BOOKS MONTHLY May 2017

The new Grantchester book is out early this month, coinciding with series 3 on ITV right now, plus a major new Crime book from DK...

 In this issue:

Home Page

Adult Fiction

  Crime and Thrillers
  Science Fiction & Fantasy

  Children's books

  Nonfiction & Reference
  The Nostalgia Page
  The Military History Page

  The Jerry Dowlen Column

Stephen King: End of Watch

Published by Hodder and Stoughton 4th May 2017

 

The cell rings twice, and then his old partner in his ear... 'I'm at the scene of what appears to be a murder-suicide. I'd like you to come and take a look. Bring your sidekick with you, if she's available...' Retired Detective Bill Hodges now runs a two-person firm called Finders Keepers with his partner Holly Gibney. They met in the wake of the 'Mercedes Massacre' when a queue of people was run down by the diabolical killer Brady Hartsfield. Brady is now confined to Room 217 of the Lakes Region Traumatic Brain Injury Clinic, in an unresponsive state. But all is not what it seems: the evidence suggests that Brady is somehow awake, and in possession of deadly new powers that allow him to wreak unimaginable havoc without ever leaving his hospital room. When Bill and Holly are called to a suicide scene with ties to the Mercedes Massacre, they find themselves pulled into their most dangerous case yet, one that will put their lives at risk, as well as those of Bill's heroic young friend Jerome Robinson and his teenage sister, Barbara. Brady Hartsfield is back, and planning revenge not just on Hodges and his friends, but on an entire city. The clock is ticking in unexpected ways ... Both a stand-alone novel of heart-pounding suspense and a sublimely terrifying final episode in the Hodges trilogy, End of Watch takes the series into a powerful new dimension.

This is the paperback edition of last year's final episode in the career of ex-detective Bill Hodges. Elements of the supernatural raise it to Stephen King's normal standards, but it is, first and foremost, a thriller, and he obviously enjoyed his brief foray into theiller-writing to an astonishing degree. This book is absolutely superb, King at his very finest.

 

Catherine Aird: Learning Curve

Published by Allison and Busby 20th April 2017

 

Much-loved Calleshire research chemist Derek Tridgell has been ill for some time. On his deathbed, his incessant, but unintelligible mutterings culminate in a very clear cry of foul murder. Detective Inspector Sloan and Detective Constable Crosby are brought in to investigate whether these are just the ramblings of a man at death's door, or a real confession at the final hour. Their enquiries uncover three tragic deaths that may or may not be linked to the deceased's last words: an accidental drowning at a rival chemist manufacturer; an old friend of Derek's killed in a caving expedition whose body was never retrieved; Derek's son Paul walking away unscathed from a fatal car accident that killed one and left others irrevocably injured. With a tight-lipped Paul knowing more than he's letting on, Sloan and Crosby have their work cut out if they're going to untangle this complex case ...

 

The blurb says that this excellent crime caper is perfect for fans of Agatha Christie and Dorothy L Sayers - certainly it is more "traditional" than contemporary crime fiction writers like Peter Robinson and Stuart MacBride, and thoroughly enjoyable as Sloan and Crosby work their way tirelessly through a miasma of clues... Superb entertainment!

 

Simon Hall: Justice Mirror

Published by Caffeine Nights 20th April 2017

 

The Justice Mirror... distorted reflections of reprisals and revenge. A vicious cycle of kidnapping, suicide, and murder. A mysterious motive hinted at only by the cryptic signature PP. A double killing in which every suspect has an alibi. A crime-fighting television reporter, with an agenda driven by his own heart, is drawn into the case and faces a battle for his future to solve it. And a race through a lightning storm to trap an unlikely murderer, sworn on seeing justice done in a shocking way that history has long left behind. The Justice Mirror... there is no such thing as a simple vision of vengeance. Gripping, fast-paced and nail-bitingly tense, this thriller will leave you wanting more. Perfect for fans of Ian Rankin, Angela Marsons, Rachel Abbott and Mel Sherratt.

 

Simon Hall has been entertaining me for several years now,  and  what I particularly like is the way he lays clues throughout the mystery so that the reader has a chance to solve the case as he or she reads. This is the perfect bedtime read, guaranteed to have you gripping the sheets as the tension mounts...

 

 

 

You are here: Books Monthly » The Crime & Thrillers Page »

Crime Book of the month 1: James Runcie: Sydney Chambers And The Persistence of Love

Published by Bloosbury 4th May 2017

The sixth book in the James Runcie's much-loved series, adapted for ITV's Grantchester which stars James Norton as Sidney Chambers. Perfect for fans of M. C. Beaton. It is May 1971 and the Cambridgeshire countryside is bursting into summer. Archdeacon Sidney Chambers is walking in a bluebell wood with his daughter Anna and their ageing Labrador Byron when they stumble upon a body. Plunged into another murder investigation, Sidney discovers a world of hippies and psychedelic plants, where permissive behaviour seems to hide something darker. This is the first of many disturbing secrets that Sidney unearths beneath the tranquil surface of the diocese: a celebrated photographer is accused of rape; a priceless religious text vanishes from a Cambridge college; the authentication of a lost masterpiece proves a slippery business; and Sidney's own nephew goes missing. Endeavouring to fit in his clerical duties around sleuthing, Sidney continues to reflect on the divine mysteries of love, life and faith, while wrestling with the earthly problems of parish scandals, a progressive new secretary, the challenges of parenthood, and a great loss.

 

The third series of Grantchester is about to start on ITV, in fact, by the time you read this, it will already have started... I'm not certain, but I believe that James Runcie originally planned to write six Sidney Chambers novels, and this is the sixth. What is certain is that some things have run their full course in The Persistence of Love, but I, for one, would welcome a seventh and more novels. The novellas included in this collection are not always centred around a murder, but crime isn't always about killing, of course. The evocation of the early 1970s period is second to none, and James's characters are timeless and brilliant - what a shame the ITV series deviated so far from the original novels...

 

Crime Book of the Month 2 - Dorling Kindersley: The Crime Book

Published by Dorling Kindersley 3rd April 2017

From Jack the Ripper to the modern day drug cartels, discover the most notorious crimes and criminals in history. With a foreword by bestselling crime author Peter James, The Crime Book explores over 100 crimes and examines the science, psychology and sociology of criminal behaviour. See the gory details of each crime and how it was solved, with renowned quotes and detailed criminal profiles letting you delve into the criminal mind. The Crime Book looks at the big ideas and concepts in criminology spanning from pirates, kidnapping and political plots to modern con artists, serial killers and rogue traders, including the Black Dahlia investigation, the Mississippi Scheme, and the notorious Jeffrey Dahmer. The Crime Book is the perfect introduction to law enforcement and criminology across history's most infamous crimes.

 

This amazing, well crafted book is the latest in DK's "The... Book" series, and it contains details of hundreds of fascinating facts about the world of crime. By far the most interesting section is the one on  murder, but there are serious omissions, especially in a book obviously intended primarily for the UK market: nothing on Haigh, the acid bath murderer, for example, and even more mysterious is the omission of Ian Huntley, who murdered Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman in 2002, a particularly notorious case which should have been uppermost in the minds of the editors, in my opinion. The articles on the murder of James Bulger, the Fred and Rosemary West murders, etc., are well written although they don't bring any further information to the table, but the writing is excellent and the layout second to none. Plenty of material on the notorious American serial killers like Charles Manson and Ted Bundy, it's just a shame about these major omissions... maybe a second edition could put things right.

 

Tana French: The Trespasser

Published by Hodder & Stoughton 20th April 2017

This is the case she imagined. Precision-cut and savage, lithe and momentous. Antoinette Conway, the tough, abrasive detective from The Secret Place, is still on the Murder squad, but only just. She's partnered up with Stephen Moran now, and that's going well - but the rest of her working life isn't. Antoinette doesn't play well with others, and there's a vicious running campaign in the squad to get rid of her. She and Stephen pull a case that at first looks like a slam-dunk lovers' tiff. All she and her partner have to do is track down Lover Boy and bring him in. Then it'll be back to business as usual, watching from a distance as the real detectives go up against the psychopaths. Except when Antoinette takes a good look at the victim's face, she realises she's seen her somewhere before. And suddenly the conviction that there's a different answer takes her breath away.

 

Tana French's police procedural is taut and tense, with plenty of backbiting, fallout and unexpected twists and turns. Perfect for winding down after a long day at work...

Sara Paretsky: Fallout

Published by Hodder & Stoughton 20th April 2017

V.I. Warshawski's impossible god-daughter Bernie convinces her to look for August, a young film-maker who has disappeared. The evidence indicates that he has gone to Kansas in the company of Emerald, an older black movie actress who wants to film the story of her life. Her search takes V.I. from the military base Emerald was born on, to the farm where she grew up outside a university town, ploughing up past and present-day secrets as she goes. What is happening at the former nuclear missile site next door to the farm? What happened at the site in 1983, when students tried to stage their own version of Greenham Common? Everywhere V.I. turns she seems to be finding more trouble - with not a sign of August and Emerald. And then trouble turns to death...

 

Secrets and lies are the two premises on which this terrific thriller is hung - Warshawski is a compelling character with the ability to hook you and keep you while she uncovers the shocking truth about August...

Paul Finch: Ashes To Ashes

Published by Avon 6th April 2017

 

.The Sunday Times bestseller returns with his next unforgettable crime thriller. Fans of MJ Arlidge and Stuart MacBride won’t be able to put this down. John Sagan is a forgettable man. You could pass him in the street and not realise he’s there. But then, that’s why he’s so dangerous. A torturer for hire, Sagan has terrorised – and mutilated – countless victims. And now he’s on the move. DS Mark ‘Heck’ Heckenburg must chase the trail, even when it leads him to his hometown of Bradburn – a place he never thought he’d set foot in again. But Sagan isn’t the only problem. Bradburn is being terrorised by a lone killer who burns his victims to death. And with the victims chosen at random, no-one knows who will be next. Least of all Heck…

 

Death by fire is, quite possibly, the worst possible way to go. Paul Finch's graphic descriptions of Heck's victims are unpleasant but necessary, and the story simply rockets along.

Quintin Jardine: Game Over

Published by Headline 20th April 2017

GAME OVER is the twenty-seventh gripping Bob Skinner mystery from crime master Quintin Jardine, author of HOUR OF DARKNESS, LAST RESORT, PRIVATE INVESTIGATIONS and many more.  When supermodel Annette Bordeaux is found battered and strangled in her Edinburgh flat, former Chief Constable Bob Skinner's old team instantly have a global case on their hands. The victim's husband, world-renowned footballer and recent Merrytown FC signing, is quickly discounted as a suspect. But there are others in the club with less watertight alibis... Two years out of the game, Skinner can't help getting his hands dirty. And as his old team work to convict the prime suspect, his own daughter, Alex, is the lawyer tasked with leading the defence. The opposing sides must work to find the culprit while the press watch on. But in this game, no one can be trusted, and there are murkier deeds still to uncover before the final whistle blows...

 

Supermodels and top-flight footballers - sounds like something from OK magazine (which I've never read, and never been tempted to!), but taken together and involving murder, they turn into a triumphant mix from Quintin Jardine, who draws the strands together in inimitable style!

Elizabeth Wein: The Pearl Thief

Published by Bloomsbury 4th May 2017

From the internationally acclaimed bestselling author of Code Name Verity comes a stunning new story of pearls, love and murder - a mystery with all the suspense of an Agatha Christie and the intrigue of Downton Abbey. Sixteen-year-old Julie Beaufort-Stuart is returning to her family's ancestral home in Perthshire for one last summer. It is not an idyllic return to childhood. Her grandfather's death has forced the sale of the house and estate and this will be a summer of goodbyes. Not least to the McEwen family - Highland travellers who have been part of the landscape for as long as anyone can remember - loved by the family, loathed by the authorities. Tensions are already high when a respected London archivist goes missing, presumed murdered. Suspicion quickly falls on the McEwens but Julie knows not one of them would do such a thing and is determined to prove everyone wrong. And then she notices the family's treasure trove of pearls is missing. This beautiful and evocative novel is the story of the irrepressible and unforgettable Julie, set in the year before the Second World War and the events of Code Name Verity. It is also a powerful portrayal of a community under pressure and one girl's determination for justice.

 

Elizabeth captures the 1930s to absolute perfection - the blurb is right, this is Agatha Christie meets Downton Abbey, and Julie is a terrific character or whom I would love to read a great deal more in subsequent episodes!

 

Clive Allan: The Well Of The Dead

Published by Matador 28th April 2017

In April 2010, the brutal murders of distillery owner, Duncan Fraser, and his wife Laura, shock the small rural community of Glenruthven in the Scottish Highlands. The ensuing police investigation unearths an ancient clan feud...and a mystery dating back to 1746 and the Battle of Culloden. Detective Inspector Neil Strachan, who we first met in Clive's first novel, The Drumbeater, once again finds himself delving into the past, as he and his partner, Sergeant Holly Anderson, go head to head with a ruthless and violent criminal, apparently obsessed with his Jacobite ancestry. Strachan also faces problems of his own. His long-term partner is acting strangely, causing him to suspect that she is having an affair. His determination to bring the Frasers' killer to justice, and to uncover the truth behind his erring partner's behaviour, take him on a journey to a place he never wanted to be. It is a place where his personal and professional priorities become blurred; a place where both his judgement and reputation are on the line. The Well of the Dead is not the usual dysfunctional, urban detective novel, but one in which the adventures are played out amongst the rugged beauty of Britain's last great wilderness. Inspired by Mark Billingham, Brian Callison and Elly Griffiths, Clive Allan's latest novel is a gripping crime thriller with an historical twist. It will primarily appeal to readers of Scottish and detective fiction. Clive's first novel, The Drumbeater, received large amounts of media attention and was featured in Scots News, The Scots Magazine, Narpo News, Scottish Field Magazine and Police World.

 

Clive Allan's wonderful backdrop, the Scottish Highlands, is not new to detective fiction, but because it takes on a more prominent role, it is all the more stunning. The characters are sound the plot well-planned and executed, and the whole book is a triumph of Scottish murder mystery.

 

Vaseem Khan: The Strange Disappearance of a Bollywood Star

Published by Mulholland Books 4th May 2017

The enchanting new Baby Ganesh Agency novel sees Inspector Chopra and his elephant sidekick investigating the dark side of Bollywood. Mumbai thrives on extravagant spectacles and larger-than-life characters. But even in the city of dreams, there is no guarantee of a happy ending. Rising star and incorrigible playboy Vikram Verma has disappeared, leaving his latest film in jeopardy. Hired by Verma's formidable mother to find him, Inspector Chopra and his sidekick, baby elephant Ganesha, embark on a journey deep into the world's most flamboyant movie industry. As they uncover feuding stars, failed investments and death threats, it seems that many people have a motive for wanting Verma out of the picture. And yet, as Chopra has long suspected, in Bollywood the truth is often stranger than fiction...

 

If I had to choose just one word to describe this book, it would have to be "colourful", and I'm not referring to the cover, but the story. Everything about Mumbai and Bollywood screams "colour" to me, and this brilliant story is both a delight and a triumph in every way.

 

Suzette A Hill: Shot in Southwold

Published by Allison and Busby 18th May 2017

1960. Lady Fawcett is eager to vet her daughter Amy's current beau, aspiring film director Bartholomew Hackle, who is shooting his first major movie in the charming Suffolk town of Southwold. As Amy is unable to accompany her mother, Rosy Gilchrist is strong-armed into tagging along.On the set of The Languid Labyrinth nobody really knows what is going on - least of all FelixSmythe whose bit part is constantly changing, much to his chagrin. But the unambiguous death by gunshot of a female cast member injects some drama into proceedings - something sorely lacking in the film itself. Lady Fawcett, Rosy and Felix are at the centre of a murder mystery in which further victims may face the cut.

 

With characters straight from Agatha Christie, if not from P G Wodehouse, and a setting like the wonderful Southwold, this superb thriller has everything thrown into the mix - humour, murder, tension, drama... if pushed, I'd say it was more reminiscent of Dorothy L Sayers's Lord Peter Wimsey, and that's a compliment, of course. A wonderful read.

 

Rebecca Tope: The Hawkshead Hostage

Published by Allison and Busby 18th May 2017

Summer has come to the Lake District town of Windermere, where Persimmon 'Simmy' Brown runs her own florist shop. But there's no time for her to stop and smell the roses with the shop struggling for money, so a contract to provide floral displays for a hotel in Hawkshead couldn't have arrived at a better moment. However, Simmy's association with the hotel soon turns sinister when she finds a body in the lake. To make matters worse, her friend, Ben Harkness - responsible for calling and alerting her of the discovered body - is now missing and thought to be kidnapped. Caught up in both a murder and kidnapping investigation, Simmy begins chasing clues left by the missing Ben. With many suspicious characters bustling in and out of the hotel, while simultaneously trying to cope with her father's encroaching dementia, solving the puzzle seems a grueling challenge, but Simmy is compelled to uncover the truth...

 

Rebecca's crime stories do for the Lake District what Peter Robinson does for the Yorkshire Dales and Ian Rankin's Rebus does for Edinburgh - the latest Simmy Brown caper has Simmy discovering the body in the lake, and as events unfold, we see her as a modern-day Miss Marple - wonderful crime writing from one of Allison and Busby's finest authors.

 

Judith Cutler: Head Start

Published by Allison and Busby 22nd June 2017

Jane Cowan's abusive ex-husband has always tracked her down whichever town she lives in, whichever job she takes, whichever name she uses. However, now he is in prison for a long stretch, she feels brave enough to accept a promotion: she is to be headteacher of the Wrayford Primary School in Gloucestershire. While facing everyday battles from a lack of resources to teachers who are set in their ways, Jane encounters a persistent intruder on the school grounds. When the intruder turns violent, Jane herself is under suspicion. This time she will not be the prey but the pursuer. She finds unlikely allies in her quest for the truth, and finds personal reserves of strength she never imagined she had.

 

Psychological thriller from Judith sees Jane's world turned upside down as she takes on the role of trying to bring to justice the intruder in the primary school where she works. Plenty of tension and cat and mouse antics in this excellent, slightly dark thriller.

 


 

The small print: Books Monthly, now well into its sixteenth 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.