books monthly christmas 2017 crime & thrillers

A fantastic crime fiction debut from Jane Robins plus a new DI McAvoy...

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Judith Cutler: Head Count

Published by Allison & Busby 19th October 2017


A head teacher's work is never done, especially if, like Jane Cowan, you're a victim of your own success. Having done well with Wrayford Primary, she's now expected to bring other neighbouring schools up to scratch as well. And all these responsibilities are compounded by an influx of children, most of whom do not speak English, following their families supplying cheap labour to surrounding farms. Jane can't turn a blind eye to the conditions in which many of these families are living, even more so when some children simply disappear. When everything points to the shadowy dealings of people smugglers in the area, she has her work cut out for her seeing justice done. And that's before a threat far closer to home rears his head.

This brilliant book could well have been my Crime book of the month had it not been for Stuart MacBride and Ann Cleeves! More references to Winnie the Pooh in this one, but the main thing is that you really, really do want to know who is trying to kill Jane, and what's behind the various mysterious goings on. We eventually learn that it's all about people smuggling, but this is a thoroughly engaging and very entertaining book which definitely benefits from Jane telling the story. I really, really enjoyed this and couldn't wait to get back to it after various interruptions to do with DIY and meals etc. Brilliant!






Crime Book of the month

Jane Robins: White Bodies

Published by HQ 28th December 2017

This chilling psychological suspense novel--think Strangers on a Train for the modern age--explores the dark side of love and the unbreakable ties that bind twin sisters together. Felix and Tilda seem like the perfect couple: young and in love, a financier and a beautiful, up-and-coming starlet. But behind their flawless facade, not everything is as it seems. Callie, Tilda's unassuming twin, has watched her sister visibly shrink under Felix's domineering love. She has looked on silently as Tilda stopped working, nearly stopped eating, and turned into a neat freak, with mugs wrapped in Saran Wrap and suspicious syringes hidden in the bathroom trash. She knows about Felix's uncontrollable rages, and has seen the bruises on the white skin of her sister's arms. Worried about the psychological hold that Felix seems to have over Tilda, Callie joins an Internet support group for victims of abuse and their friends. However, things spiral out of control and she starts to doubt her own judgment when one of her new acquaintances is killed by an abusive man. And then suddenly Felix dies--or was he murdered? A page-turning work of suspense that announces a stunning new voice in fiction, White Bodies will change the way you think about obsession, love, and the violence we inflict on one another--and ourselves.


Tense and taut thriller that is so good it will probably be turned into a TV drama sooner rather than later. Brilliant characterisation and clues around every corner that compel you to turn the pages! A fantastic debut from a supremely talented new crime fiction writer!


Dan Jayson: The Last Squadron

Published by Matador 28th October 2017

Just fifteen years from now, the world is polarised along ethnic and religious lines. Regional low-intensity wars have now been raging for thirty-five years. 

In the midst of the conflict, ninety-seven members of the Allied forces 9th Mountain Squadron enroute from the Northern Front for a long awaited period of rest and relaxation, are shot down over the Nordic wilderness. 

With no way of communicating with the outside world, the aircraft s captain, Natasha Kavolsky, and the squadron commander, Major Alexander Burton, lead the squadron out of the wilderness only to discover that during their absence the world they knew has ceased to exist. 

This is a story of comradeship, hope and despair set in a world that is even now a real and terrifying possibility. 




David Mark: Scorched Earth

Published by Mulholland Books 25th January 2018

The police think Crystal Heathers isn't missing. The trainee detective assigned to the case isn't so sure. McAvoy thinks someone was being held at the derelict building where they just found a body pinned to the wall...and that all the signs point to it being a little girl. But why would anyone not report a kidnapping? And how far would someone go to get revenge? The case will test McAvoy to breaking point - as the crimes of the present lead him to a final violent confrontation with an enemy from his own past.


The latest in David Mark's superb D I McAvoy series sees him battling against time to find out why no one has reported a missing young girl, and then the pendulum swings in his direction as he comes up against a threat from the past... McAvoy is the latest in a long line of superior crime fiction that you will not want to put down.


Gerald Seymour: Jericho's War

Published by Hodder & Stoughton 30th November 2017

Corrie Rankin is already a legend at MI6 when he is called back with little regard for the horrors of his recent past. Corrie is sent to take advantage of a chance to take down a high value player in the war against Al Qaeda - and, a chance for the Brits to succeed without begging help from the Americans. The sniper and his spotter who will go with Corrie are less than top team, but the best that can be found if the mission is to stay 'deniable'. And once the three misfits are in-country, they must rely on intelligence brought to them by a young British Jihadi - on the ground and close to the target - and now turned. And, close to him, is an archaeologist digging in the ruins of the Queen of Sheba' civilisation who will be their cut-out contact point. The mission is the brain-child of an apparently old, fat fool in a striped cricket blazer, a sweating figure of fun among the ex-pat community across the border in Muscat. This is Jericho ... not as old or fat or foolish as he appears, nor as harmless. This is Jericho's War. The weapons it deploys, the brutal aims it pursues, are state of the art. The fear it breeds and the raw bravery it demands are as timeless as the desert itself.


The heady mix of spooks and Ancient archaeological remains and mysteries is Gerald Seymour's forte, and readers are in for a real treat with Jericho's War as the action spills over into iddle Eastern tension. With a brief nod to Indiana Jones, this superior thriller should be high on your Christmas wish list!

R G Oram: Much Needed Rain

Published by Matador 28th October 2017

Introducing David Lewelyn. He can read your mind. No, not really. But he does know when you’re lying. He’s a lie hunter. You can keep your face as still as wall. You can stiffen yourself like a corpse. You can shut your mouth tight. It won’t matter, because he’ll know. You can’t hide the truth, not from him. But does this make him the perfect liar? When Lewelyn’s secretary, Hannah Miller, is found dead in her apartment with her wrists and ankles bound and countless slashes across her body, he is the LAPD’s immediate suspect, since he was seen at the apartment just hours before the murder. His DNA does not match the sample found at the crime scene, but does that really rule him out as a suspect and should he be allowed to help the police? As the investigation progresses there are few leads to follow. The crime scene is near spotless. The DNA found at the apartment is not registered in the National Database. The few suspects that do emerge provide concrete alibis. And the only person who seems to know anything about Hannah is Lewelyn. As the investigators close in on the truth the prime motive behind the murder emerges. What they uncover is, murder is high in demand.



Peter Haden:Jan

Published by Matador 28th October 2017

Jan is a gripping thriller following the story of several lives and love affairs during a terrible period of European history spanning the years 1918-1940. It is also a tense, action-packed depiction of life in Nazi Germany and of desperate military and espionage activity behind enemy lines.

After the severe depression of the 1920s, Jan, a young Pole, is forced to seek work just across the border. His father and sister are brutally killed during the German invasion of Poland, and his brother remains on their small farm to assist the partisans. As Nazi persecution increases, Jan is asked to make a desperate flight to safety with a young girl called Renate, his employer s German-Jewish daughter who has been offered shelter on a farm near the Belgian border.

After a frightening drive across wartime Nazi Germany, Jan eventually reaches England. Following specialist military training, he undertakes two missions: first with the partisans in Poland and then rejoining Renate to report on the build-up of German forces behind the Western front. In a dramatic climax, Jan and Renate are captured by the Gestapo and must escape in order to be smuggled across the border to Belgium and England.

Peter Haden s new novel is a work of fiction based on a real journey made by his uncle. Jan also draws from Peter s own military experience to present accurate military action scenes, including weaponry, flying and seamanship. The book has a full measure of human interest alongside the military and espionage storylines, and will appeal to readers who enjoy espionage thrillers. It will also appeal to fans of romance and historical fiction, and those who have enjoyed Peter s previous two books, The Angry Island (Piatkus Books, 1986) and The Silent War (Piatkus Books, 1990).



The small print: Books Monthly, now well into its twentieth year on the web, is published on or slightly before the first day of each month by Paul Norman. You can contact me here. If you wish to submit something for publication in the magazine, let me remind you there is no payment as I don't make any money from this publication. If you want to send me something to review, contact me via email and I'll let you know where to send it.