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Monday, 29 October 2012

‘Cause of Death’ by Jane Adams

Published by Severn House,
May 2012.
ISBN:  978-0-7278-8173-1
Things have been quiet during the summer at the boarding house Peverill Lodge, run by Rina Martin.  Life continues tranquilly for the Peters sisters, Bethany and Eliza.  Tim has had a break-through and TV looms.  The Montmorency twins Matthew and Stephen have relieved Rina of culinary duties, once breakfast is over.  And although DI MacGregor (Mac) has moved out having entered a relationship with a lady called Miriam, he drops in regularly.  And now Rina has been approached to revive her television career with Lydia Merchant Investigates.

Young George is now fifteen and making progress with his school work thanks to the influence of Ursula. But storm clouds are gathering. Karen, George’s elder sister, is back in Frantham.  Karen has powerful enemies so whatever brings  her back must be important,  as there are two interested parties who will shoot without asking questions first.  Stan Holden is also back and like Karen he brings trouble with him.

The discovery of some bones, have Mac and Andy Nevins trawling through missing persons going back fifteen years.  But the bones will bring back the past to someone who had thought that the past was well and truly buried.   But as we all know truth has a way of coming to the surface it’s just a matter of time.

Rich in characters, Jane Adams skilfully weaves current and past stories. Recommended.
Reviewer: Lizzie Hayes

Jane Adams was born in Leicestershire, where she still lives. She has a degree in Sociology, and has held a variety of jobs including lead vocalist in a folk rock band. She enjoys pen and ink drawing, martial arts and her ambition is to travel the length of the Silk Road by motorbike. Her first book, The Greenway, was shortlisted for the CWA John Creasey Award in 1995 and for the Author's Club Best First Novel Award. Jane writes several series.  Her first series featured Mike Croft. Three books featuring DS Ray Flowers. Seven titlesfeaturing blind Naoimi Blake, and her latest series featuring Rina Martin. Cause of Death is the sixth in the series. Jane has also written three standalone novels. She is married with two children.

Friday, 26 October 2012

‘Night Rounds’ By Helene Tursten

Translated by Laura A. Wideburg
Published by Soho Crime,
February, 2012.
ISBN: 978-1-61695-006-4

It’s taken a long time for this 1999 novel to cross the ocean, but the wait has been worthwhile.  It is part of a series in which the protagonist is Inspector Irene Huss, a former Jiu-Jitsu champion, and is a Swedish police procedural.  The action takes place in a private hospital specializing in surgery in Goteborg.

One night around midnight an elderly nurse sees what she believes is the ghost of a nurse who had committed suicide in the hospital’s attic 50 years before.  It is up to Huss and her colleagues to sift through the situation after the discovery of one nurse who has been murdered nurse and another who is missing.  Complicating their efforts, of course, is the elimination of additional witnesses, presumably at the hands of the “ghost” murderer.

Huss is an interesting protagonist, married to a gourmet chef and the mother of twin teenage daughters.  Insights into her character and family situation throughout the novel add significantly to humanizing her.  In an excellent translation, the story flows smoothly, incrementally adding to the reader’s knowledge until it all coalesces in the final pages.
Reviewer: Ted Feit
Other books in the Inspector Huss series are, Detective Inspector Huss (2003), The Torso (2006) The Glass Devil (2007). Coming 2013 The Golden Calf.

Helen Tursten has been compared to P D James  in her native Sweden. She was born in Goteborg in 1954 where she now lives.

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, 25 October 2012

‘Cold Comfort’ by Quentin Bates

Published by Robinson.
15 March 2012.
ISBN: 978-1-84901-361-1

It is so refreshing to read a crime fiction story where the chief protagonist is likeable, efficient, humorous and, above all, happy!  No inner torment, no problem children, no existentialist angst or Scandinavian gloom.  Just an ordinary unglamourous woman doing her job the best she can, especially given the logistical difficulties caused by Iceland's economic state since the financial crash, which means no car-pool for the police, and almost no personnel available to investigate serious crimes.  I also very much liked the compassionate tone with which she dealt with her suspects, her tacit acceptance that at a basic level, we are all frail and flawed human beings.

The plot follows two strands.  The first is the death of Svana, a high-class part-time hooker and former TV fitness guru, found dead in her luxurious apartment in Reykjavik.  The second concerns Long Ommi, an escaped convict who is apparently thirsting for revenge and getting it by savagely beating up as many of the people responsible for sending him down as he can find.

Can the two possibly be connected?   The murder victim is involved with a syndicate of wealthy and influential men who share her services among themselves.  The second is a violent criminal from the lowest echelons of Icelandic society. 

Quentin Bates is a talented plotter, and I was riveted as Sergeant Gunna and her team gradually teased out the connections between the two, despite efforts from both ends of the social spectrum to prevent her from doing so.  He also knows Iceland well, and it was fascinating to see what could have been a standard police procedural translated into an alien ambience.
Thoroughly enjoyable.
Reviewer: Susan Moody

Quentin Bates was brought up in the south of England. Quentin took up the offer of a gap year working in Iceland in 1979, and found himself spending a gap decade there. During the 1980s he acquired a family, a new language and a new profession, before returning to the UK in 1990. Since then he has been, among other things, a full-time marine journalist. His series features Sergeant Gunnhildur working in Reyjavik.  His first book was Frozen Out.


Susan Moody was born in Oxford is the principal nom de plume  of Susan Elizabeth Donaldson, née Horwood, a British novelist best known for her suspense novels. She is a former Chairman of the Crime Writer's Association, served as World President of the International Association of Crime Writers, and was elected to the prestigious Detection Club. Susan Moody has given numerous courses on writing crime fiction and continues to teach creative writing in England, France, Australia, the USA and Denmark.  In addition to her many stand alone books, Susan has written two series, on featuring PI Penny Wanawake (seven books) and a series of six books featuring bridge player Cassie Swan.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

‘Killing Cupid’ by Louise Voss and Mark Edwards

Published by HarperCollins,
2 August 2012.
ISBN: 978-0-00-746071-7 (PB)

This story starts opens with the graphically described murder of a woman being pushed to her death from the top of a fire-escape; by the end of the first page the book had me completely hooked. And then the story begins.   Siobhan is a creative writing teacher; Alex is one of her students. Alex falls in love with Siobhan, the love isn’t reciprocated and here the stalking begins-creepy, sometimes amusing, but all very unsettling. And then the story moves on, and in ways one would never expect. That probably is as much as I will reveal about the plot as to do any more would be to give too much away. What I will say is I read it very quickly because I couldn’t put it down.

It is written from two different viewpoints- that of Alex and that of Siobhan, which in itself is unique. One knows of other working partnerships such as Nikki French, the husband and wife who write as a team, however their prose are written together -whereas Voss and Edwards have written clear, and separate voices in alternating chapters from Alex or Siobhan’s view-point, and put them together to weave a first class story.

The story is full of suspense and totally unsettling; just as you think you know what is going to happen, the story makes an about turn and goes off in a completely different direction. Their journey will take you across Europe into Amsterdam and then back to London. It has a nice balance of dark humour, a lot of pace, and more twists than a packet of liquorice aniseed, plus a climax that I guarantee will be totally unexpected. This is their second book as a team; I look forward to many more.
Reviewer: Linda Regan
Louise Voss and Mark Edwards met after Louise saw Mark on a TV documentary about aspiring writers, and a writing partnership was born.  Their first two thrillers, Killing Cupid and Catch Your Death, were huge hits when the pair self-published them online, becoming the first UK indie authors to reach No. 1 in both the Amazon Kindle and Amazon Fiction charts. They are currently working on the sequel to Catch Your Death.

Linda Regan is the author of six police procedural crime novels. She is also an actress. She holds a Masters degree in critical writing and journalism, and writes a regular column, including book reviews, for three magazines. She also presents the book-club spot on BBC Radio Kent. She is an avid reader, and welcomes the chance to read new writers.

Monday, 22 October 2012

‘Watch Me Die’ by Erica Spindler

Published by Piatkus,
March 2012.
ISBN: 978-0-7515-4274-5 (PB) 

In the wake of hurricane Katrina, Mira Gallier lost her husband and her life as she knew it.  Still being labelled as a murderess by her husband’s family, and continuously fighting their accusations, she stays in New Orleans and tries to rebuild her life through her artistic skills and her business.  Focusing on helping the city reconstruct itself in the only way she knows how, she uses her talents in glass working to help restore a church to its former glory.  When Father Girod, who solicited her help in renovating his church, is killed and the stained glass is defaced during his murder, Mira is dragged into a series of deaths, all of which are associated with her and her past.

People who cross her start turning up dead, with clues which appear to implicate her.  Worse still an old friend, Connor, reappears who may be connected somehow with the murders and who reignites old feelings and questions about her husband and his death.  The police do not appear to be open minded about the deaths and one detective seems actively to want to find Mira guilty regardless of the evidence.

Throughout the narrative there are a series of short insights into the murderer’s thinking and background.  This is a device which can sometimes be clumsy and get in the way of the flow of the writing, but in this case it only heightens the suspense as you come to the climax of the story.  It can also spoil an ending in a whodunit like this, but despite giving this information away, Erica Spindler still creates a twist in the tale which is not flagged too overtly. 

This is a taught crime thriller, written in the effortless style which Erica Spindler carries off so well.  The characters are not just a part of the mystery, but have a narrative to ensure that they have more dimensions along the main storyline.   There is a romantic thread underpinning the crimes, along with vengeance and a little madness which gives it an element of uncertainty and supports the suspense, but does not get in the way of the main mystery storytelling.

A good read which is hard to put down.
Reviewer: Amanda Brown.

Erica Spindler was raised in Rockford, Illinois, Erica had planned on being an artist, earning a BFA from Delta State University and an MFA from the University of New Orleans in the visual arts. In June of 1982, in bed with a cold, she picked up a romance novel for relief from daytime television. She was immediately hooked, and soon decided to try to write one herself. She leaped from romance to suspense in 1996 with her novel Forbidden Fruit, and found her true calling. Her novel Bone Cold won the prestigious Daphne du Maurier Award for excellence.
Erica lives just outside New Orleans, Louisiana, with her husband and two sons and is busy at work on her next thriller

Sunday, 21 October 2012

‘I’ll Catch You’ by Jesse Kellerman

Published by Sphere,
11th October 2012.
ISBN: 978-0-7515-4510-4

Arthur Pfefferkorn taught creative writing at a small college on the Eastern Seaboard.  Many years ago Arthur had published a novel called Shades of the Colossus.  His book had received mild acclaim and then died along with his literary aspirations. Conversely his oldest and best friend had turned out to be a bestselling thriller writer.  But now Arthur reads in the paper that his friend William de Vallèe is lost at sea.  Pfefferkorn  realises he hasn’t seen Bill for a long time mainly as he is aware of the envy he feels that Bill had outshone him professionally – he had even married the only woman Pfefferkorn had ever loved.

As he recalls their earlier friendship he feels regret and grief that his own feelings of failure affected their relationship, and when he receives an invitation to the funeral he contacts Bill’s widow, who beeches him to come to the funeral. When he does she encourages him to stay a day or two, and during that time Arthur finds an unpublished manuscript, Bill’s latest book, and in a fit of desire to be famous he steals the book.  In doing so he sets in motion a series of events that will plunge him into a world hitherto unknown to him.  A world where nothing and no one is what they seem. A world of shadows, where no one can be trusted.

Initially I was intrigued by the story of the failed novelist, but then when it got murky I became enthralled in the twists the story was taking, and by the time Arthur entered West Zlabia I was enjoying the humour, but by the time Arthur entered East Zlabia I couldn’t turn the pages for laughing.

I think this is what is called a roller-coaster of emotions.  Well whatever it is called, I loved it.  And page 182, I will read and re-read, if you have ever, loved or hated moustaches, you need to read the description of the man with a moustache that had submoustaches that in turn had sub-submoustaches, each of which might be said to be deserving of its own area code!

A story of failure, success, love, betrayal, espionage, and the subtlety of the double-cross, this book is highly recommended.
Reviewer: Lizzie Hayes

Jesse Kellerman was born in Los Angeles in 1978, to Drs. Jonathan and Faye  Kellerman, were, respectively, a clinical psychologist and a non-practicing dentist, the latter pursuit being a lot like that of a non-practicing Buddhist, insofar as both dentists and Buddhists believe that life is pain. He attended Orthodox Jewish elementary and high schools. Before college he took a year off to study at a men’s religious seminary in Israel.  He then enrolled at Harvard University where he studied psychology, with an emphasis on evolution and antisocial behavior. But his true interest was theater.  Jesse has published four novels: The Executor, The Genius, Trouble and Sunstroke. He also holds a Master’s of Fine Arts in theater. He has won several awards for his writing, including the 2003 Princess Grace Award, given to America’s most promising young playwright, and the 2010 Grand Prix des Lectrices de Elle, for Les Visages (The Genius). He lives with his wife and son in California.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

‘Fallen’ by Karin Slaughter

Publisher Bantam,
October 16, 2012.
ISBN: 978-0-345-54085-0 (PB)

In her eleventh novel, Karin Slaughter brings us back to Georgia. Agent Faith Mitchell, of the Georgia Bureau of Investigations, finds that what started out as a normal workday becomes something else entirely.  [A bit of background:  A cop for 15 years, Faith is a single mom, diabetic, 34 years old, and a former detective with the Atlanta homicide squad; her mother has helped care for Faith’s four-month old baby for the past two months, since Faith went back to work.]  When Faith drives up to the house, she immediately sees a bloody handprint on the front door.  Before the ensuing confrontation is over, three men have been shot to death two at Faith’s hand; she finds her baby locked in a shed; the house has been ransacked; and her mother is missing.  Faith’s mother, a decorated police officer, had been in charge of the narcotics division, and two of the three dead men appear to be members of a local Hispanic gang known to control the drug trade in Atlanta.

Will Trent, Faith’s old partner in the GBI, is handling the investigation; there is a bit of a conflict of interest at work here: Amanda Wagner, the deputy director and his boss, had been the BFF [before the term existed] of Evelyn Mitchell, Faith’s mother, a 63-year-old widow and a cop for nearly forty years, who had been implicated in a sting operation that had been headed by Will, to weed out dirty cops, part of the upshot of which was her forced retirement.

Will has a complex relationship with Sara Linton, formerly a county coroner and now a pediatric attending physician in the emergency department of a local Atlanta hospital.  Widow of the county’s former police chief, at 5’11”, with red hair, Sara is a striking woman.  The ‘complexity’ of her relationship with Will is due to the fact that he is still married, sort of.  The relationship between him and his wife is strange, to say the least.

The plot is intricate, the main characters each strong yet vulnerable; the book is a wholly satisfying, fast read, and it is recommended.
Reviewer: Gloria Feit

Karin Slaughter   is the an internationally bestselling author of several novels, including the Grant County series. A long-time resident of Atlanta, she splits her time between the kitchen and the living room.

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.

Friday, 19 October 2012

‘Tom-All-Alone’s’ by Lynn Shepherd

Published by Corsiar,
6 September 2012.
ISBN: 978-1-78033-169-0
Lynn Shepherds  second novel is a magnificent evocation of Dickensian London in 1850. She begins by taking us through the dark, reeking streets of the slums of Tom-All-Alone, as in the setting of Bleak House, to a cemetery of with her hero, Charles Maddox. The story that is told with sparkling clarity parallels some of Bleak House but also has other Victorian resonances. There is no need to have read Bleak House in order to enjoy this book but, obviously, if you have there is another dimension added to the enjoyment of the tale. The book has its own mysteries to expose so it is not confined to the Dickens palette.

The hero, Charles Maddox, is an educated young man who dabbles knowledgeably in science and is a private detective after an unjust dismissal from the London police. He has a case to investigate when he is contacted by lawyer Edward Tulkinghorn with another query. Other characters tell their stories as Charles works and deals with his own family problems. The horrors of Victorian life for the young and poor are precisely outlined and the author is able to be more honest than Dickens could have been in his own day. The story flows along as the reader becomes caught up with the characters and appreciates the era in which they lived. The denouement is shocking and highly effective. Lynn Shepherd really uses the style of the Nineteenth century while taking a post modernist view of that period.
Reviewer: Jennifer S. Palmer
The book is published as The Solitary House in the USA.

Lynn Shepherd studied English at Oxford in the 1980s, and then went back to do a doctorate in 2003.  After spending 15 years in business, first in the City, and later in PR went freelance in 2000 to see if she could fulfill her dream to be a writer. Ten years and two and a half unpublished novels later, it finally happened. Her first novel Murder at Mansfield Park, a rewriting of Jane Austen's Mansfield Park as a murder mystery, has been well received.  

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.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

‘So Damn Lucky’ By Deborah Coonts

Published by Forge/Tom Doherty Associates, February, 2012.
ISBN: 978-0-7653-3006-2

The opening line of Deborah Coonts’ new book, the third in the Lucky O’Toole series (following Wanna Get Lucky?  And Lucky Stiff),] is eye-catching, to wit:  “Some things in life are best savored alone - - sex is not one of them.”  And that sets the tone of the novel, bringing back the six foot tall Head of Customer Relations at a Las Vegas Strip hotel, i.e., the chief problem solver, hired by Albert Rothstein, owner of several of the biggest hotels in the town, usually just referred to as The Big Boss.  As the book opens, it is October 24th, and things are gearing up for one of the biggest events of the year in Vegas:  the Houdini Séance, held on Halloween, the anniversary of the great magician’s death, attended by most of the tourists who have invaded the town, as well as many prominent magicians

All manner of quirky characters are introduced, probably none more deserving of that description than Lucky’s mother, Mona, owner of Mona’s Place, ‘the self-styled ‘Best Whorehouse in Nevada.’ The family dynamics are unusual, to say the least, but never less than interesting.  Her friends include Federika  ‘Flash’ Gordon, ‘Las Vegas’ most tenacious investigative reporter’  and young LVPD detective Romeo (his name, not a soubriquet).  Much of the early part of the book deals with Lucky’s problem dealing with the fact that her recent love, Vegas’ reigning female impersonator, now a budding rock star, has gone off to Europe to follow his dream, leaving her with “hormonally driven leaps of lust” sparked, literally, by the touch of any one of several male acquaintances and colleagues.  Among the plot points are a top hat, a rabbit, death threats, a vanishing magician, an astronaut who talks to dead people, and a group of believers in “the murky realm of fringe science” attending a UFO conference.

As the author describes it, “Vegas is like Brigadoon - - a magical city that appears when the sun sets and the lights come on, where anything can happen.”  I had not read the earlier entries in the
series and did not know what to expect, but I enjoyed this tale of Lucky and her environs and found it a good summer read.
Reviewer: Gloria Feit
Deborah Coonts, states that she was born a long time ago! And was raised in Texas on barbeque, Mexican food and beer. She currently reside in Las Vegas, where she says her friends assure her that she cannot get into too much trouble. Silly people. 

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.

Monday, 15 October 2012

‘The Stationmaster's Farewell’ by Edward Marston

Published by Allison & Busby, April 2012.
ISBN: 978-0749040215

Joel Heygate, the stationmaster at Exeter Station, is liked and respected by his passengers, staff and employers.  It seems impossible that such a fine man should be murdered, but this is the case and his charred body is discovered on the enormous bonfire that is annually built in Exeter Cathedral close as the people of Exeter celebrate Guy Fawkes night.

The managing director of the railway contacts Scotland Yard and requests that Detective Inspector Robert Colbeck is sent to Exeter to help the local police solve the crime. Colbeck is known to the newspapers, and through them the public, as the Railway Detective, because of his fascination with the railway and his numerous successes in solving railway based crimes.

Colbeck and his sergeant, Victor Leeming, soon discover many people with motives to wish Joel Heygate harm.  These include his ambitious second-in-command at the station, who knows he will never gain promotion while Heygate remains in his post.  Also there is Heygate's wastrel brother and sister-in-law, who have wasted all their business opportunities and expect Heygate to continually supply financial support.  Initially, however, the chief suspect is a thug that Heygate had ejected from Exeter Station; a vicious criminal who swore he'd be revenged.

Even those who loved and admired Joel Heygate cannot be cleared of complicity in his death.  The manageress of Exeter Station Tea Rooms has become so obsessed by her erroneous belief that Heygate returns her affections that his terrible death causes her to suffer a mental breakdown.  Her incarceration leads Colbeck and Leeming to discover the horrors of the local lunatic asylum.

After initial resentment the local police are very helpful but the arrogant Bishop of Exeter is not.  Because the body was discovered in the Cathedral close, the Bishop insists the crime was an attempt to embarrass and intimidate him.  Placating the egotistical Bishop wastes police time and resources, especially when it leads to the arrival in Exeter of Colbeck's boss, Superintendent Tallis.

Colbeck is determined to gain justice for Joel Heygate but he also has a pressing reason to wish to return to London as soon as possible.  The date of his wedding is imminent.  Colbeck is very much in love with Madeleine; torn between love and duty, he fears he will have to postpone their wedding.

The Stationmaster's Farewell is the latest book in the Railway Detective series.  Like all of the books in this series it is well-crafted, with convincing period detail.  There is a lot of information about the Victorian railways, not merely factual but also the social attitudes and prejudices surrounding the railways and their effect on society.  The plot is interesting with a large number of twists and turns.  The relationship between the three Scotland Yard detectives, Colbeck, Leeming and Tallis, is well drawn and continually developing, especially the relationship between Colbeck and the irascible, somewhat jealous, but basically honourable Superintendent Tallis.

The Stationmaster's Farewell is a very good read, as are the earlier books in the series.
Reviewer: Carol Westron

Edward Marston was born and brought up in Wales. He read Modern History at Oxford then lectured in the subject for three years before becoming a full-time freelance writer.  His first historical mystery, The Queen's Head, was published in 1988.  Marston has worked as an actor and director, and once ran his own professional fringe theatre company. He has also taught drama in a prison and worked as a story editor for a film company at Pinewood. He has written over forty original plays for radio, television and the theatre, and hundreds of episodes of drama series. But he now concentrates on developing the various series of crime novels that have come from his pen. Under the pseudonym of Conrad Allen he has written eight nautical mysteries, set during the Edwardian era. The first, Murder on the Lusitania, came out in 1999. As Keith Miles, he is the author of six crime novels whose protagonist is a professional golfer. All the titles have a contemporary setting, each book taking Saxon to a different country. The latest, Honolulu Play-off, was published in 2004. Keith Miles is also the author of Murder in Perspective and Saint's Rest, two architectural mysteries, set in America in the 193Os and featuring Merlin Richards. 

Carol Westron is a successful short story writer and a core contributor to Women's Weekly.  She also writes contemporary and historical crime and is currently looking for an agent or publisher.  An Adult Education teacher, Carol has always maintained that writing and reading fiction is good for people and has spent much of her career facilitating Creative Writing for disabled people.

Saturday, 13 October 2012

‘Blood on the Marsh’ by Peter Tickler

Published by Robert Hale,
28 September 2012.
ISBN: 978-0-7090-9907-9

On her first day back at Cowley station following a period of extended leave, Detective Inspector Susan Holden has a suspicious death to investigate.  An elderly lady in Sunnymede Care Home has died from suspected heart failure, but the autopsy has revealed a high level of morphine.   

With Sergeant Fox, Susan Holden heads off to speak to the staff at the care home. On the surface the home looks reasonably well-run and normal, but as Susan and her team dig deeper they find that things are not as they initially appeared.  One of the staff has been suspended, and certain staff relations are strained.  And when they speak with the family of the deceased they meet with hostility and anger, much of it directed at Fran Sinclair, the assistant manager of the care home.

Whilst the team’s initial enquires were tentative owing to the possibility of accidental death, the second death is definitely murder, so the direction of the investigation changes. 

For all you lovers of the ‘whodunit’, this is a must read.  As Susan Holden and her team delve into the lives of the family, the care home and the visiting doctors, surprising things come to light. As the reader becomes gripped with the investigation, we also learn more of the lives of Susan Holden and her team, Sergeant Fox, and the police constables Lawton and Wilson.  A well-rounded, cleverly plotted mystery, set in that capital of crime – Oxford.

The story is told by multiple voices, interspersed by a first person narrative by David Wright.  Blood on the Marsh is the third in the series, and I eagerly await the fourth.
Reviewer: Lizzie Hayes
Earlier books in the Oxford series are, Blood on the Cowley Road, and Blood in Grandpont.

Peter Tickler has lived and worked in Oxford for nearly thirty years. He also studied at Oxford, reading classics at Keble College.  Previously a successful non-fiction author, Tickler turned his hand to novels in 2008.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

‘The Sins of the Father’ by C B Hanley

Published by The Mystery Press, 2012.
ISBN: 978-1-7524-8091-6 (PB)

1217. England is in a parlous state, still recovering from the cruel and tyrannical rule of King John, its present king a child, John’s son Henry III placed on the throne by King Louis of France wishing to dominate England in France’s interests. But Henry is now under the guardianship of William Marshall Earl of Pembroke, fighting to throw off the French yoke. The other great nobles of England are jockeying for power. One of these is William de Warenne, Earl of Sussex; another is Ralph de Courteville, Earl of Sheffield. When de Courteville arrives uninvited with his entourage at de Warenne’s castle of Coningsbrough in Yorkshire, he is less than welcome but de Warenne dare not offend him since he knows that de Courteville is looking for an excuse to blacken his name with the Earl Marshall and thereby add de Warenne’s lands to his own. So when de Courteville  is  found, his throat cut, on the top of the castle’s tower, it is imperative that de Warenne, to save himself from being implicated in de Courteville’s death, find the murderer. Such an investigation would normally, under the customs of the time, be carried out by the castle’s bailiff but he is gravely ill and de Warenne calls upon the bailiff’s son Edwin Weaver to carry this out in his father‘s place; moreover, it must be done by sunset of the next day. Edwin is highly clever and observant (and can read - unusual among all classes at this time) but the task is nearly beyond him. However, succeed he does, although at the cost of great sadness to himself.
This is a well-written work of meticulous scholarship. The author, whose first novel this is, has a Ph.D. in mediaeval studies and has used her knowledge to good effect, while not allowing the story to become bogged down in historical facts and period detail.
Reviewer: Radmila May

C B Hanley (who also writes as Catherine Hanley) was born in Australia; since moving to the UK she has lived in Somerset and Sheffield, and is currently based in the Midlands with her husband and three children. Her love of medieval studies led to a PhD and a number of academic and non-fiction publications, but she decided that writing fiction was more fun.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

‘The Boy in the Snow’ by M J McGrath

Published by Mantle,
11 October 2012.
ISBN: 978-0-2307-4819-4

In this story, Arctic guide Inuit Edie Kiglatuk is away from the Canadian High Arctic and is in Alaska to support her ex-husband Sammy as he sets out on the gruelling 14-day Idatrod dogsled race which takes place annually in early March. But on her way by snowmobile through the Alaskan forest Edie makes a shocking and tragic discovery: the frozen body of a tiny baby boy in a little model house. The local police are anxious - too anxious - to connect the death to the so-called cult of the Dark Believers, an alleged breakaway from the Old Believers who themselves broke away from the Russian Orthodox Church centuries ago and established themselves in North America but have always remained rigidly apart from the communities around them since they believe that modern life is deeply corrupting. But Edie, although urged by her friends to leave the investigation to the authorities and frequently warned by the police not to interfere, is not convinced that the man arrested, who is an Old Believer, is responsible for the death. Her investigations lead her to the links between certain local politicians, currently heavily involved in the election for the Alaskan State Governorship, and the sex trafficking of very young Russian girls and an illegal forced adoption racket.
The context, the icy Arctic weather with its blizzards, is all-important as is the relationship between the Inuit people and the natural and the spirit world. Edie is led to the little boy’s body by a spirit bear, the little house in which the corpse is laid out is a spirit house, of deep significance to the native Athabascans, and she frequently converses with the spirits of the dead.
Reviewer: Radmila May
The author’s first book, White Heat, was long listed for the Crime Writers’ Association Gold Dagger; she has also written a number of non-fiction books

M J McGrath was born in Romford, Essex, the third of four children. Parents, Peter and Margaret, had moved out of East London some time before, looking for a quieter, more spacious life. They thought of themselves as upwardly mobile, which they were. They moved a lot first to Basildon in Essex, then to a village in Germany, from there Kent, then north to Lancashire, south again to Buckinghamshire and so on. Melanie tried pretty much every kind of school, from German kindergarten through catholic convent to bog standard state grammar. After graduating high school with a mixture of arts and science A-levels, she won a place at Oxford to study Politics, Philosophy and Economics. After graduation, Melanie worked in book publishing, turning to writing at first part-time then full time in my late twenties. Now a full time writer, and. after spells living in Las Vegas, Nevada and Nicaragua, Melanie is for the time being settled in London and on the Kent coast.