September 02 2017

We’re in party mood this week (that means chocolate cake, lashings of ginger beer, and cheese and pineapple on sticks all round) as this is our 100th issue! In the space of four years we’ve gone from 12 reviews per issue to 20. And we couldn’t have done that without our fabulous reviewers – we have 16 regulars and several occasionals, and they all love the genre as much as we do. Thank you too to all the readers who’ve joined us in our adventure.

Now on to business … We’ve got a strong showing on the Euro crime beat for you this time. Ewa Sherman says Faithless by Kjell Ola Dahl is classic Nordic noir for those who love tense, intelligent and unpredictable conclusions. Kati Barr-Taylor was equally impressed by Michel Bussi’s Don’t Let Go, in which a man’s wife is missing and even his daughter thinks he’s killed her. Kati says the main characters are rounded, flawed, and fly off the page. Arnold Taylor praises Philippe Djian’s insights into the intricacies of the human behaviour in Elle, where a woman is struggling to come to terms with rape. In The Second Day of the Renaissance by Timothy Williams, Italian politics are fundamental to the story, as a newly-retired police officer has to handle a threat from his past. Sylvia Maughan says the writing certainly plays with the reader’s head.

Friedrich Dürrenmatt always rejected formulaic and predictable plots. Chris Roberts says that certainly holds true in The Judge and His Hangman, which is a book for those who enjoy classic crime and are looking for something a little different. Even the prolific Georges Simenon was capable of rejecting his usual style on occasions, as Maigret’s Revolver shows. Arnold Taylor points out that the ending isn’t quite what he’s come to expect from an Inspector Maigret book, but it is really the only possibility. Treacherous Strand by Andrea Carter is set in the north-east tip of Ireland, and features a solicitor who isn’t convinced when told a client has committed suicide.  Linda Wilson praises realistic characters, a well-drawn setting and a plot that never strains credibility

Back on home turf, Blackwater by James Henry took John Cleal back to his old stamping grounds in Essex where an unproven team of detectives have to handle a series of drug-related killings. He says it’s a compelling and gripping tale written in almost a diary-like structure, leavened with plenty of humour. In Lee Weeks’ Cold Killers, an East End feud has the potential to lead to murder. Chris Smart says there are some great characters and the book provides a cleverly crafted and enjoyable insider’s view of the Costa del Crime. John, meanwhile, praises veteran author Lynda La Plante’s ability to pick out the surprising but plausible details that give her picture of everyday police that rare ring of authenticity. Good Friday looks back at the famous Jane Tennison in her early years as a lowly DC, struggling in the wake of an IRA bombing attack in London.

John’s been busy on the history trail as well. He says MRC Kasasian’s obnoxious detective Sidney Grice, on the trail of a repeat offender, certainly isn’t mellowing with age in Dark Dawn Over Steep House. In A High Mortality of Doves by Kate Ellis, a Scotland Yard inspector, who survived the war on the Western Front, is sent to a remote Derbyshire village to solve a series of bizarre killings. John says this is an entertaining, somewhat ghoulish, read, mixed with a sobering reminder of the impact of the ‘war to end all wars’ on so many rural communities. Sylvia Wilson takes a trip back in time to the seemingly gentler age of the era between the world wars in Family Matters by Anthony Rolls. She says the book is a fascinating read.

Madeleine Marsh says that Want You Gone is a must read for Chris Brookmyre fans.  Reporter Jack Parlabane has landed his dream job but soon finds himself on the receiving end of a blackmail attempt. Madeleine comments that for anyone new to Brookmyre’s particular style of thriller, the book is a great introduction to one of the genre’s most popular anti-heroes. In Lost Girls by Angela Marsons two young girls are missing and a depraved auction that will destroy two families is about to begin. Kati Barr-Taylor praises the thoroughly good writing and describes this as a satisfying read for lovers of the gritty and graphic.

On the other side of the Atlantic, Linda Wilson enjoyed Two Nights in which PI Sunnie Night is asked to investigate a bomb blast and to hunt for a missing teenager. Linda says that Kathy Reichs has served up another well-plotted, slick thriller, with strong and interesting characters, although there were times when she felt Reichs was trying just a little bit too hard with her protagonist. By contrast, John Barnbrook was thoroughly unimpressed with Chaos by Patricia Cornwell. Her long-running main character Kay Scarpetta is back, called to investigate the death of a young woman during an intolerable heatwave. John says the pace is slow and the stream of consciousness style didn’t work for him at all.

There’s another outing for CJ Box’s game warden hero Joe Pickett. Pickett’s history with the Cates clan has led to a vicious circle of hatred which pitches his family into a fight for their survival. Chris Roberts says that for an obdurate foe and scary risks to the hero, Vicious Circle is hard to beat. He also enjoyed Fateful Mornings by Tom Bouman, commenting that although crisp and authentic dialogue and tight prose is not so uncommon these days, this book is up there with the best.

Our young adult offering for this week is The Guggenheim Mystery which sees 12-year-old Ted Stark, his sister and cousin investigating the theft of a priceless work of art. Robin Stevens was asked to write the book based on nothing more than a title left by Siobhan Dowd, who died before she could even start her sequel to The London Eye Mystery. Linda says Stevens is a worthy successor to Dowd and praises her elegant writing and her immaculate plotting, saying the book is a charming, touching, enthralling and very educational teen mystery.

The 100th victim in our Countdown hotseat is author Michael J Malone. We would very happily join in his rants as well as stowing away in his luggage when he runs away!

We’ll be back in a fortnight with 20 new reviews and an interview with a top name on the crime fiction scene. We hope you'll stick with us for this and the next 100 editions! 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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Countdown with
Michael J. Malone

Michael Malone is a poet and crime novelist who was born and brought up in the heart of Robert Burns’ country, just a stone’s throw from the great man’s cottage in Ayr. He has published over 200 poems in literary magazines throughout the UK, including New Writing Scotland, Poetry Scotland and Markings. 

Michael has a Certificate in Life Coaching and studied as a facilitator with the Pacific Institute. He is an experienced workshop leader/creative writing lecturer to writers’ groups, schools and colleges as well as a personal coach and mentor. 

He is a former Faber and Faber regional sales manager, and has judged and critiqued countless poetry, short story and novel competitions for a variety of organisations, and for a number of years was the Scottish correspondent for Writers’ Forum. As a freelance editor he has edited and mentored writers in a variety of genres.

Michael’s crime novels include Dog Fight (2017), Bad Samaritan (2016), A Suitable Lie (2016) and Beyond the Rage (2015). His thriller The Guillotine Choice is the true story of an innocent man’s time in the notorious Devil’s Island penal colony, co-written with the protagonist's son, Bashir Saoudi.

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

A mix of occupations – some dreadful, some exciting, all educational.

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

Bob the dog. My son. Sofa. TV. Smart phone. Bookcase. Half-eaten apple. Notepad that I use to jot ideas in for my current work-in-progress. Mug of coffee.

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

Tuna salad.