May 23 2015

This issue we’re starting off with some strong offerings on the police procedural front, and for the Monty Python fans amongst us, you’ll find that a couple of the villains have more than a touch of old-style villains Doug and Dinsdale Piranha about them.

No one quite gets their head nailed to the floor, but it comes pretty close in Tony Parsons’ second book, The Slaughter Man. Sharon Wheeler says he portrays London rather better than he does his characters. She wasn’t terribly convinced by the police procedural aspect but praises his ability to create vivid mayhem. Putting the Boot In by Dan Kavanagh also has a touch of the Piranha brothers about the bad guys as it follows bisexual ex-copper turned-private investigator, Duffy, both on and off the football pitch. Linda Wilson enjoyed the deep seam of wry humour that suffuses the book, and was very pleased that no attempt was made to explain the off-side rule. She then turned to A Line of Blood by Ben McPherson, a compelling and assured debut that should satisfy anyone who likes psychological thrillers.

Tell Tale, by Mark Sennen, describes some rum goings on in Devon and Cornwall (no doubt to the joy of the local tourist board!) and Sharon says it’s an engaging read despite a rather miserable cast of characters, but she does mutter darkly that it requires a touch too much suspension of disbelief. On the other side of the Irish Sea, Gun Street Girl by Adrian McKinty puts Sean Duffy, one of the few Catholic officers in the Royal Ulster Constabulary, on the trail of a double murder. Chris Roberts enjoyed the main character’s laconic view of events. Then venturing slightly further afield, Chris takes a trip to Phnom Pen and enjoys the abundant local colour in Commandant Morel’s second outing in Death in the Rainy Season by Anna Jacquiery.

Tartan noir makes an appearance as well with John Gordon Sinclair’s Blood Whispers. John Cleal comments on the high body count in Glasgow but says the book has some fine descriptive passages aside from the violence. And speaking of violence, John calls Quarry’s Choice by Max Allen Collins a neo-pulp noir classic and says no one does believable low-life characters better.

John then turned his attention to small-town America, with Gone For Good. He reckons that David Bell has been watching too much Jerry Springer but says that this is a book that’s very difficult to put down. Staying with the small town theme for a moment, but moving across the Atlantic to France, Arnold Taylor was impressed with Graeme Macrae Burnet’s The Disappearance of Adele Bedeau and says the book is in no way diminished by a comparison with Simenon, which is high praise indeed!

Patricia Highsmith fans will no doubt be delighted with the news that Virago are re-issuing many of her classics, including The Glass Cell from 1964. Chris Roberts says that the book remains as powerfully gripping as it was when it was first published and he was struck by Highsmith’s faultless prose in this tale of an ex-convict with an enormous reservoir of anger waiting to be released.

We’re a bit short on the historical front this week, but couldn’t resist slipping one into John Cleal’s reading pile. The Tower, by Alessandro Gallenzi, is a literary conspiracy thriller blending a renegade 16th century Dominican friar and a modern day investigation into a missing medieval text.  It invites the inevitable comparison with Dan Brown but John says it’s better by far. We’ve also got Murder on High Holborn by Susanna Gregory. Sylvia Maughan comments on the almost improbably high body count but praises the period detail.

There’s a strong showing on the young adult front this issue. Sylvia Wilson thinks that Elizabeth George writes convincing teenagers in The Edge of the Water and says this is definitely a series to follow but, as our resident vet, she was understandably grumpy about the repeated assertion that seals shed their skins!

Meanwhile, Linda Wilson has been wallowing in one of her favourite areas. She says A Dark Inheritance by Chris D'Lacey is a fast-paced and very engaging young adult thriller, with yet another missing parent, plus an added dash of urban fantasy with effortless age-appropriate narration provided by Oliver J Hembrough. Urban Legends, set in Belgium, is a suitably creepy tale of murder and urban exploration and Linda says she’s sorry to see Helen Grant’s Forbidden Spaces trilogy come to an end.

In the Countdown hot seat this week we have Danielle Ramsay. Her choice of meal appeals to both your editors and makes us long for the rain to stop so we can eat it outside in the sun!

We'll be back in a fortnight with 16 new reviews and an interview with a top author. In the meantime, please visit our friends at Reviewing the Evidence who have news on what’s been released in the US, Canada and Down Under.
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Linda and Sharon

Countdown with
Danielle Ramsay

Danielle Ramsay is Scottish by birth, and now living in a small seaside town in the north east of England. She started out with an academic career lecturing in literature, before taking up writing full-time. Broken Silence, the first book in her DI Jack Brady series set in Whitley Bay, was short-listed for the CWA Debut Dagger in 2009. When she’s not plotting murders, Danielle goes running and horse-riding.

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

Exciting, privileged, intense, painful, terrifying, fulfilling, fascinating, challenging, frenzied, solitary.

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

Skeletal trees, grey sky, snow, footprints, photograph of my Scottish black grandfather in uniform with my grandmother before he left for France at the outbreak of the Second World War,1930s Bakelite black phone, chess board, half-empty coffee cup, a dog-eared copy of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude.

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

French bread, Roquefort and a chilled bottle of Sancerre. Perfection at its simplest.