February 23 2019

Fancy a scenic tour this week? If so, you’re in the right place. Sit back and enjoy the view as we whisk you to Iceland, France, New Zealand and all points west across the Pond. And we can guarantee that you’ll be jealous at some of the exotic sights our Countdown guest this week – Canadian-born and Aussie-based Paul Hardisty – can see from where he’s sitting.

Our beloved Scandi queen Ewa Sherman managed her usual quota of trees, angst and snow in The Wanderer by Michael Ridpath, where an American Icelander returns to the Reykjavik police force and investigates the murder of a young Italian tourist. Eva says the book really brings the harsh and beautiful landscapes of Iceland and Greenland to life. And she was equally impressed with Vanda Symon’s Overkill, which is set in a tiny New Zealand town and balances the search for the murderer of a young mother with the well-depicted atmosphere of the small place.

Kati Barr-Taylor lives out in the French sticks, so she was the obvious choice for two of this week’s books. The French Girl by Lexie Elliott focuses on the discovery of a girl’s body ten years after she disappeared. Katie says it’s an exciting, tension-rich debut novel, with an assured voice. Smoking Kills by Antoine Laurain is a tad out of the ordinary where Fabrice Valentine’s new relationship with cigarettes is about to make him a killer. Kati was wooed by the unrepentant smoker’s first-person narrative, and she says the book has wonderful and witty writing! Arnold Taylor, meanwhile, is methodically working his way through the Maigret reissues. He says that Maigret and the Good People of Montparnasse isn’t one of the most eventful of George Simenon’s series, but it reminds us that even apparently happy families frequently have secrets that they do not wish to reveal to the outside world.

Across the Pond, John Cleal was left mopping his fevered brow after battling through Gunmetal Gray by Mark Greaney, which appears to involve the CIA and defecting Chinese cyber-experts. John says it’s long-winded, complicated and confusing! Linda Wilson fared considerably better with How It Happened by Michael Koryta where an FBI agent encounters a serial liar. It has more twists and turns than a corkscrew, and Linda says Koryta also produces protagonists that, whilst carrying baggage of their own, are still likeable. Chris Roberts describes John Straley’s Baby’s First Felony as a generally amusing commentary on some of the stupid things those faced with arrest have said or done. And Chris provides some advice for free – keep schtum and request a lawyer! He also reviewed The Janus Run by Douglas Skelton, which opens with a bloke waking up to find his girlfriend dead on the bed next to him. Chris says the action comes thick and fast, as the resilient hero dodges lots of bullets.

We tend to entrust short story reviews to Chris, and there were two collections for him to deal with this week. One came from Mike Hodges, who’s TV royalty (yes, the Get Carter Mike Hodges!) Chris says that the three novellas in Bait, Grist and Security are often funny as well as bleak, and show the author’s macabre sense of humour. The other collection – Dirty John and Other True Stories of Outlaws and Outsiders – comprises 15 true stories from Los Angeles Times staff writer Christopher Goffard, which take a sympathetic look at the lives of people whose experiences have been touched by crime or stress.

Closer to home, Sharon Wheeler settled in very happily for the 11th instalment of Elly Griffiths’ archaeological series, set in East Anglia. This time out in The Stone Circle, the likeable lead character, university lecturer Ruth Galloway, encounters some very uncomfortable memories from the past as the body of a girl is uncovered on the site from which the book takes its title. And there’s a missing girl found in a frozen lake in Under The Ice by Rachael Blok. John Cleal was thoroughly convinced by the believable police procedural and describes it as a truly outstanding debut. There’s also a watery theme to Rivers of London: Water Weed by Andrew Cartmel and Ben Aaronovitch, where drug dealing on the River Thames takes on an added dimension when a pair of river goddesses get involved. Linda Wilson adores this series and says each new outing is bright and fresh. Further adventures for Denton’s anarchic DI Jack Frost have passed into the hands of author Danny Miller. Linda says that A Lethal Frost is a touch heavy-handed on the period detail, but the book fits well into the series and is an enjoyable outing for the main man.

We can almost always guarantee you some offbeat investigators. Linda Wilson was very pleased to welcome back Hungarian cleaner Lena who provides sharp and funny observations on the London art scene in A Clean Canvas by Elizabeth Mundy. John Cleal praised Russian Roulette by Sara Sheridan, where 1950s upper-class debt collector and amateur detective Mirabelle Bevan and her Jamaican pal Vesta become involved with a brutal murder. He says it’s a clever, well-written and believable story of detection by two determined and intelligent woman years ahead of their time. John says that an ambitious TV or film producer should grab the chance to bring Black Lily by Philippa Stockley to a wider audience. It also features two strong woman – one black and the other white – who are fighting to survive in Jacobean London. And Arnold Taylor liked the significant and pleasing change in the lead character of Rachel Rhys’ Fatal Inheritance where Eve Forrester, ensnared in a loveless marriage, finds that a letter from a firm of solicitors turns her dull life upside down.

Our YA expert Linda Wilson says that That’s Not What Happened by Kody Keplinger is a brave book that doesn’t flinch from a difficult subject – that of a massacre at a high school where a survivor finds that the truth isn’t always welcome.

Canadian author Paul E Hardisty, who’s now a professor in Australia, gives us a flavour of his eventful life when he joins us for the usual Countdown chat. And we’re also trying not to be too jealous at some of the jaw-dropping items he can see from his seat. We want to know why we can’t see the Pacific Ocean and palm trees as well!

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
Paul E. Hardisty

Canadian Paul E Hardisty is the author of the Claymore Straker series. He has spent 25 years working all over the world as an engineer, hydrologist and environmental scientist.

He has roughnecked on oil rigs in Texas, explored for gold in the Arctic, mapped geology in Eastern Turkey (where he was befriended by PKK rebels) and rehabilitated water wells in the wilds of Africa. He was in Ethiopia in 1991 as the Mengistu regime fell and was bumped from one of the last flights out of Addis Ababa by bureaucrats and their families fleeing the rebels. In 1993 he survived a bomb blast in a café in Sana’a.

Paul is a university professor and CEO of the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS). He is also a sailor, a private pilot, keen outdoorsman and conservation volunteer, and lives in Western Australia.

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

Environment, people, justice, war, oil, water, oceans, reef, pollution, nature.

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

Pacific Ocean
Palm trees
Magnetic Island
A full moon
The southern cross
My wedding ring

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

Eggs on toast with mayo