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Tuesday, 20 March 2018

‘Racing the Devil’ by Charles Todd

Published by William Morrow Reprint edition,
25 January 2018.
ISBN: 978-006238622-9 (PB)

It all begins on the eve of the Battle of the Somme offensive during WWI when a group of officers gathered in a barn to relax before facing the carnage to come.  As they parted, the men agreed to meet in Paris a year after the war’s end and race each other to Nice.  And so, it comes to pass as they come together at the Ritz in 1919.  All but one makes it to southern France. The lone driver, Standish, is forced off a narrow road, crashes, and ends up in the hospital, his car wrecked and he having sustained multiple injuries and the loss of one hand.

A year later, back in England, a rector driving Standish’s auto suffers the same fate, forced off the road and crashing, but less fortunate, since he suffers a broken neck and dies.  In investigating the death, Inspector Rutledge determines this was no accident, but a case of murder.  The question, of course, to be answered: are the two “accidents” related?  As Rutledge plows slowly through his inquiries, further events broaden the investigation until he pieces all the elements together to solve the mystery.

This novel is the 18th in this fine series, one of two (the other features Bess Crawford, who makes a cameo performance in Racing the Devil) by the mother-and-son writing team authors.  Each series takes place in a historical time period, not only presenting the reader with accurate descriptions of the period (for instance, in this novel, automobiles just making their appearance on the scene) but first-class mysteries as well.  Also in this effort are graphic descriptions of the horrors of the trenches in the Great War.
Reviewed by Theodore Feit

Charles and Caroline Todd are a mother-and-son writing team who live on the east coast of the United States. Caroline has a BA in English Literature and History, and a Masters in International Relations. Charles has a BA in Communication Studies with an emphasis on Business Management, and a culinary arts degree. Caroline has been married (to the same man) for umpteen years, and Charles is divorced.
Charles and Caroline have a rich storytelling heritage. Both spent many evenings on the porch listening to their fathers and grandfathers reminisce. And a maternal grandmother told marvellous ghost stories. This tradition allows them to write with passion about events before their own time. And an uncle/great-uncle who served as a flyer in WWI aroused an early interest in the Great War.
Charles's love of history led him to a study of some of the wars that shape it: the American Civil War, WWI and WWII. Charles had a career as a business consultant. This experience gave him an understanding of going to troubled places where no one was glad to see him arrive. This was excellent training for Rutledge's reception as he tries to find a killer in spite of local resistance.
Caroline has always been a great reader and enjoyed reading aloud, especially poetry that told a story. The Highwayman was one of her early favorites. Her wars are WWI, the Boer War, and the English Civil War, with a sneaking appreciation of the Wars of the Roses as well. When she's not writing, she's traveling the world, gardening, or painting in oils. Her background in international affairs backs up her interest in world events.
Writing together is a challenge, and both enjoy giving the other a hard time. The famous quote is that in revenge, Charles crashes Caroline's computer, and Caroline crashes his parties. Will they survive to write more novels together? Stay tuned! Their father/husband is holding the bets.

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.

‘Eighteen Below’ by Stefan Ahnhem

Published by Head of Zeus,
11 January 2018.
ISBN: 978-1-78497-556-2 (HB)

A police car chase ends in the speeding car plunging into the cold waters off Helsingborg. The driver is Peter Brise, a shining light in Swedish IT companies, and he’s dead ... except that an autopsy finds he’s been dead for two months, and his body kept frozen.

This lengthy crime novel gives us not one but two separate investigations, linked by the characters involved in them. Swedish inspector Fabian Risk is working on the case of Peter Brise, and soon finds out that the two-month dead man has been having business meetings until recently – selling off his estate, and squirrelling the proceeds away. It’s a case of identity fraud, and soon Fabian and his team are on the trail of a ruthless, and very clever killer. On the other side of the sound that separates Sweden and Denmark, in Helsingor, morning shoppers are horrified by a girl who is covered in blood appearing among them. Disgraced cop Dunja Hougaard is given the task of finding her – and in spite of a higher-up former colleage who’s got in in for her, she finds where the blood came from – a dead homeless person who has been savagely beaten. Looking up other assault cases, she finds several similar ones, and fears that “happy slapping’ – assaulting someone and recording it for posting on YouTube – has come to Denmark. Both investigations become complex, nearly everyone is in danger at some point, and there’s a high body count. The chapters are short, 3-5 pages, and the action constant. We’re also drawn into the main characters’ private lives – Dunja’s feud with her former boss, and Fabian’s difficulties with his wife and teenage children. The ending keeps up the idea of doubles, with not one but two teaser lead-ins to the next novel.

A fast-moving Scandi PP with interesting characters – great for making that long journey pass more quickly.

Reviewer: Marsali Taylor

Stefan Ahnhem  has been working as a screenwriter for over twenty years. He has worked in both TV and film, with everything from comedy to thriller and with original ideas as well as adaptations.  In 2014 he debuted with Victim Without a Face.  Since then two more novels about the murder investigator Fabian Risk have been released. He lives in Copenhagen.

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.

Click on the title to read a review of her recent book Death in Shetland Waters

Sunday, 18 March 2018

‘The Nemesis File’ by James Morley

Published by Benhams Books,
3 October 2004.
ISBN: 978-0-95488800-8(PB)
Forty-five-year-old Steve Simpson, ex-Olympic sailor manages a sail making firm in Chichester, Sussex. He lives with his daughter Sarah and is still grieving his wife who died of cancer. On the second anniversary of her death he learns that a bid has been made by a Company, Winterbirch for the sail making business. It is headed by a Kenneth Lindgrune who is known to the police as a bit of a crook, but they have never been able to prove anything. Winterbirch also has dealings in Copenhagen, and Lindgrune spends quite a bit of his time there.

Later that day Steve and Sarah, also a keen sailor, take their sloop out and to their horror find a body floating in the water. His neck is broken and foul play is suspected. Sarah recognises him from a party held by her friend Francine's, Lindgrune's step daughter. The body is identified as a Per Elgaad from Denmark.

Steve is invited to Copenhagen for a get together of old Olympians. Whilst there and with an old friend of his, Chris, who has had a bad experience concerning Lindgrune, determines Steve to find more information on Lindgrune. This is with the full blessing of the British Police.
They stay with old friends of Steve's from his boat racing days and they know of Lindgrune and his shady dealings. Steve and Chris discover that Lindgrune has close contact with the Elgaad family who own the largest chemical company in Denmark.

The Elgaads are known to have supplied the Germans during the war and are hated for it. The head of the Company is a Kaj Elgaad, the father of Per, and as Steve and Chris make their enquiries it becomes obvious Lindgrune has a hold of some sort over Kaj. What terrible secret can he have discovered about him?
Kaj's niece Kirsten flies back to England with Steve, she knew Per well and between them they uncover evidence of a new drug on the market that he invented. Could this have contributed to his death?

Then there are more deaths and Steve is sure Lindgrune is connected to these crimes in some way. However, proving it is another matter entirely. The whole story culminates in a desperate boat race in a raging gale, which can only end in tragedy.

Right from the Prologue this book moves along at a great pace, like a yacht in full sail. James Morley obviously knows his stuff and I found it all the more interesting as I love the sea and have been to Copenhagen and the places around Chichester mentioned.

As a comment made at the back of the book says it is vital not to read the Epilogue before finishing the story. Recommended especially for those with a love of boats and the sea.
Reviewer: Tricia Chappell

James Morley sis a local author, writing books under the name Benham's Sea Mysteries. Retired from an agricultural background Jim has been writing books since 2005. He is well known in the local area for his novels, short stories and publicity writing. He is chairman of Petersfield Writers’ Circle, and an active member of his local book club. Jim lives in Liss in Hampshire, a widower, in an untidy house filled with books and computers. Jim is a member of the UK Society of Authors, and Mystery People.

Tricia Chappell. I have a great love of books and reading, especially crime and thrillers. I play the occasional game of golf (when I am not reading). My great love is cruising especially to far flung places, when there are long days at sea for plenty more reading! I am really enjoying reviewing books and have found lots of great new authors.