All you need to know about books at www.booksmonthly.co.uk Issue 4 July 2008
Inspector Lynley may have finished on TV, but his adventures continue in books, thank goodness.....
Elizabeth George: Careless in Red
ELIZABETH GEORGE: CARELESS IN RED ~ It is barely three months since the murder of his wife and Thomas Lynley takes to the South-West Coast Path in Cornwall, determined to walk its length in an attempt to distract himself from his loss. On the forty-third day of this walk, he sees a cliff climber fall to his death a death apparently witnessed by a surfer in a nearby cove. Shortly afterwards, Lynley encounters a young woman from Bristol whose personal history is a blank before her thirteenth year. These events propel him into a case that brings Barbara Havers from London and thrusts both detectives into a world where revenge is only one of the motives they must sift through to identify a killer. The amazing thing about Elizabeth George is that she's American, yet she has the traits and quirks of earldom and "ordinary people" of Britain off to a tee. I love Tommy Lynley's character, and Elizabeth gives him enough eccentricity to make him wholly believable. I think Elizabeth's Havers is a bit more of a slob than Sharon Small portrays, but that's not a problem; the interplay between these two is superb, even better in print than on screen, and in my opinion Lynley is one of the better TV cops. I'm not sure why Lynley has been axed by the BBC, though I believe there's a petition to make them change their minds, which I'll try to find - and sign. For now, take comfort in the fact that Inspector Lynley and Havers are alive and well in the mind of Miss George - this is a superb read that'll keep you going for hours, and a well-deserved book of the month.
DONALD A WESTLAKE: SOMEBODY OWES ME MONEY ~ SOMETIMES WINNING FEELS AN AWFUL LOT LIKE LOSING. Cab driver Chet Conway was hoping for a good tip from his latest fare, the sort he could spend. But what he got was a tip on a horse race. Which might have turned out okay, except that when he went to collect his winnings Chet found his bookie lying dead on the living room floor. Chet knows he had nothing to do with it—but just try explaining that to the cops, to the two rival criminal gangs who each think Chet’s working for the other, and to the dead man’s beautiful sister, who has flown in from Las Vegas to avenge her brother’s murder... Pure joy! Westlake is a master of humourous crime - this reads like a 1930s 'tec novel but set in the present time - full of delicious characters and hilarious set pieces, with stunningly good dialogue and narrative - Hard Case Crime's best novel yet by a long chalk! It will turn out to be a classic in years to come.
SIMON HALL: THE DEATH PICTURES ~ A dying artist creates a series of ten paintings – The Death Pictures – which contain a mysterious riddle, leading the way to a unique and highly valuable prize. Thousands attempt to solve it. A serial rapist is working through a series of attacks. He isn’t shy to make clear his hatred of women, and taunting of the police. He leaves his calling card, a witch’s hat at the houses he breaks into, each numbered from a pack of six. The detectives face baffling questions. Why kill the artist when he would die naturally in just a few weeks time? What to make of the attempted break in at his house just before his death? Could it be connected with the rapes, all of which have been carried out in the area around his home? The media interest in the cases is intense, and Detective Chief Inspector Adam Breen again turns to his friend, TV Crime reporter Dan Groves to help him handle it. Dan does – at the price of some great scoops, and an involvement in the case that eventually leads him to effectively talk to the rapist, using the stories he broadcasts to lure him into a trap, and finally, discover the extraordinary solution to the riddle. Simon Hall is the BBC Crime Correspondent for the Devon and Cornwall area. His step up from the relative calm of environment correspondent to that of ‘home affairs’, or crime reporting, provided the catalyst for this dark and deadly novel. This is Simon’s second book. His first, ‘A Popular Murder’, was strongly commended and received widespread media coverage. Simon is 38 years old and lives with his wife in Plymouth. An intriguing mystery from someone close to crime reporting. Simon uses all his expert knowledge to turn in a fabulous plot and some terrific characters. There will be a feature on Simon including a Q&A session in the September issue, which coincides with the release of Simon's next book, published by Accent. Hugely enjoyable read, you'll love it!
ANDY SECOMBE: LOOKING FOR MR PIGGY WIG ~ Its twenty years after the 'New' Battle of Britain, and rationing is still in force. Because of rampant global warming, a massive tax has been imposed on carbon-based fuels. Now, with aviation fuel costing more than vintage champagne, commercial jets can no longer afford to ply the world's airways, and their place has been taken by giant, eco-friendly dirigibles. Our hero, Jack Lindsay, is a private investigator of the old school - hard-nosed, hard-boiled and hard-drinking. If he has a weakness, apart from a fondness for garibaldi biscuits, it is for a woman with a sob story - and one has just walked into his office, and into his life. Marian is purportedly looking for her husband, Michaelmas, though Jack suspects she's not telling him the whole story. By digging a little deeper, he finds himself becoming embroiled in a worldwide criminal conspiracy involving gun-smuggling, political assassination, and a chain of burger outlets. Soon Jack's got a lot more to worry about than just the local shortage of garibaldis. 'Excellent ...funny and, yes, fantastical' - Sandy Toksvig, "Sunday Telegraph". This title arrived too late for my review, which will appear in the August issue.
MATT RUFF: BAD MONKEYS ~ Jane Charlotte has been arrested for murder. During questioning, she tells the police that she is a member of a secret organisation. Her division, the Bad Monkeys, is an execution squad, determined to rid the world of evil people. But the man she has just killed was not on the target list. As her story becomes more bizarre the question becomes: Is Jane lying, crazy - or playing a different game altogether? Fast moving, highly entertaining, and enormous fun. Even if you don't like thrillers, you'll love this!
SARAH PINBOROUGH: TOWER HILL ~ A charismatic new priest has come to Tower Hill. A handsome new professor is teaching at the college. And a nightmare has settled over the town. A girl is found dead and mutilated—by her own hand. Another has slashed her face with scissors. Have the residents of Tower Hill all gone mad? Or has something worse…something unholy…taken over? Pinborough takes us on a roller-coaster ride of terror... Tower Hill is not the place you want to live, trust me!
CORY McFADYEN: THE DARKER SIDE ~ When FBI Agent Smoky Barrett and her team of investigators are called in by the Director himself to handle a case of murder committed on a flight from Texas to Virginia, the case begins with a shock, and the twists keep coming.It soon becomes apparent that Smoky is dealing with a serial killer who appears to have committed a truly horrific number of murders already, someone who can find people with secrets not just the secrets we all admit to ourselves, but the deepest, innermost secrets of all and is using them to target and destroy his victims.The case is on the edge of going public, and when that happens, with all the accelerated power of the internet behind it, public hysteria is not far behind.Just at the time when she is working so hard to bring up her adopted daughter Bonnie, Smoky is now under the most intense pressure of her career to get results. Yet the team has never been faced with such an apparently insoluble problem. Who will the next victim be? Everyone in the world has secrets.Even Smoky. Reviewed next month in the August issue
KATHERINE JOHN: BLACK DAFFODIL ~ Detective Trevor Joseph has his work cut out with the advent of a new welsh synthetically produced drug - black daffodil and it's impact on the criminal fraternities operating in and around Cardiff bay and the welsh valleys. Dark and dirty deeds in Wales - some pretty graphic descriptions and seedy scenes - well written, especially the gruesome bits!
MARTIN EDWARDS: WATERLOO SUNSET ~ No one expects to read their own obituary and Devlin never knew five short lines
could be so menacing--someone wants him dead and he has only seven days to find
out who. The terse notice of his death is out of place amid the hustle and
bustle of Harry's posh office off The Strand, but soon mysterious threats lurk
in every familiar corner of Liverpool for the wary lawyer. The city quickly
becomes a capital of crime as well as culture, when a mutilated female corpse
washes up on the Waterloo Beach and another soon after. A loose serial killer
does no good for Harry's already morbidly preoccupied state, but between the
elegant coroner Ceri Hussain and the endearing cleaner Gina he finds enough
distraction. However, not all distractions in lovely packages are good. Juliet
May, ex-wife of gangster Casper May and Harry's former lover, sweeps back into
the lawyer's life with unforeseen consequences. It's been ten years since
Martin Edwards last wrote about the Liverpool lawyer, Harry Devlin. In the
meantime, the author instead has concentrated on establishing his Hannah
Scarlett / Daniel Kind Lake District Mystery series with great success. So, has
the wait for Devlin been worth it? Oh yes, as Waterloo Sunset can rank amongst
the best of anything the author has created and what is immediately striking
about Waterloo Sunset is the tightness and dexterity of the writing. Zinging
between Harry's problems and those surrounding a murder hunt with consummate
ease and clarity, the pace is relentless though never at the expense of detail
or drama. Then there is Devlin's own laconic humour, which fits so well with
the lawyer's Liverpool environment it becomes possible when reading to imagine
him propped up at the end of the bar in pubs such as The Slaughterhouse or The
Corn Exchange. With a variety of peripheral characters who succeed in adding
yet further depth and intrigue to an already compelling story - and a sense of
the unexpected on every page - Waterloo Sunset without doubt sees a welcome
return for much loved solicitor and, also, adds further credence to Martin
Edwards's already iron-clad reputation as one of the best writers around.
RICHARD LAYMON: THE WOODS ARE DARK ~ Neala and her friend Sherri only wanted to do a little hiking through the woods. Little did they know they would soon be shackled to a dead tree, waiting for Them to arrive. The Dills family thought the small hotel in the quiet town seemed quaint and harmless enough. Until they, too, found themselves shackled to trees in the middle of the night, while They approached, hungry for human flesh…. Master of gruesome horror Laymon turns in a typical but thoroughly enjoyable shocker involving girl tourists and redneck hillbillies staking them out as fodder for the Krulls.
ZOE SHARP: SECOND SHOT ~ Charlie Fox, ex-Special Forces soldier turned bodyguard, has a new client: a lottery millionairess mother who is looking for protection from a nuisance ex. When Simone decides to escape his unwanted attentions and the scrutiny of the press by going to America, it should make Charlie's job easier, what with the main character she is protecting her from out of the picture. But Charlie has some very bad memories from her last time in the US and from the moment they arrive Simone seems to undermine all of Charlie's measures for her security. As the action culminates in a shoot-out in the snow, Charlie struggles to get to the bottom of what is jeopardising her assignment. See my review of Zoe's third novel, THIRD STRIKE, below...
ZOE SHARP: THIRD STRIKE ~ Bodyguard and ex-Special Forces soldier, Charlie Fox is recovering from being shot on her previous assignment and is itching to go back to work. It is while she is receiving the last of her physio that Charlie's life in the slow lane picks up a gear. She sees her austere father fending off accusations of murder from reporters on the local news. What is worse, Mr. Foxcroft doesn't seem to be denying the accusations. Charlie knows that something is wrong and vows to get to the bottom of it. What she discovers is startling and propels Charlie head first into the firing line - again. Her father is being set up, made to look like a drunken lecher as well as a murderer. Someone is ruining his credibility, but for what end? Charlie realises she has to investigate; the only trouble is it means spending quality time with her parents. Zoe pulls out all the stops on this one, which sees her father apparently caught up in the world of prostitution and sleaze. This is a cracker, taut, sharp(!) and very enjoyable indeed.
JOHAN THEORIN: ECHOES FROM THE DEAD ~ Can you ever come to terms with a missing child? Julia Davidsson has not. Her five-year-old son disappeared twenty years previously on the Swedish island of Oland. No trace of him has ever been found. Until his shoe arrives in the post. It has been sent to Julia's father, a retired sea-captain still living on the island. Soon he and Julia are piecing together fragments of the past: fragments that point inexorably to a local man called Nils Kant, known to delight in the pain of others. But Nils Kant died during the 1960s. So who is the stranger seen wandering across the fields as darkness falls? It soon becomes clear that someone wants to stop Julia's search for the truth. And that he's much, much closer than she thinks. Dour crime thriller with links to the past. Somewhat dry but the story's sound and the characters are good.
J A O'BRIEN: OLD BONES ~ When the skeletal remains of a female are found in Thatcher's Lot by a man using a metal detector, it falls to Loston CID and specifically to DI Sally Speckle and her team to investigate. The remains have been in the ground for about five years and the immediate task is to check on women who went missing around that time.There were several, which is disturbing. The missing women come from widely divergent social backgrounds, but the skull has evidence of expensive dental care, and it is with dental records that Sally Speckle is hoping to identify the remains. Two of the missing women fall within the social category who could afford excellent dental care, and it is with these women that Speckle opens her investigation.However, as the investigation progresses and due to DC Helen Rochester's astuteness, the other women come into focus and unlikely suspects emerge. Now it becomes a murder investigation within a murder investigation and the murder team is tested to the limit.
DENNIS LEWIS: THE CORRUPTED ~ Taff Motley is a disgraced Iraq war veteran who returns to his home city of Cardiff. He accepts without qualms a job as a drug dealer - which soon involves him in a murderous 'turf war' against a corrupt police force. Motley's uncertain destiny is decided for him by his abiding love for a woman. There are no heroes and no villains between these covers. There are only people; ordinary people, struggling to forget their pasts, hoping to find forgiveness, or revealing their dangerous weaknesses, their potent evils. At its heart, "The Corrupted" is a story about love. Its pages lift a poignant mask on the questions of why men love and what love does to men. The reader may be shocked by the realism of this story; with its mixture of sensualism and moral degeneracy, its violence and ferocity.
JULIAN CLARY: MURDER MOST FAB ~ Hello, I'm Johnny Debonair and this is my book - "Murder Most Fab". Buy it. You won't regret it. Everything that has happened so publicly is explained. Of course, I'd prefer it if you remember me as I was at my height, before the past caught up with me so spectacularly - TV's Mr Friday Night with an enviable lifestyle and the nation at my feet. My fame might have looked easy to you at the time, but getting to the top of the celebrity ladder is hard work. It took talent, beauty, commitment and, uniquely in my case, a number of unfortunate deaths. If we were being picky you might describe me as a serial killer, but I really don't see myself that way. It sounds trite to say 'one thing led to another' but it's true.As you'll discover I owe something of my rise and my fall to three individuals: my mother, an eccentric country girl who taught me exhibitionism by hanging naked from the clocktower of Hythe town hall; Catherine, my best friend, then partner in business - a devil in red heels, who, in her clear Essex accent, taught me how to 'look after number one'; and, Timothy, who broke my heart and caused me to seek refuge in sex, money and celebrity. But in the end you have to take responsibility for your own actions. No one was forcing me, were they? I hope you, the public, can forgive me and enjoy this sordid tale for what it is - my final entertainment for you. I reviewed this when it first appeared in hardback - I found it revolting and over the top, though I am a huge fan of Julian Clary. Homosexuality is simply a huge turn-off for me, and this is far too graphic for my taste. Others may disagree.
J A KERLEY: BLOOD BROTHER ~ The spine-chilling serial killer thriller featuring Carson Ryder - the homicide detective with a hidden secret that could destroy his career These brothers have murder in their veins. Detective Carson Ryder's sworn duty is to track killers down. He's never revealed the fact that his brother, Jeremy, is one of America's most notorious killers -- now imprisoned. Secretly, Ryder has used Jeremy's homicidal insight to solve cases. He's made a career out of it. Now his brother's escaped and is at large in New York. With Jeremy the chief suspect in a series of horrifying mutilation-murders, a mysterious video demands Ryder be brought into help. It looks like a straightforward manhunt. It couldn't be more different -- or more terrifying. A dangerous cat-and-mouse game develops between Jeremy, and the NYPD with Ryder in the middle, trying to keep his brother alive and the cops in the dark. But it's a game of life, death and deceit, a game with an unknown number of players and no clear way of winning!
GORDON KENT: THE FALCONER'S TALE ~ An exhilarating new tale of modern espionage and international intrigue -- sure to appeal to the many fans of Tom Clancy, Dale Brown and Patrick Robinson. Jerry Piat has been on the run from the FBI for two years, but he's about to be made an offer he cannot refuse. Clyde Partlow an upper CIA executive needs him for a mission that involves a member of the Saudi ruling clique, a fearsome man who's been cheating his own associates out of their funding for terrorism against the West ,and using the money for his own personal profit. Piat's job is to entice former agent Digger Hackbutt into working for the CIA again. Hackbutt will use his exemplary skills as a falconer as bait for the Saudi aristocrat, which in turn will hatch a daring plan for blackmail. Meanwhile behind the scenes Alan Craik is highly suspicious of Clyde Partlow's intentions and sets about trying to find out exactly what is going on. With the bait set and Jerry Pitat about to be a free man for the frist time in years, everything is set for success. But the best laid plans seldom run smoothly and the ultimate disaster is just moments away.
LAWRENCE BLOCK: HIT AND RUN ~ When Keller gets the call to make a hit on a man in Des Moines, he's tempted to pass. So far he's been lucky in his chosen profession, and he's pretty much got enough stashed away to retire. Just one more, he thinks. But he quickly finds that this job might not just mark the end of his career - it could be the end of him, period. After three days in a Des Moines motel room he realises he was never meant to make the hit - he was just supposed to take the fall when a prominent politician was gunned down by someone else. Suddenly he's on the run, all the evidence pointing the cops his way and literally nowhere to go.
LISA GARDNER: SAY GOODBYE ~ Afraid of spiders...? You should be. Creepy crawlies take on a whole new meaning for the working girls of Sandy Springs, Atlanta, when a client comes to the red light district looking for something different. He wants girls to let his pet spiders walk all over them. Seems like a simple - if strange request - but not all the girls come back. When FBI field officer Kimberly Quincy gets called out to talk to one of the girls, she's already got enough on her mind. What was a routine evidence-tagging session at the scene of a cargo plane crash has gone horribly wrong. Just when they'd recovered all the crew bodies, they get an unwelcome surprise...an extra body caught in a tree. Without a head. When Kimberly finally gets home to think it all through, and climbs into bed next to her husband Mac, a phone call shatters the peace and proves that the nightmare is only just beginning. On the other end of the line, a muffled cry and the sound of metal on flesh...
JENNIFER McMAHON: PROMISE NOT TO TELL ~ Kate Cypher has returned home to Vermont, after a telephone call from friends who are worried about her mother's failing health. On the night she arrives, a young girl is murdered, a horrific crime that eerily mirrors another from Kate's childhood. Three decades earlier, her misfit friend Del, shunned and derided by her classmates as "the potato girl", was brutally slain. Del's killer was never found, and Del achieved immortality in local legends and ghost stories. Now, as the new murder investigation draws Kate irresistibly in, her past and present collide in terrifying and unexpected ways. But nothing is quite what it seems - and the grim spectres of her childhood are far from forgotten.
CHARLAINE HARRIS: A GRAVE SURPRISE ~ A bolt of lightning struck Harper Connelly when she was 15, leaving her with a strange spider web of red on her torso and right leg, episodes of weakness, shakes and headaches - and an ability to find dead people. Harper is summoned to Memphis to demonstrate her unique talent, but there are still plenty of sceptics, even as Harper stands atop a grave and announces there are two bodies buried there. The police are convinced there's something fishy going on when the grave is opened to reveal the centuries-dead remains of a man, which they'd expected (that being his grave, after all) and a dead girl, which no one expected - except Harper, of course. And suspicions are raised even further because Harper had failed to find eleven-year-old Tabitha Morgenstern when she was abducted two years before. Harper and Tolliver need to find the real killer to prove Harper's innocence, especially after their nocturnal visit to the cemetery in hopes that Harper can sense something more is followed by the discovery, the following morning, of a third dead body in the grave ...
VALERIE MARTIN: TRESPASS ~ Toby and Salome are a young, modern couple living in New York, but their backgrounds are world apart. He is a middle-class all-American boy from a family of academics; she is a Croatian refugee raised in New Orleans. When Salome unexpectedly becomes pregnant, they decide to spend their lives together and hastily marry. But finding a way to reconcile their families and pasts proves a difficult task. Toby's mother's deep-seated mistrust of Salome causes tension, leaving her unable to accept her new daughter-in-law. But Salome' s past, full of dangerous secrets, is more horrifying than any of them could imagine - and the violence that destroyed her homeland is far from over...
JAMES ROLLINS: THE LAST ORACLE ~ What if you could bio-engineer the next great world prophet, to scientifically produce the next Buddha, the next Mohammed, or the next Jesus? Would it mark the Second Coming or initiate a chain reaction leading to the end of mankind? A thinktank of world scientists formed during the Cold War has discovered a way to manipulate and enhance autistic children who show savant talents - mathematical geniuses, statistical masterminds, brilliant conceptual artists - but a strange side-effect begins to arise. Before it can be analyzed fully, a rogue group of scientists begin their own secret experimentation with a cadre of the best children. They seek to create a world prophet for the new millennium, one to be manipulated to create a new era of global peace...a peace on their own terms. But such manipulation has grim consequences as a biological meltdown among the children begins to occur - turning the innocent into something frightening. Can Commander Gray Pierce and his elite SIGMA Force stop the experiments before they engineer the extinction of mankind? It will be a race against time to solve a mystery that dates back to the first famous oracle of history - the Oracle of Delphi...
The Secret Friend by Chris Mooney. 'Chris Mooney is a wonderful writer' Michael Connelly. When Harvard student Emma Hale disappears, her father — one of Boston's most powerful men — believes she has been kidnapped. Months pass and the trail goes cold but then her body is found floating in the Charles River . . . A year later, Judith Chen, another student, disappears. Like Emma, she is soon found in the river. Dead.CSI Darby McCormick is assigned to the case and uncovers a key piece of overlooked evidence, one that brings her into contact with Malcolm Fletcher . . . a former profiler with strange black eyes who is now on the FBI's Most Wanted list. Is Fletcher working for Emma's father? And what connects the two dead girls? Fletcher, it seems, not only knows the answers but also the identity of the killer. When a third student goes missing, Darby is led into a dangerous game of cat-and-mouse with the former profiler and stumbles across deadly secrets that need to stay buried . . . forever.
SCOTT SIGLER: INFECTED ~ They dropped from the atmosphere like microscopic snow. Billions of seeds, smaller than specks of dust, spiralling down from the heavens. A few survived, and began to grow... Now three people face a race against time. Dew Phillips, an agent with a classified unit of the CIA, and Margaret Montoya, a government biologist, must try to stop a modern plague that drives its victims to insanity, murder and suicide. And Perry Dawsey, an ex-footballer in a dead-end job, must race to find a cure for the rash that has appeared on his arm. And his back. And his neck. And which is getting bigger. And then the voices start. Scott Sigler's UK debut is a terrifying, menacing, relentless thriller, which will get under your skin and keep you on the edge of your seat!
In this issue: interviews with ELIZABETH GEORGE and AMANDA GREENSLADE plus fe
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