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Tuesday, 16 January 2018

‘A Time for Role Call’ by Doug Thompson

Published by Matador,
28 November 2017. 
ISBN 978-1788039-88-8

Doug Thompson has produced a fascinating story.  His protagonist is Sally Jardine-Fell who is in Holloway Prison awaiting trial for murder in 1946.  The vis Tim is an Italian in London.  Sally tells the story of her experiences in the War to her lawyers and remembers many further interesting details as she sits in her cell.  

Sally went from a privileged upper-class life in London to working as a secretary in a factory in the North of England.  Her husband has been killed right at the beginning of WW2 on a reconnaissance flight over France and she feels rootless and dissatisfied.  She finds herself being tested and directed as she is recruited by Special Operations Executive and sent to Italy as a spy.  She is aiming to get close to Count Ciano, Mussolini’s Foreign Minuster.

Her adventures in Italy are amazing as she, firstly, pursues her allotted tasks and, secondly, wanders through Italy after the Germans take over in Italy.  Her memories are very clear and her stopping points in Italy and her chance met companions prove to be extremely varied.  Her fears that there are double agents operating seem to be accurate.   The story of her life as revealed to the lawyers reaches a conclusion for the trial.  It is obvious as she relates what happened to her and her own reactions that the lawyers find her free-thinking attitude hard to accept and that they will gloss over some aspects to give an impression to the Court that is more conventional.

This is a clever story which quickly engulfs the reader in Sally’s experiences as she struggles for survival in the teeth of life threatening dangers.  The tension grows as the story reaches a climax.

The knowledge of Italian history is very good which is not surprising since Doug is a former professor of Italian literature and history.
Reviewer: Jennifer S. Palmer

Doug Thompson former Professor of Modern Italian language, history and literature, draws on his intimate knowledge of Italy to write a lively novel with a feisty protagonist and colourful cast of supporting characters. The book will appeal to readers of historically based fiction, those with an interest in Italy especially the war years. Doug Thompson has several previous books including nonfiction about Italy.

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.

‘The Perfect Victim’ by Corrie Jackson

Published by Zaffre,
16 November 2017.
ISBN: 978-1-78576-182-9             

Husband, friend, colleague....killer?

Emily and Charlie Swift are the perfect couple - Instagram-perfect, gorgeous, successful and in love. Then Charlie is named as the prime suspect in a gruesome murder and Emily’s world falls apart. Enter London Herald journalist, Sophie Kent. Sophie knows the police have got the wrong man, after all, she trusts Charlie, a fellow journalist, and a best friend, with her life. But as she is drawn deeper into Charlie and Emily’s ‘perfect’ marriage, something happens that blows the investigation and her trust in Charlie apart. And now Sophie isn’t just fighting to clear Charlie’s name, she is fighting for her life.

The Perfect Victim is the second thrilling outing for Sophie Kent, and her life hasn’t got any easier since Corrie Jackson’s first book. Sophie has a tonne of emotional baggage: she is still investigating the possible murder of her adored brother; she is dealing with the fall-out of an unwise relationship; she doesn’t sleep well and she drinks too much. But she is fiercely loyal to her friends and dives headlong into clearing Charlie Swift’s name.

What a multi-layered and devilishly well-constructed plot this is. It’s a very modern story involving social media and its manipulation. The story twists and turns this way and that until your head is spinning. We have to sit by and watch as Sophie tries to make sense of the mounting evidence against Charlie, trying to reconcile the idea of him being a killer with the fact he is one of her best friends.

A strong second strand to The Perfect Victim is the relationship between Charlie and his wife, Emily, which we see unravelling through Emily’s eyes in chapters that count down to the day of the murder. The perfect marriage is not all it seems from the outside, and Jackson cleverly reveals its disintegration piece by piece.

The book is deliciously complex, gritty and dark. Jackson uses her own experience as a journalist to show a newsroom under pressure. The book deals with alcohol abuse, domestic abuse, sexual abuse. There is a religious cult. There are many secrets and lies. It is written beautifully and with so much energy - the characters leap off the page. It gallops to a good and surprising resolution.

Corrie Jackson has written a worthy follow up to her Sophie Kent book, Breaking Dead. It is not necessary to read the first novel to understand the second, but it would stand you in good stead. And, like The Perfect Victim, it’s a great read - so what’s stopping you?
Reviewer: Mary-Jane Riley

Corrie Jackson has been a journalist for fourteen years and has worked at Harper’s Bazaar, The Daily Mail, Grazia and Glamour. After a sunny two-year stint freelancing in Los Angeles, she is now coming to terms with the weather in Surrey, England where she lives with her husband and two children. She is currently working on the second book in the Sophie Kent series.
twitter @corriejacko

Mary-Jane Riley wrote her first story on her newly acquired blue Petite typewriter, when she was eight. When she grew up she had to earn a living, and became a BBC radio talk show presenter and journalist. She has covered many life-affirming stories, but also some of the darkest events of the past two decades. Then, in true journalistic style, she decided not to let the facts get in the way of a good story and got creative. She wrote for women's magazines and small presses. She formed WriteOutLoud with two writer friends to help charities get their message across using their life stories. Now she is writing psychological suspense, drawing on her experiences in journalism. The Bad Things by Mary-Jane Riley was published by Harper Collins/Killer Reads. Her second book, After She Fell, was published by Killer Reads in April 2016.  To read the review click on the title.

Monday, 15 January 2018

‘Night Shelter’ by Gil Hogg

Published by Matador,
28 October 2017. 
ISBN: 978-1-78803363-3

One night when Jimmy Morton, a supervisor at St. Edith's Night Shelter for the homeless is helping out, his old landlady Betty Thrussell comes to him very distraught. She has found a girl's body in her flat and wants Jimmy to get rid of her. He recognises the dead girl as Eva a local prostitute and refuses to move the body. He wants to call the police, but Betty is adamant that he doesn't.

Late that night a friend of Jimmy's, Toby, persuades him to help clear up the mess at a local pub after there has been a party held there. It soon becomes obvious that it was no ordinary party, there is evidence of sex and drugs and Jimmy is pretty convinced this is where the murder took place.

The local police are obviously in the hands of the highly important men who were at the party, some of whom are members of the Board of St. Edith's. Jimmy is taken to the police station and is “slapped around” but he insists on his innocence and how he saw the body in Betty's flat, and they have to let him go.

Meanwhile a young girl calling herself Josie turns up at the Shelter with her dog. Jimmy looks after her and takes them out begging with him. The Night Shelter has a great scam going, sending people out to beg on the streets making out they are collecting for a St. Bernard's Dog's Home and then pocketing the proceeds. The beggars actually get paid a wage.

When the police bring in a Chief Inspector Dan Hamish, Jimmy has hopes of him uncovering the truth, but he is retiring in six months and doesn't want to make waves. Jimmy then decides to make enquiries of his own and it soon becomes clear Josie is not all that she seems much to his consternation. He then takes an interest in a very articulate ex-public-school boy, Catesby, one of the members of the Board of St. Edith's, and who was at the party. Certain revelations lead him to suspect him of Eva's murder, but he can prove nothing. How can he bring about his arrest and emerge unscathed? Catesby has many friends in high places and seems above reproach. Jimmy must be very careful.

It seems there is no justice but there is a final satisfying twist which makes Jimmy and Toby smile.

A very interesting book giving a great insight into the seedy side of London. It was so well described I could almost smell it. It also delves into suspected corruption within the police force and high places, especially among the pals from public schools. Recommended.
Reviewer: Tricia Chappell

Gil Hogg graduated in law, worked as a lawyer in private practice, as a senior crown counsel in Hong Kong, and then as a senior executive at British Gas.  He is the author of 9 previous books, most recently Rendezvous with Death (Matador, 2016) and The Unforgiving Shore (Matador, 2015). His contemporary fiction draws on his personal experience and often on the background to cases he has handed as a former lawyer involving fraud and violence.

Tricia Chappell. I have a great love of books and reading, especially crime and thrillers. I play the occasional game of golf (when I am not reading). My great love is cruising especially to far flung places, when there are long days at sea for plenty more reading! I am really enjoying reviewing books and have found lots of great new authors.