Monday, 17 January 2022

2022 Left Coast Crime “Lefty” Award Nominations Announced

Left Coast Crime 2022 will be presenting four Lefty Awards at our 32nd annual convention, to be held in Albuquerque in April: humorous, historical, debut, and best. The awards will be voted on at the convention and presented at a banquet on Saturday 9 April at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Albuquerque. The award nominees have been selected the convention registrants. LCC is delighted to announce the 2022 Lefty nominees for books published in 2021:

Lefty for Best Humorous Mystery Novel. 

The nominees are:

Cajun Kiss of Death by Ellen Byron (Crooked Lane Books)

Mimi Lee Cracks the Code by Jennifer Chow(Berkley Prime Crime)

Finlay Donovan Is Killing It by Elle Cosimano (Minotaur Books)

How To Book a Murder by Cynthia Kuhn (Crooked Lane Books)

Mango, Mambo, and Murder by Raquel V. Reyes (Crooked Lane Books)

Fogged Off by Wendall Thomas (Beyond the Page Books)

Lefty for Best Historical Mystery Novel for books set before 1970.

The nominees are:

The Cry of the Hangman by Susanna Calkins (Severn House)

The Savage Kind by John Copenhaver (Pegasus Crime)

Clark and Division by Naomi Hirahara (Soho Crime)

The Bombay Prince by Sujata Massey (Soho Crime)

The Mirror Dance by Catriona McPherson (Hodder & Stoughton)

Death at Greenway by Lori Rader-Day (William Morrow)

Lefty for Best Debut Mystery Novel. 

The nominees are:

Who Is Maud Dixon by Alexandra Andrews (Little, Brown and Company)

Blackout by Marco Carocari (Level Best Books)

The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris (Atria Books)

Arsenic and Adobo by Mia P. Manansala (Berkley Prime Crime)

All Her Little Secrets by Wanda M. Morris (William Morrow)

Lefty for Best Mystery Novel (not in other categories). 

The nominees are:

Runner by Tracy Clark (Kensington Books)

Razorblade Tears by S.A. Cosby (Flatiron Press)

Last Redemption by Matt Coyle (Oceanview Publishing)

Lightning Strike by William Kent Krueger (Atria Books)

Bath Haus by P.J. Vernon (Doubleday)

The Left Coast Crime Convention is an annual event sponsored by mystery fans, both readers and authors. Usually held in the western half of North America, LCC’s intent is to host an event where readers, authors, critics, librarians, publishers, and other fans can gather in convivial surroundings to pursue their mutual interests. Lefty Awards have been given since 1996.

Friday, 14 January 2022

A New Detective on the Block by Nadine Matheson


Last year I contributed to the growing list of crime thrillers when my debut novel ‘The Jigsaw Man was published. I’ve been a fan of crime fiction for as long as I can remember and there were many occasions when I would be nose deep in a copy of Patricia Highsmith’s ‘The Talented Mr. Ripley’ instead of studying the required Shakespearean text or Wuthering Heights for my English class. In fact, I may just be a fan of crime in general as in my non-writing life, I’m a lawyer specialising in Criminal Law. 

There are two reasons why I’m drawn to crime fiction. The first is that crime thrillers allow us to access to a slice of life that is out of bounds to morally and law complying people. For a brief period, we can indulge in the pages of a crime story and then safely, and maybe self-righteously, close the pages and get on with our lives. The second reason is that I have an innate desire to uncover what motivates people to commit crimes. One of the main reasons why I practice criminal law is that I want to understand what makes people tick and why, for example, someone would murder their next-door neighbour, bury their body in the garden and assume their identity. 

It seems almost inevitable that after working in criminal law, for nearly twenty years, and having a love affair with crime thrillers that I would write my own book. There was an expectation that because I work in criminal law that I would write a legal thriller but that wasn’t the specific sub-genre of crime that thrilled me. Police procedurals have always been my first port of call. A police procedural promises the thrill of the chase and pits good against bad. The best police procedurals makes the reader feel as though they’re part of the investigation and isn’t just a passive observer. 

My job as a criminal lawyer has never been to prosecute and to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the person standing in the dock is guilty or to put it more colloquially “Bang to Rights”. I’ve always represented those who have been accused of the crime. My job has been to put the prosecution to proof, to find holes in their case and to also defend my client to the best of my ability. Writing a police procedural was a complete adventure for me because I had to switch the gears in my head. I had to put myself in the mind of both a prosecutor and a detective and become the person who was building a case against a suspect, which brings me onto the first person that you meet in my book, The Jigsaw Man, Detective Inspector Anjelica Henley. 

Books are the best form of escapism in which we’re able to experience different lives and different worlds, but with certain genres of books i.e., crime thrillers we should be able to recognise our own worlds within the pages. Take a moment right now and think of four fictional detectives. I’m prepared to put money on it that the four detectives that you chose were white males. Like the popular fictional detectives that we know, and love (Holmes, Thorne, and Rebus) Henley is committed and complex, but she occupies a unique place in crime fiction because she is also a Black British woman. Henley takes the lead in her professional life, as a Detective leading an investigation and in her personal life as a wife and a mother. There are not many detectives in crime fiction that look like Henley. In my profession as a lawyer, I’ve lost count of the times that I have sat opposite a female detective of colour in a police interview room. It always seemed strange to me that the stories of these detectives of colour were not being in the books that I was buying. 

Too often characters of colour have been relegated to the cliched roles of criminal, victim or supporting role in a story. Fortunately, the last couple of years have noticeably seen a rise in the number crime thrillers books that are written by authors of colour and feature characters of colour in main roles. It’s an amazing feeling to be able to recommend books by Saima Mir, S.A. Cosby, Amer Anwar, Rachel Edwards, Femi Kayode, and myself to readers. My hope is that the name Detective Inspector Henley becomes iconic in crime fiction, and I cannot wait for you to read the next chapter in her story.

The Jigsaw Man by Nadine Matheson. (HarperCollins) Out Now

There's a serial killer on the loose. When bodies start washing up along the banks of the River Thames, DI Henley fears it is the work of Peter Olivier, the notorious Jigsaw Killer. But it can't be him; Olivier is already behind bars, and Henley was the one who put him there. The race is on before more bodies are found. She'd hoped she'd never have to see his face again, but Henley knows Olivier might be the best chance they have at stopping the copycat killer. But when Olivier learns of the new murders, helping Henley is the last thing on his mind . . . Will it take a killer to catch the killer? Now all bets are off, and the race is on to catch the killer before the body count rises. But who will get there first - Henley, or the Jigsaw Killer?

The Binding Room by Nadine Matheson (Published July 2022) HarperCollins.In this room, no one can hear you scream... The Serial Crimes Unit are called in to investigate when a local pastor is found stabbed to death. As DI Henley assesses the crime scene, she discovers a hidden door that conceals a room set up for torture - and bound to the bed in the middle of the room is the body of a man. When another body is found, also tied down, Henley realises there's someone out there torturing innocent people and leaving them for dead. But why? There's nothing that connects the victims. They didn't know each other. Their paths never crossed. But someone has targeted them, and it's up to Henley and the SCU to stop them before they find another binding room...

More information can be found on her website. You can follow her on Twitter @nadinematheson, on Instagram @queennads and on Facebook.

Wednesday, 12 January 2022

MWA Announces 2022 Grand Master, Raven and Ellery Queen Award Recipients


Today Mystery Writers of America (MWA) announces the recipients of its special awards. The board chose Laurie R. King as the 2022 Grand Master, the 2022 Raven Award recipient is Lesa Holstine, and Juliet Grames will receive the Ellery Queen Award. They will accept their awards at the 76th Annual Edgar Awards Ceremony, which will be held April 28, 2022, at the Marriott Marquis Times Square in New York City.

Mystery Writers of America is thrilled to honour Laurie R. King as MWA’s 2022 Grand Master,” said MWA President Alafair Burke. “For more than a quarter century, King has entertained readers around the world with her writings, which range from historical fiction to contemporary police procedurals to gripping standalones and scores of anthology contributions. She is also a generous supporter of readers and fellow writers and a leader within the literary community. She exemplifies the excellence that defines the Grand Master Award, and we are delighted to recognise her achievements".

MWA’s Grand Master Award represents the pinnacle of achievement in mystery writing and was established to acknowledge important contributions to this genre, as well as for a body of work that is both significant and of consistent high quality. Laurie R. King is the bestselling author of 30 novels and other works, including the Mary Russell-Sherlock Holmes stories, beginning with The Beekeeper’s Apprentice (named “One of the 20th Century’s Best Crime Novels” by the IMBA.) She has won the Agatha, Anthony, Edgar, Lambda, Wolfe, Macavity, Creasey Dagger, and Romantic Times Career Achievement awards, has an honorary doctorate in theology, and is a Baker Street Irregular. Her recent books include Castle Shade and How to Write a Mystery (co-edited with Lee Child.) She has been a member of Mystery Writers of America since 1993 and served on the NorCal and National boards.

On being notified of the honour, King said, “I am sure I’m not the only person who greeted the announcement that they had been given this extreme honour of the mystery world first with silence, then with, “Really? Me?? I mean, any list that begins with Agatha Christie and touches on such gods as Ross MacDonald and Daphne du Maurier, Ngaio Marsh and John Le CarrĂ©, Tony Hillerman and—well, you get the idea. ‘I am honoured’ is an inadequate response (You are sure you counted the votes, right?) when what I mean is, ‘I am stunned, dumbfounded, gobsmacked.’ And honoured too, of course—intensely, humbly, and gratefully.

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

The Raven Award recognizes outstanding achievement in the mystery field outside the realm of creative writing. For 2022, Mystery Writers of America selected librarian, a blogger, and book reviewer Lesa Holstine.

Upon learning she would receive the Raven Award, Lesa Holstine reacted with disbelief, “You’re kidding!” Holstine said, “I’m grateful to the MWA Board, and to mystery writers everywhere who have provided so much enjoyment over the years.

Previous Raven Award recipients include Malice Domestic, Left Coast Crime, Marilyn Stasio, The Raven Bookstore, Sisters in Crime, and Oline Cogdill.

Holstine has worked in public libraries since she was 16. For almost 50 years, she’s shared her love of books, especially mysteries, with library patrons, and is presently the Collections Manager at the Evansville Vanderburgh Public Library in Evansville, Indiana. She is in the 18th year of writing her award-winning blog, Lesa’s Book Critiques, has been the blogger for Poisoned Pen Bookstore for over four years, and reviews mysteries for Mystery Readers’ Journal and Library Journal, where she was named Reviewer of the Year in 2018. She has received the 2011 Arizona Library Association Outstanding Library Service Award and the David S. Thompson Special Service Memorial Award. She is a member of Sisters in Crime and serves on the Left Coast Crime Standing Committee.

The Ellery Queen Award was established in 1983 to honour “outstanding writing teams and outstanding people in the mystery-publishing industry.” This year the Board chose to honour Juliet Grames, SVP, Associate Publisher at Soho Press, where she has curated the award-winning Soho Crime imprint since 2011. Her debut novel, The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna, was published by Ecco/HarperCollins and has been translated into ten languages.

On learning she would receive the Ellery Queen Award, Grames said, “I am astonished and moved by this great honour. There is no community I could be prouder to work in: the creators in our genre are not only artists but activists and thoroughly good people. It is a great privilege to nurture and amplify their voices, and I humbly thank every author who has ever trusted me with that privilege. It is also a great privilege to work for a publisher, Bronwen Hruska, whose values—both literary and philosophical—align so perfectly with mine. This recognition belongs to them, although I am honoured to be their representative.

Previous Ellery Queen Award winners include Reagan Arthur, Kelley Ragland, Linda Landrigan, Neil Nyren, Charles Ardai, and Janet Hutchings.

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

Monday, 10 January 2022

To weave in a theme, or not to weave in a theme…


A couple of years ago I had the privilege of interviewing William Shaw and Mark Hill at an author event for my local library. Having read their books, I knew that William had themes in his story but Mark didn’t appear to have any. So I asked if adding a theme was essential for them. Mark had decided to concentrate on his plot and characters for that particular novel, whereas William had looked at the reality of his setting – poverty in seaside towns – and drawn some of that into the story. My debut, Last Seen, took Mark’s approach and I focused on the plot and the characters. For Broken Girls, I looked at the dangers of internet grooming, particularly for teenagers. In my latest DI Bernadette ‘Bernie’ Noel book, Left For Dead, I’ve gone theme mad and explored three areas – violence against women, county lines gangs, and Autism. 

I originally wrote the first draft for Left For Dead back in 2018. Obviously, the above themes were important back then but in the last year as I’ve been editing, these issues have come to the fore. The terrible cases of Sarah Everard, Sabina Nessa and most recently, Bobbi-Anne McLeod, have spurred women on to say enough is enough. There was one particular part in Left For Dead that I struggled to write. It’s a scene where DI Bernie Noel and the media officer, Jane Clackett, try to write a press release about attacks on women in Swindon. Bernie is frustrated by the fact that she needs to warn women on the one hand but allay fears on the other, and at the same time, fed up that women have to do anything at all. Thankfully, Wiltshire Police in real life, also felt that frustration and started Project Vigilant this autumn, targeting perpetrators and ensuring women can have a safe night out. 

County lines gangs often feature on documentaries such as 999 What’s Your Emergency? and 24 Hours in Police Custody. But I think the best demonstration of this recently was in The Outlaws, Stephen Merchant’s black comedy thriller. There were many layers in this programme but the one that caught my eye most was the story of Christian/Ben. Obviously, he got into huge trouble because he stole money as well as a phone. We, as the audience, focused on the money but it was really the phone that was important. Whoever had the phone or the ‘line’, then controlled the drug supply in that area. County lines is an issue in Wiltshire and Operation Fortitude has been set up to fight it with a lot of success.

Autism is a subject close to my heart as I know quite a few autistic people. I really wanted to have a female autistic officer. Most of my experience with Autism has been with males so I hope I’ve got my portrayal correct. Unlike the armed forces, autistic people can join the police force. Wiltshire Police have a Local Crime Investigator role and I wanted to include that as well. I brought the two together to create LCI Leigh Roberts, the officer looking at the series of attacks. (I’ve used some artistic licence as I don’t think a LCI would investigate a sexual attack on a woman.) But as the attacker has escalated, it’s time for Bernie to take over and she asks Leigh to join her team. I wanted to show how Leigh might find that difficult – a different team to work with in a different building with different hours. Inevitably, all those things would take a toll. But I didn’t just want to show how Leigh might or might not cope, I wanted to look at how Bernie and the rest of the team deal with her. Because that’s the really important thing. It should never be about how a neurodivergent person has to adapt but how a workplace can change to accommodate any special needs. With the right support, Leigh brings a lot to the team and comes up with ideas that no one else has. 

Of course, I still have my plot and characters but I’ve discovered that themes can add tone, depth and shadows to a story.

Left for Dead by Joy Kluver (Bookouture) Out Now.

The detective stared at the young woman lying on the bed. She almost looked peaceful, her face like porcelain. Despite everything she had been through, she was still beautiful. When DI Bernie Noel hurries to Keira Howard’s hospital bedside, she knows that Keira has been lucky. Barely conscious and badly injured, at least she is alive. Convinced that Keira’s attack is the latest in a string of increasingly violent assaults on young women in the area, the next victim might not be so fortunate. So she vows to find the man who did this, and to stop him before anyone else gets hurt. Spurring her team into action, she quickly hones in on a prime suspect. But then he suddenly dies while on police watch, and Bernie’s investigation goes into free-fall. When Bernie’s superiors won’t let her take the case any further, her gut instinct tells her there’s much more to his death than meets the eye. If it was murder, who would want him dead, and why? So she determines to set out on her own to find out what happened. But the closer Bernie comes to discovering the truth, the more she is putting her own life in danger. And with Keira finally strong enough to talk her about her attack, Bernie worries she may be at risk yet again. There’s someone out there who has killed to stay safe in the shadows; can Bernie stop another senseless death, and save Keira, before it’s too late?

More information about Joy Kluver and her books can be found on her website. You can also follower her on Twitter @JoyKluver.  You can also find her on Facebook.

Friday, 7 January 2022

CWA Debut Dagger Writing Competition Deadline Draws Near


The deadline to enter the most hotly contended competition for aspiring crime novelists is fast approaching.

Aspiring crime novelists have until the end of February to enter the Crime Writers’ Association (CWA) Debut Dagger, which is sponsored by ProWritingAid and renowned for opening doors for aspiring writers.

Shortlisted authors often get representation by literary agents, with a number going on to get publication deals.

The competition for the best new, unpublished voices in the genre has helped launch the careers of established crime writers, including M W Craven, who was shortlisted in 2013. Six years later, Craven went on to win the highest accolade for a crime novel, the CWA Gold Dagger, for The Puppet Show. It has been sold in 17 foreign language territories, and TV rights have also been sold. He ascribes much of his success to entering the Debut Dagger, which he said “would go on to change my life”.

Created in 1955, the Daggers are the oldest and most regarded awards in the genre, and for over two decades the CWA has been encouraging new writing with its Debut Dagger competition for unpublished writers.

The Debut Dagger is awarded every year by the CWA for the opening of a crime novel and a synopsis. Budding authors are invited to submit the opening 3,000 words and a synopsis of the full novel of up to 1,500 words before the competition deadline of 6pm GMT on Monday 28 February 2022. The CWA supplies a mini Criminal Critique service tailored to would-be Debut Dagger entrants which helps writers perfect their novel opening in advance of submitting.

Bestselling author Leigh Russell, Chair of the Debut Dagger judges, said: “The winning and shortlisted manuscripts will be read by leading agents and top editors, who have to date signed well over two dozen shortlisted Debut Dagger competitors. In addition, the winner of the Debut Dagger receives £500.

The other judges comprise top crime fiction editors and literary agents. Submissions are judged using a range of criteria: quality of prose, originality of plot, execution of plot, narrative voice, plausibility, characterisation, setting evocation and good read factor.

In April, from the hundreds of entries from around the world, around a dozen will be longlisted – announced live at an online event held by sponsors ProWritingAid. Longlisted authors are asked to submit a further 3,000 words from their novel. The shortlist is announced in May at the UK’s international crime fiction convention, CrimeFest. The winner will be announced at the annual CWA Dagger awards ceremony at the end of June.

The competition is only open to writers who have never had a novel or novella published in any genre, or self-published one within the last 5 years. However, authors of published short stories are eligible, as are authors of published non-fiction.

For full rules, and to enter, go to Competitions on the CWA website: For more details contact


Thursday, 6 January 2022

Zaffre signs global crime-writing phenomenon Lars Kepler

 Zaffre, the flagship fiction imprint of Bonnier Books UK, has acquired The Mirror Man and two further ‘Joona Linna’ titles from global writing phenomenon Lars Kepler. 

Author photo credit: Ewa-Marie Rundquist

Kate Parkin, M.D. of Adult Trade Publishing for Bonnier Books UK and Ben Willis, Publishing Director at Zaffre, acquired UK and Commonwealth rights from Niclas Salomonsson at Salomonsson Agency. 

Lars Kepler is the pseudonym for the critically acclaimed husband and wife team Alexandra Coelho Ahndoril and Alexander Ahndoril, authors of the number one internationally bestselling Joona Linna series, which has sold over 250,000 copies in the UK (TCM). With over 15 million copies sold worldwide and outstanding reviews from Time magazine, New York TimesSunday TimesThe TimesDaily Mail and more, this is a major acquisition for the Zaffre imprint. 

The first publication from Lars Kepler will be The Mirror Man, which follows a detective on the trail of a kidnapper who makes his victims’ worst nightmares a reality. This is a dark, compulsive thriller set at a breakneck pace with writing that delves into the depths of the human psyche. The Mirror Man will be one of Zaffre’s lead crime titles for 2022. 

Lars Kepler said: ‘We have only positive things to say about our former English publisher, but when we met the Zaffre team it was just like when you meet someone for the first time and feel in your heart that you will become good friends. The conversations were filled with energy, laughter and plans for the future. We are convinced that this is not only the beginning of a long friendship, but also something great for our books and our readers.’

Niclas Salomonsson said: ‘I couldn’t be more excited about collaborating with Bonnier Books UK

and the Zaffre team on Lars Kepler’s brilliant authorship. I feel very confident with Perminder Mann and her outstanding team and am thrilled to see The Mirror Man and the following Joona Linna novels be published by them.’’

Managing Director Kate Parkin said: ‘Like millions of other fans round the world, Lars Kepler’s dark, pitch perfect crime novels have kept me on the edge of my seat long into the night. We are enormously proud to be bringing the most compelling crime thriller voice of a generation to Bonnier Books UK and we can’t wait to introduce his latest novel The Mirror Man to readers and listeners. I can promise them the thrill ride of their life…’

Publishing Director Ben Willis said: ‘I still remember the visceral terror I experienced when reading Richard and Judy pick The Hypnotist a decade ago, and The Mirror Man is every bit as brilliant. Kepler does something unique: creates disturbing, chilling, gripping crime stories that are also beautifully written. I can’t wait to work with Alexandra and Alexander to bring their sales to the next level.’

The Mirror Man will be published in the UK and Ireland 23rd June 2022 in hardback, audio, and eBook.

Author photo credit: Ewa-Marie Rundquist

Wednesday, 5 January 2022

January Books from Bookouture

Mystery at Magpie Lodge is by Clare Chase. After the black sheep of the Fulton family is found dead, the village of Saxford St Peter is quick to blame it on his past misdeeds. But Eve Mallow is on the hunt for someone closer to home… When the down-on-his-luck Emory Fulton moves into crumbling Magpie Lodge, and starts running historical tours, the locals are none too pleased. He’s inventing grisly tales about their lovely little village, and disturbing everyone’s peace. But then he’s found dead in his bath, and everyone is suddenly running scared. Could something strange be happening? After all, the murder mirrors one of Fulton’s stories about Saxford’s dark past… But Eve Mallow is sure the answers lie in much more recent events. Accompanied by her stalwart dachshund sidekick Gus, she starts to dig a little deeper. Could it be Fulton’s snobbish bigwig brother, or the suspicious local academic? Why was his goddaughter handing him mysterious parcels, and why wouldn’t his sister-in-law let him in her house? As Eve unravels the secrets of the living and the dead, one thing is for sure: Fulton was a haunted, hunted man. And if Eve doesn’t crack the case soon, she might find whoever wanted to keep Fulton quiet on her trail too…

The Birthday Party is by Wendy Dranfield. Charlotte waves at her mother across the crowded lawn. Little red boots on, cowboy hat crooked over her blonde pigtails, she’s been looking forward to this party for weeks. Moments later, she disappears without a trace… Kathy Hamilton drives away from her sister-in-law’s pristine-white suburban house in Maple Falls certain she’s left her daughter in safe hands. On the hottest day of the year, a birthday is the perfect excuse to gather friends, family and neighbors around the pool for a barbecue. But when she returns hours later to find her little girl has vanished, her world shatters. Nobody laughing and drinking in the garden that day saw anything unusual. Kathy’s eldest daughter is anxious and hardly eating. Is she sick with worry for her sister, or hiding a terrible secret? The phone rings and rings, but why can’t Kathy get hold of the babysitter? And is she imagining it, or when her husband rushed from work to join the search, was he wearing a different shirt to the one she saw him leave the house in that morning? As the temperature rises, and long-buried secrets begin to surface, it’s clear that even the most perfect families keep devastating secrets. But in a town as small as this, is there anyone you can trust?

The detective stared at the young woman lying on the bed. She almost looked peaceful, her face like porcelain. Despite everything she had been through, she was still beautiful. When DI Bernie Noel hurries to Keira Howard’s hospital bedside, she knows that Keira has been lucky. Barely conscious and badly injured, at least she is alive. Convinced that Keira’s attack is the latest in a string of increasingly violent assaults on young women in the area, the next victim might not be so fortunate. So she vows to find the man who did this, and to stop him before anyone else gets hurt. Spurring her team into action, she quickly hones in on a prime suspect. But then he suddenly dies while on police watch, and Bernie’s investigation goes into free-fall. When Bernie’s superiors won’t let her take the case any further, her gut instinct tells her there’s much more to his death than meets the eye. If it was murder, who would want him dead, and why? So she determines to set out on her own to find out what happened. But the closer Bernie comes to discovering the truth, the more she is putting her own life in danger. And with Keira finally strong enough to talk her about her attack, Bernie worries she may be at risk yet again. There’s someone out there who has killed to stay safe in the shadows; can Bernie stop another senseless death, and save Keira, before it’s too late? Left for Dead is by Joy Kluver. 

Two Couples. Three Secrets. One Murder. In a beautiful house surrounded by woodland, the Drayton family and their dearest friends are enjoying dinner together. The wine is flowing, the meal has been lovingly prepared, and it’s going to be an evening none of them will ever forget… A doting mother with a manipulative daughter. A loving husband lying to his family. A close friend keeping a shocking secret. A beautiful girl who will be dead by the end of the night. The Night of the Party is by Anna-Lou Weatherley.

A Deception Most deadly is by Genevieve Essig. Meet Cassie Gwynne: bookworm, cat lover, reluctant heiress… and accidental detective? America, 1883. Cassie Gwynne is looking for a fresh start when she steps off the steamship to meet her Aunt Flora, a famous perfumer, for the first time. After losing her father, her aunt is the only family she has left so she wants to make a good impression. She’s styled her unruly hair, shined her boots, and even purchased a whole new fashionable wardrobe. However, she’s certain finding a body is not very ladylike behaviour… While out exploring the beautiful island of Fernandina, Cassie stumbles across the body of Peanut Runkles, town grump and her aunt’s neighbour, lying at the foot of the harbour pilots’ lookout tower. To make matters worse, because Peanut and Aunt Flora have been quarrelling for years over Flora’s pet pig’s fondness for Peanut’s vegetable patch, and had their biggest argument the day before, Flora is immediately arrested for murder. Cassie is certain her sweet aunt is innocent, and vows to prove it, to save her from a most unjust fate. It doesn’t take her long to realise the island is full of people who had reason to want Peanut dead, including the brusque barkeep and a fickle financier who owed him money. Soon, Cassie’s brilliant mind and nose for a clue lead her back to the scene of the crime and the mysterious coloured glass found by the body… but what does it mean? Then a break-in at Flora’s store throws Cassie off course. It seems sabotage is afoot, and the culprit is striking ever closer to home… Can Cassie get to the bottom of the case before her time on the island comes to a deadly end?

You have two days to kill her, or you will be the next to die… A week ago the body of a young woman named Mia Gallagher was found in an elevator shaft, forty-eight hours after she was snatched from her apartment in Lakemore, Washington. When a local man confesses to her killing in his suicide note, the police department believe the case is closed. But then another woman goes missing, and forty-eight hours later is found dead. Detective Mackenzie Price is convinced their deaths are connected. Then she finds a letter in the supposed murderer’s house and realizes the sickening truth: the victims are all part of a sinister game, and more lives are at stake. Someone wants these women dead—but isn’t killing them. Instead they are blackmailing others to do their dirty work: become a murderer, or be the next to die. When a third woman goes missing, Mack and her partner Detective Nick Blackwood know they have just forty-eight hours to find her alive. Only by hunting down the blackmailer, who’s masterminding this twisted game, will they be able to stop the killings. But the blackmailer will go to any lengths to get away with murder, and now no one connected to the case is safe. Including Mack. She has spent years healing from her troubled past, learning to open her heart again but—as one of the people closest to her is sucked into the game—could she be about to lose another person she loves? The Dying Game is by Ruhi Choudhary.

Find the Girl is by Helen Phifer. The tent door flutters in the warm breeze, opening towards the silent woods beyond. A silk eye mask lies on top of the empty sleeping bag, blood-red spots ruining the cream fabric… When a woman disappears from Forest Pines campsite, Detective Morgan Brookes scrambles a search party. Sara Fletcher has never missed a lunch date with her best friend and when Morgan finds a large rip in Sara’s tent, she knows that something terrible must have happened. About to lose hope after hours combing through the acres of dense forest, the excited bark of a tracker dog leads Morgan to female remains, partially covered by leaves and dirt – but the bones don’t belong to Sara. Morgan trawls through missing persons files until she finds three cold cases with chilling similarities – three other victims dating back twenty years who were taken from campsites while they slept, by a killer the police called the Travelling Man. The post-mortems indicate he kept them alive for 72 hours, meaning every second is crucial to find Sara alive. Morgan’s team is terrified that this twisted murderer has returned. But Morgan also can’t ignore the fact that a merciless killer from her own past has recently escaped from prison… Could they be chasing the wrong man? If she’s correct, how deep will she have to dig to save Sara and other innocent women like her before time runs out for them all?

The only sound in the forest was the wind through the branches; the only light came from the campfire. Jessie stood up, suddenly gripped by a powerful sense of dread. There was something – someone – beyond the darkness, through the trees… When single father Joe Keenan and his young son Finbar make camp for the night in the ancient forest of Leitrim, little do they imagine their rural escape is about to turn into a nightmare. For deep in the woods they find a corpse… As the remains of dozens more victims are uncovered by police, it becomes clear this is the burial site of a serial killer who has obviously been active, unnoticed, for years. Arrested for the murders, while his beloved son is sent into care, Joe pleads his innocence to no avail. But criminal behaviourist Jessie Boyle is convinced the killer is still out there. Determined to reunite Joe and his son, Jessie’s investigation turns towards the local community. Who knows the shadowy depths of the forest well enough to hide not just one, but many bodies? Then someone else goes missing, and the situation takes a terrifying turn: it’s clear the killer is escalating their gruesome spree. Forced to enter the woods alone to save a life, Jessie runs from a killer so skilled at hiding and so clever at hunting, it will take every ounce of her strength to make it out alive… Lost Graves is by S A Dunphy.

Behind her dream life hides the perfect nightmare. I couldn’t believe it when I got the call to offer me my dream job. It was right in the heart of the city with a flat provided. I jumped at the chance and within weeks I had made new friends and started to date a wonderful man. For the first time in years, I felt safe. It’s a world away from the life I ran from… But soon strange things begin to happen in my flat: odd noises in the night, the feeling that I’m being watched. When I discover an old dress hidden behind my wardrobe and wear it to work, the atmosphere chills instantly. The dress belonged to a girl my boss would rather forget. The girl before me who vanished without a trace. I tell myself not to worry; that I’m just imagining things. But when a young woman arrives on my doorstep, she warns me to leave my new life behind. She tells me there are more girls like me and we are more connected than I could have ever imagined. Then I come face to face with the reason I ran all those years ago and it soon becomes clear: someone knows my secret. And they will do anything to keep me silent. The New Girl is by Ruth Heald.

Twisting her hands together, she bites back a sob. She only turned her back for a second, and then her daughter was gone. Every mother in town would be hugging their children tighter tonight. Lara is baking cupcakes when her daughter Ava runs to catch the school bus just one block away. Chasing after her, Lara sees the bus tumbling past, and waves. But Ava never turns up at school. Detective Ellie Reeves is in a race against time to find her––in missing child cases, every second counts. Searching the small town of Crooked Creek, she finds the child’s bunny in the local park, the toy Ava carried around everywhere. Did Ava ever get on the bus? While Ellie works around the clock, a local reporter gets a message: There are others missing girls out there. Digging into previous cases, Ellie discovers that another girl went missing on the same day the previous year. How many more children could there be? Ellie is certain that the date means something––and that the person who sent the message is the key. But the community is up in arms, with everyone worried that their daughter will be next and blaming Ellie. The pressure is mounting, and time is running out to bring Ava home. Can Ellie solve the toughest case of her career––and save Ava––before it’s too late? Stolen Angels is by Rita Herron. 

The Guest Room is by Rona Halsall. You think you’re safe in your home. You’re wrong. Steph used to think her life was perfect. A happy marriage, two wonderful kids, and a home she felt safe in and called her own. But now her husband has walked out after thirty years, her daughter Bea is married and lives miles away, and Steph’s estranged son hasn’t made contact in years. Home doesn’t feel like the safe haven it once did. When she begins to hear noises in the night, at first she thinks she’s imagining things. But then she finds open windows she knows she left closed, and a strange smell in the kitchen – and she knows none of it feels right. Then her front window is smashed, and a young man named Noah helps her fix it. He’s fallen on hard times and Steph impulsively offers him a place to stay. He reminds her of her missing son, and as a mother she finds herself wanting to help him. Also, if he is there, she won’t be home alone. Before long Noah is living in Bea’s old bedroom, paying rent, and getting his life back on track. Steph’s ex-husband and Bea are furious. But Steph feels secure at last, and that’s what matters. Until the strange things start happening once more. And Steph realises that someone is out to scare her… Someone who will stop at nothing to make her never, ever feel safe again.


Saturday, 1 January 2022

What next in 2022!

So, 2021 was hard for so many of us with various things happening, specifically the pandemic. However, for me personally there were a number of good things to celebrate crime fiction wise. The Shotsblog has been going from strength to strength. Looking back in 2020 we had over 250 blog posts. We managed to surpass that in 2021 with 354. What a coup!

I found myself doing more events online last year than I expected and as much as I enjoyed doing them I did miss that face to face contact. Being able to see friends and catch up with people. I am however looking forward to various crime fiction events this year.

There were some great books released last year and my list of favourite reads can be found here. This list could have been doubled. Saying that there are also a great number of books due to be published in 2022. As much as I would like to indicate all the books that I am looking forward to reading this year, I am going to start with the ones that I am looking forward to reading in the first six months of 2022.

I have always been a big Raymond Chandler fan and if you have read any interviews that I have done then I have always mentioned him as one of my all time favourite authors. I am therefore quite intrigued to see how good the re-imaging of Philip Marlowe is going to be.  The Goodbye Coast: A Philip Marlowe Novel by Joe Ide (Orion). The seductive and relentless figure of Raymond Chandler's detective, Philip Marlowe, is vividly re-imagined in present-day Los Angeles. Here is a city of scheming Malibu actresses, ruthless gang members, virulent inequality, and washed-out police. Acclaimed and award-winning novelist Joe Ide imagines a Marlowe very much of our time: he's a quiet, lonely, and remarkably capable and confident private detective, though he lives beneath the shadow of his father, a once-decorated LAPD homicide detective, famous throughout the city, who's given in to drink after the death of Marlowe's mother. Marlowe, against his better judgement, accepts two missing person cases, the first a daughter of a faded, tyrannical Hollywood starlet, and the second, a British child stolen from his mother by his father. At the centre of COAST is Marlowe's troubled and confounding relationship with his father, a son who despises yet respects his dad, and a dad who's unable to hide his bitter disappointment with his grown boy. Together, they will realise that one of their clients may be responsible for murder of her own husband, a washed-up director in debt to Albanian and Russian gangsters, and that the client's trouble-making daughter may not be what she seems.

I have been a huge fan of Gregg Hurwitz even before he started writing his Orphan X series. His Tim Rackley series has always been one of my favourites. However, when Orphan X was first published he created an extraordinary character that has continued to grow and fascinate readers continuously. The next book in the Orphan X series is Dark Horse (Michael Joseph) The hero - Evan Smoak: former off-the-books assassin - code name Orphan X. His world is divided into those who deserve his help and those who've brought his singular brand of justice upon themselves. The victim - A desperate father reaches out. His teenage daughter Anjelina has been kidnapped by a brutal criminal cartel and spirited over the border into Mexico. And while money is no object, Evan soon realises that his prospective client's past is as clouded and compromised as his own. The mission - If Evan is going to put his life on the line to rescue Anjelina, he must first decide whether he can act on behalf of a bad man. And even then, up against the men who are holding his daughter, there will be no guarantee of success...

Kotaro Isaka's Bullet Train was an unusual book featuring a bunch of assassins aboard a train, where not that many get off at the other end. It was one of my favourite reads in 2021 so I am looking forward to Three Assassins by Kotaro Isaka (Vintage). Once again assassins are in the mix. Their mission is murder. His is revenge. Suzuki is just an ordinary man until his wife is murdered. When he discovers the criminal gang responsible he leaves behind his life as a maths teacher and joins them, looking for a chance to take his revenge. What he doesn't realise is that he's about to get drawn into a web of unusual professional assassins, each with their own agenda. The Whale convinces his victims to take their own lives using just his words. The Cicada is a talkative and deadly knife expert. The elusive Pusher dispatches his targets in deadly traffic accidents. Suzuki must take each of them on, in order to try to find justice and keep his innocence in a world of killers. 

If you have never read any of Mick Herron's Slough House series then I would suggest that you do so. 2021 saw the publication of Dolphin Junction a collection of short stories which included a peek into the past of Slough House's top agent Jackson Lamb. Bad Actors (John Murray) sees the return to Slough House with a full length novel. Intelligence has a new home. A governmental think-tank, whose remit is to curb the independence of the intelligence service, has lost one of its key members, and Claude Whelan-one-time head of MI5's Regent's Park-is tasked with tracking her down. But the trail leads straight back to the Park itself, with Diana Taverner as chief suspect. Has Diana overplayed her hand at last? What's her counterpart, Moscow's First Desk, doing in London? And does Jackson Lamb know more than he's telling? Over at Slough House, with Shirley Dander in rehab, Roddy Ho in dress rehearsal, and new recruit Ashley Khan turning up the heat, the slow horses are doing what they do best, and adding a little bit of chaos to an already unstable situation . . . There are bad actors everywhere, and they usually get their comeuppance before the credits roll. But politics is a dirty business, and in a world where lying, cheating and backstabbing are the norm, sometimes the good guys can find themselves outgunned.

The Book of Sand (Century) is the posthumous published book by Theo Clare who for many of us is better known as Mo Hayder. This is not strictly a crime book more of a high concept thriller. But with the loss last year of Mo Hayder The Book of Sand is a welcome reminder of how good a writer she is. 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.

Wiley Cash has always been one of those writers whose novels have always had a great sense of place. From his brilliant debut novel A Land More Kind Than Home to his CWA Gold Dagger Award winning This Dark Road to Mercy Wiley Cash has constantly given readers lyrical, heartbreaking and haunting stories. With When Ghosts Come Home (Faber & Faber) we once again have a fascinating, nuanced meditation on life in a small town. 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.

I have always been a big fan of (1) short stories and (2) Laura Lippman who writes phenomenal short stories.  Seasonal Work and Other Killer Stories is a collection by Laura Lippman that I am looking forward to reading. 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...'

This is just a snapshot of some of the books that I'm looking forward to reading. There are lots more and I am in no doubt that 2022 will once again be a bumper year for great books. My thanks of course go to all the wonderful authors who have kept me busy reading. It looks as if will be the same again this year.