books monthly november 2017 crime & thrillers

Oh! The joy of a new Stuart MacBride! The continuing adventures of DS Roberta Steel will delight and entertain you...

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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!


Emily Winslow: Look For Her

Published by Allison & Busby 19th October 2017


'Nothing is easy or simple, thanks to Winslow's delightfully devious mind. Surprising and satisfying, you won't be able to stop turning the pages of Look for Her' - Karen Dionne, author of The Marsh King's Daughter `Look for Her ratchets up the tension while also offering moments of sheer grace' - Riley Sager, author of Final Girls The memory of Annalise Wood has haunted the town of Lilling near Cambridge for decades. She went missing in 1976 and although her body was later found, the investigation went cold with no one held responsible. The grief and speculation surrounding her disappearance are engrained in the community. Forty years on, another young woman stokes her obsession with Annalise, believing that sharing a name with the dead girl has forged a bond between them. When DNA evidence linked to the Annalise Wood murder comes to light, detectives Keene and Frohmann re-examine the case, picking apart previous assumptions and finding sinister connections to a recent drowning. With her trademark skill in weaving together multiple perspectives and voices, Emily Winslow paints a complex and compelling portrait of a cold case that is far from dead and buried.

Emily Winslow's latest multi-person-point-of-view blockbuster is exemplary - you never lose track of what's going on, and what's going on is absolutely breathtaking! A superb crime novel that will keep you amused and entertained for hours! Superlative writing.


Peter James: Need You Dead

Published by Pan 19th October 2017


Roy Grace, creation of the CWA Diamond Dagger award winning author Peter James, faces his most mysterious case yet in Need You Dead. Lorna Belling, desperate to escape the marriage from hell, falls for the charms of another man who promises her the earth. But, as Lorna finds, life seldom follows the plans you’ve made. A chance photograph on a client’s mobile phone changes everything for her. When the body of a woman is found in a bath in Brighton, Detective Superintendent Roy Grace is called to the scene. At first it looks an open and shut case with a clear prime suspect. Then other scenarios begin to present themselves, each of them tantalizingly plausible, until, in a sudden turn of events, and to his utter disbelief, the case turns more sinister than Grace could ever have imagined.

This was my crime book of the month earlier this year when it was first pubished in hardback - now available in paperback, it's one of the best Roy Grace novels and, had it not been for such stellar new titles from Stuart MacBride and Ann Cleeves, I might well have made it my crome book of the month again. Faultless writing, a faultless plot, superb characters and police procedurals. A winner all round!





Crime Book of the month

Stuart MacBride: Now We Are Dead

Published by Harper Collins 2nd November

She can’t prove he did it. But she might die trying… From the Sunday Times No.1 bestselling author of the Logan McRae series, comes a standalone spinoff featuring DS Roberta Steel. Revenge is a dangerous thing… Detective Chief Inspector Roberta Steel got caught fitting up Jack Wallace – that’s why they demoted her and quashed his sentence. Now he’s back on the streets and women are being attacked again. Wallace has to be responsible, but if Detective Sergeant Steel goes anywhere near him, his lawyers will get her thrown off the force for good. The Powers That Be won’t listen to her, not after what happened last time. According to them, she’s got more than enough ongoing cases to keep her busy. Perhaps she could try solving a few instead of harassing an innocent man? Steel knows Wallace is guilty. And the longer he gets away with it, the more women will suffer. The question is: how much is she willing to sacrifice to stop him?


We last left DI Steel in In The Cold, Dark Ground, at the end of which she had been reported to Professional Standards by Logan MacRae for planting evidence against the rapist Jack Wallace. In Now We Are Dead she has been demoted to Detective Sergeant and refuses to speak to Logan or let him see his children. She is under strict orders not to go anywhere near Wallace, and her only ally is Tufty Quirrel. The whole book is a joy from start to finish, with scenes reminiscent of Neil Cross's one and only Luther book, involving horrific cruelty, maiming and killing, interpersed with scenes of complete farce as Steel and Quirrel attempt to catch a number of really, really bad men. This is Stuart MacBride at his absolute best - the humour is almost "Carry On" classic, the horrors of the brutal beatings and murders are handled with sincerity and precision, and Robbie Steel is an amazing character, always has been. The book is dedicated to A A Milne, who created Winnie The Pooh, and the chapter headings and structure of the novel are very much in the style of Milne, whose own sense of humour is recalled throughout the book. If you only buy one crime novel this year, make it this one! It is sensationally good, and confirms Stuart's place as the very finest of crime writers in the UK right now. If your budget will stretch to it, there's a new "Vera" out now as well - see below. You may have quite a long wait for the paperback versions of these two magnificent blockbusters, so these are well worth spending your pocket money on. Two Stuart MacBrides in one year - brilliant!


Ann Cleeves: The Seagull

Published by Macmillan 7th September

The Seagull is Ann Cleeves’ searing eighth novel in the bestselling Vera Stanhope series, about corruption deep in the heart of a community, and about fragile, and fracturing, family relationships Shrewd. Smart. Challenging. Detective Inspector Vera Stanhope is on the case. When prison inmate and former police officer John Brace says he's willing to give up information about a long-dead wheeler dealer in return for protection for his family, Vera knows that she has to look into his claims. But opening up this cold case strikes much closer to home than Vera anticipates as her investigation takes her back in time to The Seagull, a once decadent and now derelict nightclub where her deceased father and his friends used to congregate. As Vera's past collides dangerously with the present, she will have to confront her unwanted memories and face the possibility that her father was involved in what happened. The truth is about to come out but is Vera ready for it will reveal?


I'm torn between Ann's two major creations as to which is best - Vera or Jimmy Perez. I love the bleak atmosphere of the Shetland series, and I think the BBC have done a brilliant job in dramatising it - but Vera also never disappoints, and whilst not quite my favourite cop drama, that honour going to Endeavour, of course (with Lewis and Morse series included, of course), it is absolutely brilliant. And this latest Vera caper, The Seagull, is absolutely brilliant and far and away the best yet of the Vera novels. The team of detectives working under Vera all play their part, of course, but it's Vera herself who dominates, and the plot unfolds deliciously and cleverly, with very few clues for the reader. Absolutely unputdownable, as always, and would have been my crime book of the month had it not been for the Adventures of Roberta Steel above.


Rebecca Tope: Peril In The Cotswolds

Published by Allison & Busby 24th August 2017

Thea Slocombe, nee Osborne, is trying to settle into normal, domestic life with Drew and his two children in Broad Campden. But in the course of an attempt to make friends locally, she finds the body of a close neighbour and suddenly feels much less settled and secure. No longer a house-sitter, she has no choice but to stay in the village and deal with whatever happens next. And doing this risks damage to her marriage.


Thea Slocombe is the Miss Marple of the twenty-first century. Rebecca's characters and plot are perfect and real, and I love the interplay between Thea and Drew in particular. This is the perfect bedtime read - good, solid detective work from a woman who seems to be followed around by danger and murder. Sensationally good!


David Mason: The Buzzer

Published by The Book Guild 28th September 2017

This gripping new novel is based around the creepy urban legend of the same name. A Russian radio station has been broadcasting and letting out a buzz every other second since the 1970s. Every few months, the buzzing is suddenly interrupted by a voice saying a series of numbers and code words. Then the buzzing starts up again. A number of theorists suggest that it is a secret military communication method, or that it may even be a countermeasure for nuclear war. Natalya Kovalski, a journalist, and Stepan Litvin, a short-wave radio enthusiast and computer programmer, visit an abandoned military base together in Povarovo which is suspected to have once been the source of the transmissions. But what they find may have chilling consequences...



Andy McNab: Line of Fire

Published by Bantam Press 19th October 2017


Nick Stone is back in London but if he thought he was home for a break, he’s very, very wrong. Backed into a corner by a man he knows he cannot trust, ex-deniable operator Nick Stone strikes a devil’s bargain. In exchange for his own safety – a life for a life – Stone is charged with locating someone who doesn’t want to be found, currently hiding out in the one of the remotest corners of the UK. And for the first time in a long time, he’s not operating alone.
But Stone and his team don’t find just anyone. They find a world-class hacker, so good that her work might threaten the stability of the western world as we know it. These are dangerous waters and Stone is quickly in over his head. Before he finally knows which way to turn, the choice is ripped out of his hands. Most people might think of home as safety but Nick Stone isn’t most people. For him and his team, it’s just another place to get caught in the line of fire…


The latest in the Nick Stone series is bang up to date in terms of technology etc., and the plot will have you on the edge of your seat. The modern world of crime laid bare by an acknowledged expert.



Stephen Leather: The Foreigner

Published by Hodder & Stoughton 12th October 2017


He understood death. Jungle-skilled, silent and lethal, he had killed for the Viet Cong and then for the Americans. He had watched helpless when his two eldest daughters had been raped and killed by Thai pirates. Now all that was behind him. Quiet, hard-working and unassuming, he was building up his South London take-away business. Until the day his wife and youngest daughter were destroyed by an IRA bomb in a Knightsbridge department store. Then, simply but persistently, he began to ask the authorities who were the men responsible, what was being done. And was turned away, fobbed off, treated as a nuisance. Which was when, denied justice, he decided on revenge. And went back to war.


This is very much a Hollywood style of story, almost scenic in effect - but doesn't necessarily suffer because of it.



Gerry Rose: Rinsed

Published by The Book Guild 28th August 2017


As London has a week that it will never forget a week of extreme emotional highs and lows - a family is shattered by a violent tragedy that triggers an unpredictable series of interlinked events that threatens to destroy the lives and very existence of many. A young soccer prospect on the brink of fame and fortune... A successful wife and dedicated mother... An angry and disturbed daughter convinced of her father's innocence... Two competitive Scottish brothers succeeding in London... An experienced top detective desperate to make sense of the chaos... All are swept up by the twists and turns and eventually caught in the violence and revenge that leaves many badly bruised and ultimately rinsed.


Dermod Judge: Clash

Published by The Book Guild 28th September 2017


The first of two novels in a planned series, Clash is a fast paced sports thriller about an eccentric Irish millionaire who takes the fast and tough Irish sport of hurling and transforms it into a ruthless gladiatorial contest, spearheaded by a team he calls “The Danann”. John-Joe Crosby, a skilled traditional hurler from Kerry is swept up in this dangerous game and catapulted into a world in which the safety and even the lives of the players are not as important as the TV and internet ratings.

He falls in love with Kitty and both of them have to run for their lives when they discover proof of the millionaire’s graft and corruption associated with a new sports stadium in Dublin. When John-Joe helps form a hurling team to face the brutal Danann in a battle for the future of the game, it is not intended that he survive the match. Or that Kitty takes the evidence to the authorities.

Author Dermod Judge lives in Cape Town, South Africa and has been involved in story telling in theatre and film for a large proportion of his professional life, and has written over ten full length feature film scripts as well as twelve professionally produced stage and radio plays. Dermod has won a variety of local and international awards for his video making and was the Chair of the South African Scriptwriter’s Association for nine years in which he was awarded lifetime membership. The sport featured within the novel is one of the fastest ball games in the world – Irish hurling which has been played for centuries with a supple ash stick and a hard, leather ball.


James L Williams: Ghostly Witnesses

Published by The Book Guild 28th September 2017


Following a personal tragedy that almost costs him his job, Constable Vic Holland finds it difficult to adjust in his new role at a new police force. He finds the change in the types of crimes in Cladfield somewhat mundane, so when the opportunity arises to apprehend two notorious local criminals, he can’t help but investigate.
Desperate to prove himself at his new job, he pursues the criminals alone – a decision that almost costs him his life. However, a stranger comes to his rescue. A stranger who, according to police files, died two years previously… And so Constable Vic Holland is thrust into a new investigation: of uncovering the truth at the heart of his most unusual case yet.
Reminiscent of Wilbur Smith novels, Ghostly Witnesses will appeal to fans of crime and mystery thrillers –as well as those who enjoy a paranormal twist to their reads.
James L. Williams has previously worked as a hospital chef and at a local garage. He also has gained various qualifications in catering, book keeping and business administration. Over the years his eye sight has deteriorated, though he has overcome being registered as legally blind to pen this, his first novel.


Roger Pearce: Javelin

Published by Urbane Publications 19th October 2017


A gripping political thriller set over two weeks in the aftermath of Brexit, Javelin will not disappoint fans of Detective Chief Inspector John Kerr. Two explosions in Victoria mark the beginning of a bombing campaign against banking institutions in London. The attacks bear the hallmarks of Irish republican dissidents but are disowned by IRA volunteers and politicians in Belfast. Kerr believes the bombs are the work of the extremist group Anti-Capitalist Insurrection, with attacks in London the first stage of a devastatingly deadly campaign across Europe...can Kerr stop them in time?


This one is reminiscent of Spooks for me - more about terrorism than a straightforward police procedural. The politics are bang up to date, and the work of the police and security services as they try to stem the rising flood of terrorist attacks is laid bare with more than enough realism.



Lisa Cutts: Buried Secrets

Published by Simon and Schuster 2nd November 2017


To most people, Detective Inspector Milton Bowman appears to have an ideal life. But some secrets aren’t buried deep enough. After a tragic car accident, and a shocking murder, DI Milton's colleagues have to start digging into every aspect of his life. Suspicion and disbelief creep into their lives as a web of deceit unfolds - the Bowman family, friends and even colleagues come under suspicion. No one is to be trusted. Nothing is as it appears. Authoritative and experienced, Lisa Cutts is the author of four police procedural novels, based on her nineteen years of policing work.



This is the frst book by Lisa Cutts I've had the privilege of reviewing in Books Monthly, I believe, and it doesn't disappoint. Investigating the life of a police officer turns things somewhat on their head, and the result is a proper can of worms that takes a good deal of time and effort to unravel. Excellent.


Adrian Magson: Rocco And The Nightingale

Published by The Dome Press 19th October 2017


When a minor Paris criminal is found stabbed in the neck on a country lane in Picardie it looks like another case for Inspector Lucas Rocco. But instead he is called off to watch over a Gabonese government minister, hiding out in France following a coup. Meanwhile, Rocco discovers that there is a contract on his head taken out by an Algerian gang leader with a personal grudge against him.


I'm not particularly enamoured of other European countries and their policing, but I can see that it will appeal to more wordly people than me.



Lloyd Otis: Dead Lands

Published by Urbane Publications 12th October 2017


Dead Lands is a thrilling crime story set in the 1970s. When a woman's body is found a special team is called in to investigate and prime suspect Alex Troy is arrested for the murder. Desperate to remain a free man, Troy protests his innocence, but refuses to use his alibi. Trying to protect the woman he loves becomes a dangerous game - questions are asked and suspicions deepen. When the prime suspect completes a daring escape from custody, DI Breck and DS Kearns begin the hunt. Breck wants out of the force while Kearns has her own agenda and seeks revenge. Breck has his suspicions and she wants to keep it from him, and a right-wing march provides an explosive backdrop to their hunt for Troy. Lloyd Otis brings a startling account of the past back to life over a burgeoning '70s landscape, and delivers a thrilling piece of crime fiction that will excite any fan of the genre.


The seventies setting is excellently well done, and the characters are spot on!



Sean O'Driscoll: Steal Big - Vatican City

Published by Matador 28th October 2017


After spending a year living a fairytale life with the woman of his dreams, The Mastermind returns with a new, bigger plan. Time has moved on, but his nature has not changed, and he wants to steal even if it’s just for fun. Deciding to rob the Vatican City, he sets his plans in motion, pulling people into his world, whether they like it or not. Everyone faces a steep learning curve and those that believe they are a power soon realise that when you don’t take threats seriously everything can fall apart very quickly...

Facing dangerous opposition, he must outwit The Inquisition and his old foe, FBI Agent Ben Fox whose career has hit a road block after he failed to catch The Mastermind. But when the world realizes how much has been stolen this time around, everyone changes their views on who The Mastermind is and the shock and awe follows. How long can a war last with the church and how much will it cost them as he begins to show them how easy it is to destroy them?

Inspired by Dan Brown and James Patterson, Steal Big: Vatican City is a fast-paced thriller that has readers gripped until the end. It will appeal to those interested in crime fiction, as well as readers that enjoyed Sean’s previous book, Steal Big: New York.


Gil Hogg: Night Shelter

Published by Matador 28th October 2017


Everybody at Butchers’ Row in Southwark has something to hide...

Described as ‘London noir’, Night Shelter, the 9th novel from thriller writer Gil Hogg, delves deep into the seedy underground world of drugs, prostitution and corruption in Britain’s capital.

Jimmy Morton, a supervisor at the Night Shelter for the homeless, finds himself unwittingly involved in the murder of Eva, a local prostitute found in a tenement in Butchers’ Row. The director of the Night Shelter and his guest Arnold Catesby have had a boys’ night out, a drug-fuelled sex party at a nearby pub close to where Eva’s body was discovered.

Cynical and self-protective CI Dan Hamish from the Yard finds that Eva was at the party, but believes that Catesby and his friends are too big to touch. As the group are interrogated one-by-one, they assure Hamish that they have solid ‘insurance’ – but will it pay off?

Night Shelter is a fast-paced detective novel that encapsulates the gritty, sardonic nature of London’s underground crime network. This book will appeal to fans of Peter Ackroyd and Mark Billingham, as well as fans of Hogg’s previous titles.





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.