books monthly june 2017

The latest blockbuster Roy Grace novel from Peter James will have you wondering about his son...

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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.

 

 

 

 

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Crime Book of the month: Peter James: Need You Dead

Published by Macmillan 18th May 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.

 

I only discovered Peter James by accident after picking up a mint condition paperback in a local charity shop, and found out that the Roy Grace stories are absolutely superb. For me, the consistency of plot and characters is brilliant, and this latest title is bang up to the mark.The overriding sense of chill with Roy's son, whom he now has to bring up, is something that I'm certain will be explored in more depth in subsequent stories. No wonder readers have voted Peter James the very best crime writer of all time! This is riveting, and hugely entertaining stuff!

 

Sandra Brown: Sting

Published by Hodder & Stoughton 7th May 2017

When Jordie Bennet and Shaw Kinnard lock eyes across a disreputable backwater bar, something sparks. Shaw's dangerous vibe makes men wary and women sit up and take notice... Jordie included. It's an unlikely meeting. She doesn't belong in a seedy dive on the banks of a bayou, but here she is...and Shaw Kinnard is there to kill her. Jordie's certain her time is up, but Shaw has other plans. He abducts her, hoping to get his hands on the thirty million dollars her brother has stolen. However, he's not the only one looking for the fortune. Now on the run from the feds and a notorious criminal, Jordie and Shaw must rely on their wits - and each other - to stay alive. Miles away from civilization, Jordie's only chance of survival is to outwit Shaw, but it soon becomes clear that neither is entirely trustworthy. Was she in on her brother's scam, or is she an innocent pawn? And just how valuable is her life to Shaw? Burning for answers - and for each other - this unlikely pair make a desperate move that could be their last. With nonstop plot twists and the tantalizing sexual tension that has made Sandra Brown one of the world's best-loved authors, STING will keep readers on the edge of their seats until the final pages.

 

Innocent victims are the mainstay of most mainstream murder mysteries - not so in Sandra Brown's Sting - Jordie Bennet knows someone is out to kill her, and it's a scramble to survive right from the first page. A real page-turner, this!

 

Ian Sampson: Murder In The Fourth Round

Published by Matador 28th May 2017

Despite his fuddled state, Tony Spencer could feel that something was wrong. The poison was in his bloodstream, attacking his nervous system and his heart. Within minutes he was writhing on the ground. Before Ballesteros signed his winning scorecard, he was dead.

Forward to St Andrews in 2015 and when the man convicted of Tony Spencer’s murder is released on compassionate grounds and a political activist is killed, Detective Inspector Flick Fortune’s investigation focuses on a group of solicitors calling themselves ‘The Jolly Boys’ and Spencer’s murder thirty-one years earlier. Detective Sergeant Bagawath ‘Baggo’ Chandavarkar comes to her aid. Meanwhile, Flick’s old nemesis, ex-Inspector No, is hired to clear the man convicted in 1984 and he stirs things up in his own intimitable, blundering way. As long-buried crimes are revealed, events move quickly and unpredictably to a startling conclusion.

Murder in the Fourth Round has an intelligent plot combined with interesting characters and humour, all while confronting contemporary issues including dementia, the problems of a working wife and mother, a historic miscarriage of justice and the age-old problem of whether the end justifies the means. Ian Simpson has been inspired by the works of Agatha Christie, John Mortimer and PG Wodehouse and his writing style has been compared to Christopher Brookmyre. Murder in the Fourth Round is the fourth in this gripping series. It follows the success of Murder on Page One, Murder on the Second Tee and Murder in Court Three, all of which have received national and local praise.

 

Adi Tantimedh: Her Nightly Embrace

Published by Mulholland Books 15th June 2017

A destructive private investigator and his eccentric co-workers handle cases so high-profile that they never make the headlines. The first in a fun, topical London-based detective series, currently in development as a TV series set to star Sendhil Ramamurthy (Heroes). Ravi Chandra Singh is the last guy you'd expect to become a private detective. A failed religious scholar, he now works for Golden Sentinels, an upmarket London private investigations agency. His colleagues are a band of gleefully amoral and brilliant screw-ups: Ken and Clive, brutal ex-cops who are also a couple; Mark Chapman, a burned-out stoner hiding a great mind; Marcie Holder, a cheerful former publicist; Benjamin Lee, a techie prankster from South London; David Okri, an ambitious lawyer from a well-connected Nigerian family; and Olivia Wong, an upper-class Hong Kong financial analyst hiding her true skills as one of the most dangerous hackers in the world-all under the watchful eye of Roger Golden, wheeler-dealer extraordinaire, and his mysterious office manager, Cheryl Hughes. Thrust into a world where the rich, famous, and powerful hire him to solve their problems and wash their dirty laundry, Ravi finds himself in over his head with increasingly bizarre and complex cases - and the visions that he's been having of Hindu gods aren't helping. As Ravi struggles to stay ahead of danger, he wonders if the things he's seeing are a delusion - or if he might, in fact, be an unrecognised shaman of the modern world...

 

Not sure about the cover art - reminiscent of 1950s pulp fiction, but I guess it captures the mood of this fascinating new series from crime experts Mulholland.

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.