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Thursday, 30 June 2016

‘Long Time Lost’ by Chris Ewan

Published by Faber & Faber, 
5 May 2016.
ISBN 978-0-571-30747-0

Nick Miller is – we think – a good man who spends his time providing new identities for people who are at risk from those who wish to hurt them. He is good at this because, until a few years ago, he did it officially as second in command of the Greater Manchester Police Protection Unit.  Nowadays, helped by an actress, Becca and a young tech whizz, Hanson, he does it clandestinely.

Following the deaths of Nick’s wife Sarah and their teenage daughter Melanie – we are told that they were shot dead and then rendered unrecognisable when their home was set on fire - Nick goes into hiding.  Most people believe that this was simply the reaction of a broken, grieving man, but Detective Sergeant Jennifer Lloyd thinks it’s because Nick killed Sarah and Melanie.

Nick believes that Melanie was shot to prevent her giving evidence at the Rape Trail of Russell Lane. Russell is in prison, but his elder brother, Conner, is a ruthless criminal and he and his henchmen will stop at nothing, including the systematic killing of all the potential witnesses, to prevent the trial from ever coming to court. Kate Sutherland is one of those endangered witnesses.

The action starts on the Isle of Man where, with a high degree of difficulty, Nick manages to persuade Kate that she is in danger.   After that the action, along with various combinations of the characters, moves at speed to Weston-super- Mare, Hamburg, Rome, Arles, Prague and Brienz in Switzerland before finally returning to Lake Windermere in England’s lake district.

This book reminded me of a Bond film, only one that is populated with far more interesting, likeable and believable characters than Bond films ever are. True, the heroine Kate is stunning to look at, though the same could certainly not be said for Nick.  His limbs are apparently the size of tree trunks, but this does not seem to stop everybody in sight – except of course DS Jennifer Lloyd – from worshipping the man.  And yes, amidst all the death and destruction, there is romance.  In fact the story is so well told that it doesn’t really need to be made into a film.  You can picture it all, including the gruesome bits, for yourself.  If you enjoy fast-paced, action packed stories, long time lost, is a must read for you.
Reviewer: Angela Crowther

Chris Ewan was born in Taunton in 1976, Chris graduated from the University of Nottingham with 1st Class Honours in American Studies with a minor in Canadian Literature, and later trained as a lawyer. He is an award-winning British author of eight novels. Chris was voted one of America's favourite British authors by a Huffington Post poll. He now lives on the Isle of Man with his wife, daughter and labrador, where he writes full time.

You can can also get in touch with Chris on Twitter @chrisewan or
email him at

Angela Crowther is a retired scientist.  She has published many scientific papers but, as yet, no crime fiction.  In her spare time Angela belongs to a Handbell Ringing group, goes country dancing and enjoys listening to music, particularly the operas of Verdi and Wagner.

‘Six Four’ by Hideo Yokoyama

Published by Quercus
3 March 2016.
ISBN: 978-1-84866 (HB)
978-1-84866-526-2 (TPB)  978-1-78429-984-2 (EB)

Six Four was Japan’s most infamous kidnapping that went wrong, ending in the tortured death of a child. Now Tokyo wants to re-open the case with a visit of the commissioner to the associated sites, including the child’s home – and Mikami, ex-detective transferred to Media Director, has to persuade the father to co-operate. Then there’s another kidnapping.

This summary makes the plot sound snappier than it is. This is a long book, and the first two-thirds focus on Mikami’s own difficulties: reluctantly sidelined from Criminal Division to Media Director, he’s locked in a battle with the press over trust. As he attempts to persuade the kidnapped child’s father to allow the comissioner’s visit, he’s drawn into investigating why the case failed fourteen years ago, and gradually realises that Administrative Affairs and Criminal Division are using Six Four to bring each other down. The second kidnap then happens, and the strands of the plot draw together to the final twist, which gave a satisfying ending, although the key clue didn’t work in translation. To Western eyes, Mikami isn’t as maverick as Rankin's John Rebus, but in his hierarchical society he’s willing to challenge authority, disobey orders and keep asking questions. We also sympathise with his family situation: his daughter is missing, and the only thing he shares with his withdrawn wife, Minako, is their refusal to contemplate her death. Mikami grows in stature through the novel, resolving his personal tension between his former life as a detective and his new posting. He and Minako also come to terms with the loss of their daughter. There are frequent, fascinating snippets of information about Japanese life as well as a clear picture of the completely different police structure. This was a long read, at 634 pages (the back of the book suggests the final printing will be in two volumes, which will be easier to hold) and you might want to make an aide-memoire of the characters as you read – there are a lot of similar names, and a large cast as Mikami moves through the department searching for answers.

A lengthy novel of political intrigue set against Mikami’s need to find his own way once more, and an interesting, in-depth look at Japanese police culture.
Reviewer: Marsali Taylor

Hideo Yokoyama was born 1957. He is known for his career as journalist for the Jomo Shimbun, the regional paper in  Gunma. Yokoyama specialises in mystery novels. In January 2003 he was hospitalised following a heart attack said to have been brought on by working constantly for 72 hours. Six Four is his sixth novel.

Marsali Taylor grew up near Edinburgh, and came to Shetland as a newly-qualified teacher. She is currently a part-time teacher on Shetland's scenic west side, living with her husband and two Shetland ponies. Marsali is a qualified STGA tourist-guide who is fascinated by history, and has published plays in Shetland's distinctive dialect, as well as a history of women's suffrage in Shetland. She's also a keen sailor who enjoys exploring in her own 8m yacht, and an active member of her local drama group.  Marsali also does a regular monthly column for the Mystery People e-zine.

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

‘Guilt in the Cotswolds’ by Rebecca Tope

Published by Allison & Busby,
May 2016.
ISBN: 978-0-7490-1904-4(HB)

Until I read this book, I never dreamed that house-sitting could be such an exciting – or potentially dangerous – occupation. It’s the fourteenth – yes, the fourteenth – in a series of cosy ‘village mysteries’, in which Thea Osborne takes care of houses for their absent owners, and apparently keeps on tripping over bodies which have met their end by unnatural means.

This time the victim is Thea’s employer, who has availed himself of her services not to house-sit, exactly, but to make an inventory of many decades-worth of intriguing belongings which have accumulated in the former home of his 90-year-old mother. He goes missing when Thea has been in residence for only a day or two, and his body turns up in a picturesque barn which she and her partner Drew decide to explore during a brief excursion.

Was his death suicide, as the police are happy to assume? Or is the truth rather more sinister, and Thea and Drew fear? When various relatives start taking an interest and the family’s past proves to be a mystery in itself, the plot thickens up nicely, with plenty of red herrings.

Rebecca Tope’s first great strength is her characters, who are all the kind who it’s quite possible to imagine having a life off the page. I especially liked Rita, the 90-year-old who takes feistiness to a whole new level; if I reach that venerable age, that’s how I want to be.

Just as well realized is the setting. I don’t know if villages like Chedworth and Blockley actually exist, but they certainly feel as if they could, and doubtless similar places do. Chedworth in particular, with its convoluted lanes and confusing signposts, is the kind of place I’ve been lost in more than once.

Add to that a few circumstantial details like knowledge about ‘green’ burials, and how much an undertaker can deduce about the way a dead body met its end, and the result is a story with plenty of warmth, and a feeling that it’s not necessary to suspend disbelief very far to imagine something similar happening in reality. 

For the lover of cosy crime, this is a series to look for. The implication towards the end was that Thea was about to abandon house-sitting in favour of a different kind of life with Drew; if that’s the author’s true intention, I hope the characters will live on.
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick

Rebecca Tope is the author of four popular murder mystery series, featuring Den Cooper, Devon police detective, Drew Slocombe, Undertaker, Thea Osborne, house sitter in the Cotswolds, and more recently Persimmon (Simmy) Brown, a florist. Rebecca grew up on farms, first in Cheshire then in Devon, and now lives in rural Herefordshire on a smallholding situated close to the beautiful Black Mountains.
Besides "ghost writer" of the novels based on the ITV series Rosemary and Thyme. Rebecca is also the proprietor of a small press - Praxis Books. This was established in 1992

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.

‘Classic At Bay’ by Amy Myers

Published by Published by Severn House,
31 March 2016. 
ISBN: 978-0-7278-8608-8

Jack Colby owns and runs his classic car repair business from his home at Frogs Hill in Kent. He also works as a consultant for the Kent Car Crime Unit whenever a crime seems to be within his field of expertise. Jack has heard of Adora Ferne, who in the Sixties was a notorious cabaret singer at a London club called The Three Parrots, but Jack's main interest in her is that she possesses twelve classic Jaguar cars. Rumour has it that Adora was given these cars by her ex-lovers and ex-husbands and Jack is surprised when Adora's manager, Danny Carter, commissions him to approach the Earl of Storrington with an offer to buy his rare Jaguar sports car: 'the thirteenth car'. Jack finds the Earl charming and civilised but resolute in his refusal to sell his car and Jack suspects that the Earl had also once been one of Adora's lovers.

When Jack reports back to Adora, he is told that she has been receiving anonymous letters and death threats, which Jack reports to the police. Soon after this the first death occurs, but it is not Adora who dies.

Jack works with the Kent Police to discover the truth behind the murder, which he believes is tied to the past and what happened at the Three Parrots fifty years previously, when one of Adora's lovers had been killed. He tries to discover the truth behind the twelve beautiful Jaguars and the men who donated them and the secret behind the elusive thirteenth car, but perhaps the greatest mystery of all that puzzles Jack is the character of Adora and whether she is a blackmailer or an enchantress. As the death toll mounts, Jack knows he has to discover the truth quickly before Adora also becomes a victim.

Classic at Bay is the eighth book in the series featuring Jack Colby. It is a delightful read, with well-drawn, likeable characters, many of whom are old friends from previous books, and a fascinating, multi-layered plot. This a page-turner and I recommend it.
Reviewer: Carol Westron

Amy Myers worked as a director in a London publishing firm, before realising her dream to become a writer. Her first series featured detective, August Didier, a half French, half English master chef in late Victorian and Edwardian times. She is currently writing a series with her American husband James Myers, featuring Jack Colby, car detective.  Classic in the Pits, is the fifth in the series, its successor, Classic Cashes In, will follow later this year.  Amy also writes historical novels and suspense under the name Harriet Hudson.

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.