August 21 2021

You might want to be prepared to look innocent and say ‘not me, guv’nor’ if you find a heavy hand on your collar this issue … We’ve got cops galore for you, with a mix of familiar faces and newcomers, helped out – or possibly hindered, depending on which side of the thin blue line you’re standing on – by some other investigators as well.

The Cutting Place sees DS Maeve Kerrigan and her arsy boss DI Josh Derwent (Linda Wilson’s favourite bad boy cop!) grapple with the discovery of a dismembered body in the mud of the Thames foreshore. The grim find leads Maeve into the rarefied air of the exclusive and expensive Chiron Club in her search for a killer. Linda says Jane Casey delivers very superior crime fiction and in this outing for our duo she shines an uncomfortable spotlight on controlling, abusive behaviour and – shock, horror – Derwent proves there might be a heart lurking under his sarcastic exterior after all.

Lynda la Plante’s most famous creation returns in Blunt Force. DS Jane Tennison feels she’s been left to rot in a quiet central London station until the horrific murder of a top agent plunges her into a showbiz world of exploitation, drugs and dodgy deals. John Cleal is a fan, and hopes that her creator can prolong her rise through only two more ranks to bring her up to her TV rank. John also says the book taught him something about a less obvious use for an underwired bra! And he also enjoyed Fatal Solution by Leslie Scase, in which Inspector Thomas Chard puts his own life at risk as he attempts to solve two apparently unrelated deaths in a bustling South Wales valleys town. Our very own history buff says the level of historical research and detail is as appealing as the detective work.

In John Barlow’s Right to Kill, DS Joe Romano is back in Leeds after an unsuccessful spell in France with Interpol. He’s now working in Missing Persons and feeling dulled by life, and is given a case that will test his humanity as well as his detective powers – and his heart. Kerry Hood enjoyed this first book in a new series and says Barlow writes about Yorkshire as though it is a character in its own right and succeeds in bringing the county, its pubs and its inhabitants to life. The Murder Box provides a police chief with a puzzle when she receives a murder mystery game, seemingly as a birthday present, but it soon becomes clear that the game is live and involves current day crimes. John Verpeleti says Olivia Kiernan writes well and employs red herrings to good effect but would do well to equip her police team with better skills. Fellow Irish writer Jo Spain moves the action to New York in a standalone adventure. Detective Danny Ryan jumps to his death rather than face arrest by his own colleagues. Less than two years later, his wife Erin is put on trial for her husband’s murder. John Cleal describes The Perfect Lie as a compulsive, captivating and deviously twisty thriller.

Just when you think you’re getting to the stage of being able to use public transport again, don’t let The Heights put you off. When a severed head falls out of a bag on the Tube, former copper Cal Drake makes a connection to the case that led him to leave the police under a cloud and become a private detective. Chris Roberts says Parker Bilal's novel will take you into less well-known corners of the city with non-stop action and plenty of dark moments in this exhilarating read. Sharon Wheeler caught up with the latest book in Margaret Duffy’s faintly eccentric series featuring former soldier Patrick Gillard and his writer wife Ingrid Langley. The Not Quite Perfect Murderer sees the pair pulled into helping out an old mate in Bath police following the death of a small boy and a violent raid on a city jeweller’s. Sharon is still staunchly following the series, despite thinking newcomers will be totally perplexed! She does wish someone would tighten up the editing, though.

Linda Wilson is a long-term fan of Harlan Coben’s Myron Bolitar series and its YA spin-off with his nephew Mickey, so she was like a rat down the proverbial drainpipe when a book appeared starring one of the series characters – the rich, violent, amoral Windsor Horne Lockwood III, better known as Win. The death of a reclusive hoarder triggers a reappraisal of an FBI cold case involving the abduction of an heiress and the theft of two valuable paintings. Then fresh evidence leads the investigators to Win’s door. Linda enjoyed the book – entitled, duh, Win – despite her reservations about the choice of a first-person narrative here, told by the man himself. She says Coben has delivered another slick, entertainingly twisted thriller with all his customary pace and style.

Our reviewers have had a busy time on the Euro beat. Ewa Sherman praises the complexity of the characters throughout 3 Hours by Anders Roslund and Börge Hellström, with DCI Ewert Grens investigating a strange case of one corpse too many in a morgue. The clues lead him to Stockholm’s harbour where he makes a horrendous discovery of 73 refugees suffocated in a cargo container. Ewa says the book kept her on the edge of her seat. Maria Adolfsson’s Fatal Isles is set in the middle of the North Sea, between the UK and Denmark on the island nation of Doggerland. Not much happens there in the way of crime, until one day Police Chief Jounas Smeed's ex-wife is found brutally murdered. Viv Beeby praises the all-action finale and says the next book can’t come soon enough for her. In The Therapist by Helene Flood a search for a missing man turns into something much more sinister. Ewa Sherman says the finale of this tense psychological thriller is both surprising and understandable, bringing closure and at the same time the unknown territory of mixed loyalties, trust and guilt. Sylvia Maughan enjoyed the intriguing plot of The Sicilian Method by Andrea Camilleri in which a man stumbles across a dead body whilst making a hasty escape from his married lover’s apartment – and then another identical dead body turns up elsewhere. Sylvia says the writing is clear and succinct, with lean descriptive prose that brings the scenes to life and establishes the police station at Vigato as a place where crimes are solved with deft, thoughtful analysis and humanity.

Kati Barr-Taylor ended up swimming in a sea of red herrings in Don’t Turn Around by Jessica Barry where strangers Cait and Rebecca soon realise they must learn to trust one another to survive. Kati enjoyed the twists and turns of the plot but was left with the feeling that the ending was only one of several possibilities and had been picked out of the hat somewhat at random. In Hazel Barkworth’s debut, Heat Stroke, a girl disappears after a sleepover and it turns out that she never actually arrived there. She’s gone, and only three people know where. Kati says the writing is staggeringly well-assured and plotted and she describes the book as dark and disturbing.

Historical writer Anthony Riches has turned his hand to modern day thrillers with Metropolitan police close protection officer Mickey Bale out for revenge on the gang boss ultimately responsible for his sister’s death from a drug overdose. Linda Wilson was impressed by Nemesis and its explosive finale despite not getting on with the staccato writing style. How To Betray Your Country by James Wolff is an unusual take on the spy genre, as August Drummond’s service as a spy is terminated, but he remains in the game as a distraction from his grief over the death of his wife. Chris Roberts says all those involved come across as very clever and articulate and describes the central premise as a brilliant idea. He wasn’t quite so taken with Jack Grimwood’s Island Reich. With the Nazis victorious in France, Hitler is preparing for the invasion of Britain from the Channel Islands with the Duke of Windsor at his side. Agents from Britain and from the USA are working to prevent it. Chris feels that the problem with using real-life events as a backdrop is that the end result is already known so the result can often end up only moderately thrilling. John Barnbrook was thoroughly engrossed by One Night, New York by Lara Thompson. A woman arrives in 1930s New York to join her brother, leaving her abusive father in rural Kansas. There, she quickly becomes embroiled in a world beyond her experience with glamorous people, corrupt politicians and violent mobsters. John says the culture and characters are so graphically described that he could almost smell the rough streets and could feel the contrasts between rich and poor. He really cared about the protagonists, both good and bad, and became embroiled in their lives in this interesting and gripping story.

Our young adult offering this week is the highly unusual and touching Forever Ends on Friday by Justin A Reynolds. Jamal and Q used to be best friends until something came between them. When Q dies unexpectedly, an experimental procedure gives Jamal an unexpected chance to put things right between them. But how can he tell his friend that not only is he dead, but that he will also soon die again? Linda Wilson says this is a poignant, haunting examination of the nature of friendship and loss, and although the grief is almost unbearable the story – and especially its ending – is still tremendously uplifting.

In the Countdown hotseat this week we have author Chris Hauty, who has a splendid selection of favourite words and your stationery addicts editors entirely agree with him about the need for pens with extra-fine tips!

Take a look at what 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
Chris Hauty

Chris Hauty is a graduate of Reed College, in Portland, Oregon. After a handful of years in New York City writing plays to modest success, he moved to Los Angeles and spent the next three decades employed in the movie business.

He was keen for more creative freedom (and less interference from the folks who write the checks) so pivoted to writing novels and hasn't looked back.

The father of two grown sons, Chris enjoys his tequila with a squeeze of fresh lime juice, motorcycle rides on country roads with abundant curves, and the company of spirited conversationalists. Lizards that populate his backyard are given free rein, while the same cannot be said about the gophers.

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

Aimed high, occasionally missed, but always had a fine time.

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

Photo of my mom in her 20s holding a rod and fish.
Photo of me on the beach wearing a Dodgers hat and standing between my two brilliant sons.
Photo of my dad in his 20s – you guessed it – holding a rod and TWO fish.
Oil painting by my pal, Jim Woodside, of the Cochise Stronghold in Arizona.
The beautiful Verdugo Hills outside my office window.
A human skull purchased at a flea market in San Angelo, Texas, purported to have been taken as evidence from the home of the serial killer, Henry Lee Lucas.
My dad’s putter, a vintage Acushnet Bullseye.
A framed page from the New York Times Book Review in which Deep State was named an Editors’ Choice.
My computer monitor, aka The Beast.

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

Mash an avocado on a piece of well-toasted bread and plop a fried egg on it.