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Thursday, 31 May 2012

‘Flesh and Blood’ by Mark Peterson

Published by Orion, 
12 April 2012. 
ISBN: 978-1-4091-3253-0

When ambitious twenty-seven year old DS Minter joins the crime squad at Kemptown Station in Brighton, it rapidly becomes clear that he is not welcomed by his new boss DCI Tom Beckett.  Having previously worked for Chief Superintendent Roberts compiling statistical reports Minter is viewed with suspicion.

The killing of an undercover policeman resulting in a fiasco for the squad’s biggest case to bring down drug dealer Alan Day, seriously effects morale.  Soon it becomes clear to Minter that there is something seriously wrong in the squad.  And he quickly realises that he will have to make a choice, on just whose side he is on.

Written from multiple points of view this is a powerful debut.   Much of its strength lies in the characterisation, as we encounter family issues with all the main characters. Whilst Minter is the main voice, Tom Beckett’s struggles make him a sympathetic character although that is not of course apparent to Minter, who just sees an older cop, who as far as he is concerned is losing it. 

There is torture and violence which is shocking, and at times stomach turning, but adds to the picture of both modern day criminals and policing.   Starkly realistic, this book is highly recommended by this reviewer.
Lizzie Hayes

Mark Peterson worked in PR and teaching before starting his writing career. He lives in Brighton with his wife and two children.

Sunday, 27 May 2012

‘Watching the Ghosts’ by Kate Ellis

Published by Severn House, 
May 2012. 
ISBN: 978-1-78029-027-0

Since moving into an apartment in Boothgate House in the Yorkshire city of Eborby, Lydia Brookes has been having nightmares, but always the same one.  She discovers that Boothgate House prior to being converted into a luxury apartment building was formerly known as Havenby Hall, an asylum for the insane, and it was here that the serial killer Peter Brockmeister was sent on his release from prison in 1978.  Three years later Havenby Hall was closed.

Taking a call from her senior partner whilst in the park with her small daughter Daisy, solicitor Melanie Hawkes takes her eyes off Daisy for a few minutes and Daisy is gone. 

Investigating both a burglary reported by Lydia Brooks, and the kidnapping of Daisy Hawkes, DI Joe Plantagenet learns that at the time of the kidnapping Melanie Hawkes was looking into suspicious events at Havenby Hall on behalf of a client. 

When by chance Lydia Brooks comes face to face with her nightmare which links back to Havenby Hall, Lydia decides to do some research herself, and uncovers some disturbing information.   While Joe Plantagenet’s investigations reveal the sickening truth about Havenby Hall and the knowledge places Joe in terrible danger.

Kate Ellis has woven a fascinating mystery as several seemingly unrelated matters lead back to the sinister past of Havenby Hall, and the death of Peter Brockmeister in mysterious circumstances.   Incredibly spine chilling this is a real page turner.  Although sometimes so creepy, I was almost fearful of turning the page.  Highly recommended.
Lizzie Hayes

Kate Ellis was born and brought up in Liverpool and she studied drama in Manchester. She worked in teaching, marketing and accountancy before first enjoying writing success as a winner of the North West Playwrights competition. Crime and mystery stories have always fascinated her, as have medieval history and archaeology which she likes to incorporate in her books. Kate's novels feature archaeology graduate Detective Sergeant Wesley Peterson.  Each story combines an intriguing contemporary murder mystery with a parallel historical case. She has also written three books in the spooky Joe Plantagenet series set up in North Yorkshire as well as many short stories for crime fiction anthologies and magazines.  She is married with two grown up sons and she lives in North Cheshire, England, with her husband and Vivaldi the cat.

Monday, 21 May 2012

‘Sacrilege’ By S J Parris

Published by Harper Collins.
ISBN: 9780007317769

S. J. Parris blends fact and fiction in another excellent book featuring the Italian, Bruno Giordano, a real-life character who was a monk and philosopher. In fact he was eventually executed for his unorthodox beliefs but he did spend two years in England and travel to Oxford. There is a suggestion that he worked for Walsingham, Elizabeth I's spy master in the1580’s. This was a time of anti-Catholicism and threats of war, Elizabeth had been excommunicated by the Pope, who offered papal approval to any one who assassinated the queen. 

This book is well researched, a solid novel with plenty of period detail and excellent plotting. The pace is gentle but not too slow. 

Bruno feels he is being watched as he delivers his book to the printer. On the way home he meets Sophia Underhill, the independent, educated girl he fell for in the second novel, Heresy. She is disguised as a man and on the run, accused of murdering her husband. Bruno, gallant as ever, comes to her aid and goes with her to Canterbury to clear her name. Meanwhile, Walsingham, Queen Elizabeth’s spymaster, has a job for Bruno, more catholic plots proliferate against her. Also involved are the superstitions and speculation around the story of St Thomas Becket and the Huguenots living in exile in Canterbury.

The town’s folk are suspicious, Bruno is a foreigner at a time when rumours of plague and imminent war abound. His only ally is the old Cathedral cleric that he stays with. Whilst Bruno is in Canterbury a number of brutal crimes take place, he is thrown into prison and secrets come to light. I don’t wish to reveal too much detail about this novel, to say more would spoil it for readers. There are plenty of well-rounded characters and action. Suffice it to say the ending has a twist and sets up the scenario for the next book in the series. I look forward to reading it
Reviewer: Sue Lord

S J Parris  is the pen-name of Stephanie Merritt, a writer for the Observer and Guardian newspapers.  In 1996 she graduated from Cambridge with a degree in English. She has worked as a critic and feature writer for a range of newspapers and magazines including The Times, The Daily Telegraph, The New Statesman, New Humanist, and Die Welt. From 1998 to 2006 she was the Deputy Literary Editor of The Observer. She is the author of five novels: Gaveston (2002), Real (2005), and three Giordano Bruno books (as S.J. Parris), Heresy (2010),  Prophecy (2011), and Sacrilege. She has also written a memoir about living with depression, The Devil Within (2008.

Sue Lord originally studied Fine Art and Art History, her MA is in Creative Writing. She now, reviews, teaches, mentors and script doctors. She lives in central London and Cornwall. Her favourite pastime is gardening.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

‘Dry Bones’ by Margaret Mayhew

Published by Severn House,
31 May 2012.
ISBN: 978-0-7278-8180-9

The Colonel has now been living in the peaceful village of Frog’s End for eleven years following the death of his beloved wife Laura.  After battling rising damp, death-watch beetle, rotting thatch and general decay, he had finally got the cottage just how he liked it.  With the cottage, to complete the picture had come Thursday the cat, named aptly as he had appeared on a Thursday.

A letter from Cornelia, an old friend of his late wife, professing that she needs his help as her husband Howard is away on business and that something horrible has happened, intrigues the Colonel and so leaving his garden and Thursday in the capable hands of his neighbour Naomi, the Colonel sets off to Wiltshire to give what assistance he can to Cornelia.

When Cornelia presents the Colonel with her ‘horrible problem’, he is shocked to realise that she has done nothing about it for several days and admonishes her to take action, but it is clear that Cornelia prefers to wash her hands of the matter, and so the Colonel realizes that it’s down to him to sort things out. After reporting the matter to the police, he sets off to do some investigating.

The village of King’s Mowbray clearly has some wealthy inhabitants - Cornelia’s house is all plate glass and polished wood, designed, Cornelia informs him proudly by the Danish architect Hans Birger.  But it still has all the hall marks of the English village the Colonel has come to appreciate, gossiping in the village shop, the general nosiness of the residents, and the amazing jungle telegraph.  A trip to the village for his paper and  soon the Colonel begins to get a handle on Cornelia’s problem – can he resolve it?

A true English village mystery.  I was enthralled from the first to the last page, by the marvellous characters and the prose. Margaret Mayhew is a true storyteller.
Lizzie Hayes

Margaret Mayhew was born in London and her earliest childhood memories were of the London Blitz. She began writing in her mid-thirties and had her first novel published in 1976. She is married to American aviation author, Philip Kaplan, and lives in Gloucestershire.

Monday, 14 May 2012

‘Not Safe’ by Danuta Reah

Published by Crime Express, 2011.
ISBN: 978-1-907869-09-9

Amir Hamade is homeless, and heading on a bitterly cold night to find shelter at St Barnabas Church, when he encounters a young frightened Somali girl. Unable to elicit any information from her, Amir feels that he cannot leave her - she is not dressed for the biting cold and in compassion he wraps his own coat around her and encourages her to go with him.  Although Amir knows that St Barnabas is a male only shelter he is at a loss as to what else he can do, hoping that one of the helpers, Andre Motombo will be able to suggest somewhere for the girl to find shelter.  But as they approach St Barnabas the girl becomes even more frightened and runs back the way that they have come.  

DC Tina Barraclough of the South Yorkshire police has for the last six months been on secondment from the elite Serious Crimes Unit to work on a project dealing with asylum seekers.  Tina is also on a last chance and cannot afford to mess up.   When she receives a message that Amir Hamade is in custody accused of murder and wants to see her, she knows that she must step carefully, as clearly Amir is seeking help – can she give it to him without jeopardising her own position.

Not Safe  is a dark and harrowing murder mystery that graphically illustrates the plight of the homeless and asylum seekers.  The latter terrified of the detention centres which are rife with abuse. Once achieving asylum seeker status while waiting for their case to be they heard have a right to accommodation and a small amount of money, but exist in limbo unable to work.  

A thought provoking powerful story.  Highly recommended.
Lizzie Hayes

Danuta Reah who also writes under the name Carla Banks, was born in South Yorkshire. She comes from an academic family but opted out of formal education at the age of 16.  She went to university as a mature student and then went on to teach adults in Further and Higher Education. She taught linguistics and creative writing, and in the course of this, refined her own writing style. Danuta is the author of four novels of pyschological suspense. Silent Playgrounds, Only Darkness, Night Angels and Bleak Water. Her most recent books in the UK, under the name Carla Banks are Strangers; and Forest of Souls,
In 2005 she won the CWA Short Story Dagger for No Flies on Frank (which was included in the The Best British Mysteries IV anthology published by Allison & Busby in 2006.  Danuta Reah is past Chair of the Crime Writers' Association. She also publishes academic books, valued as resources for the study of language. She is married and lives in South Yorkshire with her artist husband.

Friday, 11 May 2012

‘Celebrity in Death’ by J. D Robb

Published by Piatkus,
23 February 2012.
ISBN: 978-0-7499-5591-5

With the filming of Nadine Furst’s book, Lieutenant Eve Dallas, homicide cop finds herself thrust into the film world, as the book is based on one of her famous cases.  Whilst her partner Detective Peabody and several other members of the police force are tickled to meet and see the actors portraying them Eve is in panic mode when she is invited to dinner at the swank residence of the hottest director in Hollywood.  Mixing with the rich and famous is not her thing.

Happily the evening is not a totally write-off as someone offs one of the stars.  There is not surprisingly, a huge cast of characters, and even initial investigation produces a host of suspects as it appears that everyone disliked the victim profoundly, and some digging by Eve produces plenty of motives. 

Whilst a good mystery, with many twists and turns, as with the other books in the series there is plenty of hot sex scenes with her husband reformed bad boy billionaire Roarke - he does sound rather gorgeous!

With some nifty police work Eve does nail the killer but not until the body count has risen and there have been some hair-raising moments. A good entry in this futuristic series set ca 2060.
Lizzie Hayes

Nora Roberts (writing as J D Robb), was born in Silver Spring Maryland, the youngest of five children.  She published her first J D Robb novel featuring homicide cop Eve Dallas in 1995.  Since that time she has published 34 books in this series. Nora is a member of several writers groups and has won countless awards from her colleagues and the publishing industry

Sunday, 6 May 2012

‘Murder Fortissimo’ by Nicola Slade

Published by Worldwide Library,
April 2012.
ISBN: 978-0-373-26796-5

Harriet Quigley, retired headmistress, has, unknown to either her cousin Canon Sam Hathaway or any of her friends, booked herself into Firstone Grange following an operation.

Firstone Grange is both select and expensive. Not an old people’s home but a kind of hotel for older guests who might be convalescing or just wanting some peace and quiet.

Alice cannot believe her luck when her mother Christine Marchant decides to try a month’s respite care at Firstone Grange. Coinciding with this event Alice learns that her boss Barry Wilson has sold his estate agent business to Neil Slater.  Initially, browbeaten Alice fears the worst but matters take a surprising turn.

When Christine Marchant takes up residence at Firstone Grange she has a most unsettling effect on the current guests, for Christine Marchant is a most unpleasant women revelling in the misfortune’s of others, and keen to exploit their weaknesses for her own pleasure.  From the elderly inmates to young Gemma Sankey who works at Firstone Grange Christine Marchant has something on them all and she makes sure that they all know it, enjoying watching her victim’s squirm.  When a heavy euphonium falls from a balcony landing on her head, it is initially put down as an accident, but Harriet is not so sure.

With clever plotting and a marvellous cast of characters, Nicola Slade has presented a real brain-teaser.  Virtually everyone who knew Christine Marchant is a suspect.  So just who did kill Christine Marchant, and how did they do it?

An interesting exercise in the effect one person can have on so many lives and the changes wrought once the evil presence is removed. A most enjoyable and tantalising mystery.
Lizzie Hayes
Nicola Slade was brought up in Poole, in Dorset, and since then has lived in various places including Cairo, in Egypt. Nicola writes two separate series. An historical series featuring  Charlotte Richmond, a young Victorian widow, and her  new series of contemporary mysteries, which features recently retired headmistress, Harriet Quigley and her clergyman cousin, Canon Sam Hathaway.  Nicola lives with her husband and two cats near Winchester in Hampshire.

Friday, 4 May 2012

‘The Innocent’ by David Baldacci

Published by Macmillan,
4 May 2012.
ISBN: 978-0-230-74925-2

Will Robie is an assassin.  He kills to order, and sleeps soundly. Returning to DC following two successful eliminations he awaits his next assignment.  His instructions arrive on a memory stick and he has no reason to think that his latest job should be any different, but it doesn’t work out that way, and Robie is suddenly the one being hunted.

Fourteen-year-old Julie Getty has been living with the foster-parents from hell and not being a girl to take any crap, she decides to head home. She arrives just in time to see both her parents killed, and so Julie is also on the run.

Aptly described as an action-packed thriller, when the lives of these two people collide, neither is sure which of them is the target, as they escape the most hair-raising situations. Both have a mission, Robie to find out about his last assignment, and Julie wants to know why her parents were murdered, and then kill the killer.

Both are edgy characters, used to acting alone, and neither given to trust anyone. But circumstances have thrown them together. Whilst the action moves at a cracking pace, the development of these two characters as they seek to keep one step ahead of their pursuers and work out just what is going on is a major strength of the book.

The devastation that they leave behind as they escape from one situation after another brings Robie into contact with Special Agent Nicole Vance, but how much should he tell her?

A real page-turner, couldn’t put it down. Highly recommended.
Lizzie Hayes

David Baldacci.  A lifelong Virginian, David was born in Richmond in 1960. He received his Bachelor’s degree in political science from Virginia Commonwealth University and his law degree from the University of Virginia School of Law, after which he practiced law for nine years in Washington, D.C. He has published 22 books.
While David is involved in several philanthropic organizations, his greatest efforts are dedicated to his family’s ‘Wish You Well foundation.’ Established by David and his wife, Michelle, the Wish You Well Foundation supports family literacy in the United States by fostering and promoting the development and expansion of new and existing literacy and educational programs. In 2010 the Foundation partnered with Feeding America to launch a program to address the connection between literacy, poverty and hunger. Through Feeding Body & Mind, nearly 1 million new and used books have been collected and distributed through area food banks. David explains, “With this program, people go home with food, which they need to live, as well as with books, which they need to change their lives.”

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

‘The King’s Park Irregulars’ by David Wilson

Published by The History Press, 
24 April 2012. (Paperback Original)
ISBN: 978-0-7524-6451-0

Retired solicitor Alasdair Mills is an avid collector of all things related to Sir Walter Scott, so when his latest and most prized possession, the slippers worn by Scott are stolen, he is outraged.  Further outrage is experienced when PC Buchan calls it a common burglary, seemingly unmoved by Alasdair’s loss.

With his wife Sophie engrossed in the organisation of the inaugural ‘High Tea in the Park’ event in Stirling, Alasdair turns to his friend Abigail Craig, Stirling’s head librarian, for commiseration.  With no action from the police, when a piece of information comes his way and armed with The Detectives Handbook, Alasdair convinces Abigail that they should turn detectives and track down the thief or thieves themselves.  This decision taken relatively light heartedly as they don disguises, and set off to investigate,  leads them into considerable trouble, as they discover through interesting means a more sinister situation than just a theft of a pair of slippers. 

 Rich in fascinating characters, this is a fun read.  The first in a new series featuring librarian Abigail Craig, I heartily recommend this book for those of you who like me, enjoy a caper novel.
Lizzie Hayes
David Wilson works as a Shipping Manager in Stirling. This is his first work of fiction. He lives in Stirling, Scotland with his wife Lynne Wilson, author of Murder & Crime Stirling and A Grim Almanac of Glasgow.