April 28 2017

There’s a crop of heavy hitters for you this week – but we always have space for the debut gang. So settle down with the remnants of your Easter eggs (oh, OK, so we’ve scoffed all of ours …) and let us bring you up to date with our latest finds.

We kick off with the tenth anniversary edition of The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly. John Barnbrook describes this tale of a boy’s visit to a dark and disturbing land as a modern classic and says this is one book he will read again and again. Chris Roberts was equally impressed by Live By Night. Chris describes Dennis Lehane’s writing as crisp and spare, with characters who are depicted economically and with panache.

Sharon Bolton takes a break from her series with a fast-paced, gripping standalone chase thriller, Dead Woman Walking, which sees the lone survivor of a hot air balloon crash on the run, struggling to stay ahead of the ruthless killer responsible for the disaster. Linda Wilson was thoroughly hooked. Lynda La Plante rolls back time and presents her now-famous creation, Jane Tennison, as a rookie DC. Kati Barr-Taylor says Hidden Killers is a convincing introduction to one of England’s favourite detectives. Arnold Taylor wasn’t entirely convinced by Martin Cruz Smith’s thriller The Girl From Venice and was concerned that the characters lack depth.

Forensic expert Enzo Macleod returns in Cast Iron by Peter May. Kati Barr-Taylor says this is a good story that goes beyond just solving a cold case, but she did raise her eyebrows at a couple of conveniences. In Quieter Than Killing, Sarah Hilary brings back series regulars DI Marnie Rome and her sidekick, DS Noah Jake, investigating a seemingly random series of violent attacks in London. Linda Wilson says this is a classy, clever series. In Murderabilia by Craig Robertson, the son of a prominent MSP is murdered and hung from a bridge in full view of a train-load of commuters. DI Rachel Narey is at home on sick leave, but is still determined to uncover the identity of the murderer. Linda Wilson says this is a stylish police thriller with a killer ending.

On the other side of the pond, in Murder Never Knocks by Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins, a couple of out-of-town killers are lining up for a crack at tough PI Mike Hammer. John Cleal says if you want a rip-roaring story with non-stop action, there’ll never be anyone better!

Chris Roberts was very happy to make a trip to Gibraltar to meet up with old friend private investigator Spike Sanguinetti, who’s acting for a man with mysterious links to wartime events. Chris says the tension in Thomas Mogford’s A Thousand Cuts builds steadily to a great climax, making the book very difficult to put down. In Barbara Nadel’s long running series, Inspector Ikmen investigates a series of stabbings in The House of Four. Chris is impressed by the way Nadel mixes cultures and interpersonal relationships to good effect on the streets of Istanbul. At the other end of Europe, Ewa Sherman, who knows a thing or two about Scandi crime fiction, says The Tunnel by Carl-Johan Vallgren is fast-paced, gripping and doesn’t shy away from very uncomfortable themes, but she did have some issues with the blurb!

We have a couple of very strong debut authors for you as well. The main character in Sometimes I Lie by Alice Feeney is in hospital in a coma. She can hear every word said around her and knows she is in danger, but is powerless to help herself. Kati Barr-Taylor was seriously impressed, as was John Cleal by Mark Hardie’s Burned and Broken, which John says delivers a thoroughly modern and realistic police thriller.

On the historical front, the Queen of Ancient Rome, Lindsey Davis, is back with The Third Nero. Falco’s niece, Flavia Albia, must expose a plotter at the heart of Rome’s government who could plunge the city and empire into civil war. John Cleal robustly defends Davis against any accusations of info dumping and says historical mysteries should be firmly set in the times they portray and in this one succeeds quite brilliantly. John also enjoyed The Royal Ghost by Linda Stratmann, where a young writer of horror stories and investigator of psychic phenomena has to look into a suspected fraud. He described this as a clever, well thought out and superbly constructed mystery. John was thoroughly in his element reading Hawkwood by Jack Ludlow, as the main character is one John has spent many years researching.  He says the action is exciting, and agrees with Ludlow’s assessment of the turbulent period just after two of the great battles of the 100 Years War.

Elsewhere, The Drowning Child by Alex Barclay sees an FBI agent called out to investigate a missing 12-year-old. Chris Roberts says the plot is well-paced, packed with fast-moving revelations and plenty of twists and turns. Jim Beaman says JS Monroe’s Find Me is a story about coping with the loss of a loved one, paranoia and above all, hope. It also raises some thorny ethical issues.

On the YA front, Linda Wilson enjoyed Eileen Cook’s psychological thriller, With Malice, where a girl wakes up in hospital with the last six weeks of her life missing. Her best friend is dead and everyone believes it was her fault. Linda describes the book as exceptionally well-crafted.

Our Countdown victim this week is James Carol, who’s also a dab hand on horse-back and at wielding a guitar. His advice to his teenage self seems particularly apt in today’s troubled times. We just hope he’s right!

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
James Carol

James Carol is the creator of Jefferson Winter, a former FBI profiler who travels the world hunting serial criminals. James was born in Scotland in 1969, where he spent his early years. He moved to England in the 1980s and has lived there ever since. At various times he has worked as a guitarist, sound engineer, guitar tutor, journalist, and a horse-riding instructor.

The Jefferson Winter series includes Broken Dolls, Watch Me, which was shortlisted for the ITV Specsavers Crime Thriller Book Club Best Read, Prey, The Quiet Man, and the ebook novellas Presumed Guilty, Hush Little Baby and Open Your Eyes, set during Winter’s FBI days.

When he’s not writing, James spends his time training horses and riders. An accomplished guitarist, he relaxes by writing and recording music. James lives in Hertfordshire with his wife and two children.

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

Fun, fascinating, challenging, creative, unique, unpredictable, unstable, chaotic, frustrating, amazing.

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

Children, laptop, CDs, stereo, dog, TV, guitar, music keyboard, cup of tea.

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

Beans on toast.