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Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Happy New Year

‘Every Deadly Sin’ by D M Greenwood
Published by Ostara Publishing, 2013.
ISBN: 978-1-906288-83-9

You would think that a Christian retreat house in a remote, beautiful part of north Yorkshire would be safe from the worst excesses of the human psyche. D M Greenwood clearly knows different.

It takes a while for the murder and mayhem to begin in Every Deadly Sin, but by the time the inevitable body is discovered it’s already plain that the motley collection of clergy and faithful who have gathered for a week of prayer and contemplation at St Sylvan’s-at-Rest aren’t quite as pure in heart as they should be.

This is the fifth of the author’s nine-volume Theodora Braithwaite series, first published in the 1990s and revived by a small press dedicated to ensuring the survival of deserving out-of-print crime novels.  And on this showing, deserving is what this series is, especially for devotees of ‘cosy’ crime which focuses on quirky characters and beautiful locations rather than fast-paced plots with lots of action and gore.

In the mid-1990s the role of women in the Church of England was still a matter for controversy, a factor D M Greenwood uses to advantage. Theodora Braithwaite herself, deacon and curate in the Church of England, is all self-aware down-to-earth common sense, and arguably the only ‘normal’ person in the group. This, alongside her knowledge of Church tradition and lore, makes her very useful to a floundering detective inspector when the retreat house cook is found with her head bashed in.

All of Church life is there, slightly pastiched, from the self-important bishop through several idiosyncratic clergy to the downtrodden vicar’s wife, with side trips to take in a boisterous party of travellers, a ‘considerable woman’ who keeps the village shop and a taciturn handyman who makes a convenient initial suspect.

Greenwood succeeds in casting a sardonic eye over the Church and its denizens without ever losing sympathy for them. She also has a keen eye for background; St Sylvan’s well is made to sound idyllic, and the car-unfriendly terrain surrounding the retreat house is also vividly realized. And of course she has a neat way with a plot; little is given away in the early stages of Every Deadly Sin, but it’s clear from the outset that all is not as it should be, and when all is finally revealed, the clues have been there all along.

If you’re a fan of saving-the-world action, sexy heroes and feisty heroines, this series probably isn’t for you. But if small-scale but well-crafted plots and well-drawn characters are your thing, there’s much here to enjoy.
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick
Dr Diane M Greenwood came originally from Norfolk in England. She took a first degree in classics at Oxford University, then as a mature student, a second degree in theology at London University. She taught at various schools before working for the diocese of Rochester. She retired as diocesan director of education for the diocese of Rochester in 2004.
She has been described  as "a classics teacher of terrifying erudition and eccentricity".  Between 1991 and 1999 she published nine books featuring Deaconess Theodora Braithwaite (in her thirties).  D M Greenwood was last heard of living in Greenwich with her lurcher.

Lynne Patrick has been a writer ever since she could pick up a pen, and has enjoyed success with short stories, reviews and feature journalism, but never, alas, with a novel. She crossed to the dark side to become a publisher for a few years, and is proud to have launched several careers which are now burgeoning. She lives on the edge of rural Derbyshire in a house groaning with books, about half of them crime fiction.

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Happy Christmas to all Crime fiction lovers.

Here's a Christmas mystery

A Christmas Mystery

‘The Santa Klaus Murder’ by Mavis Doriel Hay
Published by British Library Crime Classics.
ISBN: 978-0-7123-5712-8

The members of the Melbury family gather at their country residence Flaxmere to celebrate the Christmas festivities.  The introduction and background to the various family members is provided in the first chapter by Philip Cheriton, who at that time had been engaged to Jennifer Melbury for three months. Although he had not voiced approval, the engagement had not been forbidden by Jennifer’s father Sir Osmond Melbury. He had made that mistake with his eldest daughter Hilda, and she had eloped.  Philip is keen to lure Jennifer to a house of their own, but then who in the family will take care of Sir Osmond.   Hilda seems a likely candidate

The narration is then picked up in chapter two by Hilda Wynford, Sir Osmond’s eldest daughter, who does not seem totally opposed to returning to her childhood home, but she has her daughter Carol to consider. In chapter three Jennifer takes up the story: she clearly has no illusions about her father or indeed any of her family.  They are all concerned about Osmond’s will, particularly as while most of the family have left the
family home to pursue their own lives, Sir Osmond has in the main been cared for by Miss Grace Portisham, his  secretary and housekeeper, who has made herself indispensable in the absence of the family.  Just how indispensable is Miss Portisham, and how grateful is Sir Osmond? She takes over the story in chapter five.

An unfortunate mix-up with his Santa costume puts Sir Osmond in high dudgeon and the job of playing Santa falls to Oliver Witcome, one of the guests. But as in Christmas family gatherings the world over, all did not run smoothly, Kit the elder child challenges the existence of Santa Klaus and the other children end up in tears. In the midst of  the melee, Sir Osmond is discovered shot and the whole day dissolves into chaos.

Apart from two, the following chapters are told by Col Halstock, the Chief Constable of Haulmshire, who has known most of the family since childhood, but maybe not as well as he thought.  As his investigations proceed it becomes clear that nearly everyone present benefits from Sir Osmond's death.  Except Santa Klaus, who seems to have had every opportunity to shoot Sir Osmond, but has no apparent motive.

This is a classic country-house mystery set  in 1935 and now being made available by The British Library to readers for the first time since its original publication in 1936. This reader who had never heard of Mavis Dorel Hay, but has so greatly enjoyed this mystery, is grateful.
Reviewer: Lizzie Hayes

Mavis Doriel Hay (1894–1979) (Helen Elizabeth FitzRandoph) was a novelist of the golden age of British crime fiction. Her three detective novels were published in the 1930s and are now rare and highly collectable books. She was an expert on rural handicraft and wrote several books on the subject. She was born in Barnet, England; died in Stroud, Gloucestershire.
Other Books:
Death on the Cherwell
Murder Underground

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Interview with the Deadly Dames

The Deadly Dames
chatting with Stevie Carroll
From left to right Nicola, Eileen, Carol, Joan, Charlie and Leigh

The Deadly Dames are a group of cosy crime authors: Charlie Cochrane, Joan Moules, Eileen Robertson, Nicola Slade and Carol Westron and they love to talk about crime fiction. I caught up with the five of them, plus honorary ‘Dame for the Day’ Leigh Russell, at the  Havant Literary Festival on the 6th of October.

Stevie: Which Dame are you (Sporty, Scary, Ginger, Baby, Posh or something else)?
Charlie: I suppose technically I’m Baby, although I think Joan should be that because she has such a young girl’s face. I’ll be sporty, for the obvious reason that I can’t resist watching or listening to sport whenever I can.
Joan: Dizzy Dame (that’s what my husband calls us, the Dizzy Dames!).
Eileen: Scary Dame.
Nicola: I’d like to be Scary Dame.
Carol: As the bossy moderator I guess I’d be Scary Dame.
Leigh: I’m a Scary Dame!
(That's a lot of Scary Dames there!)

Stevie:What’s your sub-genre (in 3 words if possible)?
Charlie: Cosy Edwardian gay.
Joan: Mystery Romantic Fiction.
Eileen: Comedy crime.
Nicola: Mystery with history.
Carol: Contemporary police procedural.
Psychological Suspense.
(And a wide variety of sub-genres for you all to choose from!)

Stevie: What’s your latest release? What’s it about?

Charlie: Lessons for Suspicious Minds, which is an Edwardian country house type of mystery with my sleuths, Jonty Stewart and Orlando Coppersmith, having two mysterious suicides-which-might-just-be-murders to look into. The twists in the tale don’t just come in the storyline – my amateur detectives are both fellows of an august Cambridge college, and madly in love with each other. Not easy in an age when their love dare not speak its name.
Joan:  Turn of the Tide, which is about surrogacy: Tim is easy-going and contented but Katie refuses to be thwarted in her desire to move up in the world. Her drastic solution to finding money to fund the first steps on the property ladder though rebounds on her with devastating effects. Meanwhile Gordon and Maureen move to the affluent area of the South Coast town with their small baby when Gordon’s firm relocates from London.
: We’ll Be Watching You, which is based on Aesop’s Fables, and the story of ‘Cry Wolf’. When Neighbourhood-Watch-obsessed Christine sees a supermarket robbery, no one will believe her.
Forthcoming (31st Dec 2013) is The Dead Queen’s Garden, the third in the Charlotte Richmond series and set in 1858; the young widow, Charlotte, has lately found herself tripping over the occasional corpse, but surely the festive season, beginning with a christening party, can’t present the same hazard? There are some strange incidents and a death, apparently from natural causes, that leaves Charlotte puzzled and anxious over questions that seem to have no answers. Over Christmas, she manages to learn a surprising amount about mediaeval gardening, some unusual and unpleasant ailments, London property values, and how to conduct a rat-hunt. To cap it all, Boxing Day finds the resourceful Charlotte in a garden dedicated to a long-dead queen, fighting for her life and armed only with what is possibly the least likely weapon ever.Carol: The Terminal Velocity of Cats, in which archaeologist turned Scene of Crimes Officer, Mia Trent, is summoned by Detective Inspector Oliver Sutton to examine a pit of bones that have been turned up by a digger on a building site. Amongst numerous cat bones, there is a human body, and the skull has modern dentistry. Newly arrived in the area, Sutton is hampered by resentment and obstruction from most of the C.I.D. team, but Mia likes him. Together they solve the crime that led to the body in the pit of bones, but Mia’s presence at the crime scene has attracted the attention of a relentless and vicious killer and soon she is in danger of becoming his next victim.Leigh:  Cold Sacrifice, which is the first in the Ian Peterson series, a spin-off from the Geraldine Steel series: When three dead bodies are discovered in quick succession, DS Ian Peterson becomes too busy with a complex murder investigation to worry about his deteriorating marriage. From middle class housewife to prostitute, there seems to be nothing to link the victims, and no clue to the killer’s identity. Meanwhile Stop Dead, released June 2013, is the 6th book in the bestselling Geraldine Steel series: when a businessman is murdered, the police suspect his glamorous wife and her lover. Then the victim’s business partner suffers the same gruesome fate. The only clue is samples of DNA that lead to two women: one dead, the other in prison.

(More titles for the Wish List? Incidentally, Women and Words regulars, Geraldine's sergeant in London is a lesbian, first appearing in Death Bed. Maybe she'll get a spin-off series eventually too.)

Stevie:If you could take two of your characters anywhere, where would you go, who would you take and who would you absolutely not tell your travel plans to?
Charlie: Jonty Stewart (from the Cambridge books) and Rory Carter, my very well bred werewolf (from Wolves of the West). Both of them men you could depend on in any situation and who’d be excellent company. We’d go to Jersey (old not New) of course, for the beaches and the castles and the excellent restaurants. I wouldn’t tell my weresloth character (from ‘Sollicito’ in Lashing of Sauce) as he’d come along and shift into sloth guise. That would either be endearing or totally revolting depending on the slothy things he’d be doing at the time.
Joan: Annie and Johnny from my book Tin Hats and Gas Masks. Where – On a cruise or to the seaside (they could argue it out between them). I’d definitely not take Annie’s mum.
Eileen: I’d take Christine and Harry off to New Zealand, but I certainly wouldn’t tell Alun.
Nicola: I’d take my two protagonists, Charlotte Richmond (the Victorian widow) and Harriet Quigley (a contemporary former headteacher) to a fabulous hotel where we’d have great food and drink and talk non-stop. I’d have to hope they managed not to trip over any corpses while we were there. Far too many unreliable characters to choose from when it comes to not telling!
Carol: I’d take Mia and Oliver Sutton to a Greek island, which would be fun for an archaeologist, and maroon them in a small village together so that they could sort out how they felt about each other away from the speculative eyes of their colleagues. I definitely wouldn’t tell D.C. Liz Murphy or D.S. Dave Bycroft, who’d use their knowledge to make trouble.
Leigh: I would go to a Greek island with my protagonists Geraldine Steel and Ian Peterson and spend time really getting to know them both. I wouldn’t tell anyone!
[Some more great stories in the making there?]
The Deadly Dames are happy to give talks to writers’ groups, libraries, bookshops and any group that loves to read or talk about mysteries. They can be contacted via Mystery People ( Not sure whether they’ll cross the Atlantic to talk to you, but you never know…
[I'd recommend you go and see them separately or as a group, because they're all jolly entertaining.]
Stevie Carroll was born in Sheffield, England's Steel City, raised in a village on the boundary of the White and Dark Peaks, and nourished by a diet of TV drama and science fiction, along with books, most notably Diane Wynne-Jones and The Women's Press, from the only library in the valley. Stevie's first solo collection, A Series of Ordinary Adventures was published by Candlemark and Gleam ( in May 2012. Stevie blogs regularly at Women and Words, reviews books at The Good, the Bad and the Unread  and waffles about writing and life on Livejournal

‘Touch & Go’ By Lisa Gardner

Published by Signet,
November, 2013.
ISBN 978-0-451-46584-9 (Paperback)

throughout, having the effect of making Libby and her family not just ciphers, or “the victims,” but equally protagonists for whom the reader feels empathy.  This is nominally a police procedural about that kidnapping, filled with the expected quotient of suspense, but
ultimately it’s much more than that:  it’s about a family which seemingly has it all, from their opulent Back Bay house in Boston to the hundred-million-dollar construction business headed by Justin.

While bringing back characters known from Ms. Gardner’s previous novels, 29-year-old corporate investigator and former Massachusetts State Police Trooper Tessa Leoni and Boston’s “reigning super cop,” Detective Sergeant D.D. Warren, other cops called into the case include New Hampshire detective Wyatt Foster and his former lover, FBI Special Agent Nicole “Nicky” Adams.  There appear to be no leads as to who pulled off this apparently very well-planned abduction, or any motive, as the first full day goes by with no ransom demand or other contact.

The suspense continues along pulse-pounding and unexpected paths right up until the end.  I found the novel even better than I had expected, although I had read and enjoyed a few of the author’s books in the past, and I will eagerly await the next one.  Recommended
This standalone opens with the kidnapping of Justin Denbe, his 45-year-old pill-popping wife Libby, and their 15-year-old daughter, Ashlyn [who would seem to be wise beyond her years].  The author switches back and forth from Libby’s 1st person p.o.v. to third person
Reviewer: Gloria Feit

Lisa Gardner  lives in New Hampshire with her auto-racing husband and black-diamond skiing daughter.  She spends her days writing in her loft with two barky shelties and one silly puppy.

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.

‘The Shadow Tracer’ by M G Gardiner

Published by Penquin,
17 October, 2013.
ISBN: 978-1-4059-1394-2

The biggest mystery about Meg Gardiner’s books is why no one has noticed their movie potential.

For The Shadow Tracer she has reinvented herself as M G Gardiner, possibly in attempt to reach a wider audience, though I doubt she’s kidding many people. The new book is either a standalone or the first in this hugely underrated author’s third series (and I can’t wait to find out which), and it’s every bit as big-screen-friendly as all the others. There’s a colourful rock festival, edge-of-the-seat car chases, gunfights to set your heart racing, an explosive fire which traps good and bad guys alike, and a terrific nerve-jangling finale in an airplane graveyard – yes, really.

It starts out as a classic example of an ordinary person thrown headlong into extraordinary circumstances. Sarah Keller and her adopted daughter Zoë have lived under the radar for five years when through a freak accident they suddenly find themselves hunted down by the police, the FBI and Zoë’s father’s violent religious fundamentalist family. The plot soon begins to race along at warp speed; it left me breathless and occasionally corkscrewed back on itself to provide that extra jolt. Eventually it’s down to Sarah’s ingenuity and raw courage to defeat the odds and face down the bad guys.

Gardiner is equally at home in bustling cities and empty wasteland. Much of the action, and there’s a lot of it, takes place in the heat of the New Mexico desert, an inhospitable terrain where the nearest neighbour can be fifty miles away; in her more than capable hands the landscape and the conditions come to life. I blinked in the narrative’s ferocious midday sun, forgetting the damp, chilly winter afternoon outside.

Then there’s the characters. Zoë is an extraordinary five-year-old, but never less than completely believable; Sarah is as plucky and resourceful as they come, with enough vulnerability to keep her human. The large supporting cast includes a US Marshal with a heart, a damaged, driven FBI agent, a nun with attitude and a rally driver’s soul, and the most chilling and malign villains I’ve encountered for a long time.

OK, I admit it: I’m a fan. A new Meg Gardiner is always a treat to those in the know, of whom I feel privileged to be one; I read this one in a couple of days, and didn’t want it to end. Think Lee Child with a bit more heart and a generous helping of James-Bond-movie-style high-octane action scenes. And as a bonus, the writing is to die for.
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick

M G Gardiner writes thrillers set in California. The Evan Delaney novels, featuring a Santa Barbara freelance journalist, include 2009 Edgar Award winner China Lake. The Jo Beckett series features a San Francisco forensic psychiatrist. The Dirty Secrets Club won the RT Reviewers' Choice Award for Best Procedural Novel of 2008 and was chosen one of the year's Top Ten Mysteries and Thrillers by Originally from Oklahoma, Gardiner practiced law in Los Angeles and taught at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She lives near London.

Lynne Patrick has been a writer ever since she could pick up a pen, and has enjoyed success with short stories, reviews and feature journalism, but never, alas, with a novel. She crossed to the dark side to become a publisher for a few years, and is proud to have launched several careers which are now burgeoning. She lives on the edge of rural Derbyshire in a house groaning with books, about half of them crime fiction.

‘Tarnished’ by Julia Crouch

Published by Headline,
29 August 2013.
ISBN:  978-0755378050

During the first few, very short chapters, I wasn’t at all sure I was going to enjoy Tarnished. In the early stages the premise seemed hackneyed: a protagonist desperate to know more about a childhood of which she has only sparse, garbled memories; when she starts to explore them, they slowly begin to make sense and form an unexpected picture which makes her doubt the wisdom of doing so. What was more, the characters seemed a little dull: doting grandmother with incipient Alzheimer’s, bedridden aunt, missing father and the girl who moved away to embark on a drab career shelving books in a library.

But I underestimated Julia Crouch; it creeps up on you and eventually holds you enthralled. First of all, despite that unpromising start, I realized she had held my attention well past the 50-page mark: always the first test. Then, as she added layers to the characters, they began to vary between merely interesting and positively grotesque. The grandmother is obsessively incapable of throwing anything away – even used incontinence pads. The bedridden aunt, whose disability is frequently mentioned but never explained in detail, is so greedy and grossly obese that she needs a double-sized wheelchair on the one occasion she leaves the house. The seedy father lives on the Costa del Crime following a shady Soho past, and has a wife straight out of the Ageing Stripper catalogue from Central Casting. And protagonist Peg, the memory-exploring library assistant, turns out to be six feet one, vegetarian and a happily partnered lesbian despite a stifling upbringing which would have shoehorned a weaker personality into a far more conventional mould. Even minor players like a nightclub cleaner and an elderly ex-squaddie become slightly larger than life.

The main setting of the novel, the Kent coast around Whitstable, is almost a character in itself: the mud, the shingle, the treacherous tides, form a monochrome background which counterpoints the ever more colourful bits of Peg’s past which keep surfacing as she prods and digs at the half-memories.

Towards the end I had begun to twig, as Peg had, that the clues weren’t quite pointing in the direction they appeared to – but that detracted not at all from the shock of the big reveal when it finally came.

Tarnished is the kind of novel that leaves you feeling slightly uncomfortable. Who knows what really goes on behind the net curtains of a respectable bungalow? And are we better off not knowing? Think grubbier version of Sophie Hannah, with a touch of Martina Cole as seasoning.
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick

Julia Crouch grew up in Cambridge and studied Drama at Bristol University. She spent ten years working as a theatre director and playwright, then, after a spell of teaching, she somehow became a successful graphic and website designer, a career she followed for another decade while raising her three children. An MA in sequential illustration reawoke her love of narrative and a couple of Open University creative writing courses brought it to the fore.  Cuckoo, her first novel, emerged as a very rough draft during NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) in 2008. A year's editing got it ready for submission to an agent and within a couple of months she had a book deal with Headline and had given up the day job.  Every Vow You Break, her second novel, was published in March 2012, and Tarnished, her third, came out in 2013. She is also published in Italy, France, Germany, Holland, Brazil and China. She works in a shed at the bottom of the Brighton house she shares with her husband, the actor and playwright Tim Crouch.

Lynne Patrick has been a writer ever since she could pick up a pen, and has enjoyed success with short stories, reviews and feature journalism, but never, alas, with a novel. She crossed to the dark side to become a publisher for a few years, and is proud to have launched several careers which are now burgeoning. She lives on the edge of rural Derbyshire in a house groaning with books, about half of them crime fiction.


Tuesday, 17 December 2013

‘Then We Die’ by James Craig

Published by Constable and Robinson Crime,
15 August 2013.
ISBN: 978-1-4721-0039-9

On his annual mother-and-son outing at the Ritz hotel in London, Lorna Gordon (she had never abandoned her maiden name), drops onto her son the news that after 50 years of marriage to Alexander Carlyle they are getting divorced.  Wanting to be anywhere but discussing his father with his mother, DI John Carlyle, looks for a way out from having such a conversation, and scanning the room spots what he believes to be a gang of thieves, known to be operating in London hotels, and springs into action.  Unfortunately, his vigilance and subsequent actions have catastrophic consequences, resulting in the death of a colleague.

Although told that the matter is being handled by others, John is determined to bring to the killer to justice.   His investigations lead him and others into danger, and set off a chain of circumstances that produce so many corpses that I lost count!  It seems that the streets of London were strewn with dead bodies.

Identifying the assassins as a group of ruthless Israelis does not in anyway deter John. It seems that mass killing is better than thinking about his parents impending divorce.

I have enjoyed all the book in this series and this was no exception, although the high body count did mean a suspension of belief.  But it’s a great yarn. I particularly enjoyed the episode with the Israeli Ambassador to London, but suspect it would have caused a major diplomatic incident.

The story moves along at a rapid pace and is recommended.
Reviewer: Lizzie Hayes
Earlier books are, London Calling, Never Apologise, Never Explain,  Buckingham Place Blues, The Circus.

James Craig was born in Scotland, but has lived and worked in London for thirty years. He worked as a journalist for ten years and as a TV producer for five. He lives in Covent Garden with his wife and daughter.
His earlier books are London Calling, Never Apologise, Never Explain, Buckingham Palace Blues and The Circle

Thursday, 12 December 2013

‘Dead Water’ by Anne Cleeves

Published by Pan, 
12 September 2013. 
ISBN: 978-1-4472-0208-0

Murder mysteries set in beautiful locations have always required exceptional skill on the author’s part if the suspension of disbelief isn’t to be stretched beyond its limits, and Ann Cleeves’s Shetland Quartet ticked all the boxes – though she declared very early in the process that four murders in this almost crime-free place would be enough. Which is why a fifth in the series comes as rather a surprise. Fortunately Ann is a class act, and pulls it off without a false note.

D I Jimmy Perez, native Shetlander and senior detective in the islands’ small police force, is still in recovery after the brutal murder of his fiancée Fran several months earlier, but when a visiting journalist and one-time native himself, is found murdered, Jimmy’s detecting juices begin to stir.

Then Willow Reeves, on her first case as S I O, arrives from the mainland to head up the investigation. Fortunately she sees the value of Jimmy’s local knowledge; the roots of the crime lie in somewhere the past, and few people know Shetland’s politics and people better than he does.

Most of the leading characters are familiar from the previous books, and every bit as sharply drawn. Sandy the sergeant is still on a steep learning curve; Rhona Laing the Procurator Fiscal is still cool and briskly efficient, at least on the surface; seven-year-old Cassie is as engaging as ever.
The narrative’s great strength is the way the various strands of the complex plot weave their way around the dramatic Shetland terrain and weather, both of which are as diverse as the ideologies and beliefs of the islands’ inhabitants. The undercurrents running through the rapidly changing society are as powerful as the tides, with the same potential for damage and destruction.

It would be a pity if a series as compelling as this one continued to a point where credibility is stretched so thin that it begins to feel like pastiche, but for the time being Ann Cleeves has no need to worry. Drink-driving and the odd bit of burglary may be the only crimes to sully the real Shetland; but human nature remains the same however stunning the scenery, and that’s what fictional murder is all about.
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick

Anne Cleeves worked as a probation officer, bird observatory cook and auxiliary coastguard before she started writing. She is a member of 'Murder Squad', working with other northern writers to promote crime fiction. In 2006 Ann was awarded the Duncan Lawrie Dagger for Best Crime Novel, for Raven Black . Ann lives in North Tyneside. Her Vera Stanhope series is currently being turned into a major ITV production to be released in Autumn 2010.

Lynne Patrick  has been a writer ever since she could pick up a pen, and has enjoyed success with short stories, reviews and feature journalism, but never, alas, with a novel. She crossed to the dark side to become a publisher for a few years, and is proud to have launched several careers which are now burgeoning. She lives on the edge of rural Derbyshire in a house groaning with books, about half of them crime fiction.

Monday, 9 December 2013

‘The Camelot Code’ by Sam Christer

Published by Sphere, 
26 September 2013.   
ISBN: 978-0-7515-5091-7

When a book unexpectedly becomes a huge bestseller, it almost invariably opens the door to a whole lot more on a broadly similar theme; google da Vinci Code bandwagon and you’ll find literally hundreds of crime novels based on a what-if premise around legends, codes and puzzles.

On the face of it, The Camelot Code is one – but not entirely. The author has taken the what-if premise, applied it to the legendary superheroes who lie at the heart of British mythology, King Arthur and his band of knights, and added in the very real 21st century issue of terrorism.

The action moves between various well-drawn locations in the USA, London and mid-Wales on this side of the Atlantic, and even takes a short hop to the Isle of Lundy. At the centre of the plot is feisty FBI agent Mitzi Fallon, who is determined to get past near-impenetrable barriers of bureaucracy and diplomatic immunity in pursuit of a murderer.

She gains possession of a memory stick which belongs to a secret cadre of highly trained operatives who base their high standards on the moral code of King Arthur’s knights (and some of who are descended from those knights, but let’s not over-complicate things). As a result she finds herself pitting her wits against charismatic Owain Gwyn, leader of the Arthurian cadre. He is concerned with a much bigger picture, of which Mitzi’s murder investigation is only a small part: a terrorist plot which will undermine the cadre’s very existence as it rocks the entire world.
Consequently Mitzi ends up where many law enforcement officers, especially fictional ones, find themselves uncomfortably teetering: on the fine line between rule of law and genuine justice. And then it gets personal...

The result is a tremendous pacy narrative peopled with a large cast of colourful, sharply-drawn characters and underpinned by an up-to-date take on an old story which, give or take a few clunky parallels and occasional elements which require disbelief to be completely suspended, mostly makes sense in its modern context. The stakes are breathtakingly high, but all too credible in the light of almost daily real-life news reports of terrorist activity and lower-level mayhem which the ‘official’ law enforcement and diplomatic agencies seem unable to stem.

By the end, I found myself thinking not so much what if as if only.
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick

Sam Christer is the author of The Turin Shroud and The Stonehenge Legacy

Lynne Patrick has been a writer ever since she could pick up a pen, and has enjoyed success with short stories, reviews and feature journalism, but never, alas, with a novel. She crossed to the dark side to become a publisher for a few years, and is proud to have launched several careers which are now burgeoning. She lives on the edge of rural Derbyshire in a house groaning with books, about half of them crime fiction.