October 28 2017

With Halloween looming, we’ve dug up a few thoroughly creepy stories for you, so don’t be surprised if you start twitching at things that go bump in the night. You might also think twice about going on the London Underground …

In The Empty Grave by Jonathan Stroud, Lockwood and Co go up against enemies old and new as the series reaches a shattering climax. Linda Wilson says this is a stunningly good series of young adult adventures that combine action, humour and fright into a spine-tingling package. And just when you thought it was safe to take a tube, Ben Aaronovitch sends PC Peter Grant up against ghostly goings-on in The Furthest Station, the latest in the Rivers of London series. Linda says magic positively seeps from the city’s pores

In A Game of Ghosts by John Connolly, mysterious ghost-like figures appear to certain people, and then those people are killed. John Barnbrook says that despite its dark theme, there is a curious note of optimism and a sense of camaraderie that makes the main protagonists very endearing. George Mann’s Wychwood take a trip into the sleepy Oxfordshire countryside, darkened by a series of macabre murders re-enacting an ancient legend. Linda Wilson liked the strong element of local myth and legend, which provided some satisfying shivers

Across the Atlantic, The Innocent Man by John Grisham provides a true account of how an innocent man was convicted of rape and murder, and ended up on death row. Kim Fleet says this complex story offers a good though disturbing read. Karen Rose’s Every Dark Corner deals with a predator on the loose in Cincinnati, hunting teenage children for the internet sex trade. Kati Barr-Taylor says that for readers who crave dark and gritty, this has it in shovelfuls. Sylvia Wilson enjoyed Right Behind You by Lisa Gardner where a disturbed teen goes on a killing spree. She describes the book as skilfully crafted.

Playing With Death by Simon Scarrow and Lee Francis has two FBI special agents investigating a twisted video game with only one outcome – murder. Kati Barr-Taylor says that for pure escapism, this is a fun, graphic page-turner and it’s made her even more sceptical about video games! Rosie Claverton’s Terror 404 sees disgraced hacker Amy Lane in a private psychiatric hospital, having to use all her ingenuity to stay safe and solve a crime. Linda Wilson describes this as a good, solid, character-driven story. In Dr. Knox by Peter Spiegelman, a young boy suffering an allergic reaction is taken to the doctor’s clinic but then his mother scarpers, leaving her son behind. Chris Roberts enjoyed the snappy dialogue and punchy action.

In The Mayfly by James Hazel a lawyer is approached to investigate the death of a tycoon’s son. Chris Roberts says that a touch of humour prevents the book from ever getting too heavy, and he liked the main character. Linda Wilson has arrived late on the scene for Eva Dolan’s cop duo Zigic and Ferreira. In Watch Her Disappear the Peterborough Hate Crimes unit are hunting for the killer of a transgender woman. Linda describes this as a quality police procedural with a complex, satisfying plot which pursues an unusual angle.

On the Euro crime front, Wolves in the Dark sees the return of Bergen’s most famous private investigator. Varg Veum is accused of being part of a paedophile ring and thrown into jail. Ewa Sherman has been a fan for a long time and says Gunnar Staalesen’s gritty no-nonsense style stops the story’s extreme emotions from exploding. Chris Roberts enjoyed Night Market by Daniel Pembrey which has as its central character a detective who goes straight for the jugular because he knows no other way to act. Arnold Taylor has ignored all the Brexit doom and gloom by taking a trip to France in the company of George Simenon’s incomparable detective in Maigret is Afraid and enjoyed the intimate picture of life in a provincial French town. He had slight more mixed feelings about Low Heights by Pascal Garnier and felt that one of the main characters deserved better

John Cleal has been busy with his beloved historicals, and starts as far back as Ancient Rome with Deposed by David Barbaree, in which the Emperor Nero, blinded and imprisoned, is helped to escape by a frightened little slave boy. John was impressed by the bafflingly complex plot which is full of conspiracy and surprise. He also enjoyed the City of Masks by SD Sykes, which sees Oswald de Lacy in Venice on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. He’s soon plunged into a mix of murder and intrigue in this clever intricately plotted and original story. In A Grave Concern by Susanna Gregory, John says 14th century Cambridge and the Fens provide a realistic, beautifully portrayed and chilling background to physician/detective Matthew Bartholomew’s latest outing. Father and daughter duo Tom and Meg Keneally (yes, he’s the Schindler’s Ark chap) features gentleman convict Hugh Monserrat, who has to solve the murder of the young wife of a penal colony. John describes The Soldier’s Curse as a smart, funny, cleverly researched tale.

This week, top author Peter James is seated comfortably in the Countdown chair. He’s certainly come up with an eclectic bunch of drinking companions – and we’re nodding our heads vigorously at his 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
Peter James

Peter James was educated at Charterhouse, then Ravensbourne Film School. His mother Cornelia James was Glovemaker to the Queen and the firm is today run by his sister Genevieve and her husband, and still supplies the Royal Family.

He made publishing history in 1994 when Penguin published his novel, Host, on two floppy discs – as well as print formats. It caused huge controversy and it is now in the Science Museum as the world’s first electronic novel.

Peter once lived for ten years in a haunted manor house in Sussex, built over Roman ruins and formerly a monastery. It had four ghosts  – a Centurion, a monk, a baby and a nasty, man-hating grey lady! His Sussex home is now a Victorian rectory and so far ghost-free, as is his apartment in Notting Hill, London, on the site of a former cinema.

He has a huge love of animals. Current headcount includes: three dogs; 11 hens who generally lay an egg each every day; five gorgeous alpacas called Keith, Al Pacino, Boris, Fortescue and Jean-Luc; three emus who are super friendly and like to wear hats; Indian Runner ducks; some wild ducks; geese, moorhens, coots and numerous carp in the lake, and a tropical fish tank – the inhabitants of which include a baby shark and a plec.

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

1. Perseverance
2. Perseverance
3. Perseverance
4. Perseverance
5. Perseverance
6. Perseverance
7. Perseverance
8. Perseverance
9. Perseverance

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

1. A full-size and uniformed model of Detective Supt Roy Grace. 2. A sign on my desk that says Careful Or You’ll End Up In My Novel
3. A stuffed Nile crocodile head
4. A photograph of me inside my 1965 BMW in mid-air upside down at 95mph at Brands Hatch
5. My CWA Diamond Dagger
6. My Charterhouse leaving report from 1967 which ends “A literary career seems inevitable…”
7. A goldfish called Marlon given to me by a fan
8. My police museum with memorabilia from around the world.
9. A framed fan letter from Sir Alan Ayckbourn.

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

Omelette with lightly curried lobster.