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Wednesday, 22 October 2014

‘Invisible’ by Christine Poulson

Published by Accent Press,
22 May 2014:
ISBN: 978-1-76375-429-8

I have enjoyed Christine's series set in Cambridge and opened this book with high expectations.  They have been admirably fulfilled.  Here we have a stand alone thriller about two lonely people who pursue a relationship of monthly weekends together in remote spots.    Suddenly one of these two fails to get to the rendezvous-vous and the other realises how very limited her knowledge of her erstwhile companion is.  Why has he disappeared without a word?  Lisa is mourning the death of her father and caring for her teenage son who has cerebral palsy and she valued her weekends with Jay more than she realised.  Jay was in a witness protection programme and mourns the deaths of his wife and son.  He didn't mean to love Lisa but it crept up on him and he only realised it after he is recognised and must cut himself off from Lisa for her safety.

The story follows parallel tracks about these two and others.  Gradually the reader pieces together some of the facts as an atmosphere of rising tension envelops everything.  The story moves around within England and in Hongkong and Sweden and includes many interesting characters.  The intelligent way Jay, Lisa and others plan their actions is enjoyable and the suspense of the tale is palpable.  It is an enjoyable story up to the very end.
Reviewer: Jennifer S Palmer

The series set in Cambridge features academic Cassandra in 3 stories beginning with Death is Academic.

Christine Poulson writes I was a respectable academic, lecturing in art history at a Cambridge college before I turned to crime. My first three novels featured literary historian and accidental sleuth, Cassandra James, and my most recent is Invisible, a standalone suspense novel. Something that I didn’t expect when I started writing crime fiction was that other crime writers would be such good fun and so convivial. I’ve made some excellent friends and Martin Edwards is one of them. He knows a huge amount about Golden Age crime fiction – an interest we share.

Jennifer Palmer Throughout my reading life crime fiction has been a constant interest; I really enjoyed my 15 years as an expatriate in the Far East, the Netherlands & the USA but occasionally the solace of closing my door to the outside world and sitting reading was highly therapeutic. I now lecture to adults on historical topics including Famous Historical Mysteries.

‘The Accident’ By Chris Pavone

Published by Crown Publishing,
March 11, 2014.
ISBN: 978-0-385-34845-4

The Accident is, nominally, about a manuscript which bears that title, the author shown as “Anonymous.”  It is a memoir (perhaps), an expose or unauthorized biography (possibly), of an international media mogul (think Rupert Murdoch), with some little-known (or until now unknown) and potentially ruinous events in his past, most shockingly the one which gives the book its title, the person who wrote it identified only as “the author.”  But more importantly, the novel, written with a sly humor, provides an inside look at the publishing industry, in ever greater danger of extinction, that is as fascinating (in a schadenfreude kind of way) as that ostensible main story line.  We are told the “the publishing business is a business, and books are published for an audience to buy from bookstores, who buy units from distributors who order cartons from publishers who acquire titles from literary agencies who sign up careers from authors, money changing hands at every transaction.”

The book opens with the surveillance of a woman, as yet unnamed, by a man watching a live video feed as she lies in bed, reading, typical of the espionage, literal and figurative, found here. 

The manuscript, hand-delivered to the office of Isabel Reed, a powerful literary agent in New York, is full of shocking revelations implicating, e.g., various American presidents and CIA directors, and is, almost literally, dynamite, putting those few individuals who are privy to its contents in mortal danger.  On the other hand, each of those individuals, initially at least, see in it their salvation.  Written from their various points of view, the novel takes the reader from New York to Zurich, Copenhagen and Los Angeles, all of it taking place in a single day, and exposes the staggering machinations which routinely abound in the publishing industry.  The reader is treated to brief excerpts from the manuscript, interspersed periodically, as it is read by the players in that select group. 

With wonderfully well-drawn characters, this is a terrific read, and highly recommended. 
Reviewer: Gloria Feit

Chris Pavone grew up in New York City, and attended Midwood High School in Brooklyn and Cornell University. He worked at a number of publishing houses over nearly two decades, most notably as an editor at Clarkson Potter, where he specialized in cookbooks; in the late nineties, he also wrote a little (and mostly blank) book called The Wine Log. His first novel, The Expats, released in the U.S. and the U.K. in early 2012, was an instant New York Times bestseller, and is being published in fifteen languages on five continents, and developed for film. Chris is married and the father of twin schoolboys, as well as an old cocker spaniel, and they all live in Greenwich Village and the North Fork of Long Island.

Ted and Gloria Feit live in Long Beach, NY, a few miles outside New York City.  For 26 years, Gloria was the manager of a medium-sized litigation firm in lower Manhattan. Her husband, Ted, is an attorney and former stock analyst, publicist and writer/editor for, over the years, several daily, weekly and monthly publications.  Having always been avid mystery readers, and since they're now retired, they're able to indulge that passion.  Their reviews appear online as well as in three print publications in the UK and US.  

'Tangled Retribution' by James Morley

Published by Benhams Books.
ISBN 978-0-9548880-6-0

This exciting mystery is rooted in the world of yachting.  The setting is mainly in England but there are a number of Antipodean individuals who are relevant to the development of the story.  The investigation into the death of a yachtmaster is a police one but Peter Manning, a New Zealander, is involved in the pursuit of the story for his newspaper, the Daily Banner.

There is a large cast of characters, some of whom have appeared in previous books by James Morley.  Emily Stoneman and her family become central to the disturbing events around the initial death and as other deaths occur tension rises as to who else might be killed and why.  It seems that a psychopath is responsible though there are possibly business reasons for the events.  Police work is interposed with journalistic interviews as attempts are made to understand the motivation behind the deaths.  As explanations for the happenings begin to surface there is a tense climax. 

The tale is a complete one and the reader does not need to have read the previous stories about these characters first.
Reviewer: Jennifer S. Palmer
James Morley has written 6 previous crime novels and at least 4 of those feature some of the characters of Tangled Retribution

James Morley sis a local author, writing books under the name Benham's Sea Mysteries. Retired from an agricultural background Jim has been writing books since 2005. He is well known in the local area for his novels, short stories and publicity writing. He is chairman of Petersfield Writers’ Circle and an active members of his local book club. Jim lives in Liss in Hampshire, a widower, in an untidy house filled with books and computers. Jim is a members of the UK Society of Authors.

Jennifer Palmer Throughout my reading life crime fiction has been a constant interest; I really enjoyed my 15 years as an expatriate in the Far East, the Netherlands & the USA but occasionally the solace of closing my door to the outside world and sitting reading was highly therapeutic. I now lecture to adults on historical topics including Famous Historical Mysteries.

‘Want You Dead’ by Peter James

Published by Midas,
June 2014.
ISBN: 978-0-2307-6058-5

I am a great fan of Peter James' books, and don't believe he could produce a bad one. The plot hinges on the revenge taken by a narcissistic psychopath called Bryce Laurent, who refuses to accept that his girlfriend, Red Westwood, has dumped him. She did this after discovering that absolutely everything he had told her about himself was a lie, and, moreover, that he has done time in the US for different crimes, including assaulting  former girlfriends. 

Determined on revenge, he begins a campaign of real terror not just on Red, but on everyone connected with her.  I was quite frightened myself, just sitting quietly in the sunshine, reading the book.  The possibility of shock and horror is just as terrifying as the real thing, especially when the man coming after you is a skilled Houdini-like magician. 

I highly recommend this book, although there were times when disbelief simply could not be suspended.
Reviewer: Susan Moody

Peter James was educated at Charterhouse and then at film school. He lived in North America for a number of years, working as a screen writer and film producer, before returning to England. His multiple award-winning, Sunday Times Top Ten bestselling novels have been translated into thirty-three languages. His writings reflect his deep interest in medicine, science and the world of the police. He has produced numerous films, including The Merchant of Venice, starring Al Pacino, Jeremy Irons and Joseph Fiennes. He also co-created the hit Channel 4 series Bedsitcom, which was nominated for a Rose d'Or. Peter James won the Krimi-Blitz 2005 Crime Writer of the Year Award in Germany, and Dead Simple won both the 2006 Prix Polar International award and the 2007 Prix Cœur Noir award in France. Looking Good Dead was shortlisted for the 2007 Richard and Judy Crime Thriller of the Year award, and has been shortlisted for both France's SNCF award and Le Grand Prix de Littérature Policère. He divides his time between his homes in Notting Hill in London and Sussex.

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. 

Monday, 20 October 2014

‘The Black Life’ by Paul Johnston

Published by Crème De La Crime, 2013.
ISBN: 978-1-78029-048-5

Alex Mavros is a Scottish Greek making a living as an investigator specialising in missing persons.  He is asked to follow up a sighting of someone who was supposed to have been executed during the war.  A chance glimpse in a Greek street throws Alex into a case which has its roots in the Nazi occupation and the extermination of Jewish families.  This is woven in with some of the complexities of the subsequent communist politics and infighting at the end of the war.

The client’s daughter is following his investigation closely and seems to have her own secrets and ghosts.  Along with all this, Alex is trying to keep one step ahead of a killer who is after him and his family, overspill from a previous case.

This is the sixth of the Alex Mavros mysteries and over the series Paul Johnston has made the character darker.  In this story, coupled with some of the sinister circumstances which still haunt recent Greek history, the darker side is revealed even more, further exploring some of the dubious characters who Alex works with and for. 

The fast paced narrative takes you through a tough story and some of the interesting history which dogged Europe during the second world war.  Whilst Alex is uncovering dark family secrets, he is also struggling with an emotional situation on the home front, which gives the plot more depth and some more “normal” moments. 

Gripping and engaging and, as expected, with a sting in the tale.
Reviewer: Amanda Brown

Paul Johnston was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1957. His father Ronald was a successful thriller writer. Paul attended state primary school in Berwickshire and private schools in Edinburgh. He subsequently studied ancient and modern Greek at the University of Oxford, then added an M.Phil in comparative literature to his M.A.. After leaving Oxford in 1982, Paul worked for shipping companies in London and Belgium. He moved to Greece in 1987, working on a newspaper, in shipping and then teaching English. He started writing seriously in 1989 when he went to live on the small Aegean island of Antiparos. Paul returned to Edinburgh to do another master's degree in 1995 and then started studying for a doctorate. Paul remarried in 2005. His wife Roula is a Greek civil servant. Their daughter Maggie was born in Athens in January 2006 and their son Alexander in January 2008. Paul has come through (touch wood) two unconnected bouts of cancer in the last five years and underwent chemotherapy until November 2008. That hasn't stopped him from writing or from studying for a PhD in creative writing. He still divides his time between Scotland and Greece – having left Athens, he and his family now live in the beautiful seaside town of Nafplio in the Peloponnese. Paul had a third bout of cancer in 2012 (as well as the writing gene, he has one that increases the chances of him being hit by otherwise unconnected cancers), but he has recovered. He has finally completed his PhD and graduated in June 2014. He is currently working on Heads or Hearts, the sixth novel in the Quint Dalrymple series.