August 22 2020
visitors to Crime Review will sigh heavily this issue when Linda and Sharon
launch into their much-loved (well, by them) double act rendition of the Doug
and Dinsdale Piranha sketch. The editors would like you to know that they’re
very versatile – they can do the cheese shop and the Spanish Inquisition
routines as well.
Don’t worry if
you don’t care for Monty Python – have a look instead at what sparked them off.
We let former national paper crime reporter John Cleal loose on two new true
crime releases – including Krays: The Final Word by James Morton. John says
this startling trip around London’s underworld with its plethora of names and
incidents will take some following – but it’s worth the effort. He wasn’t so
sure about Criminal Britain, a picture anthology from the files of the Daily
Mirror and says it’s one for the nerds and will serve its purpose if you want
to put faces and locations to some of the country’s most notorious crimes. The
Americans get in on the act this week with Manhunters by Steve Murphy and
Javier F Pena, two agents of the US Drug Enforcement Agency who were involved
in the takedown of Pablo Escobar. Chris Roberts felt there wasn’t much mention
of personal involvement in dangerous confrontations, despite the exciting hunt.
And he may have been heard muttering that it wasn’t as gripping as the TV
streets of London feature in Cry Baby by Mark Billingham, a prologue to the Tom
Thorne series. Linda Wilson says it convinces on all levels while successfully
returning the lead character to an earlier point in time without dragging back
with him the experience that has naturally built up throughout the later books.
Chris Roberts, who enjoys courtroom dramas, confirms that Alex Churchill’s The
Night Lawyer, where barrister Sophie Angel defends a young man accused of rape
while facing some issues in her own life, offers a realistic look at
contemporary criminal justice. A legal eagle is on the investigation trail in
Death in Fancy Dress by Anthony Gilbert – another strong offering from the
British Library’s forgotten classics series. Lawyer Tony Keith and his
adventurer schoolfriend Jeremy Freyne investigate possible links to a blackmail
ring and John Cleal says the book captures the spirit and feeling of the Golden
Age so well and is a great critique of 1930s upper-class society.
hark-back to the classic country house mystery this issue – and The Honjin
Murders by Seishi Yokomizo is set in Japan in 1937. A newly-wed couple are
found dead inside a house locked from the inside, with the weapon, a bloody
samurai sword, stuck in the snow outside. Chris Roberts says the clues are
there if you’re looking out for them! And still in the far east, Chris confirms
that in You-jeong Jeong’s Seven Years of Darkness the mental aberrations of a
central character are slowly revealed to lay bare a very disturbing portrait
indeed – as in the Korean writer’s previous book.
Ewa Sherman follows Danish journalist Matthew Cave to Greenland in Cold Fear by
Mads Peder Nordbo. She says it’s a thrilling read, full of blood, menace and
incomprehensible thinking shaped by the unforgiving climate and religious
dogma. Amongst the thrillers this issue, Chris Roberts clung on by his
fingertips for high-octane chases in Blacktop Wasteland by SA Cosby where a man
tries to extricate himself from money problems by driving for a jewellery
heist, but the outcome threatens to destroy his life. Michael Ridpath’s Launch
Code looks back to the threat of a nuclear strike during the 1980s Cold War. Thirty-five
years later, a writer threatens to reveal what really happened. John Cleal
describes it as an ingenious dark and tangled web that will keep the reader
gripped and guessing to a dramatic and unexpected end. Linda Wilson was on edge
during Heather Chavez’s No Bad Deed – there were two dogs for her to worry
about! But she says the saga of a woman stepping in to help another who’s being
attacked by the side of the road is an assured debut from a talented writer who
is capable of setting up a good story and then following it through with
Be brave, dear
readers! After all, our reviewers had to keep a stiff upper lip when confronted
with a job lot of domestic noir and psychological thrillers … Viv Beeby found
The Woman Downstairs by Elisabeth Carpenter, where bailiffs make a gruesome
discovery in a ground-floor flat, to have a permanent smell of fish, thanks to
all the red herrings strewn around! Sylvia Maughan didn’t find any big
surprises in Sabine Durrant’s Finders, Keepers which tells of a love-hate
relationship between two new neighbours, but says it’s a gentle, thoughtful
read. Kati Barr-Taylor clearly needs to work on her sprint starts so she can
run away at speed when certain review books are on offer – she had very mixed
luck this week with domestic noir. Kati says that flashes of evocative writing
from Elizabeth Kay hints at better things to come, but she found Seven Lies, where
two women have been inseparable since childhood, to be heavy on tell instead of
show, accompanied by some clunky dialogue. And she reports that there’s a heck
of a lot of padding, along with unconvincing characters and setting – a woman
returning to her childhood island – in Come Back For Me by Heidi Perks. Linda
Wilson chuntered loudly about a large dose of the stupid stick in Lucy Atkins’
Magpie Lane. She says that if you like domestic noir, the disappearance of the
eight-year-old daughter of an Oxford academic has much to recommend it. Linda
remains to be convinced, and found the ending deeply unsatisfactory.
Kati Barr-Taylor was happier with Nikki Smith’s All In Her Head where a woman is terrified for her safety, her sanity and her life but cannot remember why, describing it as a great debut, showing a healthy degree of senses-driven writing, accomplished with polish and finesse. John Barnbrook says there’s a strong sense of place and the atmosphere of a small rural community with its local gossip and well-intentioned need to know in Disturbance by Marianne Kavanagh. He says that the plot of a woman living in a beautiful isolated house with an irrational abusive husband and two sons is well-constructed and a satisfying read.
quite sure whether Alan Bradley’s series featuring young sleuth Flavia de Luce
counts as YA or not. Whichever, Linda Wilson revelled happily in the
inventiveness of Flavia’s internal monologues in The Golden Tresses of the Dead
and will long treasure the phrase “I don’t give a rat’s rompers for…” [insert
thing/person of choice]. That deserves as wide an audience as possible, as do
Flavia, Dogger and Undine, who this time are trying to identify the erstwhile
owner of a finger found in a wedding cake.
Author Caz Frear settles comfortably into the Countdown seat this issue and ensures the much-maligned city of Coventry gets some credit for her writing! We like her style when it comes to quick meals and will happily scoff the pasta with lemon, mint and parmesan that she’s promising.
Our friends across the Pond at Reviewing the Evidence are on hiatus at the moment, but don't forget that they have a humungous archive of reviews for you to browse through – and so do we, for that matter!
Ten words to sum up your working life to date ...
Fashion. Recruitment. Author. Varied. Hectic. Boozy. Competitive. Pressurised. Hilarious. Dream.
Nine things you can see from where you're sitting ...
The top of a tree, swaying in the breeze. A gold crown! Trivial Pursuit. A clock that needs new batteries. Candles (numerous). My dining table. My feet. A copy of the fabulous Seven Lies. A half-drunk mug of tea.
Eight minutes to prepare a meal. What's it going to be ?
Oh god, I’m not the world’s best cook and eight minutes isn’t a long time! It would have to be something really simple like fresh pasta with lemon, mint and parmesan.