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Thursday 30 June 2011

‘Face of the Devil’ by N J Cooper

Published by Simon & Schuster,
7 July 2011.
ISBN: 978-1-84983-286-1 (PB)

Face of the Devil covers ten days.  Set mainly on the Isle of Wight where Suzie Gray is killed – just fifteen years old, and stabbed to death within a short distance of her uncle’s yacht.

With a young man with known psychological problems found at the scene of the crime DCI Trench calls on forensic psychologist Karen Taylor to talk to Olly. But all Olly will say is ‘I was keeping her from the devil’.  But if Olly did stab Suzie, where is the murder weapon? Karen is also disturbed by the attitude of Olly’s father who seems to just want his son locked up. 

Karen has her own problems, in a relationship with Will, a brain surgeon she is still attracted to the moody DCI Charlie Trench.  On the face of it Will is the better bet and everything he does, says he is the right man – so why don’t I like him, why I am looking for him to make a mistake so I can say – ha! Yes, I knew it.  Maybe it’s just me because on the face of it Will is an all round good guy.

As Christmas approaches Karen’s life is complicated by calls from her mother asking when her brother Aiden is arriving from the USA.  Aiden has agreed to go halves with Karen on the development of her old family holiday home.  As Karen seeks to find a way to reach Olly and find out who did kill Suzie she makes a break through within her own life which points her in the right direction.

This is a probing psychological book that reaches out to the reader on two levels, that of an interesting mystery and a deeply fascinating psychological insight into family relationships. Highly recommended.
Reviewer: Lizzie Hayes

   Natasha Cooper, (N J Cooper) has written three series. Her first series featured Willow King, a Civil Servant in London. There are seven books in the series. The titles in her second series featuring Barrister Trish McQuire are  Creeping Ivy, Fault Lines, Prey to All, Out of the Dark, Keep Me Alive, Gagged And Bound, Evil is Done, A Greater Evil, and A Poisoned Mind. Her most recent series features forensic psychologist Karen Taylor, the two earlier books in this series are No Escape and Life Blood. N J  Cooper also writes psychological thrillers under the name of Clare Leyton.

Wednesday 29 June 2011

‘What Lies Beneath’ by Sarah Rayne.

Published by Simon & Schuster,
4 August 2011.
ISBN: 978-1-84737-335-9 (PB)

Although the book starts in the present day when Ella Haywood hears alarming news whilst queuing at the supermarket, the story switches back to 1912 where we meet the Cadence family of Cadence Manor in the village of Priors Bramley, narrated by Crispian Cadence the eldest son, and a series of journals – author initially unknown.

The news that so disturbed Ella Haywood relates back to 1960 when the local council moved the residents from the village of Priors Bramley, re-housing them in the nearby village of Upper Bramley to make way for a road. Then decided to use the village for a chemical weapons experiment. On the morning that the village is to be sprayed with chemicals from the air, three children, Ella Heywood, Veronica and Clem, nine years old walk through the village for the last time, with disastrous results.  They all swear never to tell what happened that morning in Priors Bramley, confident that with the village sealed because of contamination their secret will remain a secret.

Although the seeds for the catastrophe of 1960 were sown in the early 1900’s the full horror does not actually come to light until the present day. This is a gruesome yet utterly absorbing tale, where the sins of the fathers are certainly visited on their children.  For Ella Hayward the past must stay buried, but secrets have a habit of finding their way to the surface.

The descriptive powers of the author are awesome, and the tension rises to a menacing level. Whilst there are some horrific scenes, it is a terribly sad tale.

Brilliantly crafted, Sarah Rayne is a gifted writer. Highly recommended.
Reviewer: Lizzie Hayes

Sarah Rayne's first novel was published in 1982, since then she has published twenty books. Her psychological thrillers are
A Dark Dividing, Tower of Silence, Roots of Evil, Spider Light, The Death Chamber, Ghost Song, House of the Lost and What Lies Beneath.
More recently she has embarked on a series of books with a ghost-theme, featuring the antique dealer, Nell West, and Oxford don, Michael Flint, who first make their appearance in Property of a Lady, which is published this year. 

Tuesday 28 June 2011

A Bedlam of Bones by Suzette A Hill

Published by Constable,
19 July 2011.
ISBN: 978-1-5694-7959-9

Hoping that he has seen the last of Rupert Turnbull following his gory encounter with him in France, see Bones in High Places, Reverend Francis Oughterard (FO) is keen to bury himself in his village of Molehill going about his pastoral duties.  But his sister Primrose has other ideas and soon poor old FO is back in the company of Rupert Turnbull, Rupert's cousin Lavinia Birtle-Figgins, Nicholas Ingaza, not to mention Bishop Horace Clinker, the covert tiddlywinks player.

Despite having during a moment of aberration offed his bothersome parishioner Elizabeth Fotherington in the woods,  see 'A Load of Old Bones', FO is a kindly chap given to chewing humbugs, smoking and playing the piano in times of stress, all accompanied by a few large gins.  So being dragged into shady dealings, FO is totally out of his depth, luckily he has two trusty companions to steer him right, Maurice his disdainful cat, and Bouncer, the dog whom Maurice just about tolerates.

With a blackmailer threatening to `out' Bishop Clinker, FO becomes an unwilling confident. A panic phone call and FO finds himself presented with a dead body.  Attempting to keep the writer Mrs Tubbly Pole from investigating, and pacifying Mavis Briggs how will FO get out of this sticky mess?

Marvellous characters, and with a wonderful turn of phrase. Set in the 1950's, this fifth book in the Molehill series is highly entertaining, and recommended.
Reviewer: Lizzie Hayes

Suzette A Hill is the author of five books in the series set in the 1950’s in the fictional village of Molehill, featuring Reverend Francis Oughterard, Bouncer the dog and Maurice the cat, they are:
A load of Old Bones.
Bones in the Belfry
Bone Idle
Bones in High Places,  
and this final book in the series, A Bedlam of Bones.
What's next Suzette?

Sunday 26 June 2011

A Quiet Death by Marcia Talley

Published by Severn House,
June 2011.
ISBN 978-0-7278-8041-3

Hannah Ives returning home to Annapolis on the metro gets into conversation with a guy clutching a Garfinkel bag – Hannah muses that they went out of business twenty years ago.  The guy who introduces himself as Skip complains about the hot weather.  When the train crashes most of the passengers with Hannah in the front carriage are killed but Hannah survives with just a broken arm, and sits with Skip who is trapped and obviously injured until paramedics arrive.  In the time that they wait Skip confesses to killing someone, but Hannah is too concerned with keeping him conscious to take on board just what he is saying.

When she is discharged from hospital she finds in the sack from the hospital containing her clothes and other effects, the Garfinkel bag.  Her enquires at the hospital for someone called Skip meet with a blank.  In an effort to trace him Hannah opens his bag and finds a number of letters. The fascination of uncovering someone’s life from letters reminded me of Smallbone Deceased by Michael Gilbert when the background to a mystery was solved from the contents of the accumulated documents held by the solicitors over a period of years.  To say that this is a fascinating mystery is an understatement, I was riveted. Couldn’t even put it down to make a sandwich.

I have long been a fan of Marcia Talley’s books and have read them all, and can say that this is the best. Mystery apart my favourite sentence in the book is ‘No scientific instrument yet invented is sensitive enough to measure how little I care about football’. – way to go girl!
Reviewer: Lizzie Hayes

Marcia's first book Sing it to Her Bones, was published in 1999. Since then she has published eight further books in the series  featuring breast cancer surviver Hannah Ives. Titles are: Unbreathed Memories, Occasion of Revenge, In Deaths Shadow, This Enemy Town, Through the Darkness, Dead Men Dancing, Without A Grave,  All Things Undying.

Wednesday 22 June 2011

Crime in the Court

Celebrating Independent booksellers week, David Headley of Goldsboro Books  at 23-25 Cecil Court in the heart of book land London, hosted the book lovers dream - 40 authors gathered to chat with their readers, sign their books and partake of a glass or two of wine on a beautiful evening on the longest day of the year.

Seen on the left in the shop just before the rush arrived, Ayo Onatade, reviewer and CWA Judge of the annual Short Story competition, chatting with Sam Hayes, author of Someone Else’s Son, which has received rave reviews.  
I caught up here with Len Tyler, far left in this photograph. Len’s new book Herring on the Nile will be launched her at Goldsboro books on 5th July. Next to Len is Gaynor Coules, who is the Senior Author Research Co-ordinator at Authors Licensing & Collecting Society Ltd (ALCS). Next to Gaynor Peter Gutteridge. How I got in the picture who knows.

In the shop doorway is Claire McGowan who is the new Director of the CWA. Claire will be publishing her first crime novel with Headline next year. With her is Tom Harper, last year’s CWA chairman. Tom’s latest book is The Lazarus Vault. If it’s as good as The Book of Secrets, you are all in for a treat.

With more and more people pilling into the shop we soon spilled out into Cecil Court. On the left is Ruth Dudley Edwards famous for her marvelous Baroness Ida (Jack) Troutbeck series. Ruth’s latest book is Aftermath, is the story of the Omagh Bombing and the families fight for justice. With Ruth is agent Jane Conway-Gordon. 
Far left Linda Regan actor and writer. Linda’s latest book Brotherhood of Blades published by Severn House is due out next month.  Mystery Women will be organizing an event to publicise Linda’s book. With Linda is Mary Clarke, whose series featuring Georgina Gray, highway woman, has a strong fan base.

Erin Kelly, seen far left is the author of The Poison Tree which is her first novel. I understand that Erin’s second book The Sick Rose is published this month. With Erin is Yvonne Wareham, who tells me that her first romantic thriller will be published next March.

Adrian Magson has two series, last year I attended the launch on 9 Sept of Red Station featuring MI5 agent Harry Tate, and on 30th Sept Death on the Maris featuring Inspector Lucas Rocco. How’s that for prolific output. But there’s more Tracers was published in February and Deceivers will be published later this year. But yet more Death on the Rive Nord comes out in August. With Adrian is David Hewson whose latest book is The Fallen Angel his ninth featuring Nic Costa.

Elena Forbes far left is the author of Die With me and Our Lady of Pain. Her latest book is Evil in Return, just recently published.  With Elena is Laura Wilson, who has written nine books. Her latest series was set during World War 2 featuring Inspector Stratton. The third book in the trilogy A Capital Crime won the CWA Ellis Peters Award.

As you can see the party is now in full swing. Here are left to right Mary Clarke, Linda Regan, Mike Stotter who runs the Shots Crime and Thriller E-zine. And on the far right Robert Goddard, who has written so many marvelous books – where do I start. His latest is Blood Count and I am looking forward to reading it.
Kathy Ackley seen far left has for countless years run crime fiction tours from the USA to the UK. Many times including a stay at the St Hilda’s Crime and Mystery weekend in Oxford, but this year the trip included the now famous CrimeFest Conference in Bristol in May. With Kathy are her stepdaughter Robin and Robin’s husband Terry enjoying a holiday in the UK.

Michael Ridpath is known for his financial thrillers and Alex Caulder series, but is now writing a new series set in Iceland. The latest is 66° North, a review of which is on this blogsite. With Michael is Sam Hayes.
Barry Forshaw is a writer and journalist whose books include British Crime Writing: An Encyclopedia and The Rough Guide to Crime Fiction, along with first UK biography of Stieg Larsson, The Man Who Left Too Soon. He has written on books and films for many newspapers and magazines; he also edits Crime Time. With Barry is Literary Agent Jane Conway-Gordon.
Jake Kerridge, is a journalist and arts critic for the Telegraph. Also reviewer of crime fiction.  With Jake is Ann Magson who was featured two years running in the mystery Women magazine for her marvellous efforts on behalf of breast cancer.  

With Natasha (Centre) are Martin Fletcher and Vicki Mellor of Headline
N J Cooper, writer of the Trish Mcquire series, but more recently her series featuring Karen Taylor and DCI Charlie Trench. The latest is Face of the Devil, a review of which can be found on this site.

All books by these and many other authors are available SIGNED from Goldsboro Books
23-25 Cecil Court London WC2N 4EZ
Tel:+44 (0) 207 497 9230  Fax: +44 (0) 207 497 9230|

Saturday 18 June 2011

The Wreckage by Michael Robotham

Published by Sphere, June 2011.
ISBN: 978-1-84744-221-5

Luca Terracini, is a British journalist currently living in Iraq outside the wire, and investigating a series of bank robberies – eighteen at last count, and the amount involved is millions of dollars – who is doing it, and how are they getting away with it? 

In London ex-cop Vincent Ruiz goes to the aid of a young woman in a bar, but helping her he ends up robbed, taken in by an elaborate scam.  He needs to get back something she and her boyfriend stole so he sets out to track them down.

These two completely isolated unrelated events in separate countries bring both parties into the path of foreign agents and people in high places, not all on the same side but all seeking to keep their secrets buried and to silence anyone who gets in their way.

Holly Knight has stolen something intensely personal from Ruiz but she also has something else, and even though she doesn’t know what she has, she is being hunted for it, and she will be killed as soon as they catch up with her. But who are they? These faceless covert people for whom human life is expendable.

This is top class thriller, that moves from war-torn Iraq to another war, that of the world of banking following the financial crisis. But as we are crashed into the horror of secrets, conspiracy and clandestine operations we also meet the ordinary people unwittingly caught up this maelstrom of terror.  This is one of the best books I have read this year.
Lizzie Hayes

Sunday 12 June 2011

‘Witness’ by Cath Staincliffe

Published by Constable, 21st April 2011: ISBN: 978-1-84901-343-7

When Danny Macateer is shot on a Sunday morning in Hulme, it dramatically effect’s the lives of four people.  Four people who saw, and were inadvertently involved in something they would must certainly have preferred not to have witnessed.

First on the scene is Fiona a midwife, she heard the shot from inside her home and rushing to Danny’s aid tried her best to save his life.  Now she is haunted by the memory and the metallic smell which she can’t seem to get rid of, no matter what she does. Now plagued by panic attacks she is constantly in fear.

For single mother Cheryl, it’s too close, she recognises the car and the killer, but he also knows her.

Mike a delivery man is driving past and sees the actual shooting, he calls an ambulance, but dealing with the police he’s missed nine deliveries. His boss is on his back and when he tells his wife, she freaks out and tells him he must say nothing of what he saw or their lives will be in danger.

Homeless man Zak, is just looking the wrong way at the wrong time.  Living nowhere wandering the streets Zak is vulnerable – would he be safer telling the police what he saw?

Several people know who shot Danny Macateer but will they have the courage to speak out.  This is a heart-searing story as we follow the lives of these four people caught up in abnormal circumstances. 

Brilliantly crafted, a traumatic story in which any one of us could find ourselves involved.  No matter how good a citizen we are, do we have the courage to do the right thing and in doing so put ourselves, and those we love at risk.  Will the witnesses come forward and withstand the pressure of giving evidence?
Lizzie Hayes

Thursday 9 June 2011

Blue Monday by Nicci French

Published by Penquin Michael Joseph,
23 June 2011.
ISBN: 978-0-718-15495-0

In 1987 nine-year-old Rosie Vine is keen to get to the sweet shop. Impatient with her five-year-old sister Joanna she skips ahead, and Joanna is never seen again.

Twenty two years on five-year–old Matthew Farraday is abducted.  PsychotherapistFrieda Klein reads of this in the newspapers and is disturbed when she sees that the  photograph shown of Matthew is the image of a description one of her patients has given to her of a child that haunts him in his dreams. Worried that there could be a connection Frieda contacts the Detective in charge of the case, but Inspector Karisson is sceptical of Frieda’s suspicions.

As Frieda struggles to make sense of her sessions with Alan she begins to suspect a link to an earlier abduction. But the link is tenuous. Dealing with her own personal situation, and set against a backdrop of the labyrinth of London Streets this is compelling reading. The tension is palpable and this is a one sitting read, impossible to put down.

With an unexpected twist this is an incredible piece of writing, I was thrilled to see that this is the start of a series.
Reviewer: Lizzie Hayes
Nicci French

is a pseudonym used by Sean French and Nicci Gerrard,  two London journalists who conceive and write together psychological thrillers.

Wednesday 8 June 2011

66° North by Michael Ridpath

Published by Corvus,
12 May 2011.
ISBN: 978-1-84887-400-8

In January 2009 Iceland is a troubled country, with many lives ruined following the Kreppa (financial crisis).  Many people have marched to the square to stand outside the Parliament building in Reykjavik to protest. Among then is Harpa, who has lost her job in the bank and can no longer pay her mortgage, her brother also can no longer make the payments on his farm, and her father who should be enjoying his retirement has lost all his savings.  But these and similar stories are all around as the angry Icelanders beat drums, saucepans and any kitchen utensils they can get their hands on.  Among such a mêlée Harpa meets a fisherman Bjorn, Sindri Palsson, a writer, and along with some others they vent their anger at the bankers whose greed has created this situation calling for something to be done.  But in the main the demonstration although noisy  is relatively peaceful. The government are relieved that it wasn't worse, no deaths reported, just the suicide of a banker Gabriel Orn.

Sergeant Detective Magnus Jonson of the Boston Police Department is on secondment to Reykjavik following his involvement as a witness in a police corruption scandal in Boston. Magnus is Icelandic born but has lived in the USA since he was twelve. When the National Police Commissioner of Iceland became concerned about big-city crime reaching Iceland he had requested an American Police Detective who had practical experience and spoke Icelandic to give teaching course at the National Police College on crime in the USA.  Magnus was the natural choice.

The murder in London of the Icelandic banker Oskar Gunnarsson brings Magnus back to hands-on police work. Although quite enjoying his teaching he is a detective at heart. Inspector Baldur Jakobsson head of the Violent Crimes Unit is keen to ensure that there is no Icelandic connection, as he does not want Iceland linked to terrorists, but when Magnus looks into the background of Oskar Gunnarsson he learns that he worked at the same bank as Gabriel Orn, indeed he was his boss. Magnus is uneasy with such a coincidence and starts to dig deeper, which puts him in communication with Detective Sergeant Piper of the British police.

As Magnus investigates the possible connection between the two deaths, he comes into contact with an estranged family member, and encouraged by his girlfriend Ingileif he arranges a meeting in the hope of laying to rest some of the traumas in his family's past.   But his meeting only raises more questions - which unbeknown to him reach back to events in 1934, when two young boys stumbled on a secret whilst acting out one of the Icelandic historic Saga's.

As with the first book in this series `Where the Shadows Lie' I learnt much about Iceland, its culture and in particular the historic Saga's.

The two investigations, one international and one personal run concurrently, and both are absorbing. The story is one of anger, helplessness, fear, and in some respects everyone's greed.  As more people in influential positions are murdered Magnus continues to pursue his line of investigation which is not in-line with his superiors. The `whodunit' aspect kept me enthralled to the end. And the final sentence has me leaping up and down for the next book.
Reviewer: Lizzie Hayes

Michael Ridpath was born in Devon in 1961 but brought up in Yorkshire. He was educated at Millfield, Merton College, Oxford. Before becoming a writer, Michael Ridpath used to work in the City of London as a bond trader.  He has written eight thrillers set in the worlds of business and finance. In 2010 he published the Where The Shadows Lie, the first in the Fire and Ice series featuring an Icelandic detective named Magnus Jonson. He has published four further books in the series.  In between the writing the series he has published three standalone novels the most recent being Amnesia in 2017. He lives in London.