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THE McILVANNEY PRIZE 2019 LONGLIST ANNOUNCED FOR THE SCOTTISH CRIME BOOK OF THE YEAR & THE SHORTLIST FOR THE INAUGURAL McILVANNEY DEBUT PRIZE 2019

I went to Bloody Scotland and I was just knocked out….this event was so friendly, so supportive I was honestly overwhelmed’
William McIlvanney – speaking on BBC Scotland, 2012

Three years ago the Scottish Crime Book of the Year Award was renamed the McIlvanney Prize in memory of William McIlvanney who is often described as the Godfather of Tartan Noir. Last year his son, Liam McIlvanney, won the prize and led the torchlit procession through the streets of Stirling alongside Denise Mina who was appearing at the first event.


This year David Baldacci is opening the festival and will be leading the torchlit procession flanked by the winners of the McIlvanney Prize and the inaugural debut prize for Scottish crime book of the year but who will they be? The longlist for the McIlvanney and the shortlist for the debut prize are revealed today:

McIlvanney Prize 2019:

All the Hidden Truths, Claire Askew (Hodder)
No Man’s Land, Neil Broadfoot (Little, Brown)
Fallen Angel, Chris Brookmyre (Little, Brown)
Breakers, Doug Johnstone (Orenda)
All That’s Dead, Stuart MacBride (Harper Collins)
In the Silence, M R Mackenzie (Bloodhound Books)
Broken Ground, Val McDermid (Little, Brown)
A Breath on Dying Embers, Denzil Meyrick (Polygon)
Conviction, Denise Mina (Vintage)
The Way of All Flesh, Ambrose Parry (Canongate) aka Chris Brookmyre and Marisa Haetzman
In a House of Lies, Ian Rankin (Orion)
A Treachery of Spies, Manda Scott (Transworld)
Thunder Bay, Douglas Skelton (Polygon)

McIlvanney Debut Prize

Of the five authors shortlisted for the debut prize, two – Claire Askew and M R Mackenzie – have also made the longlist for the McIlvanney Prize:

All the Hidden Truths, Claire Askew* (Hodder)
From the Shadows, G R Halliday (Vintage)
Black Camp 21, Bill Jones (Polygon)
In the Silence, M R Mackenzie* (Bloodhound)
The Peat Dead, Allan Martin (Thunderpoint)

They were chosen by an independent panel of readers and booksellers. The finalists for the McIlvanney Prize 2019 will be revealed at the beginning of September and selected by Alison Flood, books reporter for The Guardian and a former news reporter for The Bookseller; James Crawford, chair of Publishing Scotland and presenter of BBC series, Scotland from the Sky and Stuart Cosgrove, writer and broadcaster who was formerly a senior executive at Channel 4. The debut prize will be judged by a panel from the board of Bloody Scotland including crime writers Lin Anderson, Craig Robertson, Gordon Brown and Abir Mukherjee. Everyone on the debut shortlist will be invited to join the debut panel at the festival on Saturday 21 September.

The longlist features established crime writers and debuts, corporates and indies and intriguingly Chris Brookmyre twice (as himself and as Ambrose Parry with his wife Marisa). The award recognises excellence in Scottish crime writing, includes a prize of £1000 and nationwide promotion in Waterstones.

Both the opening ceremony and the torchlight procession are open to the public but tickets are selling fast so people are urged to book them now. All longlisted authors are invited to join the procession and will get a complimentary ticket to the reception.

Previous winners are Liam McIlvanney with The Quaker in 2018, Denise Mina with The Long Drop 2017, Chris Brookmyre with Black Widow 2016, Craig Russell with The Ghosts of Altona in 2015, Peter May with Entry Island in 2014, Malcolm Mackay with How A Gunman Says Goodbye in 2013 and Charles Cumming with A Foreign Country in 2012.

In Defence of Crime Fiction – a rant @EdBookFest

I have had enough. Barely a month goes by these days without someone having a pop at crime fiction. Now that’s fair enough. It is the most popular genre and as such it’s not unreasonable for critics to have a shot at analysing and critiquing its inner workings. But that tends not to be what happens. No, rather these critics of the genre assume that because it is the most read genre, it is somehow of and in itself less worthy.

The trope goes that if everyone can read it, then by default it is too accessible; not up to the lofty standards of literary fiction- whatever that is.

Yet how many people have read the novels of Sarah Hilary – the books that shine a light on our society and its evils; that consider knife crime and violence in inner London and posits that against moral choices and a more civilised approach?

Have these critics read Finnish author Antti Tuomainen, recently described by The Times Marcel Berlins as ‘the funniest writer in Europe’?

The most recent attack on the genre came in an article to The Times. “Slashers v snobs in literary bloodbath at Edinburgh book festival” roared the headline. All good clickbait stuff, you might think. But articles like these undermine a genre where the writing has never been better; where what is happening in our lives is portrayed, debated and takes no prisoners in its desire to tell the story of the inequities our children, and the poorest in our society are facing.

The Director of the excellent Summerhall Festival was quoted as saying that the Edinburgh International Book Festival has “somewhat lost its way” and has put Festival Director, Nick Barley under fire for ‘pandering to popular tastes when he supposedly should be trying to elevate them’.

Anyone who has read Doug Johnstone’s most recent novel, Breakers cannot fail to be moved by the plight of a young carer faced with the heart-breaking task of looking after his family in one of Edinburgh’s most deprived schemes. This is literature and literary fiction of the highest order. But it is also crime fiction and all the better for it.

In the same article, Bridget Lawless, creator of the ill-conceived Staunch prize, said “if you start listing what each of those books are about, you start seeing a really alarming pattern.” Has she read much contemporary crime fiction, I wonder?

For my money, the Edinburgh International Book Festival is one of the top Literature Festivals in the world. It earns my esteem precisely because it aims for inclusivity and marries that with real quality. From its exceptional children’s programme, to its outreach events throughout the year, to its innovative ‘pay what you can afford’ scheme this year, it is trying as hard as it can to be as inclusive as possible.

Literature festivals are not always clearly signposted as accessible. For a reader whose books are avidly devoured through libraries, setting foot across the threshold of a tented village can be a daunting experience. What price then, the education of a young reader who first sets a tentative foot on that path because they want to see a treasured author, be it Ian Rankin, Val McDermid or Denzil Meyrick?

Last year I went to the Edinburgh International Book Festival. I went mainly for the crime fiction authors whose books I enjoy and I loved listening to the Ambrose Parry team of Chris Brookmyre and Marissa Haetzman talking about how they work together to produce their historical crime fiction novels. I really enjoyed hearing Kjell Ola Dahl talk about politics and corruption in Norway so ably explored through his crime fiction translated novels. I revelled in Thomas Enger’s sometimes bleak but always captivating writing in which a journalist goes on a heart-breaking quest to find out who was responsible for the fire that killed his six year old son.

I laughed at Denzil Meyrick’s atmospheric portrayal of small town life in the fictional Kinloch and have revelled subsequently in reading his police procedural books from the beginning.

I also took the opportunity to find new writers such as Hawa Jande Golakai from Liberia talking with the Icelandic writer, Lilja Sigurdardottir about diverse writing and about their decision to turn to crime writing as a way of  portraying women in their contemporary societies.

While I was there, I managed to fit in Helen Bellany, whose book The Restless Wave, is an account of her life with artist John Bellany. Rose McGowan was inspirational and Gina Miller brought the house to its feet in applause. Alan Spence was eloquent and Louis de Bernieres charming.

All these experiences added to the sum of my literary experiences last year and none of them would have been possible without the Edinburgh International Book Festival enticing me through its doors.

When all is said and done, what is crime fiction, if not a way of illuminating our own experiences and casting fresh light on our society?

Dickens wrote Great Expectations, Bleak House, and David Copperfield – all crime books at heart. Du Maurier’s Rebecca and Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre are both rooted in their crimes.

It is the integral relationship of life to justice, crime and reparation that lies at the heart of many great novels and surely what matters is the strength and quality of the writing, not the genre that they are classified under?

One of my favourite writers, Louise Beech, writes books that cross genres, as many good writers also do, but should we consider her latest book, Call Me Star Girl, at heart based upon a crime, less good because it clearly belongs to the psychological thriller genre.

Isn’t it time we all stopped being quite so stand-offish about the books that the majority of the public want to read and start welcoming authors who open our eyes to the best of what literature has to offer?

For my part, I am delighted that the Edinburgh International Book Festival has chosen to be inclusive and welcoming to all writers of quality fiction and non-fiction. It will be a sad day if that ever changes.

Lost You by Haylen Beck @HaylenBeck @stuartneville @HarvillSecker @DeadGoodBooks #LostYou

Source: Review copy: Netgalley
Publication: 27 June 2019 from Harvill Secker
PP: 320
ISBN-13: 978-1911215615

Libby would do anything for her three-year-old son Ethan. And after all they’ve been through, a holiday seems the perfect antidote for them both. Their hotel is peaceful, safe and friendly, yet Libby can’t help feeling that someone is watching her. Watching Ethan. Because, for years, Libby has lived with a secret.

Just days into their holiday, when Libby is starting to relax, Ethan steps into an elevator on his own, and the doors close before Libby can stop them. Moments later, Ethan is gone.

Libby thought she had been through the worst, but her nightmare is only just beginning. And in a desperate hunt for her son, it becomes clear she’s not the only one looking for him.

Who will find him first?

I loved Haylen Beck’s first book, Here and Gone so was really keen to read his second, stand-alone psychological thriller, Lost You. This book is so pacy, I read it in one sitting, while my heart raced and my emotions were caught up in this intelligent, disturbing thriller.

Lost You is a story of two women who share an incredibly strong urge; that of motherhood. Neither has had the best role mother, both struggle with mental health issues at different times.  

The first part of the book focuses on Libby Reese. Libby’s marriage broke down and she is now a single parent to three year old Ethan. Libby has struggled to bring Ethan up on her own and he is the most precious human in her life.

Libby’s life is now looking a bit brighter. After slogging away, she has finally sold a novel and the advance she receives is enough to give her a bit of breathing space and to afford her a much needed break.

She takes Ethan away to a luxury resort and though she is the archetypal over protective mother, she is able to relax a bit when she meets a couple who are friendly and welcoming to them both.

All is going swimmingly (sorry!) when little rascal Ethan, who loves the resort’s lifts, gets in to one on his own in a rare moment when Libby is distracted and now he can’t be found.  Libby is frantic with worry. The police are called and as they take Libby to watch CCTV images, Libby’s blood freezes. Someone is leading Ethan away by the hand.

Beck takes us back in time on an emotionally harrowing trip that explores in detail what Libby went through in order to have Ethan.  Fertility issues dogged her desperate desire to conceive and her anguish at being unable to do so led to severe strains in her marriage.

Her desperation makes her explore previously unthinkable solutions and soon she is shelling out thousands of pounds to a dodgy broker in pursuit of her aim.

Beck’s exploration of the world where surrogacy and exploitation walk hand in hand is devastating, emotional and very disturbing. He offers up so many moral and ethical questions for the reader to consider, intertwined in a fast paced thriller that never lets up.

His writing displays acute knowledge of a range of vulnerabilities which make for an intense and harrowing read. His plotting is strong and his plotlines unpredictable, making for a strong and surprising read and his characters are well-drawn with light and shade.

Verdict: Emotionally engaging, suspenseful and the very definition of a ‘one sit’ read, Lost You successfully combines psychological thriller with obsession and heart –rending moral conundrums to keep the reader guessing.

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Haylen Beck is the pseudonym of Stuart Neville, an acclaimed, Edgar-nominated author whose crime fiction has won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and made best-of-year lists with numerous publications including The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, and The Boston Globe.

​Find out more about Stuart Neville at his website, http://www.stuartneville.com/.

The Lies We Tell by Niki McKay (Madison Attalee#2) @NikiMackayBooks @orion_crime @Tr4cyF3nt0n

Source: Review Copy
Publication: 27 June 2019 from Orion
PP: 336
ISBN-13: 978-1409174653

Miriam Jackson is a famous radio presenter. Married to a successful film director, she has created the perfect life for herself.

Then her daughter goes missing.

Miriam is desperate to find her before her husband finds out and her perfect life crumbles around her. So she calls the only person who can help: Private Investigator Madison Attallee, who has just solved the biggest case of her career.

Can Madison find Miriam’s daughter? And will Miriam share the truth about her past?

I loved I, Witness, the first book in the Madison Attalee, Private Eye series. The Lies We tell can be read perfectly well as a stand- alone though, without having read the first book. Madison Attalee is an ex-cop turned Private Investigator. The firm is doing well after their first case garnered positive publicity and that’s an impetus that Madison is trying to hold on to.

Divorced with a teenage daughter, Molly, Madison is in a fairly new relationship with Peter, a detective whom she first met when both were cops. A recovering alcoholic, Madison is also trying to give up smoking, a combination which isn’t adding to her sense of humour.

Miriam Jackson is a radio presenter. Married to Nick, a director of Hollywood Rom-coms, they are parents to Tabitha, a bright 16 year old. Nick is often in L.A. making his movies, but the couple have a good relationship and Miriam is content with her life.

Then Tabitha goes missing and Miriam can’t get the police to treat her disappearance seriously. Unbeknownst to her mother, Tabitha hasn’t been to school for several days and when she checks, many of her clothes are missing. The police think she has run away and will come back. Miriam is distraught and consumed with guilt, because she was with someone she shouldn’t have been when Tabitha failed to come home from a stay with a girlfriend. She’s hoping that Tabitha will be home before she has to tell Nick that their daughter was ever missing. Peter is the detective she sees and he refers her to Madison.

Maddie’s race to find Tabitha becomes intensified when she realises what is underneath this seemingly ordinary teenage behaviour.Told in the characters’ various voices, The Lies We Tell is a strong and uncompromising story which lays bare the horrible world of child exploitation.

Pacy and propulsive, Niki McKay keeps readers guessing as Madison and her team, Emma and Claudia, seek out the information leading to Tabitha’s disappearance.

Running through this contemporary narration is the story of Ruby Williams, dating back to 1994, who died in her brother’s arms.

Moving easily through a dual timeline, McKay cleverly weaves a tale of tragic circumstances where poverty and vulnerability combine with addiction to create difficult family situations where abuse prevails from generation to generation. Combined with a dark story highlighting that there are always those who will seek to take advantage of those at their lowest ebb and exploit them for financial gain, she has written a compelling story that shows that irrespective of class, scum will always rise to the surface.

What grasped me though, was the fact that this kind of exploitation surrounds us. It can happen to anyone and there are always going to be predators who look for an opportunity to take advantage of any vulnerability. You may never know who the predator is and where their prey will come from.

Verdict: The Lies We Tell is disturbing, chilling and well plotted fiction. I don’t think this is going to be the case that allows Madison to give up the fags…

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Niki studied Performing Arts at the BRIT School. It turned out that she wasn’t very good at acting but quite liked writing scripts. She went on to take a BA (Hons) in English Literature and Drama and later won a full scholarship for an MA in Journalism.Niki loves words in many varied forms, and reads widely, but her first love is crime-fiction. She is interested in people and what makes them tick: class, prejudice, and feminism.

You can follow Niki on Twitter: @NikiMackayBooks

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The Whisper Man by Alex North @writer_north @jennyplatt90 @michaeljbooks

Source: Review copy #Netgalley
Publication: 13 June 2019 from Michael Joseph
PP: 400
ISBN-13: 978-0241367490

If you leave a door half-open, soon you’ll hear the whispers spoken . . .

Still devastated after the loss of his wife, Tom Kennedy and his young son Jake move to the sleepy village of Featherbank, looking for a much-needed fresh start.

But Featherbank has a dark past. Fifteen years ago, a twisted serial killer abducted and murdered five young boys.

Until he was finally caught, the killer was known as ‘The Whisper Man’.

Of course, an old crime need not trouble Tom and Jake as they try to settle in to their new home.

Except that now another boy has gone missing. And then Jake begins acting strangely.

He says he hears a whispering at his window . . .

Every now and again, I like to dip my toe in the murky waters of scarifying. If it comes with a hint of the supernatural, then so much the better.  So I turned to Alex North’s debut, The Whisper Man, with some warm apprehension.

Goodness me, but it is SCARY!!!! This is a novel that literally stuffs your head with atmosphere and sends shivers down your spine with its menacing tones.  

A dark cloud hangs over the small town of Featherbank. 15 years ago DI Pete Willis put Frank Carter in prison for the murder of 5 Featherbank boys over a period of years. Known as ‘The Whisper Man’, Carter is still toying with Willis, who visits him in the hope that he will one day be able to extract the resting place of the body of the last boy, Tony Smith, so that his parents can finally say a proper goodbye to their son. Every visit by Willis to this psychopath haunts him, but this is something he has to do.

The Whisper Man is now a tale told by children to scare their peers. He even has his own scary nursery rhyme.

Tom Kennedy is struggling to come to terms with the sudden death of his wife Rebecca. Trying to make a new start he moves to Featherbank with his 6 year old son, Jake.  Jake is a special little boy, sensitive and with a huge imagination and Tom loves him with all his heart. There’s no denying though, that Rebecca was the one who understood Jake best and now the father and son are left trying to connect.  Both Tom and Jake struggle to make their relationship work and this part of the book is tender, full of raw emotion and a searing honesty about how badly Tom is struggling and how much Jake needs to be loved by his dad.

Now another Featherbank boy, Neil Spencer, is missing. DI Amanda Beck is in charge of this case but already the rumours about the return of The Whisper Man are flying around. Could this be a copycat abduction, or what if Carter had an accomplice all those years ago?  Norman Collins collects macabre objects from serial killers and he is obsessed with the Whisper Man. Jake, meanwhile is hearing voices…and soon he will be drawn into grave danger; into a nightmare of horrific proportions.

Alex North has written a beautifully plotted, richly atmospheric novel with characters you care about. Tom, Jake and DI Willis are all characters you are drawn to and root for. The sense of small town life where a rumour can fly from corner to corner until everyone knows it for a truth is palpable.

Verdict: Spine-chilling, propulsive, tense and atmospheric, The Whisper Man is a startlingly good debut from a writer with a prodigious talent.

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Alex North was born in Leeds, where he now lives with his wife and son. He studied Philosophy at Leeds University, and prior to becoming a writer he worked there in the Sociology department.

The Body Lies by Jo Baker @JoBakerWriter @AlisonBarrow @Doubledaybooks @AnneCater #bookreview #TheBodyLies #blogtour

Source: Review copy
Publication: 13 June 2019 from Doubleday
PP: 288
ISBN-13: 978-0857526434

When a young writer accepts a job at a university in the remote countryside, it’s meant to be a fresh start, away from the big city and the scene of a violent assault she’s desperate to forget. But when one of her students starts sending in chapters from his novel that blur the lines between fiction and reality, the professor recognises herself as the main character in his book – and he has written her a horrific fate.

Will she be able to stop life imitating art before it’s too late?

At once a breathless battle-of-wits and a disarming exploration of sexual politics, The Body Lies is an essential book for our times.

Well, this book packs a serious punch, that’s for sure.  I was transfixed by the plight of the unnamed female protagonist who is a bright academic with one published book to her credit, and a young mother. Following a violent sexual assault in the street, she no longer feels safe in her London home and has been looking for jobs elsewhere when she is offered a job at a Northern University, lecturing in creative writing.

Her husband Mark, who knows how she has been feeling all this time, decides he can’t leave his school teaching job (and honestly doesn’t really understand why she can’t just ‘move past it’) and so they arrive at an arrangement whereby she will go North and they will see each other at weekends and during holidays.

When she arrives, everything is a bit chaotic and she not only has nothing in the way of induction, but she learns pretty quickly that she *is* the creative writing department. Not only that, but the Head of Department, a man whose sense of personal space is somewhat diminished, recognises her for a newbie and does what so many male managers do, heaps a ton more work upon her, taking advantage of her new status and her inexperience and frankly, the fact that she is too nice to say no. In short, he dumps on her because she is a woman.

She and her young son, Sammy, move into a rented cottage in rural isolation; her nearest neighbours are on a working farm. It takes a while for her to settle in. The complete darkness at night, the rural noises, everything combines to put her spidey senses on edge.

Her days become a whirlwind of work.  Unused to having students she pores over her preparation feeling, as many women would, that perhaps with only one book behind her, she is not worthy to hold down a creative writing job.

This is all depicted in a quiet, unassuming way. The picture builds slowly and I recognised these traits rather than have them thrust upon me.

She is now teaching undergraduates but it is her MA Creative writing students who offer the real challenge. Each is working on their own book and there’s a lot to be interested in.

Written in the third person, Jo Baker’s narrative looks carefully at the question of how much control women really have over their own lives when under threat, and what it means to fight back. Using the device of the students stories, our protagonist finds herself drawn into a dark divide.

The students begin to squabble bitterly amongst themselves; then become jealous of their teacher’s focus of attention.  One student, Nicholas, claims to be telling his truth, and only his truth through his fiction, which is dark and disturbing. He derides the others’ work and stirs up a debate about the treatment of women and women’s bodies.

Nicholas insists that a trigger warning should be used for some fiction and in so doing he is using his own force of personality to undermine his teacher and to set the ground rules for their interactions. Nicholas is pushing boundaries and this isn’t having a productive effect on anyone, and the balance of power is shifting away from our protagonist. That balance shifts even further when she realises that Nicholas is now writing about her.

Baker’s riveting, clever account of the sexual power politics involved is utterly mesmerising. As things spiral out of control in the midst of a welter of satirical and all too believable attempts to accommodate Nicholas’ s requests, we realise that there is a dark force at work here that is all about power and the way it is wielded.

The debate about fictional violence against women serves to more strongly highlight the sheer horror of the very real sexual violence that occurs; a sexual violence that our unnamed protagonist feels she cannot fight. Ultimately, she becomes as powerless as Nicholas conceives her to be in his writing. Until she decides to fight back….

Verdict: The Body Lies is a really strong piece of writing. It is clever, it is and it works its way into your consciousness like a worm insinuating itself into the brain.  It’s a damned good literary thriller, but more importantly it is a brilliant look at how power works in sexual politics.

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Jo Baker is the author of the acclaimed and bestselling LONGBOURN and A COUNTRY ROAD, A TREE. Her new novel, THE BODY LIES, is a thrilling contemporary novel that explores violence against women in fiction but is also a disarming story of sexual politics. Jo Baker lives with her family in Lancashire.
Twitter @JoBakerWriter

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Joe Country by Mick Herron @johnmurrays #Mick Herron #JoeCountry

Source: Review copy #Netgalley
Publication Day: 20 June 2019 from John Murray
PP: 352
ISBN-13: 978-1473657441

‘We’re spies,’ said Lamb. ‘All kinds of outlandish shit goes on.’

Like the ringing of a dead man’s phone, or an unwelcome guest at a funeral . . .

In Slough House memories are stirring, all of them bad. Catherine Standish is buying booze again, Louisa Guy is raking over the ashes of lost love, and new recruit Lech Wicinski, whose sins make him outcast even among the slow horses, is determined to discover who destroyed his career, even if he tears his life apart in the process.

And with winter taking its grip Jackson Lamb would sooner be left brooding in peace, but even he can’t ignore the dried blood on his carpets. So when the man responsible breaks cover at last, Lamb sends the slow horses out to even the score.

This time, they’re heading into joe country.

And they’re not all coming home.

I adore Mick Herron’s writing. It is acerbic, witty and coruscating. This is prose you can wallow in; feel it as it seeps slickly through your fingers leaving a residue of mingled pleasure and pain that never for a minute allows you to forget that spying is a deadly business.

The Slough House joes may be an oddball mixture of alcoholics, failures, psychopaths and narcissists, but they are Jackson Lamb’s joes. This bunch of failures, relegated from the more refined echelons of Regent’s Park, will never rest until they have f***ed up the clandestine espionage plan that no-one is supposed to know about.

Herron is spot on in his depiction of the abhorrent antics of the ruling classes, their foibles and sense of droit de seigneur. Royalty, politicians, Brexiteers all get it in the neck without fear or favour. Lamb himself continues to be the all-knowing, fearsome, grossly obese farting monster he always was.

In Joe Country Herron shows us that is not afraid to kill his darlings and we know from the start that not all the slow horses will make it home from their incursion into Wales.

Alec. ‘Lech’ Wicinski is a new slow horse. Sent to Slough House from Regent’s Park, an intelligence analyst accused of an unspeakable crime and loudly protesting his innocence, Wicinski is still sharp enough to know when narcissist Roddy Ho is poking about in his backstory.

Louisa Guy is getting over Min Harper’s death when she takes a call from Harper’s wife Claire. Claire and Min’s son, Lucas has gone meeting and she wants Louise to find him. After all, she tells Louise, ‘you were sleeping with him’ so clearly she owes Claire a favour.

River Cartwright is trying to handle his mother as he takes charge of burying his grandfather and former spook, whom he always thinks of as the ‘old Bastard’.   The presence of his father skulking around the churchyard isn’t helping. Emma Flyte has been turfed out of Regent’s Park by newly promoted Diana Taverner and offered Slough House as a consolation. Emma is quick to tell Diana exactly what she can do with her job offer and quits.

When Louisa goes off grid, Lamb sends his Slow Horses out to Wales to find her and things pretty much go downhill from there. As ever though, after a mixture of screw ups, laugh out loud moments, violent deaths and some spectacular knowledge divination by Lamb, the world is set, more or less, to rights again.

The joy of Joe Country is the sheer blissfulness of Mick Herron’s characters. His willingness to take serious pot shots at the incompetence of the establishment not excepting Brexit and its politicians; his black, satirical humour – and most of all that prose. Rich, dark, intense and utterly, completely, wonderful.

Verdict: If you haven’t read the Slough House series you are missing something really exceptional. Herron has done it again. Joe Country is a brilliant, blissful book to die for.

Amazon                                                                       Waterstones

Mick Herron is a novelist and short story writer whose books include the Sarah Tucker/Zoë Boehm series and the standalone novel RECONSTRUCTION. His work has been shortlisted for the Macavity, Barry and Shamus awards.

Mick is the author of the acclaimed Jackson Lamb series, the first of which, the Steel Dagger-nominated SLOW HORSES, was hailed by the Daily Telegraph as one of the “the twenty greatest spy novels of all time”. The second in the series, DEAD LIONS, won the 2013 CWA Goldsboro Gold Dagger, and was picked by the Sunday Times as one of the best 25 crime novels of the past five years. The third, REAL TIGERS, was shortlisted for both the Gold and Steel Daggers, for the Theakstons Crime Novel of the Year, and for the 2017 Macavity Award. It won the Last Laugh Award at Crimefest 2017, for the best humorous crime novel of 2016.

Both the Jackson Lamb and the Zoë Boehm series are currently being developed for TV. Mick was born in Newcastle upon Tyne, and lives in Oxford. He writes full time.

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