October 18 2014

There’s only 45 minutes to save the universe this week, as we cling on by our bitten fingernails as a crop of exciting thrillers whoosh past …

Personal is the 19th in Lee Child’s Jack Reacher series – and our hero gets to travel to Paris and London. Sharon Wheeler says that there’s no point in being snobby – you know just what you’ll get with this page-turning series. Chris Ryan’s Masters of War is well-written on the topical issue of Syria, although Linda Wilson was mildly grumpy about some lazy characterisation. You don’t read former MI5 chief Stella Rimington’s books for her well-rounded characterisation, says Sharon Wheeler. Instead, read and enjoy Close Call for the fact you’re pretty sure there’s a generous helping of truth in there. And duck for cover – John Cleal fulminates about Robert Littell’s Young Philby, but says if you don’t know the truth behind it, you will find it superbly written and absolutely riveting!

We let John lie down in a darkened room for a while, then gave him a cosy to soothe his nerves. And he was royally entertained by Jean G Goodhind’s Walking With Ghosts – even though he had an early rant about the city of Bath!

Glasgow, fortunately, met with his approval. John, who’s a big fan of Malcolm Mackay, says The Night the Rich Men Burned is spare, authentic and brutal. Also set there is Paths of the Dead, the latest in Lin Anderson’s forensic series. Linda Wilson says it has one hell of an opening.

There’s an unusual debut novel this week – KT Medina’s White Crocodile, set amidst mine clearance in Cambodia. Chris Roberts could have done without so much mental anguish, but praises the book’s coverage of the thorny question of Western aid. Meanwhile, over in Russia, Martin Cruz Smith’s hero Arkady Renko is back in Tatiana, investigating the death of a journalist. Arnold Taylor was fascinated by its critique of Russian society.

On the US front, Maddy Marsh felt distinctly cheated by the unsympathetic cop hero in David Jackson’s Marked. Sylvia Wilson enjoyed the latest in the long-running Alex Delaware series by Jonathan Kellerman, and says that Killer is a fascinating insight into the human psyche. Chris Roberts was rather taken with Michael Collins’s Act of Fear, written in 1967. He admired its terse dialogue and gritty depiction of working class lives in a New York neighbourhood.

We’ve got two UK police procedurals this week. John Cleal praised the innovative plotlines and realistic characterisation in Niamh O’Connor’s Blink. Linda Wilson was momentarily confused by the presence of a firearms Lieutenant in AJ Cross’s Art of Deception, and wondered whether it was set in Birmingham, Alabama, rather than Birmingham, West Midlands! But she liked the characters, even if she’d have liked a stronger sense of place.

And there are a couple of cracking YA releases. Fiona Spence says that Shadow Creatures, the latest in Andrew Lane’s Lost Worlds series, is a real rollercoaster ride and exciting adventure story. Barry Lyga’s Game, starring the son of a serial killer, ends on a humungous cliffhanger. If you can put up with this, Linda Wilson says the book is smart, fast-paced and darkly funny.

In the Countdown hot seat this week is Edward Wilson, who seems to have led the sort of life most of us only read about in books …

We'll back in a fortnight with 16 new reviews and an interview with a top author. In the meantime, please potter over to our good friends at Reviewing the Evidence to catch up with American and Canadian releases.
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Linda and Sharon

Countdown with
Edward Wilson

Edward Wilson is a native of Baltimore. He served as a Special Forces officer in Vietnam and received the Army Commendation Medal with ‘V’ for his part in rescuing wounded Vietnamese soldiers from a minefield. His other decorations include the Bronze Star and the Combat Infantryman’s Badge. After leaving the Army, Wilson gave up US nationality to become a British citizen. He is the author of four previous novels A River in May (shortlisted for the British Commonwealth Writers’ Prize), The Envoy, The Darkling Spy and The Midnight Swimmer, all published by Arcadia Books. The author now lives in Suffolk where he taught English and Modern Languages for 30 years.

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

Farms, war, shipyards, trade unions, hospitals, classrooms, writing – always watching.

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

Exposed oak beams, a thatched roof, Raymond the Llama, a rookery, a corner of the churchyard with 18th century gravestones, shrivelled daffodils, a hen blackbird foraging, a chaffinch undulating, a portrait of Admiral Vasili Alexandrovich Arkhipov.

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

Dressed Cromer crab, new potatoes (microwaved to keep to the eight-minute rule), salad in vinaigrette, aioli, baguette, Chablis.