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Monday, 13 July 2020

‘Watch What You Say’ by George Weinstein

Published by SFK Press,
21 October 2019.
ISBN: 978-1-970137-85-9

In Atlanta Bo Riccardi is a popular interviewer for “On-Air Radio and Podcast”, with the nickname Barracuda as she can sometimes tear interviewees to pieces with her barbed remarks. Helping her in her job is her gift of chromesthesia, the ability to see sounds as colours, enabling her to tell what people really mean when speaking to her, especially if they are lying.

One day while she is at work, a Deke Powell kidnaps her husband Oscar.  He demands that she interviews him on air if she wants her husband to live. Reluctantly her producer allows her to go ahead.

Deke uses a synthesiser to disguise his voice so she has no idea who he is. He announces that people are after him because of his exploits, especially when he was in the C.I.A. She can see from her colour hearing that he is lying. Bo has trouble trying to understand what this is all leading to. She soon finds out.

Deke demands the next day that she interviews him again and that she must do so every day of that week. He tortures Oscar making sure she hears his screams over the telephone to guarantee her agreement. This time she has to talk about herself when she was younger. From hints he drops she realises she must have known him when at Virginia Tech. Bo has a secret, she wants kept about what happened there some twenty years ago. Has this caller something to do with this, if so, can she keep quiet about it at the risk of him killing her husband?

Although she is instructed not to involve the police her producer sets her up with a private investigator he knows. She is terrified the caller will find out but is desperate for the help. As the week goes on the kidnapper makes more and more demands on her even threatening to take their daughter Candace too.

Meanwhile we learn of the horrific conditions Oscar is being kept under, the pain he suffers is almost unbearable. Not only that but Deke leads him to believe that Bo is behind all his suffering, he is very persuasive. This leads to a very disturbing outcome for her.

Deke is determined on revenge for something that happened many years ago. Will he really carry out his threat or can Bo with the help of Gus the P.I. and her teenage daughter find out where Oscar is being held and rescue him? Time is running out.

A convincing story of vengeance which leads to the kidnapper being driven to insanity making him all the more dangerous.
Greatly recommended for readers who like to be kept on the edge of their seats with suspense.
Reviewer:  Tricia Chappell

George Weinstein is the author of the suspense thriller Watch What You Say, the Southern mystery Aftermath, the modern relationship drama The Caretaker, the Southern historical novel Hardscrabble Road, and the novel of forgotten US history The Five Destinies of Carlos Moreno. His work has been published locally in the Atlanta press and in regional and national anthologies, including A Cup of Comfort for Writers. George is the former and current President of the historic Atlanta Writers Club (AWC), which was founded in 1914. Since 2008, he has directed the twice-yearly Atlanta Writers Conference for the AWC, bringing in acquisitions editors and literary agents to help members understand the business of writing and achieve their dreams of publication. He lives in Roswell, GA.

Tricia Chappell. I have a great love of books and reading, especially crime and thrillers. I play the occasional game of golf (when I am not reading). My great love is cruising especially to far flung places, when there are long days at sea for plenty more reading! I am really enjoying reviewing books and have found lots of great new authors.

Sunday, 12 July 2020

‘No Place to Die’ by Neil Broadfoot

Published by Little Brown Group,
7 April 2020.
ISBN: 978-1-4721-2762-4 (PB)

Asset-stripper turned self-help guru Blair Charlston is hosting a celebrity weekend in a top-market hotel near Stirling, but someone’s determined he won’t make it through the weekend alive.

This novel is a fast-moving read. Each chapter is short, 3-4 pages, focuses on one of half a dozen key characters, and ends on a teaser or question which will be answered several chapters on, so you need to keep your wits about you as you move from character to character. Connor Fraser is the main protagonist, ex-police and now the director of Sentinal Securities. He’s young, fit and well able to cope with anything the bad guys throw at him; he’s less confident with the women in his life, his grandmother who slips in and out of dementia, his hoped-for love interest Jen, and ambitious reporter Donna. The plot really gets going when Donna’s called by a former colleague; he wants to spill the beans about Charlston, but when she arrives at his house, he’s dead – bludgeoned to death. The action is fast, the body count high, the deaths gory (particularly the big fire scene) and there’s a good sense of place.

A roller-coaster ride of speedy twists and turns, with a cast of interesting characters. This is the second book starring Connor Fraser, and there are a number of spoilers for the previous book in the opening chapters, so you might want to begin with the first, No Man’s Land.
Reviewer:Marsali Taylor

Neil Broadfoot worked as a journalist for fifteen years at both national and local newspapers, covering some of the biggest stories of the day. A poacher turned gamekeeper, he has since moved into communications: providing media relations advice for a variety of organisations, from Strathclyde Fire & Rescue Service to high profile sporting clubs in Scotland. He's now working as a communications officer for the Scottish Government. Neil is married to Fiona and a father to two girls, meaning he's completely outnumbered in his own home. He lives in Dunfermline, the setting for his first job as a local reporter.
Marsali Taylor grew up near Edinburgh and came to Shetland as a newly-qualified teacher. She is currently a part-time teacher on Shetland's scenic west side, living with her husband and two Shetland ponies. Marsali is a qualified STGA tourist-guide who is fascinated by history, and has published plays in Shetland's distinctive dialect, as well as a history of women's suffrage in Shetland. She's also a keen sailor who enjoys exploring in her own 8m yacht, and an active member of her local drama group.  Marsali also does a regular monthly column for the Mystery People e-zine.
 Click on the title to read a review of her recent book Death on a Shetland Isle

Thursday, 9 July 2020

‘The Smart Woman’s Guide to Murder’ by Victoria Dowd

Published by Joffe Books,
5 May 2020.
ISBN: 978-1-78931350-5 (PB)

‘Old detective novels and a few slightly titillating thrillers you relate to because the characters drink too much really doesn’t constitute a serious literary group.’ Ursula Smart

Ursula is the narrator of this comedic murder mystery who is reluctantly accompanying her mother, Pandora, to a book club retreat.  The young woman’s dismissive attitude to the group does little to endear her to the other members who will join them at the country home Pandora has hired for their weekend jaunt.  When they arrive at the “fa├žade of tombstone granite” belonging to Ambergris Towers the two women are met by an effusive “Aunt Mirabelle.”  In fact, Mirabelle is Pandora’s childhood friend rather than a blood relative and she spends much of the novel sparring with god-daughter Ursula and Pandora’s real sister, Aunt Charlotte, who makes her appearance “on a raft of silk and velvet, fur and largesse.”  Also attending the weekend, along with Mr Bojangles her beloved Shih Tzu, is Bridget Gutteridge.  Bridget is “…book club’s number one fan,” and the only person who expresses enthusiasm to engage in any literary pursuit.  When she does suggest discussing a book she invariably meets with reluctance or outright rejection.  The last club member to arrive is Joy Cowdale.  Her entrance prompts Ursula to recollect that, “From a very young age, I remember her leeching on our Christmases, birthdays, everydays.”  Ursula renamed her mother’s friend Joyless and over time this has been reduced to the unkind, if not undeserved moniker, “Less.”  The shabby mansion is served by a butler and housekeeper, Mr and Mrs Angel.  This dour husband and wife team perform their duties with detachment and disdain. 

Finally, there are two other characters who loom large in the story.  Ursula’s deceased father died in her arms when she was just thirteen.  This trauma defines the narrator who routinely suffers flashbacks of the event.  His presence haunts and mars the relationship between Ursula and her mother.  The other noteworthy character is Madam Zizi, a fortune teller called upon by Angel the butler to entertain the club members on the second evening of the retreat.  The medium’s visit has far-reaching consequences as past, present and future converge in a way no one could have predicted.
Victoria Dowd’s novel drips with dark humour, gothic overtones and witty one-liners.  Any of the characters could be the killer and the lives, and deaths, of the dysfunctional women are both fascinating and infuriating as they booze and bicker their way through the whodunnit.  For all its familiarity as a locked-room mystery the story is fresh and contemporary as it successfully combines comedy and crime. 

The Smart Woman’s Guide to Murder is a debut novel that fizzes with fun and intrigue.  I can’t wait for the sequel!
Reviewer: Dot Marshall-Gent
Victoria Dowd was born and raised in Yorkshire and after studying at Cambridge, went on to be a successful criminal law barrister for many years.  Victoria’s debut crime novel, The Smart Woman’s Guide to Murder (published by Joffe Books) is the first part of a dark, humorous crime series that is a modern take on the Golden Age of crime fiction and authors such Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh and Josephine Tey.
She is an award-winning short story writer, winning the Gothic Fiction prize for short fiction 2019 by Go Gothic. Victoria has had short stories published in BTS Literary and Arts Annual, Gold Dust magazine and also by Stairwell books in their literary and arts journal Dream Catcher. Her work has also been selected for publication in an anthology entitled A Ghostly Challenge. She speaks at various literary festivals, most recently in Bath, and at various schools and book groups. Her historical fiction, The Painter of Siena, was published in 2016.

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.