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Sunday, 4 December 2016

‘Falling Suns’ by J.A. Corrigan

Published by Accent Press,
14 July 2016.
ISBN: 978-1-78165-249-7

Ex Detective Inspector Rachel Dune and her husband Liam are consumed by grief after their seven-year-old son, Joe, is abducted and later found dead. Rachel's mentally disturbed cousin Michael Hemmings is convicted of Joe's murder and is incarcerated in a secure psychiatric unit. Four years later, divorced and back in the police force, Rachel hears the news that Michael is being released to a less secure unit with the possibility of his eventual release.

Rachel cannot accept that the man who murdered her son might be set free and begins to plot her revenge. As a police officer, she is in a better position than most to carry out her plans, with her in-depth knowledge of the criminal side of life and the underworld contacts she has made during her career.

But as she gets close to Michael, her journalist friend Jonathan uncovers some disturbing information about her family, and begins to think that Rachel's perception of the truth might not be as accurate as she thinks, and that in her search for the truth she could make a devastating mistake.

J.A. Corrigan's debut thriller, Falling Suns, is a sympathetic and believable treatment of the rawness of a mother's grief at losing a child. It is also a disturbing look at some of the dark - very dark - areas of human behaviour and the horror that can lurk within families. Every character in the book is flawed in some way, makes mistakes and misjudges events, all of which makes for rounded characters in a novel - we may not like some of those characters but we can certainly empathise with them. Dysfunctional relationships abound.

Falling Suns is without doubt a dark tale, and is interesting and different from many of the psychological thrillers that are out there at the moment. There are some lovely descriptions and great writing. It will be interesting to see what J.A. Corrigan writes next.
Reviewer: Mary-Jane Riley

J.A. Corrigan now lives in Berkshire, but was born in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire. Her maternal grandad was a miner, her paternal, a baker. Her gran worked on a fruit and veg store in Mansfield’s market square. After A Levels she completed a Humanities degree in London, majoring in History and English Literature. She then went on to train and work as a physiotherapist. She loves to run, cook, and drink good wine. She likes to read great novels, autobiographies and a diverse range of non-fiction. Adoring travel, JA seems to be at her most creative, and most relaxed, sitting in a very narrow airline seat, going somewhere. She has been writing seriously since 2010 and her short stories have been published in various anthologies. Her debut novel, Falling Suns published by Accent Press,  is a compelling psychological thriller that explores the darker side of human nature.

Mary-Jane Riley wrote her first story on her newly acquired blue Petite typewriter. She was eight. It was about a gang of children who had adventures on mysterious islands, but she soon realised Enid Blyton had cornered that particular market. So she wrote about the Wild West instead. When she grew up she had to earn a living, and became a BBC radio talk show presenter and journalist. She has covered many life-affirming stories, but also some of the darkest events of the past two decades.
Then, in true journalistic style, she decided not to let the facts get in the way of a good story and got creative. She wrote for women's magazines and small presses. She formed WriteOutLoud with two writer friends to help charities get their message across using their life stories. Now she is writing psychological suspense, drawing on her experiences in journalism. The Bad Things by Mary-Jane Riley was published by Harper Collins/Killer Reads. Her second book, After She Fell, also published by Killer Reads, is out on April 28th. In her spare time Mary-Jane likes to walk the dog and eat a lot. Good job she likes walking.

‘A Chaser on the Rocks’ by Simon Maltman

Published by Solstice Publishing,
13 September 2016.
ISBN: 978-1625264348(PB)

Brian Caskey was a policeman in the Royal Ulster Constabulary (now the Northern Ireland Police Force) in Belfast at the height of the Troubles. Now, after being invalided out with mental stress, he is trying to earn a living as a private investigator. Meanwhile, still under therapy and also on various medications for his mental troubles, his therapist has suggested that he take up creative writing. It has helped others, and might do the same for him. So Caskey starts on a novel about Billy Chapman, a former policeman turned private eye, but set in 1941 in Belfast during World War II at a time when Belfast was being deliberately targeted by German bombers (and some bombs also fell on the Irish Republic’s capital Dublin but the Germans, fearful lest the United States be brought into the war, denied that they were deliberate).

In this book the two first person narratives, that of Caskey and that of Chapman, are set side by side with alternate chapters in either voice. It starts with Chapman who has come to the Causeway Hotel overlooking the famous Giants’ Causeway in Antrim, Northern Ireland, because he has been asked by the manager, a Mr Loach, to look into the death a few days earlier of Frank McKenzie, a walking tour guide employed by the hotel. McKenzie had fallen from the rocks of the Causeway which the police had dismissed as an accident but Loach suspects that it was no accident.

Caskey cannot work full time on his novel because his own PI work, spasmodic though it be, also makes demands. He has to investigate the theft of liquor from a Belfast pub but when he finds one of the thieves he is dead. There is a link between the dead thief and a local called Sean’s Trust also supported by a local group of enthusiastic young Christians which Caskey investigates. Despite the calls on his time by his PI work he is progressing with his novel and interacting with the others in his writing group and his novel is comparatively well organised. But Caskey’s own behaviour is becoming disorganised and fuelled by growing anger at almost everyone whom he encounters. Just how truthful is Caskey’s narrative about himself? Does he really know who he is? Has his illness made him the classic unreliable narrator of post-modernist literature?

In this book which is his first full-length novel the author has set himself a difficult task. One thing he has done well is the contrasting narrative voices, that of Chapman with his classic Chandler-inspired laconic wisecracks in italics, and that of Caskey with his disintegrating personality expressing itself with typically modern incoherence in ordinary type. There are some problems with the sub-editing, that do pull one out of the story, and although relatively minor can be distracting to the reader, but overall an interesting first book.
Reviewer: Radmila May

Simon Maltman is a writer and musician from Bangor, County Down. A Chaser on the Rocks is his first full-length novel.

Radmila May was born in the U.S. but has lived in the U.K. since she was seven apart from seven years in The Hague. She read law at university but did not go into practice. Instead she worked for many years for a firm of law publishers and still does occasional work for them including taking part in a substantial revision and updating of her late husband’s legal practitioners’ work on Criminal Evidence published late 2015. She has also contributed short stories with a distinctly criminal flavour to two of the Oxford Stories anthologies published by Oxpens Press – a third story is to be published shortly in another Oxford Stories anthology – and is now concentrating on her own writing.

Friday, 2 December 2016

‘Blood and Bone’ by V. M. Giambanco

Published by Quercus Publishing Ltd,
24 September 2016.
ISBN: 978 1 7842 9140(PB)

This is the third in this series featuring Detective Alice Madison of the Seattle Police Homicide Unit. Madison herself had a deeply troubled childhood; this has fed through into her adult life; her personality is angry and she reacts with fury to any attempt to bully but beneath all that is a visceral sadness. Her current lover, childhood friend Aaron Lever, is kind and understanding but even so cannot reach through to those inner depths. She does also have an essential integrity which commits to the pursuit of criminals and the upholding of justice. But that has got her into trouble with some of those in authority, namely, agents of the Los Angeles Drug Enforcement Agency: some years ago, when John Cameron, good friend of Madison’s previous lover, the lawyer Nathan Quinn, was in danger of being killed by members of a drug cartel she had shot and killed one of those threatening them. Now the agents inform her that Cameron has been acting a self-appointed executioner of the other members of the cartel; Madison had saved the life of a serial killer. When her relationship with Quinn is also held against her, she retorts that Quinn may have once been a ferocious defence lawyer, but he is now Senior Counsel to the U.S Attorney of the Western District of Washington State. Not a lot the DEA agents can say to that!

In any case Madison has too much currently on her plate: the brutal murder of Matthew Duncan, in a peaceful suburb of Seattle, while his wife Kate is out on a run. Madison is in charge of the case along with her colleagues, middle-aged, dependable Detective Sergeant Kevin Brown and Crime Scene Investigator Amy Sorensen. At first, it seems to be a murder committed by an opportunistic burglar and a ring stolen from the house and pawned provides the evidence against a local man. But then Amy finds other evidence which is worrying: a solitary hair which can be linked to a similar murder seven years before. A man had been convicted for that murder but had committed suicide two years ago. So he couldn’t be responsible for the murder of Matthew Duncan. And it appears that someone has been watching not just the Duncan house but the house which was the scene of the earlier murder. A meticulous search through records brings to light a number of very similar murders; in all cases there have been convictions but is this all just coincidence or are numbers of innocent people in prison for something they didn’t do?

Meanwhile Cameron is moving through the landscape intent on administering his own form of justice, and Madison’s relationship with Quinn is beginning to re-emerge. And someone is watching Kate Duncan.

All this makes for a highly complicated not to say convoluted plot which nonetheless is grippingly told with interesting and complex characters. Recommended.
Reviewer: Radmila May
Earlier titles in the Alice Madison series: The Gift of Darkness, The Dark.

V. M. Giambanco was born in Italy and moved to London after my Italian A-levels to do a degree in English & Drama at Goldsmiths. She started working in films as an editor’s apprentice in a 35mm cutting room making tea and sharpening pencils. Since then, over almost twenty years, she has been involved in many UK and US pictures, from small independent projects to large studio productions. Her first book was The Gift of Darkness. Valentina lives in South West London.

Radmila May was born in the U.S. but has lived in the U.K. since she was seven apart from seven years in The Hague. She read law at university but did not go into practice. Instead she worked for many years for a firm of law publishers and still does occasional work for them including taking part in a substantial revision and updating of her late husband’s legal practitioners’ work on Criminal Evidence published late 2015. She has also contributed short stories with a distinctly criminal flavour to two of the Oxford Stories anthologies published by Oxpens Press – a third story is to be published shortly in another Oxford Stories anthology – and is now concentrating on her own writing.

‘Every Dark Corner’ by Karen Rose

Published by Headline,
3 November 2016.
ISBN: 978-0-7553-9005-2 (HB)

People-trafficking, drugs, child abuse, painful and bloody murder... Not really the stuff of romantic suspense, most people would agree. So if you’re new to Karen Rose’s work, and sample it on the basis of that description on Google, you may be a little taken aback.

The two lead characters of Every Dark Corner do form a meaningful relationship, and a couple of pretty steamy sex scenes certainly ensue, but two scenes and some yearning eye contact do not make a sub-genre. Like the two preceding volumes of Rose’s Cinncinati series, this book is as hard-boiled as hard-boiled gets; the villain is the nastiest of bad guys, the FBI and Cincinnati police work their butts off to track him down, and they way he treats his victims is enough to curdle a stronger stomach than mine.

Special Agents Kate Coppola and Decker Davenport met under unusual circumstances at the end of the previous volume: she jumped from a tree and stuck a rifle in his back, and he finished up in a coma, though not as a result of one of her bullets. Having broken one people-trafficking operation, they now need to dig even deeper, to identify and catch the next, even nastier link in the chain.

They have a lot of help from other FBI agents, as well as some of the protagonists of the earlier books, but it’s a complex procedure which takes close to a quarter of a million words to complete. You’ll need to set aside quite a few hours, because once you start, you’ll want to find out how they achieve their objective. Rose is a mistress of the page-turner; those 600 pages are pacy, action-packed and structured in a way that kept me on the edge of my seat.

Cincinnati is an American city like many others, but locations like the luxurious safe house Decker recuperates in are brought skilfully to life. Rose’s main talents, though, are telling a rattling good tale and juggling her large cast deftly and in a way which turns them into real people. The good guys all have plenty of emotional depth; Kate Coppola knits and does origami to calm her PTSD and soothe her nightmares. I especially liked Diesel, computer hacker extraordinaire (a skill he only uses for good), and phobic about hospitals, but glued to the bedside of injured Dani, for whom he has a decidedly soft spot. Even the minor players jump off the page: Agent Triplett, for instance, a man-mountain with an angel’s face and a heart of gold.

Romantic suspense? Maybe a little. A storyline for the faint-hearted? Probably not. A great book for a damp winter afternoon? Definitely!
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick
Karen Rose was born 29 July 29 1964 at Baltimore, Maryland USA. She was educated at the University of Maryland. She met her husband, Martin, on a blind date when they were seventeen and after they both graduated from the University of Maryland, (Karen with a degree in Chemical Engineering) they moved to Cincinnati, Ohio. Karen worked as an engineer for a large consumer goods company, earning two patents, but as Karen says, “scenes were roiling in my head and I couldn't concentrate on my job so I started writing them down. I started out writing for fun, and soon found I was hooked.” Her debut suspense novel, Don't Tell, was released in July, 2003. Since then, she has published fifteen more novels and two novellas. Alone in the Dark is her seventeenth 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.