April 19 2014

Psst, you want some dystopian fiction? We can do you a good deal on it this week, guv!

Linda Wilson was very taken by Louise Walsh's A Lovely Way to Burn where people are dying from a flu-type plague and a TV presenter wants to know what happened to her boyfriend. Linda  reckons it stands comparison with the best in the field. And she also lapped up World After, the second installment in Susan Ee's YA series where angels are in control of the world. Chris Roberts wasn't entirely convinced by the plot and characterisation in Adam Strenbergh's Shovel Ready, where a terrorist bomb has hit Times Square, but he reckons the book will appeal to those who like dystopian futures.

Also strong in the YA front this week is The Ultimate Truth by Kevin Brooks where a teenager investigates the death of his parents. Linda Wilson says it hits the ground running and is slick, believable and never talks down to its audience.

We have two new reviewers to introduce to you this week, both with widely-differing tastes in books. Jude Evans is a fan of Peter May's previous books, and enjoyed Entry Island, a stark read set in Canada. And Julee Sanderson reckons Jim Butcher is right back on top form with Cold Days, the latest in his Harry Dresden series, where the hero has to kill a high-ranking member of the faerie court.

On the overseas front this week, we have two books set in Australia. John Cleal was hooked by Max Berry's Lexicon, a fast-moving black humour thriller focusing on an Aussie mining town. And Arnold Taylor was intrigued by the three lead police characters in Robert Gott's The Holiday Murders, set in 1943 Melbourne, although rather less impressed by the not so believable villains.

Over to South America and Chris Roberts says Frei Betto's Hotel Brasil is a compelling read, although the ambiguity regarding the killer's motives seems appropriate for life in Rio. John Cleal, meanwhile, purrs with pleasure at the impeccable storytelling of Martin Cruz Smith in Tatiana, a return for iconic Russian detective Arcady Renko.

Speaking of old faithfuls (that's the author not the reviewer!), Sylvia Wilson enjoyed Faye Kellerman's Predator and says it's got a believable plot and sympathetic, well-drawn characters. Alan Glynn, meanwhile, reaches the end of his loosely-linked trilogy, which has reached from Ireland to Africa to the US, with Graveland. John Cleal reckons it's the best topical thriller he's read in ages.

Nick Stone has shifted his action from Haiti to London. Sharon Wheeler enjoyed the first three-quarters of The Verdict immensely, but wasn't that enamoured of the inevitable John Grisham comparison or the too neat ending. John Cleal describes Robert Pobi's River of the Dead as a parade of brutality that stretches the imagination, although he did like the poor little rich girl lead character, who he describes as Dirty Harriet!

Elsewhere, Sharon Wheeler was charmed by Judith Flanders' first foray into fiction with Writers' Block, featuring a 40-something publishing editor surrounded by a splendid cast of eccentric colleagues and authors. And Linda Wilson was impressed by the strong female lead character in  Elizabeth Haynes's Under a Silent Moon, which she says is a realistic police procedural.

Fergus McNeill is in the Countdown slot this week – make sure you read his thoroughly entertaining answers. And we'll be running away with him to his favourite locations, especially given he appears to be a Famous Five fan!

We'll back in a fortnight with 16 new reviews and an interview with a top author. In the meantime, we hope you'll visit our friends at Reviewing the Evidence and find out what's happening on the other side of the Atlantic.
And if you're not following us on Twitter, find us at .

Linda and Sharon

Countdown with
Fergus McNeill

Scottish writer Fergus McNeill is the author of the Detective Inspector Harland series, a games industry veteran and an app designer. He has designed and created games since the early 1980s, including working with Terry Pratchett to create the first Discworld game and also adapting Murder off Miami by Dennis Wheatley.

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

Paper round, record shop, computer games, photography, iPhone apps, books.

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

1. My laptop – a cheap little Samsung netbook that I’ve used to write almost all of my three novels. It's on its last legs, and I'll miss it when it's gone.
2. A box-set of Miss Marple DVDs – the thoroughly excellent Joan Hickson ones, rather than the more youthful adaptations we've had recently.
3. A big pile of receipts from my endless weekend research trips to Bristol. I'm not terribly tidy and 'file' them in a large pile on my bedside table.
4. A framed photograph of the fountain in Piazza della Repubblica that I took while on a trip to Rome.
5. My to-be-read book pile, which is now too tall to remain a pile and has had to become a shelf. It currently stands at 17 books, and that’s not including the unread books on my Kindle.
6. My Kindle.
7. A glass of A&W root beer. I know, I know, but it's what I'm drinking and I really do like the taste.
8. A towering pile of Irregular Choice shoes boxes (my wife has a thing about them).
9. And finally, despite our strict no cats in the bedroom policy, I note that I can also see our much-loved moggy. On its last trip to the vet, The Cat tipped the scales at a whopping 8.8kg, a weight that would be excessive for two cats, let alone one. Despite our efforts to slim it down, The Cat is now so large that it is almost visible from space, so it can usually be spotted no matter where I'm sitting.

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

In eight minutes? Um... perhaps some good French bread, Bavarian ham, with brie and butter and wine… That would take me at least eight minutes to prepare. Or, if you’re in a hurry, I could probably drive to the local chip shop in less than five?