November 1 2014

We’ve got some golden oldies for you this week which prove that classy writing never dates. A couple have had some 21st century assistance, but reviewers reckon you can’t see the join!

Max Allan Collins has completed Complex 90, an unfinished story from the daddy of crime fic, Mickey Spillane – and John Cleal says it’s a worthy follower to a great tradition. Current crime novelist Ace Atkins also proves to be a safe pair of hands when it comes to writing a new Spenser book, says Linda Wilson. Robert Parker died in 2010, but Wonderland has snappy dialogue and the familiar characters are true to life. Meanwhile, Georges Simenon’s The Mahé Circle, set just before the second world war on a Mediterranean island, is literature of the highest order, says Chris Roberts.

You know when something strikes you as slightly off in a book? Fiona Spence’s feeling that the hero of Felix Francis’s rather random Damage didn’t feel like a Jeff turned out to be right! And Maddy Marsh did some eye-rolling at stereotypical bad guys in James Carol’s Broken Dolls, but says the good guys are well written. Former Special Branch commander Roger Pearce has turned to writing and Linda Wilson says The Extremist really does have the ring of authenticity. Sharon Wheeler enjoyed the Bristol and Dorset setting for Jane Shemilt’s Daughter, although she’s starting to feel she’s read rather too many books of late about sprogs going missing from middle class families …

On the American front, Sharon enjoyed Hilary Norman’s Fear and Loathing, featuring US cop Sam Becket, even though she reckoned it felt like two books spliced together. John Cleal praises David Carnoy’s Knife Music, and reckons whoever picked up the clue to the killer should be joining the cops themselves! Lisa Gardner’s Fear Nothing also kept Sylvia Wilson guessing to the end. And Chris Roberts, who reviewed Marcia Clark’s Killer Ambition, says it’s a novelty to see a thriller with strong female characters.

Tom Franklin and his poet wife Beth Ann Fennelly have collaborated on The Tilted World, set in a 1920s US Deep South small town during prohibition. John Cleal says it’s beautifully written and a book to savour. Michael J Malone’s The Guillotine Choice, written with Bashir Saoudi, is based on a true story – that of Saoudi’s father, who was imprisoned for more than 18 years in a penal colony for a crime he didn’t commit. John says it’s a remarkable story. The unusual setting for Jason Goodwin’s The Baklava Club is the 1842 Ottoman Empire, and Chris Roberts praised its humane and believable hero. Roberto Costantini’s The Deliverance of Evil uses social context – and football World Cups 24 years apart – to add great realism to its Rome setting, says Arnold Taylor.

If you’re a YA fan, don’t miss The Danger Game by Kevin Brooks. It has characters you’d want on your side if your back was to the wall, says Linda Wilson.

In the Countdown hot seat this week is Edward Marston, who has got a very varied range of drinking companions. He can sit next to Alex Ferguson, but we’ll be round to help him drink the wine and eat Welsh rarebit, which is his quick meal suggestion!

We'll back in a fortnight with 16 new reviews and an interview with a top author. In the meantime, do visit our good friends at Reviewing the Evidence to catch up with releases on the other side of the Pond.
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Linda and Sharon

Countdown with
Edward Marston

Edward Marston was born and brought up in South Wales. A full-time writer for over 40 years, he has worked in radio, film, television and the theatre, and is a former chairman of the Crime Writers’ Association. He has written crime novels across six different periods of history, including the Victorian railway detective series.

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

Hard work, perseverance and good luck always bring you rewards.

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

Books, more books, birds, Americano coffee, a garden, bills, letters, photos of loved ones and a flickering screen.

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

Welsh rarebit and a quality wine.