August 20 2022

Picture us still glowing like the proverbial porcines having now taken to the fainting couch in a darkened room with the curtains firmly closed, swooning in front of our fans (the electronic variety, before you all start waggling your eyebrows) and personfully resisting the temptation to compile a list of who we’d bump off given immunity from prosecution …

For anyone else who’s ever muttered darkly about wanting the services of a good assassin, Linda Wilson can recommend one only known as Seventeen, who’s worked his way up to the top of a very dangerous profession, but unlike all the numbers before him, he’s never had to face his predecessor. That’s now got to change. Linda says John Brown’s tense action thriller named after its narrator has realistic detail, surprising twists and characters that matter. Chris Roberts took a trip back to 1995, where the handover of Hong Kong to China is approaching and the Triads are exploring opportunities overseas. The NYPD is fighting back, and infiltrate a Hong Kong police officer into a Triad-linked Irish mob. Chris found John Steele’s aptly named Rat Island to be a dark portrayal, both of the physical setting and the behaviour displayed by key people. Before She Disappeared by Lisa Gardner tells the story of a woman’s mission to find a missing Boston teenager that everyone else has given up on. Kati Barr-Taylor found it hard to form a mental picture of the main character, but she enjoyed the journey through the dark streets and dangerous corners of Boston.

Also on the other side of the Pond, when a gay mixed-race couple are shot and killed, the fathers of the two boys seek retribution, fuelled by a recognition that they owe a debt. Chris Roberts enjoyed the well-drawn characters in Razorblade Tears by SA Cosby and says the pair’s internal dialogue provides a moving counterpoint to a depressing culture of intolerance. Say Goodbye features DJ Belmont, the only person allowed to leave the oppressive Eden community, and he’s a man who has a long list of people he would like to kill. Sylvia Maughan bravely dived into Karen Rose’s lengthy tome and describes it as an addictive read.

John Verpeleti was hooked from start to finish by Linwood Barclay’s Take Your Breath Away. Six years ago, Andrew was suspected of killing his wife, although her body was never found. Several people believe they have seen her, and the race is on to find out if she truly is still alive. John says Barclay provides a great deal of intrigue and delivers a good, challenging mystery. John Cleal wasn’t quite so taken with 21st Birthday by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro. Reporter Cindy Thomas, approached by a distraught mother over the disappearance of her daughter and baby granddaughter, refers the case to Sergeant Lindsay Boxer – and the group known as the Women’s Murder Club swings into action again on the trail of a psychopathic serial killer. John felt there was a bit too much of a California Housewives vibe, but says it’s still a crisply written story.

Linda Wilson naturally snapped up Cave Diver by Jake Avila, featuring disgraced underwater cave explorer Rob Nash, who’s offered a lucrative TV contract on a documentary being made in a cave in a remote area of Papua New Guinea. It all sounds too good to be true, but Nash doesn’t care. He needs to do something to repair his damaged finances and even more damaged reputation. Linda says there’s plenty of excitement and intrigue, along with some decent action sequences, but the cave diving scenes she’d hoped to see at the heart of the story do rather play second fiddle to a lengthy build-up.

Back in the UK, a father is forced to make an impossible choice when his daughter is attacked – save himself and trust that their attacker won’t kill her or stay and be killed. The man makes his choice and must live with the consequences.  Linda Wilson says In The Killing Choice by Will Schindler is a great police thriller with entangled, unpredictable storylines. The Final Round by Bernard O’Keefe features an unusual main character, DI Jim Garibaldi, a police officer who won’t drive. Here, a surprise final round of a pub quiz poses some very personal questions and provokes someone to murder. Chris Roberts found newcomer Garibaldi a pleasant enough character and describes this as an amusing read. Anthony Horowitz’s new series with a fictional version of himself as one of the main characters left Linda Wilson scratching her head in bemusement a while ago, but Viv Beeby is a fan! In The Twist of a Knife, a theatre critic is found dead the day after giving Anthony’s new play a scathing first night review and, perhaps unsurprisingly, he ends up as the main suspect, and must reluctantly joins forces again with ex-cop Daniel Hawthorne in the search for a ruthless killer. Viv acknowledges the unusual central conceit in the stories but describes this is an appealing and traditional whodunit scenario with a juicy cast of actors and suspects. Meanwhile, Linda is still making puppy dog eyes for a new book in Horowitz’s teen spy Alex Rider series (hint, hint)!

Kerry Hood very much enjoyed Melanie Golding’s The Replacement in which a toddler is found on her own in a seaside town and a man is discovered, battered, in a bath of overflowing water. Senior police office Jo makes a connection between the two events but then hides this from her colleagues. Kerry says the story is engrossing, twisting and mysterious. She was just as enthusiastic about Bad Actors by Mick Herron, which sees Slough House’s Jackson Lamb come to the unlikely rescue of his boss in MI5, backed up by the bungling and disenchanted ex-MI5 spies who work under him. Despite his awfulness, Kerry loved Lamb and his motley crew and says Herron is a wordsmith who can make even ghastliness funny.

Two of our reviewers have been able to escape the heatwave with the usual Scandi chill. Ewa Sherman revelled in Hell and High Water by Christian Unge, where Tekla Berg, an A&E department doctor with a photographic memory and a complicated relationship with her brother, takes charge of the emergency response after a devastating fire. The police are convinced this was a terrorist attack while the Uzbek mafia in Stockholm want to silence one of the victims. Ewa enjoyed this complex, edge-of-the-seat-read. Viv Beeby got on well with A Question of Guilt by Jørn Lier Horst. Norwegian detective William Wisting’s holiday ends abruptly when he receives an anonymous letter suggesting that the wrong man was convicted of a 20-year-old murder. Viv says that Horst’s background as a police detective shows in his attention to detail and the authenticity of his procedures. David Hewson has turned his attention from Italy to the Faroes in Devil’s Fjord, where the new district sheriff must ensure that the rules of the grind – a whale hunt – are followed. Naturally, it doesn’t end well. Ewa Sherman says the book has the feel of an old Norse saga where people’s lives are pre-destined by fate, and that it’s a good, intense read.

Chris Roberts was busy with the historicals this week, starting with LC Tyler’s Too Much of Water. The year is 1670 and John Grey and his wife journey to Suffolk, where the Sheriff has requested assistance in the matter of the drowning of Admiral Digges. Chris liked Grey’s sensible wife, Arminta and enjoyed the historical setting and its unusual politics. Then he fast-forwarded to 1850s Edinburgh for A Corruption of Blood by husband-and-wife team Chris Brookmyre and Marisa Haetzman writing as Ambrose Perry where Dr Will Raven and his friend Sarah Fisher investigate the truth behind two deaths at different extremes of the social spectrum. Chris says if you like historical drama that offers plenty of insights into the less attractive aspects of life, this may well appeal.

Sometimes a book comes along that sets up camp in your head and just won’t move on. For Linda Wilson, Norm Konyu’s graphic novel The Junction comes into that category. Lucas Jones vanished 12 years ago. Now he’s back, but he hasn’t aged by even a day. He’s still 11 years old. Linda was captivated by the story and describes it as endearing, haunting, beautiful and absolutely brilliant. She also enjoyed Fire With Fire by Destiny Soria. Sisters Dani and Eden Rivera have been trained to follow in their parents’ footsteps by keeping humanity safe from dragons, but all that changes for Dani when she meets one for the first time. Linda says this is stylish, entertaining YA urban fantasy at its best. And she enthuses that you can’t go wrong by throwing in dragons. And no that’s not a challenge! Or maybe it is …

Author Adam LeBor has had a varied career with some hairy moments, so we’re sure he won’t be daunted by the Countdown spotlight. And we totally agree with his rants, especially the first one!

Do take a look at what our friends at Reviewing the Evidence have been up to and catch up with their latest reviews of US and Canadian releases.

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Linda and Sharon

Countdown with
Adam Lebor

Adam LeBor is a British author, journalist and veteran former foreign correspondent. He grew up in London in the 1970s and studied at Leeds University, where he also edited the student newspaper.

A peripatetic career followed, working on a number of Fleet Street newspapers where his assignments ranged from investigating Nazi war criminals who had found sanctuary in Britain to finding London’s best dry martini.

He worked for many years as a foreign correspondent, mainly based in Budapest, reporting from more than 30 countries and having some hair-raising adventures along the way. He has been arrested in a war zone as a suspected spy, been shot at and tear-gassed, has seen countries die, new ones born, and hitched a ride in a prime minister’s airplane.

He is the author of eight non-fiction books and seven novels. His books have been published in 14 languages including Chinese, Japanese, Hebrew and Hungarian.

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

Delivery-boy, burger-flipper, tractor driver, waiter, editor, journalist, historian, critic, thriller-writer

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

1. My grandfather’s tankard
2. Photograph of my parents and I in Budapest after I moved there in summer 1991 looking very happy
3. First edition of Len Deighton’s Funeral in Berlin
4. Sculpture of standing lady by my mother
5. Nefertiti head that my daughter bought me
6. Art deco lamp from Prague antique shop
7. Mug I made at Camden Arts centre several decades ago
8. Old blue soda siphon from Budapest flea market
9. Pile of new thrillers for review in the Financial Times.

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

Cheese and mushroom omelette, crusty French bread and tomato salad. Glass of red wine if it’s supper.