets a bash on the noggin when he has his car bonnet lid up.

The Prime Minister’s Pencil (ISBN13: 9781913257891) was the last of Cecil Waye’s books, and takes us back to the John Rhode style. This is the Golden Age: the daughter of a wealthy man comes to the Perrins Agency wanting them to look for her father’s secretary. The man has disappeared and the father is not particularly worried. In other books of the period this secretary would be a young man of good background but limited means with whom the young lady was in love. Not here. Here the lady wants the secretary found because her father will not pay her bills and the secretary is the only man who can get money out of him on her behalf. It might be nice if the secretary were to return to the family mansion. In fact he does. But he is dead and his body is found in a pavilion in the grounds. It takes some time before it is discovered that he died of an acute tropical disease.

Becoming curious about the father, Sir Ethelred (a parvenu businessman who is trying to become a major figure in his political party), Christopher starts to track the secretary’s movements in his last days only to find that one of his informants is soon pulled from the Thames, dead. Then the worst happens – except that it is not the worse because Christopher goes along with the police investigation – the Prime Minister is killed in a blast that knocks out his assistant. Everything revolves around the pencils that the Prime Minister and his circle prefer to use – soon we are in a world of ‘H’s and ‘B’s, of round and hexagonal barrels, and where those pencils were obtained and where sharpened and with what.

Dodgy cars and drivers appear, as well as faked escaped attempts, but the master plan is likely to end in tears because the villains use their own properties – even if they are country properties – for their villainous ends and nidos commaculans inmundus habebitur ales (it’s an ill bird that fouls its own nest) as the old saw has it. The secret of the exploding pencil is explained, too, though that requires a suspension of disbelief to accept it, yet the motive for the murder has almost exactly re-occurred in 2021 (financial benefit in government legislation), even while the politics (which supposes two party politics) is another invention (the ‘National’ government of Stanley Baldwin in the 1930s had a tiny opposition, hence power similar or greater to today’s majority party). That the girl who started it is left in the hands of the money-lenders who will strip her of everything seems to be taken for granted. Christopher Perrins ends the series as cynical as any hardboiled detective in Chicago or LA.

Why Cecil Street abandoned the Perrins and their adventures is difficult to say: he managed to use two bright young things in murders as clever as anything he devised elsewhere. Equally, given that the discovery of Cecil Waye provoked such interest it is surprising the re-issue of the four books by Dean Street Press has not provoked more notice. Here they are. Take them all. They are good.