December 10 2016

Those who think we’re already living in the opening chapters of a dystopian sci-fi series won’t be at all comforted by this week’s YA offerings. Cell 7 by Kerry Drewery features the ultimate reality TV show where the viewer gets to decide who lives or dies. Linda Wilson was simultaneously gripped and horrified. She was equally enthralled by radio presenter Simon Mayo’s Blame, a chilling vision of a Britain where the sins of the fathers are very definitely visited on their children under a new class of heritage crime but hopes the book doesn’t in any way prove prophetic.

Two other big names from the world of journalism have now turned their hand to writing books. Writer and broadcaster John Sweeney serves up a clever, compelling and pacey story in Cold. John Cleal was impressed. Arnold Taylor wasn’t quite so taken with Paris Spring by James Naughtie. Despite its background of civil unrest in Paris in 1968, Arnold thinks the story fails to thrill.

Police procedurals are out in force this week. Linda Wilson says that Mark Roberts’ main character, DCI Eve Clay, never really came alive for her in Dead Silent, and on top of that, she’s getting increasingly grumpy with books that seem to concentrate on finding new and ever-more gruesome ways of despatching their victims. Kati Barr-Taylor got on considerably better with disgraced copper DI Helen Grace, in prison accused of triple murder, in Hide and Seek. She found no problem joining MJ Arlidge’s series on its sixth book. Linda Wilson enjoyed a trip to Scotland in The Tears of Angels by Caro Ramsay, describing it as dark and complex. John Cleal says ex-copper Mike Thomas brings the world of the police to authentic and often shocking life in Ash and Bones, although you might need a slang dictionary to help you navigate what he describes as a brilliantly observed, sharply written and superbly realistic story. Chris Roberts was equally impressed by Blind Sight, Carol O’Connell’s 13th novel featuring Kathy Mallory, a detective in the New York Police Department. He says she’s a great character, and the book is full of subtlety, tension and excitement.

We have a strong showing of alternative investigators, as well. In The Dead Don’t Boogie by Douglas Skelton, a dodgy Glasgow private investigator is hired to find a missing woman. Chris Roberts enjoyed the mix of political ambition and murky family secrets. Chris is also a great fan of Walter Mosley’s Easy Rawlins, and says that the complexity of Charcoal Joe is reminiscent of the late great Raymond Chandler. And Easy, as ever, is the very essence of cool. John Cleal has a huge soft spot for war widow-turned private investigator Kate Shackleton, back for her eighth adventure in Death at the Seaside by Frances Brody. John says it’s a charming read with some gentle humour and soft smiles, along with a serious crime, a real investigation, and a well-constructed mystery. Jim Beaman dipped into another long-running series with a female sleuth, as well. Dandy Gilver & A Most Misleading Habit by Catriona McPherson is a variation on the country house murder with its amiable and clever pair of private detectives, Dandy Gilver and Alec Osbourne.

Ewa Sherman says In the Name of Love by Patrick Smith is a fine character study rather than a murder mystery. She describes this debut as a beautifully crafted portrayal of love and loss, full of lyrical musings about life and loneliness. She was equally impressed by A Suitable Lie, and says Michael J Malone has done an incredible job by combining a powerful emotional story and the detached commentary on the nature of secrets and their effects on people’s lives. Ghosts of the Desert by Ryan Ireland wasn’t quite so enjoyable. Chris Roberts found this story of rape, necrophilia, cannibalism and multiple murders deeply unsavoury but says it might appeal if you like experimental literature, whereas in Andrew Pyper’s The Damned, John Barnbrook praises the cinematically clear descriptions in this otherworldly story of death and near-death.

It’s always nice when our reviewers get to wallow in their favourite series, and for Linda Wilson, Christmas has come early with the advent of Modesty Blaise: The Murder Frame, four more adventures for the legendary Modesty and Willie Garvin, written by Peter O’Donnell and superbly illustrated by Enric Badia Romero. She says there’s a treat in favour for fans of Sir Gerald Tarrant’s assistant, the seemingly mild-mannered Jack Fraser. John Cleal got to spend time with some of his favourites, too. The Cheapside Corpse by Susanna Gregory brings back Restoration intelligence man Thomas Chaloner. John praises the ingenious plot and the atmospheric portrayal of time and place. He also took a trip further back in time to ancient Rome in Thunder of the Gods by Anthony Riches, which sports a strong cast and a brilliant portrait of of ancient warfare at its most visceral and visual.

In our Countdown hotspot this week is Graham Masterton. His favourite words are certainly fun! And he has some very varied 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
Graham Masterton

Graham Masterton was born in Edinburgh in 1946. His grandfather was Thomas Thorne Baker, the eminent scientist who invented DayGlo and was the first man to transmit news photographs by wireless. After training as a newspaper reporter, Graham went on to edit the new British men's magazine Mayfair, where he encouraged William Burroughs to develop a series of scientific and philosophical articles which eventually became Burroughs' novel The Wild Boys.

At the age of 24, Graham was appointed executive editor of both Penthouse and Penthouse Forum magazines. At this time he started to write a bestselling series of sex 'how-to' books including How To Drive Your Man Wild In Bed which has sold over three million copies worldwide. He is a regular contributor to Cosmopolitan, Men's Health, Woman, Woman's Own and other magazines.

He lives in Surrey, England (sadly his wife, Wiescka died in April 2011). He has finished writing a black thriller featuring Ireland's only female detective superintendent, Katie Maguire, set in the Cork underworld; and a dark fantasy, Jessica's Angel, about a girl's search for five supposedly-dead children.

He has written several new short stories and is currently working on a new horror novel, as yet untitled. Graham has written more than 35 horror novels.

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

Fortuitous, persistent, sexy, privileged, empathetic, struggling, tragic, recovering, transmogrified, rewarding.

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

Racecourse rails, grapevine arbour, plum tree, apple trees, hollyhocks, fat man walking five dogs, Prix Graham Masterton statuette of naked demon, photo of my late wife Wiescka in her fur coat, my black Mustang.

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

Daging Madura…thinly-sliced beef with garlic, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, black pepper, brown sugar, chilies and soy sauce. Microwaved rice to go with it.