February 21 2015

At least one of your editors is stomping round in a strop, as French crime drama Spiral has finished its fifth series on BBC4, with Laure, Gilou and Tintin’s lives in turmoil. So until someone gets a shift on and writes the next installment, it’s going to have to be Euro crime fic …

Sylvia Maughan praised Judges, three short stories by Italian big-hitters Andrea Camilleri, Carlo Lucarelli and Giancarlo de Cataldo, which have different slants on the legal system and organised crime in Italy. Conor Fitzgerald’s Bitter Remedy has Commissioner Alex Blume in Monterozzo. Chris Roberts enjoyed the injections of humour, even if he was a tad dubious about the story’s relation to real police work!

It was a good reading week for Chris. Ben Fergusson’s The Spring of Kasper Meier set in the wasteland that is 1946 Berlin, carries a sense of menace all through, he says. And he adds that Pascal Garnier’s The Islanders, set in a flat in Versailles over Christmas, is bleak and told with authority.

We’re also busy on the US front this week. True Detective creator Nic Pizzolatto has moved into novels with Galveston, the story of a gangland enforcer on the run. John Cleal says it’s bleakly poetic. And John was very taken with Cemetery Girl by David Bell where a kidnapped girl reappears after four years. He describes it as pared down and intense. In Kathy Reichs’s long-running series, Tempe Brennan comes across an old adversary in Bones Never Lie. Sylvia Wilson says you have to suspend disbelief at times, but she enjoyed the presence of Tempe’s family.

There are family issues galore in Graham Hurley’s Sins of the Father. And it looks like the Jimmy Suttle series is coming into its own since the hero moved from Portsmouth to Devon, says Sharon Wheeler. It’s not often that reviewers wish a book had been longer – usually their fingers are itching to take a scythe to authors’ waffle! But Sharon reckons Damien Boyd’s serviceable mystery As the Crow Flies, featuring DI Nick Dixon, would benefit from better characterisation.

We meet an unusual lead character – a tortured psychologist – in Kate Rhodes’s A Killing of Angels where a killer is at large in London’s Square Mile. Former crime reporter John Cleal muttered darkly about some of the policing details, but found the lead character to be compelling and unusual. Among the psychological thrillers, Linda Wilson says Penny Hancock’s A Trick of the Mind, where a woman gets entangled with a man she thinks she knocked down with her car, has some creepy moments, even if you need to check your disbelief in early. And even though some of the characters feel like they’ve stepped out of the Jeremy Kyle show, Linda says that Caro Ramsey’s The Night Hunter is a clever and gripping read. Also set in Scotland is SK Tremayne’s The Ice Twins which, says Linda, is as bleak as a Scottish winter.

Thriller buff Arnold Taylor comments after reading Alan Judd’s Inside Enemy that realism can sometimes be dull! John Cleal praises the atmosphere of the time and setting in Frances Brody’s Death of An Avid Reader, where the lead character is a Great War widow. And Linda Wilson advises not reading A Twist of the Knife, Peter James’s creepy series of short stories featuring ghosts and police procedurals (including Roy Grace’s first outing), before bedtime!

In the Countdown hot seat this week is Kevin Brooks – and he’s clearly got a very intriguing range of objects in his house! We’ll be on the doorstep to have a nose around and to share his cheese on toast with him …

We'll be back in a fortnight with 16 new reviews and an interview with a top author. In the meantime, do visit our friends at Reviewing the Evidence to catch up on what’s happening across the Pond.
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Linda and Sharon

Countdown with
Kevin Brooks

Kevin Brooks was born in Exeter and studied at Birmingham and London. He has written 11 young adult novels, a three-book crime series for adults featuring PI John Craine, and is currently working on a series of novels for younger readers about a teenage private eye called Travis Delaney. He lives in North Yorkshire with his wife Susan and a motley bunch of animals.

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

Petrol, crematorium, zoo, government, music, letters, trains, telephones, breakdown, words.

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

A monkey reading a book, Robocop on a BMX bike, ALF, a Mexican bandit on a clockwork horse, a big hairy Columbian thing, ein Krampus, an armadillo with a six-gun, Mo Szylak, a papier mache tree kangaroo.

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

Cheese on toast.