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Saturday, 23 June 2018

‘In the Cage Where Your Saviours Hide’ by Malcolm Mackay

Published by Head of Zeus,
4 April 2018.
ISBN: 9781786697097(HB)

Readers of this unusual and exciting novel should forget anything they ever knew about Scottish history from the seventeenth century on, and quite probably before then. The author has provided an alternative history. The Darien Venture, in which almost the entire population invested substantial funds, brought, not complete financial disaster as readers may previously have thought, but success. The first settlers in Panama prospered and the settlement expanded, becoming known as New Caledonia. Thus, the Act of Union 1707 never happened, and Scotland kept its independence, not to say its own royal family. Were there any Jacobite rebellions, or clearances in the Highlands? Alternative history is silent on this point, as it is on the previous history. Did the Stuarts ever come to rule, not just Scotland but England and Ireland as well? Did Charles I lose his head, or Mary Queen of Scots hers? Indeed, were there ever any Stuart kings?

In this alternative Scotland, as New Caledonia prospers, Scotland itself declines. This story is set in its chief port the Scots Gaelic speaking Challaid on the north coast. Once flourishing Challaid is now run-down and in its mean streets crime is rampant while within the police force a strong degree of corruption exists. It is in those mean streets that the protagonist of this story has to search for the truth. He is Darian Ross, junior operative in Douglas Independent Research, a two-man firm of not quite private investigators. The senior partner, former police officer Sholto Douglas, is anxious to keep his former colleagues at arms’ length, particularly Detective Inspector Folan Corey, head of the anti-corruption squad of the Challaid police who is himself highly corrupt. But Darian is driven by his innate sense of justice, first in the case of a young girl who is attacked by someone whom Corey wishes to protect, secondly in the case of the murder of Moses Guerra, a small-time crook and money launderer. Police investigation of this last has been more or less non-existent and it is when Guerra’s partner Maeve Campbell asks Darian to search for the truth that he is drawn into a complex series of events. What is the nature of that truth?

This is in effect a classic private eye story set in this densely-imagined context. It is the latter which makes it truly remarkable. But it was the context which left with me with a whole lot of questions. Quite apart from the historical questions asked at the beginning of this review I wanted to know about the geography of this alternative Scotland. The location of Challaid is possible – near the real Loch Eriboll which is carved deep into the northern coast of Scotland. But does it include the Orkneys and Shetlands? What about the Outer Isles? How far south? How far east? Are Edinburgh and Glasgow included? If so, do they also speak the Gaelic? And on the religious issues, formerly so divisive, is this alternative Scotland uniformly and unyieldingly Presbyterian? Or am I just nit-picking? Anyway, highly recommended.
Reviewer: Radmila May
Malcolm Mackay was born and grew up in Stornoway where he still lives. His debut, The Necessary Death of Lewis Winter, marked the beginning of the Glasgow Trilogy, set in the city's underworld and was longlisted for both the CWA John Creasey Dagger for Best Debut Crime Novel of the Year and the CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger for Best Thriller of the Year. How a Gunman Says Goodbye is the second of the series.

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.

Wednesday, 20 June 2018

‘Some Particular Evil’ by Vera Morris

Published by Accent Press,
21 October 2017.
ISBN: 978-1-78615-061-5 (PB)

Some Particular Evil is a sort-of police procedural firmly rooted in those far-off 1970s with all that that implies, and Vera Morris makes an excellent job of bringing the period to life. Mobile phones were the stuff of science fiction; DNA testing hadn't been thought of. Sexism was rampant, and anything resembling the right kind of political correctness was a distant dream for the strong, capable women who inhabit Morris's Suffolk landscape. There are passing references to plane hi-jackings, a Tory Party conference in Brighton (though not the infamous one), and plodding, opinionated senior policemen (women had yet to rise that far) with a talent for ignoring the obvious.

When the wife of the headmaster of a small private school is murdered, everyone on the staff becomes a suspect and sparky young DI Frank Diamond is tasked with tracking down the killer. Something of a maverick, with a nose for the truth rather than a convenient solution, Frank has been to university – far rarer and worthier of comment than is the case nowadays. He even treats Laurel Bowman, the school's bright and feisty new senior mistress, as an equal, which is more than any other man on the staff does.

Frank soon discovers how unpopular the victim was, and why. The entire staff seem to be harbouring secrets, and only Laurel is above suspicion – and even she has a past she prefers to keep under wraps.

All the characters, even the dead ones, are colourfully drawn, from Miss Piff the unassuming school secretary who turns out to have a core of steel as well as a heart of gold, to stolid Sergeant Elderkin, who reveals not only hidden depths but also a romantic streak.

The school, too, comes to life – shabby and frayed at the edges, located perilously close to the crumbling Suffolk coast. The author is clearly well acquainted with the area's changeable weather and ever-shifting sands and shingle.

Laurel Bowman and Frank Diamond make a fine team, ably supported by several other characters who could well continue beyond the not entirely unexpected ending. It all augurs well for a series which, even in the absence of the technology and forensic expertise we now take for granted, could run for some time. I sincerely hope it does.
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick

Vera Morris blew soap bubbles in Woolworth's, cooked in hotels and electro-fished in Welsh rivers, before becoming a teacher.  Most of her teaching career was in a local mixed comprehensive in South Oxfordshire, where she became Headteacher. Her interests include writing, gardening, cooking, reading, the theatre, museums and art galleries, and travelling in her campervan.
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 on the edge of rural Derbyshire in a house groaning with books, about half of them crime fiction. 

 Now available the second in the series
            The Temptation

Where is David Pemberton?
Two years ago, thirteen-year-old David Pemberton vanished without a trace. It's up to detectives Laurel Bowman and Frank Diamond to find him. But how do you solve a case without a lead?
When three local residents meet brutal deaths, something more sinister certainly seems to be at heart. And now, it's not just David they should be worried about. As they're drawn into a circle of temptation, destruction and deceit, they find themselves close to cracking the case. But the closer they get, the more vulnerable they become and soon their lives are at risk…

Published by Accent Press Ltd 17 May 2018

Bloody Scotland - Longlist Announced.

"Forty-one years ago, William McIlvanney rocked the British literary world with Laidlaw, a gritty and socially conscious crime novel that brought Glasgow to life more vividly than anything before. This year's longlistees for the McIlvanney Prize demonstrate how modern Scottish crime writing has flourished from those seeds. From debutants to authors with more than 20 books, spy thrillers to long-running detective series, nineteenth-century mysteries to futuristic space station noir, there's an amazing range of talent on show."
Craig Sisterson – Chair of the Judges 2018

‘I went to Bloody Scotland and I was just knocked out... this event was so friendly, so supportive I was honestly overwhelmed’
William McIlvanney – speaking on BBC Scotland, 2012

Two years ago, the Scottish Crime Book of the Year Award was renamed the McIlvanney Prize in memory of William McIlvanney who established the tradition of Scottish detective fiction. This year his son, Liam McIlvanney, has made the longlist for the 2018 McIlvanney Prize.

The complete longlist, revealed today, has been chosen by an independent panel of readers:

Lin Anderson, Follow the Dead (Macmillan)

Chris Brookmyre, Places in the Darkness (Little, Brown)

Mason Cross, Presumed Dead (Orion)

Charles Cumming, The Man Between (Harper Collins)

Oscar De Muriel, The Loch of the Dead (Michael Joseph)

Helen Fields, Perfect Death (Harper Collins)

Alison James, Now She’s Gone (Bookouture)

Liam McIlvanney, The Quaker (Harper Collins)

James Oswald, No Time to Cry (Headline)

Caro Ramsay, The Suffering of Strangers (Severn House)

Andrew Reid, The Hunter (Headline)

Craig Robertson, The Photographer (Simon & Schuster)

It features an intriguing mix of previous winners, established crime writing luminaries, some emerging talent and a debut.  The award recognises excellence in Scottish crime writing, includes a prize of £1,000 and nationwide promotion in Waterstones.

The judges for the next round will be chaired by Craig Sisterson and include comedian and crime fiction fan, Susan Calman who like Craig is joining the panel for a second year and crime reviewer, Alison Flood.

The finalists will be revealed at the beginning of September and the winner kept under wraps until the ceremony itself which this year will take place at the Church of the Holy Rude in Stirling and followed by a torchlight procession – led by the winner accompanied by Denise Mina and Val McDermid – to their first event at the Albert Halls.

For further information or to request press tickets please contact 07767 431 846
@brownlee_donald @bloodyscotland

Saturday, 16 June 2018

‘Death Is Not Enough’ by Karen Rose

HB. Published by Headline,
17 May 2018.
ISBN: 978-1-4722-4406-2

It's hard to know what I like best about Karen Rose's thrillers. Is it the wealth of interesting characters, including plenty of tough, feisty women? Or the complex, multi-faceted plots with a new twist on every page? Or the riproaring sex scenes?

If pressed, I'd have to say none of the above. What I really love is that she doesn't just write thrillers – she creates whole worlds. In each of her mini-series, all set in different cities in the US, there's a large cast of characters whose lives come together in times of crisis, some new ones in each book, others centre stage in one novel and playing a supporting role or even providing background colour in another. Each leading character has a rich backstory, and there are always references to earlier traumas and adventures, some of which have already been played out in earlier novels in the series, some which just add to that background colour.

So, it is in the latest in her Baltimore series. New on the scene and pitched straight into the middle of the action are attorney Thomas Thorne and nightclub owner Gwyn Weaver. He had a narrow escape from a murder rap in his teens; she is recovering from a horrific kidnap and rape ordeal. Each has been secretly besotted with the other for years, but that's a side issue, though one which does give rise to a sizzling sex scene or two.

Thorne finds himself the victim of a relentless revenge plot, and it's up to his loyal group of friends, including ex-cops, other lawyers, security and IT experts and crack shots, to protect him despite the danger to themselves, and prove he is innocent of murder. The bad guy seems to be one step ahead all the time, and soon there's a body count to rival one of those horrendous real-life shooting sprees which make the US news all too often – though needless to say it all comes right in the end.

It's a doorstop of a book, which carries the usual Karen Rose health and sanity warning – it's definitely not one for the squeamish or faint-hearted. But it was certainly one for me; once I started I didn't want to put it down. I stayed up later than I should and forgot a couple of appointments along the way as I romped through it. Karen Rose really is a doyenne of thriller writers.
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 fifteen more novels and two novellas. Alone in the Dark is her seventeenth 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 on the edge of rural Derbyshire in a house groaning with books, about half of them crime fiction.