July 23 2016

If you’re hoping for village greens and country cottages this time, you might be disappointed. It’s grim up north. And out west. So you may need a strong stomach.

Sharon Wheeler says AA Dhand’s Streets of Darkness is a cracking debut featuring an Asian (in the UK sense) cop who’s trying to stop Bradford from going up in flames. When the Music’s Over, the 23rd in Peter Robinson's Alan Banks series, is a tad flat by comparison, but feels entirely realistic, says Sharon. Meanwhile, someone let John Cleal over the border into Wales. He says that Emma Kavanagh’s Hidden, set in Swansea, is an unusual and explosive addition to the genre. John Barnbrook reckons Rebecca Griffiths’ The Primrose Path varies in tone between dark and light, but that the featured village doesn’t feel like a Welsh one.

It’s not a bundle of laughs elsewhere either. John Cleal is a fan of Brian Freeman’s Jonathan Stride series, and says that Goodbye to the Dead should convert anyone who’s new to the saga. Death Zones by Simon Pasternak is set in 1943 Belorussia behind the German lines. Chris Roberts warns you may need a strong stomach.

Oh, OK, you’ve all been very long-suffering, so here’s an ever so English book to try to regain some balance. A Man of Some Repute by Elizabeth Edmondson has an injured spook taking up a desk job in a castle. Arnold Taylor says the setting and 1950s period are nicely conveyed. We’re quiet on historicals this week. John Cleal is a big fan of Susanna Gregory’s Matthew Bartholomew series, and says Death of a Scholar knits together history and a gripping mystery.

Linda Wilson is usually all over stories with a supernatural element like a rash. She wasn’t quite so sure about James Nally’s Alone With The Dead, saying that the cop hero’s back story slows the action to a plod (boom boom!) Unusually, we have a couple of releases that are verging on the science fiction field. Kate Ling’s The Loneliness of Distant Beings is set on a space ship that left earth 84 years previously. Linda says it’s crisp and very chilling. John Cleal, meanwhile, reckons that the very compelling The Incorruptibles by John Hornor Jacobs is a mix of classic Wild West, the dying days of the Roman empire, a love story, some fantasy and science fiction, and a splash of horror. Confused? You will be!

Scandi expert Ewa Sherman says The Chosen by Kristina Ohlsson brims with international menace as it brings Israeli urban legend to Sweden. The descriptions in Nadia Dalbuono’s The American are spot-on as an Italian cop finds himself threatened by Americans, says Sylvia Maughan. If you’re a Euro crime fan, you may well have been following Gianrico Carafiglio’s series featuring Italian defence lawyer Guido Guerrieri. Arnold Taylor enjoyed A Fine Line, the tale of our man approaching 50 and rethinking his life. John Cleal, meanwhile, welcomes The Hotel of the Three Roses by Augusto De Angelis, the father of late 1920s and 1930s Italian crime fiction.

There’s also some rethinking of life going on in Joseph Finder’s The Fixer, where a man finds a fortune concealed in his father’s old study. Chris Roberts says it’s pretty well told, but that he had problems leaving his disbelief at the door. Also amongst the US releases, Chris says Gerri Brightwell’s Dead of Winter, set in a small Alaskan town, is a powerful story of an ordinary man fighting for his life. And he praises the beginning and end of Noah Hawley’s Before the Fall where a painter and a young boy survive an air crash.

On the YA front, Linda Wilson says that Heaven Sent is a worthy finish to the Suze Simon ghost series by Meg Cabot – and is delighted to hear an adult novel is on the way. Linda also loved Songs About a Girl, the first in a proposed trilogy by Chris Russell where the music world rings absolutely true.

This week’s Countdown victim is Jeff Gulvin. We’re nodding vigorously at the topics that make him rant. And we definitely fancy a pint with his eclectic cast of drinking chums.

We’ll be back in a fortnight with 20 new reviews and an interview with a top name on the crime fiction scene. If you have a moment, see what our friends at Reviewing the Evidence think about new releases in the US, Canada and Australia.

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Linda and Sharon

Countdown with
Jeff Gulvin

Jeff Gulvin is often mistaken for an American – but was actually born in the Black Country and lives in Crickhowell, although he spends a lot of time in the States.

He ran a mountaineering equipment shop and has also worked in a number of sales jobs before taking up writing full-time.

He’s the author of police procedurals and international thrillers, as well as ghost-writing a number of books, including Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman’s Long Way Down, the account of their motorcycle journey through Africa. He has also helped James Corden with his autobiography, and completed three more books for Boorman.

His latest series features a Texas Ranger working in the 1960s.

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

Hard, harder still, even harder. Best job in the world.

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

Rooftops, The bullpit meadow, Crickhowell. The River Usk, Tornado fighter flying by. Farmer’s fields. An escarpment. A washing line. Herbert Hall.

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

Chillied prawns with pancetta, flatbread and peppery rocket salad.