January 24 2015

We’ve got cops aplenty this week. Cops in the closet. Cops with complicated private lives. Cops who no one loves or trusts. Cops in the swinging 1960s. Cops who’ve seemingly been going for longer than Corrie. Cops who are so nice that our reviewers will be hot-footing it to the dentist quickly!

Quintin Jardine’s Skinner series has been running since dinosaurs walked the earth. Linda Wilson is a great fan of it. She has a couple of gripes, but found Hour of Darkness fascinating. Jeffery Deaver is immensely prolific, and John Cleal says The Kill Room, the Lincoln Rhyme book, has some clever twists, but isn’t up to the standard of others in the series. Sophie Hannah has taken over writing Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot mysteries – and Sylvia Maughan enjoyed the complex plot in The Monogram Murders.

Chris Roberts found the sweetness and light in the village of Three Pines rather difficult to take in How the Light Gets In, the latest outing for Chief Inspector Armand Gamache in Louise Penny’s Canadian series. Meanwhile, comics ace Warren Ellis has moved to writing crime fiction. John Cleal says Gun Machine is quality writing with quirky characters. John also praises William Shaw’s A House of Knives, set in the 1960s, and says it captures the period perfectly.

Linda Wilson is a big fan of Mari Hannah’s lesbian cop series. In Killing for Keeps, DCI Kate Daniels’ conflicted love life seems to get even more complicated. Also in the north east, Rebecca Muddiman’s Gone features cops who come across as real people, says Linda. Sharon Wheeler recommends Eva Dolan’s Tell No Tales, where the death of immigrants in Peterborough might have come off a newspaper front page. And Sharon will also be going back to fill in the gaps in Chris Collett’s well-rounded Birmingham series featuring DCI Tom Mariner after enjoying Dead of Night.

Simon Brenner has moved from cop work to driving an ambulance – but he’s still investigating. Chris Roberts says Wolf Haas’s Come, Sweet Death, set in Vienna, is a lot of fun. Chris also enjoyed Singapore Noir, edited by Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan, and reckons it’s a great opportunity to sample writing from that part of the world – and shoots down the theory that Singapore is a sanitised and dull place!

Elsewhere, David Ignatius’s The Director sets out to change the direction of thrillers, with an emphasis on computer coding and hacking. Arnold Taylor says the snag with this is that the plot is difficult to follow. Patricia Cornwell’s long-running Dr Kay Scarpetta series is still toddling along. Sylvia Wilson praises Dust’s satisfyingly twisty plot.

On the historical front, John Cleal says Paul Doherty’s Roseblood, set on the eve of civil war in 1455, is a rattling good story and makes history entertaining.

Headteacher Tom Hoyle knows exactly how teenagers speak and act, and this is one of the strengths of the fast-paced Spiders, says Linda Wilson, our YA mystery guru.

In the Countdown hot seat this week is Simon Kernick. We’ve looked out of the window and decided to tag along to those lovely sunny places he’s threatening to run away to. Sharon still bears a grudge against the friend who moved to the Cayman Islands, and sent photos of his front garden – the beach!

We'll be back in a fortnight with 16 new reviews and an interview with a top author. In the meantime, do visit our chums at ReviewingtheEvidence to catch up with what’s out on the other side of the Pond.
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Linda and Sharon

Countdown with
Simon Kernick

Simon Kernick has had a variety of jobs, including labourer in a road-building gang, fruit picker and a Christmas tree uprooter. After a fair bit of drifting and several years spent living and travelling in Canada, the USA and Australia, he did a degree in Humanities at Brighton Poly as it was then, and ended up working as a computer software salesman. He wrote two books in his spare time, and eventually had The Business of Dying published in 2002. The research for the books involves him talking both on and off the record (but usually off) with a number of contacts in the police and security services, including Special Branch, the Anti-Terrorist branch, and SOCA (the Serious and Organized Crime Agency).

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

Fantastic, rewarding, ambitious, frustrating, tough, satisfying, stressful, lonely, mind-bending, inevitable.

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

Trees, lampshade, road, fallen leaves, a pure white sky, iPod player, PC, pack of chewing gum (half used), glass of water, coffee cup.

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

King prawn and vegetable stir fry.