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Monday, 28 September 2020

‘And The Sea Darkened’ by Vicki Lloyd

Published by The Book Guild,
28 August 2020.
ISBN: 978 1913208 738 (PB)

Just off the coast of Essex, linked to the mainland by a causeway, is the island of St Cedd, barren, windswept, surrounded by the snarling sea which eats away at the land. Legends and myths about the island abound: tales of wreckers who decoyed boats to the shore and then killed the survivors; men who can turn themselves into wild beasts and kill at random; ghosts who stalk the land, taunting people whom they drive to madness; malignant sea-dwelling females who lure boats onto the rocks or into the deadly sinking sands.

Two brothers live on the island. Magnus Bostock farms Slegholm Farm in the way that his ancestors have farmed for generations, something that he finds increasingly difficult while his wife, dour, tight-lipped Brenda, wants him to adopt more modern methods. Magnus’s brother Nick will have nothing to do with the farm or farming; although when younger he managed to get away he now finds himself back on St Cedd and trying to make a living taking tourists out on fishing trips. But this isn’t enough, and he finds himself drawn into exploiting the misery of illegal migrants escaping the turmoil of wars elsewhere. This is something that Nick doesn’t want to be involved in, and neither do his two mates who are also involved. But when he tries to tell the sinister Patrick Rokesmith, organiser of the ring of human traffickers, that he wants to give up, Rokesmith threatens him. And there are people behind Rokesmith who are yet more sinister. And then Rokesmith starts to draw in Magnus into the evil activity. This enrages Brenda who can see the dangers involved in the activity.

There is another development when property developer Ethan Langeveldt, an associate of Rokesmith, first buys a field next to Slegholm Farm and parked caravans on it, then obtains planning permission to build houses. This would put paid to Brenda’s ambition to expand Slegholm Farm and make it profitable. Worst of all, someone (or something) is killing Magnus’s sheep, slashing them in a way almost reminiscent of a wild beast. Without any clues as who (or what) and why there is little the police can do.

Not everyone on St Cedd’s is as doomladen as the Bostock brothers .Elaine Maples, landlady of the Dog and Whistle Inn, who although she dislikes life on the island, runs the pub with considerable efficiency although with nothing like the help she feels she ought to be getting from her teenage son Alex and her idle barman Dave. And there is the young girl, Morgan Welland, fey and other worldly, who lives alone in an isolated cottage with only the birds and other wildlife for company. She is aware, as few others are, of the evil on St Cedd although she has no idea of the form it would take and what it would do.

Into this strange mixture of real-life criminality and ancient evil comes Jasmin Kapoor, a young academic who is researching the violent Indian Mutiny of 1857 in which atrocities, such as the Massacre of Cawnpore, were committed by both sides. Jasmin has a personal stake in the research - her own ancestor was killed during the Mutiny – and she believes that a forebear of the Bostocks, great-great-great grandfather of Magnus and Nick, James Bostock, was among the senior officers at Cawnpore and was involved in the pitiless retribution by the British authorities. Magnus’s and Nick’s grandmother, now very ill in a nursing home, knows that there are papers but does not wish to discuss the massacre with Jasmin. But when Jasmin eventually lays hands on the papers something much worse is awakened.

I found this story not just fascinating but enthralling. The power of the writing, the evocation of the bleak, unlovely landscape, grabs the reader and will not let go. St Cedd may be based on an actual place or it may be entirely the creation of the writer’s imagination; whichever it is, it is a strange, uncanny place, best avoided.
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Reviewer: Radmila May

Vicki Lloyd lives in Oxford and has a degree in Latin and English from the University of Kent and a Masters in Creative Writing from Oxford Brookes University. Throughout her career, she has worked as an archaeologist, journalist, copy editor, playwright and short-story writer.

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.

‘The Fear of Ravens’ by Wendy Percival

Published by Old Key Press,
29 June 2020.
ISBN: 978-1-3808-600-8 (PB)

This is the fourth in the series featuring the genealogical researcher Esme Quentin and is set in North Devon where Esme is now staying in a rented cottage while she decides whether or not to move permanently to Devon. Esme has a commission to research the history of an old abandoned semi-derelict mill, the Temperance Mill, whose owner, Anna Brannock, has ambitious plans to redevelop it, installing workshops and perhaps even generating electricity. Anna believes that Esme’s research could assist in gaining a lottery grant for redevelopment. However, Anna’s husband Drew thinks that Anna’s plans are over-ambitious and is trying to dissuade her.

But Esme’s activities are not only connected with her genealogical researches into Temperance Mill. Anna’s friend, Maddy Henderson, a photographer with a passion for the restoration of old photographs, is also in the process of taking on her late father’s business of furniture restoration, particularly small-scale items which are highly attractive to purchasers which she sells from a stall in the local market. Esme is assisting Maddy in this venture and it is while she is on the way to join Maddy that she is accosted by Sean Carlton, a private investigator, who is trying to trace a woman called Ellen Tucker who had lived 24 years ago, not at Temperance Mill, but at the nearby Temperance Cottage. Neither Esme nor Maddy know anything about Ellen nor about any rumours about witchcraft and Anna would only have been a child at the time. Maddy suggests that Anna’s husband Drew, being rather older than his wife, might know rather more but Drew, surly by nature, rebuffs enquiries. Later Esme wanders along to Temperance Cottage which is also abandoned but while she is there an old man shouts at her and throws stones. She later learns that he is Joseph Brannock, grandfather to Drew and his brother Alec. Something very odd is going on connected with enquiries into the mysterious Ellen Tucker; a lot of people don’t seem to want Esme or Maddy to find out what happened to her. Ancient stories about witchcraft begin to surface going back not just to the famous Bideford witchcraft trials in the seventeenth century but later episodes connected with the Temperance Mill in the nineteenth century and even years later. But are they connected with the disappearance of Ellen Tucker and the death of Sean Carlton, found dead in his car in a nearby river?

This story has a very complex plot through which the author, with her highly impressive knowledge of the methods of genealogical research, using a wide array of sources, including early Ordnance Survey maps, even earlier Tithe Maps, and long-ago newspaper archives, threads her way with meticulous care. Recommended.
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Reviewer: Radmila May

Wendy Percival was born in the West Midlands and grew up in rural Worcestershire. After training as a primary school teacher, she moved to North Devon to take up her first teaching post and remained in teaching for 20 years. An impulse buy of Writing Magazine prompting her to start writing seriously. She won the magazine's 2002 Summer Ghost Story Competition and had a short story published before focusing on full length fiction. The time honoured ‘box of old documents’ in the attic stirred her interest in genealogy. When she began researching her Shropshire roots she realised how little most of us know about our family history.  This became the inspiration behind the first Esme Quentin novel, Blood-Tied.  Wendy continues to be intrigued by genealogy, its mysteries and family secrets and writes about this in her family history blog.

 http://www.wendypercival.co.uk

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.

‘Kittyhawk Down’ by Jonathan Nicholas

Published by The Book Guild Publishing,
28 June 2020.
ISBN: 978-1-91320856-1 (PB)

In 2012 a group of oil prosepctors came upon a strange sight in the Egyptian desert – a wrecked WWII plane with no sign of the pilot. The Kittyhawk’s numbers identified her as ET574, who went missing with her pilot, Dennis Copping, in June 1942. What had happened?

It’s a good start for a mystery. Nicholas gives the simple facts first, then the first three chapters tell the story of the discovery of the Kittyhawk, in novel style. After that the book moves to the first person, and Dennis Copping tells his own story, from his application to join the RAF in the autumn of 1940. We follow him through the initial training in England, then the actual flying in Libya and Egypt. The war in the desert’s going badly, with Rommel pushing forward. Nicholas, through his narrator, takes us there: the sand, the latrines, basic accomodation, with the men clinging to security in the form of the beds being in the same place in the tent every time they move; the monotonous food, the terrifying flights, the occasional disaster, like where one pilot and a number of soldiers are killed in what turns out to have been a raid on one of their own anti-aircraft posts. We feel the increasing pressure as ordinary men struggle to cope with the extraordinary.

However ... though it’s a cracking good read, and although the book is marketed as a mystery, and the whole look of the book reinforces that, with a photo of the downed Kittyhawk on the cover and an intriguing sub-title, the focus of the book is a vividly written account of the pilots’ life in the desert. WWII enthusiasts or flying enthusiasts will love it.
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Reviewer: Marsali Taylor

Jonathan Nicholas has been a professional writer since 2011 when he had a regular column in Police Review magazine and with the publication of his first book 'Hospital Beat'. He has been a full-time author since retiring from the police in 2014. A lifelong aviation enthusiast, he became a glider pilot in 1977 with the Air Cadets and obtained a Private Pilot's Licence in 1978. He is based in Nottingham. --This text refers to the paperback edition.

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

 www.marsalitaylor.co.uk

Bloody Scotland Online 2020 catch up on YouTube

 

 

You can now find most of the events from the 18th - 20th September available on YouTube to catch up if you missed anything. Did you miss Ian Rankin and Lawrence Block in conversation? And Val McDermid and Lee Child? No worries, we've got you!

 

 

The videos will be available until Friday 30th October so make sure you're caught up by then! (Please note: some events have been edited due to permissions or technical issues.)

 

 

To keep up to date with any videos we might upload throughout the year, subscribe to our YouTube channel to be in the know.

 

 

Many thanks to those who already filled out the survey we sent around on Friday. If you still haven't told us how you found the Bloody Scotland 2020 weekend, please do by going to the survey here:

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