January 26 2019

We hope you’ll be highly impressed to learn that both your editors once saved Moonbase after it had been hit by a spaceship carrying nuclear cargo – even if the, um, heroics did include lopping off a stray limb jammed in a door.

Given that Linda Wilson was highly complicit in the chopping off of said limb, you won’t be hugely surprised to hear that her attention was caught this week by a couple of futuristic thrillers. She says that Night Shift by Robin Triggs, where a new head of security at a mining base in Antartica is told there’s nothing for him to do, provides plenty of tension and interest, even if it is more mystery than science fiction. Phantom by Leo Hunt is a YA thriller featuring a hacker who tries to infiltrate one of the most powerful corporations on the planet. Linda says it’s well-thought out and has particularly strong world building.

Among the more conventional thrillers in this issue is Captive by Tony Park, set on the frontline of the war on poaching in Africa. John Cleal is a huge admirer of Park’s books, and describes him as by far the best writer on modern southern Africa, and one who brings the country alive with his writing. And if you’re a fan of the willy-waving side of the genre (yes, Linda Wilson, we’re looking at you!) you’ll need a strong stomach for Tall Order by Stephen Leather, the latest outing for Dan ‘Spider’ Shepherd.

If you’re fond of PI novels, you’ll enjoy dipping in to the latest release from Sara Paretsky, one of the queens of the genre. In Shell Game, VI Warshawski is run ragged in her 19th outing when the nephew of her closest friend is linked to a murder, and her ex-husband’s niece shows up desperate about a missing sister. Chris Roberts says that VI is the kind of person you definitely want on your side. Linda Wilson has been sailing along quite happily with Barbara Nadel’s London-based series featuring Lee Arnold and his sidekick Mumtaz Hakim. Linda praises Paul Thornley’s narration in the audiobook version of Poisoned Ground, and says that both Lee and Mumtaz are interesting and likeable – and that’s not a combination found often enough in crime fiction!

We’ve got a generous helping of police procedurals, including several from well-established series. John Cleal rates David Mark as one of the best of a new breed of noir writers, and says that Cold Bones, featuring shambling Scottish giant DS Aector McAvoy, is a genuine and fast-paced tale with a bit of heart. Kati Barr-Taylor is a late arrival to Ed James’ DI Simon Fenchurch series, and says In For the Kill, which focuses on the murder of a university student, provides an excellent sense of time and space. There are cops lurking in the background of Stitch Up by William McIntyre, where lawyer Robbie Munro has to protect his ex-copper father, who’s accused of stitching up a child killer. Chris Roberts says there’s a cast of thousands and that it’s always amusing to watch the activities of the not terribly bright Robbie and his friends and family. Kati Barr-Taylor praises The Ruin by Dervla McTiernan, a debut novel featuring Garda Cormac Reilly, and says the hero, who is investigating a suicide, is convincing and well-balanced. Linda Wilson reports favourably on Ruin Beach by Kate Rhodes, which also has an engaging cop main character, and is set on the Isles of Scilly. And Linda assures the tourist board that they have nothing to fear from the portrayal of the islands!

Further afield, Ewa Sherman was mesmerised by Ane Riel’s Resin where Liv lives on an isolated farm with her hoarder-carpenter father Jens, bed-ridden obese mother Maria, dead twin brother Carl and mummified baby sister. Admit it – you now want to know more! Ewa says that the book is seriously creepy and packed with unexpected twists. Chris Roberts did a lot of travelling from the comfort of his armchair this week. He says that the death of a priest in Martin Holmén’s Slugger is a gripping finale to the Stockholm series featuring Harry Kvist. And he was rather taken with Captain Natalya Ivanova of the St Petersburg police, the protagonist of Motherland by GD Abson. Chris says she’s brave, resourceful and intelligent – and needs to be in a corrupt and misogynistic society. The Burning Hill by AD Flint portrays the fateful consequences following an encounter between a young British soldier and a couple of street kids on Brazil’s Copacabana beach. Chris says there’s an unremitting emphasis on the worst aspects of Brazil in this nasty but gripping tale.

There’s a wide span of historicals this week. Our dedicated history buff John Cleal says that The Changeling Murders by CS Quinn, set after the Great Fire of London, is a first-class tale combining a quest, mystery, horror, love and sex! And he has tipped Laura Shepherd-Robinson as a major new talent, describing her debut novel Blood & Sugar as totally immersive, bold and breathtaking. It’s set in 1781 London and features an American war hero who’s propelled into a dark secret in British society. Fast-forward to the 20th century and John was enchanted, as ever, by Frances Brody’s cosy series featuring 1920s Yorkshire lass Kate Shackleton. He says that A Snapshot of Murder is an engaging tale that positively breathes the atmosphere of its time and setting in the heart of Brontë country. Arnold Taylor bagged a brace of historicals from either side of the Pond. The Syndicate by Guy Bolton features a retired Los Angeles policeman who is blackmailed into finding the murderer of a notorious New York mobster in 1947 Hollywood. Arnold says the ending is not only surprising but also profoundly satisfying. He was less sure about Chris Nickson’s The Dead on Leave which is set amidst a march by Mosley and his Blackshirts in 1936 Leeds. Arnold had some issues with the meandering nature of the story.

Please welcome YA author Rebecca Denton to the Countdown chair. She’s worked with some really cool bands, and we’re feeling positively exhausted just reading the ten words she’s selected to sum up her working life to date …

Don't forget to make a trip across the Pond to 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
Rebecca Denton

Rebecca Denton spent most of her teenage years sneaking into gigs, trying to befriend cool people, drinking $4 jugs of beer at the Empire Tavern and dreaming of working in music.

After a brief stint in radio, she moved to London and spent her career travelling the world making Music TV for MTV and Channel 4, and wrangling young adult audiences for the BBC and ITV. She’s filmed Iggy Pop, MIA, Kaiser Chiefs, Sonic Youth, Jack White, Dirty Pretty Things and The Klaxons, to name just a few.

She now lives in Hackney and Austria, freelances in TV and writes YA novels and horror movie scripts.

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

Exciting. Rollercoaster. Depressing. Uplifting. Hectic. Exhausting. Enlightening. Forgiving. Relentless. Wine. 

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

Nail polish. Unused yoga mat. Dumplin’ on TV. Photo albums. My Mum. Mountains. Lake Wakatipu. Sun and snow. 

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

Scrambled eggs and avocado on toast. Wine.