March 18 2017

We like a good rant, and certain of our reviewers can do it for England! John Cleal wasn’t quite convinced by veteran scriptwriter Phil Redmond’s debut novel, Highbridge, which he describes as part techno-thriller and part fulmination against a wide variety of targets. And our Mr Cleal knows a thing or two about fulmination!

Spring is finally in the air, bringing with it more debuts. Linda Wilson is a fan of moral ambiguity in books, and new author Shannon Kirk certainly delivers in The Method, with its impressively dark tale of pregnant teenagers going missing. John Cleal enjoyed You Were Never Really Here by Jonathan Ames which he describes as a superbly pared-down, striking and powerful noir debut novella, brutal, redemptive and packed with corruption. Kati Barr-Taylor had some reservations about JoAnn Chaney’s debut, What You Don’t Know, but still describes it as a satisfying twisted read that kept her up into the wee hours.

John Barnbrook is now thoroughly hooked on JD Robb’s long-running series featuring Lieutenant Eve Dallas and says that Brotherhood in Death has its usual crop of engaging characters in this investigation into a senator’s sordid secrets. Chris Roberts is known for his love of all things legal and, as ever, he was fascinated by John Grisham’s insights into a legal system very different to our own in The Whistler.  Chris was on more familiar ground in the Old Bailey with Summary Justice by John Fairfax, where barrister William Benson – himself a convicted killer – defends his first client from an accusation of murder. Guilty Minds by Joseph Finder took Chris back over to the US where an on-line scandal sheet is threatening to publish a story about a Supreme Court justice and a prostitute. Chris says the plot has plenty of intriguing twists and turns.

Back in the UK, in Under a Watchful Eye by Adam Nevill, horror story writer Seb Logan is being watched, but he doesn’t know by whom and nobody else can see the dark figure stalking him. Jim Beaman says this intelligent and eerie book generates a real feeling of unease. Kati Barr-Taylor was impressed by Katerina Diamond’s second book, where the hunt is on for DS Bridget Reid, who has been working as an undercover prostitute in Exeter. Kati describes The Secret as a great page-turner and says Diamond has already mastered the art of plot-twists and pacing. Simon Kernick is no stranger to the police thriller and in The Bone Field, he teams up two of his long-running characters, DI Ray Mason and former cop turned PI, Tina Boyd. Linda Wilson says there’s never a dull moment when those two get together!  There’s no shortage of familiar characters in The Chalk Pit by Elly Griffiths, either, and Linda, who goes down holes in the ground for a hobby, felt entirely at home in the mysterious network of old tunnels under Norwich.

Elsewhere, our Scandi queen Ewa Sherman enjoyed The Ice Beneath Her by Camilla Grebe. This disturbing psychological thriller set in Stockholm is constructed around a solid detective story plot, and deals with themes of love, betrayal and obsession. Arnold Taylor is a lover of spy stories, and praises the convincing depictions of politics in Deep Blue by Alan Judd. He also says the book shows something very rare in spy thrillers, co-operation between MI5 and MI6!

Our reviewers have had a busy time on the historical front. In The Ashes of Berlin by Luke McCallin, Inspector Gregor Reinhardt is back in Berlin after the end of the Second World War, on the track of a serial killer. John Cleal says this is historical fiction at its best: tough, gritty and atmospheric. Chris Roberts was equally impressed by Devastation Road, where a man with no memory makes his way across a Germany devastated by conflict in the company of two others, both also struggling with the upheavals of wartime. Chris says Jason Hewitt has furnished his well-researched tale with human stories which bring the period alive.

Closer to home, in The Death of Kings by Rennie Airth, set in 1949, retired Chief Inspector John Madden re-examines a ten-year-old murder amid fears that the wrong man was hanged for the crime. John Cleal says the descriptions of the characters and use of dialogue develop the plot, allowing Airth to gradually build the suspense. Sara Sheridan’s series of cosy noir mysteries is set in 1950, and features her ex-secret service heroine Mirabelle Bevan. John Cleal says Operation Goodwood is a clever, well-written and quite believable story of detection by a determined and intelligent woman years ahead of her time. Anne Perry’s Commander Monk is called to look at a corpse that has been fished out of the Thames. Sylvia Maughan describes Revenge in a Cold River as completely absorbing.

Linda Wilson is known for her love of YA and in Heads You Die by Steve Cole, the young James Bond and his friend Hugo have to go up against Scolopendra Industries to save the life of a family friend. Linda says the plot is as dastardly as ever, and the stakes are just as high.

In the Countdown slot this week we have writing partnership AD Garrett, with Margaret Murphy, the writing arm of the pairing, answering the questions. Her rants are ones we definitely empathise with!

 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
A. D. Garrett

Margaret Murphy is the writing arm of AD Garrett, the pseudonym for prize-winning novelist Murphy and policing and forensics expert Helen Pepper. Margaret has published nine psychological thrillers under her own name – both standalone and police series. She is Writing Fellow and Reading Round Lector for the Royal Literary Fund, a past chair of the Crime Writers Association (CWA), and founder of Murder Squad. Her lifelong passion for science is reflected in her research for her novels. In 2013, writing as AD Garrett, Margaret began a new forensic series, featuring Professor Nick Fennimore and DCI Kate Simms.

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

Teacher, learner, reader, writer, varied, slog, exhausting, stimulating, resilience, striving

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

A stack of novels that have inspired, and continue to inspire me.
A patchwork map of US Interstate Highway 44, stitched together from Google printouts and pinned to my office wall (multiple murders occur along this long and lonely road in book two of the series).
Tools of the trade (computer hardware and peripherals, but also print copies of Chambers thesaurus and dictionary – there’s no digital substitute).
A framed handmade card my brother-in-law gave me on the publication of my second novel.
A mess of papers, including the next AD Garrett novel, three-quarters complete.
Lists of things to do (many not done)
A photo of my father and two pals he served with in the 8th Army in WW2.
A paddock where rescue horses graze.
The sun setting volcanic red over the fields towards Heswall.

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

Tiger prawns, stir fried with ginger (fresh, grated), mixed sweet peppers, spring onions, crushed garlic, unsalted cashews blasted in the microwave for four minutes, a few spriglets of broccoli and angel hair rice noodles. Finished with a dollop of crème fraiche.