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Thursday, 18 January 2018

‘Foreign Bodies’ Edited by Martin Edwards

Published by the British Library
October 2017.
ISBN: 978-0-71235699-2

Foreign Bodies is a wonderful collection of fifteen short stories from across the globe, that have been translated into English.  It is full of surprises, beginning with the first extraordinary and very funny tale, The Swedish Match, by none other than Chekov.  This is followed by Palle Rosenkrantz’s quirky, A Sensible Course of Action, in which Russian Countess Wolkonski presents herself to the Danish police requesting their protection from her husband’s brother, and presenting them with quite a conundrum.   The third story Strange Tracks is by Hungarian writer, Balduin Groller; eccentric detective Dagobert must use his ingenuity to solve a murder which begins as ‘an ordinary matter of robbery.’ Maurice Level serves up the next ‘little tale of horrors’ in The Kennel, after which the reader is treated to a mystery by Maurice LeBlanc, which concerns Footprints in The Snow. 

The Return of Lord Kingwood, by Ivans, begins when Lord Kingwood’s caretaker contacts ‘The Yard’ about a discovery he has made and does not wish discuss over the phone.  When Detective Monk arrives at Kingwood Manor, he finds that a murder has been discovered and the caretaker has disappeared.  In the next tale, The Stage Box Murder, author Paul Rosnhayn recounts a tragic story which is revealed through a series of letters sent by out of work actor, Kurt, to his wife Clara.  After this follow two stories to make the skin crawl.  First is Kogo Saburo’s The Spider (1930), in which a murderer goes to extraordinary lengths to kill a colleague.  Then, The Venom of the Tarantula by Sharadindu Bandyopadhyay, considers an unusual way of ingesting poison.  And poison remains the theme in the next story by Jean-Toussaint Samat - but don’t be fooled by the mouth-watering title, Murder A La Carte.  A grim tale follows, involving a double murder and some confusing ski tracks - The Cold Night’s Clearing by Keikichi Osaka, is not for the fainthearted. 

Pierre Very offers a lighter read in his homage to Gaston Leroux, The Mystery of the Green Room, in which an aging Madame de Rouvres is burgled, and Inspector Martin must try to recover her belongings.  Up next is Kippers, which tells the story of a Caribbean voyage that ends in disaster for several of the crew whilst reserving an unusual and grisly end for one of the mariners.  In a 1957 tale, The Lipstick and the Teacup, Dutch author Havank explains how a cigarette stub and a teacup can provide sufficient evidence to convict a murderer, that is, when clever Detective Inspector Carlier is on hand.  In the final story, The Puzzle of the Broken Watch, by Mexican writer Maria Elvira Bermudez, an unfortunate worker from the local match factory, Juan Garcia, is charged with the murder of his sister-in-law.  Defence Lawyer Prado believes his client is innocent, but needs help to find the real killer.  Enter suave Armono Zozaya, whose expertise discovers several other possible suspects.  This is a classic ‘Whodunit’ with Latin American flair, and includes a wonderful riposte for anyone who has ever been chided for being lost in a novel, “So you think you can’t be busy reading a book?”

Foreign Bodies is another splendid offering from the British Library Crime Classics series.  Martin Edwards uses his in-depth knowledge of, and empathy for, early twentieth century detective fiction to lead the reader through a carefully chosen collection of cosmopolitan crime.  Mr Edwards’ introduction contextualises the stories, and he effortlessly incorporates fascinating biographical and literary detail which enhance the reading of the tales.  The editor’s understanding of this period, provides the reader with insights into the genre which are enjoyable and informative, as those familiar with his other edited collections, and his comprehensive study, The Golden Age of Murder, have come to expect.  Highly recommended.
Reviewer: Dorothy Marshall-Gent

Martin Edwards was born 7 July 1955 at Knutsford, Cheshire and educated in Northwich and at Balliol College, Oxford University, taking a first-class honours degree in law. He trained as a solicitor in Leeds and moved to Liverpool on qualifying in 1980. He published his first legal article at the age of 25 and his first book, about legal aspects of buying a business computer at 27, before spending just over 30 years as a partner of a law firm, where he is now a consultant. He is married to Helena with two children (Jonathan and Catherine) and lives in Lymm. A member of the Murder Squad a collective of crime writers. In 2007 he was appointed the Archivist of the Crime Writers Association and in 2011 he was appointed the Archivist of the Detection Club. Martin is currently chair of the CWA. For more information visit:

Dot Marshall-Gent worked in the emergency services for twenty years first as a police officer, then as a paramedic and finally as a fire control officer before graduating from King’s College, London as a teacher of English in her mid-forties.  She completed a M.A. in Special and Inclusive Education at the Institute of Education, London and now teaches part-time and writes mainly about educational issues.  Dot sings jazz and country music and plays guitar, banjo and piano as well as being addicted to reading mystery and crime fiction.  

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

‘A Time for Role Call’ by Doug Thompson

Published by Matador,
28 November 2017. 
ISBN 978-1788039-88-8

Doug Thompson has produced a fascinating story.  His protagonist is Sally Jardine-Fell who is in Holloway Prison awaiting trial for murder in 1946.  The vis Tim is an Italian in London.  Sally tells the story of her experiences in the War to her lawyers and remembers many further interesting details as she sits in her cell.  

Sally went from a privileged upper-class life in London to working as a secretary in a factory in the North of England.  Her husband has been killed right at the beginning of WW2 on a reconnaissance flight over France and she feels rootless and dissatisfied.  She finds herself being tested and directed as she is recruited by Special Operations Executive and sent to Italy as a spy.  She is aiming to get close to Count Ciano, Mussolini’s Foreign Minuster.

Her adventures in Italy are amazing as she, firstly, pursues her allotted tasks and, secondly, wanders through Italy after the Germans take over in Italy.  Her memories are very clear and her stopping points in Italy and her chance met companions prove to be extremely varied.  Her fears that there are double agents operating seem to be accurate.   The story of her life as revealed to the lawyers reaches a conclusion for the trial.  It is obvious as she relates what happened to her and her own reactions that the lawyers find her free-thinking attitude hard to accept and that they will gloss over some aspects to give an impression to the Court that is more conventional.

This is a clever story which quickly engulfs the reader in Sally’s experiences as she struggles for survival in the teeth of life threatening dangers.  The tension grows as the story reaches a climax.

The knowledge of Italian history is very good which is not surprising since Doug is a former professor of Italian literature and history.
Reviewer: Jennifer S. Palmer

Doug Thompson former Professor of Modern Italian language, history and literature, draws on his intimate knowledge of Italy to write a lively novel with a feisty protagonist and colourful cast of supporting characters. The book will appeal to readers of historically based fiction, those with an interest in Italy especially the war years. Doug Thompson has several previous books including nonfiction about Italy.

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.

‘The Perfect Victim’ by Corrie Jackson

Published by Zaffre,
16 November 2017.
ISBN: 978-1-78576-182-9             

Husband, friend, colleague....killer?

Emily and Charlie Swift are the perfect couple - Instagram-perfect, gorgeous, successful and in love. Then Charlie is named as the prime suspect in a gruesome murder and Emily’s world falls apart. Enter London Herald journalist, Sophie Kent. Sophie knows the police have got the wrong man, after all, she trusts Charlie, a fellow journalist, and a best friend, with her life. But as she is drawn deeper into Charlie and Emily’s ‘perfect’ marriage, something happens that blows the investigation and her trust in Charlie apart. And now Sophie isn’t just fighting to clear Charlie’s name, she is fighting for her life.

The Perfect Victim is the second thrilling outing for Sophie Kent, and her life hasn’t got any easier since Corrie Jackson’s first book. Sophie has a tonne of emotional baggage: she is still investigating the possible murder of her adored brother; she is dealing with the fall-out of an unwise relationship; she doesn’t sleep well and she drinks too much. But she is fiercely loyal to her friends and dives headlong into clearing Charlie Swift’s name.

What a multi-layered and devilishly well-constructed plot this is. It’s a very modern story involving social media and its manipulation. The story twists and turns this way and that until your head is spinning. We have to sit by and watch as Sophie tries to make sense of the mounting evidence against Charlie, trying to reconcile the idea of him being a killer with the fact he is one of her best friends.

A strong second strand to The Perfect Victim is the relationship between Charlie and his wife, Emily, which we see unravelling through Emily’s eyes in chapters that count down to the day of the murder. The perfect marriage is not all it seems from the outside, and Jackson cleverly reveals its disintegration piece by piece.

The book is deliciously complex, gritty and dark. Jackson uses her own experience as a journalist to show a newsroom under pressure. The book deals with alcohol abuse, domestic abuse, sexual abuse. There is a religious cult. There are many secrets and lies. It is written beautifully and with so much energy - the characters leap off the page. It gallops to a good and surprising resolution.

Corrie Jackson has written a worthy follow up to her Sophie Kent book, Breaking Dead. It is not necessary to read the first novel to understand the second, but it would stand you in good stead. And, like The Perfect Victim, it’s a great read - so what’s stopping you?
Reviewer: Mary-Jane Riley

Corrie Jackson has been a journalist for fourteen years and has worked at Harper’s Bazaar, The Daily Mail, Grazia and Glamour. After a sunny two-year stint freelancing in Los Angeles, she is now coming to terms with the weather in Surrey, England where she lives with her husband and two children. She is currently working on the second book in the Sophie Kent series.
twitter @corriejacko

Mary-Jane Riley wrote her first story on her newly acquired blue Petite typewriter, when she was eight. When she grew up she had to earn a living, and became a BBC radio talk show presenter and journalist. She has covered many life-affirming stories, but also some of the darkest events of the past two decades. Then, in true journalistic style, she decided not to let the facts get in the way of a good story and got creative. She wrote for women's magazines and small presses. She formed WriteOutLoud with two writer friends to help charities get their message across using their life stories. Now she is writing psychological suspense, drawing on her experiences in journalism. The Bad Things by Mary-Jane Riley was published by Harper Collins/Killer Reads. Her second book, After She Fell, was published by Killer Reads in April 2016.  To read the review click on the title.