January 30 2016

No comments from the cheap seats, thank you, but we’re going to fangirl excitedly this week, as we have one of our teenage heroes in the Countdown hotseat. Both of us sighed happily over actor David McCallum in The Man From UNCLE and Colditz – and now he’s written a crime novel. We rather like the sound of the view from where he’s sitting.

You know what it’s like when you anticipate enjoying an author’s work – and then end up being severely disappointed. Sharon Wheeler had been looking forward to Alex Marwood’s The Darkest Secret, but ended up being turned off by a thoroughly unpleasant cast.  And Arnold Taylor was equally unimpressed by the characters in Rob Sinclair’s thriller Rise of the Enemy.

Sharon had much better luck with one of her favourite series, and was very taken by the almost Dickensian cast in Graham Hurley’s The Order of Things. Sylvia Wilson was moderately grumpy about the interaction between the two main characters in Linda Fairstein’s Terminal City, but enjoyed a glimpse of another New York landmark as the focus for the plot. John Cleal, meanwhile, adores Lindsey Davis’s Roman books – all human life is there in Deadly Election, he says!

It was a good week for our historical king John, who enjoyed Diana Bretherick’s neo-Gothic The Devil’s Daughters, set in late 19th century Turin. Historian DK Wilson has captured the Tudor period in The Traitor’s Mark with its political and religious infighting, says John. And there’s investigating inside Cromwell’s New Model Army in SJ Deas’s The Royalist, which our often hard to please reviewer says is vivid and realistic.

Delving back into the past elsewhere, Stuart Kaminsky’s Black Knight in Red Square was first published in 1984, but Chris Roberts says the hunt to find a terrorist in Moscow still feels fresh. And The Dynamite Room by Jason Hewitt, set in 1940 Suffolk, is claustrophobic and full of period detail, says Chris.

If you fancy something a bit different, the hero of Mark Douglas-Home’s The Sea Detective is an oceanographer. Linda Wilson chuntered about ping-ponging point of view, but very much liked the fascinating and original lead character. Chris Roberts was pulled into a deviant mind and psychological depths in Ian Parkinson’s debut novel The Beginning of the End. Linda was new to Chris Brookmyre’s series with reprobate journalist Jack Parlabane, but she was well impressed with the author’s handling of various plot threads in Black Widow.

On the Euro front, Ewa Sherman says Jussi Adler-Olsen’s The Hanging Girl is a complex novel of hope and despair. And caving expert Linda Wilson loved the cave art background and the rich, varied settings of Marseilles and the surrounding countryside in Xavier-Marie Bonnot’s The First Man.

There’s one offering on the YA front this week – and it’s a good ‘un. Linda Wilson was hooked by The 100 Society by Carla Spradbery, set amidst the walls of the exclusive Clifton Academy.

We'll be back in a fortnight with 16 new reviews and an interview with a top author. In the meantime, our friends at Reviewing the Evidence have cast a beady eye over what’s been released in the US and Canada.
And if you're not following us on Twitter, you can find us chatting at .

Linda and Sharon

Countdown with
David McCallum

David McCallum has written Once A Crooked Man, his first crime novel, at the age of 82! The Glasgow-born actor plays Dr. ‘Ducky’ Mallard on NCIS, which averages 22 million viewers weekly in the US alone. David also starred in the cult 1960s series, The Man from Uncle, as Russian agent, Illya Kuryakin, becoming a pin-up to a generation of young women. Later he appeared in the science fiction series, The Invisible Man and Sapphire and Steel, both of which have achieved cult status. He now lives in the United States.

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

A vast library of memories. More are still being added.

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

Flowers, trees, birds, a wine glass half filled, an empty plate, a cheese grater, a fig tree with many ripe fruit, the studio where I write and paint, a jet high in the sky on the way to land at LAX.

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

Penne, sautéed onion with broccoli rabe and crumbled hot Italian sausage, all combined with a sprinkle of Italian parsley and Parmesan cheese plus a drizzle of olive oil. Pellegrino. Sagrantino.