August 23 2014

We’ve had some reviewers sidling out of their comfort zone this week. Sharon Wheeler, an avowed fan of the noir side of the genre, imperiously demanded something to make her laugh – and we all know humour in crime fiction can be very hit and miss.

Sharon found herself with the slapstick of Janet Evanovich and the world-weary asides of Simon Brett, and enjoyed both. Evanovich’s Top Secret Twenty-One is more of the same in the Stephanie Plum series, but takes our star character to New York and Atlanta in pursuit of Russian gangsters. Sharon hadn’t read any Simon Brett books before, but enjoyed the escapades of struggling actor Charles Paris who finds murder in the panto world (oh yes he does!) in The Cinderella Killer. And Sylvia Wilson enjoyed the humour of Tarquin Hall’s The Case of the Deadly Butter Chicken, featuring Most Private Investigator Vish Puri – although she says there’s darker history behind it, involving the historical partition of India and Pakistan.

Please welcome a new reviewer, Tracy Johnson … She’s a Scandi fan, and kicks off with Cilla and Rolf Börjlind’s Spring Tide, where a young police student investigates a cold case from 1987. We usually try to keep John Cleal away from the Scandis, but he approved thoroughly of Yrsa Sigurdardottir’s Someone to Watch Over Me, featuring an Icelandic lawyer who’s been hired by a sex offender.

John was less than impressed, though, by Christopher J Yates’s Black Chalk, based around six Oxford students and a mysterious game. He says it’s appropriately moody, but lacks any realism. And he’s usually a fan of Robert Wilson, but found the ending of You Will Never Find Me to be too neat, the leading character unsympathetic, and felt the story lacked the depth of his other work. He was considerably happier with Tony Black’s Artefacts of the Dead, though, where an injured DI returns to work and has his murder enquiry hampered by a series of ‘visions.’ John says it’s a cracking police procedural which successfully treads a fine line between dramatic licence and realism.

Who remembers the delightfully bonkers Bonekickers on TV? Linda Wilson was reminded of it by Andy McDermott’s The Valhalla Prophecy. She has a soft spot for this series and says there are still plenty of ancient sites for the heroes – appropriately named Wilde and Chase – to reduce to a pile of rubble!

It’s been a busy week on the US front. Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl has received a massive amount of praise and hype, and it’s set to be made into a film. Arnold Taylor says it’s an inventive and original book. Linda Wilson says Dick Wolf’s The Intercept, which focuses on the hijacking of a plane and the six passengers who save the day, is fast-moving and has a decent plot to it. And Chris Roberts praised the pacing and realism of Ace Atkins’s The Broken Places, set in a small town and featuring a sheriff who’s an Afghanistan veteran.

Chris Roberts had his doubts, though, about Mark Gimenez’s Con Law, with its super-cool law professor hero who appears to be the best thing since sliced bread. He praised the fracking angle and the author’s legal knowledge, but reckons it could have been better integrated into the plot. He also had some problems with the main character’s anger management issues in Frank Lentriccia’s The Dog Killer of Utica, but says it’s a book to appeal to those who have a dark sense of humour and like their US tough guy heroes.

Among the YA releases, Linda Wilson praised Niall Leonard’s gritty Shredder, the third in the Finn McGuire series where we have a teenage hero who, shock horror, swears, fights and has sex. And she enjoyed the audiobook version of Harlan Coben’s Shelter, featuring the nephew of sports agent Myron Bolitar – even if narrator Eric Myers did sound rather like he was auditioning for one of the witches in Macbeth when confronted with female voices!

David Mark, author of the Aector McEvoy series, is in the Countdown hot seat this week. He has some rather varied drinking companions – and some particularly specific advice for his younger self!

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 with what’s been released in the US and Canada.

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Linda and Sharon

Countdown with
David Mark

David Mark spent more than 15 years as a journalist before securing a publishing deal with Quercus. His debut crime thriller, the Hull-based Dark Winter, introduced readers to Detective Sergeant Aector McAvoy and has sold more than 150,000 copies, been translated into several languages and optioned by a major TV production company. The follow-up is Original Skin. He lives in Lincolnshire with his partner and two children and is now a full-time novelist.

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

Failure, perseverance, failure, perseverance, failure, serendipity, Val McDermid, published, shock.

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

Desktop punching bag, mini telescope, banjo, abandoned coat, a photo of my daughter with her head poking out of a giant ball of thread, bottle of Jameson’s, broken printer, throwing knife, pipe.

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

Carbonara, if you have fresh pasta. Use an egg yolk at the end for creaminess. Or order a pizza.