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Monday, 18 September 2017

‘The Dark Isle’ by Clare Carson

Published by Head of Zeus,
1 June 2017.
ISBN: 978-178669054-8

The Dark Isle is the third book in a series featuring Sam Coyle. In this book Sam is in her early 20s and working in the Orkney Islands on an architectural dig when she spots a face from her past. Pierce, a colleague of her father, disappeared in 1976. Sam’s father and Pierce both worked for the intelligence service as spooks. The story is really a rite of passage as Sam comes to terms with the death of her father who died five years previously, tries to uncover the truth about why he was killed and whether the rumours that he was a traitor are true.

The plot alternates between two-time zones; the hot summer of 1976, when Sam was a child, and 1989 when she is twenty-three. Sam begins to question her memories and understanding of the world as a child. Underlying themes explore the legacy a parent’s behaviour leaves on their children and how growing up as the daughter of a spook makes them suspicious of everyone, struggling with relationships and constantly on their guard.

The protagonist is a story teller who loves myths and legends so as a standalone novel the reader is never quite sure whether what she is saying is actually true or all in her head. From the comments on Amazon and Goodreads about the other books in the series I think that although this can be read as a standalone novel it probably works much better as a series as the preceding books help to establish the character so that there are levels of understanding that are missing for the standalone reader.

The Dark Isle is a book that will appeal to lovers of descriptive writing rather than fast-paced twisting plots. Lengthy descriptions create a vivid sense of place between the contrasting remote wildness of Orkney and the stifling claustrophobia of London in a heat wave. And delicate touches of detail from the periods of the 1970s and 1980s will appeal to readers who can remember the eras.

Reviewer: Chris Hammercott

Clare Carson is an anthropologist who has worked for many years in international development. She lived in rural Zimbabwe when she was doing fieldwork for her PhD and has also lived and worked in the United States. She now lives on the south coast of England with her husband and two daughters. Her first book, Orkney Twilight, is a thriller about a daughter who wants to find out about her father’s life as an undercover cop.

Christine Hammacott lives near Southampton and runs her own design consultancy. She started her career working in publishing as a book designer and now creates covers for indie-authors. She writes page-turning fiction that deals with the psychological effects of crime. Her debut novel The Taste of Ash was published in 2015.

To read a review of A Taste of Ash Click on the title
twitter: /ChrisHammacott
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‘Soot’ by Andrew Martin

Published by Corsair,
6 July 2017.
ISBN: 978-1-4721-5243-5

In the city of York, a young gentleman, Fletcher Rigge, is rescued from Debtors prison by a gentleman who has offered to pay his debts if he will solve a murder.  We are in the Georgian world of 1799 in a very snowy York.  The novel is an epistolary one - the letters and depositions contain conversations and thoughts which move the story forwards very well.   The characters and their quirks of behaviour make for a lively tale.

Fletcher Rigge attempts to trace the people whose shades the murdered man had produced in the several days before his death.  The term shade describes what is more commonly referred to as a silhouette, black on white paper usually.  The victim was a talented man and he was stabbed with the scissors he used for his craft.

Rigge’s employer is the son of the artist, captain Robin Harvey, who lives in a tumbledown house with a manservant and a lady called Esther - a very irregular household.  The victim had his own house, run by his sister, Susan.  The layers of confusion, accidental or deliberate, proliferate as the book proceeds.  Who can be trusted?  Will Rigge identify the murderer or is the point of the story elsewhere?    In such a cleverly written book you don't know whose story to trust.  

The background of the debtors’ prison in wintery York is perfectly delineated as is the process of doing a shade or silhouette. 
Reviewer: Jennifer S. Palmer

Andrew Martin grew up in Yorkshire. After qualifying as a barrister, he won The Spectator Young Writer of the Year Award, 1988. Since, he has written for The Guardian, the Daily and Sunday Telegraph, the Independent and Granta, among many other publications. His columns have appeared in the Independent on Sunday and the New Statesman. His Jim Stringer novels – railway thrillers – have been published by Faber and Faber since 2002.

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, 17 September 2017

‘Deadly Game’ by Matt Johnson

Published by Orenda Books,
15 March 2017.
978-1910633663 (PB)

Author Matt Johnson was in the military and then became an officer serving with the Metropolitan Polices force.  These experiences have provided him with the absolutely authentic material which he uses to such good and gripping effect in Deadly Game.

We follow a group of officers from varying departments as they attempt of flush out the ruthless family of criminals running a sex-slave industry trafficking gullible girls from Romania into England and keeping them in the utmost squalor.  They have absolutely no regard for human dignity or life, male or female, and the girls themselves are expendable, there being so many more where they come from.  The officer in charge is Robert Finlay, aided by various colleagues, a man damaged by the earlier danger which his profession had put his family into. 

At the same. time, former soldiers are being exterminated one after another.  Why?  Something of enormous value has been stolen, something heavily involved with ISIS-style terrorism and the killers are determined to recover it.  But Finlay and his crew aren't sure exactly what they're looking for.

Johnson ratchets up the pace as the book progresses until the last few chapters make it impossible to put the book down until the very last page. 
Reviewer: Susan Moody

Matt Johnson served as a soldier and Metropolitan Police officer for twenty-five years. Blown off his feet at the London Baltic Exchange bombing in 1993,  he was one of the first police officers on the scene of the 1982 Regent’s Park bombing. Matt was also at the Libyan People’s Bureau shooting in 1984 where he escorted his mortally wounded friend and colleague, Yvonne Fletcher, to hospital. Hidden wounds took their toll. In 1999, Matt was discharged from the police with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Whilst undergoing treatment, he was encouraged by his counsellor to write about his career and his experience of murders, shootings and terrorism. One evening, Matt sat at his computer and started to weave these notes into a work of fiction that he described as having a tremendously cathartic effect on his own condition. He has used his detailed knowledge and memory to create a fast paced, exciting and authentic tale of modern day policing. Matt Johnson is living proof that PTSD is a condition that can be controlled and overcome with the right help and support. He has been described by many fans as an inspiration to fellow sufferers.


 Susan Moody was born in Oxford is the principal nom de plume of Susan Elizabeth Donaldson, née Horwood, a British novelist best known for her suspense novels. Susan Moody began writing crime novels with Penny Black, the first of the seven Penny Wanawake crime novels.  She has a second series of six books featuring bridge player Cassie Swan. In all, she has published 29 novels, most of them crime and suspense. Susan spent two years as a Creative Writing Tutor in Her Majesty's Prison, Bedford. She is a past Chairman of the Crime Writers' Association, serving in all as a CWA Committee member for seven years. She is a long-standing member of the prestigious Detection Club and served for three years as the President of the International Association of Crime Writers.  In 2016 Susan Moody began a new series featuring Alex Quick. Click the title to read a review of Quick and the Dead