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Tuesday, 22 September 2020

‘Say No More’ by Karen Rose

Published by Headline,
6 August 2020.
ISBN: 978-1-4722-6570-8 (HB)

Karen Rose clearly has a big story arc planned for the characters in her new mini-series set in Sacramento. The plot of Say No More follows hot on the heels of the series opener, Say You’re Sorry, and begins just a few weeks after the dramatic events that set things moving in this, the seventh crime-ridden world she has created.

In Say You're Sorry the focus was on FBI agent Gideon Reynolds and radio presenter Daisy Dawson, and Gideon's troubled childhood in a brutal religious cult. This time it shifts to Mercy Callahan, Gideon’s long-lost sister who also escaped from the cult, and Detective Rafe Sokolov, currently recovering from a serious injury he sustained in the earlier investigation.

The cult is still very much centre stage, as the FBI and Sacramento Police Department join forces to track down Ephraim Burton, one of its leaders, who is hunting Mercy down and leaving a trail of bodies in his wake. The cult is deeply corrupt, no one more so than Ephraim and his arch-enemy DJ Belmont, who will both go to any lengths to get what they want: total control over the huge amount of money the cult has conned out of its members.

In the best Rose style, there’s a large cast of characters based both in Sacramento and in Eden, as the cult is ironically named. The large Sokolov family welcome emotionally scarred Mercy into their midst as they did Gideon, and it’s not only the Sokolov sons who are cops who have a part to play in bringing Ephraim down. In addition, FBI agent Tom Hunter is back, and a rookie journalist and his mother who are soon taken under the expansive Sokolov wing despite a bad start. And Mercy’s friend Farrah and her cop fiancé, visiting from New Orleans, hint at yet another potential Rose mini-series. Still trapped in Eden are Amos, Mercy’s stepfather, and his cute natural daughter Abigail, who see the light and have their own part to play. Every one of these supporting players is warm and real, and made me almost believe Karen Rose was simply describing people she knows.

As the hunt for Ephraim intensifies and the body count continues to rise, the qualities which make Rose’s hefty books so unputdownable are firmly in place. She ramps up the tension by jump-cutting from one scenario to another. There’s the usual quota of mind-blowing sex. The locations, from the Sokolovs’ warm, inviting home to a chilly forest clearing, are vivid. Even the minor characters feel real. And though it all ends satisfyingly enough, there are a few loose ends to tie up in the next 500-plus page instalment.

Baltimore, Cincinnati, Chicago and now Sacramento. Wherever Karen Rose takes her willing readers next, I want to be there.

Reviewer: Lynne Patrick

Karen Rose was born 29 July 1964 at Baltimore, Maryland USA. She was educated at the University of Maryland. She met her husband, Martin, on a blind date when they were seventeen and after they both graduated from the University of Maryland, (Karen with a degree in Chemical Engineering) they moved to Cincinnati, Ohio. Karen worked as an engineer for a large consumer goods company, earning two patents, but as Karen says, “scenes were roiling in my head and I couldn't concentrate on my job, so I started writing them down. I started out writing for fun, and soon found I was hooked.” Her debut suspense novel, Don't Tell, was released in July 2003. Since then, she has published twenty-four more novels. Karen lives in Florida with her husband of twenty years and their children. When she's not writing, she enjoys travelling, karate and, though not a popular Florida pastime, skiing.

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 in Oxfordshire in a house groaning with books, about half of them crime fiction.

Monday, 21 September 2020

‘The Quickening’ by Rhiannon Ward

Published by Trapeze,
20 August 2020.
ISBN: 978-1-4091-92176 (HB)

Before World War I Louisa Drew was happily married and the mother of six-year old twin boys while she herself had a career as a photographer. But her husband Bertie was killed during the War and the boys died in the flu pandemic of 1919. Devastated by grief she marries again and is soon expecting a child but the new husband Edwin is controlling and does not wish her to work despite his barely earning enough for them both, let alone the forthcoming child, to live on.  

When she is contacted by her former employer Leo Marsham offering a considerable sum for her to go down to Clewer Hall near Brighton where the owner, Colonel Felix Clewer, is putting the family home on the market and wants photographs of the interior and of the items to be sold in order to enhance the value of the property, she immediately accepts the offer and departs for the country leaving only a message for her husband.

But Clewer Hall has a history with links to the occult. In 1896 a séance had been held there, among those present had been Sir Arthur Conan Doyle who was not only the creator of Sherlock Holmes but had an interest in séances and the like, as were many people in the 19th century. The séance was presided over by the medium Ada Watkins whom some think of a charlatan who was there at the invitation of Felix Clewer and his wife Helene; Felix Clewer is not a believer in the occult but his wife is and is made uneasy by the séance.

Since that time much has changed. All three of the Clewer sons had been killed in the course of World War I. Helene wishes to re-enact the séance with the guests who had been at the original séance and has procured Ada Watkins to preside over it. Helene is now even more unstable than she had been before, and her daughter Lily is concerned.  Ada warns Louisa that the séance will have unforeseen consequences; she had seen Louisa’s arrival in the tarot cards but not what those consequences would be, nor that Louisa would be pregnant. It is during the following days that the consequences begin to play out with deadly results for one of the séance party and hidden secrets from the past become uncovered.

This story well contrasts the newly emerging independence of women after World War I with the attitudes of most men and a number of older women. There is an excellent hint of the uncanny too, in the appearance from time to time of a small and somewhat malevolent boy. Did he exist? If so, what is the truth about him?

Reviewer: Radmila May

Rhiannon (Sarah) Ward is an online book reviewer whose blog, Crimepieces, reviews the best of current crime fiction published around the world. She is a judge for the Petrona Award for ranslated Scandinavian crime novels. She lives in rural Derbyshire where her debut novel is set. Writing as Sarah Ward she has produced, four books In Bitter Chill, A Deadly Thaw, A Patient Fury, and A Shrouded Path.In addition to writing, Sarah teaches crime fiction workshops, provide manuscript critiques and editing services, chair book events and give talks to reading groups. For more information, please go to The Creative Shed.

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.

Sunday, 20 September 2020

Bloody Scotland from Infinity to Beyond -


Scottish Festival Goes Global

Bloody Scotland online concluded today with an audience far greater than we could have ever squeezed into the Albert Halls for a conversation between two of the biggest crime writers on the planet,
Val McDermid in Scotland and Lee Child in the US.

The virtual Festival allowed us to break down borders and have authors and audience from across the world. Five Continents of Crime challenged time zones with J P Pomare, an award-winning Maori author nursing a midnight dram on one side of the world and Attica Locke having breakfast on the other. Throughout the weekend the chat forum was buzzing with crime fiction fans from as far afield as Australia, New Zealand, the US, Canada, Ireland, Italy, Austria, France, Spain, Netherlands, Poland and South Africa.

The new format didn’t mean we lost old favourites. The much loved cabaret, Crime at the Coo, normally sells out as soon as tickets go on sale with around 80 packed into the whisky bar but the virtual version, brilliantly chaired by Craig Robertson, brought in ten times that on Saturday night with a combination of archive footage, live performances and pre-recorded packages from various members of the Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers, some debut authors and a stellar performance from Festival Director, Bob McDevitt.

One of the most exciting new additions was the Never-Ending Panel, a rolling event which went on for four hours with authors and chairs coming in and out every 20 minutes. Chaos, entertaining and fun which pretty much sums up what Bloody Scotland is all about.

The transition to online proves that although Covid-19 may have temporarily floored us it couldn’t take away the spirit of the Festival.

Bob McDevitt, Festival Director, said: 'Bloody Scotland 2020 was quite unlike any other year but rather than being the poor relation of previous years, I think it will stand proud as one of the most enjoyable festivals yet with a truly dazzling array of international talent, a sizeable and engaged (often emotional) audience and just as many memorable moments as any other year. We may not have been able to visit Stirling in person, but we were definitely still able to go to Bloody Scotland!'

Bloody Scotland 2021 will be back 17-19 September 2021
hopefully in Stirling, possibly on-line or a combination of the two.
Thanks to everyone who has supported us this weekend.

‘The Blitz Detective’ by Mike Hollow

Published by Allison & Busby, 2020. ISBN: 978-0-74902672-1 (PB)

It is September 1940 and London is being subjected to successive bombing attacks by the German Luftwaffe.  East Enders are suffering more than most by virtue of the docks which are a prime target for the enemy.  Detective Inspector John Jago knows the area well.  He was born and bred there and now works out of the police station at West Ham.  Jago’s usual partner, Detective Sergeant Clark, a reservist, has been called up to fight in France and was recently replaced by Constable Peter Cradock.  The young DC clearly revels in his promotion but is finding it hard to strike the right balance with his new boss.  Whatever their reservations about each other however, they simply have to get on with the job and they soon have an opportunity to do just that.

During a fierce air raid in Plaistow, Warden Ron Davies finds a dead body at the wheel of a van parked by the roadside.  The warden suspects foul play and orders a passing ARP messenger to contact the police.  Jago and Cradock make their way to the scene.  On their arrival, Jago recognises the dead man as Mr Charles Villiers, a successful businessman who is also a local magistrate.  Villiers has three visible wounds and a knife lying in the van is retrieved, but before the detectives can make a more thorough inspection the aerial bombardment recommences and forces them to take cover.  To their horror a direct hit destroys both the vehicle and its occupant.  With no body and precious little evidence, Jago’s detective divisional inspector is reluctantly persuaded to allow his officers to investigate the crime.

It quickly transpires that Villiers and his wife were less than content in their marriage and Jago begins to suspect that the Justice of the Peace might not be as law abiding as his position would suggest.  As Villiers’ associations and shady dealings are revealed, so the list of those who might have wished him dead grows.  When a second murder takes place, the situation is further complicated.

This is an unusual and compelling novel with interesting characters whose lives attest to the hardships of war.  Indeed, the futility and irony of war is a major theme that permeates the story.  Jago is a complex and reflective protagonist.  He still suffers from the traumas he endured during the 1914 -18 conflict when he served as an officer in the trenches.  Jago’s experiences link with another plot that unfolds during the narrative and that focuses on far-left ideologies that attracted support from sections of the population during the period.  The obvious inequalities in British society at the time are explored through the lives of two brothers and their widowed mother.  Jago’s empathy for the family is often poignant without detracting from the DI’s determination to solve the crime at the centre of the story.

The Blitz Detective is the first in a series written by Mike Hollow.  The author’s affection for East London shines through the police procedural. His research of the period and the people who inhabited the area during World War II make for fascinating reading and never detract from the intriguing plot.  This is a thoughtful novel, well-balanced, well-paced and well-crafted.  I enjoyed it tremendously and look forward to reading the sequel.

Reviewer: Dot Marshall-Gent

Mike Hollow was born in West Ham, on the eastern edge of London, and grew up in Romford, Essex. He studied Russian and French at the University of Cambridge and then worked for the BBC and later Tearfund. In 2002 he went freelance as a copywriter, journalist and editor. He's a published poet, and nowadays when not writing about the Blitz Detective he makes his living as a translator. He lives in Hampshire, England, with his wife Margaret.

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.