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Monday, 15 September 2014

‘Race to Death’ by Leigh Russell

Published by No Exit Press,
May 2014.
ISBN: 978-1-84344-293-6

The acceptance of a promotion to Detective Inspector finds Ian Peterson living in York – a far cry from Kent where he had worked under DI Geraldine Steel.  Whilst Ian would have accepted a posting in any part of the country his wife Bev is less than enthusiastic, as it has meant her leaving her family. 

A death at the racetrack is at first thought to be a suicide, but certain things don’t add up and Ian  suspects that it may turn into a murder enquiry. Supposedly reliable witnesses to the death seem to be oddly unavailable. The more Ian delves the less the reported events leading to the death seem to stack up.  But his new boss Detective Chief Inspector Eileen Duncan is not interested in the anomalies. Seems a straightforward case she says ‘so we should be able to wrap it up quickly.’

But this is no straightforward case.  There is a killer out there, one who actually warns his victims that he is going to kill them.  Can Ian piece together the jigsaw and find this killer before there are many more victims.

Leigh Russell weaves a fascinating tale that had me completely foxed. Whilst the mystery is tantalising the characters also fascinate, so clearly are they drawn.  And not only is the reader drawn into the lives of the victims but also those of the pursuers. But most sharply delineated is the relationship between Ian and his somewhat petulant wife, the fragile beautiful Bev who demands constant attention from her husband seeming to have no understanding of his job and what it entails.

This is the second  book in this new series and I am interested as to how it will develop. I eagerly look forward to the next instalment.  Highly recommended.
Reviewer: Lizzie Hayes

Leigh Russell studied at the University of Kent gaining a Masters degree in English and American literature. A secondary school teacher, specialising in supporting pupils with Specific Learning Difficulties as well as teaching English, Her first novel, Cut Short, was published in 2009, followed by Road Closed in 2010, Dead End in 2011, Death Bed in 2012 and Stop Dead in 2013, all featuring Detective Geraldine Steel. Cold Sacrifice the first in a new series featuring Ian was published in 2013. Leigh Russell is married with two daughters and lives in Middlesex.

‘Saints of the Shadow Bible’ By Ian Rankin

Published ( USA) by Little, Brown,
January, 2014.
ISBN: 978-0-316-22435-0
Published (UK) by Orion,
January 2014.
ISBN 978-1-409-14474-8)

When the Cold Case Group in which Rebus has been working is eliminated, he lucks out by being taken back with a spot in CID, albeit with a demotion.  Reduced from DI to DS, he now is subordinate to his long-time protégé, DI Clarke.  Of course, that doesn’t stop the old dinosaur from acting like he always has. 

Rankin introduces a couple of surprises in this novel, the first being having Malcolm Fox, Rebus’s standing nemesis, as a co-investigator working together.  It comes about because Fox is performing his last assignment with the Complaints looking at a 30-year-old case involving the group known as the Saints of the Shadow Bible because they each swore fidelity to protect each other on a stand-in for the holy book.  Rebus had joined the group as a young DC soon after the arrest of a snitch who eventually got off on a murder charge through police mistakes.  This was in the Old Days, when anything went and they made their own rules.  The Solicitor General recently pushed through a retraction of the double jeopardy rule and was looking to resurrect the murder charge.  Rebus volunteers to assist in Fox’s efforts and the two learn to trust one another, leading to cooperation in another more recent investigation involving an auto accident and the murder of the Minister of Justice.

As with the rest of the series, Rebus shines and errs, but his character and ability always comes through.  The author has no need of our praise, but deserves accolades nonetheless.  The complexity of the plot provides Rebus with the chance to outthink everyone, but the surprise is that Fox rises to the occasion as a real CID detective.  Highly recommended.
Reviewer:  Ted Feit

Ian Rankin was born in the Kingdom of Fife in 1960, He graduated from the University of Edinburgh in 1982, and then spent three years writing novels when he was supposed to be working towards a PhD in Scottish Literature. His first Rebus novel was published in 1987, and the Rebus books are now translated into twenty-two languages and are bestsellers on several continents. He has been elected a Hawthornden Fellow, and is also a past winner of the Chandler-Fulbright Award. He is the recipient of four Crime Writers' Association Dagger Awards including the prestigious Diamond Dagger in 2005. In 2004, Ian won America's celebrated Edgar Award for 'Resurrection Men'. He also won Denmark's Palle Rosenkrantz Prize, the French Grand Prix du Roman Noir and the Deutscher Krimipreis. Ian Rankin is also the recipient of honorary degrees from the universities of Abertay, St Andrews and Edinburgh. A contributor to BBC2's 'Newsnight Review', he also presented his own TV series, 'Ian Rankin's Evil Thoughts'. He recently received the OBE for services to literature, opting to receive the prize in his home city of Edinburgh, where he lives with his partner and two sons.

Ted and Gloria Feit live in Long Beach, NY, a few miles outside New York City.  For 26 years, Gloria was the manager of a medium-sized litigation firm in lower Manhattan. Her husband, Ted, is an attorney and former stock analyst, publicist and writer/editor for, over the years, several daily, weekly and monthly publications.  Having always been avid mystery readers, and since they're now retired, they're able to indulge that passion.  Their reviews appear online as well as in three print publications in the UK and US.  On a more personal note: both having been widowed, Gloria and Ted have five children and nine grandchildren between them.

‘How the Light Gets In’ by Louise Penny

Published by Sphere,
27 August 2013.
ISBN: 978-1-84744-429-5

Chief Inspector Armand Gamache’s team has been replaced by staff, who do not support or respect him and he appears to be working on his own fighting internal politics and trying to find a murderer.

A woman is found dead, packing to spend Christmas with her new friends at Three Pines, the place where Armand Gamache feels most at home.  As a result of these links, the time of year, and also who the victim is, Chief Inspector Gamache’s help on the case is welcomed.   He finds himself working on a crime with its roots going back many years, to a time when the dead woman was one of five famous, sisters, the Ouellet quintuplets.  With his last trusted team member, Inspector Isabelle Lacoste, he tackles the case, along with the public relations cover up which it could reveal.

At the same time, corruption and plotting within the Surete is coming to a head and to save himself and his career Gamache needs to find out which of his colleagues he can trust and who, frankly, is out to get him.  As he does not know how high the problems go, he is reluctant to trust anyone, and the net is closing in on him. Trying to protect those he cares about, whilst putting himself in the crosshairs, is a plan that holds little appeal, but may be what he has to do to expose the sinister forces within the police itself.  Gamache’s challenge is trying to find out who the villains are, before he is hounded out of the force and perhaps before his previously loyal assistant and friend, Jean-Guy Beauvoir, is set up for a fatal encounter. 

This is an absorbing book, well written and with an intricate plot that required me to read it twice (such hardship) to get all the twists and get into the heads of the key protagonists.  I wish that I had come across Louise Penny sooner, as a result of reading this I will now be tracking Chief Inspector Gamache back through the library stacks.  Louise Penny writes a good read and for me has elements of many different styles of crime fiction in her writing.  With the slightly isolated nature of Three Pines, and quirky characters such as Henri the German shepherd and Rosa the duck, she creates some of the atmosphere often found in more traditional “cosy” fiction.  This is offset against the dark backdrop and sinister cunning of political plotting, and even cybercrime, carrying some of the brooding nature from more gritty crime novels.  The only thing that can be said against this book is that you cannot turn your brain off to it or you will miss something!
Reviewer: Amanda Brown
Louise Penny was born in Toronto in 1958 and became a journalist and radio host with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, specializing in hard news and current affairs. My first job was in Toronto and then moved to Thunder Bay at the far tip of Lake Superior, in Ontario. It was a great place to learn the art and craft of radio and interviewing, and listening. Louise had always dreamed of writing and says ‘ now I am. Beyond my wildest dreams (and I can dream pretty wild) the Chief Inspector Gamache books have found a world-wide audience, won awards and ended up on bestseller lists including the New York Times. Even more satisfying, I have found a group of friends in the writing community. Other authors, booksellers, readers - who have become important parts of our lives. I thought writing might provide me with an income - I had no idea the real riches were more precious but less substantial.’  Louise lives with her husband Michael in a small village

‘Water Music’ by Margie Orford

Published by Head of Zeus,
6 March 2014.
ISBN: 978-1-78185-784-7

A teenage girl finds a barely-alive toddler tied to a tree; a grandfather comes to Clare Hart of South Africa’s Section 28, the special child protection unit, asking him to find his missing student grand-daughter.

Clare’s role as child protection officer means this book is focused on abuse of women and children, based on real cases.  Clare is the principal focus, and a likeable, resourceful heroine.  In this book – her fifth outing - she’s facing problems of her own, and you’re drawn to sympathise with her personal dilemma.  Both she and her boyfriend, Reidwaan, are having difficulties with their new chief, whose focus is on trouble-shooting rather than children or drugs.  Other characters like her immediate boss, Ina, and the lost girl, Rosa, come across vividly. The Cape Town setting gives an interesting view of a different country’s law enforcement methods, and the plot builds up to a gripping climax.

A very enjoyable read.  It works as a stand-alone, but there are references to previous books, so you might want to start at the beginning with Daddy’s Girl.
Reviewer: Marsali Taylor

Margie Orford, an award-winning journalist and internationally acclaimed writer, is the author of the Clare Hart series. Her novels have been translated into nine languages. She was born in London and grew up in Namibia, the setting for Blood Rose, her highly acclaimed second novel in the series. A Fulbright Scholar, she was educated in South Africa and the United States. She is Executive Vice-President of Sputh Africa PEN, the patron of  Rape Crisis and of the children’s book charity, the Little Hands Trust. She lives in Cape Town.

Marsali Taylor grew up near Edinburgh, and came to Shetland as a newly-qualified teacher. She is currently a part-time teacher on Shetland's scenic west side, living with her husband and two Shetland ponies. Marsali is a qualified STGA tourist-guide who is fascinated by history, and has published plays in Shetland's distinctive dialect, as well as a history of women's suffrage in Shetland. She's also a keen sailor who enjoys exploring in her own 8m yacht, and an active member of her local drama group.  Marsali also does a regular monthly column for the Mystery People e-zine.

‘Exit the Thief’ by Danny Miller

Published by Constable  & Robinson Crime.
20 March 2014.
ISBN: 978-1-4721-0749-7

In this fast paced adventure Vince Treadwell goes to the French Riviera to pursue a famous cat burglar.  This is in 1965 during the Cannes Film Festival and Vince is concerned with a movie star's jewels which had been stolen from the Ritz in London.  Vince has already had some painful experiences ending up as the chief suspect in the murder of a jewel fence known as Teddy the Levantine.  His Riviera trip is being undertaken in the hope of proving his innocence.

The frenetic atmosphere of Swinging 60s London is matched by the supercharged atmosphere of the Cannes Film Festival.  The luxurious high life and the scruffy back streets feature in dizzying succession.  The glamorous parties with the stars are recreated with Vince accompanied by a knowledgeable insider who certainly 'knows her tittle from her tattle.'  Vince has made contact with Jean-Jacques Messina, a famed French crime figure, nicknamed Mad Dog, who hopes for a film of his life. His style is violent and often horrific.

This is a gripping thriller with excellent recreation of that excitement of the 1960s.  Car chases trace the winding streets of Cannes and Antibes, people are shot and beaten up, drugs appear at orgies.  French attitudes to American cheap crime thriller film styles are nicely mocked as Marxist intellectuals criticise the crudity of simple narrative form as opposed to real film noir! As Vince puts it - the French 'are full of existential ennui.'  In fact anyone with pleasurable memories of 1940s to 1960s films will enjoy the satirical referencing of these movies.

This is a well written book with violent action in 'hip' style combined with tightly packed vivid  background. 
Reviewer Jennifer S Palmer
This is Danny Miller's 3rd book featuring Vince Treadwell.

Danny Miller was born in Brighton and studied English and Drama at Goldsmiths College, University of London. As a playwright he's had his work performed at the National Theatre Studio, Bush Theatre and Theatre Royal Stratford East. As a scriptwriter he's worked for the BBC, ITV and Channel 4. Kiss Me Quick (2011) was his first novel and the first in a detective series featuring Vince Treadwell. It was shortlisted for the CWA John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger Awards 2011 and was highly commended by the judges.

Jennifer Palmer Throughout my reading life crime fiction has been a constant interest; I really enjoyed my 15 years as an expatriate in the Far East, the Netherlands & the USA but occasionally the solace of closing my door to the outside world and sitting reading was highly therapeutic. I now lecture to adults on historical topics including Famous Historical Mysteries.