Recent Events

Friday, 24 March 2017

Simon & Schuster Crime Showcase.

22 March 2017

Phoenix Artist Club
1 Phoenix St. London


Authors attending

Kate Rhodes
RJ Bailey
Chris Carter
Sandrone Dazieri
Alan Judd
Sophie McKenzie
Craig Robertson
Mikel Santiago
Sarah Vaughan
Luca Veste
Andrew Wilson

A fun evening was had by all.

‘The Witchfinder's Sister by Beth Underdown

Published by Viking, 
2 March 2017. 
ISBN: 978-0-241-97803-0 (HB)

Matthew Hopkins, dubbed the Witchfinder General, has to qualify as one of history's most notorious characters. He was directly responsible for the deaths of over a hundred women in East Anglia in the mid-17th century, all convicted of witchcraft on his say-so and little actual evidence.

Beth Underdown's account of his travels through Essex and Suffolk, seeking out women accused by other people who clearly had a grudge against them, is told through the eyes of his fictional sister Alice. She returns to her birthplace after an unspecified number of years, widowed, pregnant and with little choice other than to throw herself on her brother's charity – which comes at a price. She is required to accompany him, and examine the accused women for 'witch's marks', a task she carries out reluctantly and with great scepticism.

Matthew bears the scars of a horrific childhood accident, and it is strongly implied that there are worse scars of an emotional and psychological kind, not all them caused by the accident. Whatever his motivation, he soon becomes the most hated man in the area; Alice's attempts to temper his excesses meet with little success, and she suffers both for him and with him.

It's hard to credit that this compellingly disturbing tale is Beth Underdown's debut novel – though her background as a lecturer in creative writing indicates a lot of experience in wordcraft. She contrives to give Alice's voice the ring of 17th century truth, but with a clarity and punch which belongs firmly in 2017. Her characters, especially the women, both victims and lookers-on, sit comfortably in the roles she creates for them, and the sense of place is almost tactile.

The plot is not so much plot as account of the travesties Matthew Hopkins perpetrated, laced with background from the past he shares with Alice, and her own recent history – though there is a story arc, and a climactic moment when Alice reaches the end of any semblance of patience and understanding. There is even a tiny twist at the very end, designed, I'm sure, to make the alert reader give a little gasp as the future reveals itself.

The Witchfinder's Sister is as accomplished a debut novel as they come; the history feels right, and the powerful narrative holds the reader in thrall right to the final page.
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick

Beth Underdown was born in Rochdale in 1987. She studied at the University of York and then the University of Manchester, where she is now a Lecturer in Creative Writing.
The Witchfinder’s Sister is her debut novel, and is based on the life of the 1640s witch finder Matthew Hopkins.  She first came across him while reading a book about seventeenth-century midwifery. As you do.

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.

‘Beyond all Doubt' by Paige Elizabeth Turner

Published by Matador,
28 January 2017.
ISBN 978-1-78589-884-6

The book starts with an undetected murder, described by the murderer!  Not surprising for a crime fiction book, of course, but the reader is left in a situation where the murder and its consequences run in parallel with the detection.  The DI is Michael Marchant, a somewhat unappealing middle aged man with some antediluvian attitudes.  Working with him is DS Olivia Watts, a bright girl whose insights are not always welcomed by Marchant.

The victim is identified by her fiancé, Trevor Taylor, and the team soon work out that she fell from a cruise boat on the river Avon.  There is a further death of a girl in Evesham who was stabbed outside a local pub.  While Marchant investigates the cruise boat owner and captain, Olivia makes further investigations into the first victim's fiancé.

After a third death an arrest is made and a tense trial ensues.  The verdict is reached with some difficulty in the jury room but then further complications follow.  The story is well told though the atmosphere is bleak.
Reviewer: Jennifer S. Palmer
Paige Elizabeth Turner already has a follow up adventure for Olivia in the pipeline.

Paige Elizabeth Turner has worked across a variety of industries from retail fashion through to transport police. Those roles, interacting with most sectors of the public and legal system, have equipped Paige with the necessary knowledge to develop the plot and characters of her novel. Paige has supported that experience with specific writing studies.

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, 22 March 2017

‘Fifth Column’ by David R. Ewens

Published by Grosvenor House Publishing,
20 September 2016.
ISBN: 978-1-78263-027-0 (PB)

This is the fourth in the author’s series featuring private investigator Frank Sterling who operates from the fictitious East Kent seaside town of Sandley. It opens with Sterling’s friend Mike Strange, former spy but keeping a pub also in Sandley, meeting in a café in Waterloo with a man called Mohamed. Mohamed has, it appears, infiltrated a terrorist gang, motivated not by ideology nor by religious zeal, but purely by money, to carry out terrorist attacks for whoever pays them. This time, it appears, the planned target is somewhere on the south coast but what and when is contained on several password-protected memory sticks which Mohamed passes on to Strange. But Strange becomes aware that he is being followed and so when he returns to Sandley he passes the memory sticks to Sterling before his pursuers can catch him. Now it is Sterling who must evade capture, and who is in peril especially when Strange’s pursuers catch up with Strange and torture him until, under extreme duress, he discloses that the sticks have been passed to Sterling. So Sterling has to go on the run and, although he is able to depend on various friends including his teenage sweetheart Stacey Sunnington, now divorced and with a computer-savvy teenage daughter Olivia, time and time again he has to rely on his own courage and resourcefulness until his adventures achieve a successful but unexpected conclusion.

I think that, apart from the Waterloo station café, all the locations are fictitious. They are, however, vivid and meticulously imagined, perhaps based on real-life East Kent towns. The many characters are also strong, realistic and many-faceted. This is a lively and fast-paced read.
Reviewer: Radmila May

David R Ewens was born in Scotland and spent an early short part of his life in Australia. Subsequently he was brought up and received his full time education in East Anglia. He lives and writes in Kent, where he has been based for many years. After a career in further and adult education, including work in policy and research, he has written four novels and some short stories.
His writing has been influenced by lifelong experience of progressive deafness, eased recently by a cochlear implant.

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, 17 March 2017

‘Purged’ by Peter Laws

Published by Allison and Busby,
16 February 2017.
ISBN 978-0-7490-2078-1

Professor Matt Hunter is on sabbatical, supposedly writing a book. A few years earlier, before he lost his faith, Matt had been an ordained minister and worked for an evangelical church. Now an academic sociologist, Matt occasionally helps the police with situations that have a religious connection. Matt is married to Wren and has a sixteen-year-old stepdaughter, Lucy, with whom he has a challenging relationship, and a seven-year-old daughter, Amelia.

Wren is an architect, and when she is invited to tender for the contract to extend and modernize a church in a village near Oxford the family is particularly delighted - the invitation comes with the wonderful offer of a free holiday in a local cottage. So, on a hot summers day the family pile into their car and head for Oxfordshire. The village is idyllic, but slightly unusual for the multiplicity of wooden crosses that adorn many of its houses and shops. And despite the facts that there are no curtains at any of its windows, and it is surrounded by woodland, the family thinks the cottage is just perfect.

Seth Cardle, Wren’s contact for the work she might do, and Ben, whom seems a pleasant lad, welcome the family at the cottage.  It transpires that Ben is the son of the local pastor, Chris Kelly, an overly enthusiastic Christian whom Matt had trained with and befriended when they’d been at theological college together. The invitation to Wren and her family had not been as straightforward as they had imagined! Chris believes that Matt is heading for hell and has deliberately tracked Wren and Matt down in an effort to reconcile Matt to God.

No sooner had the family arrived in the village than a fourteen–year-old girl goes missing.  Was this the one whose drowning/ baptism was described over eight pages in the first chapter of the book and whose picture is mysteriously e-mailed to Matt?  Another picture and another “holy” drowning occurs against a background of much joyful praising of Jesus led by the ever ardent Chris Kelly.  The tension rises as Matt, who has already sought help from a buddy, DS Larry Forbes, comes under suspicion from the local bobby, and Lucy runs into danger.

People who like “holy” combined with the macabre will love this book.  There are relatively few characters so the plot is easy to follow. But beware; there is a wicked twist at the end.  All is definitely not what it seems in Purged.
Reviewer Angela Crowther

Peter Laws is an ordained Baptist minister with a taste for the macabre. He writes a monthly column in The Fortean Times and also hosts the popular podcast and YouTube show The Flicks That Church Forgot which reviews thriller and horror films from a theological perspective. He regularly speaks and preaches at churches and events. He lives with his family in Bedfordshire.

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.