November 15 2014

Is anyone else disconcerted by authors using real people in crime novels? Not background references to footballers or actors – significant presence in the plot. It certainly brought our reviewer Anthea Hawdon up short when she read Paul Cornell’s The Severed Streets, and found that author Neil Gaiman had a vital part to play in the story.

It’s been a busy week for our historical expert John Cleal. He praised Christopher Gortner’s The Tudor Conspiracy, set in the court of Catholic Queen Mary (OK, she’s real, but also dead!) – a period of history that often gets missed in crime novels. And he’s a great fan of Susanna Gregory’s 14th century Matthew Bartholomew series – and says The Lost Abbot is an entertaining addition to it. John’s also a tad sheepish after he entertained cynical thoughts about camels and books being designed by a committee. He reports, though, that The Medieval Murderers’ The False Virgin combines good history, good humour and good crime. So he hasn’t taken the hump this time!

JD Robb is 38 books into the Eve Dallas series with Concealed in Death. But the more Sylvia Wilson reads of the series, the more she wants to know about the characters. And Linda Wilson reports that Kate Ellis’s Devon series, featuring a cop and an archaeologist, is still as fresh as ever with The Shroud Maker. Maddy Marsh, meanwhile, was positively purring with pleasure over Dean Koontz’s The City, and reckons this tale of a young man wanting to become a musician is the experienced author’s best.

Edney Silvestre’s If I Close My Eyes Now reveals much about power in 1950s and 1960s Brazil, says Chris Roberts. And Chris also praises the latest outing for Maasai detective Mollel in Richard Crompton’s Hell’s Gate. There was a certain amount of head-scratching from Arnold Taylor as he read Fred Vargas’s Dog Will Have His Day. He says it’s eccentric, but intelligent and with a sense of humanity.

Sharon Wheeler was genuinely unsettled by Andreas Norman’s Into a Raging Blaze, a Scandi thriller that shows the UK and US in a lousy light. She says it’s a slow burner, but totally worth sticking with. You know what you’re going to get with Stephen Leather’s Spider Shepherd series, says Linda Wilson, and White Lies is no exception as our hero has a run-in with al-Qaeda.

Elsewhere, Sharon Wheeler reckons she just about passed the memory test of a raft of characters in Jane Adams’s Paying the Ferryman, and enjoyed a gritty book with a strong sense of a small town. John Cleal was very taken with Tom Benn’s seriously noir Chamber Music, but reckons some of the references might pass older readers by! Chris Roberts wasn’t so sure, though, about Borderline, a Lawrence Block pulp fiction from 1958, which is heavy on the sex and violence.

And Linda Wilson had a jolly spiffing time on the YA beat with Robin Stevens’s Murder Most Unladylike where Daisy and Hazel prove they’re the boarding school gels’ answer to Holmes and Watson!

In the Countdown hot seat this week is Will Jordan, who has some good advice for his teenage self. And he’s not the only one to turn nasty at the sight of those wretched ‘Keep calm and …’ notices!

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 in the US and Canada.
And if you're not following us on Twitter, we’re chatting away happily at .

Linda and Sharon

Countdown with
Will Jordan

Will Jordan initially wanted to be an actor and while working as an extra, he was cast as a World War Two soldier in a feature film. After being put through military bootcamp and taught how to handle weapons for his role, he decided to do further research and soon fell in love with works of military history. He then turned his hand to writing and, in order to shape his first Ryan Drake thriller – Redemption – visited weapon ranges all over America and Eastern Europe, becoming something of an arms expert. He lives in Fife with his wife and sons.

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

It pays the bills but I can’t wait to leave.

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

Doughnuts. A cup of coffee. Playstation. Emmett from the Lego Movie. A copy of Betrayal. A bonsai tree. My car keys. A picture of a loch in the Scottish highlands. The tankard I got for my 21st birthday.

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

Seared steak with tossed salad.