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april 2018 - crime and thrillers


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Edmund Crispin: The Case Of The Gilded Fly

Published by HarperFiction 8th March 2018

 

The very first case for Oxford-based sleuth Gervase Fen, one of the last of the great Golden Age detectives. As inventive as Agatha Christie, as hilarious as P.G. Wodehouse, this is the perfect entry point to discover the delightful detective stories of Edmund Crispin - crime fiction at its quirkiest and best. A pretty but spiteful young actress with a talent for destroying men’s lives is found dead in a college room just yards from the office of the unconventional Oxford don Gervase Fen. Anyone who knew the girl would gladly have shot her, but can Fen discover who did shoot her, and why? Published during the Second World War, The Case of the Gilded Fly introduced English professor and would-be detective Gervase Fen, one of crime fiction’s most irrepressible and popular sleuths. A classic locked-room mystery filled with witty literary allusions, it was the debut of ‘a new writer who calls himself Edmund Crispin’ (in reality the choral and film composer Bruce Montgomery), later described by The Times as ‘One of the last exponents of the classical English detective story . . . elegant, literate, and funny.’ This Detective Story Club classic is introduced by Douglas G. Greene, who reveals how Montgomery’s ambition to emulate John Dickson Carr resulted in a string of successful and distinctive Golden Age detective novels and an invitation from Carr himself to join the exclusive Detection Club.

I was immediately captivated by the stunning front covers of these books - six titles in all have been released by Harper Collins, and they look just great! So far I've only had time to read the first title in the series, but it seems to me that Gervaise Fen would have been a worthy addition to the genre that would have been dominated by Agatha Christie. There is humour a-plenty in this first outing for Fen, something taht's sadly missing from many of the darker mysteries of later decades. I thooughly enjoyed it!

Edmund Crispin: Buried For Pleasure

Published by HarperFiction 8th March 2018

 

In the sleepy English village of Sanford Angelorum, professor and amateur detective Gervase Fen is taking a break from his books to run for Parliament. At first glance, the village he's come to canvass appears perfectly peaceful, but Fen soon discovers that appearances can be deceptive: someone in the village has discovered a dark secret and is using it for blackmail. Anyone who comes close to uncovering the blackmailer's identity is swiftly dispatched. As the joys of politics wear off, Fen sets his mind to the mystery but finds himself caught up in a tangled tale of eccentric psychiatrists, escaped lunatics, beautiful women and lost heirs.

Only the third non-Logan MacRae books to be written by Stuart, and although the setting is similar to his MacRae and Ash Henderson books, there's nothing too familiar or overlapping, with the result that you just hope he can find the time to write more books about Callum as well... There is one character who has appeared in previous MacBride books, but I'll leave you to discover her for yourself. Stuart MacBride simply gets better and better, and there's a new Logan MacRae out later this year. Superb entertainment from the King of police thrillers.

 

Edmund Crispin: Swan Song

Published by HarperFiction 8th March 2018

 

When an opera company gathers in Oxford for the first post-war production of Wagner's Die Meistersinger its happiness is soon soured by the discovery that the unpleasant Edwin Shorthouse will be singing a leading role. Nearly everyone involved has reason to loathe Shorthouse but who amongst them has the fiendish ingenuity to kill him in his own locked dressing room? In the course of this entertaining adventure, eccentric Oxford don and amateur sleuth Gervase Fen has to unravel two murders, cope with the unpredictability of the artistic temperament, and attempt to encourage the course of true love. Erudite, eccentric and entirely delightful - Before Morse, Oxford's murders were solved by Gervase Fen, the most unpredictable detective in classic crime fiction.

Only the third non-Logan MacRae books to be written by Stuart, and although the setting is similar to his MacRae and Ash Henderson books, there's nothing too familiar or overlapping, with the result that you just hope he can find the time to write more books about Callum as well... There is one character who has appeared in previous MacBride books, but I'll leave you to discover her for yourself. Stuart MacBride simply gets better and better, and there's a new Logan MacRae out later this year. Superb entertainment from the King of police thrillers.

 

 

My favourite reading genre (at the moment) is crime fiction, and this month I have read a large number of brilliant stories which are reviewed on this page, starting with Elizabeth George's brilliant new blockbuster The Punishment She Deserves. Why the BBC stopped making the Tommy Lynley mysteries is a complete mystery to me - he is a superb character, along with Sergeant Havers, and this is almost 600 pages of sheer brilliance... Plenty of other great murder mysteries on this page...

Elizabeth George: The Punishment She Deserves

Published by Hodder & Stoughton 20th March 2018

Award-winning author Elizabeth George delivers another masterpiece of suspense in her Inspector Lynley series. When a Member of Parliament shows up at New Scotland Yard requesting an investigation into the suicide of the son of one of his constituents in the beautiful town of Ludlow, the Assistant Commissioner sees two opportunities in this request: the first is to have an MP owing him a favour, and the second is to get rid of Detective Sergeant Barbara Havers, whose career at the Met has been hanging by a thread for quite some time. So he assigns Havers to the case and for good measure partners her with the one person who shares his wish to see the back of her, Detective Chief Superintendent Isabelle Ardery. But Ardery has her own difficulties. She is not happy to be sent away from London and as a result is in a rush to return. This causes her to overlook certain uncomfortable facts. Soon, the case is opened again and this time, it is Lynley who must accompany Havers to Ludlow, with little more than a week to save the Met's reputation and Barbara's job. And the more they investigate, the more it looks as if the suicide was part of a much more sinister pattern of events.

 

The one mystery that should be investigated is why the BBC decided to pull the plug on the Tommy Lynley mysteries - this latest blockbuster from Elizabeth is almost 600 pages long, and is, quite simply, a sheer delight to read. A complex but not unwieldy plot, a cavalcade of superb characters and sparkling dialogue (and prose) make for a hugely entertaining read. I cannot fault this in any way, it is a masterpiece of modern crime fiction and heads up the crime and thriller page for April. Absolutely superb.

 

Stephanie Merritt: While You Sleep

Published by Harper Collins 8th March 2018

On a remote Scottish island, the McBride house stands guard over its secrets. A century ago, a young widow and her son died mysteriously there; just last year a local boy, visiting for a dare, disappeared without a trace. For Zoe Adams, newly arrived from America, the house offers a refuge from her failing marriage. But her peaceful retreat is disrupted by strange and disturbing events: night-time intrusions; unknown voices; a constant sense of being watched. The locals want her to believe that these incidents are echoes of the McBrides' dark past. Zoe is convinced the danger is closer at hand, and all too real – but can she uncover the truth before she is silenced?

 

This truly atmospheric and creepy at the same tie - another one set in Scotland, this time on one of the islands (but not Shetland). Zoe's back story provides much of the interest, but there's plenty going on amongst the locals to raise a few eyebrows and worries about her. Mesmerisingly good.

 

 

 

 

Sarah Hilary: Come And Find Me

Published by Headline 22nd March 2018

On the surface, Lara Chorley and Ruth Hull have nothing in common, other than their infatuation with Michael Vokey. Each is writing to a sadistic inmate, sharing her secrets, whispering her worst fears, craving his attention. DI Marnie Rome understands obsession. She's finding it hard to give up her own addiction to a dangerous man: her foster brother, Stephen Keele. She wasn't able to save her parents from Stephen. She lives with that guilt every day. As the hunt for Vokey gathers pace, Marnie fears one of the women may have found him - and is about to pay the ultimate price.

 

This is the latest in the DI Marnie Rome series, and I enjoyed it so much I started to trawl the local charity shops for further Marnie books, finiding, so far, regrettably, only one. Marnie has her faults, like all of our favourite detectives, but she's a terrific character and the story is brilliant. Can't wait for the next one!

 

Ngaio Marsh and Stella Duffy: Money In The Morgue

Published by HarperFiction 8th March 2018

It’s business as usual for Mr Glossop as he does his regular round delivering wages to government buildings scattered across New Zealand’s lonely Canterbury plains. But when his car breaks down he is stranded for the night at the isolated Mount Seager Hospital, with the telephone lines down, a storm on its way and the nearby river about to burst its banks. Trapped with him at Mount Seager are a group of quarantined soldiers with a serious case of cabin fever, three young employees embroiled in a tense love triangle, a dying elderly man, an elusive patient whose origins remain a mystery … and a potential killer. When the payroll disappears from a locked safe and the hospital’s death toll starts to rise faster than normal, can the appearance of an English detective working in counterespionage be just a lucky coincidence – or is something more sinister afoot?

 

This is a book that was begun in the 1940s by the late great Ngaio Marsh, and Stella Duffy has done a magnificent job is finishing it. Inspector Alleyn is ensconced at the hospital, keeping a low profile when Mr Glossop's wages delivery goes missing, along with £100 of one of the other inhabitants' . Alleyn assumes control of the situation and what ensues is a classic locked room mystery as he tries to work out what happened to the money, and to discover who committed what at first appears to be two bizarre murders. With bodies disappearing all over the place and a brilliant cast of characters, this is a shining example of why Dame Ngaio was one of our favourite crime authors, and full marks to Stella for pulling it off so spectacularly!

 

 

Christi Daugherty: The Echo Killing

Published by Harper Collins 8th March 2018

Fifteen years ago her mother’s killer got away. Has he finally struck again? MURDER SHOCKS PEACEFUL NEIGHBOURHOOD. A woman in her thirties. Found naked and stabbed on the kitchen floor. Discovered by her twelve-year-old daughter after school. As top Savannah crime reporter Harper McClain stares at the horrific scene before her, one thought screams through her mind. This murder is identical to another murder she has witnessed. Her mother’s murder… For fifteen years, Harper has been torn apart by the knowledge that her mother’s killer is walking free. And now, it seems he’s struck again. There are no fingerprints. No footprints. No DNA. Yet still, Harper is determined to discover the truth once and for all. But that search will come at a cost…and it could be one she isn’t ready to pay.

 

This is a brilliant example of American small town murder mystery, perfectly executed by Christi Daugherty.

 

 

 

E C Fremantle: The Poison Bed

Published by Michael Joseph 14th June 2018

A king, his lover and his lover's wife. One is a killer. In the autumn of 1615 scandal rocks the Jacobean court when a celebrated couple are imprisoned on suspicion of murder. She is young, captivating and from a notorious family. He is one of the richest and most powerful men in the kingdom. Some believe she is innocent; others think her wicked or insane. He claims no knowledge of the murder. The king suspects them both, though it is his secret at stake. Who is telling the truth? Who has the most to lose? And who is willing to commit murder?

 

 

 

 

 

Historical crime fiction doesn't get much better than this - set in the early days of Stuart England, there is intrigue, mystery, murder and mayhem a-plenty. Great stuff!

 

 

John Connolly: The Woman In The Woods

Published by Hodder & Stoughton 5th April 2018

The new thrilling instalment of John Connolly's popular Charlie Parker series. It is spring, and the semi-preserved body of a young Jewish woman is discovered buried in the Maine woods. It is clear that she gave birth shortly before her death. But there is no sign of a baby. Private detective Charlie Parker is engaged by the lawyer Moxie Castin to shadow the police investigation and find the infant, but Parker is not the only searcher. Someone else is following the trail left by the woman, someone with an interest in more than a missing child, someone prepared to leave bodies in his wake. And in a house by the woods, a toy telephone begins to ring. For a young boy is about to receive a call from a dead woman . . .

 

The new Charlie Parker mystery from American superstar author John Connolly. Probably the best PI in the business.

 

 

 

 

Vaseem Khan: The Strange Disappearance of a Bollywood Star

Published by Mulholland Books 8th March 2018

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...

 

Paperback version of last year's blockbuster...

 

 

 

 

David Laws: Munich - The Man Who Said No!

Published by Matador 28th February 2018

 

MUNICH 1938
A foreign correspondent gatecrashes the pre-war Munich Conference to protest against British Premier Neville Chamberlain’s surrender to Hitler – more than 70 years later it’s like the incident never happened – hushed up, with the man disappeared, never seen again. Now his granddaughter, a Cambridge graduate, wants to know what really happened.

The gatecrasher was an American radio reporter who recognised that signing up to an agreement giving Adolf Hitler everything he wanted in Czechoslovakia was a terrible mistake. He teamed up with a Czech to make a telling protest.

His action was peaceful – but he didn’t know his Czech partner was armed. As the American made a loud declaration to the assembled national leaders – Chamberlain, Daladier, Mussolini and Hitler - the Czech pulled a gun. Result: pandemonium.

BRITAIN 2015

Emma Drake, a history researcher at Cambridge, has always been puzzled that her grandfather simply disappeared without a trace. The infamous Munich agreement was signed; Chamberlain returned home to be a short-lived hero; Hitler emerged all-powerful to wage his war and her grandfather vanished from the pages of history. The Munich police reportedly searched for him but found nothing.

For the family of Bradley C Wilkes, this appeared to be the end of the story. But on the 70th anniversary of Wilkes’s radio station, Emma is chosen to lead a conference to reassess the significance of the events in Munich.

Hungry for success, Emma can now reopen the mystery of her missing grandfather – but there are obstacles in her way: rebuffed by powerful relatives, beset by an arms dealing conspiracy and hit by an Intelligence “sting”, she’s almost won...until her trail takes her in an unexpected direction, to a forest 50 miles 50 miles west of Auschwitz to trace partisan action against Hitler’s Final Solution.

 

 

 

Christopher Lowery: The Dark Web

Published by Urbane 16th April 2018

 

The Dark Web, is a breathless race against time to prevent deadly threats against our known world. When a computer scientist dies mysteriously in Dubai, Jenny Bishop's nephew, Leo Stewart, is hired to replace him. Leo's life is soon in danger, but he is the only person who can find the key to prevent an impending global cyber-attack. With the help of Jenny and old and new friends, he must find a way to neutralise the threat before the world's vital services are brought to a halt. A shadowy figure, known only as Tsunami, is working behind the veil of international offshore company structures in an attempt to redraw international borders once again and enrich the ruthless authors of the conspiracy. From Moscow and Iraq to Shanghai, Washington, London and Continental Europe, the gripping narrative exposes the tentacles of the Dark Web wrapped around the Earth, giving access and anonymity to the authors of these deadly conspiracies. The Dark Web is a thrilling final chapter in the African Diamonds trilogy.

 

The dark web is something that should have been closed down a long time ago. Christopher Lowery's book is chilling and disturbing at the same time.

 

Jeffery Deaver: The Cutting Edge

Published by Hodder & Stoughton 17th May 2018

 

Number one bestselling author and ultimate thriller writer Jeffery Deaver returns with a new Lincoln Rhyme investigation. Rhyme and Amelia Sachs' latest case: catching a terrifying killer targeting couples... The happiest time of their lives - will be their last. William and Anna went to collect her engagement ring. 1.5 carat, almost flawless. But the Promisor had other ideas for their future... Their murder - and that of the diamond cutter they were visiting - is only the first of a series of macabre attacks. Someone is targeting couples just as they start their lives together. Lincoln Rhyme and Amelia Sachs, newly married themselves, are on the hunt. But the killer is hunting down any witnesses who can help them. He has promised one thing: to destroy. Rhyme and Sachs will have to use all their own skills and determination to break his vow.

 

A new Lincoln Rhyme investigation is almost (though not quite) as good as a new Stephen King...

 

 

 

John Mead: The Hanging Women

Published by The Book Guild 28th February 2018

 

Jack Stevens discovers the bodies of two women, Philomena Blackstaff and Mary Walsh, tied together and hung by their ankles in a position resembling the symbol for treachery as depicted on tarot cards. Though retired and now wealthy, Stevens is an ex-sheriff and involves himself in the subsequent investigation. As a result of Jack `stealing' Philomena's diary and his association with the Pinkerton detective agency, it is discovered that Mary Walsh worked undercover for the Pinkertons, investigating the Knights of Labour (the fastest growing workers' rights movements in America of the late 1800's). The women had been working together, tracing the man who was selling guns and dynamite to the more extremest factions of the workers movement. This led them to Ruby's, a secret `nightclub for deviants', where Stevens and Inspector O'Leary believe the pair fell foul of the man they were looking for, gang leader Joseph Mannheim. With the May 4th Haymarket riots and bombings looming, Stevens must uncover the truth about The Hanging Women before it's too late.

 

 

 

Steve Berry: The Bishop's Pawn

Published by Hodder & Stoughton 20th March 2018

 

History notes that the ugly feud between J. Edgar Hoover and Martin Luther King, Jr., marked by years of illegal surveillance and the accumulation of secret files, ended on April 4, 1968 when King was assassinated by James Earl Ray. But that may not have been the case. Now, fifty years later, former Justice Department agent, Cotton Malone, must reckon with the truth of what really happened that fateful day in Memphis. It all turns on an incident from eighteen years ago, when Malone, as a young Navy lawyer, is trying hard not to live up to his burgeoning reputation as a maverick. When Stephanie Nelle, a high-level Justice Department lawyer, enlists him to help with an investigation, he jumps at the opportunity. But he soon discovers that two opposing forces--the Justice Department and the FBI--are at war over a rare coin and a cadre of secret files containing explosive revelations about the King assassination, information that could ruin innocent lives and threaten the legacy of the civil rights movement's greatest martyr. Malone's decision to see it through to the end ---- from the raucous bars of Mexico, to the clear waters of the Dry Tortugas, and ultimately into the halls of power within Washington D.C. itself ---- not only changes his own life, but the course of history.

 

Steve Berry always mines the lost riches of history ---- in The Bishop's Pawn he imagines a gripping, provocative thriller about an American icon, just in time for April 2018 and the 50th anniversary of the assassination.

 

 

Cherith Baldry: Brutal Terminations

Published by Matador 28th March 2018

 

When a female skeleton is unearthed by workmen digging the foundations for a library extension at St Clement's College, Gawaine St Clair, a reluctant amateur detective and former undergraduate of the college, is called in to investigate. Arriving in Oxford, Gawaine is informed that the body had been buried for 30 years, and the woman had been pregnant at the time of her death. Gawaine also discovers that a don, Richard Templeman, is missing, to be later found dead. Gawaine's suspicions fall on men who were in college 30 years before, and are still there: Stephen Verner, who was then about to marry a socially advantageous woman; Father Gerard, the celibate college chaplain; Heatherington the creepy head porter; Colonel Morrison, the Bursar, who appears to have no motive; Dr Porteus, whose Fellowship depended on his unmarried status. A letter gives Gawaine clues to the identity of the woman and her lover, and he finally finds the killer. But is he right? And will he survive long enough to prove it?

 

 

 

 

Lindsey Davis: Pandora's Boy

Published by Hodder and Stoughton 5th April 2018

 

Private investigator Flavia Albia is always drawn to an intriguing puzzle - even if it is put to her by her new husband's hostile ex-wife. On the Quirinal Hill, a young girl named Clodia has died, apparently poisoned with a love potion. Only one person could have supplied such a thing: a local witch who goes by the name of Pandora, whose trade in herbal beauty products is hiding something far more sinister. The supposedly sweet air of the Quirinal is masking the stench of loose morality, casual betrayal and even gangland conflict and, when a friend of her own is murdered, Albia determines to expose as much of this local sickness as she can - beginning with the truth about Clodia's death.

 

Atmospheric and compelling...

 

 

 

 

Helen Cadbury: Race To The Kill

Published by Allison and Busby 15th February 2018

 

It is the middle of a long night shift in Doncaster for PC Sean Denton and his partner PC Gavin Wentworth when they are approached by a dishevelled-looking woman desperate that they follow her. She leads them to the old Chasebridge High School where they find the dead body of a Syrian refugee. With a sexual assault court case and a missing girl also vying for his attention, Denton and the murder investigation are drawn towards the neighbouring greyhound stadium where all is not as it seems. With the worlds of immigration, drugs and sexual abuse pressing in on all sides, Denton is walking ever closer to serious danger.

 

Helen's characters are the driving force in this most excellent whodunnit that sees Sean Denton accepted into CID and his relationship with Lizzie seesawing as they both work on a complex case of mistaken identity. The detail is superb and the tension makes for a very readable novel. Terrific!

 

 

Aline Templeton: Human Face

Published by Allison and Busby 18th January 2018

 

Beatrice Lacey is passionate about Human Face, the charity for Third World children she helped to found, and its co-founder Adam Carnegie. She has learned to turn a blind eye to some strange goings on, however; parties for donors who don't seem the philanthropic type and a merry-go-round of `housekeepers'. It's best not to think about that. But when the latest housekeeper, Eva, suddenly disappears, the police and DI Kelso Strang are called in. Keen to move on from recent personal horrors, Strang revels in the responsibility the investigation affords, as a former sniper, he has no problems with making solitary decisions. But when he and the team make some fatal errors, Strang has his work cut out to avoid the case ending in disaster and death.

 

This is the first book I think I've read featuring DI Kelso Strang - and now I want to read more! A superb mystery surrounding the disappearance of a housekeeper, Eva, keeps the mystery motoring along. Great characters, great plot!

 

Jim Kelly: The Great Darkness

Published by Allison and Busby 15th February 2018

 

1939, Cambridge: The opening weeks of the Second World War, and the first blackout - The Great Darkness - covers southern England, enveloping the city. Detective Inspector Eden Brooke, a wounded hero of the Great War, takes his nightly dip in the cool waters of the Cam. Daylight reveals a corpse on the riverside, the body torn apart by some unspeakable force. Brooke investigates, calling on the expertise and inspiration of a faithful group of fellow `nighthawks' across the city, all condemned, like the detective, to a life lived away from the light. Within hours The Great Darkness has claimed a second victim. War, it seems, has many victims, but what links these crimes of the night?

 

Perfect whodunit featuring wartime Cambridge. I sometimes struggle to realise that 1939 is historical because of the vast number of Agatha Christies, Carter Dicksons, John Dickson Carr (same bloke, I know!) and Edund Crispins I read as a youth. This is, officially, an historical detective mystery, and it has everything - atmosphere, tension, excellent police procedural of the 1930s - hugely enjoyable.

 

Sarah Hawkswood: Marked To Die

Published by Alliosn and Busby 15th February 2018

 

October 1143. His task dispatched, a mysterious archer melts back into the forest leaving a pile of corpses in his wake. The lord Sheriff of Worcester cannot ignore such a brazen attack on the salt road from Wich, nor the death of a nobleman in the wrong place at the wrong time. And so Hugh Bradecote and Serjeant Catchpoll are dispatched to hunt an elusive killer and his gang and put a stop to the mounting attacks. But it is not easy to get the culprits in their sights with a reeve keen to keep his position at all costs, a lord with his own ends to serve and a distrusting and vengeful widow to whom Bradecote is increasingly attracted.

 

Now this is what I call historical detective fiction! Shades of Robin Hood... Bradecote and Catchpoll are no strangers to murder, set in a time when life was cheap, particularly for anyone who was not of noble birth. Superb.

 

 

 

 


 

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.