August 20 2016

We haven’t been neglecting out friends across the pond and have had a catch-up this week with a strong batch of American releases from UK publishers.

Paradise Sky by Joe R Lansdale is loosely based on the autobiography of the US’s best known black cowboy. John Cleal describes it as masterful and full-blooded. John wasn’t sure, though, about the morality of turning a killer-for-hire into a literary hero, but that’s what happened with Max Allan Collins’ Quarry series - this is the reissue of the 1976 original. And there’s a reappearance for In The Heat Of The Night by John Ball, originally published in 1965. John says it will make you stop and think. And he recommends Ray Celestin’s Dead Man’s Blues, set amidst the jazz scene in mid 20th century Chicago. Girl Waits With Gun by Amy Stewart is a charming story based on a true case in 1914 US, says Chris Roberts.

Nearer to the present, The Night Charter by Sam Hawken features a Middle East war veteran. Chris Roberts wasn’t convinced it would pass a reality test. Michael Connelly’s characters Harry Bosch and Mickey Haller collaborate in The Crossing. Linda says it’s a series with plenty of life left in it. Remembrance by Meg Cabot is an adult addition to the YA Suze Simon ghostbuster series. Linda was all over it like a rash.

Over to Japan and Chris Roberts says that Six Four by Hideo Yokoyama gives insight into a society markedly different from our own. He adds that there’s also a strong sense of setting in A Quiet Place by Seicho Matsumoto.

Elsewhere, Tbilisi is the location for a rather unlikely investigator’s search in The Searcher by Chris Morgan Jones. Arnold Taylor enjoyed it. Ewa Sherman says that Torkil Damhaug’s Medusa is a tense start to a quartet, mixing the stories of Greek myths and modern Norway.

Closer to home, we have the almost obligatory domestic noir - Linda Wilson read CL Taylor’s The Missing because it was set in her home city of Bristol. She says it’s good at turning perceptions on their head.

It’s always hard joining a series a long way in - but John Barnbrook is off to hunt down the previous 19 books in Kate Ellis’s DI Wesley Peterson series. He was a bit disconcerted by the made-up Devon place names in The House of Eyes, but thought it was a fluent and gripping tale. Sharon Wheeler says that Tony Parsons’ DC Max Wolfe series has been a slow burner for her, but she could imagine The Hanging Club as brooding TV drama. Equally atmospheric, she says, is the Dungeness setting in William Shaw’s The Birdwatcher, where its cop hero has a secret to keep. And Linda Wilson could have done with a tad less gore and a touch more nuance in Katerina Diamond’s The Teacher.

On the historical front this week. John Cleal enjoyed exercising his brain with (ahem) doughty Victorian detective Frances Doughty in The Children Of Silence by Linda Stratmann.

Please welcome new reviewer Jim Beaman who enjoyed Mark Lawson’s The Allegations, where a celebrity history professor and his university colleague find themselves facing personal and professional ruin.

YA queen Linda Wilson praised Eden Summer by Liz Flanagan, where a teenager is determined to find her missing friend. Linda says the teenage voice is thoroughly realistic.

Answering the Countdown questions this week is Welsh cop-turned-author Mike Thomas. He has some varied drinking chums, and a refreshing attitude to a quick meal.

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
Mike Thomas

Mike Thomas was born in 1971 in the Welsh town of Caerphilly. His teenage years were spent breakdancing, spraying graffiti around the town’s walls and office blocks and just about staying on the right side of the law, until his early 20s when, inexplicably, he joined the local constabulary and began locking people up for spraying graffiti around the town’s walls and office blocks.

While working as a plod in Wales’ capital city of Cardiff, Thomas continued with his childhood passion: writing. As a freelance he produced articles for local newspapers, various websites and national travel magazines.

After completing a Master’s degree in Creative Writing at the University of Wales between 2007 and 2009, Thomas published his debut novel, Pocket Notebook, in 2010. His second novel, Ugly Bus, was released by Heinemann in 2014 and is currently in development as a six-part television series with the BBC. Both novels deal with the uglier side of policing.

Thomas left the police in the spring of 2015. He currently lives in the wilds of Portugal with his wife, children and a senile dog which enjoys eating the family furniture.

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


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

Battle-scarred cheap laptop that enjoys switching off at whim Hideously disorganised notes
A lamp that doesn’t work so I use it as a paperweight
Winnie the Pooh mug with dregs of cold tea
A pile of receipts I am due to file* for a tax return
Christmas snow globe featuring a jubilant, scarf-wearing penguin
Pine and eucalyptus trees
Red roof tiles below pale blue sky
The Serra da Estrela mountain range

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

A juicy Portuguese bifana: pan-fry two thin slices of pork in mustard, garlic, white wine and oil. Sauté chopped onion in the resulting sauce. Place pork and onions between a buttered crusty roll. Shove in face. Have a nice lie down while you think about ‘important stuff.’