September 16 2017

If you’re a nervous driver or twitchy passenger, some of our offerings this week might make you think again about embarking on a car journey. So sit back and let us take the wheel.

Linda Wilson enjoyed The Night Stalker by Clare Donoghue, which features a pair of Met detectives off their home turf in the wilds of Somerset, investigating a fatal crash. She found the characters interesting and says this tightly-plotted thriller is firmly rooted in the landscape and its traditions and provides a rapidly-developing story that constantly defied her expectations and predictions. She liked You Can Run as well, in which a car crashing into a house reveals a dark secret. She says Steve Mosby serves up another solid police procedural that maintains a steady character-driven pace. In The Breakdown by BA Paris a lone woman driver doesn’t want to get out of her car at night in a storm, and with good reason, as a woman she has seen is dead. Kati Barr-Taylor says that although the book touches on emotional and mental deterioration it is refreshingly devoid of gore.

John Cleal returns to his beloved historical mysteries this week. He says ES Thomson’s Dark Asylum is meticulously researched and masterfully plotted. This complex and harrowing tale of a female apothecary who dresses as a man moves at almost breakneck pace. The Coroner’s Daughter by Andrew Hughes also has a female main character. John describes this as a superbly written, totally enjoyable story with a scarcely hidden sense of menace. Chris Roberts has taken a trip back in time as well in Ruined Stones, to Newcastle in 1941, where a junior policewoman investigates the death of a woman amongst the remains of a Roman temple. Chris says husband and wife writing duo Eric Reed make a creditable stab at sustaining the sense of place by the use of many Newcastle dialect words – but don’t worry, there’s a concise Geordie dictionary at the back of the book if needed!

On the Euro crime front, Ewa Sherman enjoyed Quicksand by Malin Persson Giolito, which she describes as an insightful psychological study and a courtroom drama with a difference. Chris Roberts liked Dominque Sylvain’s latest outing for her quirky main characters in Shadows and Sun. He says this has the unmistakable taste of French sensibility and humour, coupled with the occasional hint of irreverence. Chris then scoots over to Pakistan for The Warehouse by SS Mausoof, in which a Karachi insurance surveyor is tempted into a lucrative job in a very dangerous part of the country. Chris says this is a book that will give you some idea of what it is like to live in a war zone, but it also makes it hard to believe in easy solutions.

Across the Pond, Tess Gerritsen’s long-running Rizzoli and Isles series is back. Sylvia Wilson says I Know a Secret is another assured performance that will go down well with anyone with an interest in the forensic sciences, and with anyone who likes a good whodunit. Kati Barr-Taylor was equally impressed with Sweet After Death by Valentina Giambanco.  In this fast-paced story, a detective is out of her comfort zone investigating a murder in an isolated town in midwinter. Kati says the writing style is sinewy and senses driven, curiously addictive, and provides a good balance of action, contemplation and description. In You Belong To Me by Colin Harrison, a New York immigration lawyer gets involved in his neighbours’ marital friction, with potentially deadly consequences. Chris Roberts says this was the sort of book that made him put everything else aside until he’d got to the end! Chris also enjoyed Ryan Gattis’ Safe, the story of a safe-cracking thief who seizes a last chance of redemption, which Chris describes as a white-knuckle ride from the first page.

Linda Wilson enjoyed American YA thriller Genuine Fraud by E Lockhart, and says this clever, intriguing and utterly absorbing book is a masterclass in how to get a psychological thriller right. Linda was also very impressed with Kristen Lepionka’s debut, The Last Place You Look, with a PI doing her best to find a missing woman and save a man from death row. Linda says this is an exceptionally strong and well-crafted book with a taut, clever plot. Arnold Taylor says that good plotting is also a feature of Block 46 by Johana Gustawsson, in which a Quantico-trained officer in the Canadian Royal Mounted Police becomes involved in a frantic search for a serial killer operating in both England and Sweden. In The Room by the Lake by Emma Dibdin, a woman leaves behind her life in London and heads for New York in search of a new start, but finds herself drawn to the simplicity of life in a cult. Kati Barr-Taylor praises the compelling writing and says the book serves as a warning to anyone looking for an easy fix

Elsewhere, in The Dark Isle by Clare Carson, the main character returns to the island of Hoy, scene of her childhood holidays, to uncover the facts surrounding the death of her undercover policeman father. John Cleal praises the superb storytelling, clever and convoluted plotting, and a wonderful sense of time and place. Also in Scotland, a gifted girl is found murdered and the townspeople are determined to take matters into their own hands. Former headteacher John Barnbrook had concerns about a lack of realism in the school environment in SJI Holliday’s The Damselfly. But he was utterly able to suspend disbelief for the alternative reality presented by Felicia Yap in her intriguing debut Yesterday, which brings a very different dimension to a police investigation.

This week we welcome author Kate Griffin to the Countdown hotseat. We think we could have all done with her advice as teenagers! And her quick meal has us extending our pasta bowls, smiling winningly.

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.

If you’d like to be included on our fortnightly update email, drop us a line (the email address is on the site).
And if you're not following us on Twitter, you can find us chatting at .

Linda and Sharon

Countdown with
Kate Griffin

Kate Griffin was born within the sound of Bow bells, making her a true-born Cockney. She has worked as an assistant to an antiques dealer, a journalist for local newspapers and now works for The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings.

Kitty Peck and the Music Hall Murders, Kate's first book, won the Stylist/Faber crime writing competition. She has also written The Jade Boy and The Moon Child for children under her maiden name Cate Cain. Kate's maternal family lived in Victorian Limehouse and her grandmother told her many stories of life around the docks. Kate lives in St Albans.

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

Varied, fascinating, surprising, friendly, chaotic, satisfying, infuriating, exhilarating, fun, fattening.

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

A stuffed crow, a watercolour painting of a young man wearing a ruff by Cecil Beaton, a church pew, a Victorian table chandelier, a reproduction of a painting of a music hall by Walter Sickert, a map of Cornwall c.1600, a Venetian carnival mask, a poster for the Vincent Price film Theatre of Blood, a bottle of gin - half full.

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

A bowl of penne pasta, tomato and garlic sauce, and lots of grated cheddar cheese on top - or phone for a takeaway.