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Thursday, 19 May 2022

‘The Coffin Club’ by Jacqueline Sutherland

Published by Point Blank,
7 April 2022.
ISBN: 978-086154282-7 (HB)

When Sam and Kat Alexander are involved in a car crash, Sam dies, and Kat is left with severe facial injuries.  She recovers, but still bears the physical and emotional scars that remind her of her husband’s tragic death.  The book opens with Kat kneeling by Sam’s grave, talking to him.  The story she relates to her deceased spouse seems almost miraculous.  She begins by telling him how she dealt with the immediate aftermath of his death.  She was so distraught that she considered suicide…

Then she meets Ginny, the owner of a local animal sanctuary, whose no nonsense approach to life proves to be the perfect therapy.  Kat begins to assist with the rescued creatures in Ginny’s care and in doing so she regains her sense of equilibrium.  After a while, encouraged by her new, if somewhat eccentric friend, Kat joins the New Horizons Club.  The club caters specifically for people who have recently lost a partner.  Here she encounters the handsome, caring Nico who successfully woos and wins Kat.  Not only is Nico the perfect man, but he also offers Kat the thing she wants most in the world – a child.  All seems well, but as the plot unfolds, doubts about her new relationship begin to creep into Kat’s mind.  As tensions between the couple increase, it becomes clear that this is no fairy tale and that Kat may be in danger.

The novel is related through Kat’s viewpoint and the use of this first-person narrator makes it feels as though the character is speaking directly to the reader.  Kat tells the story confidentially and inspires a sense of trust.  There were moments I wanted to shout out, “Don’t do that!” to a protagonist who is engrossing and, at times, infuriating!  Indeed, all the characters are provocative, and this adds to the intrigue of the plot.  It is a testimony to the writer’s skill that one becomes lost in the emotion and pathos of the story to such an extent that it is easy to forget that the novel consists entirely of a monologue, delivered by Kat sitting at her dead husband’s graveside. 

This is a great debut novel that explores love, loss, friendship, motherhood and betrayal.  It is engrossing throughout and ends with a shocking and unexpected twist.  Enjoyable and highly recommended.

Reviewer: Dot Marshall-Gent

Jacqueline Sutherland lives in Guildford with her husband and four teenage boys where she has a reputation for watching horror films from behind cushions and never failing to burn garlic bread. Always a fan of words and with a career in PR and Marketing, she is an alumnus of the Faber Academy. Her debut novel, Her debut book The Coffin Club, was published 7 April 2022 by Point Blank.

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.  

‘It Ends at Midnight’ by Harriet Tyce

Published by Wildfire,
14 April 2022.
ISBN: 978-1-47229466-1 (HB)

'Time stops.  We’re at the heart of it, time before, time after, a moment of still.'

The reader enters It Ends at Midnight as two bodies are about to fall from a building and land on the railings beneath.  The gruesome event is described from the point of view of an urban fox who is scavenging nearby.  Quite an opening! 

What led to the bloody tragedy is revealed through a cyclical plot that whirls through the present, the recent past, the long past, and back to the present.  This has the effect of creating a giddy spiral of characters as they interact with the main protagonists Sylvie and Tess, two friends who have known each other since their schooldays. 

Tess and her husband Marcus are going through a trial separation, whilst Sylvie is embarking on what she hopes might be a serious relationship with chef Gareth.  She hasn’t told Tess or Marcus about her lover yet, partly because she is sensitive to her friends’ difficulties and partly because she is completely focused on advancing her legal career.  Currently working as a Deputy district Judge, Sylvie is about to embark upon an important trial.  If it goes well, she hopes it will pave the way to her becoming a circuit judge.  Then Sylvie receives an unexpected phone call from Tess.  In an instant everything changes as a secret from the past threatens to end her glittering career.

The circular narrative is perfectly suited to the story as it intertwines love, hatred, ambition, betrayal and revenge.  The tale unfolds to reveal glimpses of what preceded the fatal, final plunge with which the book opens.  The characters are fascinating and unreliable, they draw you in and just when you think you have a handle on who can and cannot be trusted, you find that you have been wrong-footed.

Harriet Tyce writes with pace and immediacy as she spotlights the teenage jealousies, misdemeanours and lies that have simmered away for twenty years.  As the past erupts into the present Sylvie and Tess are consumed by the mistakes of their youth which are depicted in sexually explicit scenes and disturbing violence. The tension rachets up as the narrative moves inexorably towards a devastating double d√©nouement.

It Ends at Midnight is intriguing, menacing and mysterious.  A fabulous journey with an ending that shocks and satisfies.  Great stuff!

Reviewer: Dot Marshall-Gent

Harriet Tyce grew up in Edinburgh and studied English at Oxford University before doing a law conversion course at City University. She practised as a criminal barrister in London for nearly a decade, and recently completed an MA in Creative Writing - Crime Fiction at the University of East Anglia.

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.  

Wednesday, 18 May 2022

Capital Crime Launch 2022 Festival Programme

Last evening David Headley launched Capital Crime's 2022 programme at leading independent bookshop, Goldsboro Books, to announce their stellar line up and spectacular new location.

David Headley

 Taking place in the shadow of the iconic Battersea Power Station from
29th September – 1st October 2022,
Capital Crime will bring together readers, authors, industry figures and the local community for the first major literary festival held on the site for a weekend of fun, innovation and celebration of crime fiction.

Consisting of over 40 events and over 150 panelists, the line-up will include appearances from Peter James, Kate Mosse, Mark Billingham, Richard Osman, Robert Harris, SA Cosby, Dorothy Koomson, Jeffrey Archer, Anthony Horowitz, Charlie Higson, Jeffery Deaver, Lucy Foley, Bella Mackie, Ragnar Jónasson, Paula Hawkins, Reverend Richard Coles, Mark Edwards, Claire McGowan, Ben Aaronovitch and Former President of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom, Judge Lady Hale, in conversation with Harriet Tyce. Their full schedule of innovative panel talks will be announced later in the summer.

As part of the live festival this year, Capital Crime’s Social Outreach Initiative will be returning for a third year with the aim to create an inclusive, safe space where state school students with an interest in books can engage with authors, agents, editors and publishers to help demystify the publishing industry.

The festival will also be launching the coveted Fingerprint Awards, which celebrate the best in genre, as chosen by readers. In 2022 the Fingerprints will present eight awards as well as a prestigious lifetime achievement award.

Co-founded by David Headley, the owner of one of London’s destination bookshops, which attracts visitors from all over the world, Capital Crime 2022 will serve as a major London attraction, following the regeneration of the local Battersea area and improved transport links.

Festival Founder, David Headley, said: “I am so delighted that Goldsboro Books and Capital Crime, along with our valued festival sponsors, will be working in partnership this year to bring a bigger and better live celebration of crime fiction back to London. We were so proud of what we achieved at our inaugural festival and look forward to welcoming authors and readers to our new, exciting venue.”

Festival Director, Lizzie Curle, said: “After what ’s been an emotional few years, we are so grateful to our readers, authors and sponsors for their support, and are thrilled to be reuniting household name authors, new voices in fiction and their fans at our new home in Battersea Park. Though this Capital Crime event may look a little different from the outside; diversity, inclusivity and accessibility remain at the heart of our festival. We can’t wait to celebrate the best genre in the world, and hope everyone will agree it’s been worth the wait.”

With diversity, accessibility, inclusivity and readers at the heart of the festival, Capital Crime this year will take place in a series of large stretch-tented venues for multiple panel events, signing area, a stunning bar area central to the festival, a pop up Goldsboro Books bookshop in the iconic Pump House Gallery, and an array of London’s tastiest street food traders.

Weekend and Day Passes are available from the Capital Crime website:

Tuesday, 17 May 2022

‘The Comfort of Monsters’ by Willa C Richards

Published by Point Blank,
13 January 2022.
ISBN: 978-0-86154-354-0 (PBO)

Every now and again a book comes along which bears the label crime fiction, but in fact simply defies classification. This is one. What’s more, if it hadn’t been made clear that it was a debut novel, I would never have guessed. It’s meticulously structured, beautifully, at time almost poetically, written, and above all it’s different.

On the surface it could be a straightforward cold case: a search for a murderer, or at least a body. But it’s soon evident that it’s far more than that, and that what actually happened decades ago isn’t the point at all. What the novel is really about is the effect this kind of crime has on the people left in its wake: how their lives are never the same again, and how the failure to find answers leaves them in a kind of limbo.

It’s set in Milwaukee, the location for the appalling crimes of serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer, known as the Milwaukee Monster. More significantly, the action flips between 1991, when those crimes were cutting a swathe through the community, and modern times, when the family of a young woman whose disappearance at much the same time was never explained are still trying against all odds to discover what happened.

The 1991 scenes are dark and atmospheric, littered with dysfunction and corruption. The vibrant, often wilful personality of Dee, the girl who goes missing and is never seen again, shines like a beacon in the lead-up to her disappearance; she seems to attract destructive relationships. Her sister Peg – short for Pegasus, Dee’s nickname for her – is more stable, but less self-confident, and the men in both their lives have issues of their own.

Cut to 2019, and all that has changed is that Dee is still missing. Neither the police’s half-hearted efforts nor whatever newspaper coverage the family could drum up have produced any information.  But the disappearance of one young woman had taken a back seat at a time when one young man after another was falling victim to a murderer who turned out to be a deeply disturbed cannibal and necrophile as well. Thirty years later what evidence might have been found has disappeared too. I soon realized looking for clues was beside the point, even when a psychic famous for getting results becomes involved; all that really matters is what it has done to the family.

The novel has a passing resemblance, at least in theme, to Dennis Lehane’s late 1990s tour de force, Mystic River. But Lehane was already an experienced writer by then. Perhaps the most remarkable thing about The Comfort of Monsters is that it’s the author first full-length work. And what a debut it is.

Reviewer: Lynne Patrick

Willa C. Richards is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop where she was a Truman Capote Fellow. Her work has appeared in The Paris Review, and she is the recipient of a PEN/Robert J. Dau Prize for Emerging Writers. The Comfort of Monsters is her debut novel.

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.