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Friday, 21 July 2017

‘Then She Was Gone’ by Lisa Jewell

Published by Century,
27 July 2017.
ISBN: 978-1-78089641-0 (HB)

Every mother's nightmare: a child goes missing, and no trace is ever found.

Laurel Mack's nightmare began ten years ago, and has just reached a conclusion; a buried rucksack has been identified as the one her teenage daughter Ellie was carrying on the last morning she was seen, then a DNA match was provided by some bones found close to it. Laurel's fractured family comes together for a funeral, and Laurel begins to think there might be a future for her after all.

But the nightmare is about to take another turn. Laurel falls in love – and her new partner's nine-year-old daughter Poppy is the spitting image of Ellie at the same age. Questions stack up, and suddenly the foundations of Laurel's newly rebuilt life don't seem quite so secure.

The plot and the timeframe twist and turn as the truth about what happened to Ellie gradually unfolds, told from several points of view, with clever interleaving of flashbacks, first-person narration and present-and past-tense sequences. Lisa Jewell is adept at juggling styles in a way that brings the characters to vivid life.   

The characters in this tangled tale are very much centre stage; another of Jewell's skills is portraying the way tragedy can tear a perfectly functional family apart, and each member of it comes across loud and clear. Ellie was the golden girl, the focus of everyone's life, and her disappearance has affected everyone profoundly. Laurel's emotions have atrophied, and she can't move beyond that appalling day. Her husband Paul can't cope with the way she opts out of family life. Hanna and Jake, Ellie's siblings cut themselves off from Laurel, emotionally if not physically. Only her mother Ruby, confined to a care home after a severe stroke, can see beyond the grey, one-day-at-a-time existence to which Laurel has condemned herself. The various locations in which the narrative takes place are equally well realized; a soulless apartment and a seedy house with a dank basement will stay in my mind for a long time.

When Ellie's remains are found, and Laurel's life seems to start again, the wounds begin to heal, until... But any more information about what happens next would be a major spoiler.

Enough to say this is a book that will keep you up till well past bedtime.
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick

Lisa Jewell was born in London in 1968. She was educated at a Catholic girls’ Grammar school in Finchley. After leaving school at sixteen she spent two years at Barnet College doing an arts foundation course and then two years at Epsom School of Art & Design studying Fashion Illustration and Communication. She worked for the fashion chain Warehouse for three years as a PR assistant and then for Thomas Pink, the Jermyn Street shirt company for four years as a receptionist and PA. She started her first novel, Ralph’s Party, for a bet in 1996. She finished it in 1997 and it was published by Penguin books in May 1998. It went on to become the best-selling debut novel of that year. She has since written a further nine novels, as is currently at work on her eleventh. She now lives in an innermost part of north London with her husband Jascha, an IT consultant, her daughters, Amelie and Evie.

Lynne Patrick has been a writer ever since she could pick up a pen, and has enjoyed success with short stories, reviews and feature journalism, but never, alas, with a novel. She crossed to the dark side to become a publisher for a few years, and is proud to have launched several careers which are now burgeoning. She lives on the edge of rural Derbyshire in a house groaning with books, about half of them crime fiction.

Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year 2017 announced

Chris Brookmyre and Simon Theakston

Chris Brookmyre has tonight scooped the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Award for Black Widow.
Celebrating its thirteenth year, the Award is considered one of the most coveted crime writing prizes in the country.
Black Widow is a story of cyber-abuse, where ‘even the twists have twists’. It features Brookmyre’s long-time character, reporter Jack Parlabane. Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon tweeted that she had been given the novel as an early Valentine’s Day present by her husband, declaring it ‘brilliant’.
Brookmyre said: “I’m really quite taken aback. I’ve been shortlisted three times before for this award, always the bridesmaid, today I get to walk up the aisle. A book is not just the work of the author behind it. I’d like to thank my editor, Ed Wood, for his calibre and daring that made a good book greater. I’m mainly just very proud.”
Brookmyre was presented the award by title sponsor Simon Theakston and broadcaster Mark Lawson at the opening night of the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival. The annual Festival, hosted in Harrogate, is the world’s biggest celebration of the genre.
Chris beat off stiff competition from the shortlist of six, whittled down from a longlist of 18 crime novels published by British and Irish authors whose novels were published in paperback from 1 May 2016 to 30 April 2017.
The 2017 Award is run in partnership with T&R Theakston Ltd, WHSmith, and
The Mail on Sunday.
Brookmyre collected a £3,000 cash prize, as well as a handmade, engraved oak beer cask made by Theakston Old Peculier.
A special presentation was made to Lee Child - the winner of the eighth
Outstanding Contribution to Crime Fiction Award. 
Lee Child and Simon Theakston

Lee Child joins Val McDermid, Sara Paretsky, Lynda La Plante, Ruth Rendell, PD James, Colin Dexter and Reginald Hill as recipients of the Award.
Lee Child said: “It’s an honour - probably undeserved - to be placed in the same category as the previous recipients of this prize.  In particular I would like to thank Simon Theakston for his generous and visionary support of the genre.”
Child has been dubbed a ‘billion-dollar brand’ for his blockbuster Jack Reacher series, adapted to film by Tom Cruise.
Title sponsor and executive director of T&R Theakston, Simon Theakston, said: “We’re particularly delighted to be honouring Lee Child. He is nothing short of a phenomenon. The Jack Reacher series tops bestseller lists worldwide, with a staggering 100 million books sold.  Lee is very deserving of this accolade, and will have his rightful place in a pantheon of legendary crime authors who have achieved this honour to date.”

Sunday, 16 July 2017

‘Deadly Alibi’ by Leigh Russell

Published by No Exit Press,
25 May 2017.
ISBN: 978-1-84344-850-1

A woman’s body is crammed into a wheelie bin and left outside a charity shop. As soon as the dead woman is identified, most of the detectives investigating the case suspect the woman’s husband. For them it is obvious, after all the husband has scratches on his face and his DNA matches skin under the victim’s fingernails, and the bin used to dispose of the corpse comes from their house. The detective team build their case against him and the evidence against him continues to mount up, especially when his alibi witness fails to turn up to back his claim of being elsewhere. However DI Geraldine Steele has nagging doubts about the man’s guilt.

Geraldine is glad of a case to involve her mind and help her to shelve the troubles that are disturbing her personal life. Geraldine’s birth mother had given her up for adoption when she was a baby and Geraldine had been adopted by a middle-class, respectable family who had given her the chances in life that enabled her to achieve a pleasant life style and a good career. However, Geraldine wished to meet her birth mother and was hurt by her refusal. Her birth mother changed her mind shortly before her death, but it seems that one of the main motives for this was to ask Geraldine to take care of her twin sister, Helena, who had not been given up for adoption. After her birth-mother’s death, Geraldine knows that she must tread very carefully. Helena is a heroin addict, petty thief and prostitute, but she is also Geraldine’s identical twin and Geraldine feels impelled to help her and attempt to make a relationship with her.

As Geraldine tries to balance her personal life and the murder investigation, she discovers that neither are straight-forward. Her underlying disillusionment with an investigation that is focused on the simplest solution and a fast clear-up rate, is compounded by the choices she must make in her personal life and the danger she faces of destroying the career that is the centre of her life.

Deadly Alibi is the ninth book in the series featuring Geraldine Steele. It is an intricate, cleverly plotted police procedural with a well-drawn cast of characters. A very enjoyable read.
Reviewer: Carol Westron

Leigh Russell studied at the University of Kent gaining a Master’s degree in English and American literature. Formerly a secondary school English teacher, with the success of her Geraldine Steel series, Leigh now writes full-time. Her debut novel, Cut Short, was published in 2009 by No Exit Press in the UK, followed by Road Closed, Dead End, Death Bed, Stop Dead, Fatal Act and Killer Plan, all featuring detective Geraldine Steel, and Murder Ring will be published in 2016. Leigh also writes a spinoff series for Geraldine's sergeant, Ian Peterson. Cold Sacrifice, Race to Death and Blood Axe.  Leigh recently signed a three-book deal with Thomas and Mercer for a new series featuring Lucy Hall. Leigh Russell is married with two daughters and lives in Middlesex.

Carol Westron is a successful short story writer and a Creative Writing teacher.  She is the moderator for the cosy/historical crime panel, The Deadly Dames.  Her crime novels are set both in contemporary and Victorian times.  The Terminal Velocity of Cats is the first in her Scene of Crimes novels, was published July 2013. Her latest book The Fragility of Poppies was published 10 June 2016.

Read a review of Carol’s latest book
The Fragility of Poppies