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Thursday, 19 April 2018

‘A Hole in One’ by Judy Penz Sheluk

Published by Barking Rain Press,
6 March 2018.
ISBN: 978-1-94129573-1

Antiques dealer Arabella Carpenter has been persuaded to sponsor a “hole in one” prize at a charitable golf tournament. When a corpse turns up at the third hole, she fears her ex-husband, Levon, may be involved...

This cosy novel follows the adventures of Arabella and her partner, Emily, a former journalist, as they become involved in the murder, and set out to track down the killer. The police are involved, but the focus is on Arabella and the people she meets: fellow antique-dealers, the shopkeepers and cafe owners of her small town, and the people involved with the tournament. It turns out that the dead man has been renting a boat under another name – that of Emily’s ex-fiance, giving another lead in the investigation. Arabella’s also finding herself drawn to her ex-husband again. The characters all felt like real people, and I really enjoyed the evocation of the small towns near Toronto, and the antiques background. This is the second novel in the Glass Dolphin series, and though it reads well as a stand-alone, you might like to start with the first in the series, The Hanged Man’s Noose.

A cheerful cosy with a good mix of real-feeling characters and suspense in a small-town setting.
Reviewer: Marsali Taylor

Judy Penz Sheluk's debut amateur sleuth mystery novel, The Hanged Man's Noose, was published in July 2015 by Barking Rain Press ( Skeletons in the Attic, the first book in her Marketville series, was released in August 2016 by Imajin Books. Judy's short crime fiction can be found in World Enough and Crime (Carrick Publishing), The Whole She-Bang 2 (Toronto Sisters in Crime), Flash and Bang (Untreed Reads) and Live Free or Tri: a collection of three short mystery stories. In her less mysterious pursuits, Judy works as a freelance writer, specializing in art, antiques and the residential housing industry; her articles have appeared regularly in dozens of U.S. and Canadian consumer and trade publications. She is currently the Editor of Home BUILDER Magazine, and the Senior Editor for New England Antiques Journal.  Judy is also a member of Sisters in Crime International/Guppies/Toronto, Crime Writers of Canada, International Thriller Writers, and the Short Mystery Fiction Society.

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

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

‘Dead in the Dark by Stephen Booth

Published by Sphere,
17 May 2018.
ISBN: 978-0-7515-6757-1 (PB)

Reading one of Stephen Booth's Cooper and Fry novels is like enjoying a walk through the glorious Peak District landscape, then – shock! horror! – coming across a dead body.

In Dead in the Dark, the seventeenth in this highly readable series, the body, or one of them, appears in the opening pages, though at that stage it's not quite dead. There's another, later, and possibly a third, so no harm is done to Booth's reputation for exposing the Peak District's dark heart as well as its bleak splendour.

For anyone who has grown familiar with the characters, there's plenty to enjoy aside from descriptions of those brooding moors and sheep-strewn hillsides. Ben Cooper is settling into his role as detective inspector in the fictional town of Edendale and is even casting an eye over the opposite sex again after the tragedy which felled him a few books ago. Diane Fry, still a detective sergeant but tackling bigger issues than Ben at the East Midlands' major crime unit in Nottingham, is faced with a murder alongside a wider ongoing enquiry. Old-style copper Gavin Murfin is now semi-retired, and a civilian support worker. DC Carol Villiers is getting twitchy as promotion seems to elude her. And Fry's sister Angie still hovers around her despite the dubious welcome she receives.

Booth clearly keeps his research up to date. The way policing works is constantly changing, and Edendale has moved with the times. Detective Superintendent Hazel Branagh, Ben Cooper's boss and a key figure in this book, has moved to Chesterfield, and Ben's team is little more than a skeleton. Which makes things tricky when DS Branagh asks him to prioritize a missing person over a series of armed robberies, for reasons which are clearly personal. And when it turns out that there's some crossover between the Edendale caseload and Fry's murder over in Shirebrook, Ben seems to be working flat out despite overtime restrictions.

As ever, Stephen Booth weaves all these elements into a seamless storyline set against that wonderful landscape – and even that has a powerful role to play in the investigation. What's more, newcomers to the series needn't be concerned about picking up the threads, despite the ongoing characters' strong backstory; although knowing what's gone before enriches the story, it doesn't get in the way of a taut, cohesive plot, and the characters still come across as rounded people.

I've been a fan of this series from the beginning, and it seems to grow richer and more complex with each volume – though in the highly readable, page turning way than comes from the pen of an author with both experience and a huge talent with words.
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick
Stephen Booth was born in the English Pennine mill town of Burnley. He was brought up on the Lancashire coast at Blackpool, where he attended Arnold School. He began his career in journalism by editing his school magazine and wrote his first novel at the age of 12. After graduating from City of Birmingham Polytechnic (now Birmingham University), Stephen moved to Manchester to train as a teacher, but escaped from the profession after a terrifying spell as a trainee teacher in a big city comprehensive school.  Starting work on his first newspaper in Wilmslow, Cheshire, in 1974, Stephen was a specialist rugby union reporter, as well as working night shifts as a sub-editor on the Daily Express and The Guardian. This was followed by periods with local newspapers in Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire. He was at various times Production Editor of the Farming Guardian magazine, Regional Secretary of the British Guild of Editors, and one of the UK's first qualified assessors for the NVQ in Production Journalism.  Freelance work began with rugby reports for national newspapers and local radio stations. Stephen has also had articles and photographs published in a wide range of specialist magazines, from Scottish Memories to Countrylovers Magazine, from Cat World to Canal and Riverboat, and one short story broadcast on BBC radio. In 1999, his writing career changed direction when, in rapid succession, he was shortlisted for the Dundee Bool Prize and the Crime Writers' Association Debut Dagger competition for new writers, then won the £5,000 Lichfield Prize for his unpublished novel The Only Dead Thing and signed a two-book contract with HarperCollins for a series of crime novels.  In 2000, Stephen's first published novel, Black Dog, marked the arrival in print of his best known creations - two young Derbyshire police detectives, DC Ben Cooper and DS Diane Fry. Black Dog was the named by the London Evening Standard as one of the six best crime novels of the year - the only book on their list written by a British author. In the USA, it won the Barry Award for Best British Crime Novel and was nominated for an Anthony Award for Best First Mystery. The second Cooper & Fry novel, Dancing with the Virgins, was shortlisted for the UK's top crime writing award, the Gold Dagger, and went on to win Stephen a Barry Award for the second year running.  The publication of Blind to the Bones that year resulted in Stephen winning the Crime Writers' Association's 'Dagger in the Library' Award, presented to the author whose books have given readers most pleasure. All the books are set in England's beautiful and atmospheric Peak District.

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, 17 April 2018

‘Time Is A Killer’ by Michel Bussi

Published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson,
5 April 2018.
ISBN: 978-147-460-668-4 (HB)

Set amid the vivid and beguiling scenery of Corsica, Clotilde, is spending a summer holiday here with her husband Franck and their fractious, adolescent daughter, Valentine. It’s 27 years since Clotilde, now a lawyer living in France, last set foot on her ancestral island. Then she was left orphaned when her parents and older brother were wiped out in a fatal car crash on a dangerous stretch of hill road.

During the last visit when she was fifteen, Clotilde had kept a diary that mysteriously went missing during the crash.  Now, as she re-unites with her paternal grandparents, members of an ancient wealthy and influential Corsican family that rule the roost, a bizarre, newly written letter arrives for her signed simply “P.”  Clotilde recognizes the handwriting as that of her stylish mother, Palma. But she’s dead, isn’t she?

The letter busts open the whole tragic incident and triggers a host of memories and uncomfortable questions.  The story weaves in and out between the ghosts of the past and the reality of the present, through bumpy, tangled relationships, family secrets and ruptured lives.   The author gradually but masterfully sets the stage for a multi-layered, tense, psychological noir thriller with intriguing, believable characters, sparkling dialogue and a satisfying twisty payoff at the end.  It’s a compelling, surprising read.

Last but not least, credit must also go to the translator, Shaun Whiteside, for a difficult job, well done, that preserves the integrity of the original French language.
Reviewer: Serena Fairfax

Michel Bussi was born 29 April 1965 in Louviers France. He is a French writer of detective novels, and a political analyst and Professor of Geography at the University of Rouen, where he leads a Public Scientific and Technical Research Establishment. After the Crash was his first book to be published in the UK. Black Water Lilies was published in June 2016.

Serena Fairfax spent her childhood in India, qualified as a lawyer in England and practised in London for many years. She began writing by contributing feature articles to legal periodicals   then turned her hand to fiction. Having published nine novels all, bar one, hardwired with a romantic theme, she has also written short stories and accounts of her explorations off the beaten track that feature on her blog. A tenth, distinctly unromantic, novel is a work in progress. Thrillers, crime and mystery narratives, collecting old masks and singing are a few of her favourite things.