June 23 2018

Go on, admit it – if a crime novel is set in a place you know well, you’re bound to pick it up with a certain amount of anticipation. And you’ll probably be ultra-fussy about accuracy, although you probably won’t go to the trouble Sharon once did to prove that an author knew nothing about public transport in Birmingham (she swears it was central to the plot!) You can picture Sharon looking smug when she was proved right after phone calls to press offices!

Linda Wilson knows the Dordogne like the back of her hand, and is concerned the crime rate in her neck of the woods is going to rocket now that Bruno’s has a promotion in A Taste for Vengeance by Martin Walker. His first case in his new role involves a possible murder-suicide with potential terrorist links. Linda always enjoys the books but is now craving a greater depth of character. That’s not something Georges Simenon’s famous creation lacks and in Maigret Sets a Trap, he’s investigating a series of five identical murders. Arnold Taylor admires the way Maigret suppresses his anger and seeks answers.

Our reviewers have been criss-crossing Europe at speed this week. Scandi queen Ewa Sherman enjoyed the unusual set-up and subtle black humour in Harri Nykanen’s Holy Ceremony, in which Helsinki’s Violent Crimes Unit investigates a bizarre case of a body stolen from a morgue. Meanwhile, Hellfire deals with the hunt for the killer of a mother and her child. Ewa says the emotional intelligence and subtle analysis of human nature that characterises Karin Fossum’s series is very prominent here.

Greeks Bearing Gifts takes the late Philip Kerr’s Bernie Gunther on a trip to Greece to look into a claim for a lost ship as part of his new career as an insurance investigator. Chris Roberts says the quality of Kerr’s writing blurs the line between thrillers and literature, bringing to life a period of the recent past now slipping into history. Chris also pays a visit to the Isles of Scilly in Kate Rhodes’ Hell Bay where a London detective returning home is caught up in the investigation into a woman’s murder. The sea, the mist and the island itself all provide an atmospheric setting. Mist turns to fog in Donato Carrisi’s The Girl in the Fog. A psychiatrist is interviewing a man after a car accident and a young girl goes missing. Sylvia Maughan describes this as an unsettling book.

In It All Falls Down, the unsympathetic Nora returns, looking for answers to her broken past in Detroit. Kati Barr-Taylor describes this as a heady blend of a family mystery and drug-infused gang revenge and says Sheena Kamal certainly knows how to paint a vivid backdrop. Chris Roberts was impressed with the way John Sandford keeps a long-running series as fresh as ever in this latest outing for Lucas Davenport, now a US Marshal. Chris says Golden Prey remains as thrilling as the first book, with great characters and action from the start to the gripping finale.

There’s never any lack of authors following in the footsteps of Sherlock Holmes’ creator. Unquiet Spirits by Bonnie MacBird sees the great detective refusing to take on a case brought to him by a beautiful woman. Kati Barr-Taylor says that if the name Sherlock Holmes is in the title of a post-Doyle mystery, there are certain elements and an adhesion to a proven formula that readers may reasonably expect to find  – and this book meets the criteria. Also delving into the genre greats is Andrew Wilson in A Talent for Murder, where successful author Agatha Christie is blackmailed into a killing. John Cleal says this is a darkly twisted tale of manipulation and murder.

John was rather taken with A Brush With Death by Ali Carter, which he likens to a modern-day Christie novel. The book introduces a artist who applies her eye for detail and natural inquisitiveness into the case of a murdered Earl, which is baffling the police. John says this is a nice piece of social commentary – absorbing, charming and funny. Linda Wilson was impressed with Alex Reeve’s debut, The House On Half Moon Street, where another amateur investigator – a transgender coroner’s assistant in Victorian London – is determined to find the killer of the woman he loved. Linda says this is quality historical crime with a likeable protagonist and a strong premise.

John Cleal bagged a contrasting pair of thrillers this week. Edward Wilson’s South Atlantic Requiem impressed our former soldier. War is building as Argentina prepare to invade the Falklands. John says this is a stunning and ingenious book. He turned next to Afraid to Death by Marc Behm, where a man is on the run from a mysterious blonde vision who appears to him whenever someone close to him dies. John says this hallucinogenic and chilling psychological thriller is a tad on the weird side!

Be prepared for mixed fortunes if you go for the ‘it’s grim up north’ side of things. In Shadows, a detective constable’s father is a key figure in organised crime and her career will be in trouble if this gets out. John Barnbrook says Paul Finch has a very engaging style and paints vivid cinematic images of the dark side of Manchester. Kati Barr-Taylor was less convinced by Mandasue Heller’s Run in which a woman tries to flee her life in a grotty bed-sit, but the man she hooks up with could either be her escape route or her road to hell. Kati says the book suffers from too much tell and not enough show. Two detectives are at work in Helen Fields' Perfect Prey where they’re investigating a series of murders in Edinburgh. Kate Balfour describes the book as complex and very dark, but intensely readable.

Linda Wilson has two very different teen books this week. The Ones That Disappeared by Zana Fraillon is a haunting story of modern day child slavery. Linda says the book gives a powerful voice to those who have no power in a world that should care far, far more than it does about this issue. She took a break from darkness to visit a down-market holiday camp in company with its mascot, an enormous hamster, and 14-year-old Dylan who’s fallen hard for the boy in the next-door caravan. The only snag is that he hasn’t yet found the right time to tell his parents he’s gay. Linda loved the scene-stealing hamster, and says Boy Meets Hamster by Birdie Milano is the perfect book for Pride month.

We’ve got author Cay Rademacher in the Countdown slot, who sets out to improve our German vocabulary. The lucky chap has run away to Provence, and we’re eying his classic French lunch hungrily!

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
Cay Rademacher

Cay Rademacher was born in 1965 in Northern Germany, but now lives in Southern France. (Anybody who has seen both places knows why). He studied history and philosophy in Cologne and Washington, DC, and is a founding member of the renowned German history magazine, Geo Epoche.

He continues to write for Geo Epoche as a freelance journalist, as well as Die Zeit and Mare, and is the author of several thrillers, including the trilogy on ‘Oberinspektor’ Frank Stave, who is fighting crime in the ruins of British-occupied Hamburg in the 1940s. He is currently writing a series on Capitaine Roger Blanc of the French Gendarmerie, who, rather against his will, finds himself in Provence to fight crime there.

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

How happy I am: there are many stories still untold.

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

A sequoia-tree (really, in Provence and quite huge...)
The rest of the forest
Bamboo
The light in the Southern sky
Photos of my family
Books
Notebook
Papers and pens, millions of them
This interview on my screen

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

The French classic: fresh baguette, middle-old camembert, old wine.