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Friday 28 February 2014

‘The Riot’ by Laura Wilson

Published by Quercus,
29 August 2013.
ISBN: 978-1-78206-305-6

The atmosphere of rising menace in 1960s London is palpable. The problems caused by the arrivals of many black immigrants who then live in a crowded area of London are expressed firstly in harsh words but then in actions. The slums in which the new arrivals are forced to live cheek by jowl with some of those who resent them worsen the situation. Added to this explosive mix are other troubled individuals - Jewish escapees from Hitler's mistreatment who carry their own traumas.
Laura Wilson brilliantly conveys this seething hive of activity enabling the reader to appreciate individual characters and responses. Detective Inspector Stratton has just moved to Notting Hill and has to find out very quickly how his new manor works. As he investigates a murder of the rent collector for one of the notorious landlords, ex-Polish refugee Danny Perlman, and meets the vulnerable Irene who is teetering on the edge of going on the game the cauldron spills over into racial violence.
The story is a gripping one and Stratton is an appealing protagonist. There are previous books about him and they are occasionally alluded to but this book stands alone successfully. Laura is a mistress of the psychological crime novel.
Reviewer: Jennifer Palmer

Laura Wilson was brought up in London and has degrees in English literature from Somerville College, Oxford, and UCL, London. She lives in Islington, London, where she is currently working on her twelfth novel. She is the crime fiction reviewer for the Guardian newspaper, and teaches on the City University Crime Thriller Novel Creative Writing MA course.

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.

‘Next to Die’ by Neil White

Published by Sphere,
Sept 2013.

I actually bought three of Neil’s earlier books on Kindle. They were set around the Lancashire mill towns and villages dotted around the Pennines and I enjoyed them all so I opened his new book with eager anticipation.
For Next to Die, Neil has moved his scene of operations to Manchester and his heroes are two brothers. Joe is a criminal defence lawyer, Sam is a detective. Years ago, their teenage sister was raped and murdered and the aftermath of this shapes their lives.

Joe is defending Ronnie Bagley who is charged with killing his partner and their daughter whose bodies have not been found. He has specifically asked for Joe to represent him. Sam is investigating the fate of several missing young girls, all of whom have connections to people who helped send a convicted rapist and killer called Ben Grant to prison.

The brothers’ progress is dealt with alternately chapter by chapter with occasional intersections of someone cutting the hair from his young female victims and anticipating killing them.
By page 200, I was only half way through and feeling nostalgia for the days when crime novels were pacy and the smart detectives had the case wrapped up in 192 pages. But that’s what happens to all authors these days. Publishers want The Big Book followed by The Big Hype.  My main gripe was the total lack of humour in the book.  These brothers are serious men, the death of their sister a permanent cloud hanging over their lives, and the crimes themselves are unpleasant as are most of the characters in the book. No light and shade here. Just shade.
Having said that, this was a cleverly constructed and completely plausible plot with enough questions left over in the brothers’ lives to make at least one sequel likely and probably a series.   Let's hope the follow-ups are brighter.
Reviewer: Ron Ellis
Neil White was born in 1965 in Mexborough, a small South Yorkshire mining town. , But after a brief period his parents moved back to where they started, Wakefield in West Yorkshire. Neil is a criminal lawyer and a writer. During the day in court. At night writing crime fiction. It is as simple as that.

Ron Ellis. Writer, Broadcaster and Photographer, Ron is the author of the popular series of crime novels set on Merseyside featuring Liverpool radio D.J./Private Eye, Johnny Ace.
He also writes the D.C.I. Glass mystery series. As well as his fiction titles, Ron has written 'Southport Faces' a social history of the town seen through the eyes of 48 of its best-known residents. His 'Journal of a Coffin Dodger', the hilarious adventures of an 84 year old playboy, has been serialised on BBC Radio and poems from his collection of poetry, 'Last of the Lake Poets', have won several nationwide competitions.
During the 1980's, he conducted over 192 interviews with friends and relatives of John Lennon for Albert Goldman's biography, 'The Lives of John Lennon'.
Ron writes the football reports for the Southport Champion and is also their theatre and arts reviewer as well as being a regular contributor to magazines such as Lancashire Life.
He runs his own publishing company, Nirvana Books.

Thursday 27 February 2014

‘Deadly Harvest’ by Michael Stanley

Published by Bourbon Street Books,
May 2013.
ISBN:  978-0-06-222152-0

This is the fourth title of a series set in Botswana and featuring Detective Kubu and introducing a new character, Samantha Khama. Michael Stanley is actually a pseudonym for the two authors, Stanley Trollip and Michael Sears. The theme is the practice of muti, a traditional African medicine derived from plants, animals and at worst from human beings. Belief in muti is widespread in Botswana and reinforced by fear of those witch doctors who practice muti.

The story begins with the disappearance of a young girl. Investigation by the police is non-existent until Samantha Khama is given the case for her first detective assignment. Then another young girl disappears and her father, desperate with grief and police non-action and believing that she was abducted for sexual purposes by the rising young politician William Marumo, kills him and goes on the run. But a search of Marumo's house by a forensic team under the direction of Kubu reveals the presence of muti. Marumo's death is followed by the disappearance of the albino Mabulo Owido. The trail that Kubu and Samantha follow leads them through the bars and drinking dens of Botswana's capital Gaberone (I particularly liked the bar called Big Mama Knows All), encounters with witch doctors good and bad and corruption among the police and elsewhere to the eventual uncovering of the truth behind the disappearance of not just two but many young girls as well as that of Owido.

Deadly Harvest is the first in this series I have read. It is a truly impressive crime novel. The characters are complex and mature and Kubu in particular with his warm and happy family life and his compassionate and intuitive intelligence is especially attractive. I shall be searching out the earlier titles in the series and eagerly awaiting the next.
Reviewer: Radmila May
Previous books by Michael Stanley: A Carrion Death, The Second Death of Goodluck Tinubu, Death of the Mantis.

Michael Stanley is the writing name of Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip. Both natives of Africa, they have travelled regularly together to Botswana and Zimbabwe over the past twenty years to experience the country with its wide diversity and interesting peoples. Their books reflect the authentic Africa of the 21st century: not merely the politically unstable, desperately poor Africa of the nightly news, but also the emotional conflicts of people with one foot in traditional culture and the other in Western-instigated globalism. The new Africa is not the safari jungle, but a collection of diverse groups and nations struggling to find their way in a rapidly changing context. It was at the lion research center in the Savuti, an ancient dried-up lake in Botswana's Chobe National Park, that they realized how to conceal a perfect murder. They watched a hyenas team up to drive lions off their fresh kills, then devour everything in sight, bones and all. By the next morning, no evidence remained of the carcass. Botswana offered the ideal setting for such a literary revelation. This was the kernel of the idea that led to our first book, A Carrion Death

Wednesday 26 February 2014

‘Screams in the Dark’ by Anna Smith

Published by Quercus, 
14 November 2013. 
ISBN: 978-1-78087-120-2

A respectable lawyer has hanged himself, a body with neither arms, legs or head has just been pulled out of the canal, a gangster’s gopher has been shot ... Then a young refugee comes to crime reporter Rosie Gilmour with a strange story of having been abducted.  When Rosie begins to investigate, she discovers a ruthless traffic that’s too macabre to be believed, unless she can come up with proof – without getting killed.

This thriller was a real page-turner.  We were straight into a story that was satisfyingly complex but easily-followed, with constant action and interesting characters.  Rosie Gilmour is tough and determined, not letting anything stop her getting the story.  She had a number of back-up characters, which was a plausible change from girl-goes-alone-into-murder’s house, although I wasn’t always convinced by the stupid decisions she made – like taking a man being chased by gangsters to her own flat. The Glasgow background was well done – it all felt real.  What I loved most about it was the sympathy with which Smith used her experience as a war-reporter to create the world these refugees had come from, the awful things they had seen and experienced.  Kosovo is history now – but how could we have forgotten those atrocities so easily? 

This is the third Rosie Gilmour outing. So you can read them in order, the others are The Dead won’t Sleep and To Tell the Truth.  If you enjoy PI / investigative reporter thrillers, then I recommend this very highly – it made a great start to my reading year.
Reviewer: Marsali Taylor

Anna Smith. After a lifetime as a tabloid journalist, wading through other people's misery on the frontline all over the world, she decided to put her experiences to good use.
And so the series of Rosie Gilmour novels were born, featuring a Glasgow journalist trying to tear down the world of corruption and injustice.  Her debut novel was The Dead Won't Sleep, the story of police corruption, prostitution and a child sex ring in a children's home. This was followed by To Tell The Truth, about a toddler stolen from a beach while on holiday with her parents in Spain.  And her latest novel, Screams In The Dark, is published on 31 January 2014 Anna is published by Quercus and currently working on book four in the Rosie Gilmour series.

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.

‘Thankless in Death’ by J D Robb

Published by Piatkus,
17 September 2013.
ISBN: 978-0-7499-5936-4

I’ve never made a secret of my enjoyment of J D Robb’s ’futurecrime’ In Death series. But when each new volume appears, there’s always a trace of trepidation. The author’s work rate is tremendous: add this series to her phenomenal output as the renowned bestseller Nora Roberts and she has produced well over 300 titles in a 32-year career. So how is she going to keep up the momentum, and more to the point, ring the changes?

That said, one of the pleasures of following a series as longstanding as this one is that comforting sense of sliding into a pair of old slippers; to some extent you know what to expect, and almost feel cheated if it’s not there.

Thankless in Death is the thirty-seventh in the ongoing saga of super-detective Lieutenant Eve Dallas and her dishy billionaire husband Roarke – and whadya know, J D Robb has pulled another one out of the bag.
The conventions the fans have come to expect are all there. Technology, society, fashion, even slang jump a step or two ahead of what we’re familiar with, it being 2060. The characters are drawn in sufficient detail to satisfy new readers, with enough hints about their murky pasts to whet the appetite. Dallas and Roarke enjoy a session of mindbending sex and an explosive domestic which leads to more of it. There’s plenty for engaging supporting players to do; the usual suspects like Summerset, Peabody and McNab, Feeney and Mira, Morris and Baxter all get a piece of the action, and other familiar faces make fleeting appearances.

So what’s left to make this one different? The secret lies in the villain. Jerry Reinhold is the ultimate psychopathic serial killer: once he finds that inflicting pain and killing gives him a sexual buzz, there’s no stopping him. Until Dallas catches up with him, of course, and she’s never more than a few paces behind, even when she’s forced to take an hour or so out to receive a medal for an earlier triumph. But Jerry’s a slippery one, and as he cuts a swathe through everyone he has a grudge against, the body count seems set to rise.
But this is popular crime fiction, and good has to triumph – which of course it does, in the final edge-of-the-seat chapter which builds up to a party in the last few pages, with the usual will-she-won’t-she get there on Dallas’s part. 

If I’m honest, maybe I wouldn’t place this one among my top five favourites from the In Death series, but it says a lot about J D Robb’s pacy style and sure hand with a plot that I still didn’t want to put it down. In any case the difference between the pick of the bunch and the also-rans is narrow, and for aficionados like me there’s plenty to enjoy. For newcomers to the series, it’s a sound enough introduction to make them come back for more.
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick
J D Robb. With a phenomenal career full of bestsellers, Nora Roberts was ready for a new writing challenge. A pseudonym offered her the opportunity to reach a new and different group of readers. The first futuristic suspense J. D. Robb book, Naked in Death, was published in paperback in 1995, and readers were immediately drawn to Eve Dallas, a tough cop with a dark past, and her even more mysterious love interest, Roarke. The In Death books are perpetual bestsellers, and frequently share the bestseller list with other Nora Roberts novels. J. D. Robb publishes two hardcover In Death books per year, with the occasional stand-alone original In Death story featured in an anthology. Thirty books and fifteen years later, there is no end in sight for the ever-popular In Death series.

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.

Tuesday 25 February 2014

‘The English Monster’ by Lloyd Shepherd

Published by Simon & Schuster,
September 2012.
ISBN: 978-0857205377

This is a monster of a book in many ways - the title hold a relevance revealed as the story progresses, the world inhabited is monstrous too in its violence and inhumanity. Real events of 1811-1812 in London are the basis for happenings there - these are the Ratcliffe murders. Round these are both imaginary and genuine characters living in the dirt, noise and excitement of the London docks.

This story also deals with other eras - indeed for much of the tale happenings in the early 19th century alternate with those in firstly, the reign of Elizabeth 1, and then the era of pirates in Jamaica. The reader's interest is piqued by the unfolding tales of each era which are equally interesting. A major theme is the origin and development of the Slave Trade and the horror that entails.

The murderous puzzle is eventually solved satisfactorily and the larger than life characters sink back into obscurity. The historical canvas is a large one but it is magnificently filled.
Reviewer: Jennifer Palmer
This is Lloyd Shepherd's first book.

Lloyd Shepherd worked as a trade journalist and a digital product manager for the likes of the Guardian, the BBC, Yahoo, Channel 4 and Financial Times Newsletters.

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.

‘At the Dying of the Year’ by Chris Nickson

Published by Crème de la Crime, 2013.

It is November 1733 and Richard Nottingham, Constable of Leeds, has returned to work after months of convalescence, following a serious knife wound. Richard is pleased with the way his Deputy, John Sedgwick and their assistant, Rob Lister, have handled keeping the peace in Leeds while he has been incapacitated. They make a good team and Richard knows that they will support him until he regains his full strength, if indeed he ever does fully recover. However he also knows that there will be little help from the new mayor, William Fenton, a man only interested in keeping the favour of the wealthy and powerful inhabitants of Leeds.

Richard hopes that his first few days back at work will not involve any taxing crimes. There are times when he thinks that he should have followed the wishes of his adored wife, Mary, and accepted retirement on a small pension. But being Constable of Leeds is part of his identity and he cannot bear to give it up. His hopes of a gentle return are shattered when the decomposing bodies of three children are discovered in a pit. It soon becomes clear that they were homeless children, living rough, and that they had been violated and murdered.

All three men on the Constable's team take this discovery to heart: John Sedgwick has young children of his own; Rob Lister has never before encountered so vile a crime; and Richard Nottingham had once been a homeless child, living from hand-to-mouth and well-acquainted with hunger and hardship. Above all, they are decent men, appalled by the murders they are aware of; afraid that there are many other victims undiscovered; and determined to bring the killer to justice.

Soon it becomes clear that the killer is shielded by wealth and power and, whatever proof the Constable provides, the Mayor will look the other way. At the risk of dismissal, the Constable and his men continue to build their case, but Justice is served at an unforeseen and terrible personal cost.

At the Dying of the Year is a very dark and powerful book. With the theme of child abuse and murder it could hardly be otherwise. It deals with matters that are as relevant today as in the 18th Century: that the poor and rootless are painfully vulnerable and that the wealthy and powerful can buy immunity from the Law. However, it is also a book that is based on the decency and courage of its central characters, their mutual loyalty and their determination that evil-doers should not escape the consequences of their actions. The characters are well-drawn and the historical detail is skilfully inserted but at the heart of the story is the age-old fight against evil and corruption. At the Dying of the Year is a very compelling read.
Reviewer: Carol Westron
Chris Nickson was born and raised in Leeds. He is the author of the Richard Nottingham books, historical mysteries set in Leeds in the 1730s and featuring Richard Nottingham, the Constable of the city, and his deputy, John Sedgwick. The books are about more than murder. They're about the people of Leeds and the way life was - which mean full of grinding poverty for all but the wealthy. They're also about families, Nottingham and his and Sedgwick, and the way relationships grow and change, as well as the politics, when there was one law for the rich, and another, much more brutal, for everyone else. In addition to this Chris is also a music journalist, reviewing for magazines and online outlets

Carol Westron is a successful short story writer and a Creative Writing teacher.  She is the moderator for the cosy/historical crime panel, The Deadly Dames.  Her crime novels are set both in contemporary and Victorian times.  The Terminal Velocity of Cats is the first in her Scene of Crimes novels, was published July 2013

Monday 24 February 2014

‘Hurt’ by Brian McGilloway

Published by Constable and Robinson Crime, 
21 November 2013.
 ISBN: : 978-1-47211-979-5 (hardback); 
978-1-47211-114-2 (paperback)

DS Lucy Black from the Public Protection Unit  is called out to identify the body of a teenage girl, Karen, found dead on the train tracks, she has been missing for three days and, as a target of the care system Lucy had come across her several times.  The murdered girl’s father, is a convicted murderer himself, and is in jail and it is assumed that perhaps the link has cost his daughter her life.  Lucy is not so sure.

Set in Derry after the end of the “troubles” this start police procedural highlights some of the sensitivities of investing any crime where past history and politics can rear their ugly heads.  As DS Black uncovers some uncomfortable truths about the conviction of Karen’s father for the murder of a young girl and in the process knocks some senior noses out of joint, including that of her estranged mother, the Assistant Chief Constable.

The investigation uncovers further layers to the murder which include collusion, paedophilia and drug dealing along with the undercurrent of Irish tensions between the police and the populous.  DS Black tries to deal with this, along with her own problems with her mother, her alcoholic boss and some history of her own which occasionally influences her ability to do her job without prejudice. 

This is a tight, tense novel with dark overtones hinting at the ease with which people bow to pressure and power in any environment, praying on the weak and pressuring those who want to fight it.  Lucy, the main protagonist, is written as conflicted and poor in her judgement of situations at times, which makes her more real.  This along with the stark reality of the location and history makes the tough subjects covered by the novel even more harrowing and therefore more engaging for the reader.

This is a tough uncompromising thriller, enjoyable for the writing and the characters, but not a light holiday read.
Reviewer: Amanda Brown

Brian McGilloway was born in Derry, Northern Ireland in 1974. After studying English at Queen’s University, Belfast, he took up a teaching position in St Columb’s College in Derry, where he is currently Head of English.  His first novel, Borderlands, published by Macmillan New Writing, was shortlisted for the CWA New Blood Dagger 2007 and was hailed by The Times as ‘one of (2007’s) most impressive debuts.’ Brian lives near the Irish borderlands with his wife, daughter and three sons.

Sunday 23 February 2014

‘The Loch Ness Legacy’ by Boyd Morrison

Apologies to my followers that there have been no new postings for a week. I try to post a new review every day but sometimes things intervene.  So I will be endeavouring to post two reviews a day for the next week to catch up.  Today the first offering is a review by writer Marsali Taylor of Boyd Morrison's The Loch Ness Legacy.  Marsali says The action is fast and the dialogue snappy, the body count and technology factor high. 

Published by Sphere. 
21 November 2013.
 ISBN: 978-0-7515-4805-1

Tyler and his friends Grant and Brielle have just foiled a bomb attack on the Tour Eiffel, aimed at delegates from the Arab world who are discussing possible reprisals against Israel... or have they? 

 Now those present, including Grant, are dying from a strange disease – and it seems the only possible hope is a serum developed from the flesh of the Loch Ness Monster.  However violent ex-con Victor Zim is determined to get there first..

As you read this, you can just see the film.  The action is fast, the dialogue snappy, the body count and technology factor high.  The action moves from France to the US, Versailles, Cambridge, Edinburgh, and ends with a nail-biting finale at Loch Ness.  There’s no purple prose to give us the atmosphere of these places, but the physical geography is well used, and the action just keeps going.  Tyler is a likeable, sensitive guy, hoping for a serious relationship with Brielle, and protective of his little sister, Alexa, a zooologist who’s being targeted by the neo-Nazi villains.  The technology is lovingly described.

If you enjoy James Bond and Mission Impossible films, this is your kind of book.
Reviewer: Marsali Taylor

Boyd Morrison. After earning a BS in mechanical engineering from Rice University, Boyd worked for NASA and tested Xbox gamers for  Microdsoft.  As a professional actor, he has appeared in commercials and films and in stage plays such as Noises Off, Barefoot in the Park, and The Importance of Being Earnest.
Currently he is working on his next Tyler Locke book.

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.

Friday 14 February 2014

‘The Outcast Dead’ by Elly Griffiths

Published by Quercus, 
6 February 2014. 
ISBN: 978-0-85738-890-2

 Crimes against children add a tug at the heartstrings to any mystery novel; the real-life disappearance of a small boy, extensively covered on TV while I was reading, gave Elly Griffiths’s  new novel an extra layer of poignancy.

The Outcast Dead is the sixth in a series which has developed into one of the most unusual and engaging in the ‘forensics’ sub-genre. Historical and contemporary mysteries run in tandem, with protagonist Ruth Galloway, a forensic archaeologist, as the sometimes tenuous but always convincing link between them.

This time the suspicious death of a toddler runs alongside Ruth’s exploration of the mystery surrounding a sinister 19th century baby farmer, hanged for child murder, for a TV documentary – which allows Griffiths to bring in some colourful supporting players to populate a TV crew.
The suspicious death soon takes a back seat when living children start to disappear. Griffiths shows her cast of regular characters at their best and worst. Sensible DS Judy is both compassionate and distraught; down-to-earth, married  DCI Nelson is floored by a lack of evidence, and jealous of Ruth’s growing friendship with a historian. Graceless DS Clough shows not only uncharacteristic sensitivity but also unprecedented tolerance.

Ruth Galloway herself is a delight: a real, flawed, overweight 40-something woman, confident and uncertain in equal measure depending on the circumstances. It’s impossible not to warm to her, and admire her as she juggles single motherhood, career and a range of normal human dilemmas and emotions, occasionally dropping the ball as we all do.

Ruth’s backstory, linked to that of several other regular characters, is what draws you into the series and keeps you itching to read the next to see where the author will take them next. But each new volume has its own, well-crafted plot. In this case the hunt for one in particular of the missing children is edge-of-the-seat stuff.

Add to all this a layer of something not quite of this world (even the introduction of a psychic, which can so easily become an easy way out for a lazy author, is woven in so skilfully that it is in no way a cheat or cop-out) and descriptions to die for of the big-skied, bleakly beautiful Norfolk landscape, and the result is something above and beyond the usual run of crime novel. If you haven’t discovered this series yet, you’re missing a treat.
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick

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 five further novels featuring forensic archaeologist Ruth Galloway, The Janus Stone, The House at Seas End, A Room Full of Bones, Dying Fall. The Outcast Dead is her latest book is

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.

Sunday 9 February 2014

‘Casting the First Stone’ by Frances Fyfield

Published by Sphere.   
28 November 2013. 
ISBN: 978-0-7515-4971-3

Di Porteous first met her husband Tom when she was a teenager and her father Quigley (known as Quig) set her to burgle Tom’s huge house on the Kent coast filled with valuable works of art. Di was caught, sent to prison but on release was befriended by Tom. They fell in love although he was much older than her, they married and he taught her to love and value art for its own sake. After his death, full of grief, she withdraws from the world but her agent Saul thinks that she needs to be brought back to life. So does her housekeeper, the youthful and resourceful Londoner Peg, and her ‘sort-of’ uncle, the former policeman Jones. Instigated by Saul’s sister Sarah they hatch a plan that Di should return to her former trade as a thief and steal some paintings: not as dishonest as it sounds since the paintings concerned belonged to Sarah’s friend and Di’s neighbour the elderly Granta Cockerel, and had been stolen by Granta’s beloved son Steven. He, however, encouraged by Gayle and Edward, Tom’s daughter and son-in-law, has his eyes on the paintings that Tom left to Di. Behind all this there is a dark secret in the cellars of the house, casting a shadow on the lives of all the characters in the novel. And the reappearance of the ineffectual yet malevolent Quig bodes ill for all concerned.

The plot is Gothic in its complexity and dark intensity. Deceit and duplicity are a running theme as is the moral ambiguity indicated by the book’s title. And there is the setting, not just of the art world, but the physical setting as well: the unforgiving landscape of the bleak North Kent coast overlooking the North Sea and the menacing Goodwin Sands scene of the numerous shipwrecks. The danger to the land from the sea is a constant factor even though the coastal defences are constantly being shored up. No less unsettling is the bizarrely baroque building in Central London where Steven lives.

This is the 22nd novel by Frances Fyfield who has received a number of Crime Writers Association Gold and Silver Dagger awards.
Reviewer: Radmila May

Frances Fyfield   is the pseudonym of Frances Hegarty, a lawyer and crime-writer. Born 18th November 1948 in Derbyshire, she was mostly educated in convent schools before reading English at Newcastle University. She then went on to qualify as a solicitor, working for what is now the Crown Prosecution Service, thus learning a bit about murder at second hand.  Years later, writing became the real vocation, although the law and its ramifications still haunt me and inform many of my novels. She has been the recipient of both the Gold and Silver Crime Writers'Association Daggers. She is also a regular broadcaster on Radio 4, most recently as the presenter of the series 'Tales from the Stave'. She lives in London and in Deal, overlooking the sea which is her passion.