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Wednesday, 20 October 2021

‘Someone Else’s Son’ by Sam Hayes

Published by Headline,
14 October 2010.
ISBN: 978-75534987-6

Carrie Kent is a chat –show host. In her daily morning TV show she exposes the lives of cheating partners, benefit swindlers, underage sex – it’s real life in its raw state, that of poverty and violence, and millions of miles away from Carrie’s own life of luxury and privilege.

Her son Max has left his private school in favour of a state school where he is enrolled as Max Qinell son of Brody Quinell who lives in a dismal block of flats on a run down estate inhabited by drug dealers, and gangs.  For all that he has materially Max’s life is far from happy, and he leads an isolated life until he meets Dayna Ray. The book follows the separate lives of this dysfunctional family. And then Carrie receives a call that her son has been murdered and the reality of her TV show becomes her truth.

This is a brilliant piece of writing portraying a child who could have anything money could buy and is in fact greatly loved, but there is just no real communication between mother and son. It is a sad  but poignant tale.  

Investigation throws up some anomalies and eventually the shocking truth is revealed. A truly gripping book. Highly recommended.

Reviewer: Lizzie Hayes

Sam Hayes grew up in the Midlands and has lived in Australia and America. Her writing career began when she won a short story competition in 2003. She lives in a three-hundred-year-old farmhouse in a Leicestershire village with her Australian husband and three children. She also writes as Samantha Hayes.

‘Silent Mercy’ By Linda Fairstein

Published by Little Brown,
17 March 2011.
ISBN: 978-1-4087-0241-3 (HB)

This latest thriller featuring Assistant DA Alex Cooper and NYPD Detective Mike Chapman opens with the discovery of a headless body on the steps of a church in New York. Within days a second body turns up also left at a church, and not just any church, it is clear that the killer is making a particular point

To try and get in the mind of the killer Alex and Mike explore various religious beliefs trying to get a handle on the message being left by the killer.  With Mike being Catholic and Alex of Jewish decent there are many interesting discussions. Tackling a religion is never an easy subject but Linda does it in an interesting and non confrontational way

As with all the books in this acclaimed series Linda’s research is meticulous and we learn much about the history of New York landmarks. In this book we learn of the many churches in the city and in particular the Church of St John the Devine –the largest cathedral in the world.

Mercer Wallace completes the trio of pursuers of justice which take them to a stunning climax on Cape Cod.

A marvellous entry in this excellent series.

Reviewer: Lizzie Hayes

Linda Fairstein, former prosecutor and best-selling crime novelist is one of America’s foremost legal experts on crimes of violence against women and children. For three decades, from 1972 until 2002, she served in the office of the New York County District Attorney, where she was Chief of the Sex Crimes Prosecution Unit for twenty-five years. In that position, Ms. Fairstein supervised the investigation and trial of every Manhattan case involving sexual assault, domestic violence, child abuse and homicides arising out of these crimes. She was the lead attorney and directed all major litigation in these specialties, ranging from the homicide prosecution of Robert Chambers (the “Preppy Murder” case) in 1988 through the trial against the offenders charged with the riot in Central Park following the Puerto Rican Day parade in June 2000. Fairstein is an honors graduate of Vassar College (1969) and the University of Virginia School of Law (1972). In 1998, several of Fairstein’s law school classmates established a scholarship fund in her honor at their alma mater. The Fairstein Public Service Scholarship supports law school students interested in pursuing careers in the public sector. Linda Fairstein is married to Justin Feldman. She lives in Manhattan and on Martha’s Vineyard.

Tuesday, 19 October 2021

‘Ring of Guilt’ by Judith Cutler

Published by Severn House,
6 October 2010.
ISBN: 978-0-7278-6960-9

Returning from an auction with a van load of delicate china, the sight of a body lying in a field in the middle of nowhere poses a dilemma for Lina Townsend. Just recently, a friend had found themselves in just such a situation and being a good Samaritan had leapt out of their van to assist and been laid flat out in the road and robbed, so Lina opts for caution and decides to stay put and ring the boys in blue.  Unfortunately, being in the middle of nowhere she has no signal on her mobile and ends up driving further on to obtain one.   Requested by the police to return to the scene, she does so, but the body has gone. The police were less than happy.

Later examining a box of miscellaneous items with her business partner and surrogate father Griff, Lina discovers an unusual ring. Griff thinks that it might be medieval and suggests asking his friend at the British Museum if he can date it. When later at an antiques fair Lina finds another ring of similar design, she sends that one also to Sir Douglas Nelson. Within a short time Lina is being given the third degree by DS Will Kinnersley of the Kent Police.

Between the missing body and the mysterious two rings, Lina’s life is far from dull. Also, adding interest is her biological father Lord Eltham, who resides in a wing of Bossington Hall, his former home now owned by the National Trust. Lord Eltham is possibly my favourite character being mainly interested in a regular supply of champagne with which Lina keep him supplied by selling off the antiques which he managed to squirrel way before the trustees realised. It’s been good to see their relationship slowly developing.

Lina takes on some renovation work on a china jug on behalf of Harvey Sandition who it appears has more than china on his mind. Turning up unexpectedly is ex-love interest Detective Sergeant Morris, but methinks Lina has turned her attention towards Detective Sergeant Will Kinnersely, or has she? – Harvey is very attentive.

In the marvellous mix of characters that Judith Cutler has created around Lina we meet again Mrs Walker, who takes to fairs like a duck to water, and the unscrupulous Titus Oates, although Titus has some surprises in store in this episode.

I enjoyed the scams and personalities that make up the world of antique fairs, and there are many twists and turns in the story that kept this reader turning pages.

Reviewer: Lizzie Hayes

Judith Cutler was born in the Black Country, just outside Birmingham, later moving to the Birmingham suburb of Harborne. Judith started writing while she was at the then Oldbury Grammar School, winning the Critical Quarterly Short Story prize with the second story she wrote. She subsequently read English at university. It was an attack of chickenpox caught from her son that kick-started her writing career. One way of dealing with the itch was to hold a pencil in one hand, a block of paper in the other - and so she wrote her first novel. This eventually appeared in a much-revised version as Coming Alive, published by Severn House. Judith has seven series. The first two featured amateur sleuth Sophie Rivers (10 books) and Detective Sergeant Kate Power (6 Books). Then came Josie Wells, a middle-aged woman with a quick tongue, and a love of good food, there are two books, The Food Detective and The Chinese Takeout. The Lina Townsend books are set in the world of antiques and there are seven books in this series. There are three books featuring Tobias Campion set in the Regency period, and her series featuring Chief Superintendent Fran Harman (6 books), and Jodie Welsh, Rector’s wife and amateur sleuth. Her more recently a series feature a head teacher Jane Cowan (3 books). Judith has also written three standalone’s Staging Death, Scar Tissue, and Death In Elysium. Her new series is set in Victorian times featuring Matthew Rowsley. Death’s Long Shadow is the third book in this series.

‘Rack, Ruin and Murder’ by Ann Granger

Publisher by Headline,
8 December 2011.
ISBN: 978-0-7553 4911-1

Balaclava House, once an impressive Victorian pile in the Cotswold Village of Weston St Ambrose, is falling into rack and ruin. So is its owner, Monty Bickerstaffe, who is sliding into decrepitude with a kind of cheerful grumpiness helped along by substantial amounts of alcohol. But when Monty finds the body of an unknown man in his drawing-room his life is completely disrupted. Who is this man? Monty doesn’t know, neither do the police. Inspector Jess Carter and Superintendent Ian Campbell have to unravel the mystery. When it transpires that the body is that of Jay Taylor, a professional ghost-writer, with no known connection to Balaclava House, the mystery deepens.

Meanwhile Monty tries to fend off his interfering niece Bridget although her daughter Tansy is about the only person who cares for him, as he does for her.

This is a really enjoyable book with a host of entertaining and lifelike characters. The author skilfully depicts the modern countryside with its mix of the traditional and the new in that the local garage has a mini-mart and property developers prowl the landscape. And there is a satisfying and unexpected twist on the last page.

Reviewer: Radmila May

Ann Granger was born in Portsmouth where she was a pupil at the then Northern Grammar School for Girls and went from there to London University where she achieved a BA in Modern Languages (French with German). After a period spent first teaching English in France and then working in the Visa Section of British Embassies around the world. She met her husband, who was also working for the British Embassy, in Prague, and together they received postings to places as far apart as Munich and Lusaka. She is the author of the Mitchell and Markby Mysteries, the Fran Varady series and more recently the Lizzie Martin mystery series. She lives in Bicester, near Oxford.

Radmila May was born in the U.S. but has lived in the U.K. since she was seven apart from seven years in The Hague. She read law at university but did not go into practice. Instead she worked for many years for a firm of law publishers and still does occasional work for them including taking part in a substantial revision and updating of her late husband’s legal practitioners’ work on Criminal Evidence published late 2015. She has also contributed short stories with a distinctly criminal flavour to two of the Oxford Stories anthologies published by Oxpens Press – a third story is to be published shortly in another Oxford Stories anthology – and is now concentrating on her own writing.

‘Double Pursuit’ by Alison Morton

Published by Pulcheria Press,
19 October 2021.

ISBN: 979-1-09731031-8

MĂ©lisende des Pittones has spent most of her career as a special forces intelligence officer in the French army but, in the wake of a tragedy in her personal life, she resigned and now works for the powerful, autonomous European Investigation and Regulation Services (EIRS). This is a job that Mel is peculiarly suited for, as well as her fighting and tactical skills, she is the daughter of a French landowner and an English ex-model, and is fluent in French, English and several other languages.

The story opens in Rome, where Mel and her colleague, Andreas Holzmann, are on a mission to meet an informant about an international theft of armaments. Their mission stalls when their informant is murdered before he can pass on his information and, in the aftermath, Andreas is attacked and seriously injured. Mel is also attacked but she manages to defeat her assailants and, despite the obstructive behaviour of an arrogant and chauvinistic Italian police officer, she apprehends one of the attackers, which gives the EIRS a tenuous lead into who is behind the weapons theft.

Two more of Mel’s colleagues join her to continue the investigation: Jeff McCracken and Joanna Evans, who have both moved from the Metropolitan Police to join the EIRS. Mel is particularly pleased to be with Jeff, with whom she is in a relationship, although at times she finds it hard to balance the professional necessity to take calculated risks with the instinct to keep her lover safe. Before meeting Jeff, Mel had been remarkably unfortunate and ill-advised in her two serious love affairs: her first lover had betrayed her and then offered her serious physical violence; the second had been murdered just before their wedding and it soon became evident that he had tried to use her for his own greed and corrupt ambition. Mel’s relationship with Jeff started badly, as he was the officer in charge of investigating her fiancĂ©’s murder and had treated her with suspicion, coloured by a working-class policeman’s contempt for a well-born, privileged young woman. However, when Mel and Jeff were forced to work together as part of the EIRS, they learned to respect each other and their relationship developed from there. Mel is aware that Jeff has his own demons in his background, but she feels sure that he is an honourable and caring man. As Mel and Jeff continue their investigation, the violence escalates, and a booby-trap bomb nearly kills them both. The explosion injures Jeff, and Mel has to lead her depleted team to continue an investigation that becomes progressively more dangerous as it takes them to some of the most savage and unpredictable territories of the world, and seems to be increasingly personal, as if Mel herself was the target.

Double Pursuit is the second in the series featuring Mel des Pittones and her colleagues in the EIRS, although it works well as a stand-alone book, with the backstory skilfully woven in. It is a fast-paced, tense novel with an intricate plot and fascinating details of military techniques and special operations. Mel and her colleagues are fallible but likeable protagonists, who come from an interesting range of backgrounds, and all of them develop throughout the story. Double Pursuit is a fast-moving, exciting thriller, which I thoroughly recommend.

Reviewer: Carol Westron

Alison Morton Even before she pulled on her first set of combats, Alison Morton was fascinated by the idea of women soldiers. Brought up by a feminist mother and an ex-military father, it never occurred to her that women couldn’t serve their country in the armed forces. Everybody in her family had done time in uniform and in theatre – regular and reserve Army, RAF, WRNS, WRAF – all over the globe. So busy in her day job, Alison joined the Territorial Army in a special communications regiment and left as a captain, having done all sorts of interesting and exciting things no civilian would ever know or see. Or that she can talk about, even now…
But something else fuels her writing… Fascinated by the mosaics at Ampurias (Spain), at their creation by the complex, power and value-driven Roman civilisation she started wondering what a modern Roman society would be like if run by strong women…

Now, she writes Roman-themed alternate history thrillers with tough heroines:

Carol Westron is a successful author and a Creative Writing teacher.  Her crime novels are set both in contemporary and Victorian times.  Her first book The Terminal Velocity of Cats was published in 2013. Since then, she has since written 5 further mysteries. Carol recently gave an interview to Mystery People. To read the interview click on the link below.
To read a review of Carol latest book This Game of Ghosts
click on the title.