April 29 2023

Excuse us while we sidle in looking shifty. We’ve not spent the past three months noshing porridge as guests of His Maj, honest, but we have been hanging around with a few dodgy characters that make our old friends Doug and Dinsdale look respectable …

During her unscheduled but fortunately very successful secret shop with the wonderful NHS, Linda Wilson took some time out to sneak into the notorious fortress of Zalindov where young healer Kiva Meridan is doing her best to keep the Rebel Queen alive. Lynette Noni’s well constructed combination of political intrigue, elemental magic and developing romance left Linda wanting more of this engaging YA fantasy, so it was good news for her that The Prison Healer heralded the start of a trilogy. She was equally drawn to Megan Whalen Turner’s main character in The Thief. Eugenides is forced to buy his way out of prison by agreeing to work with the king’s magus to steal a legendary object, but there’s no prizes for guessing who’ll be taking the risks on that job. Linda loved this skillfully woven alternative history and was delighted to learn there are more adventures ahead for the young thief.

Missing millions, a gang of church leaders on the take, a charity founder on the hunt for her sister, governors, gangsters, murder and mayhem. Kerry Hood says the joy of Unfinished Business by Leye Adenle is the complete abandonment of protocol, legality, fair play and straight lines! Meanwhile, Chris Roberts enjoyed the humour lurking amidst the tension in Peter Hanington’s A Cursed Place where journalist William Carver runs into trouble when he notes some surprising similarities between actions of repressive governments and big corporations the world over. The Insider by Matthew Richardson delves deep into the heart of the British establishment in search of a traitor believed to be responsible for the murder of a Russian defector. Chris says there’s plenty to keep spy afficionados happy. He was equally enthusiastic about Yesterday's Spy by Tom Bradby in which SIS spook Harry Tower flies to Tehran when he hears his journalist son is in trouble. Chris says news anchorman Bradby serves up non-stop excitement set against a solid historical background.

While we’re on the subject of history, the year is 1938, and with Hitler’s increasing territorial demands, statesmen assemble in Germany to seek a settlement in the hope of avoiding conflict. For Chris Roberts, Munich by Robert Harris convincingly captures the spirit of the times, with the feverish atmosphere a palpable presence in the book. A year later, in the latest installment of Nicola Upson’s Josephine Tey series, the residents of a Suffolk village open their homes to a busload of young evacuees from London but when one of their own children goes missing, old animosities rise to the surface. Kerry Hood says Dear Little Corpses is charming, revealing, engrossing and beautifully written.

Linda Wilson is known for liking a side order of woo woo with her crime and The Shadowing by Rhiannon Ward certainly didn’t disappoint with its dark goings on at a sinister Nottinghamshire workhouse where respectable Hester Goodwin is determined to uncover the truth about her sister’s death. Linda enjoyed the ghostly encounters and interesting characters. There’s more creepiness to be had in The Fever of the World, set in the picturesque Wye Valley where diocesan exorcist Merrily Watkins is dragged into the case of a haunted holiday cottage while harassed copper David Vaynor uses his knowledge of William Wordsworth’s poetry when he investigates the death of a prominent local businessman in a climbing accident. Linda says Phil Rickman can always be relied on to combine archaeology, history and the darker side of the landscape with a subtle dash of the supernatural to produce a full body shiver.

On the Scandi beat, a woman’s safe family life in a sought after area of Oslo is shaken to the core when a man is found murdered in the apartment above hers. Ewa Sherman says Helene Flood’s intriguing narrative sustains the pressure and tension throughout The Lover. Over in Sweden, Camilla Lackberg has joined forces with stage mentalist Henrick Fexeus to pull a new series out of the hat. Trapped sees a detective and (surprise, surprise!) a celebrity mentalist get together to solve the most baffling illusion of them all – the death of a young woman found in a magician's box, pierced with swords. Viv Beeby says it’s all a bit Midsomer Murders at its bloodiest but she’s keen to read more of this most intriguing pairing. Now back to Norway, where Jørn Lier Horst and Thomas Enger are making life difficult again for police investigator Alexander Blix and his sidekick, crime journalist Emma Ramm, when they are held for questioning by Oslo's National Criminal Investigation Service in connection with a fatal shooting. Viv felt Unhinged would have benefitted from more scene setting and a stronger sense of place.

Sylvia Maughan thinks Kate O’Riordan’s Summer Fever takes rather too long to get to the point in an angsty tale of a young British couple hoping their first booking will go a long way towards paying off the debts they’ve run up converting an isolated Italian villa into a guesthouse. Naturally things don’t quite go according to plan. Sylvia got on considerably better with Requiem in La Rossa by Tom Benjamin where investigator Daniel Leicester is asked to prove the innocence of a young drug addict accused of killing a university professor. Sylvia says the book oozes authentic Bolognese atmosphere with intelligent, artistic people, bags of intrigue and plenty of dead bodies.

Talking of dead bodies, a woman gets a nasty shock when she wakes up in her own bed with yet another hangover and, even worse, a dead man she doesn’t know next to her. Kati Barr-Taylor says Lie Beside Me by Gytha Lodge explores some powerful topics including addiction and intimidation but, for her, the story rather lost its way and the characters felt flat. Islands are back in fashion as the setting of murder mysteries and in The Getaway, a birthday celebration on a millionaire’s private retreat turns into an enforced stay for the guests with the unwelcome addition of a murderer in their midst. Anthea Hawdon felt Ross Armstrong’s story bounced between too many points of view without settling into any of them long enough.

John Verpeleti enjoyed Breakneck Point by T Orr Monro and was rooting for the underdog from the start as demoted crime scene investigator Ally Dymond faces an uphill struggle to get her new colleagues to listen to her evidenced based theories when murders occur on her new patch. Linda Wilson, not usually a fan of unreliable narrators, found herself disappearing down Mark Billingham’s Rabbit Hole  where there’s no shortage of suspects when a death occurs on an acute psychiatric ward. Luckily DC Alice Armitage is there to investigate. The only problem is that Alice is a patient there herself. Linda describes the book as clever and immensely readable. Chris Roberts was equally impressed by the lethal chain of events set in motion when a Dublin pathologist on holiday with his wife reports a sighting of someone who is supposed to be dead. Chris praises the wonderful prose and compelling narrative in John Banville's April in Spain.

It's a pleasure to welcome Adam Hamdy to our interview hotseat. His eight minute recipe is definitely one for the great Countdown Cookbook and we’re in total agreement with his rants!

Now it's time take a look at what our friends at Reviewing the Evidence have been up to and catch up with their latest reviews of US and Canadian releases.

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It's great to be back, and thank you all for your patience!

Linda and Sharon

Countdown with
Adam Hamdy

Adam Hamdy was born and raised (for the most part) in London. As a child, he spent three years living in Cairo and went to school in Giza, near the Pyramids. He read law at Oxford and Philosophy at London, so he can tell you why something is morally wrong and then come up with cunning small print to enable you to get away with it.

He left a successful career as a management consultant to pursue his passion for storytelling, and now writes novels and screenplays for film and TV.

He’s a Clay Pigeon Shooting Association gold marksman, has almost died rock climbing, and is a veteran (code for experienced but not necessarily good) skier.

He’s fascinated by big questions. Why are we here? What does it all mean? Did Han Solo really have to die?

Adam lives in Mauritius with his wife, author Amy McLellan, and their three children.

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

Chained to the wall of Plato’s cave, searching for perfection.

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

A framed poster advertising one of Jimi Hendrix’s first concerts. Pink Floyd concept artwork. My reading chair. A greedy robin. A decorative Japanese plant pot. Headphones. My current manuscript. A way marker from the Barbossine ski run in Chatel. Tropical sunshine.

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

Smashed avocado and feta cheese on pumpkin toast.