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Friday, 23 August 2019

‘Ungentlemanly Warfare’ by Howard Linskey

Published by No Exit Press,
6 June 2019.
ISBN: 978-0-85730-320-2 (PBO)

The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare was how Winston Churchill described the Special Operations Executive, a collection of mavericks who were dropped behind enemy lines to offer help to resistance fighters during the Second World War. It provides fiction writers with a rich seam to mine; its operatives worked 'off the books', and getting results was deemed far more important than playing by the rules – especially since Hitler rewrote the rules to suit himself – so it's easy to invent missions for them.

Howard Linskey's protagonist Captain Harry Walsh is one of those mavericks. Promoted on the battlefield, gentleman he certainly is not, though he has his own code of honour, which includes short shrift for bureaucracy and the kind of authority that has an inflated sense of the importance of having attended the right school. Harry is prepared to break every rule in a library of books when he is sent into France to assassinate a German scientist who has come far too close to perfecting a secret weapon which might make a difference to the outcome of the war.

Linskey creates a scenario which is totally alien to most people: a motley bunch of resistance fighters or Maquisards with varying degrees of skill, holed up in squalid conditions and determined to make life as difficult as possible for the occupying forces. He uses documented history to add colour and realism, and though some of the characters are instantly recognizable from a hundred war movies, they still emerge as genuine people.

Harry Walsh himself is a troubled soul: a survivor of what amounted to a massacre at Dunkirk, a marriage that's pedestrian at best but with no chance of escape, a self-important boss who regards him with contempt. As if that wasn't enough, he's hopelessly in love with feisty fellow operative Emma Stirling, who appears unexpectedly shortly after his own arrival in France.

It all adds up to a pacy, dramatic adventure behind enemy lines, complete with explosions, bombed bridges and railway lines, kidnapping and shoot-outs. There's even a generous sprinkle of name-dropping: real-life people like Ian Fleming and Kim Philby, whose association with SOE is well documented.

Will Harry complete his mission? What will become of him and Emma? Will the Allies win the war? We know the answer to one of those questions. For the other two you'll have to read the book.  And it's well worth reading.-----Reviewer: Lynne Patrick

Howard Linskey has worked as a barman, journalist, catering manager and marketing manager for a celebrity chef, as well as in a variety of sales and account management jobs. He has written for newspapers, magazines and websites on a number of subjects. The Drop was Howard’s debut novel, published by ‘No Exit’ in 2011.Originally from Ferryhill in County Durham, he now lives in Hertfordshire with his wife Alison and daughter Erin.

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.

Wednesday, 21 August 2019

‘Born Bad’ by Heather Burnside

Published by Head of Zeus,
4 April 2019.
ISBN 978-1-78954184-7 (PB)

Born Bad is the first book of a trilogy set in downtown Manchester.  Over three periods, 1973/4,1979/80 and 1983/4, we are given a graphic account of the slow deterioration of the lives of two siblings, Adele and Peter, starting when Peter was ten and Adele a year or so older. With an alcoholic and violent father, Tommy, who resents his children’s existence, and a docile, increasing depressed mother, Shirley, the children have a very uncomfortable home life. Shirley becomes increasing dependent on pills and makes little effort to clean the house or feed her family as she not only accepts, but also defends, the constant physical and verbal abuse handed down from her husband.

Adele is a clever child. She helps her mother as much as she can whilst simultaneously trying to keep up with the schoolwork that she believes will eventually provide her with the means to escape from her horrible life.  She also tries to protect Peter who at the age of ten is already showing signs of becoming a sadistic tear-away. There is, not surprisingly, a strong survival bond between the brother and sister as they look out for and lie for each other.  The only bright point in their lives is Grandma Joyce, Shirley’s mother.  She sees what is happening, but other than providing a little love, kind words and occasional small treats for the children, there is little she can do to relieve their misery.  When she becomes ill, even that solace is removed.

As a teenager Peter indulges in petty crimes. After he does a spell in a young offender’s unit his father throws Peter out. He gradually becomes a hardened and fully-fledged criminal, running his own gang and earning a good living from serious and sometimes violent crime.  Adele’s A-level grades are not good enough to get into university, but she joins a solicitor’s office, carries on with her education and sets up house with a partner.  Now and then we see that Adele has inherited her father’s temper, but for the most part she continues to improve her lot and support her mother. With very different lifestyles the brother and sister drift apart.

Eventually something happens that turns all their lives upside down and brings Adele and Peter together again, but you would need to read the book to discover what that is.

Born Bad is well written and is delightfully easy to read.   The descriptions of places and people are grimly realistic, and not always as depressing as the story might lead you to think.  I found the book unusual in that its main purpose seemed to be to provide background and to develop the characters for the next two parts of the story which I haven’t read. However, if you read part one of this trilogy, such is the strength of Heather Burnside’s characters, I think it is more than likely that you will be drawn into reading parts two and three of the trilogy to see what becomes of Adele and Peter in the next decade of their lives. 
Reviewer Angela Crowther
Heather Burnside has been writing since the late 90s when she returned to work following a career break to raise a family. Heather formerly worked in credit control and became a graduate Member of the Institute of Credit Management, but she decided on a complete career change.  After enrolling with the Writers Bureau in Manchester, she gained a writing diploma and had articles published in several popular UK magazines. Heather then set up a writing services company, providing copywriting and proofreading to a range of clients, and ghostwriting a number of non-fiction books.

Angela Crowther is a retired scientist.  She has published many scientific papers but, as yet, no crime fiction.  In her spare time Angela belongs to a Handbell Ringing group, goes country dancing and enjoys listening to music, particularly the operas of Verdi and Wagner.

Tuesday, 20 August 2019

‘Indian Summer’ by Sara Sheridan

Published by Constable,
9 May 20919.
ISBN: 978-1-47212-711-2 (PBO)

In this, the 7th book in this popular series, Mirabelle Bevan is still living and working in Brighton.  She is brooding over the behaviour of her lover, Superintendent Alan McGregor, and finds herself attracted to the police doctor, Chris Williams.  But, even with work and personal matters to ponder on, she still notices the young girl sitting on the beach.

Mirabelle discovers that Lali is recuperating at a local convalescent home for children with respiratory complaints.  As they talk, Father Grogan, a priest attached to the home, comes looking for the girl and takes her back.  The following morning, however, Lali is sitting opposite Mirabelle’s flat.  Mirabelle decides to walk her to the home and there meets a few of the nurses, including Uma, who looks after Lali.  When Father Grogan is murdered shortly after this, Mirabelle is drawn into the puzzle of what is going on at the home.

The more she finds out, the more concerned she becomes and, following a spate of deaths, she realises that the convalescent home holds the key.  The strands of the investigation put her in danger and she spends a frightening few days’ lost in Brighton’s sewers, before the solution becomes apparent, with consequences for other aspects of her life.

This story has a good sense of place and the atmosphere of the time.  Mirabelle and Vesta, her assistant, are strong, independent and interesting characters and the plot is complex without being overworked.  This is another strong novel and one that her fans will enjoy.  It’s always great for find a new series and the newcomer might like to follow Mirabelle’s story from the beginning, though the book itself  works as a stand-alone
----Reviewer: Jo Hesslewood 

Other books in this series:  Brighton Belle, London Calling, England Expects, British Bulldog, Operation Goodwood, Russian Roulette. 

 Sara Sheridan was born in Edinburgh and studied at Trinity College, Dublin. She works in a wide range of media and genres. Tipped in Company and GQ magazines, she has been nominated for a Young Achiever Award. She has also received a Scottish Library Award and was shortlisted for the Saltire Book Prize. She sits on the committee for the Society of Authors in Scotland (where she lives) and on the board of '26' the campaign for the importance of words. She's taken part in 3 '26 Treasures' exhibitions at the V&A, London, The National Museum of Scotland and the Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green. She occasionally blogs on the Guardian site about her writing life and puts her hand up to being a 'twitter evangelist'. From time to time she appears on radio, most recently reporting for BBC Radio 4's From Our Own Correspondent. Sara is a member of the Historical Writers Association and the Crime Writers Association. A self-confessed 'word nerd' her favourite book is 'Water Music' by TC Boyle. 
Jo Hesslewood.  Crime fiction has been my favourite reading material since as a teenager I first spotted Agatha Christie on the library bookshelves.  For twenty-five years the commute to and from London provided plenty of reading time.  I am fortunate to live in Cambridge, where my local crime fiction book club, Crimecrackers, meets at Heffers Bookshop .  I enjoy attending crime fiction events and currently organise events for the Margery Allingham Society.

Bloody Scotland 20-22 September 2019


Bloody Scotland will again be supporting new writers by pairing established authors with ‘support’ acts just starting out on their crime writing career.
Graeme Macrae Burnet, author of His Bloody Project was famously ‘In the Spotlight’ as a support act for Ian Rankin before it was shortlisted for the Man Booker and the initiative has been praised on Open Book, BBC Radio 4 for being innovative and breaking the boundaries of traditional book festivals.

Authors ‘In the Spotlight’ this year include Judith O’Reilly, a former producer for Newsnight and Channel 4 News who is paired with David Baldacci straight from leading the torchlight procession; Jackie McLean, who volunteered at Bloody Scotland now makes her way on to the main stage herself with Chris Brookmyre and Michael Robotham; Gordon Kerr, who as Head of Marketing at Waterstones selected Alexander McCall Smith as Book of the Month and will now share the stage with the much loved international star and Noelle Holten, better known to everyone in the crime fiction world as the power blogger Crime Book Junkie, who will be on stage with the even more powerful Ian Rankin.
The full list includes authors published by Scottish and English independents, large London conglomerates and some self-published authors with a mix of male and female crime writers. One of last years authors ‘in the spotlight’, Claire Askew who last year took to the stage with Ann Cleeves and Louise Penny has this year been shortlisted for both the debut and the main McIlvanney Prize. The finalists will be revealed on 6 September.

Bloody Scotland is Scotland’s International Crime Writing Festival, providing a showcase for the best crime writing from Scotland and the world, unique in that it was set up by a group of Scottish crime writers in 2012. The festival uses a number of atmospheric, historic venues in Stirling’s Old Town setting it apart from other literary festivals.
Full information & sponsor information at

Tickets are available from or at the Box Office in the Tolbooth Stirling or in the Albert Halls. Free standby tickets are available to the unemployed or those on a low income on the day of the event if there is good availability. Proof of eligibility is required and tickets are limited to one person. A 10% discount is available to people residing in the Stirling Council area. You must give your address at the time of booking.
Visit for details.

Thursday, 15 August 2019

42 Days to Capital Crime

Weekend Passes £150
Day Passes £80
But hurry, they're selling fast!
Thanks to our sponsors and people who’ve already bought tickets we’ve been able to reduce ticket prices to £150 for a weekend pass and £80 for a day pass. These represent incredible value for money and make Capital Crime a truly mass participation, accessible event. We’re also still offering discounted tickets for librarians and people on low income.
At these new prices, tickets are selling very fast. Our spectacular venue, the Grand Connaught Rooms, has strict rules on capacity, so if you don’t have a ticket, you won’t be able to come – not even to hang out at our amazing bar

So don’t miss out. If you want to be certain of being part of our amazing festival, you need to book your tickets today.

Click here to visit and book now. 
See you at the festival.
Best wishes
David & Adam

PS. Existing customers will be refunded the difference between the new ticket prices and their purchase price, so it's a win for everyone.

Crime Fiction: A Reader's Guide by Barry Forshaw

Are you a lover of crime fiction looking for new discoveries or hoping to rediscover old favourites?
Then look no further.

There are few contemporary crime fiction guides that cover everything from the golden age to current bestselling writers from America, Britain and all across the world, but the award-winning Barry Forshaw, one of the UK's leading experts in the field, has provided a truly comprehensive survey with definitive coverage in this expanded new edition of the much admired
Rough Guide to Crime Fiction.
Every major writer is included, along with many other more esoteric choices. Focusing on a key book (or books) by each writer, and with essays on key crime genres, Crime Fiction: A Reader's Guide is designed to be both a crime fan's shopping list and a pithy, opinionated but unstuffy reference tool and history. Most judgements are generous (though not uncritical), and there is a host of entertaining, informed entries on related films and TV.
Foreword by Ian Rankin; available to pre-order from Amazon @ £14.99

‘Council’ by Snorri Kristjansson

Published by Jo Fletcher Books,
16 May 2019.
ISBN: 978 1 78429 8104

As with earlier novels by the same author this one, a masterful thriller, has the Viking world at the core of the story. And what a story.  Helga Finnsdottir, who featured in Kin, the first in this murder mystery series, has gained a reputation as a highly regarded healer and herbalist and when several slayings occur in mysterious circumstances that couldn’t possibly be accidental, it is she who suspects foul play and makes it her business to track down and nail the killer.  

Helga is now living in Uppsala and King Eirik has summoned a Council to which the chieftains of various tribes have been invited.   A ruthless character from Helga’s past takes centre stage but Helga feels confident the hostility of this woman can be ably managed because, in a relationship with a hunk, true love has given Helga wings.

  Helga is a natural and shrewd observer of humankind, knows when to speak up and when to keep her own counsel. Grundle, her proud mare with long-lashed eyes, is the confidante who keeps her grounded and there is a palpable symbiosis between them.

Delegations arrive from every corner of the country, the mood becomes dark and tempers reach boiling point. An attack by rivals is rumoured to be imminent, it is evident   that a traitor stalks the land and the stakes have never been higher. 

The author brings the Viking age vividly to life, the plot is skillfully crafted,  the characters fleshed out and entirely believable and the story is enthralling, original and well paced.  It would make a hugely enjoyable TV mini-series as it contains all the elements of an unusual and intriguing drama.
Reviewer: Serena Fairfax
Snorri Kristjansson was born in Reykjavik in 1974. He has since lived in Norway, London and now Edinburgh with his wife, where he dabbles in classical acting and stand-up comedy while teaching English.  His fantasy series, The Valhalla Saga, and his crime series, Kin and Council, are published by Jo Fletcher Books. They both have Vikings in, so expect moderate cursing and beards,

Serena Fairfax spent her childhood in India, qualified as a lawyer in England and practised in London for many years. She began writing by contributing feature articles to legal periodicals   then turned her hand to fiction. Having published nine novels all, bar one, hardwired with a romantic theme, she has also written short stories and accounts of her explorations off the beaten track that feature on her blog. A tenth, distinctly unromantic, novel is a work in progress. Thrillers, crime and mystery narratives, collecting old masks and singing are a few of her favourite things.


Could you be the next Martina Cole,
Lynda La Plante or Ian Rankin?

Capital Crime and the DHH Literary Agency have launched an innovative new competition for aspiring crime and thriller authors.

To enter, all you need to do is visit
 and upload the first three chapters of your unpublished novel.

Everyone who buys a ticket to attend Capital Crime will be able to read your entry and vote for their favourite. The authors of the ten highest placed entries will be revealed on Thursday 19th September and the winner, judged by the Capital Crime team from the top ten entries, will be announced at Capital Crime’s opening night cocktail party on Thursday 26th September to the readers, agents and publishers in attendance.

The competition costs £10 to enter and entries close at midnight on Wednesday 18th September 2019. The names of the ten most popular entrants will be announced the next day. The overall winner will be announced on the 26th September and will receive a trophy and a prize of £250.

Good luck!

Stephen Booth - His new book published today.

‘Drowned Lives by Stephen Booth
Published by Sphere, 
15 August 29019.
ISBN: 978-0-7515-7628-3 (HB)

When the author of a favourite series turns his hand to something different, there are sure to be mixed reactions. But fans of Stephen Booth's Cooper and Fry need have no qualms: his sideways move to the canals of the south midlands is up there with the best of the Peak District series.

Apart from cracking good plots, Booth's novels seem to specialize in two things: repairing damaged souls, and bringing locations to such realistic life that you feel as if you're there. In Drowned Lives, his protagonist Chris Buckley drinks too much and has lost his sense of adventure after a repressed childhood and a succession of personal misfortunes and disappointments. So, when he is approached by an elderly man seeking help in mending an old family feud, his first reaction is to back away.

But fate intervenes, and Chris finds himself not only looking into the historical origins of the feud but also trying to solve a murder which the police have written off as a hit-and-run accident. Needless to say, things prove very complicated, in the past as well as the present, and both help and hindrance come from some unexpected quarters.

Booth assembles as varied a cast of characters as in any of the Peak District series, and some turn out to be quite different from the initial image they present. I especially enjoyed the spiky relationships between Chris Buckley and the opposite sex, mainly (but far from exclusively) his assertive neighbour Rachel and snooty Caroline Longden. Even minor players, like slightly smarmy MP Lindley Simpson and DC Hanlon with her detective's suspicious mind, leave a lasting impression.

For readers familiar with Stephen Booth's vivid evocation of the Peak District, his equally detailed conjuring of the canals around Lichfield and the unique juxtaposition of ancient and modern in the city itself will come as no surprise. This almost tactile background, with its narrowboats, overgrown banks and wealth of history, gives the novel a richness and texture that raises it far above the mainstream of crime fiction.

The underlying mystery and the moments of high drama place the novel firmly in the crime genre, but the mix of ingredients adds up to far more. There are elements of history, a romance strand, even a touch of coming-of-age (even though Chris Buckley is in his thirties!). Drowned Lives is Stephen Booth at the top of his game. 
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick 

Stephen Booth was born in the English Pennine mill town of Burnley. He was brought up on the Lancashire coast at Blackpool, where he attended Arnold School. He began his career in journalism by editing his school magazine, and wrote his first novel at the age of 12. After graduating from City of Birmingham Polytechnic (now Birmingham University), Stephen moved to Manchester to train as a teacher, but escaped from the profession after a terrifying spell as a trainee teacher in a big city comprehensive school.  Starting work on his first newspaper in Wilmslow, Cheshire, in 1974, Stephen was a specialist rugby union reporter, as well as working night shifts as a sub-editor on the Daily Express and The Guardian. This was followed by periods with local newspapers in Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire. He was at various times Production Editor of the Farming Guardian magazine, Regional Secretary of the British Guild of Editors, and one of the UK's first qualified assessors for the NVQ in Production Journalism.  Freelance work began with rugby reports for national newspapers and local radio stations. Stephen has also had articles and photographs published in a wide range of specialist magazines, from Scottish Memories to Country lovers Magazine, from Cat World to Canal and Riverboat, and one short story broadcast on BBC radio. In 1999, his writing career changed direction when, in rapid succession, he was shortlisted for the Dundee Bool Prize and the Crime Writers' Association Debut Dagger competition for new writers, then won the £5,000 Lichfield Prize for his unpublished novel The Only Dead Thing, and signed a two-book contract with HarperCollins for a series of crime novels.  In 2000, Stephen's first published novel, Black Dog, marked the arrival in print of his best-known creations - two young Derbyshire police detectives, DC Ben Cooper and DS Diane Fry. Black Dog was the named by the London Evening Standard as one of the six best crime novels of the year - the only book on their list written by a British author. In the USA, it won the Barry Award for Best British Crime Novel and was nominated for an Anthony Award for Best First Mystery. The second Cooper & Fry novel, Dancing with the Virgins, was shortlisted for the UK's top crime writing award, the Gold Dagger, and went on to win Stephen a Barry Award for the second year running.  The publication of Blind to the Bones that year resulted in Stephen winning the Crime Writers' Association's 'Dagger in the Library' Award, presented to the author whose books have given readers most pleasure. There are now 18 books in the series. All are set in England's beautiful and atmospheric Peak District.

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.

The Almanack by Martine Bailey

Published by Severn House,
31 January 2019.
ISBN 978-0-7278-8863-1 (HB)

From the beginning this book has unusual features.  Authentic Eighteenth-century riddles preface each chapter and provide interesting puzzles (all the answers are provided at the end!).  The title The Almanack also holds great significance as the story reveals.   Almanacks were highly popular books like Old Moore’s almanac; they contained predictions for actual dates couched in ambiguous terms rather like Star sign predictions in our own day.   Riddles and other items varied according to the particular almanac you bought and would be related to your part of the country.
The setting here is a Cheshire village in 1752 when Tabitha Hart returns from an exciting life in London to find that her mother has died.  Tabitha is returning at her mother’s request but doesn’t know why her mother was agitated.  Nor does Tabitha believe in the villagers’ view that her mother’s mind was disordered and that she died by drowning.  A visitor to the village, Nat Starling, joins with Tabitha to investigate what happened to her mother.  Both of them have their own secrets.   More macabre events occur and the attitudes of society at that time are shown in all their horrors for those without privilege - from the vicar receiving tithes from the poor to the lord of the manor trying to exert droit de seigneur.   The year 1752 holds significance as the year when the calendar was amended to bring it into line with the rest of Europe and 11 days were omitted in September.
Martine has a mastery of her material and the whole panoply of Eighteenth society seen from a northern village is revealed.   The mysteries at the heart of the tale are gradually elucidated successfully.
Reviewer: Jennifer S. Palmer
Martine Bailey has written two previous historical crime novels -
An Appetite for Violets and The Penny Heart.

Martine Bailey entered cookery contest with no idea it would lead to a life-changing obsession with French cuisine. As an amateur cook, Martine won the Merchant Gourmet Recipe Challenge and was a former UK Dessert Champion, cooking at Le Meurice in Paris. Inspired by eighteenth-century household books of recipes, An Appetite for Violets invites readers to feast on the past as a sharp-witted young cook is taken on a mysterious trip to Italy. In pursuit of authenticity Martine studied with food historian Ivan Day and experienced Georgian food and fashion at firsthand with an historic re-enactment society. Martine lives in Cheshire, England and Auckland, New Zealand. She is married with one son. The almanack is her latest book. Published in January 2019.

Jennifer Palmer Throughout my reading life crime fiction has been a constant interest; I really enjoyed my 15 years as an expatriate in the Far East, the Netherlands & the USA but occasionally the solace of closing my door to the outside world and sitting reading was highly therapeutic. I now lecture to adults on historical topics including Famous Historical Mysteries.