February 18 2017
Kati Barr-Taylor says Ragdoll by Daniel Cole is a black diamond that will satiate those hungry for intrigue and twists. David Mark’s DS Aector McAvoy returns on a visit to New York in Cruel Mercy. Chris Roberts says the book conveys a realistic picture of how things work in a very different jurisdiction. Closer to home, Linda Wilson took a trip to Manchester in No Place Like Home by Kerry Wilkinson, who’s having a break from his usual series character in this bleak standalone that showcases the dark side of the city the tourist board would prefer to forget about. The Devil’s Feast features Afghan war hero and reluctant sleuth Captain William Avery. John Cleal says MJ Carter superbly captures the period atmosphere to paint a vivid portrait of 1840s London, but at times, it could easily double for London in 2017 as well!
In The Heirs of Owain Glyndŵr by Peter Murphy, a group of Welsh activists are on trial for plotting to plant a bomb in Caernarfon Castle during the investiture of the Prince of Wales in 1969. Jim Beaman praises the low-key, clever and determined main character. Kati Barr-Taylor says The Girl Before by JP Delaney is a gripping, fast-paced, easy read for those who are not overly sensitive. John Cleal says you’ll need a strong stomach for Blood For Blood by JM Smyth. Despite that, he describes it as clever, intricate, uncomfortable and studded with dark wit. John Barnbrook was impressed by Nuala Ellwood’s My Sister’s Bones, where a successful war correspondent who returns to her childhood home. This is a dark tale of childhood experiences and the war in Aleppo.
John Cleal enthusiastically describes Lady Cop Makes Trouble by Amy Stewart as one of the best mystery novels of the year. Meet Constance Kopp, America’s first female deputy sheriff. John Sandford is one of Chris Roberts’ favourite writers. Lucas Davenport returns in Gathering Prey, and takes a wild ride across northern central USA. Chris says Davenport is a rare thing in a crime novel: a protagonist surprisingly unburdened by angst! Linda Wilson came late to Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch series, but she’s well and truly hooked now and says that in The Wrong Side of Goodbye, both the character and his creator are on top form.
Our Scandi Queen, Ewa Sherman describes The Other Son by Alexander Söderberg, where an ordinary nurse regrets falling in love with a crime lord, as fun and exciting. Athenian Blues by Pol Koutsakis features a contract killer working for a woman who wants her husband dead. Chris Roberts says there’s plenty of action and the characters all have a sense of drama about them. But he wasn’t quite so taken with The Kingdom by Fuminori Nakamura, and thinks you’ll need to take a very bleak view of life to cope with this one.
Two strong debuts have impressed our resident history buff John Cleal. In Birthright, the widowed Mercia Blakewood has to gamble everything she loves to save her family and inheritance. John says David Hingley’s book has almost everything: a believable plot set in one of the most turbulent times in British history, a sparky and determined heroine, and a solid historical base. Beloved Poison by ES Thomson features Apothecary Jem Flockhart, a woman posing as a man. She uncovers six tiny coffins in a London infirmary awaiting demolition. Her search for their meaning reveals a long forgotten past and sparks a series of murders. John says the book blossoms into a magnificent Gothic thriller, dark, atmospheric and creepy, reeking of Victorian grime and macabre medical practice.
Author Lesley Thomson is up in the Countdown slot this week. We’d be very happy to invite ourselves for dinner with her, and have a lot of sympathy with her rants!
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Ten words to sum up your working life to date ...
NB: These words are sometimes my favourite.
Nine things you can see from where you're sitting ...
1. Sunlight fading from the Downs.
2. A tarnished plastic Buddha smothered in ivy.
3. A home-made climbing frame two gardens down.
4. A map for my novel in progress, The Dogwalker, stuck on the side with heavy-duty magnets to remind me where everyone lives.
5. Writing notebook holding scraps of paper with post-office elastic bands.
6. Stapler with my name on it (From a long ago office where my working life was tortuous and tiny things mattered too much).
7. Receipt for Specsavers.
8. Packet of fruit and nut mix from Waitrose.
9. Gray’s Anatomy.
Eight minutes to prepare a meal. What's it going to be ?
Frozen shepherd’s pie and frozen broad beans from the minimart below Stella’s Clean Slate office to get into her character. When being myself it’s pasta with black olives, sun-dried tomatoes and onions, sprinkled with parmesan and pine nuts.