February 22 2020
If you’re tapping your feet and expecting your usual dose of snow, trees, angst, snow, murder and trees, there are two Scandi releases this time, starting with Knife, the latest outing for Jo Nesbo’s troubled detective Harry Hole (cue the angst!) His life is already in chaos when a deranged, vengeful enemy causes even more trouble for him. Viv Beeby wonders if Hole is at last reaching the end of his nine lives, but despite some trepidation, she couldn’t stop reading. In The Girl Without Skin by Mads Peder Nordbo, the discovery of a mummified body on the edge of an ice sheet in Greenland leads to the re-opening of an unsolved case from 1970s. A Danish journalist and a young woman released from prison delve into the shocking and brutal past. Ewa Sherman says the characters have believable motives and she enjoyed the beautiful landscapes that give an authentic feel to this tense thriller.
Ewa followed this with The Last Woman in the Forest, where a young America woman who works with rescue dogs on environmental projects is shocked when she discovers that her mentor might have been responsible for the unsolved murders of at least four women. Ewa says Diane Les Becquets tells a powerful story about the innermost feelings and desires, encompassing trust, intuition, love, grief and self-preservation. Chris Roberts praised G.I. Confidential by Martin Limon in which two US army CID agents investigate a South Korean bank robbery which has all the hallmarks of military involvement. Chris says this was definitely his kind of book. He enjoyed the combination of the detectives’ laidback and knowing approach to the resolution of problems which arise within what is essentially an army of occupation, together with an open-minded perspective about Korean culture.
One of the perks of reviewing is getting your hands on something that really pushes your buttons and for Linda Wilson that’s the latest addition to the Rivers of London series. In Action at a Distance by Ben Aaronovitch and Andrew Cartmel, the death of an old friend takes both DCI Thomas Nightingale and his sidekick, the resourceful Peter Grant, on a trip down memory lane. Linda enjoyed getting to see something of the ruthlessness behind Nightingale’s urbane exterior and she particularly liked the glimpses of his wartime exploits.
Linda was also very happy with Between Two Evils, the latest outing for Eva Dolan’s Peterborough cops DI Zigic and DS Ferreira, who are investigating the murder of a doctor at a women’s detention centre. There are no immediate suspects but plenty of people who seem to be putting roadblocks in the way of the investigation. Linda describes the book as quality crime fiction. John Cleal was equally lucky with Blood on the Law by William A Graham where a private investigator is hired by his former wife, a top lawyer, to help prove the innocence of his boyhood friend – now the city’s major drugs dealer – who has been found with £2 million-worth of cocaine in his car. John praises both plot and characterisation and says Graham is a clever, eminently readable author. Chris Roberts wasn’t so convinced, though, by the main character in Mr Nobody by Catherine Steadman. Neuropsychiatrist Emma Lewis is asked to help when a man is washed up on a Norfolk beach with only vestiges of memory, but returning to the area will bring her face-to-face with a past she is keen to forget. Chris says she’s all too good at putting herself in unnecessary danger and he would have preferred a little less hysteria from her.
On the thriller front, John Cleal really liked Hitler’s Secret by Rory Clements in which Cambridge-based American history professor Tom Wilde is asked to smuggle a mysterious package out of wartime Nazi Germany – something so secret, even Hitler doesn’t know what it is! John praises a cast of colourful characters, a plot rich in deception and intrigue and a tangled web of espionage and murder that offer first class entertainment for fans of historical ‘faction’, spy fiction or action thrillers. We all know that John, an ex-army man, can spot factual errors and poor research at 20 paces. Tight Lies by Ted Denton has a rookie golf agent (OK, that’s a bit different!) discovering some very dodgy dealings that involve a Russian gas company on the verge of tying up a mega deal with the British government. Cue lone wolf ex-SAS man Tom Hunter’s attempt to save him. John says this is a potentially good book, wrecked by too little background research into the protagonist and too much Rambo-style violence and gore.
Our reviewers didn’t fare too well this week with true crime releases. Chris Roberts wasn’t convinced by the autobiography, Hollywood Godfather, by Gianni Russo, written with Patrick Picciarelli. Russo has lived as a gangster both in real life and in the movies and rubbed shoulders with the cream of Hollywood. Chris said he can’t help feeling that Russo has edited reality to fit his view of himself. Over in the UK, Somebody’s Mother, Somebody’s Daughter by Carol Ann Lee tells the true stories from victims and survivors of the Yorkshire Ripper. For Kati Barr-Taylor, the book did little to flesh out the lives of the victims and she found the photos of the murder weapons unnecessary and distasteful.
Factual context is important in No Place of Refuge by Ausma Zehanat Khan, Esa Khattak and Rachel Getty travel to a Greek island where a friend working to help refugees has disappeared. Chris Roberts says there’s too much introspection and angst from the main characters which slows the pace to a crawl, but he notes that there also are passages of beauty as well as horror.
The reissue of Georges Simenon’s classic series continues with his detective receiving a series of anonymous letters threatening murder in the household of an eminent lawyer. John Cleal describes Maigret Hesitates as another brilliantly crafted study of human motivation, more a ‘why’ than a whodunit, which conveys an understanding of the less attractive aspects of human nature and how and why an individual can be moved to murder.
Please welcome author Helen Sedgwick to the Countdown chair. She’s clearly had a very varied working life. And we love her idea for seven drinking companions. We also want to tag along to Antarctica and the international space station, please. The fact we get seasick on the Isle of Wight ferry is neither here nor there!
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Ten words to sum up your working life to date ...
Sales assistant, musician, research physicist, teacher, editor, MD, author: varied!
Nine things you can see from where you're sitting ...
My yucca plant, books, a photo of my mum when she was three years old, wild rocket seedlings, a micro Lego T.rex, a cherry tree, strawberry plants, the sky and my mug of tea.
Eight minutes to prepare a meal. What's it going to be ?
Noodle veg stir-fry.