November 11 2017

One of your editors (hint, not Sharon!) has been indulging her love of shoot ‘em up thrillers this week. Well, we all have our guilty pleasures …

Chris Ryan returns with his SAS trooper Danny Black, who leads a covert team up against a Mexican drug lord. Linda Wilson says that in Warlord, Ryan has delivered a hard-hitting, explosive and brutal story that brings the problems of the drug cartels sharply to life. She was pleased to see that Stephen Leather’s ‘Spider’ Shepherd is back, going undercover to learn whether another undercover operative has gone rogue. Light Touch is a punchy thriller that will make you question your own morality. And on the YA front, in New Guard by Robert Muchamore, CHERUB mission controller James Adams must carry out a highly dangerous and deniable rescue. Linda says this raw, at times shocking and always believable series certainly isn’t shot in soft-focus.

If you fancy something a little more low-key, the golden age of detective fiction is well represented this week. Continental Crimes, edited by Martin Edwards, provides what Sylvia Wilson describes as an excellent collection of short stories for lovers of this era. Martin has been busy with this British Library Crime Classics series. The Long Arm of the Law, also edited by him, provides a fascinating collection of stories, and impresses John Cleal with biographical information. It’s a great guide to the significance of procedurals on the development of crime fiction and the importance of police officers in the development of the genre. John brought his reading up to date with Cambridge Black by Alison Bruce. Although this story is part of a long-running police series, John says the story works perfectly well as a standalone with a well-crafted plot, but it left him wondering whether this is the swansong for the series.

Our reviewers have been active on the Euro beat this week. In The Legacy of the Bones by Dolores Redondo, Chris Roberts says the female police protagonist grabs the investigation by the scruff of its neck and energetically drives it to a conclusion. Pierre Lemaitre’s Three Days and a Life is described by Arnold Taylor as a profound psychological study of a child’s tortured imaginings. Ewa Sherman enjoyed Butterfly on the Storm by Walter Lucius. She says this portrait of a strong, conflicted woman is fast-paced and gripping. Arnold Taylor took a trip back in time to Germany at the end of World War II in The Constant Soldier by William Ryan, a story that show the worst aspects of human nature as well as the capacity for love and possible happiness.

If you fancy venturing across the Pond, John Cleal describes Joel Dicker’s The Baltimore Boys as a long, complicated tale that well repays the reader’s patience. Paradise Valley by CJ Box kept Chris Roberts on the edge of his seat right up to its satisfying conclusion. He was equally impressed by Buffalo Jump Blues by Keith McCafferty, and says the political points regarding wildlife conservation are well integrated in a novel full of interest. The globe-trotting Hoffer by Tim Glencross introduced John Cleal to the world of the super-rich. He had his doubts about the main character, but enjoyed the humour and style in this contemporary commentary. The Fortunate Brother by Donna Morrissey, set in a remote Newfoundland community presents a compelling picture of the stresses in a rural community and has bags of family conflict. Chris Roberts was impressed.

Exquisite by Sarah Stovell deals with a problematic spark of chemistry between a mentee and her mentor. Kati Barr-Taylor was bowled over by the careful selection of words, an unobtrusive backstory and a brilliant plot, all of which come together to create a fast-paced, tightly-packed page-turner. Sheena Kamal’s Eyes Like Mine picks up the current trend for missing children. Kati found the sense of place and the atmosphere Kamal generates both convincing and satisfying but comments that the main character is impressively odious! False Hearts by Laura Lam has unusual main characters – former conjoined twins. John Barnbrook was impressed by the twists and the very satisfying denouement. He also like Zoe Whittall’s psychological thriller The Best Kind of People, which sees a pillar of a small community arrested and accused of inappropriate sexual behaviour with students. John found the book both thought-provoking and engaging.

Linda Wilson whiled away a long car journey with a BBC radio drama written by the Queen of Crime herself, Val McDermid. Resistance is a gripping, heart-breaking and darkly entertaining post-apocalyptic story that felt all too close to reality for comfort.

Up in the Countdown hotseat this week is author Lynda La Plante, who has some very good advice for all writers!

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
Lynda La Plante

Lynda La Plante was born in Liverpool. She trained for the stage at RADA where her fellow students included Anthony Hopkins, John Hurt and Ian McShane. After finishing her studies, she began her career as an actress, appearing with the Royal Shakespeare Company in a variety of productions, as well as popular television series including Z Cars, The Sweeney, The Professionals, Bergerac and Rentaghost.

Whilst filming The Gentle Touch with Jill Gascoigne, Lynda wrote a treatment for a TV series based on a botched bank robbery. Widows was commissioned by Verity Lambert of Euston Films for Thames Television. It became one of the highest rating series of the early 1980s.

Her original script for Prime Suspect won awards including BAFTAs, Emmys and the Royal Television Society as well as the 1993 Edgar Allan Poe Writer's Award. Lynda has written and produced over 170 hours of international television.

Lynda is one of only three screenwriters to have been made an honorary fellow of the British Film Institute and she was awarded the BAFTA Dennis Potter Writer's Award in 2000. In 2008, she was awarded a CBE for services to literature, drama and charity. She is a member of the Crime Thriller Awards hall of fame and is the only lay person to be made a fellow of the Forensic Science Society. She lives in London and New York.

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

Exciting, fascinating, educational, heart-breaking, funny, exhausting, achievement, professionalism, dedication, grateful.

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

A collection of Native American paintings, heads of two zebras (china ones), lamp with the base of a lion’s head, a monkey puppet, life-size Jack Russell dogs, bookcases crammed with books, the most incredible view of a bay, the tracks of my son’s motorbike which have destroyed my beautiful lawn. 

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

Eggs Benedict, I could eat this every day.