August 05 2017

If you’re starting to think that the world can’t get much worse, some of the books we’ve got this week will make you twitch nervously  …

Linda Wilson, who laps up any passing dystopian books, says that No Dominion – the final instalment of Louise Welsh’s Plague Times trilogy – will show just how fast our so-called civilised societies could fall when pushed by events out of their control.

We still love you, cosy readers (and stay with us, as there are some gems to interest you this week), but we do have a crop of dark reads, starting with Melanie Raabe’s strong debut, where a reclusive writer comes face to face with the man who killed her sister. Kati Barr-Taylor says The Trap has an intriguing plot, plus plenty of suspense and a sprinkling of violence. Kati was in two minds about Saul Black’s Lovemurder. She says it’s a gritty, fast-paced read and well worth persevering with, but warns of disturbing scenes and says this is a bit of a Marmite read. In Fiona Barton’s The Child, the discovery of a baby’s skeleton on a building site reveals a decades-old tragedy which means different things to three women. John Cleal describes the book as one of the best examinations of the female psyche under pressure that you’re likely to find.

A killer plays a sick game where death is the prize in The Caller by Chris Carter. Kati Barr-Taylor says the book certainly packs a punch, and she found the inclusion of the dark side of social media particularly interesting and current. In Walk Away by Sam Hawken a woman answers her sister’s cry for help, not knowing that it will end in murder. Kati says the book has a straightforward plot with plenty of blood, guts and action, and doesn’t disappoint. Murder in Disguise features the darker side of Hollywood. John Cleal says Mary Miley has a sharp eye, a clever mind that carries a complicated plot and real writing talent.

John Cleal unearthed a couple of other gems which provide a welcome break from all the gloom and doom. In The Sinking Admiral by the members of The Detection Club, a bar manager sets out to investigate the death of the landlord of a failing pub. John says this is an original, ebullient and archetypal whodunit and is an ideal book to amuse you on a relaxed holiday, if our dismal summer finally provides any sun! And he also enjoyed The Incredible Crime by Lois Austen-Leigh in which the spirited, beautiful, and unconventional Prudence Pinsent tackles a dangerous drug-smuggling ring.

Linda Wilson took a trip to Jakarta in The Bone Ritual by Julian Lees. She enjoyed the setting and the characters in this darkly compelling tale of family secrets, lies and murder. Chris Roberts headed east as well, to Tokyo where Blue Light Yokohama by Nicolas Obregon sets a young detective the task of solving the murder of a Korean family. Chris says there are plenty of chills and thrills in this accomplished debut. Chris then travelled Down Under in Bay of Martyrs by Tony Black and Matt Neal, which introduces journalist Clayton Moloney who’s determined to investigate a body washed up on a beach. Chris says the joins between the two writers are certainly not visible and he would like to see more of the main character.

On the Scandi scene this week, Ewa Sherman says Agnes Ravatn’s The Bird Tribunal has an incredible richness of themes in its complex relationship between the main characters and describes the book as an evocative, chilling and beautiful psychological thriller. John Barnbrook ventured north of the border in the UK, and was initially confused by Lin Anderson’s large cast of characters in None But The Dead, the latest in the long-running Dr Rhona MacLeod series. Rhona is investigating a series of shocking events in the Orkneys, and John praises the cinematic quality of the final scenes and was very taken by the satisfying ending.

Big-hitter John Grisham is back, and we certainly can’t keep Chris Roberts from his legal fix. Camino Island explores the world of writers and writing through the characters on the island. Chris was intrigued by whether any real people are represented here! Defectors by Joseph Kanon also delves into the world of books when a defector from the US to Moscow wants to publish his memoirs. Arnold says the book will reward patience and builds to an action-packed climax

Two of our reviewers have made forays into the world of true crime this week. John Barnbrook takes a look at one of the most famous unsolved crimes of all time in Jack the Ripper: Case Closed. John says Gyles Brandreth’s novel is well researched and he praises the intriguing denouement. The Fact of a Body by Alexandra Marzano-Lesnevich is the true story of a law student whose work on the defence of a murderer and child molester causes her to confront her own family’s past. Kim Fleet describes it as a compelling, intelligent, and proficient narrative.

Linda Wilson has been busy on the YA front, with two school settings this week on opposite sides of the Atlantic. In One of Us is Lying by Karen McManus, five students go into detention at Bayview High School, but only four come out of the classroom alive. Linda says this is a tightly-drawn, well-portrayed story of teen friendships, problems, secrets and lies, and is a book that you’ll want to devour in one sitting. She was also very impressed by Nicci Cloke’s look at the horror and tragedy of a school shooting, set – unusually – in the UK. Linda describes Close Your Eyes as a book that will worm its way under your skin, making you both laugh and cry.

In the Countdown hotseat this week is writer Marnie Riches. We’d be very happy to be invited to a meal at her house. Linda shares her love of rooibos tea and Sharon would happily tuck into her lovely veggie 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
Marnie Riches

Marnie Riches grew up on a rough estate in Manchester, aptly within sight of the dreaming spires of Strangeways prison. She swapped those for the spires of Cambridge University, gaining a Masters degree in Modern and Medieval Dutch and German.

She has been a punk, a trainee rock star, a pretend artist and professional fundraiser. In her spare time, she likes to run, renovate houses and paint. Oh, and drinking. She likes a drink. And eating. She likes that too. Especially in exotic destinations.

Marnie wrote the first six books of HarperCollins Children’s Time-Hunters series. Her George McKenzie crime thrillers for adults were inspired, in part, by her own youth and time spent in The Netherlands as a student. Her new Manchester series about the criminal underworld of the city launched in March 2017.

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

Raising millions; making humans; rebuilding old houses; creating new worlds.

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

The sofa of my childhood, my garden, my laptop, books, my mother’s Snowman mug, an anorak, a calculator, a brass jug from Iran, a wooden carving from Mexico.

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

Falafel and salad in pitta with hummus.