August 19 2017

If you’re trundling along happily on the bandwagon featuring Arthur Conan Doyle’s successors, then move up, as you’ll be in for a crowded ride this week.

For a change, Mrs Hudson and Mary Watson get star billing in The Women of Baker Street. John Cleal has a few historical niggles but feels that Michelle Birkby’s tale is a thoroughly enjoyable, cleverly written and shrewdly plotted Victorian murder mystery. John was also very taken with HB Lyle’s The Irregular, where Wiggins, the leader of Holmes’ gang of street urchins, becomes involved with the emerging security services. He says that the book is a fun read, with an excellent sense of time and place. In Sherlock Holmes and the Nine-Dragon Sigil by Tim Symonds, Holmes and Watson investigate a fiendish plot in Imperial China. Chris Smart describes the book as a well-crafted piece of historical fiction.

Victorian England also looms large in Kitty Peck and the Daughter of Sorrow. Kitty has inherited Paradise, her grandmother’s sprawling criminal empire in the Thames docklands. John Cleal says Kate Griffin has an unrivalled ability to portray a sense of threat and dread. He doesn’t want this series to end!

There are a couple of outings for veteran writers this week. Michael Connelly introduces a new series character for the first time in many years. In The Late Show, Detective Renée Ballard works the night shift in Hollywood, starting cases then handing them on as each new day rolls around. Linda Wilson came late to Connelly’s Harry Bosch series, so she’s very pleased to be there for the start of his latest one. Linda is also a fan of Robert B Parker’s Spenser series. In the latest, Slow Burn, Boston’s iconic PI investigates a fire in a disused church that left three firefighters dead. Linda says the books have lost none of the style or substance, and Ace Akins is now more than just a safe pair of hands.

Also on the other side of the Pond, an intern equine therapist comes to Baltimore to find her father, from whom her mother has hidden her since birth. Sylvia Wilson says that Karen Rose’s writing is assured in Monster in the Closet, although she did feel that some of the backstory was laid on with a trowel when it comes to traumatic upbringings. Kati Barr-Taylor treks from Texas to Arizona in The Shimmering Road and says that Hester Young deals with powerful, ugly and sad issues, combining them into a journey of suspense. In The Good Daughter, a woman comes home to uncover the truth about her childhood, but finds a woman buried in the woods. Kati  says Alexandra Burt’s book is a combination of a crime story, a supernatural tale, and family saga. The action in Rowan Coleman’s The Summer of Impossible Things moves from Oxfordshire to New York. Following the suicide of their mother, two sisters find that impossible events offer them the opportunity to change the past and affect the present. Madeleine Marsh warns that this is the sort of book that will leave you trying to unravel its web long after you finish it.

Chris Roberts had rather a lot to do with drugs this week in the name of reviewing! He says that Three Drops of Blood and a Cloud of Cocaine by Quentin Mouron does a good job of foiling expectations, while Kevin Deutsch’s Pill City tells the true story of two tech-savvy Baltimore 18-year-olds who created a drug delivery service for legal and illegal opiates across the US.

We seem to be doing a lot of travelling this week. Hunting the Hangman by Howard Linskey deals with the attempted assassination of Himmler’s deputy Reinhard Heydrich. The book led Arnold Taylor to wonder whether, with hindsight, it might have been better not to have launched this mission. The Unquiet Dead by Ausma Zehanat Khan, which is set in Canada, deals with another difficult subject, namely the action by the Serbs to eliminate the Muslims from Bosnia. Chris Roberts says it’s an engaging tale, although he could have done without all the romantic entanglements. The Balkans also play a part in Kati Heikkapelto’s The Exiled, in which Finnish noir moves to the Balkans. Ewa Sherman describes the book as gripping, engaging and heart-breaking. In Earthly Remains, Commissario Brunetti is under strain at work but even a much-needed break gets interrupted when an old man goes missing. Sylvia Maughan says one of Donna Leon’s great strengths is her ability to create mood.

Back in the UK, and three dead bodies are found leaning against Hadrian’s Wall. Kati Barr-Taylor says The Killer on the Wall by Emma Kavanagh never takes its foot off the accelerator. Linda Wilson enjoys a good ghost story and says Where She Went by BE Jones is built on an unusual premise that is handled with consummate style.

On the young adult front, John Barnbrook describes Caraval by Stephanie Garber, as having elements of Alice in Wonderland and the Looking Glass Wars, as well as Philip Pullman’s Dark Materials trilogy. He says he can imagine this translating well to the big screen. Linda Wilson ventured into The Death House by Sarah Pinborough, and says this is a book that will tear your heart out and stamp on it.

Author Louise Penny is our Countdown guest this week. She’s got an interesting line-up of people to go for a drink with, and an awful lot of us are going to want to join in with her rants!

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
Louise Penny

Louise Penny is the author of the Chief Inspector Gamache novels, set in her native Quebec, Canada. She was a journalist with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, and was well into her 40s before Still Life, the first in the series, was published.

The books have won international awards including the UK John Creasey Dagger, the US Anthony and Agatha awards, and the Canadian Arthur Ellis.  She’s been awarded two Honorary Doctorates as well as the Order of Canada and the Ordre National du Quebec for her contributions to Canadian literature and her work on behalf of literacy, Alzheimer’s and dementia, which took her husband Michael.

She lives with her dog Bishop in a village south of Montreal, and has homes in New York City and London.

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

Surprising, scary, noli timere, coffee, gummy bears, blessed, discipline, grateful.

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

Fireplace, dog, old pine table, laptop, flowers, notebook, coffee mug, bookcases and forest.

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

Steak on the BBQ.