July 26 2014

You’ll all be familiar with the occasions when a new book arrives in a cloud of hype and hyperbole. In this case is it a great character-driven crime novel or pretentious tosh? John Cleal says you’ll be firmly in one camp if you make it through the massive tome that is Joël Dicker’s The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair. And he promises to buy a drink for anyone who guesses the ending!

We’ve got a Resnick and Reznick this week. The former is a very welcome return for John Harvey’s enduring cop. Darkness, Darkness harks back 30 years to the miners’ strike, and Sharon Wheeler says it’s a fitting swansong for our semi-retired hero. The latter is an ex-Special Forces soldier in J B Turner’s Hard Kill. Linda Wilson says it’s a fast, clever and believable thriller.

Over the channel, Linda also enjoyed Martin Walker’s Children of War, the latest outing for small-town French cop Bruno Courrèges. The body count may be rivalling that of Midsomer Murders, there’s more unresolved sexual tension for our hero, but the dog survives!

Gibraltar is an unusual setting for a crime novel. Chris Roberts enjoyed the engaging protagonist, action and sharp dialogue in Thomas Mogford’s Hollow Mountain. He also journeyed to Naples for Jan Merete Weiss’s A Few Drops of Blood, and praised the contrasts between the crumbling city and the life that Natalia, the leading character, enjoys. Meanwhile, over in Venice, Sylvia Wilson enjoyed the delving into Italy’s murky political past in Jonathan Holt’s The Abomination, which also features a female cop in the lead role.

Back in the UK, Tom Cain’s Revenger is set five minutes into the future in a scary, dystopian Britain. John Cleal has misgivings about the way Cain has wrapped the series up, but says it’s a scary dark-hell ride of a book. Elizabeth Corley is a high-powered businesswoman, so it’s not unexpected that her books don’t come thick and fast. Sharon Wheeler praised the winter setting in Dead of Winter, but was less sure about the two main police characters. Meanwhile, Sharon Bolton’s A Dark and Twisted Tide takes us onto the many and varied waterways of London. Linda Wilson grumbled about the jumping backwards and forwards in time, but says that otherwise it’s an engrossing read.

The jumping around was one of the criticisms Arnold Taylor had of Alex Berenson’s thriller The Counterfeit Agent, but he says it boasts a neatly-constructed plot.

If you want humour, as well as a gripping mystery, Chris Roberts recommends John Dufresne’s No Regrets, Coyote, featuring therapist and amateur actor Wylie ‘Coyote’ Melville, who gets roped in as a forensic consultant by the Florida police.

Sylvia Maughan welcomes the re-print of Gladys Mitchell’s Speedy Death, first published in 1929. She says there’s an intriguing look at the use of psychology, the expertise of its main character, Mrs Bradley.

Among the historicals this week, John Cleal says Imogen Robertson’s Theft of Life is an uncomfortable but necessary and compelling read about the slave trade. And he says if you like lashings of sex and blood, then Richard Blake’s The Curse of Babylon, set amidst the seventh century Roman empire, will be right up your street!

On the young adult front this week, Linda Wilson says Daniela Sacerdoti’s Tide, featuring a teenage demon hunter, is clever and sympathetic.

In the Countdown hot seat this week is Northern Irish writer Brian McGilloway – and we shall be running away with him, as well as making sure we sit near him in the cinema for our share of popcorn!

We'll back in a fortnight with 16 new reviews and an interview with a top author. In the meantime, we hope you'll visit our good friends at Reviewing the Evidence to catch up on the American and Canadian releases.
And if you're not following us on Twitter, find us at .

Linda and Sharon

Countdown with
Brian McGilloway

Brian McGilloway is the author of the Inspector Benedict Devlin and DS Lucy Black series. He was born in Derry, Northern Ireland. After studying English at Queen’s University, Belfast, he took up a teaching position in St Columb’s College in Derry, where he was Head of English before he moved to writing full-time. In 2014, Brian won BBC NI's Tony Doyle Award for his screenplay, Little Emperors, an award that sees him become writer in residence with BBC NI.

Ten words to sum up your working life to date ...

Teacher for 18 years. Writer for ten – full time now.

Nine things you can see from where you're sitting ...

1. My framed Godfather 2 Quad poster.
2. A painting my eldest son did for my birthday.
3. A picture of my wife and children.
4. Books – lots of books.
5. The edits for the next Lucy Black novel on the screen of my Mac.
6. A poster from Tom Waits’ Glitter and Doom concert in Dublin 2008.
7. A framed set of pictures from the movie Heat – a lovely gift from a past pupil after he left school.
8. Our two mini Schnauzers, running around the back garden,
9. Kids’ toys – lots of kids’ toys.

Eight minutes to prepare a meal. What's it going to be ?

Spaghetti Bolognaise with meatballs and gluten-free spaghetti as I’m a coeliac. Eight minutes might leave the pasta a little too firm, mind you…