Monday 29 November 2021

December Books from Bookouture


The Girl in the Ground is by Stacy Green. She was beautiful: shiny blond hair, crystal blue eyes and the widest smile Nikki had ever seen. She thought back to what she had seen in the ground, the dirt that caked the white bones. All that remained of her now was the silver locket that was still around her neck… When construction workers unearth a girl’s skeleton in Stillwater, Minnesota, Special Agent Nikki Hunt is called to the scene by her boyfriend Rory. Nikki knows instantly that the girl was murdered, but she is shocked when Rory immediately recognizes her. The victim was his childhood sweetheart, Becky, and he was the last person to see her before she went missing twenty-four years ago. With the love of her life now a potential suspect, Nikki is forced to take a step back from the case. But then her colleague Liam finds lies in Rory’s statement – it appears that Becky may have been carrying Rory’s child when she was killed. Despite this, Nikki still thinks he could be innocent, and knows she must find the real killer herself if Rory stands any chance of walking free. When Nikki finds a potential link to two pregnant girls who were found murdered years before it’s clear that this is the most twisted killer that she has ever faced. And then another girl goes missing from Stillwater. Can Nikki unearth the truth and protect the man she loves? And will she find the missing girl in time to save her life?

Looking down at the familiar, pale and lifeless face floating in the salty waters of the marsh, her blood freezes. It’s a face she hasn’t seen for years, but used to know so well… When Detective Casey White is called to a murder scene in the Outer Banks saltmarshes, she’s devastated to find the strangled body of her ex-husband—father of her missing daughter Hannah. And nearby, an older, unidentifiable body is buried too… but how are these bones linked to her ex? Painful memories flood back as Casey desperately searches his apartment, surrounded by photos of them happy with their little girl. Finding a notepad with the name of the hospital where Hannah was last seen scrawled on it, Casey realizes her ex recently discovered something about their child’s disappearance. But who was trying to silence him? Then forensics show the bones belong to a sweet young nurse who worked at the same hospital. Delving into hospital records, Casey is shocked to learn she once held Hannah as a little baby… Her boss insists she can’t work such a personal investigation, but Casey is in too deep. Interviewing all the staff at the hospital, she’s sure one of the doctors is acting suspiciously… and that night, Casey wakes up barely able to breathe as flames devour her home. Now she’s in the killer’s sights. To finally catch this twisted monster and learn what happened to her stolen girl, Casey will have to risk everything… The Memory Bones is by B R Spangler.

I'll Never Tell is by Casey Kelleher. When we were young, Sarah and I did a terrible thing – but it was only me who paid the price. Now, just when I thought no one from my old life would ever find me, a note is slid under my door: I haven’t forgotten. I haven’t forgiven. FOUND YOU. My best friend Sarah and I used to spend all our time in a place we called the Doll House. It was just an old, abandoned cottage in the woods behind our house but it was heaven to us. Until one of our games went wrong. And someone ended up dead. It was an accident, or at least Sarah told me it was. But when I tried to tell the police that I wasn’t involved, they didn’t believe me. When the Doll House Girls were splashed across the newspapers, it was my face they showed under the headlines. I’m the one who stood trial. Now, twenty years on, I’ve made a new life with a new identity. I have a wonderful husband, Carl,and Jacob, our adorable son. Despite everything in my past, I’m happy. Then the first note arrives. FOUND YOU. Soon other threats start coming, and the person behind them is clear they’d be willing to hurt my family – to hurt Jacob – to get to me. I know who they are. And I know what they’re capable of. The other doll… The girl who got away with murder.

Stillwater Island is by Gregg Olsen. “Mommy, I’m scared.” Marlena’s precious boy lies with his little arm thrown over her thigh. It’s pitch-black, and she can hear seagulls. She realises they must be near water, and a new panic rises in her. At 2 a.m. one icy winter morning, in the smart suburbs of Jefferson County, local father Ben Parker reports his wife Marlena and their little boy missing. Rushing to the impressive family home, Detective Megan Carpenter finds the halls adorned with pictures of the beautiful, stay-at-home mom and their bright-eyed son. But that’s not all she finds… A bottle of prenatal vitamins in the bathroom cabinet reveal that Marlena is pregnant. Why didn’t Ben mention this in his panicked call to the police? Digging deeper into their seemingly perfect marriage, Megan’s fear begins to grow. The couple are separated, there’s talk of an affair, and the neighbours report loud fights. And then, Megan tracks a young woman believed to be Ben’s secret girlfriend, only to find her lifeless body in a secluded wood. Ben’s watch lies in the undergrowth, and Megan’s team think she’s cracked the case, but she’s sure something’s not right. Ben’s family has wealth including a private island, and connections in high places. Is someone trying to block their investigation? As Megan starts to wonder if the answer lies on the Parkers’ closely guarded island, just offshore, a shocking revelation makes her question everything. With a killer on the loose, can Megan find the missing pieces to the most complex case of her career and bring Marlena and her little boy home alive? Or will it be too late to save them? 

When the star guest collapses at a wine tasting, it seems someone has a taste for murder. Fortunately, amateur sleuth Belinda Penshurst was at the event – and now she’s on the case! Belinda Penshurst loves her home village Little Challham, and its charming, peaceful ways. So when wine critic Sadie Oppenshaw dies at a tasting Belinda organised, she immediately turns detective to uncover the poisoner… Accompanied by retired detective Harry Powell and her boisterous Labrador Horatio, Belinda sets out to investigate the world of wine. There are scandals brewing everywhere… but do the local DIY enthusiasts have a deadly vendetta, or did Sadie’s reviews cause a resentful restaurant owner to crack? When another of the guests at the wine tasting is found poisoned, it becomes clear the killer is only just getting started. Can Belinda crack the case and open the champagne, before the murderer catches up with her? Murder at the Castle is by Lisa Cutts.

The Drowning Girls is by Lisa Regan.  In the thin glow of moonlight, a mess of auburn curls gleams against the rocks. Hands bound, the girl’s fragile body is limp and still. Seconds later, a wall of raging white water crashes down, swallowing her whole… A knock on the door late in the evening can only mean trouble for Detective Josie Quinn, but fear chokes her at the news that the one of her own team is missing. No one has seen Denton PD’s beautiful Press Liaison Amber for days. Sweet-natured and totally dedicated to the job, she’d never let her colleagues down. A message scrawled on the frosted windscreen of Amber’s car leads Josie to a nearby dam. But the body they pull from the water is not Amber… Josie won’t sleep until she finds a name for the innocent girl left to drown, and the meaning of the numbers scribbled in a tattered pink diary found on Amber’s desk. But when the trail leads her to a twisted truth about Amber’s family, Josie wonders if anyone really knew her at all? Her team crumbling around her, Josie must stay strong and focused to get the job done. But as prime suspects start going missing, and rumors of an argument the night Amber disappeared surface, could one of her own staff be to blame? Finding Amber alive is Josie’s only chance of knowing the truth and stopping a dangerous killer in their tracks. But as a blizzard closes in, how many more precious lives will be snatched before she can?

Kerstin is wide awake. While her family sleeps around her, the devastating secret her husband just told her is spinning through her mind. Does she really know the man she married? And are her children still safe in this small town? She jumps as she hears a sound from outside. Peering into the inky darkness, her eyes focus on movement at the bottom of the garden. Someone is out there. She watches as the figure strikes a single match. Kerstin gasps at the sight of the face staring back at her, smiling, as if enjoying her fear. A car door slams and the figure makes a dash for the trees, leaving something behind – a small memorial candle. As it flickers in the darkness, Kerstin knows exactly what it means. Someone is coming for her, and her family is in terrible danger… Her Dying Wish is by Carla Kovach.

Friday 26 November 2021

Books to Look Forward to From Bitter Lemon Press


January 2022

An elegant young Lebanese man carrying diamonds in his bag is on the train from Frankfurt to Basel, a drug mule on the return journey. At the Basel train station, Hunkeler is waiting for him after a tipoff from the German police. The courier manages to get to the station toilet and flushes the stones away. Erdogan, a young Turkish sewage worker, finds the diamonds in the pipes under the station. To him they mean wealth and the small hotel he always wanted to buy near his family village. To his older Swiss girl-friend Erika, employed at a supermarket checkout counter, the stones signify the end of their life together. She knows that Erdogan has a wife and children in Turkey. For the courier, finding the stones is a matter of life and death. His employers are on their way to "tidy things up". For Hunkeler the stones are the only way to get to the people behind the drug trade. They turn out to include not only the bottom-feeding drug gangs but bankers and politicians very high up the Basel food chain. Silver Pebbles is by Hansjörg Schneider.

March 2022

Brunet has followed on from the success of "The Summer of Reckoning" with this magnificent portrait of a woman and a mother, a beautiful and often poetic tale that is unflinching about social and personal violence. Set in Marseilles, this the story of Vanda, a beautiful woman in her thirties, arms covered in tats, dark luxuriant hair in heavy curls, skin so dark that some take her for a North African. Devoted to her six-year-old son Noe, they live in a derelict shed by the beach, a mother surrounding and defending her child like a lioness. She had wanted to be an artist; she is now a cleaner in a psychiatric hospital. But Vanda is quite happy in her shed by the water, alone with her child. "The two of them against the world", as she says. Everything changes when Simon, the father of her son, surfaces in Marseilles. He had left Vanda seven years earlier, not knowing that she was pregnant. When Simon demands custody of his son, Vanda's suppressed rage threatens to explode. The tension becomes unbearable, both parents fully capable of extreme violence. Vanda is by Marion Brunet.

May 2021

Kalmann is by Joachim B Schmidt. He is the self-appointed sheriff of Raufarho fn, a sleepy town in northern Iceland, and has everything under control. There's no need to worry. Day by day, he treks the wide plains which surround the almost deserted village, hunts Arctic foxes and lays shark bait in the sea - to process the fish into the Icelandic fermented delicacy, ha karl. But inside Kalmann's head, the wheels sometimes spin backwards. One winter, after he discovers a pool of human blood in the snow, the swiftly unfolding events threaten to overwhelm him. But with his naive wisdom and pure-hearted courage, he makes sure everything takes a turn for the better. There's no need to worry. "It can get pretty dark under a polar bear." Kalmann.

June 2022

Set in a Tokyo flat over the course of one night, Aki and Hiro spend one last night together before going their separate ways. Each believes the other to be a murderer and is determined to extract a confession before the night is over. Who has been killed and why? Which one is the killer? In an intense battle of wills over the course of a night, the true nature of the pair's relationship and the chain of events leading up to this night are gradually revealed. Fish Swimming in Dappled Sunlight is by Riku Onda.

August 2022

There are No Happy Loves is by Sergio Olguin. The third in the crime trilogy featuring fearless Buenos Aires journalist Veronica Rosenthal.

Thursday 25 November 2021

Books to Look Forward to From Pushkin Press


January 2022

Detective Kosuke Kindaichi arrives on the remote Gokumon Island bearing tragic news–the son of one of the island’s most important families has died, on a troop transport ship bringing him back home after the Second World War. But Kindaichi has not come merely as a messenger–with his last words, the dying man warned that his three step-sisters’ lives would now be in danger. The scruffy detective is determined to get to the bottom of this mysterious prophesy, and to protect the three women if he can. As Kindaichi attempts to unravel the island’s secrets, a series of gruesome murders begins. He investigates, but soon finds himself in mortal danger from both the unknown killer and the clannish locals, who resent this outsider meddling in their affairs. Gokumon Island is by Seishi Yokomizo.

All Was Lost is by Steven Maxwell. The cash is gone. The hunt is on. How far would you go for your family? Orla McCabe has found a case of money. Willing to do almost anything to give her family a better life, she flees with her husband and baby daughter - and the money. Meanwhile, detectives Lynch and Carlin are investigating a botched human trafficking deal on the isolated northern moors. They find piles of bullet-riddled bodies, but no cash. The owners of the money are on the hunt, and soon a world of brutal violence envelops Orla and the detectives. To secure her daughter's future, Orla will never stop running. It's just a matter of who she drags into the dark with her. . .

April 2022

Caleb's addict brother, Anton, has been missing for months, still angry about Caleb's part in his downfall. After almost giving up hope of finding him, Caleb receives an anonymous message alerting him to Ant's whereabouts and warning him that Ant is in danger. A man has been shot and Ant might be next. Caleb reluctantly leaves his pregnant wife's side and tracks his brother to an isolated island where Ant has been seeking treatment. There, he finds a secretive community under threat from a sniper, and a cult-like doctor with a troubling background. Caleb must hunt for the sniper to save Ant, but any misstep may ruin their faltering reconciliation, and end in death. When body parts begin to wash up on shore, it looks like the sniper is growing more desperate... Those who Perish is by Emma Viskic.

June 2022

London in Black is by Jack Lutz. London 2027, terrorists deploy a highy sophistcated nerve agent called London Black at Waterloo station – for an unfortunate section of the population, what follows is agonising physical deterioration and usually death. London 2029, Dr Lucy Stone is called to investigate the gruesome murder of the scientist who developed an antidote to the nerve agent. It is a daily boost making life bearable for the 'Vulnerable' – but isn't a cure. Lucy suspects the scientist might have been working on a permanently end the bane of London Black for herself and the other Vulnerables. But is the antitdote real or a figment of Lucy's desperation. 

Monday 22 November 2021

Books to Look Forward to From Century Press

January 2022

One Step Too Far is by Lisa Gardner. If he never left the woods , where did he go? A young man disappears during a stag weekend in the woods. Years later, he's still missing. But his friends who were with him that day are still searching for him. Still hunting for answers. They hike deep into the wilderness. With them is missing person specialist Frankie Elkin. What they don't know is that they are putting their own lives in terrifying danger, and may not come back alive . .

November 1924. The Endeavour sets sail from Southampton carrying 2,000 passengers and crew on a week-long voyage to New York. When an elderly gentleman is found dead at the foot of a staircase, ship's officer Timothy Birch is ready to declare it a tragic accident. But James Temple, a strong-minded Scotland Yard inspector, is certain there is more to this misfortune than meets the eye. Birch agrees to investigate, and the trail quickly leads to the theft of a priceless painting. Its very existence is known only to its owner . . . and the dead man. With just days remaining until they reach New York, and even Temple's purpose on board the Endeavour proving increasingly suspicious, Birch's search for the culprit is fraught with danger. And all the while, the passengers continue to roam the ship with a killer in their midst . . A Fatal Crossing is by Tom Hindle.

Sand. A hostile world of burning sun. Outlines of several once-busy cities shimmer on the horizon. Now empty of inhabitants, their buildings lie in ruins. In the distance a group of people - a family - walk towards us. Ahead lies shelter: a 'shuck' the family call home and which they know they must reach before the light fails, as to be out after dark is to invite danger and almost certain death. To survive in this alien world of shifting sand, they must find an object hidden in or near water. But other families want it too. And they are willing to fight to the death to make it theirs. It is beginning to rain in Fairfax County, Virginia when McKenzie Strathie wakes up. An ordinary teenage girl living an ordinary life - except that the previous night she found a sand-lizard in her bed, and now she's beginning to question everything around her, especially who she really is... Two very different worlds featuring a group of extraordinary characters driven to the very limit of their endurance in a place where only the strongest will survive. Sand is by Theo Clare (Mo Hayder).

February 2022

City of the Dead is by Jonathan Kellerman. At 5am in the upscale neighbourhood of Westwood Village, two removal men are making a routine pick-up when they make a fatal hit. It's a man - who appeared from nowhere - naked and with no means of identification. Not long after, a woman is found dead in a house nearby, which neighbours suspect to be a brothel. Could the man have come from there? When LAPD homicide lieutenant Milo Sturgis calls brilliant psychologist Alex Delaware to the scene, the case gets even more complicated. Delaware has met the woman before. She's a psychologist too.

Art galleries and casinos, mansions and brothels, billionaires and thieves. Only James Patterson could create a triple-cross this decadent and suspenseful. Imagine everyone's surprise when Carter von Oehson, a sophomore in Dr. Dylan Reinhart's Abnormal Psychology class, posts on Instagram that he plans to kill himself. 24 hours later and still no one has seen him. A massive search ensues. But when Carter's sailboat rolls in with the tide without him or anyone else on it, the worst seems to be confirmed. He really did it... Or did he? The one person convinced he's still alive is his father, Mathias von Oehson, founder and CEO of the world's largest hedge fund. But what Mathias knows and how he knows it would ultimately is a secret too damaging to reveal. There's no way he can go to the police. But there's still someone he can turn to. Dylan now finds himself wrapped up in multimillion-dollar secrets and danger and it's going to take every bit of his wit to stay ahead of his enemy. Steal is by James Patterson and Howard Roughan.

The Long Weekend is by Gilly Macmillan. By the time you read this, I'll have killed one of your husbands. In an isolated retreat, deep in the Northumbria moors, three women arrive for a weekend getaway. Their husbands will be joining them in the morning. Or so they think. But when they get to Dark Fell Barn, the women find a devastating note that claims one of their husbands has been murdered. Their phones are out of range. There's no internet. They're stranded. And a storm's coming in. Friendships fracture and the situation spins out of control as each wife tries to find out what's going on, who is responsible and which husband has been targeted. This was a tight-knit group. They've survived a lot. But they won't weather this. Because someone has decided that enough is enough. That it's time for a reckoning.

March 2022

Give Unto Others is by Donna Leon. Once again, Commissario Guido Brunetti is willing to bend police rules for an acquaintance, even though Elisabetta Foscarini, the woman who asks the favour, is not really a friend. But her mother was good to Brunetti's, so he feels he has no choice but to repay the debt and agrees to look into the matter 'privately', rather than as a police official. Her son-in-law has alarmed his wife by telling her they might be in danger because of something he's involved with. Because Enrico Fenzo is an accountant, Brunetti suspects that the likely reason must be the finances of one of his clients. Brunetti takes a look and finds little: one client is an optician, another Fenzo`s father-in-law, whom he helped establish a charity, another the owner of a restaurant. He is about to tell his friend that he can find no reason for preoccupation when her daughter's place of work is vandalised, forcing Brunetti to turn his attention - still 'private' - to Elisabetta's own family. What he discovers shows the Janus-faced nature of yet another Italian institution as well as the wobbly line that attempts to differentiate between the criminal and the non-criminal.

The People Next Door is by Tony Parsons. Lana and Roman Wade have fled the city for a little corner of paradise, exchanging their flat with its unhappy memories for a small honey-coloured house among the rolling green hills of Oxfordshire. Their new home, set in a residential Close known as The Gardens, is their dream and their new neighbours are charming. So why is Lana feeling so uneasy? Lana and Roman may seem like an attractive, popular couple. But they are also a couple with a secret; a secret buried in the life they have left behind, a secret they have shared with no-one. But their new neighbours - these charming, affluent men and women in the Gardens - have secrets of their own. Terrible secrets; unimaginable secrets that include the apparently happy family who lived - and tragically died - in Lana and Roman's new home. As Lana struggles to adjust to her new life in Paradise, she becomes convinced that her new neighbours are hiding something from her, something connected with the deaths of the family who lived in her house before she did, something that could put her own life in danger...

Wilde follows a tip that he hopes will finally solve the mystery of his abandonment, but instead sends him straight into the arms of a serial killer. As a young child, Wilde was found living a feral existence in the Ramapo mountains of New Jersey. He has grown up knowing nothing of his family, and even less about his own identity. He is known simply as Wilde, the boy from the woods. But when a match at an online ancestry database puts him on the trail of a close relative - the first family member he has ever known - he thinks he might be about to solve the mystery of who he really is. Only this relation disappears as quickly as he's resurfaced, having experienced an epic fall from grace that can only be described as a waking nightmare. Undaunted, Wilde continues his research on DNA websites where he becomes caught up in a community of doxxers, a secret group committed to exposing anonymous online trolls. Then one by one these doxxers start to die, and it soon becomes clear that a serial killer is targeting this secret community - and that his next victim might be Wilde himself... The Match is by Harlan Coben.

April 2022

22 seconds... until Lindsay Boxer loses her badge - or her life. SFPD Sergeant Boxer has guns on her mind. There's buzz of a last-ditch shipment of drugs and weapons crossing the Mexican border ahead of new restrictive gun laws. Before Lindsay can act, her top informant tips her to a case that hits disturbingly close to home. Former cops. Professional hits. All with the same warning scrawled on their bodies. You talk, you die. Now it's Lindsay's turn to choose. 22 Seconds is by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro.

The Shadow Child is by Rachel Hancox. Eighteen-year-old Emma has loving parents and a promising future ahead of her. So why, one morning, does she leave home without a trace? Her parents, Cath and Jim, are devastated. They have no idea why Emma left, where she is - or even whether she is still alive. A year later, Cath and Jim are still tormented by the unanswered questions Emma left behind, and clinging desperately to the hope of finding her. Meanwhile, tantalisingly close to home, Emma is also struggling with her new existence - and with the trauma that shattered her life. For all of them, reconciliation seems an impossible dream. Does the way forward lie in facing up to the secrets of the past - secrets that have been hidden for years? Secrets that have the power to heal them, or to destroy their family forever ...

May 2022

In a disintegrating and increasingly lawless land, a young man is travelling north. Ben is a young painter from the crowded, turbulent city. For six months his fiancée Cara has been living on the remote island of Sanctuary Rock, the property of millionaire philanthropist Sir John Pemberley. Now she has decided to break off their engagement and stay there for good. Ben resolves to travel to the island to win Cara back. But the journey there is a harsh and challenging one, and when he does arrive, a terrible shock awaits him. As Ben begins to find his way around Pemberley's perfect island, he knows he must also discover - what has made Cara so determined to throw her old life away? And is Sanctuary Rock truly a second Eden, as the mysterious Sir John claims - or a prospect of hell? The Sanctuary is by Andrew Hunter Murray.

Sunday 21 November 2021

Books to Look Forward to from Faber & Faber

 February 2022

The case was closed. Everyone in Adalen remembers the summer Lina Stavred went missing. At first, the investigation seemed like a dead end: there was no body, no crime scene, no murder weapon. The records were sealed. Then a local boy confessed to Lina's murder. The case opened a wound - one the whole community has spent over two decades trying to heal. But we know you remember. Now Lina's murderer has reappeared, and detective Eira Sjoedin must face the spectre of his brutal crime. This is her chance to untangle years of well-kept secrets - but the truth is something Adalen would rather forget. We Know You Remember is by Tove Alsterdal.

When Ghosts Come Home is by Wiley Cash. An abandoned plane. A dead body. A small town threatening to explode. 'A searing, thunderous, heartbreaking thriller. Wiley Cash has talent to burn.' Chris Whitaker Winston did not hear it so much as feel it as it passed over their house and into the trees across the waterway. The sheriff struggling for re-election and haunted by his past. The mystery plane which crash-lands on his island. The daughter returning home to hide from her troubles. The FBI pilot sent in to help. As the mystery of the abandoned plane and the dead body stokes long-simmering racial tensions, a moment of reckoning draws ever closer for the town of Oak Island.

March 2022

Nine Lives is by Peter Swanson. If you're on the list you're marked for death. The envelope is unremarkable. There is no return address. It contains a single, folded, sheet of white paper. The envelope drops through the mail slot like any other piece of post. But for the nine complete strangers who receive it - each of them recognising just one name, their own, on the enclosed list - it will be the most life altering letter they ever receive. It could also be the last, as one by one, they start to meet their end. But why?

From 'The Everyday Housewife' to 'The Cougar', 'Tricks' to 'Snowflake Time', Laura Lippman's sharp and acerbic stories explore the contemporary world and the female experience through the prism of classic crime, where the stakes are always deadly. And in the collection's longest piece, the novella 'Just One More', she follows the trajectory of a married couple who, tired of re-watching 'Columbo' re-runs during lockdown, decide to join the same dating app: 'Why would we do something like that?' 'As an experiment. And a diversion. We would both join, then see if the service matches us. Just for grins...' Seasonal Work and Other Killer Stories is by Laura Lippman.

May 2022

1 September, 1939. As the mass evacuation takes place across Britain, thousands of children leave London for the countryside, but when a little girl vanishes without trace, the reality of separation becomes more desperate and more deadly for those who love her. In the chaos and uncertainty of war, Josephine struggles with the prospect of change. As a cloud of suspicion falls across the small Suffolk village she has come to love, the conflict becomes personal, and events take a dark and sinister turn. Blending a Golden Age mystery with the timeless fears of a child's abduction, Dear Little Corpses by Nicola Upson is an atmospheric snapshot of England in the early days of war.

Saturday 20 November 2021

Understanding Monsters, Surviving Monsters by Clea Simon


Nobody in our high school was completely surprised when Joel Rifkin turned out to be a serial killer.

Were we shocked? Sure. The quiet kind of nebbishy guy who took photos for our high school newspaper and yearbook, Joel never seemed like a threat. Was he awkward? Antisocial? Yeah, sure. But this was high school, when the best of us were only fronting. And those of us who spent our after-class hours on the Jet Gazette? Well, we were far from the coolest kids by any count. 

But were we surprised? Well, not really. Even discounting the bullying, which the press made so much of, we kind of knew something was wrong. There was a reason none of us wanted to get too close to Joel. Maybe we could sense the rage behind those thick glasses. Certainly, to the 17 young women he killed – sex workers who had fewer options when it came to avoiding intimacy – he was a monster.

My particular monster had a different face. A college classmate at an elite school, he was supposed to be a comrade. A colleague, if not a friend. At least that’s what I thought when he showed up at my door one night, maybe a month after we’d all moved in freshman year. He must’ve heard that I’ve been fighting with my boyfriend. I suspect the whole dorm heard us yelling, especially when R. stormed off and left me sobbing. And here he was with a pitcher of bullfrogs, a sweet lime drink offered in a spirit of camaraderie. Along with, that is, a shoulder to cry on until it turned into something more. An arm around my middle, pulling at me. Hands on my upper arms, holding me down.

For years I struggled with that disconnect. I was young. I had been stupid. Perhaps he had misread my signals. Maybe I had given some kind of consent, after all. Something that sounded like “yes” to a young man who might have been as drunk as I was, or so I told myself. But as I dealt with the aftermath – the unwanted pregnancy and its termination – I also had to acknowledge that there had been no further contact, no remorse and none of the awkward social outreach that one would expect from a comrade, a neighbour, and a classmate. 

Ultimately it was a letter from his roommate decades later that allowed me to see everything clearly. Ostensibly reaching out with an offer to answer any questions – once again, that shoulder to cry on – he was clearly seeking absolution. That I wasn’t ready to give, but I did take advantage of the offer and fired off questions. What I learned confirmed what I had come to suspect. No, I was not the only woman his roommate had targeted. In fact, he kept a bottle of over-proof rum purely to prey on vulnerable women. No, they hadn’t stayed in touch. Despite his complicity all those years before, my new correspondent claimed to actively dislike his roommate – and what he did. Would he call it rape? 

That’s where he drew the line. Instead, he talked about how his roommate would use alcohol to “try to have sex with women.” He was reaching out, he said, in the hope that I would be able to “let bygones be bygones.”

Was I shocked? Not really. I’ve lost that capacity, I think, at least in terms of certain forms of duplicity. More to the point, I realised then how far I had already moved on.

These days, I write crime fiction. It’s gratifying to set the world right, to see justice done. More important, with psychological suspense I can work through the impact of trauma and survival to allow my characters to achieve a full understanding of what happened and why. But even at my darkest, my books don’t deal with serial killers. What I write are the monsters I want to understand. The ones who live among us, with their smiling faces and social graces. The ones who know how to destroy us from the inside.

Hold Me Down by Clea Simon (Polis Books) out now

This riveting work of dark suspense from acclaimed author Clea Simon opens with Gal, a rock star for a hot minute twenty years earlier, back in Boston to play a memorial for her late drummer/best friend when she finds herself freezing on stage at the sight of a face in the crowd. The next day, the middle-aged musician learns that the man she saw has been killed – beaten to death behind the venue – and her friend’s widower charged in connection with his death. When the friend refuses to defend himself, Gal wonders why and, as the memories begin to flood back, she starts her own informal investigation. As she does so, she must reexamine her own wild life, her perception of the past, and an industry that monetizes dysfunction in a dark tale of love, music, and murder.

More information about Clea Simon can be found on her website. You can also find her on Facebook, follow her on Twitter @Clea_Simon and on Instagram.

Thursday 18 November 2021

Why Timing is Everything by Tony Kent


It was New Year’s Eve 2019 as I settled down at my father-in-law’s dining room table in Cornwall, opened my laptop and began to write. We had driven from Buckinghamshire the day before - my wife Victoria and I, and our then 18-month old son Joseph - and we had arrived late on a dark and stormy December 30th.

New Year in Cornwall had become a tradition since Clive had bought the clifftop home five years earlier, and that tradition had quickly extended to my writing habits. My previous two books had both been started at this very table, each one a year apart. And so it was that for the third time, while every one else took an afternoon walk into town, I wrote the first words of a thriller.

Two hours later my family were back - wet and windswept from the picturesque fishing village of Looe - and the first two thousand words of Book Four were on the page. Tradition had been kept. My work was underway.

Over the next two months that book began to fly. I had spent my usual three-month ‘thinking’ period going about my day with the story percolating in my head. The clock was ticking - when is it not! - and so it was a relief that the story was coming so freely. But little did I know, there was a problem looming. You see, the book I was writing was about Joe Dempsey and his ISB team preventing a terrorist attack on North America. And the form of that attack? A weaponised virus, manufactured by a rogue East Asian state which would - once released - cause a pandemic to sweep across the continental United States.

How is that for timing, you might ask yourself. Because believe me, I did!

February came and went. 

It won’t be as bad as the scientists say’, I kept telling myself. I shared the hopelessly blind optimism of Boris Johnson, only in my case the consequences of being wrong were rather less severe. But wrong we both were and so, as I lay in my bed in early March 2020 with my first bout of what we were then still calling the coronavirus, I made a big decision: the pandemic - or the pandemic over which I had some control, at least - was going in the drawer.

It was not a difficult decision. As a writer, my barometer of what works and what does not is a simple question: am I entertained by this? Because if I am not, then neither will my readers. And rightly or wrongly, there was no way I could be entertained by a book about a fictionalised virus as people were dying world-wide from a real life version. So not a difficult decision. But still a big one: I had a deadline and I had a book to deliver.

What, then, to do? I racked my brain for an answer. The book I had ‘planned’ - in other words, the book I had thought about for several months, with plots and ideas growing off in various directions that would allow me to choose the right ones once the typing started - was now off limits, and I did not have another three months to spare thinking about a new one. I also did not have the freedom of any research trips. Travel was out of the question as the lockdowns tightened and so I had to set the plot somewhere I knew. But where? 

As a dilemma it left me hot under the collar. And that temperature gave me a direction.

In my life I have experienced two particular extremes of intense heat. The dry, sharp kind that I connect to my time spent in Qatar and Dubai. And the wet, humid heat of the Florida Keys. It was the feeling of the latter that I could not shake as I wrote the first chapter of No Way To Die; the sensation of a thin, cheap material sticking to the skin. It took my mind immediately to Key West, and that in turn led me to the docks. To wonder what could have passed through that weakened, under-policed underbelly over the years? What could have found its way through the party island and onto the continental United States via those incredible oversea highways?

It was then that two words came back to me. Two words which I had always intended to be the basis for a book some time in the future.

Dirty Bomb’.

It would be absurd to suggest that the setting and the two word ‘McGuffin’ was all I needed. And it would be a lie to claim that, from that point, the book wrote itself. It did not; it was a difficult, drawn-out process that restarted several times over, all set against the strangest times in which any of us have ever lived or - I hope - will ever live again.

But for all the effort that followed, those two words and that remembered sensation of sticky heat was where No Way To Die started. And all of it because of a tradition; all of it because I chose to start writing on December 31st 2019. Had I started it even two months earlier, the book I would not be promoting would have told a very different story about a fight to stop a pandemic sweeping across America. And let’s be honest; in 2021, who the hell would want to read that?

Proof, then, that timing really is everything.

No Way To Die by Tony Kent (Out Now) Elliott & Thompson

When traces of a radioactive material are found with a body in Key West, multiple federal agencies suddenly descend on the scene. This is not just an isolated murder - a domestic terrorist group is ready to bring the US government to its knees. The threat hits close to home for Agent Joe Dempsey when he discovers a personal connection to the group. With his new team member, former Secret Service agent Eden Grace, Dempsey joins the race to track down the bomb before it’s too late. But when their mission falls apart, he is forced to turn to the most unlikely of allies: an old enemy he thought he had buried in his past. Now, with time running out, they must find a way to work together to stop a madman from unleashing horrifying destruction across the country.

More information about Tony Kent and his books can be found on his website. You can also find him on Twitter @TonyKent_Writes and on Facebook.

©Book launch photographs Ayo Onatade

What a Coincidence! By Peter Bartram

Peter Bartram recalls a surprise he had while writing his latest Crampton of the Chronicle mystery.

Coincidences happen! When I was writing The Tango School Mystery, one of my earlier Crampton of the Chronicle novels, I was pondering over whether to include a scene where a man is eaten by feral pigs. Was it likely that pigs would eat human flesh – especially if there weren’t any vegetables on the side?

The next day, I opened a newspaper and there was a headline: MAN IN ROUMANIA EATEN BY PIGS. Apparently, the bloke was blind drunk at the time and had fallen asleep in the pigsty.

When I was writing The Mother’s Day Mystery, I hummed and hawed over whether to include a posh schoolboy who’d put the black on one of his teachers. Could that really happen? Voila! There in the paper was the story of a truant lad who’d nicked £52,000 from his famous public school – and then demanded £10,000 in Bitcoin to stop the thefts. He’d also lobbed firebombs onto a motorway because he “wanted to kill somebody”.

And so, to the latest in my Crampton of the Chronicle series, The World Cup Mystery and a coincidence of a different kind. The book is set in July 1966 during the closing days of the football contest which England won.

If, like me, you were watching the final on the black and white telly in the corner of your sitting room, you’ll recall that in the last minute of extra time Bobby Moore lifted the ball up field to Geoff Hurst. The ref was already looking at his watch. Some spectators had invaded the pitch.

And BBC commentator Kenneth Wolstenholme was telling viewers: “They think it’s all over.” He hadn’t reckoned on Hurst who took the Moore pass, sprinted towards the West German goal, and drove the ball into the back of the net. “It is now,” Wolstenholme added unnecessarily.

The second most dramatic moment in the World Cup had happened four months earlier in March. The Jules Rimet Trophy – the World Cup – had been nicked from an exhibition in the Central Hall, Westminster, where it was the star turn. It was arguably the most daring theft since 1911 when museum worker Vincenzo Peruggia walked into Paris’ Louvre, lifted the Mona Lisa off the four pegs which held it to the wall, and exited via the service door.

In the case of the World Cup, on a Sunday, when the exhibition was closed, persons unknown had unscrewed a bar securing doors to the hall. They’d used bolt cutters to remove the chain from the display case holding the cup, and left the way they came. All while the two guards hired to keep the trophy safe were doing a tour of inspection in other parts of the building.

And all while several hundred Methodists were no doubt singing a lusty hymn by Charles Wesley. Lo! He Comes with Clouds Descending would have fitted the moment, if they’d known what was happening in another part of the building.

The cops chased leads and the insurers chewed their nails over the £30,000 - £580,000 in today’s money – they’d have to pay out if the trophy wasn’t recovered.

And then it was. By a dog called Pickles under a hedge in Beulah Hill, part of south-east London. It was wrapped in newspaper. The trophy, of course, not the dog. The cup was taken by the dog’s owner, David Corbett, to Gipsy Hill police station from where it was passed on to the Cannon Row cop shop.

The cops telephoned the Football Association and – wait for it – asked them to send someone to make a formal identification. (Like it could be confused with hundreds of Jules Rimet lookalike trophies being handed in.) The FA sent a man called Harold Mayes, who’d been hired to handle the publicity for the World Cup, to make the ID.

And, at last, to the coincidence. (About time, too, I hear you cry.)

For, three years later, when Harold was managing editor of a Fleet Street magazine publisher, he gave me my first job as a journalist, after I’d left university.

The thing is he never told me of the moment that had earned him a footnote in the history books. Strange because, wonderful man as he was, he was never shy about recounting the triumphs of his career, especially over a beer or two. (“Did I ever tell you how I advised Montgomery to defeat Rommel in the Western Desert?”) 

But I was pleased to discover his link to the trophy theft, even so many years later. It kind of gave me a personal link to the story I was telling in my book.

Ah, the book! How the Jules Rimet trophy came to be under that hedge has never been explained. But you’ll find a fictional account of how it came there – and how it was linked to an even more deadly crime - in The World Cup Mystery. Harold was a great teller of tales, and I hope he would have enjoyed this one.

The World Cup Mystery, by Peter Bartram is published by TBP and available on Amazon as a paperback (£9.99) or Kindle e-book (£2.99):

A KILLING BEFORE KICK-OFF…It’s July 1966 – and England is football crazy as fans cheer their team on to win the World Cup. There are millions who’d kill for a ticket to the final in London’s Wembley Stadium. Then café owner Sergio Parisi is found murdered in his own kitchen – and his World Cup Final ticket missing. As Evening Chronicle crime reporter Colin Crampton chases down the story, he discovers the ticket theft could be part of an even deadlier crime. There are laughs alongside the thrills as England closes in on victory – and Colin, with his feisty girlfriend Shirley Goldsmith, close in on the killer.

More information about the author and the Crampton Chronicles can be found on his website.  You can also find him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter @PeterFBartram

Friday 12 November 2021

Lies That History Tells Us by Dominic Nolan


HISTORY IS NOT FACT, IT IS NARRATIVE. That’s worth repeating a few times. History is constantly changing. As I write this, historians have dated an Egyptian mummy to a thousand years before the sophisticated mummification process that preserved it was previously thought to have existed, significantly altering what we thought we knew about the Age of the Pyramids. As Professor Salima Ikram, head of Egyptology at the American University in Cairo, notes: “If this is indeed an Old Kingdom mummy, all books about mummification and the history of the Old Kingdom will need to be revised.

History is not fact, it is narrative. English can be an unhelpfully ambiguous language at times. Let’s look at that word, “history.” It is commonly used to refer to the events of the past, yet it also isn’t the events of the past at all but is the discourse we have with those events. The continuous record we create of the past. We shape the past into a narrative from a multitude of sources – physical evidence, for sure, but also written testimonies, i.e., other narratives. History, like fiction, is a way people have of coming to terms with themselves, of defining themselves through the agency of words. All narratives are ultimately attempts at saying what the world feels like.  

 History is not fact, it is narrative. There is really less to distinguish fiction from nonfiction than might commonly be believed. Historians make choices, just like novelists. No historian simply compiles an itinerary of past events. They emphasize, they project, they disproportion. These are all things I did when writing Vine Street, which starts with a series of real-life murders in 1930s Soho. They remain unsolved to this day, but that fact was inconvenient, so I changed it. For a historian, facts are things to be proved and documented. For me, they are things to be manipulated, or even destroyed.

History is not fact, it is narrative. To misquote F. Scott Fitzgerald, being a writer is to hold two opposing ideas in the mind at the same time and retain the ability to function. On the one hand, as a writer my personal priority is not fidelity to historical facts, but fidelity to authenticity. My Soho is populated by real figures from history, some of them doing things they actually did, and others doing things they certainly did not. My hope is that the reader finds it all so plausible that in the end it makes no difference what did happen and what did not. Research and a genuine knowledge of the period in question allow me to roam freely within my subject, but also unfetter me from any particular historical data.

History is not fact, it is narrative. On the other hand, whilst embracing an irresponsibly cavalier attitude toward fact myself, I am always aware of the immense debt I owe historians. The work they do proving and documenting facts is essential for me – without them first establishing “what could be possible,” it would be impossible for me to write my fictional narratives. Without them establishing ground rules of historical fact, I could not establish authenticity in my fiction. However, when that fiction is written, it must stand on its own legs, provide its own moral context, otherwise as an art form we are saying it is reducible to a dependent offshoot of other, purer forms of narrative, such as history and sociology. I don’t believe that to be true.

History is not fact, it is narrative. Probably we want historians to be more responsible liars than I am. Raymond Carver’s last published short story before his death, “Errand,” dramatizes the death of one of his literary heroes, Chekhov, at the Hotel Sommer in Badenweiler (an event his widow Olga recounted in her memoir). For details, Carver leaned heavily on Henri Troyat’s biography, written just a few years previously, but also added a healthy dollop of poetic licence with the introduction of a dishevelled porter bringing champagne to the dying writer’s room. In Reading Chekhov, Janet Malcom reminds us that this imagined character seeped into a later biography of Chekhov, with Philip Callow inexplicably including him (as well as other unattributed colour created by Carver) in Chekhov: The Hidden Ground.

History is not fact, it is narrative. That a biographer would document fictional composition as historical fact would mortify historians, but as a writer of fiction it is surely the highest honour. To write something fictional, and yet so historically authentic that it was mistaken for proven fact, is surely what all novelists dream of. Although he didn’t live to see it, Carver literally changed history. What I would give for an imagined aspect of my Soho to turn up in some future historian’s narrative, to worm its way into the historical record. I want the Soho of Vine Street to feel that real.

Vine Street is published in hardback, digital, and audio by Headline on 11th November 2021.

Soho, 1935. Sergeant Leon Geats' patch.  A snarling, skull-cracking misanthrope, Geats marshals the grimy rabble according to his own elastic moral code.  The narrow alleys are brimming with jazz bars, bookies, blackshirts, ponces and tarts so when a body is found above the Windmill Club, detectives are content to dismiss the case as just another young woman who topped herself early. But Geats - a good man prepared to be a bad one if it keeps the worst of them at bay - knows the dark seams of the city.  Working with his former partner, mercenary Flying Squad sergeant Mark Cassar, Geats obsessively dedicates himself to finding a warped killer - a decision that will reverberate for a lifetime and transform both men in ways they could never expect.

You can follow Dominic Nolan on Twitter @NolanDom.