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Tuesday, 22 August 2017

'Based on Lies' by Barbara Fagan Speake

Published by Country Books,
28 May 2017.
ISBN 978-1-910489-46-8

Barbara’s excellent series continues with this fifth adventure for Annie MacPherson and Ellie Harrington in Connecticut.   Annie is a Scottish detective seconded to the Westport police and Ellie is a journalism student who became involved with Annie’s previous case.  That fascinating undercover operation was the topic of the previous book, Scared to Tell.   This book begins with an attack on a female student on the local University campus.  The police investigation soon reveals that there have been similar assaults previously both in Connecticut and in Massachusetts.   The police are, therefore, looking for a serial perpetrator who has attempted or achieved rape of a number of college women over a period of time.

Ellie, meanwhile, is preoccupied with the sudden death of her father and the mystery she finds concerning her mother’s death years before.  The two topics have some links as is gradually revealed.  The experiences of the women attacked are described very clearly and the investigations into the identity of their attacker is equally clearly developed.  Obviously, a reader can quickly become concerned with the individuals here, and other characters around Annie and Ellie are well developed too.  The sometimes-tedious work of the police is well shown, while the life of a campus with the dangers women can face is also well delineated.  The denouement is most satisfactory from the aspect of justice though the past lies hinted at in the title show why this justice has been delayed.
Reviewer: Jennifer S. Palmer
Barbara Fagan Speake uses her own experiences as an expatriate American and a psychologist in the NHS in her books.  They form a sequence but knowledge of previous books is not necessary - it adds to the pleasure if you do read them in order, though!

Barbara Fagan Speake was born and brought up in Connecticut. She has written 3 crime novels so far.  The first, Secrets Only Sleep, is a standalone mystery.  The second is this book and the third, Programmed to Kill, develops Annie’s adventures in the USA further

Jennifer Palmer Throughout my reading life crime fiction has been a constant interest; I really enjoyed my 15 years as an expatriate in the Far East, the Netherlands & the USA but occasionally the solace of closing my door to the outside world and sitting reading was highly therapeutic. I now lecture to adults on historical topics including Famous Historical Mysteries.

Sunday, 20 August 2017

‘You Don’t Know Me’ by Imran Mahmoud

Published by Michael Joseph,
4 May 2017.
ISBN:978-071818425-4  (HB)

A young black man stands in the dock at the Old Bailey. We never know his name but we do know that he is charged with murder to which he is pleading not guilty. On the last day of the trial he sacks his lawyer and makes his own closing speech to the jury, not, he says, because the lawyer, a QC, isn’t good, he is, but because he wants to tell a story that no-one else knows and disclose facts that would otherwise be unknown. The story which he tells himself in his own words is the story of his life from his childhood, when he and his sister Blessing are brought up by their Nigerian mother who is strong and encourages them to do well, but his violent, drug-abusing father makes life difficult for them all. The area where the narrator is brought up is riven by gangs but the protagonist avoids being drawn into any gang activity; he is highly intelligent although he gained little from school, but his love is cars and he makes a decent living out of buying and selling them. And he is living with the beautiful Kira. What can go wrong? But it does. Kira’s jailbird brother, desperate for an early release from prison, makes a terrible bargain which wrecks his sister’s life and the lives of all around her.

The narrator begins by going through the evidence against him. Some of it seems pretty thin: He and the victim came from the same area, he was heard to threaten him (except that his words were misinterpreted), a young man wearing a hoodie similar to one owned by the defendant was seen arguing with the victim. Other evidence is rather more compelling, bullets from the gun found in the defendant’s flat, bloodstains, hairs, all link him to the victim. But how reliable are those links? The defendant insists that he is not guilty, but those who could provide evidence in his favour, Kira, and his lifelong friend Curt, have disappeared.

However, what makes this book so compelling is the picture it provides of the environment in which the black community have to live. So many young boys are drawn into gangs, seduced by the violence and the glamour. Once they’re involved they can’t get out; not only by the all-pervasive drug culture, but by threats against their lives. The gang culture infects the lives of everyone in the community. It is a world that the writer, who is a criminal defence barrister who practises in the London Crown Courts and in the Court of Appeal, knows well and I feel that it is very much fuelled by his concern that so many of these youths have been failed by society. I also felt that, although the world depicted is one in which women are not much more than commodities it is they who are the true heroes, especially the narrator’s strong mother, of that world. And Kira, although very much a victim, is also a femme fatale in the classic noir tradition.

Will there be a sequel? There are some explosive revelations at the end of the book exposing the truth about the killing and the shadowy role of state security services. But at this final stage of the trial at first instance there is no evidence to support them. However, if the protagonist is convicted would it be possible for some of that evidence to be made available for an appeal to the Court of Appeal? Or even at some time in the future for reconsideration by the Criminal Cases Review Commission?  I would really like to know. Meanwhile You Don’t Know Me was chosen by Radio 2’s Book Club and has been extensively and deservedly praised in reviews.

Highly recommended.
Reviewer: Radmila May

Imran Mahmood is a Criminal defence barrister with over twenty years' experience in the Crown Court and Court of Appeal. He specialises in Legal Aid cases involving crimes such as murder and other serious violence as well as fraud and sexual offences. He was born in Liverpool and now lives in London with his wife and daughter
Radmila May was born in the U.S. but has lived in the U.K. since she was seven apart from seven years in The Hague. She read law at university but did not go into practice. Instead she worked for many years for a firm of law publishers and still does occasional work for them including taking part in a substantial revision and updating of her late husband’s legal practitioners’ work on Criminal Evidence published late 2015. She has also contributed short stories with a distinctly criminal flavour to two of the Oxford Stories anthologies published by Oxpens Press – a third story is to be published shortly in another Oxford Stories anthology – and is now concentrating on her own writing.

Saturday, 19 August 2017

‘Need You Dead’ by Peter James

Published (HB)UK/CA by Pan McMillan,
18 May 2017.
ISBN: 978-1-5098-1631-6.
(HB)US, 6 June 2017.
ISBN: 978-1-2500-3020-7.
(PB) US.
ISBN 978-105098-1633-0.
(PB)  UK , 19 October 2017.
ISBN: 978-10508-1633-0.
(PB) CA, 1 Dec. 2017.
ISBN: 97-1-5098-4828-7.

Roy Grace, Detective Superintendent and head of the high crime unit, faces a dilemma in the latest in this wonderful police procedural series, now numbering thirteen: evidence that one of his own squad may be a murderer.  Such a possibility goes against everything Grace believes in.  Such a possibility betrays the trust implicit in the job in which each policeman relies on all the others to watch his back.

The possible culprit is faced with an overwhelming accumulation of evidence in a murder case, one involving Lorna Belling, a beautiful woman hairdresser in an abusive marriage, making her husband a suspect in her murder, along with the accused cop.  Another suspect is a respected member of the community who was in an extra-marital relationship with her.  And a potential fourth suspect was an unknown lover.  Lastly, there was always the possibility that she committed suicide.

 The subsequent investigation is strewn with a variety of red herrings to keep the reader guessing.  Meanwhile, Grace is faced with bringing back home the body of his dead first wife for burial, along with his previously unknown 10-year-old son he is now charged with rearing.  Peter James has long demonstrated how a police procedural can not only be intriguing but well written.  This latest novel is no exception. And just as important is his ability to show how very human Roy Grace is as a character.

Reviewer: Theodore Feit

Peter James was educated at Charterhouse and then at film school. He lived in North America for a number of years, working as a screen writer and film producer, before returning to England. His multiple award-winning, Sunday Times Top Ten bestselling novels have been translated into thirty-three languages. His writings reflect his deep interest in medicine, science and the world of the police. He has produced numerous films, including The Merchant of Venice, starring Al Pacino, Jeremy Irons and Joseph Fiennes. He also co-created the hit Channel 4 series Bedsitcom, which was nominated for a Rose d'Or. Peter James won the Krimi-Blitz 2005 Crime Writer of the Year Award in Germany, and Dead Simple won both the 2006 Prix Polar International award and the 2007 Prix Cœur Noir award in France. Looking Good Dead was shortlisted for the 2007 Richard and Judy Crime Thriller of the Year award, and has been shortlisted for both France's SNCF award and Le Grand Prix de Littérature Policère. He divides his time between his homes in Notting Hill in London and Sussex.

Ted and Gloria Feit live in Long Beach, NY, a few miles outside New York City.  For 26 years, Gloria was the manager of a medium-sized litigation firm in lower Manhattan. Her husband, Ted, is an attorney and former stock analyst, publicist and writer/editor for, over the years, several daily, weekly and monthly publications.  Having always been avid mystery readers, and since they're now retired, they're able to indulge that passion.  Their reviews appear online as well as in three print publications in the UK and US.  On a more personal note: both having been widowed, Gloria and Ted have five children and nine grandchildren between them.