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Friday, 29 May 2015

‘A Few Drops of Blood’ by Jan Merete Weiss

Published by Soho Crime,
April 2014.
ISBN: 978-1-6169-5353-9.

Venice has Donna Leon and her Commissario Guido Brunetti, and now Naples has Jan Merete Weiss and her Captain Natalia Monte of the Carabinieri.  The author brings fully to life the historic beauty of the city, as well as its rampant poverty and nearly total control by the Napolitan version of the American mafia and its Gotti crime family: the clans of the Camorra, in particular the Scavullo family.

One of two personal problems Natalia is dealing with, or not, arises from the fact that her closest childhood friends, two women with whom she still has ties, were and each still is a cammorista.  One of two things
prohibited by the Carabinieri, the other being that she has become romantically involved with her partner, now taking a leave of absence.  She has now been assigned a new partner, a rookie just transferred from Palermo, where she was their first Sicilian female officer.

In the opening pages, Natalia is assigned a murder case:  The naked bodies of two young men have been discovered in a gruesome pose atop an enormous sculptured horse in a magnificent garden of the elderly Contessa Antonella Maria Cavazza.  The men, identified as a gossip columnist and a senior curator at the Museo Archeologico, had been shot to death, the small gauge shotgun being "the traditional execution weapon of the rural mafia, a stubby weapon for hunting small game and two-legged mammals."  It soon
becomes apparent that the men had been lovers.  The investigation leads to many suspects, and a variety of possible motives.

This is the second novel to feature Capt. Monte, who had been promoted from the art squad to major crime investigation, with a degree in law from  the officers' school in Rome, whose career had been bright before being compromised by her choice of companions.  Her former partner comes back into her life, jeopardizing both of them.  She was after all his superior.  Now nearing forty, she longs for a 'normal' private life.  But as the body count rises, that must be her priority.

A beautifully written novel, including glimpses into the history of the area during and after the war and a solid murder mystery at its core, it is recommended.
Reviewer: Gloria Feit

Jan Merete Weiss grew up in Puerto Rico. She studied poetry and painting at the Massachusetts College of Art and received a Master’s degree from NYU.  Her poems have appeared in various literary magazines. She lives in New York and lectures at Lehman College.

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.  On a more personal note: both having been widowed, Gloria and Ted have five children and nine grandchildren between them.

Thursday, 28 May 2015

‘The Traitor’s Mark’ by D K Wilson

Published by Sphere,
12 March 2015.
ISBN: 978-0-7515-5038-2

History can be rich source of material for a novelist, especially those periods when the country seemed to be governed through a complex web of intrigue and conflict. Henry VIII’s reign is especially fertile ground in which to sow the basic seed of fiction: ‘what if...? Religious factions conspired against each other, neighbours kept a suspicious eye on each other, all levels of society were rife with secrets and prejudices.

C J Sansom’s Shardlake novels take place against a background of political chicanery which puts modern-day scandals involving phone-hacking and leaving laptops in taxis in the shade – and now D K Wilson is the new kid on the historical crime block. Not that he’s exactly a kid; before embarking on his Thomas Treviot series of novels, he was already a distinguished historian.

The Traitor’s Mark is the second in the series, which follows the fortunes of a master goldsmith in 16th century London. The story is based on a real-life mystery which has never been solved: the disappearance of Johannes Holbein, the painter who came to prominence because of his definitive portraits of Henry VIII. As a result of the brutal murder of Holbein’s apprentice, in which Treviot’s assistant Bart is implicated, our hero becomes embroiled in the often vicious tug of war between Catholic traditionalists and reforming Protestants, following the King’s break with the Pope and the consequent battles for supremacy.

The narrative reads like C J Sansom on speed. The plot gallops along, leaping from one crisis to the next, and the pace and action are relentless; no sooner does Treviot extricate himself from one predicament than another lands in his lap. As he pursues the notorious zealot  ‘Black Harry’ in search of vindication for Bart, he finds himself in the company of senior churchmen and political figures, involved in political wrangles and forced into situations which are quite opposed to his sensible, even-handed nature.

Many of the characters are larger than life, and some of the bad guys seem to have no redeeming features, but that goes with the territory; given the colourful history of the time, no one stretches credibility too far. I especially liked Lizzie, Bart’s feisty wife, a former prostitute; and Ned Longbourne, one-time monk and now a clear-sighted and perceptive apothecary.

Everyday life against the main backgrounds of plague-ridden London and rural Kent is brought to life by subtle use of detail: trenchers instead of plates, pewter in place of china, sturdy but basic tools and weapons, the use of the river as a main thoroughfare. The dialogue treads a fine line between the ‘gadzooks’ style which never sounds quite natural and modern speech which is, after all, how the characters would have sounded to each other. My only tiny quibble is that there are an awful lot of characters called Thomas, which could lead to confusion.

Wilson clearly knows his subject, and uses it to great advantage. And on this showing, he has a knack for telling a good tale as well. Long may Thomas Treviot thrive, and his series continue.
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick

D.K. Wilson is an historian and expert on the Tudor period. He is the author of the Tudor mystery novels 'The First Horseman' and 'The Traitor's Mark', both of which star a young goldsmith called Thomas Treviot.
As Derek Wilson, he has published a range of acclaimed non-fiction books on Tudor England and Henry VIII, including 'The Plantagenets: The Kings that Made Britain' and 'The English Reformation: How England was Transformed by the Tudors'.

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.

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

‘A Cruel Necessity’ by L.C. Tyler

Published by Constable, 
6 November 2014.
ISBN: 978-1-4721-1503-4 (HB)

7 May 2015. ISBN: 978-14721-1504-1(PB)

In 1657, Oliver Cromwell's republic has ruled England for eight years, but many people are unhappy under Puritan rule, and the son of the executed king is still in exile, waiting for his chance to return. John Grey is a young lawyer, who is newly qualified and, having no clients, has recently returned to live with his mother in his small Essex village. Returning home, drunk, from the village inn, John has a chance encounter with a stranger riding a lame horse. The next morning, early, he finds the body of a murdered man, which has been left on a dung heap.

It seems that nobody in the village wishes to delve too deeply into the crime, including those whose duty it is to investigate murder and uphold the law. John is determined to discover the truth but, on all sides, he is surrounded by evasions from neighbours and friends that he had known all his life. It seems as though the whole village possesses some dark, hidden knowledge and, since his sojourn in Cambridge, John is outside the community. Against the advice of those who care about him, John is determined to discover the truth, no matter how great the cost to himself.

A Cruel Necessity is an absorbing murder mystery and John Grey is an appealing protagonist, but this is also a stunning study of an uneasy and harsh decade in English history, when the aftermath of civil war had scarred the people who had survived it and they were still desperately seeking the best strategy for survival. I found this book a fascinating and illuminating read.
Reviewer: Carol Westron

L. C. Tyler was raised in Essex and studied geography at Jesus College Oxford University before going on to study systems analysis at City University in London. He worked for the Bristish Council in Mayaysia, Sudan, Thailand and Denmark, before becoming Chief Executive of the Royal College of Pardiatrics and Child Health, then a full-time writer. Tyler's 2007 novel The Herring Seller's Apprentice was nominated for an Edgar Award for "Best Paperback Original".

Carol Westron is a successful short story writer and a Creative Writing teacher.  She is the moderator for the cosy/historical crime panel, The Deadly Dames.  Her crime novels are set both in contemporary and Victorian times.  The Terminal Velocity of Cats is the first in her Scene of Crimes novels, was published July 2013. Her second book About the Children was published in May 2014.

Monday, 25 May 2015

‘Trap’ by L.J.Sellers

Published by Spellbinder Press.
ISBN: 9780984008698

Jamie Dallas loves her job as an FBI undercover agent in all its aspects. She revels in creating a false identity and the adrenalin rush of living on the edge, with only her quick wits and courage to prevent the failure of her mission and, in the worst circumstances, her own death. However, Dallas' present mission is different from those she has undertaken previously: this mission started with Dallas herself, overhearing plans to disrupt a political meeting. She infiltrates the close-knit group of young people, many of whom are adrenalin junkies, as she is, and have interests similar to her own. The group is known as the JRN (Justice Reform Now) and Dallas finds herself sympathising with their cause, as they protest about the greed and corruption of the legal system with its privatised prisons. The JRN claim to use disruptive but non-violent tactics in their fight to reform the corrupt drugs laws and vicious prison system. Dallas finds herself torn in two directions, as she likes many of the JRN members, and is attracted to their leader, Luke.

A high-profile judge is killed and the FBI tell Dallas to push the JRN into actions that will result in arrests and convictions for a major crime. Dallas obeys, despite her conscientious objections, but in the group there is another infiltrator with a lethal agenda, and Dallas is caught in a deadly trap.

Trap is the third Agent Dallas thriller and the series gets stronger all the time. It is a fast-paced, thought-provoking book with engaging but fallible characters. A compelling read.
Reviewer: Carol Westron

L J Sellers writes the bestselling Detective Jackson mystery/thriller series, a Readers Favorite award winner, as well as provocative standalone thrillers. Her novels have been highly praised by Mystery Scene, Crimespree, and RT Reviews, and her Jackson books are Kindle bestsellers as well as top-ranked novels. L.J., who resides in Eugene, Oregon where her novels are set, is also an award-winning journalist who earned the Grand Neal. When not plotting murders, she enjoys standup comedy, cycling, social networking, and attending mystery conferences. She’s also been known to jump out of airplanes.

Carol Westron is a successful short story writer and a Creative Writing teacher.  She is the moderator for the cosy/historical crime panel, The Deadly Dames.  Her crime novels are set both in contemporary and Victorian times.  The Terminal Velocity of Cats is the first in her Scene of Crimes novels, was published July 2013. Her second book About the Children was published in May 2014.