books monthly   june 2018 - crime and thrillers

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Peter Robinson: Sleeping In The Ground

Published by Hodder & Stoughton 31st May 2018

A shocking mass murder occurs at a wedding in a small Dales church and a huge manhunt follows. Eventually, the shooter is run to ground and things take their inevitable course. But Banks is plagued with doubts as to exactly what happened outside the church that day, and why. Struggling with the death of his first serious girlfriend and the return of profiler Jenny Fuller into his life, Banks feels the need to dig deeper into the murders, and as he does so, he uncovers forensic and psychological puzzles that lead him to the past secrets that might just provide the answers he is looking for. When the surprising truth becomes clear, it is almost too late.

 

This is the long-awaited paperback version of last year's D I Banks blockbuster which, for the first time, I believe, featured a mass shooting. It's Banks's job tounravel the truth and he does so in his usual inimitable way. I expect this title will come to TV some time in the future, and I really do welcome that, Banks is one of the greatest detectives in modern literary history, and a firm favourite of none other than Stephen King (and me). Superb from start to finish!

 

 

 

Book of the month - Stephen King: The Outsider

Published by Hodder & Stoughton 22nd May 2018

When an eleven-year-old boy is found murdered in a town park, reliable eyewitnesses undeniably point to the town's popular Little League coach, Terry Maitland, as the culprit. DNA evidence and fingerprints confirm the crime was committed by this well-loved family man. Horrified by the brutal killing, Detective Ralph Anderson, whose own son was once coached by Maitland, orders the suspect to be arrested in a public spectacle. But Maitland has an alibi. And further research confirms he was indeed out of town that day. As Anderson and the District Attorney trace the clues, the investigation expands from Ohio to Texas. And as horrifying answers begin to emerge, so King's propulsive story of almost unbearable suspense kicks into high gear. Terry Maitland seems like a nice guy but there is one rock-hard fact, as unassailable as gravity: a man cannot be in two places at the same time. Can he?

 

As someone who reveres Stephen King's writing, I was promised that The Outsider would be an antidote to the rather dreadful Sleeping Beauties, and that promise is fulfilled to the max. This is Stephen King at his absolute best, and what is more, it features one of his finest ever characters, the sublime Holly Gibney, she of the Bill Hodges trio. This is a superb story, a thriller with supernatural overtones, but as always, it is the detail that King provides that conjures up the magic. Small town America is as fascinating as ever under his watchful eye, as he drills down into the minutiae of those characters' personalities and psyches. I was totally unprepared for Holly's appearance in the book, it was unexpected and delightful, and the story is a brilliant triumph. Utterly superb.

 

Stephen King & Owen King: Sleeping Beauties

Published by Hodder & Stoughton 3rd May 2018

In this spectacular father/son collaboration, Stephen King and Owen King tell the highest of high-stakes stories: what might happen if women disappeared from the world of men? All around the world, something is happening to women when they fall asleep; they become shrouded in a cocoon-like gauze. If awakened, if the gauze wrapping their bodies is disturbed, the women become feral and spectacularly violent... In the small town of Dooling, West Virginia, the virus is spreading through a women's prison, affecting all the inmates except one. Soon, word spreads about the mysterious Evie, who seems able to sleep - and wake. Is she a medical anomaly or a demon to be slain? The abandoned men, left to their increasingly primal devices, are fighting each other, while Dooling's Sheriff, Lila Norcross, is just fighting to stay awake. And the sleeping women are about to open their eyes to a new world altogether...

 

I always thought that it was a mistake for Stephen King to write a book with someone else, even if, as in this case, it was his son. I haven't ever read anything by Owen King, and on the basis of this novel, I don't think I ever will. This is the paperback version of Sleeping Beauties, and in my opinion the cover is stunning, much finer than the original hardback cover, and is very probably the best feature of the novel. It's on my bookshelf quite near the hardback original, but it isn't a Stephen King novel I would really want to revisit...

Jacqueline Winspear: To Die But Once

Published by Allison & Busby 20th March 2018

Spring 1940. With Britons facing what has become known as the Bore War – nothing much seems to have happened yet – Maisie Dobbs is asked to investigate the disappearance of a local lad, a young apprentice craftsman working on a “hush-hush” government contract. As Maisie’s inquiry reveals a possible link to the London underworld, so the country is bracing for a possible enemy invasion amid news of the British expeditionary force stranded along the French coast. And another mother is worried about a missing son - but this time the boy in question is one beloved by Maisie.

 

Jacqueline captures the essence and the spirit of Great Britain as it stumbles into what was surely not yet World War 2 and the prospect of invasion from the North Sea and across the English Channel. This is like reading an episode of Foyle's War, it's that good. Brilliant characters and dialogue, and a fascinating plot. Maisie Dobbs should have been snatched up by the TV drama companies by now!

 

 

 

Robert Scragg: What Falls Between The Cracks

Published by Allison & Busby 19th April 2018

When a severed hand is found in an abandoned flat, Detective Jake Porter and his partner Nick Styles are able to DNA match the limb to the owner, Natasha Barclay, who has not been seen in decades. But why has no one been looking for her? It seems that Natasha's family are the people who can least be trusted. Delving into the details behind her disappearance and discovering links to another investigation, a tragic family history begins to take on a darker twist. Hampered by a widespread fear of a local heavy, as well as internal politics and possible corruption within the force, Porter and Styles are digging for answers, but will what they find ever see the light of day?

 

I believe this is the first Porter and Styles title I have ever read, but going by the sheer excellence of this brilliant debut (for me) I can't wait to catch up with these two again. As police procedurals go, this is right up there with the best, and the story fairly rocks along at a perfect pace. I'm always fascinated by stories that turn out to be cold cases, and this one is exceptionally good.

 

 

Rebecca Tope: The Staveley Suspect

Published by Allison & Busby 19th April 2018

Simmy Brown has a lot on her mind. Not just keeping her florist business afloat, her father's failing health, the challenge of developing a long-term relationship with Christopher, but also the approach of Mother's Day, a busy and painful day for her. But in taking an order for a retirement party in Staveley, she is pulled into her most challenging investigation. When a daughter starts accusing her own mother of murder, Simmy, Ben and Bonnie find themselves taking different sides of the investigation. With her relationships under strain, Simmy is tired on all fronts. However, she has to learn to leave her own concerns behind to discover just who the killer is.

 

Rebecca's latter day Miss Marple, Simmy Brown, tackles another mesmerising case which brings into sharp focus her own personal problems as she struggles to keep her floristry business going at the same time. Gentle crime drama with perfect backdrops and fascinating characters - what's not to like?

 

 

Rebecca Tope: Peril In The Cotswolds

Published by Allison & Busby 22nd March 2018

Thea Slocombe is trying to settle into normal family domestic life with Drew and his two children in Broad Campden. But any sense of cosy domesticity is shattered when Thea finds the body of a neighbour. No longer a house-sitter, Thea has no choice but to stay in the village and deal with whatever happens next, even when this risks damage to her marriage. Unconvinced that the swift conclusion made about the death by the police is the right one, Thea is compelled to follow her nature and investigate herself. But what repercussions might there be for her, Drew and those with whom they share this corner of the Cotswolds?

 

Rebecca's other Miss Marple, Thea Slocombe, stumbles across a murdered neighbour and can't help but get involved in the subsequent investigation. It's a good job she does, because the police are floundering... Superbly observed, slightly humorous and still quite gentle crime drama which is impossible to dislike. Anything set in the Cotswolds is going to appeal to me - I was brought up there for the first fifteen years of my life. Enthralling, engaging, superb.

 

Simon Michael: Corrupted

Published by Urbane Publications June 2018

Corrupted is the fourth book in the Charles Holborne thriller series, and Simon Michael's follow up to the bestselling The Lighterman. Charles is building his reputation as a brilliant murder trial lawyer and living the good life with partner Sally. But he can't escape the influences and dangers of the past, and finds himself drawn once more into the orbit of the notorious Kray twins. It's not long before Charles is courting scandal and threats to his very life when investigating a sex ring that involves not just the Krays and the Mafia, but goes to the very echelons of the country's power. Simon Michael brings the past back to life across a beautifully rendered swinging 60s landscape, and delivers a gripping piece of thriller fiction that will excite any fan of the genre.

 

It seems to me that author Simon Michael might have been around during the sixties just as I was - the detail is fantastic and the drama revolves around the Krays and the seedy side of the swinging capital. Stunning attention to detail and brilliant characters move the plot along at a hugely enjoyable pace.

 

Rebecca Tope: The Bowness Bequest

Published by Allison & Busby 24th May 2018

Winter has arrived in the town of Windermere, and has bought with it the death of Frances Henderson, the best friend of Persimmon `Simmy' Brown's mother. Having known the Henderson family all of her life, Simmy must cope with the loss of an important figure from her childhood, as well as the confusion at being bequeathed something in Frances's will. When Frances's husband is violently murdered in his home, Simmy must face the fact that the family she was once so close to as a child, holds some dark and sinister secrets.

 

This is the latest adventure in Rebecca's Simmy Brown series, and is, in my opinion, the very best yet. If I had to choose between Simmy and Thea Slocombe (which thankfully I don't), I believe I would come down on the side of Simmy Brown, although the Cotswold setting does rather appeal slightly more than the Lake District. Rebecca's books are, to put it simply, a joy to read, and really do remind me of the earlier Agatha Christies. Ansolutely perfect writing and quite frankly, brilliant.

 

Luke Delaney: A Killing Mind

Published by Harper Collins 17th May 2018

The fifth novel in the DI Sean Corrigan series – authentic and terrifying crime fiction with a psychological edge, by an ex-Met detective. Perfect for fans of Mark Billingham, Peter James and Stuart MacBride. A serial killer stalks the streets… In the darkest corners of London, a killer is on the hunt. His murders are brutal. Teeth pulled out. Nails pulled out. Bodies abandoned. A detective follows his every move…  DI Sean Corrigan of the Special Investigations Unit desperately tries to use his ability to understand the minds of killers before another victim is ruthlessly murdered. A clash of dangerous minds…  Corrigan is all too willing to take deadly risks to track down his quarry, but this time the killer has set a trap, just for him. Will Corrigan stop the murderer in time, or is he about to become a victim himself?

 

This is a brilliant cat and mouse thriller featuring the superlative D I Corrigan. Nail-biting stuff from a superb writer.

 

Karin Slaughter: The Good Daughter

Published by Harper Collins 3rd May 2018

The stunning new standalone, with a chilling edge of psychological suspense, from No.1 bestselling author Karin Slaughter. The Good Daughter will have you hooked from the first page to the last, and will stay with you long after you have finished reading! One ran. One stayed. But who is…the good daughter? Twenty-eight years ago, Charlotte and Samantha Quinn's childhoods were destroyed by a terrifying attack on their family home. It left their mother dead. It left their father – a notorious defence attorney – devastated. And it left the family consumed by secrets from that shocking night. Twenty-eight years later, Charlie has followed in her father's footsteps to become a lawyer. But when violence comes to their home town again, the case triggers memories she's desperately tried to suppress. Because the shocking truth about the crime which destroyed her family won't stay buried for ever…

 

Karin Slaughter is without doubt, in my opinion, the best female American crime writer of the century, and The Good Daughter has to be one of her best ever books. Full of dark family secrets that are usually the stuff of Hollywood, but in Karin's case are totally believable, this is perfect escapist crime fiction for the summer season. Superlative writing.

 

Emma Salisbury: Absent

Published by Independently Published 16th May 2018

When he stopped a serial killer in his tracks earlier in the year he thought that would be the end of it, but for DS Kevin Coupland his nightmare has just begun. A child’s body is discovered hidden in a bag, kicking off a major investigation for Salford Precinct’s murder squad. Soon the National Crime Agency roll into town and Coupland is under strict instructions to play nice. He’s got enough on his plate to worry about politics. A shock discovery in his personal life is starting to take its toll, causing him to make decisions that bring him to the attention of the powers that be for all the wrong reasons. DS Alex Moreton returns from maternity leave to find her partner deeply troubled, but with a cold case to review she’s in no position to prevent him hitting the self-destruct button. As he hunts down the child’s killer Coupland is forced to reflect upon his own life and find an answer to the question he’s been avoiding. Is it possible to accept the things you cannot change? A gripping warts and all police procedural which will hook fans of Angela Marsons and Ed James.

 

I'm afraid I'm not familiar with either Angela Marsons or Ed James, so can't really go for an opinion based on that. However, having plunged into the book, I can say that it is well put together and full of tasty titbits of crime and excellent police procedures that will keep you hooked from page one...

 

Mary Collis: Gabriel's Journey

Published by The Book Guild 28th April 2018

When Gabriel awakes in a hospital bed with no recollection of how he got there or why he is there, and is discharged into the care of an unknown Japanese woman, he is desperate to make sense of the situation.He suspects that the answers must lie somewhere within the complexities of his unorthodox past. Gabriel's past adventure-loving and hedonistic lifestyle is re-lived and revealed to the reader in his dreams. Through the narrations of his dreams the reader is transported into the personal world and transitory romantic relationships of a narcissistic personality, travelling with him across time and continents and entering his world of perceived espionage and conspiracy. These dreams of times past are woven seamlessly into the contrasting dramatic reality of Gabriel's present-day life. The story creates a credible picture of Gabriel's enforced imprisonment and of his epic battle to regain his freedom, escaping into the obscurity of London's warren of streets and formulating complex, detailed plans which include assuming a new identity. The story is crafted around Gabriel's magnetic and influential personality which draws others to both believe him and collude with him and his ability to create a clever, subtle and elaborate camouflage to obscure the reality of his situation.

 

David Longridge: Silence In The Desert

Published by Matador 28th April 2018

Four young people are caught up on opposing sides, yet bound to one another by pre-war friendship, and new found love. Henri’s family sends a son from each generation to military college for a commission into the French Foreign Legion. As he fulfils this tradition and the Second World War breaks out, Henri is faced with a dilemma which will lead to an adventure few could match in that conflict. Leo is set on joining Goering’s new Luftwaffe, but his war leads him into the secret world of Signals Intelligence. The suspension of the moral law in time of turmoil raises issues which he struggles to reconcile with his conscience and the ethics of his upbringing. Bill is South African, a talented young rugby player at the same school as Henri and Leo, and heads for Cambridge on an RAF scholarship. His ultimate test comes from a least expected direction and a woman who has already suffered terribly. Elisabeth’s home was Munich until her father becomes a professor at the Pasteur Institute, and she starts her own medical training in Paris. Her crucial decision to return to Germany clashes with the circumstances of her family and the legacy of its past. Alone and threatened, Elisabeth escapes to the deserts of North Africa and to the man who will change her life.

 


 

The small print: Books Monthly, now well into its twenty-first 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.