September 6 2014

Look out your long johns and thermal vests, as it looks like summer might just have slunk off. And we have a couple of very chilly books – in the location, as well as the atmosphere sense – for you this week.

Chris Roberts praised Olivier Truc’s Forty Days Without Shadow, a police procedural set in Lapland amidst reindeer breeders. And Sharon Wheeler was absolutely hooked by MJ McGrath’s The Bone Seeker, set in the High Arctic and very strong on Inuit culture.

On the Scandi front, Cockroaches is the second book in the Harry Hole series, but has only just been translated into English. Tracy Johnson says it’s fresh and pacey, despite us knowing what’s in store for our hero.

Arnold Taylor has enjoyed previous books by Robert Littell, but was disappointed by A Nasty Piece of Work – particularly the ending, which Arnold says is unconvincing and tasteless. John Cleal had more luck on the US front with The Edge of Normal by Carla Norton. He says it deals with the hideous topic of women being abducted and abused in a subtle and balanced manner.

Tom Vowler’s That Dark Remembered Day, set amidst Dartmoor’s forbidding landscape is a dark story where secrets from the past are uncovered. Linda Wilson says it’s both sensitive and harrowing. Meanwhile, Jack Higgins has been around for years, and has several classics, such as The Eagle has Landed and A Prayer for the Dying under his belt. Linda says that The Death Trade gallops along at a fair clip and is a good introduction to hero Sean Dillon if you haven’t caught up with him before.

If you’re looking for historicals, there’s a good batch this week. Peter Tremayne’s Atonement of Blood is set in seventh century Ireland. Sylvia Maughan wonders aloud whether the characters aren’t a touch modern, but she says the book is enjoyable and intricately plotted. Somewhat closer to the modern day, Laurie R King has married Sherlock Holmes off to the feisty Mary Russell. The marriage might not be convincing, but the partnership certainly is in A Letter of Mary, says John Cleal – although he’d have preferred the British English to be more accurate. Debut writer MRC Kasasian reckons his Victorian heroes in The Mangle Street Murders are the progenitors of Holmes and Watson. John says it’s not often you put a book down and say ‘that was fun’ – but you can here. John also got engrossed in Rory Clements’ The Queen’s Man, and says it’s the Shakespearean version of Spooks!

Speaking of convincing, Chris Roberts wasn’t entirely sure about Kill and Tell by Adam Creed, the latest book to feature unconventional London DI Will Wagstaffe. And he was even less convinced by Fred Vargas’s The Ghost Riders of Ordebec – plotting, motivation and characterisation don’t pass muster for him. And there’s an equally unusual detective in Stuart Neville’s The Final Silence. Linda Wilson says, though that the writing is stark and powerful, and you’ll care about the characters.

Sharon Wheeler freely admits to enjoying JK Rowling’s PI series under the Robert Galbraith banner. The Silkworm is set amidst London’s literary community – and Sharon was rather taken with feisty Robin, the female sidekick to investigator Cormoran Strike.

Among the young adult releases, Eliza Crewe’s Cracked stars a girl who eats people’s souls. Linda Wilson enjoyed the book a lot and says it’s a strong story of friendship and loyalties.

Andrew Lane, author of the young Sherlock Holmes and Lost Worlds YA novels, answers our Countdown questions this week. He’s clearly had a very eventful working life. And his eight-minute risotto recipe sounds good, just so long as one of the editors can have hers without meat in!

We'll back in a fortnight with 16 new reviews and an interview with a top author. In the meantime, we hope you'll find time to visit our good friends at Reviewing the Evidence to catch up with what’s been released on the other side of the Pond.
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Linda and Sharon

Countdown with
Andrew Lane

Andrew Lane is a journalist and the author of the Young Sherlock Holmes series of young adult novels, starting with Death Cloud, and also the Lost Worlds series. He has written spin-off novels based on Doctor Who, as well as guides to Babylon 5 and the Wallace and Gromit films. He is the author of The Bond Files: An Unofficial Guide to the World’s Greatest Secret Agent.

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

I’ll give you five words on my non-writing working life and five on my writing working life: varied; formal; boring; frustrating; deskbound; soul-destroying; incredible; absorbing; terrifying; precarious; joyful.

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

CDs. Snacks. Black cardboard boxes. All my current research books in a bookcase. A full-sized Argentinian poster for Christopher Lee as Fu Manchu in Las Venganza de Fu Manchu (“Nada fue tan cruel Y sangunario como!”), A screwdriver and a socket wrench. A leather couch for ‘thinking’ purposes. Seven bass guitars. A small Dalek toy with the sucker arm missing.

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

Risotto using Arborio rice fried in a little butter and garlic, then simmered with chicken stock and white wine for a while before the addition of peas, ham hock and some grated cheese. Mmmmm.