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Wednesday 29 February 2012

‘Death Bed’ by Leigh Russell

Published by No Exit Press,
May 2012. 
ISBN: 978-1-84243-594-6

DI Geraldine Steel has accepted a new position in London.  She has purchased a flat in Islington, is packed and ready to embrace her new life, now all she has to do is break the news to her sister Celia.

On her first day at Hendon the body of a young black girl is found wrapped in a black bin liner and Geraldine has her first case.  Her new Sergeant is Sam Haley, informal and friendly, but Geraldine had been told to expect that in the Met things are very different from Kent Constabulary.  Even her boss DCI Reg Milton says, call me Reg.

Whilst investigating the death of the young black girl, a second body is found, also of a black girl, and the pressure to find the killer intensifies.  Both girls have had two teeth extracted and both were badly beaten.

Keen to prove herself in her new job, Geraldine checks and rechecks every bit of information, maybe not endearing herself to her colleagues. But Geraldine is by nature a loner.  Only since the death of her mother has she discovered that she was adopted, and she is determined to track down her birth mother.  

The book has multiple third person narrators but the main voice is Geraldine’s, a complex and interesting character. The avenues that she explores to find the killer are those of a meticulous and driven person. Geraldine draws the reader in – we want her to succeed, we know she can.

Leigh Russell has created a strong and fascinating protagonist in Geraldine Steel.  Whilst Geraldine relentlessly pursues the killer, we the reader are with her, but aware that there are still layers of mystery to Geraldine Steel, and I avidly await the next book to learn what happens next for Geraldine Steel, in both her professional and personal life.  A marvellous entry in this highly acclaimed series.
Lizzie Hayes
For all you collectors out there, I am advised that there is a special signed/numbered edition of this book which can only be purchased from the No Exit website:

Leigh Russell is the author of four books Cut Short, Road Closed, Dead End, and this latest book Death Bed, published May 2012. Cut Short (2009) was shortlisted for the CWA New Blood Dagger Award for Best First Novel. Leigh studied at the University of Kent gaining a Masters degree in English and American literature. A secondary school teacher, specializing in supporting pupils with Specific Learning Difficulties as well as teaching English, Leigh Russell is married with two daughters and lives in Middlesex.

Tuesday 28 February 2012

‘The Fall’ by Claire McGowan

Published by Headline,
2 February 2012.
ISBN: 978-0-7553-8633-8

The lives of two girls who would normally be unlikely to meet become entwined through a series of events that spiral out of control.

Charlotte has a comfortable life, she lives in a smart flat and is currently planning her expensive wedding – well why not, she is about to marry a wealthy young banker.  Unfortunately, she is so caught up with, will the colour of the table napkins clash with the flowers that she fails to notice that all is not well with wealthy banker Dan Stockbridge. 

In  a poorer district of London light years away in monetary terms but not that far as the crow flies, Keisha is struggling with social services to get her daughter back. Still living with Chris Dean she is fighting a losing battle, as Chris is the reason her daughter was taken away in the first place.

With Dan in a strange mood Charlotte agrees to go with him to a club in Camden, although Camden on a Friday night is not where Charlotte would want to be, but Dan has some cocaine and soon Charlotte is flying!   The altercation at the club is a foggy memory to Charlotte, all she can recall is Dan shouting that his credit card is OK. Then the police are hammering at the door of their flat, Dan is arrested for murder and Charlotte’s world collapses – well it does, but Charlotte doesn’t actually realise it has. As things like this don’t happen to Charlotte it takes her a while to wake up to her situation.   When confronted by Keisha on her door step she begins a journey very different to the one on which she was set just a few days ago.

Investigating the case is DC Matthew Hegarty, who, whilst initially convinced of Dan’s culpability is swayed by Charlotte’s beauty. But the key to it all is Keisha, who really just wants her daughter back, but is conflicted with loyalty to her teenage lover Chris.

The story is told by Charlotte, Keisha and DC Hegarty.  Very much a story of today, as high earners lose their jobs, totally unprepared for the reality of life without a big salary.   Although Charlotte is convinced that Dan is innocent, does she have the ability to fight for him - can she adjust to the new circumstances in which she finds herself? Will she even try, when the people she counted as friends are suddenly no longer there? 

This is an amazing first book, with insightful characterisation. We will be no doubt hearing more of Claire McGowan. High Recommended.
Lizzie Hayes

Claire McGowan. Born in 1981, grew up in a small village in Northern Ireland. After a degree in English and French from Oxford University she moved to London and worked in the charity sector. She is currently the Director of the Crime Writers’ Association. The Fall is her first novel.

Wednesday 22 February 2012

‘To Tell the Truth’ by Anna Smith

Published by Quercus,
9th February 2012. 
ISBN: 978-0-85738-296-2

Jenny and Martin Lennon and their three-year-old daughter Amy are on holiday with friends on the Costa del Sol, when Amy is abducted from the beach outside their villa. 

Journalist Rosie Gilmour is also holidaying in Spain, but a call from her editor Mick Mcguire in Glasgow has her driving to Marbella to cover the story.  Arriving at the villa Rosie is just one more journalist camping outside the Lennon’s holiday villa. But Rosie is not one to let grass grow under her feet she devises a plan to speak with the Lennons.  When she does she becomes cognisant that there is more to the situation than has been reported in the press. How much should she reveal? Later at her hotel she is approached by a rent boy who has information about the abduction, and she realises that she has been presented with information that the young rent boy doesn’t realise is dynamite.   Rosie has information that puts her on the inside track in more ways than one.

As she pursues her story she uncovers so much more than the abduction of Amy Lennon. Soon Rosie is walking a very fine line between keeping her editor happy and pursuing the abductors, for whom human life is cheap. 

The story moves at a cracking pace as several parties become involved in finding Amy, all have  different reasons, but basically all have the same goal.  An exciting climax to the story which ends with winners and losers, but whilst cheering for the winners one might want to shed a tear for some of the losers.  An emotional and explosive mystery.  Highly recommended.
Lizzie Hayes

Anna Smith has been a journalist for over twenty years and is a former chief reporter for the Daily Record. She has covered wars across the world as well as major investigations and news stories. To Tell the Truth is the second thriller featuring journalist Rosie Gilmour, and the follow-up to The Dead Won't Sleep.

Sunday 19 February 2012

‘Legacy of Blood’ by Alex Connor

Published by Quercus,
19 January 2012.
ISBN: 978-1-84916-362-0

In London 1732, Polly Gunnell has become notorious as a model to Master William Hogarth, the famous painter. But cocking a snoop at the world through William Hogath’s art has brought plump pretty Polly to a violent end - she and the boy child, both left for dead, to be buried by William Hogarth.

Centuries later Australian millionaire Bernie Freeland, has invited a select number of art dealers to fly back to London from Hong Kong on his private plane. The flight has just seven passengers, including three of the best escorts in the business - one with a sense of humour, which results in a disclosure that brings death to a number of the passengers within a short time of landing.

This is a story of loyalty, greed and survival, as the guardians of a painting protected for three hundred years becomes sought after by a number of unscrupulous buyers.

Legacy of Blood is an intricate conspiracy mystery that twists and turns at an amazing pace. The flash backs to the 1700’s are related by William Hogarth, but the present day narrative is by Sir Oliver Peters, and by Victor Ballam  a disgraced art dealer, just released from prison, who is retained to find the painting.  As the story progressed I could not see how the story would pan out. As a long-time reader of crime fiction I can often see generally where a story will end, but this one had me totally foxed.  The end is quite simply stunning – an unexpected take your breath away ending, that I didn’t for a moment foresee. 

Cleverly plotted, Alex Conner is a gifted writer and I am eagerly awaiting her next book.
Lizzie Hayes

Alex Connor  is an art historian and working artist.  Her interest in painting and art history has now sparked her interest in writing thrillers set in the art world. The first was The Rembrandt Secret about Rembrandt; the second has just been published, Legacy of Blood, is about Hogarth, and the third is to be published in August 2012 about Goya. Alex first started painting and writing after she was stalked and beaten up. During her convalescence she studied hard, and finally reached the point where she was able to write about all her passions, bringing in her insider knowledge. In order to get into the mind set of the artist about which she is writing Alex paints one of their pictures. She painted Rembrandt’s Old Woman, when she was writing The Rembrandt Secret, and did a copy of Hogarth’s Self Portrait when she was writing Legacy of Blood.

Alex has talked on TV and Radio about many facts that are new to the public. She was a presenter on This Morning for a strand called PAST MASTERS which was based on her non fiction book on art The Wrong Side of the Canvas which was published in UK and USA about artists’ lives.   For more details about Alex visit her web site


Friday 17 February 2012

‘The Flight’ by M R Hall

Published by Mantle,
17th February 2012. 
ISBN: 978-230-75491-1 (Trade Paperback

When Ransome Airways Flight 189, bound for New York with 600 passengers and crew on board, plummet’s into the Severn Estuary shortly after leaving Heathrow, it falls into North Somerset’s Coroners jurisdiction, but two bodies wash up in the jurisdiction of Severn Vale District Coroner Jenny Cooper.

Jenny is currently investigating an unexplained fatal car accident, and along with her current case load is relieved that she doesn’t have the job of ca 600 bodies to deal with.  And when she is contacted by her immediate boss to transfer her two bodies to the temporary D-Mort (Disaster Mortuary) that has been set up in North Somerset, she puts matters in motion to effect the transfer.  But her initial inspection of the bodies throws up the fact that one of the bodies was not a passenger on the fated airliner, but a sailor in the wrong place at the wrong time, the other is that of a ten-year-old girl.

The crashed plane is the world’s largest commercial airliner the Airbus A380, designed to carry five-hundred and twenty-five passengers in a normal three class configuration - Ransome Airlines had managed to squeeze in closer to six hundred.  As you will surmise a crash of such magnitude demands extensive investigation as to what happened to this airplane that has a sophisticated network of computers and electronics. And the relative investigation bodies swing into action with alacrity. 

This is a David and Goliath story, as Jenny Cooper continues to conduct her own investigation even when warned off. This screams to her ‘cover-up’ and we are with her all the way.  Whilst she is under pressure from her boss to leave matters alone, she also has to deal with the grieving mother of the ten-year-old dead girl, who brings some big guns to pressurise Jenny.  Not to mention the continual disapproval of everything she does by Alison Trent her own officer.

Apart from an intriguing mystery and interesting facts about air travel, there is some marvellous characterisation, I loved Detective Inspector Williams who will do anything to get one over ‘the bastard English’.

One of those books that you can’t put down, or turn the pages fast enough to find out what happened next.  Don’t miss it.
Lizzie Hayes

M R Hall was born in London in 1967 and educated at Hereford Cathedral School and Worcester College, Oxford.  He is a Bafta nominated screen writer, producer and former criminal barrister.  His debut novel The Coroner, was published by Pan Macmillan in the UK in 2009 and was nominated for the Crime Writer’s Association Gold Dagger for best first novel. Since then he has published three further books featuring Coroner Jenny Cooper, The Disappeared, The Redeemed, and this latest book The Flight.  Matthew lives with his wife and two sons in the Wye valley in South Wales and spends much of his spare time looking after his sixteen acres of woodland and working for the conservation of the countryside.

Wednesday 15 February 2012

‘The Cadaver Game’ by Kate Ellis

Published by Piatkus, February 2012.
ISBN: 978-0-7499-5367-6

An anonymous telephone call points the police to the discovery of a dead body at a cottage in Morbay.  The place is rented to a Tessa Trencham but the body has been lying there a while, and the maggots have been busy so visual identification is not possible.  Investigating are DI Wesley Peterson and his boss DCI Gerry Heffernan. Whilst they are seeking dental records, the bodies of two teenagers are found naked and shot.

Always short of money for his digs archaeologist Neil Watson, Wesley’s university friend, has reluctantly accepted a bizarre commission from an artist, who has permission from the son of the owner of Catton Hall to dig up a ‘Feast of Art’ in one of his fields, but Neil is having a hard job, keeping his volunteers motivated.

Running along side the current investigations is a separate story of manhunts in 1815 and related through two journals, one kept by John Tandy, a jester and the other by Christopher Wells, steward to Squire Edward Catton, an ancestor of the curent owner of Catton Hall. 

Searching for a motive for the killing of the teenagers, Wesley discovers that they were both playing an online game, Blood Hunt.  Could they be playing this online game for real?  And if so, who is the organiser?

Intricately plotted this is an absorbing tale, as the past merges into the present.   Who could be running human hunts?  How fascinating is it that history could be repeating it self.

A dual tale of human hunting that gives us pause for thought. Can this happen today? 
Highly recommended.
Lizzie Hayes

Kate Ellis was born and brought up in Liverpool and she studied drama in Manchester. She worked in teaching, marketing and accountancy before first enjoying writing success as a winner of the North West Playwrights competition. Crime and mystery stories have always fascinated her, as have medieval history and archaeology which she likes to incorporate in her books. She is married with two grown up sons and she lives in North Cheshire, England, with her husband and Vivaldi the cat.
Kate's novels feature archaeology graduate Detective Sergeant Wesley Peterson who fights crime in the "mean streets" (or should it be "mean lanes"?) of South Devon.  Each story combines an intriguing contemporary murder mystery with a parallel historical case. She has also written three books in the spooky Joe Plantagenet series set up in North Yorkshire as well as many  crime fiction anthologies and magazines. She is a member of the Crime Writers Association and she is currently working on her sixteenth Wesley Peterson novel.

Friday 10 February 2012

‘A Narrow Return’ by Faith Martin

Published by Robert Hale & Co
29th February 2012.
ISBN: 978-0-7090-9476-0

A Narrow Return is a welcome return for this reviewer. I have greatly enjoyed the vicissitudes’ of DI Hillary Greene over the last ten books and felt mighty sad when she retired, upped anchor and chugged away in her narrowboat, see A Narrow Exit. But here she is back in her familiar part of the Oxford canal, and how glad I am.

Her old boss Superintendent Marcus Donleavy is delighted to have her back and has assigned her as a consultant to the Crime Review Team headed up by Superintendent Steven Crayle,  who sounds as sexy as Paul Danvers who had fancied Hillary for years but has now moved on.  But Steven Crayle has his sights set on fast promotion, and aware of Hillary’s high success rate in catching criminals doesn’t want to be overshadowed, so he gives her a really cold case, the murder of Annie McRae more than twenty years ago, found dead in her home in the village of Chesterton in June 1991, by her thirteen-year-old daughter Lucy.  Steven is confident that there is no way she could possibly solve the case.  Indeed as Hillary reads the case notes and interviews the family she is aware that the SIO who lead the investigation team DI Andrew Squires appears to have had conducted a fair and through investigation.

Soon Hillary has sorted her team and found a like mind in James Jessop, as she digs deeper into the background of the McRae family.  Although thrilled to be back at work all is not plain sailing for Hillary, she has acquired a stalker.

I read this in one sitting, couldn’t put it down.  I applaud the author’s foresight in retiring Hillary Greene only to bring her back in a completely new set of circumstances, giving her a different job and a new team.  Whilst we have a complete story here, the author has also left a couple of tantalising hooks to keep me eager to see what happens next for Hillary Greene.   

Faith Martin is an English author who was born in Oxford. She currently is living on a narrow boat, and is best known for writing a series of books set around Oxfordshire, with the starring character being DI Hillary Greene. Hillary Greene lives on a narrow boat, and this is a link to why all of the books in her series - currently 11 - have the word 'narrow' in the title

Thursday 2 February 2012

‘A Room Full of Bones’ by Elly Griffiths

Published by Quercus,
19th January 2012. 
ISBN: 978-1-84916-366-8

Dr Ruth Galloway, Head of Forensic Archaeology at the University of North Norfolk, is due to attend the opening of the coffin of a medieval bishop at the local museum in King’s Lynn.  Ruth arrives early only to discover the museum’s curator dead on the floor beside the coffin.

The museum is owned by Lord Smith who also owns the nearby racing stables. As DI Harry Nelson investigates, a number of threatening letters come to light demanding that the museum’s collection of Aboriginal skulls brought back to the UK by Lord Smith’s explorer grandfather are returned to their native land.  The group call themselves The Elginists who want the skulls returned to their spirit land so that they can enter the Dreaming, explains Ruth’s friend Cathbad, who unsurprisingly is a member of The Elginists.  Cathbad has featured in all the earlier books in this series but I liked him more in this book – he is growing on me. Ruth asks to see these skulls and is amazed when she is shown into a room literally full of bones, the description of this airless room full of bones was unnerving - the sort of thought that sends a shiver down ones spine.

Although a modern day mystery, there is much that is fey about this tale, as the writer weaves beliefs of the past into the present day, I became utterly absorbed as the story unfolded. 

There are several unexpected events in this book that move Ruth’s life into a different sphere, whether they are permanent or temporary does of course have this reader eager for the next instalment.  Another wonderful entry in this justifiable highly acclaimed series.
Lizzie Hayes

Elly Griffiths is the author of a series of crime novels set in England’s Norfolk county and featuring forensic archaeologist Ruth Galloway. The first in the series, Crossing Places, earned a good deal of praise both in Griffiths’ native country, England, and in the U.S. The Literary Review termed it “a cleverly plotted and extremely interesting first novel, highly recommended.  Since then Elly has written three further novels featuring forensic archaeologist, The Janus Stone, The House at Seas End and this latest book A Room Full of Bones.