Recent Events

Friday, 19 December 2014

‘Broadchurch’ by Erin Kelly



From the story by TV series creator Chris Chibnall
Published by Sphere in paperback,
14 August 2014.
ISBN: 978-0-7515-5558-5

It’s a slightly odd experience, reading a murder mystery novel and knowing whodunit before I even picked it up. There can’t be many fans of the genre who don’t know who killed Danny Latimer and left his body lying on the beach in the small Dorset town of Broadchurch back in the spring of 2013.

But no spoilers here, just in case there are still a few people who remain out of the loop.

Often TV tie-in novels are thin and unsatisfying without the actors to bring them to life. Not so here; Erin Kelly is an experienced novelist, and she has made an excellent job of translating Chris Chibnall’s tight scripts into prose fiction which gives as little away but is still as rich and absorbing as the drama. Fortunately there’s a lot more to it than a straightforward murder investigation; the meat of the narrative is the effect an event of this magnitude has on a small community where such things simply aren’t expected to happen. This element is explored on the page no less carefully and sensitively than on the screen; Kelly has the knack of drawing the reader in, to the extent that when I finally put the book down, I felt as if I had been part of the tragedy which assaulted the town.

The characters and location were already in place, of course, but Kelly has brought them to life on the page just as effectively as Chibnall and the team of actors and directors did on the screen; careful use of interior monologue has, if anything, added some complexity and made them even more real. By the end Broadchurch was a familiar place, and Beth and Mark, Ellie and Hardy, Maggie and Ollie, even Karen White the incomer journalist, were people I knew.

But knowing the end meant I needed a different approach from usual. What intrigued me about the TV series, and no less about the novel, was exactly how the viewer/reader was misdirected; it wasn’t till close to the end, when the pool of suspects was beginning to run dry, that I had the slightest inkling who the murderer was, and I was fascinated to know how that was achieved. It took a while, but eventually I sussed it. All the other major characters, suspects, police and all, are given their moments behind the camera: scenes which are related from their point of view. The murderer isn’t afforded this privilege until his/her identity has been revealed.

It’s subtly done, and I had to think about it and check carefully. And there are one or two moments which made me think, would someone with a murder on his/her conscience really react like that? But that was the case in the TV version as well, so it’s not down to Erin Kelly.

Taken all round, the book is at least as successful as the TV drama – and that’s saying a great deal.  
------
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick

Erin Kelly is a freelance journalist and lives in North London with her family. The Poison Tree was her first novel.









Lynne Patrick has been a writer ever since she could pick up a pen, and has enjoyed success with short stories, reviews and feature journalism, but never, alas, with a novel. She crossed to the dark side to become a publisher for a few years, and is proud to have launched several careers which are now burgeoning. She lives on the edge of rural Derbyshire in a house groaning with books, about half of them crime fiction.






‘The Broken Places’ by Ace Atkins



Published by Constable Crime,
18 September 2014.
ISBN: 9781472112149

You can't blame folks who view a murderer's religious transformation from Bad Guy to Good Guy with scepticism.  So when Jamey Dixon, newly released from prison under a governor's amnesty, comes back to set up his own church in Jericho, Mississippi, many of the locals are understandably cynical.  Especially Sheriff Quinn Colson.  Especially when
Colson's very own daughter is under Dixon's spell.

The family of the victim is out for revenge.  Two vicious prisoners, who knew Dixon inside, have broken murderously out of jail, and are making their way  to Jericho, to catch up with their former mate, and the money they believe he has stashed away – their money.  And there's a tornado heading straight for town. 

But believe it or not, Jamie seems to have undergone a genuine conversion. Is anything going to happen to make him go 'batshit craz', as someone puts it?  Or will his new-found persona stay calm and kind.

When the tornado hits, the town is left stranded, without communication to the wider world.  No-one can get in or out, because the roads are washed away.  Darkness both literal and metaphorical, is falling on Jericho.  How many bodies will it take before Colson can sort it out and clean it up?  You'll have to read this great thriller to find out.
------
Reviewer: Susan Moody

Ace Atkins is an experienced crime writer with several stand alones, a series about Nick Travers and his Quinn Coulson series which he continues to write. He has already published the Spenser Lullaby and is writing more Spensers. In an interview in 2013 he explained that he couldn't write the Coulson and Spenser books at the same time - he writes the two series separately allowing half a year for each!

Susan Moody was born and brought up in Oxford.  She has published over 30 crime and suspense novels, including the Penny Wanawake series and the Cassandra Swann bridge series.  She is a past Chairman of the British Crime Writers' Association, a member of the Detection Club, a past Writer-in-Residence at the University of Tasmania and a past President of the International Association of Crime Writers.  She divides her time between south-west France and south-east Kent.   Nominated for the CWA short story award.  Nominated for the RNA's award. 

‘The Drop’ by Dennis Lehane



Published by Abacus,
2 September 2014.
ISBN: 9780349140728

I've read all of Dennis Lehane's book, from the first Kenzie and Gennaro  A Drink Before the War to the brilliant Mystic River, which was made into an even more brilliant movie.  So I'm up there among the Lehane cheerleaders.

However, as a novel, The Drop is a bit of a mongrel.  It started life as a short story called Animal Rescue,  was later given a screen play treatment and turned into a film called The Drop, and then into a crime story which is the novelisation of the movie. It's a great story, though I think its origins detract a little from it. But I don't believe Lehane can write anything that is less than good.  

The plot hinges on the rescue of a pit bull pup which has been chucked into a large metal trash can and is 'one breath away from deciding it was too hard to take the next."    Bob, an unhappy misfit of a bartender who cannot find love and companionship and is slowly dying of loneliness, rescues it, incidentally meeting another misfit – Nadia – in the course of getting the pup out of the trash.  Bob works for his cousin Marv, who ostensibly owns a bar which has been commandeered by a gang of Chechen criminals who use the place as a 'drop', ie a place to store illegal money until it can be moved on. They've decided to use the bar as the 'drop' for the takings from Superbowl Sunday, the biggest betting day of the sporting year, which will add up to many millions of dollars from illegal bets. 

Meanwhile, the bar was held up by a couple of bad guys who took all the cash in the register, and despite their potential bonanza, the Chechens want the money back.  Or else … and they have some violently persuasive methods of or-elsin.

Bob, Marv, Nadia and a Boston detective who is convinced that Bob is somehow implicated in something criminal, though he's not sure what, move the action forward, along with Rocco, the pup.  Various psychopaths drift in and violently out again.  It's a bleak tale and an edgy read, with a number of Lehane's signature twists and turns.

It's a quirky love story, as well as a crime novel, and I loved it.
------
Reviewer: Susan Moody

Dennis Lehane was born and raised in Dorchester, Massachusetts.. Since his first novel, A Drink Before the War, won the Shamus Award, he’s published nine more novels since then. Lehane was a staff writer for HBO’s The Wire, and is a writer/producer on HBO’s Boardwalk Empire. He has taught fiction and literature at the Harvard Extension School, the Stonecoast MFA Program, and Tufts University.
Before becoming a full-time writer, Mr. Lehane worked as a counsellor with mentally handicapped and abused children, waited tables, parked cars, drove limos, worked in bookstores, and loaded tractor-trailers. He and his wife and children divide their time between Boston and Los Angeles.



 

Susan Moody was born and brought up in Oxford.  She has published over 30 crime and suspense novels, including the Penny Wanawake series and the Cassandra Swann bridge series.  She is a past Chairman of the British Crime Writers' Association, a member of the Detection Club, a past Writer-in-Residence at the University of Tasmania and a past President of the International Association of Crime Writers.  She divides her time between south-west France and south-east Kent.   Nominated for the CWA short story award.  Nominated for the RNA's award. 

‘Hold the Dark’ by William Giraldi



Published by Liveright,
7 Oct 2014.
ISBN:  978-0871406675

I started to read this dark, poetic novel and was first of all blown away by the lyrical style of writing, not something I normally expect from a crime novel, then enthralled by the intricacies of the claustrophobic plot.  Set in the dark and isolated wastes of the Alaskan tundra, the village of Keelut is surrounded by frozen mountains, home to herds of starving wolves.  Two children have already been snatched by the predators; when a third is taken, his mother, Medora Stone, contacts Russell Core, a wolf-expert, for help in avenging the loss of her son by finding and killing the wolves responsible.

Core takes on the challenge, partly to appease his own guilt for earlier transgressions. The people of Keelut do not welcome his appearance, nor does Medora, a fiercely troubled woman, though we do not discover the dark secret which lies at the heart of her troubles until the end of the book.  Her husband, Vernon, serving in the desert war, comes home to find his son dead, and a savagely brutal trail of reprisal begins.

The body count is high.  Man is revealed as a worse predator than Wolf, often killing for the sake of it, whereas the animal kills only out of necessity.  The characters are enigmatic to the point of unfathomability.  There is nothing in the least bit warm and fuzzy about this bleak and highly unusual little novel, and I would guarantee that you have never read anything quite like it before, though comparisons have been made with Cormac McCarthy.

Taut, brutal and compelling … read it.
------
Reviewer: Susan Moody

William Giraldi is author of the novels Busy Monsters and Hold the Dark. He is an editor for the journal AGNI at Boston University, and lives in Boston with his wife and sons.








Susan Moody was born and brought up in Oxford.  She has published over 30 crime and suspense novels, including the Penny Wanawake series and the Cassandra Swann bridge series.  She is a past Chairman of the British Crime Writers' Association, a member of the Detection Club, a past Writer-in-Residence at the University of Tasmania and a past President of the International Association of Crime Writers.  She divides her time between south-west France and south-east Kent.   Nominated for the CWA short story award.  Nominated for the RNA's award.