March 21 2015

Ah, good evening, sir, madam … Now, tell us – do you prefer your thrillers to be relentlessly gritty, faintly implausible, or downright bonkers? Whichever, we’ve got the lot this week!

There’s a storming start from debut author Paul Hardisty and new indie publisher Orenda Books with The Abrupt Physics of Dying, set in Yemen. Sharon Wheeler says it’s intelligent, gritty and relentless. She is still twitching, though, at the memory of Matthew Reilly’s barking mad The Great Zoo of China, which you will either adore or need to see an optician to stop your eyes rolling …

Journalist Andrew Marr’s first novel, Head of State, has had a mixed reception, but John Cleal, who enjoyed spotting real people hidden in the fiction, says the plot isn’t entirely unbelievable.

Meanwhile, Linda Wilson says it’s good to see a male thriller writer who can write convincing female characters – although the lead character in Will Jordan’s Betrayal seems blind to the threat posed by the obligatory femme fatale! Michael Sears has an admirably light touch when it comes to integrating the world of high finance into his thriller Mortal Bonds, says Arnold Taylor. And Chris Roberts was taken with the scenes in the wild game parks of Africa in The Hunter by Tony Park, and felt comparisons with Wilbur Smith weren’t unreasonable, as he did feel the book had a slightly old-fashioned feel to it.

The prolific thriller writer Andy McNab is back with a YA title, The New Enemy. Linda Wilson enjoyed its hard-hitting action and black humour – and says the only clue it’s not meant for an adult audience is in the name of the publisher’s! Another big name is playing in the YA sandpit – Kathy Reichs, in league with her son Brendan. Sylvia Wilson says Exposure is a page-turner with some engaging sub-plots.

There’s another outing for Alan Bradley’s unusual lead character Flavia de Luce – an expert in poisons at the age of 11 – in The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches. Linda Wilson hopes it won’t be the final outing for the girl who solves more murders than the local bobbies!

There’s a disaster area of a plod in Belinda Bauer’s The Shut Eye. Linda Wilson says few writers combine comedy and tragedy as seamlessly. Parker Bilal’s The Burning Gates features a former Sudanese policeman working in Egypt as a PI. Chris Roberts praised the book, particularly the way it captures Cairo. And Chris says that Harri Nykanen’s Behind God’s Back, starring one of only two Jewish cops in Finland, may come as rather a surprise to readers accustomed to the obligatory trees, snow and angst in Scandi crime fic.

Among the historicals, John Cleal enjoyed a good wallow in the gutters of Georgian London in Lloyd Shepherd’s Savage Magic. Arnold Taylor, though, had some misgivings about the idealistic young German policeman lead character in David Thomas’s Ostland, which is set amidst the Nazi regime. If you like creepy ghost stories, then John Boyne’s This House is Haunted is definitely for you, says John Cleal. And one for the real crime buff is The Anatomy of Murder by the Detection Club – an analysis of genuine crimes from some of the big-name writers of the 1930s. John says it’s an essential read for students of the genre.

In the Countdown hot seat this week is Peter May, who sports a rare accolade from China, has intriguing taste in drinking companions and offers up some rather splendid favourite words.

We'll be back in a fortnight with 16 new reviews and an interview with a top author. In the meantime, do toddle over to see our friends at Reviewing the Evidence who have news on US and Canadian releases.
And if you're not following us on Twitter, we’re chatting away about crime fiction  at .

Linda and Sharon

Countdown with
Peter May

Peter May is the author of the Lewis trilogy, the China thrillers and the Enzo Files, as well as several standalones. He was born in Scotland and worked as a television scriptwriter, producer and script editor before quitting TV to focus on novels. Chinese crime writers made Peter an honorary member of the Chinese Crime Writers’ Association – the only Westerner to receive such an accolade. He now lives in France.

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

Hard, frustrating, rewarding, impoverished, lucrative, demanding, depressing, uplifting, awful and wonderful.

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

Three computer screens, a buddha, a French book poster, a set of headphones, the Mediterranean, an empty Actimel container, my iPhone, a swimming pool, a palm tree.

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

Stir-fried ginger chicken.