July 8 2017

One of your editors (clue: not Linda) has a small(ish) obsession with hero journalists in books. After all, they get paid to dig around and ask questions, so they’re a natural for crime fiction. And this week we’ve got two cracking examples on the trail of front page news …

Ewa Sherman enjoyed Cursed by Thomas Enger, where an emotionally and physically scarred crime reporter becomes involved in the search for a missing woman. Ewa describes this as a powerful, poignant and extraordinary read. Death Trap by Anna Smith features the tenacious Rosie Gilmour, this time investigating a white slavery ring while being hunted by a sadistic killer. John Cleal says his career as a crime reporter was nowhere near as exciting as Rosie’s!

Say hello this week to new reviewer Kim Fleet, who will be focusing on true crime. She says Mad or Bad: Crime and Insanity in Victorian Britain by David J Vaughan  is rigorously researched and presents the cases in an easy-to-read style.

We’ve got some rather mixed offerings on the psychological front. In Never Alone by Elizabeth Haynes, a woman living alone in an isolated farmhouse helps an old friend who needs somewhere to stay, but naturally not everything is as it seems. Chris Smart describes the book as a thrilling and atmospheric page-turner which he found both creepy and unsettling. Kati Barr-Taylor was very taken with The Lying Game by Ruth Ware in which four women reunited after 17 years in hiding must get their stories straight. Kati says this is a well-paced and three-dimensional book. But she wasn’t as impressed with Hanna Winter’s story of a woman called in to profile a serial killer in Berlin. Unfortunately, Sacrifice never got Kati’s pulse above a resting rate.

There are plenty of old friends with new offerings this week. In Maigret, Lognon and the Gangsters, Arnold Taylor says we get to see another side of George Simenon’s usually calm character when Maigret becomes more and more angry as he tries to find out precisely what American gangsters are doing in Paris. John Barnbrook is now a devotee of JD Robb’s longstanding series, and says that in Apprentice in Death, she crafts the pace and story of her plot to great effect. Linda Wilson has long been a fan of Harlen Coben’s series characters, sports agent Myron Bolitar and borderline psychopathic friend Win, so she was pleased to see them return in Home, which she describes as vintage Coben.

Our often hard-to-please reviewer John Cleal is a happy man this time out. He enjoyed the first outing for Simon Toyne’s enigmatic Solomon Creed, and says the sequel, The Boy Who Saw, is fast-moving and emotionally powerful, as well as being completely engaging and suspenseful. Trespass by Anthony J Quinn deals with the abduction of a boy by a group of travellers suspected of smuggling and organised crime and uncovers a link to an unsolved ‘disappearance’ during the Troubles. John says the sense of authenticity often makes it hard to believe this is just a story. The Dead Woman of Deptford sees Scotland Yard Inspector Ben Ross summoned to the battered body of a moneylender in south London’s old naval dockyard. John says Ann Granger’s atmospheric writing and plain and factual description of the period lift makes her one of the most evocative of all the Victorian-focused mystery authors.

Chris Roberts is known for his love of legal thrillers. He enjoyed The Lighterman by Simon Michael, which sees Barrister Charles Holborne defending his cousin, a river lighterman accused of murder. Chris says this is an excellent thriller, with a palpable sense of background as well as some great action on the river and a dash of gripping courtroom drama. Chris also enjoyed the courtroom scenes in WHS McIntyre’s Good News, Bad News. He says this is an easy and enjoyable read but he’s not sure that the protagonist is a good advertisement for his profession!

Kati Barr-Taylor says Love Me Not, MJ Arlidge’s latest outing for DI Helen Grace, is a fast-paced, graphic but easy read, which promotes feisty women. Death Message is unusual in that it features two female police protagonists. Linda Wilson likes both of the main characters and says there’s a cast of strong supporting characters and that Kate London writes with authority.

Chris Roberts felt EO Chirovici fell into the trap of too much tell and not enough show in The Book of Mirrors, the story of a 30-year hunt for the killer of a renowned psychologist in Princetown. Jim Beaman was worried that Purged was going to be pushing a religious message in the story of an ex-Christian minister on the trail of a killer who is determined to save the souls of his victims. He was pleasantly surprised when that wasn’t the case and says Peter Laws spins a tidy yarn and his writing is proficient and entertaining.

Linda Wilson had two very different young adult books this time. She describes Beware That Girl by Teresa Toten as a psychological thriller of the highest order and says it’s subtle, cleverly constructed and beautifully written, She was equally impressed by Elizabeth Wein’s The Pearl Thief, with its charming, headstrong and likeable main character. Linda says the book is a fascinating whodunnit, which evokes Golden Age crime fiction at its most engaging.

In the Countdown hotspot this week we have author Mark Sennen. If we ever have to worm a sheep, we now know who to call!

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
Mark Sennen

Mark Sennen is the author of the DI Charlotte Savage series of crime thrillers: Touch, Bad Blood, Cut Dead, Tell Tale, Two Evils and The Boneyard.

He was born in Surrey, but spent his formative years in rural Shropshire where he learned to drive tractors and worm sheep. He has been a reluctant farmer, an average drummer, a failed PhD student and a pretty good programmer.

In 2011, with a dearth of programming projects available, he wrote and self-published his debut novel, Touch. The ebook went on to become a number one thriller on Amazon and was picked up by HarperCollins imprint, Avon.

He lives with his wife, two children and a rather large dog beside a muddy creek in deepest South Devon where there hasn't been a murder in years.

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

Farmer, student, drummer, programmer, writer. No get rich quick scheme.

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

I’m in my office (shed) and I can see:
Mundane writing equipment including computer, two screens
A cup of tea.
The muddy estuary at the bottom of the garden.
A Little Egret wading in the shallows as the tide ebbs.
A sailing dinghy.
Thunder, our Estrella Mountain dog (very large, very loud and very cuddly).
My kids’ trampoline (sans children).
A lawn in desperate need of a mow.
A thatched roof in desperate need of repair.

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

Three slices of white bread. Toast one slice and sandwich between the other two untoasted, buttered, slices. Tuna mayo in top section, lettuce and cucumber in the bottom section (or your choice of fillings). Knock-out mixture of textures and flavours. Try it!