The Killings at Kingfisher Hill by Sophie Hannah Narrated by Julian Rhind-Tutt #Audiobookreview @HarperCollinsUK

Source: Review copy
Publication: 20th August 2020 from Harper Collins
Length: 8hrs 54’
ASIN: B0844ZGZGP

The world’s greatest detective, Hercule Poirot – legendary star of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express and Death on the Nile – returns to solve a fiendish new mystery.

Hercule Poirot is travelling by luxury passenger coach from London to the exclusive Kingfisher Hill estate. Richard Devonport has summoned him to prove that his fiancée, Helen, is innocent of the murder of his brother, Frank. There is one strange condition attached to this request: Poirot must conceal his true reason for being there from the rest of the Devonport family.

On the coach, a distressed woman leaps up, demanding to disembark. She insists that if she stays in her seat, she will be murdered. A seat-swap is arranged and the rest of the journey passes without incident. But Poirot has a bad feeling about it, and his fears are later confirmed when a body is discovered in the Devonports’ home with a note that refers to ‘the seat that you shouldn’t have sat in’.

Could this new murder and the peculiar incident on the coach be clues to solving mystery of who killed Frank Devonport? And can Poirot find the real murderer in time to save an innocent woman from the gallows?

I’ve not read any of Sophie Hannah’s Hercule Poirot books before, though I do have another audiobook in my library to try, so I was intrigued to see what it might be like, as Poirot novels are among my favourite Christies.

Poirot and his Scotland Yard companion Inspector Edward Catchpool, who, like Captain Hastings before him, is our narrator, are on their way to Sussex. It’s quite difficult to imagine Poirot on a coach, but we must suppose he had no other means of getting to his destination.

The coach is full and of course there are a number of occurrences which pique Poirot’s curiosity, not least of which is a woman who boards the bus and who claims she has been warned she will be murdered if she sits in a specific seat.

Poirot and Catchpoole are on a mission and an undercover one at that. Poirot has been asked by Richard Devonport to investigate the murder of his brother, Frank, a murder for which Davenport’s fiancée Helen Acton is currently in Holloway Prison, having confessed to his murder.

Devonport is convinced of Helen’s innocence. The Devenports live in a large mansion in an exclusive Sussex estate. Patriarch Stanley is a bull-headed man and his wife, Lilian is seriously ill. Poirot and CatchPoole endeavour to maintain their disguised personae – that of  board-game enthusiasts – but it is not long before that pretence has to be cast aside as events somewhat overtake them. When another murder takes place the pair are then in a position to mount an official investigation. So now we have the large affluent country house, the cast of characters many of whom are related to each other and a potentially innocent woman languishing in prison having confessed to a murder her fiancée believed she could not possibly have committed. So far, so very Christie.

Hannah builds a complex, twisted and labyrinthine plot with many red herrings and lots of clues dropped and partners swapped. It’s enough to make the little grey cells swim. Catchpoole doesn’t seem all that much brighter than Hastings, which is a tad worrying given that he is a Police Inspector; however that gives Poirot the opportunity to show off his skills in a teacher to pupil fashion.

It is, I think, a decent homage to Christie and faithful to the spirit. What really makes this audiobook work though, above all, is the fantastic narration of Julian Rhind-Tutt who is a master at voices and inflexions and really brings the whole book alive. It’s worth it just for his narration alone. I’m in awe of his skills – as I was when he played Rumpole in the BBC dramatisations – and he’s a terrific actor.

Verdict: Though perhaps a little overly convoluted, plot-wise, Sophie Hannah does a decent job of re-creating all the classic elements of a Christie novel and building in the types of character we have come to know and love. It is clear that she knows her Christie novels well and this is reflected in what we read and hear. I enjoyed the audiobook a great deal and will certainly be back to listen to more Poirot’s in this form.

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Sophie Hannah is a Sunday Times and New York Times bestselling writer of crime fiction, published in forty-nine languages and fifty-one territories. Her books have sold millions of copies worldwide. In 2014, with the blessing of Agatha Christie’s family and estate, Sophie published a new Poirot novel, The Monogram Murders, which was a bestseller in more than fifteen countries. She has since published two more Poirot novels, Closed Casket and The Mystery of Three Quarters, both of which were instant Sunday Times Top Ten bestsellers.
In 2013, Sophie’s novel The Carrier won the Crime Thriller of the Year Award at the Specsavers National Book Awards.  She has also published two short story collections and five collections of poetry – the fifth of which, Pessimism for Beginners, was shortlisted for the T S Eliot Award. Her poetry is studied at GCSE, A Level and degree level across the UK. Most recently, she has published a self-help book called How to Hold a Grudge: From Resentment to Contentment – The Power of Grudges to Transform Your Life.Sophie has recently helped to create a Master’s Degree in Crime and Thriller Writing at the University of Cambridge, for which she is the main teacher and Course Director. She is also the founder of the DREAM AUTHOR coaching programme for writers. She lives with her husband, children and dog in Cambridge, where she is an Honorary Fellow of Lucy Cavendish College.

STILL LIFE by Val McDermid @valmcdermid @LittleBrownUK @laurasherlock21 @GroveAtlantic

Source: Review copy
Publication: 20 August 2020 in the UK from Little Brown and 6th October 2020 in the US from Grove Atlantic
PP: 448
ISBN-13: 978-1408712283

My thanks to publishers Grove Atlantic for a digital copy of this book for review purposes.

‘The bodies never stay buried forever . . .’

On a freezing winter morning, fishermen pull a body from the sea. It is quickly discovered that the dead man was the prime suspect in a decade-old investigation, when a prominent civil servant disappeared without trace. DCI Karen Pirie was the last detective to review the file and is drawn into a sinister world of betrayal and dark secrets.

But Karen is already grappling with another case, one with even more questions and fewer answers. A skeleton has been discovered in an abandoned campervan and all clues point to a killer who never faced justice – a killer who is still out there.

In her search for the truth, Karen uncovers a network of lies that has gone unchallenged for years. But lies and secrets can turn deadly when someone is determined to keep them hidden for good . .

I’ve read and really enjoyed all the Karen Pirie books to date, but none as much as this one. The stars seemed to have aligned for Still Life and the prose in this novel flows like a sparkling stream with dazzling flashes of light as the sun bounces off the water.

It’s a pre-Covid19 novel, but only just, and McDermid uses the lightest of fleeting touches to acknowledge what’s coming, which makes this book feel bang up to date, without burdening us with the awfulness of the actuality, which feels spot on to me.

DCI Karen Pirie has two cases to deal with in this novel, both with an artistic element to them. The first is the case of a skeleton found in a camper van in the garage of a douce Perth house, hidden under a tarpaulin.

The owner has recently died; she lived alone, her partner, an artist, having left her for another woman some years ago. Karen and the lovely but slightly dim but utterly loyal D.C. Jason ‘The Mint’ Murray are investigating when Karen’s boss, the fearsome Chief Inspector Merkle (or The Dog Biscuit as she is universally known at Gayfield Square station) decides to also hand her this month’s hot potato.

The body of a man has been found in the Firth of Forth and it looks like murder. Not a cold case, Karen protests, but it transpires that although the deceased lived in France and was a French national, he has links to the disappearance of a senior Scotland Office civil servant who vanished ten years ago, so there may be political fall-out from this one. The Dog Biscuit is deeming it a cold case and putting it into Karen’s jurisdiction for that reason.

Karen is still enjoying her relationship with the affluent hipster, Hamish though she still isn’t able to give herself 100% to that relationship. It isn’t helped by the release of her partner Phil’s killer from prison.

As Jason takes point on the Perth case, chasing down leads on two women, Karen recruits the rather splendid DS Daisy Mortimer from Fife Police to go with her to France to find out more about their jazz loving dead French national.

I loved the breadth of knowledge that McDermid displays in this book. It’s fascinating to learn about aspects of forensic pathology and technical wizardry which is so important for solving cases and McDermid uses her extensive contacts and knowledge of in this field to add layers and depth to her investigations.

The cases are interesting and nicely complex. The danger that runs through the book feels real and so there is a nice tension that unsettles the reader as much as it engrosses. The banter is top notch and it feels as if Karen’s team is coming together really well now. I adore the way that Edinburgh comes to life as Karen makes her way from her favourite Syrian café to other equally delicious eating places. McDermid always builds in a smattering of what’s going on in Scotland and the world alongside some pithy commentary and that puts the reader in the same frame as Pirie, adding to the authenticity.

I love that Pirie stands up for her team, but also for herself. She won’t let herself be riled or cowed by Merkle and she is committed to making sure Hamish knows exactly where she stands as far as he is concerned.

I have come to admire Pirie and would want her as a friend. That she feels quite so three dimensional is a testament to McDermid’s characterisation and I’m bit of a fan girl as a result. As the cases reach their conclusion we are on the eve of lockdown. What’s next for Karen Pirie? I can’t wait to find out!

Verdict: In a beautifully plotted and very well told tale, Karen, Daisy and Jason put together the solutions to two murders in journeys which take them from Perth to Stockport and Fife to France and Ireland with a few Brexit barbs built in. A well-paced, flowing narrative entertains and propels and this is a novel I’d unhesitatingly recommend.

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Val McDermid is a number one bestseller whose novels have been translated into more than thirty languages, and have sold over sixteen million copies. She has won many awards internationally, including the CWA Gold Dagger for best crime novel of the year and the LA Times Book of the Year Award.
She was inducted into the ITV3 Crime Thriller Awards Hall of Fame in 2009, was the recipient of the CWA Cartier Diamond Dagger in 2010 and received the Lambda Literary Foundation Pioneer Award in 2011. In 2016, Val received the Outstanding Contribution to Crime Fiction Award at the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival and in 2017 received the DIVA Literary Prize for Crime, and was elected a Fellow of both the Royal Society of Literature and the Royal Society of Edinburgh. Val has served as a judge for the Women’s Prize for Fiction and the Man Booker Prize, and was Chair of the Wellcome Book Prize in 2017. She is the recipient of six honorary doctorates and is an Honorary Fellow of St Hilda’s College, Oxford. She writes full-time and divides her time between Edinburgh and East Neuk of Fife.

KNIFE EDGE by Simon Mayo @simonmayo @DoubledayUK

Source: Review copy
Publication: 20 August 2020 from Doubleday
PP: 432
ISBN-13: 978-0857526595

6.45am. A sweltering London rush hour. And in the last 29 minutes, seven people have been murdered.

In a series of coordinated attacks, seven men and women across London have been targeted. For journalist Famie Madden, the horror unfolds as she arrives for the morning shift.

The victims have one thing in common: they make up the investigations team at the news agency where Famie works. The question everyone’s asking: what were they working on that could prompt such brutal devastation?

As Famie starts to receive mysterious messages, she must find out whether she is being warned of the next attack, or being told that she will be the next victim…

This is really quite a timely novel. Right now, journalists are under attack as never before. The rise of social media, fake news and the ability to instantly trash anyone whose opinions don’t reflect your own is taking its toll on the role of a free press and those who work for it. And that in turn is having a greater impact on the physical attacks on journalists than we have ever known. So far this year 21 journalists have been killed whilst on assignment, 9 of them murdered.

Frankly, it is worrying. And if freedom of speech is under threat, believe me when I tell you that democracy goes right under thereafter.

So, when Simon Mayo writes about seven journalists being targeted and killed within minutes of each other, the really sad truth is that I could see that happening. Just consider that for a moment. Fortunately, this is fiction and rather good fiction at that.

At the centre is journalist Famie Madden. She works for a large new bureau with an international reach – The International Press Service – a kind of alternative Reuters, if you will. Famie is really good at what she does, but she is really fed up at having to do it with fewer and fewer resources. Just as newspapers these days contain much less news and are produced by a handful of journalists, so the money to use news agencies to bring in strong stories has also diminished. Restructuring and ‘downsizing’ are now annual events and Famie has had it up to here.

Then seven of her colleagues are slain in separate knife attacks in London, within minutes of each other. It’s clearly a co-ordinated attack, but why? This team were in the midst of an investigation, and as is their norm, they kept the detail of that to themselves until they were ready to write it up. So there’s nothing in the system to help point the way to why this atrocity has occurred. Terrorism seems like a probable motive, but for Famie, these are her friends and colleagues. She also fears she could be targeted. It’s too much for her to bear and she’s had enough.

But someone is out there who wants her to investigate. Someone is sending her messages she has to try and make sense of. Because these killers haven’t stopped yet.

In an intense and thrilling read, it’s fair to say Mayo ‘s writing really caught me up in the story and as we learned more about the characters, both alive and those who were murdered, the motives got muddier before clarity was bestowed. As Famie starts to follow the sparse trail left by her unknown communicator, her own life and that of her daughter is put under threat and she has to keep moving to have any chance of feeling safe. Nor can the police protect her; their advice to stay put is clearly useless once she discovers that her flat has been ransacked when she should have been at home had she followed their advice.

In the main the pace is good, though it is slow to start and dips somewhat in the middle section, but the story is compelling and the subject matter fascinating as Famie thinks her way round the various terror groups across the world.

As well as Famie’s perspective, we get another, very different view of what is going on. One that is at the heart of the group that instigated these actions. That perspective lends a really chilling element to the book and as the plot develops we are left in no doubt as to the serious intent behind the responsible individuals. The plot becomes even more tense and as the action centres on Coventry and all the principal characters take their places, the stage is set for a stunning and violent climax that carries with it some surprises.

Verdict: This is the first Simon Mayo book I have read and I thought it was both gripping and exciting as well as having that strong and chilling contemporary slant on domestic terrorism. I’d certainly read another. Recommended.

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Simon Mayo is a writer and broadcaster. He is the presenter of the podcast Simon Mayo’s Books of the Year, a daily host on Scala Radio and co-presenter of Kermode and Mayo’s Film Review for the BBC. His previous books include Mad Blood Stirring, Blame and the Itch trilogy, filmed for TV by ABC. Knife Edge is his debut contemporary thriller.

The Less Dead by Denise Mina @DameDeniseMina @DeadGoodBooks @HarvillSecker @Jade__Chandler

Source: Review copy
Publication: 20th August 2020 from Random House UK; Harvill Secker
PP: 352
ISBN-13: 978-1787301726

When Margo goes in search of her birth mother for the first time, she meets her aunt, Nikki, instead. Margo learns that her mother, Susan, was a sex worker murdered soon after Margo’s adoption. To this day, Susan’s killer has never been found.

Nikki asks Margo for help. She has received threatening and haunting letters from the murderer, for decades. She is determined to find him, but she can’t do it alone…

Goodness me, gentle reader, but this book is a cracker! Want to know how good it is? Though it is very different, it reminds me in many ways of The Long Drop and that was OUTSTANDING! I read it from cover to cover in one day. I was so engrossed in the story and everything Mina was telling me that I did not want to stop – and believe me, that’s been a rare experience in this lockdown.

Margo Dunlop is mourning the death of her adoptive mother and is vulnerable with many changes in her life right now. Margot is a doctor, pregnant and on bereavement leave and has just split from her partner, Joe.

As we meet her, she is in the offices of an adoption agency waiting to meet her aunt, having discovered that her mother, Susan Brodie, died not long after giving birth to Margo.  Nikki is Susan’s sister and she is very late to the meeting; held up as a result of a trial she is involved with. (Mina fans will enjoy the wee Easter egg she throws in for us at the courthouse). When Nikki finally appears, just as Margo is about to leave, she is taken aback by how much Margo looks like her birth mother.

Nikki tells Margo that Susan was a prostitute and an addict and that she was murdered at the age of 19, by a serial killer who murdered 9 women but was never caught. Nikki was also an addict, also working the streets – and part of the richness of this book is embodied in the way in which Mina explores middle class attitudes to sex, drugs and violence and the delicacy with which Margo tries to engage with Nikki, all the time just a wee bit at sea as to how to relate to her.

Indeed, after their first meeting she gives her false contact details, so unsure is she as to whether she wants Nikki anywhere near her life. Nikki shows her threatening letters she’s  received over the years which she believes come from the killer, containing scraps of evidence that come from the site where Susan’s body was found, a bus stop in Easterhouse.

Mina conveys so well the Glasgow of the 80’s, a time when heroin was really the drug of ‘choice’ on the streets of the city and more women entered the world of selling sex than ever before, to be able to get their fix.

Nikki believes she knows who was responsible for the deaths of Susan and the other women and when Margo finds that a similar letter is waiting for her, she is driven to find out what’s going on.

What makes this book work so incredibly well is the fragile relationship between these women and the way that they dance around each other, not quite knowing how to relate, despite the fact that they are blood relatives. But who hasn’t been there, right? The notion of family and what it is, how it works is explored through the relationships of all the women in this book, as is the unremitting question of male violence and how that so easily transcends any notion of class distinction.

Margo has difficulty in dealing with the sex worker side of Nikki’s life, her past drug addiction and the violence that is a part and parcel of the life of a sex worker but at the same time she is appalled by the casual and brutal attitude of the Police to these women’s deaths. Because they were sex workers, their deaths were treated as some kind of work related accident; they were disposable – or in the title of the book, the ‘less dead’, women whose deaths were less significant because they were not part of polite society. And because they were in the main, poor and working class, they was no moral outrage; they had no-one who would speak up for them and demand justice. They were disposable in a world where you can always get another one where that one came from. It is only Diane Gallagher, a woman cop in a sea of men who is prepared to be more human and even she is holding back.

There is a strong and menacing plot running through this book, as Margo is threatened by our unseen killer, the tension rising as she tries to find the killer, her suspicion falling on more than one many man she encounters with a propensity to use his fists. Margo may think she’s getting to the truth, but the killer is always one step ahead and she’s really not seeing the wood from the trees.

Mina’s love of true crime comes through in the form of Jack Robertson, a rather sleazy author who has written about Susan’s and the other women’s deaths and is now being sued for pointing the finger. He is obviously is keen to have his theories validated.

The core of the story, though, is the relationships between all the women in the book, from Margo’s friend Lilah to the women who stand up in solidarity for each other in court.

Glasgow takes centre stage as a character, of course, and is richly and graphically depicted from the wonderful Mitchell Library to the two sides of the Saltmarket; one striving to get to Bohemia but not quite making it; the other populated by men tumbling out of pubs looking for a fight and not caring where they get it.

Verdict: The Less Dead on one level is a suspenseful, menacing thriller and pitch perfect at that. But it is also about the bond between women; about friendship; about how you choose which family you want to belong to and the power dynamics that play out in all families. The writing is fabulous. This is prose you can happily drown in, like a warm bath reaching for you and drawing you in.

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After a peripatetic childhood in Glasgow, Paris, London, Invergordon, Bergen and Perth, Denise Mina left school early. Working in a number of dead end jobs, all of them badly, before studying at night school to get into Glasgow University Law School. Denise went on to study for a PhD at Strathclyde, misusing her student grant to write her first novel. This was Garnethill, published in 1998, which won the Crime Writers Association John Creasy Dagger for Best First Crime Novel.She has now published 13 novels and also writes short stories, plays and graphic novels. In 2014 she was inducted into the Crime Writers’ Association Hall of Fame. Her novel The Long Drop won the McIlvanney Prize for Scottish Crime Novel of the Year in 2017.Denise presents TV and radio programmes as well as regularly appearing in the media, and has made a film about her own family. She regularly appears at literary festivals in the UK and abroad, leads masterclasses on writing and was a judge for the Bailey’s Prize for Women’s Fiction 2014.

Clean hands by Patrick Hoffman @pdchoffman @groveatlantic

Source: Review copy
Publication: 6 August 2020 from Grove Press
PP: 288
ISBN-13: 978-1611856408

Corporate lawyer Elizabeth Carlyle is under pressure. Her prestigious New York law firm is working on a high-stakes case, defending a prominent bank accused of fraud. When Elizabeth gets the news that one of her junior associates has lost his phone – and the secret documents that were on it – she needs help. Badly.

Enter ex-CIA officer Valencia Walker, a high-priced fixer who gets called in when wealthy people, corporations and governments need their problems solved discreetly. But things get complicated when the missing phone is retrieved: somebody has already copied the documents and blackmail is underway.

Mysterious leaks to the press and an unlikely suicide further complicate the situation. With billions of dollars on the line, Elizabeth and Valencia must outmanoeuvre their tormentors, all the while keeping their hands clean.

I really enjoyed this New York set thriller which attention grabbed from the very first page and never let go.  Chris Cowey is a lawyer at the very prestigious law firm of Carlyle, Driscoll and Hathaway. The firm is acting on behalf of the Calcott Bank in a big and financially very worthwhile action against another bank. The litigation has come about because both sides are arguing over whose fault it was that their planned merger did not succeed.

Elizabeth Carlyle, Senior Partner, is in charge of the case and so when it transpires that junior lawyer Chris Cowey has had his phone pick-pocketed and that it contained sensitive documents relating to the trial, Elizabeth has to get those documents back. She knows it is imperative to ensure they don’t fall into the hands of their client’s adversaries, so she brings in a troubleshooter – Valencia Walker.

Valencia is ex-CIA and one of the best fixers out there. But although Valencia has the staff and the know- how to figure out who took the phone and how to track it down, things are not quite as straightforward as they at first appeared.

In a fast moving and complex thriller, Hoffman leads us on a tangled journey that goes from street thieves to mid-level organised crime to the Russian mafia and even a black-ops set up. As the vital documents change hands, and the price of their keeps going up, Elizabeth see her future crumbling and Valencia has to use all her resources to work out who has them and what they intend to do with them.

It’s great to read a financial thriller with two strong female protagonists who lead from the front and whose resourcefulness and intelligence is unquestionable. What starts as a story about a mobile phone turns out to be something altogether much bigger and the spider’s web that Valencia needs to negotiate is threaded around some unexpected places. Full of intrigue and deft use of smoke and mirrors, Hoffman shows us that there are all too plausible connections between corporate and criminal America and with billions of dollars on the line, the stakes are so high that for Elizabeth and Valencia nothing is off limits. The trick is to make sure that at the end, their hands are clean.

Verdict: A strong and intelligent thriller with a fast pace and an intriguing and diverse set of characters, fronted by two powerful female players. The action is intense and Hoffman’s New York legal and financial setting is just right for this well-crafted and believable thriller.

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Patrick Hoffman is a writer and private investigator based in Brooklyn, NY. His first book, THE WHITE VAN, was a finalist for the Crime Writers’ Association Ian Fleming Steel Dagger Award and was named a Wall Street Journal and San Francisco Chronicle Best Book of the Year. His highly anticipated follow-up, EVERY MAN A MENACE, came out in 2016, and was again named one of the ten best of the year by the Wall Street Journal.
Photo: DeSean McClinton-Holland

Death in the East by Abir Mukherjee @radiomukhers @VintageBooks @styx_hope #DeathintheEast

Source: Review copy
Publication: 6th August 2020 from Vintage Books
PP: 432
ISBN-13: 978-1784708535

Calcutta police detective Captain Sam Wyndham and his quick-witted Indian Sergeant, Surrender-not Banerjee, are back for another rip-roaring adventure set in 1920s India.

1905, London. As a young constable, Sam Wyndham is on his usual East London beat when he comes across an old flame, Bessie Drummond, attacked in the streets. The next day, when Bessie is found brutally beaten in her own room, locked from the inside, Wyndham promises to get to the bottom of her murder. But the case will cost the young constable more than he ever imagined.

1922, India. Leaving Calcutta, Captain Sam Wyndham heads for the hills of Assam, to the ashram of a sainted monk where he hopes to conquer his opium addiction. But when he arrives, he sees a ghost from his life in London – a man thought to be long dead, a man Wyndham hoped he would never see again.

Wyndham knows he must call his friend and colleague Sergeant Banerjee for help. He is certain this figure from his past isn’t here by coincidence. He is here for revenge . . .

Abir Mukherjee’s Sam Wyndham/ Surendranath Banerjee series is one of the best crime series around and I loved Death in the East so much that I am re-sharing my original review to celebrate the paperback publication. Death in the East is another sure fire hit.

Mukherjee’s writing has grown throughout this series and here he shows confidence in his characters by giving Sergeant Surendranath Banerjee lead status in the locked room mystery that poses a real conundrum for our two investigators.

The case this time has its origins in Sam Wyndham’s past. As a young Police Constable, Wyndham came up against a rich and vicious thug whom he suspects of being behind the death of Bessie Drummond, a young woman whom Sam had once had feelings for. The narrative switches between the young P.C. in 1905 where he is stationed in the heart of London’s deeply impoverished East End and 1922, where a seriously opium addicted Wyndham is determined once and for all to throw off his addiction. He travels to Assam for treatment from a Hindu holy man who treats addictions through a strict regime which brooks no recidivism.

Wyndham is travelling when he sees someone that he thought long gone; a foe he will never forget.   That sighting brings alive all his memories of Bessie Drummond and her murder in a locked room that Sam knows was wrongly attributed to someone else. So when that man whom Sam knows to be the murderer is found dead, also in a locked room, it is clear that Sam cannot be an impartial investigator. Fortunately, he has already called on Sergeant Banerjee for assistance.

Mukherjee draws attention to the decades of prejudice and ill treatment meted out to those who arrive in Britain as immigrants; poor and in need of refuge. In 1905 it is the Jews who are the brunt of prejudice and racism; in later decades it will be the Bengalis and then the Serbs and Romanians. Britain’s history is one of deeply ingrained prejudice against those who seek asylum and to make their living in our country and Mukherjee shows us how deeply ingrained it is in out psyche when he portrays the relationship between Sam and Surendranath. Because Sam is not a bad man, but he is simply unable to get over his own sense of cultural superiority and ingrained racism to Surendranath, a man whose name he has never bothered to learn to pronounce, despite calling him a friend.

But this book is set predominantly in 1922 and in India things are changing and changing rapidly. The move towards self-rule is gaining pace thanks to the adoption of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi’s policy of non-violence and civil disobedience, and the days of the Raj, while by no means over are beginning to look at least numbered.

This is reflected in the way that Surendranath and Sam interact in this book. Sam, because of his previous experience with the dead man, is deemed inappropriate to lead on the case, and so Surendranath finds himself in the position of being the lead police investigator in the death of a rich Englishman, working from a member’s club in Jatinga which would never allow any Indian to be a member.

It was terrific to see Surendranath taking more of the centre stage, albeit towards the end of the book. His relationship with Sam is changing, just as India’s relationship with the British is changing. The British see no irony at all in being incomers to India and yet asserting their (self-perceived) authority, while simultaneously doing all they can to suppress immigrants to Britain’s shores.

Mukherjee is beginning to assert Sergeant Banerjee’s character more now and as the Sergeant gains confidence so we should see the relationship between Sam and Surendranath shift to one which is more based on equals than the previous ‘enlightened colonialism’.

Oh, and the locked room mystery is a good one, which is solved neatly and with style. But this book is about so much more and Mukherjee’s characters grow in depth and complexity with every book. I think this is the best one yet and can’t wait for more.

Verdict: An elegant double locked room mystery layered with complex characterisation, atmospheric descriptions and conveying messages which resonate from 1905 through to the present day. This is top class storytelling of importance in a series not to be missed.

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Abir Mukherjee grew up in the west of Scotland. At the age of fifteen, his best friend made him read Gorky Park and he’s been a fan of crime fiction ever since. The child of immigrants from India, A Rising Man, his debut novel, was inspired by a desire to learn more about a crucial period in Anglo-Indian history that seems to have been almost forgotten. A Rising Man won the Harvill Secker/Daily Telegraph crime writing competition and became the first in a series starring Captain Sam Wyndham and ‘Surrender-not’ Banerjee. It went on to win the CWA Historical Dagger and was shortlisted for the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year award. Abir lives in Surrey with his wife and two sons.

The Wicked Sister by Karen Dionne @KarenDionne @BooksSphere @TheCrimeVault

Source; Review copy
Publication: 4 August 2020 from Sphere
PP: 304
ISBN-13: 978-0751567427

She thought she’d buried her past. But what if it’s been hunting her this whole time?

You have been cut off from society for fifteen years, shut away in a mental hospital in self-imposed exile as punishment for the terrible thing you did when you were a child.

But what if nothing about your past is as it seems?

And if you didn’t accidentally shoot and kill your mother, then whoever did is still out there. Waiting for you.

For a decade and a half, Rachel Cunningham has chosen to lock herself away in a psychiatric facility, tortured by gaps in her memory and the certainty that she is responsible for her parents’ deaths. But when she learns new details about their murders, Rachel returns, in a quest for answers, to the place where she once felt safest: her family’s sprawling log cabin in the remote forests of Michigan.

As Rachel begins to uncover what really happened on the day her parents were murdered, she learns – as her mother did years earlier – that home can be a place of unspeakable evil, and that the bond she shares with her sister might be the most poisonous of all.

I loved The Marsh King’s Daughter and so was never going to turn down the opportunity to read The Wicked Sister. The story centres on Rachel Cunningham, a 26 year old young woman who voluntarily committed herself to a psychiatric hospital at the tender age of 11 years old. She did so because she was responsible for her parents’ death and knew she deserved to be locked up.

Set in the wilds of remote wild, Michigan, this is the story of Rachel and her highly dysfunctional family. Rachel’s parents, Jenny and Peter, had taken her and her sister Diana to a hunting lodge in a remote location while they used their scientific skills to study the biology of the wildlife around them.

Rachel receives no visitors and has one friend at the Newberry Psychiatric Hospital and that’s Scotty, whom she looks after. She has also got to know Scotty’s brother Trevor quite well on his regular visits to see Scotty. It is Trevor, a journalist, who shows her the Police and Medical Examiner’s reports of her parents’ deaths and she realises that all along she has been innocent. Her self-imposed 15 year isolation was all for nothing as she could not have been responsible.

So she checks herself out of the hospital and with Trevor’s help, travels back to the family home in the wilds of Upper Michigan where her sister Diana and Aunt Charlotte are now happily ensconced. Rachel’s memories are distorted by the trauma she has endured, coupled with the passage of time and she needs to return home in order to understand exactly what happened. If she didn’t kill her parents, who did? Why didn’t Charlotte and Diana tell her what really happened? Secrets abound and Rachel is determined to find answers.

Utilising a dual timeline, Dionne shows us through Rachel’s mother’s eyes, the events that led to the family moving into a wild isolation and what then ensued. Two sisters, who only had each other as playmates, with a huge natural canvas to play in as their parents grew ever more anxious about their futures.

What we learn is incredibly chilling as Jenny tries hard to reconcile her parenting with the development of one of her daughters from a demanding bright child into a deeply cruel and manipulative psychopath without empathy. It is heart-breaking to read of Jenny and Peter’s struggles with their domineering daughter as they first of all seek to downplay the signs and then realise that nothing they can do will halt what’s happening and many more will be hurt unless they take action.

Jenny is relieved when her sister Charlotte comes to live with them, providing her with help and support. At last she will not have to bear the burden alone, for Peter is rather an absent parent.

The return of Rachel to the cabin unannounced is the catalyst for a host of revelations as a deadly game of cat and mouse ensues.  Dionne does a remarkable job of building a layered picture of cold and calculating acts of cruelty which ultimately and inevitably leading to death.

She creates an atmosphere in which the landscape and its beasts play an integral part in showing the brutality of nature and this book is a clear advocate of nature not nurture when it comes to psychopathy.

Her portrait of psychopathy is incredibly well done and very scary as we see the characters develop from childhood onwards and the terrifying impact it has on the whole family as they try and fail to deal with the hand they have been dealt.

Though there are moments when for plot purposes a suspension of disbelief is required, this does not detract from one of the most trenchant description of psychopathy I have come across. Add to that the wilderness setting which is at once vast and yet claustrophobic, a lot of action and a rapid pace and what you get is a book that you will race through as you hold your breath waiting to find out what will happen.

It is unnerving, twisty and full of some pretty gruesome moments but the overall depiction of mental health issues is a riveting one as we find Rachel talking to the animals and getting answers.

Verdict: A gripping, twisted and propulsive thriller with bags of atmosphere which is enhanced by strong writing making for a very enjoyable read.

Hive Books                       Waterstones                    Amazon

Karen Dionne is the USA Today and #1 internationally bestselling author of the award-winning psychological suspense novel The Marsh King’s Daughter published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons in the US and in 25 other languages. Her next psychological suspense, The Wicked Sister, will publish from G.P. Putnam’s Sons in the US and Little, Brown in the UK August 4, 2020. Karen enjoys nature photography and lives with her husband in Detroit’s northern suburbs. Photo:Robert Bruce

Final Cut by S.J.Watson @TransworldBooks

Source: Review copy
Publication: 6th August 2020 from Doubleday
PP: 416
ISBN-13: 978-0857523051

Blackwood Bay. An ordinary place, home to ordinary people.

It used to be a buzzing seaside destination. But now, ravaged by the effects of dwindling tourism and economic downturn, it’s a ghost town – and the perfect place for film-maker Alex to shoot her new documentary.

But the community is deeply suspicious of her intentions. After all, nothing exciting ever happens in Blackwood Bay – or does it?

Blackwood Bay. An ordinary place, home to an extraordinary secret.

Alex is a documentary film-maker, whose first film garnered her some excellent praise, but she’s struggled to find a new idea that inspires her and the commissions are not rolling in. An idea she has pitched to a production company has merit and they’re keen for her to proceed with it, but they want it attached to a place with a story to give the film a real hook.

So Alex arrives in Blackwood Bay, a place that she never wanted to be. Once a pretty enough place with a bit of a tourism industry, now it is run down and somewhat neglected and the atmosphere is one of distrust, especially to newcomers. That’s not surprising, since the media have crawled all over it after three young girls disappeared 10 years ago.

Alex is our narrator and we quickly learn that her documentary style is to seek film and video from users wherever she is filming and she uses that to stitch together a portrait of the place she is portraying.

S. J. Watson does an excellent job of building a picture of the town and its key characters and creating an atmospheric, oppressive feeling that lingers as Alex – herself struggling with being in Blackwood and showing signs of not being an entirely reliable narrator – tries to get to the bottom of who or what caused these young women to disappear.

There are those who don’t want her raking up the past, understandably, and Alex is a bit quick to judge based on rumour and hearsay. What becomes clear though is that there is still a malevolent force in this town and that whoever is behind it is not taking well to Alex digging into the past.

S.J. Watson does write a fabulously dark and well plotted story and on the whole I enjoyed reading this and found the many twisted moments entertaining as the plot unfurled. But if you read a lot of psychological thrillers, this plot will not stun you, and it won’t come as a complete surprise when you find out what really been going on.

Final Cut has a solid pace for most of the book then ramps up towards the end as the town’s secrets start to spill out at an unstoppable rate and the tension jumps several notches for the dramatic conclusion of this psychological thriller.

Verdict: Verdict: A solid and enjoyable read with a nicely claustrophobic, oppressive atmosphere and some creepy characters but which at times felt a little too guessable – but then I read an awful lot of psychological thrillers.

Hive Books                       Waterstones                    Amazon

S. J. Watson’s first novel, Before I Go To Sleep, became a phenomenal international success and has now sold over 6,000,000 copies worldwide. It won the Crime Writers’ Association Award for Best Debut Novel and the Galaxy National Book Award for Crime Thriller of the Year and has been translated into more than 40 languages.The film of the book, starring Nicole Kidman, Colin Firth and Mark Strong, and directed by Rowan Joffe, was released in September 2014. S J Watson’s second novel, Second Life, a psychological thriller, was published to acclaim in 2015.

We Are All the Same in the Dark by Julia Heaberlin @juliathrillers @MJBooks

Source: Review copy
Publication: 6th August 2020 from Michael Joseph
PP: 352
ISBN-13: 978-0241385494

It’s been a decade since the town’s sweetheart Trumanell Branson disappeared, leaving only a bloody handprint behind.

Since her disappearance, Tru’s brother, Wyatt, has lived as an outcast, desperate to know what happened to his sister.

So when Wyatt finds a lost girl, he believes she is a sign.

But for new cop, Odette Tucker, this girl’s appearance reopens old wounds.

Determined to solve both cases, Odette fights to save a lost girl in the present and in doing so digs up a shocking truth about that fateful night in the past . . .

I love Julia Heaberlin’s ability to tell a cracking story. She writes beautifully, giving weight to her characters and crafting them so that they feel authentic and when they hurt, the reader hurts right along with them. She has the ability to at once create tough but vulnerable women, to give them personality, depth and flaws so that they stand out in the mind. All of this in a setting that is rich, vivid and deeply atmospheric.

Rural Texas is the location and this story will be told from three perspectives. Odette Tucker is a cop in a small Texas town. Her father Marshall Tucker was a cop too. Odette is a little unusual in that she is an amputee and has a range of legs that she can put on as she goes about her daily business, including one that allows her to understand what Oscar Pistorius had to go through to get out of bed on any given day.

She has history with the town recluse, Wyatt whose sister, Trumanelle and father disappeared ten years ago and were never seen again. Most people think Wyatt was responsible and give him a wide berth, but nothing has ever been proved.

Odette and Wyatt were close once and there’s still something of a spark between them, and Odette mostly doesn’t believe Wyatt is guilty of anything. Odette’s partner Rusty is less sure of that, but then he’s the kind of cop that Odette’s daddy would have liked. The kind that’s prepared to deliver justice first and ask questions later.

The book opens with Wyatt finding a young girl lying on a patch of deserted ground by the road, injured and not speaking. He takes her home to look after her, but he’s hardly on the road before a concerned citizen calls it in to the police and so Odette is once more at Wyatt’s door wanting to know what’s going on.

Haeaberlin takes Angel’s (the girl’s) story and the disappearance of Wyatt’s father and sister as Odette and Wyatt together seek to find out just what Angel’s story is and as they do we see how it impacts on Wyatt’s history.

Heaberlin creates a deep Southern mystery here, slowly peeling back layers of secrecy, contempt for the law and shocking betrayals to reveal a picture of lies and secrets. Heritage and history play their part in hiding all the secrets and lies that are buried in a shallow grave covered by a thin veneer of dust.

The novel takes place over a course of years but it never feels long or slow, just rich and redolent like a slow cooked casserole where every morsel is rich and tender. Though disappearances and a murder are the mainstay of the story, it is the characters and relationships that make this a symphony rather than a good tune and we can hear the timbre of the music change as the time passes.

There are some genuinely surprising moments and times when you wonder what’s going on but this just adds to the dark, unsettling feeling that being immersed in this book is already giving you.

Verdict: Beautifully written, emotionally charged, full of richness and depth, this is a fabulous, evocative read and one I highly recommend.

HIVE BOOKS                     WATERSTONES                AMAZON

Julia Heaberlin is the author of the international bestseller Black-Eyed Susans and Paper Ghosts. Heaberlin’s psychological thrillers, all set in Texas, have sold to more than eighteen countries. She worked as a features editor at The Detroit News, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, and The Dallas Morning News and has always been especially interested in true crime and how events play out years later. The Star-Telegram Life & Arts section was named one of the Top 10 sections in the country during her tenure as its editor. Heaberlin, who grew up in Texas, lives in the Dallas/Fort Worth area where she is at work on her next novel.

You can follow Julia on Twitter @Juliathrillers

COVER REVEAL #SMOKESCREEN @OrendaBooks @LierHorst @EngerThomas @meganeturney

I am delighted to welcome you to the unveiling of the cover for the brand new Blix and Ramm novel, Smoke Screen which is coming your way in e-book this December and in paperback in February 2021.

Regular readers will know that I am a fan of Jørn Lier Horst’s William Wisting series – where he uses painstaking, careful police work in his police procedural series to unravel the perpetrators of the crime. I’m also a huge Thomas Enger supporter; his prose is sublime and he has the capacity to infuse strong emotional resonance into strong, three dimensional characters and to couple this with acute observation of social issues.

So when two of my favourite Nordic writers join forces what would we get? The answer is both surprising and delightful, in a macabre way. Way more than the sum of their parts, that’s for sure. Death Deserved, the first Blix and Ramm book is a brilliantly paced, devastatingly plotted, crime fiction work with a contemporary slant, as a policeman and a blogger work together to unmask a lethal serial killer.

Now we have the second Blix and Ramm novel, SMOKE SCREEN on the way. I AM SO EXCITED!!!

So what is it about you ask?

Oslo, New Year’s Eve. The annual firework celebration is rocked by an explosion, and the city is put on terrorist alert.

Police officer Alexander Blix and blogger Emma Ramm are on the scene, and when a severely injured survivor is pulled from the icy harbour, Blix instantly recognises her as the mother of two-year-old Patricia Semplass, who was kidnapped on her way home from kindergarten ten years earlier … and never found.

Blix and Ramm join forces to investigate the unsolved case, as public interest heightens, the terror threat is raised, and it becomes clear that Patricia’s disappearance is not all that it seems…

Doesn’t that sound AWESOME!!!??? You can pre-order here

Let’s find out a little more about these two authors…

Jørn Lier Horst and Thomas Enger are the internationally bestselling Norwegian authors of the William Wisting and Henning Juul series respectively. Jørn Lier Horst first rose to literary fame with his No. 1 internationally bestselling William Wisting series. A former investigator in the Norwegian police, Horst imbues all his works with an unparalleled realism and suspense. Thomas Enger is the journalist-turned-author behind the internationally acclaimed and bestselling Henning Juul series. Enger’s trademark has become a darkly gritty voice paired with key social messages and tight plotting. Besides writing fiction for both adults and young adults, Enger also works as a music composer. Death Deserved is Jørn Lier Horst & Thomas Enger’s first co-written thriller.

Smoke Screen is translated by Megan Turney.  

Megan grew up in Stoke-on-Trent, and went on to complete a MA (Hons) in Scandinavian Studies and English Literature at the University of Edinburgh, achieving a distinction in Norwegian. After six years of living between the UK and Norway, she moved back to the West Midlands to work as an editorial assistant for a small, independent publishing house in Staffordshire. In 2019, she began her MA in Translation and Interpreting Studies at the University of Manchester, specialising in translation from Norwegian and Danish into English, focussing on the translation of commercial and literary texts, and translating for international organisations. She is a member of the Emerging Translators Network.

Now…are you ready for the cover of Smoke Screen???

Isn’t it just chilling and gorgeous all at the same time?? I cannot wait!!!

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