August 24 2019
Despite colder and wetter days drawing it, summer is still
with us, and in this edition we’ve got a crop of potential holiday locations
for you – provided you can ignore some distinctly murderous tendencies …
Chris Roberts was very taken with the 1960s cult French classic The Lady in the Car with Glasses and a Gun by Sebastien Japrisot, in which a woman borrows her boss’s Thunderbird to leave Paris for a liberating trip to the south coast. It becomes a nightmare, though, when strangers along her route assure her that they have already met. Chris says the writing has an excellent style that’s ahead of its time. Also in France, Arnold Taylor relaxed in the company of an old friend with Maigret’s Patience by Georges Simenon. A series of daring robberies bring the inspector together with an old adversary. Arnold, who’s probably almost as familiar with the great detective as his creator was, enjoyed the opportunity to see Maigret at work, and whilst his investigative method appears to be simple, it is also based on logic and acute observation.
Ewa Sherman has jetted off to the snowy depths of north
Sweden to join private investigators Sam Berger and Molly Bloom on the run from
the authorities, She says Arne Dahl is the master of brilliant complex
plots, intriguing characters and multi-layered narration. Hunted is the latest
example of his literary craftsmanship which combines unexpected twists and
morally dubious questions about trust, guilt and humanity. In Grab a Snake by
the Tail by Leonardo Padura, Havana detective Mario Conde is persuaded to take
the case of an elderly Chinese man who has been found hanged and marked with
arcane symbols. Chris Roberts says Conde is a very human type of detective with
many failings, but with his heart in the right place and he has a good nose for
a clue. Chris also enjoyed The Friend by Joakim Zander in which a new recruit
to the Swedish diplomatic service in Beirut meets a man at a party and falls
under his spell. According to Chris, even if you haven’t read the two previous
books, that’s no reason to stay away. The continued theme of Russian stirring
of disaffection in Europe is very topical, and Chris praises the
non-stop action and the memorable characters.
John Cleal hopped over to the west coast of Ireland for In
the Galway Silence by Ken Bruen, which sees former cop-turned-PI Jack Taylor
pitted against a vigilante assassin who uses the name ‘Silence’ – and the clash
quickly becomes personal. This is another book where you don’t have to worry
whether you already know the characters or not. John says that Bruen has the enviable
ability to let the reader know what they need to about the protagonist’s past
in a very few words. And John adds that the book
is quite brilliant – and it’s at the top of his list for book of the year!
Travelling further west, Linda Wilson ended up in the US
with City of Windows by Robert Pobi. A sniper is terrorising New York, preying
on law enforcement officers. The FBI call in Dr Lucas Page, a man who sees the
world in a different way. Unlike anyone else, he has a chance of working out
where the killing shots came from. Linda says the plot is complex but never
impenetrable and Pobi quickly establishes the characters as the story hits the
ground running and doesn’t ever slacken its grip.
At home, our reviewers have had a couple of police
procedurals to get their teeth into, starting with Lin Anderson’s Sins of the
Dead, the latest in the long-running series starring forensic scientist Dr
Rhona MacLeod. John Barnbrook has missed the last couple in the series and felt
slightly at sea as a man goes on a murderous spree in Glasgow. John enjoyed the
book but felt he would have got more out of the characters if he’d been up to
speed with the previous books. For John Cleal, no one does atmosphere and menace better
than Anthony J Quinn. In The Listeners, newly appointed Detective Sergeant Carla
Herron is called to a psychiatric hospital after a patient confesses to
murdering one of the psychotherapists. His confession is detailed, but
impossible, as he was in a secure ward under 24-hour surveillance. John says this masterful novel is a must-read for those who enjoy
intelligent crime fiction and its breath-taking settings of the dense pine
forests and lochs provide a near-Gothic backdrop to a story that has a
distinctly chilling vibe and a rich, intricate plot.
Kati Barr-Taylor praised the strong Yorkshire setting in
Danuta Kot’s Life Ruins in which a woman is certain she knows the identity of
the victim of a brutal attack, but the police are determined to cast her as an
unreliable witness. Kati says the Yorkshire scenery comes over as a character in its own
right. And Kati also had mixed feelings about A Killer Harvest by Paul Cleave, in which a man soon
starts seeing through the eyes of his adoptive father – things that he
will never be able to un-see. Kati wanted more of a science fiction feel, but says that the book raises fascinating what ifs and ethical questions. Chris Roberts
does like a good courtroom drama and was very much at home with Abi Silver’s The
Cinderella Plan. When the head of a company that pioneers autonomous vehicles is
involved in a horrific crash in one of his own cars, lawyers Burton and Lamb
come to his defence. Chris describes the pair as very sharp and capable of
acting as skilled investigators. He positively revelled in some excellent
Missing kids are a staple of crime fiction these days. In
Candice Fox’s Gone by Midnight a boy goes missing from a hotel. With the clock
ticking, former detective Ted Conkaffey doesn’t know if he’s looking for a
child or a body. Despite some misgivings, Kati Barr-Taylor thoroughly enjoyed this easy-to-read escapism. She says there
are a couple of great twists, and it’s laugh out loud funny at times. A hotel
is also the location for Lost You by Haylen Beck, in which it only takes an
inattentive moment to plunge Libby into every parent’s worst nightmare when her
three-year-old son Ethan goes missing on holiday. Despite normally steering
clear of domestic noir, Linda Wilson says the book piqued her interest from the
start, and never failed to deliver on its early promise. She describes it
as a quality psychological thriller.
Sticking with the theme of missing offspring, John Cleal
makes a rare holiday excursion into cosy territory to spend some time with
Julia Chapman’s Dales detective in Date With Poison. PI Samson O’Brien is in
deep trouble, framed by a gang out to destroy him. When his godson goes
missing, accused of dealing drugs, O’Brien has to persuade his estranged
partner Delilah Metcalfe to help him find the boy. John says this clever tale
works reasonably well as a standalone and describes it as the best so far in
the series, concentrating more on the personal lives of the two main characters
than on the investigation they eventually conduct.
On the non-fiction front, former crime reporter John Cleal was distinctly unimpressed by Crossing the Line of Duty, Neil Root’s account of dodgy dealings in the Flying Squad. He describes the book as over-sensationalised and muck-raking. In contrast, Linda Wilson praised 30-Second Forensic Science by Sue Black and Niamh Nic Daéid, where two of the leading experts in the field take a quick-fire look at the fascinating and varied world of forensic science. She says the book will shed light on so many of the genre’s everyday terms.
Linda’s been busy on the YA front again this week, starting
with A Danger to Herself and Others by Alyssa Sheinmel. Hannah Gold doesn’t
understand why she’s been consigned to a secure mental facility. After all, it
wasn’t her fault that her roommate fell from a window and ended up in hospital
in a coma. The book put Linda through the emotional wringer and provides an
intimate look into a disturbed mind, where fact and fiction blend into a
seamless whole. Linda describes this as quality writing for teens and adults
alike. Dead Popular by Sue Wallman provides a fresh take on school stories when
an illicit party at an elite boarding school ends in a death. This is another
case of did she fall or was she pushed. Linda says Wallman’s writing is sharp,
her teenagers are well-drawn, and the plot is enough to make the parents of any
teens at boarding school blanch. There are no jolly hockey sticks in this
story, but if there had been any, they are likely to have been used for lethal
Inborn by Thomas Enger originally started life as a book for
the YA market, but in translation it’s been repurposed for adult readers. The
high school in a small Norwegian village becomes a double-murder scene and immediately
everyone points at 17-year-old Even who has been recently dumped by a girl
found dead after the school concert. Ewa Sherman says Enger keeps the level of
suspense growing until the intense finale.
Please welcome author Syd Moore to the Countdown seat this week. We liked her succinct summing-up of her life to date. And that’s going to be some group to go out for a drink with – and we wouldn’t argue with Boudicca!
Don't forget to take 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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Ten words to sum up your working life to date ...
Varied, exciting, surprising, worrying, blood, sweat and tears. And laughs.
Nine things you can see from where you're sitting ...
1. Lots and lots of overgrown ivy
2. My new hammock in its frame
3. Two Victorian chimneys
4. Next door’s cat, Delilah, playing with a heart-shaped leaf
5. One plastic skull on a pile of Strange Tombs
6. The underbellies of dove-grey clouds
7. A glass of chilled pinot
8. 35 World War II Dakota planes commemorating the D-Day landings
9. One concerned seagull
Eight minutes to prepare a meal. What's it going to be ?