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Wednesday 20 August 2014

‘The Abomination’ by Jonathan Holt

Published by Head of Zeus,
21 November 2013.
ISBN: 978-1-78185-369-6

A woman is found dead, a double shot to her head, floating in the waters of Venice.  This would be shocking enough, but she is dressed in the religious robes only ordained priests should wear – male priests at that!

This is Captain Katerina (Kat)  Tapo’s first murder, throwing her into the world of human trafficking, organised crime and religious controversy.  As more bodies start to be uncovered, Kat
discovers that murder is not the only issue she is contending with.  Political manoeuvring and international relations start to interfere with the investigation and she finds herself working with a US Second Lieutenant, Holly Boland, who is exploring her own enquiries into a possible war crime.

Working with each other and the creator of a virtual Venice, Carnivia, they begin to unravel secrets that their respective superiors would prefer to remain hidden.  The two women find themselves getting deeper and deeper into a case which threatens the lives of both of them, and anyone else they connect it to.  It starts to become unclear who they can trust and what they are investigating, organised crime or a deeper governmental cover up.

Well paced with a really interesting set of characters and uses the stunning backdrop of its location to draw the reader further into the web-like plot which Johnathan Holt has created.  The Abomination is page turning in the extreme, but without some of the flaws inherent in some blockbuster thrillers.  The characters have some depth, there are other stories going on along with the main thrust of the narrative, and this creates a gripping read.

My only reservation is that both the story and the unusual fact that the two main protagonists are women means that this ideal for a Hollywood film. Unfortunately I am sure that it would not match up to the book.  A fine book, difficult to put down and recommended as a good holiday read, especially if you are visiting the watery streets of Venice.
Reviewer: Amanda Brown

Jonathan Holt read English literature at Oxford and is now the creative director of an advertising company. He lives in London.

Tuesday 12 August 2014

‘The Fame Thief’ By Timothy Hallinan

Published by Soho Crime, (Hardback) July, 2013.
ISBN: 978-1-6169-5280-8.
(Paperback) April 2014.
ISBN: 978-1-61695-282-2

Junior Bender, the protagonist in this, the third in this series, has a franchise, according to the eminence grise of Hollywood, the powerful Irwin Dressler, the 93-year-old mob boss.  Junior prides himself as a burglar’s burglar, and has found himself much in demand by criminals as their own private investigator.  And that’s why Dressler has two of his goons snatch Junior off the street and bring him to his home.  He asks Junior to find out who was responsible for ruining a minor actress’ career over 60 years earlier.

This gives the author an opportunity to describe the Hollywood scene of the 1950’s, together with the glamour of Las Vegas and the prevalence of mafia bigwigs and run-of-the mill hoodlums.  It is a mystery why a minor starlet became so important to the mob that she had a single starring role: testifying at the Estes Kefauver crime hearings.

This book has quite a plot, and Junior has a tough road to hoe to solve the mystery. Recommended.
Reviewer: Ted Feit

 Timothy Hallinan has  written ten published novels, all thrillers, all critically praised. In the 1990s he wrote six mysteries featuring the erudite private eye Simeon Grist, beginning with The Four Last Things which made several Ten Best lists, including that of The Drood Review. The other books in the series were widely and well reviewed, and several of them were optioned for motion pictures. The series is now regarded as a cult favourite. In 2007, the first of his Poke Rafferty Bangkok thrillers, A Nail Through the Heart, was published to unanimously enthusiastic reviews. "It  was a Booksense Pick of the Month and was named one of the top mysteries of the year by The Japan Times and several major online review sites. Hallinan has written full-time since 2006. Since 1982 he has divided his time between Los Angeles and Southeast Asia, the setting for his Poke Rafferty novels.

Ted and Gloria Feit live in Long Beach, NY, a few miles outside New York City.  For 26 years, Gloria was the manager of a medium-sized litigation firm in lower Manhattan. Her husband, Ted, is an attorney and former stock analyst, publicist and writer/editor for, over the years, several daily, weekly and monthly publications.  Having always been avid mystery readers, and since they're now retired, they're able to indulge that passion.  Their reviews appear online as well as in three print publications in the UK and US.  On a more personal note: both having been widowed, Gloria and Ted have five children and nine grandchildren between them.

‘Foolish Ways’ by D M Greenwood

Published by Ostara Publishing, 2013.
(First published 1999)

The cover of this book describes it as Clerical Crime which is an interesting category!  This series about Theodora Braithwaite was previously published from 1991 to 1999 and there are 8 previous investigations covered before this reprinted copy.  I have read some of the earlier ones and I don't think that reading them in order is important.  Theodora is a deacon of the Church of England who uses her knowledge of human behaviour and her connections within the Church to assist the police with their work when murder happens in relation to Anglicans.  In this book she attends a conference of Church officials and lay people which is held in November in an unappealing holiday camp in the fens - the camp is called Bolly's Jolly Holiday Homes.

D M Greenwood is a clever writer who is obviously closely involved in the Anglican Church and who knows all the quirks of churchly behaviour.  She enjoys poking fun at the incongruity of the holiday camp with the Church attendees.  She is biting about some characters like the Bishop who uses management speak and about whom, as she puts it, 'it was rumoured that the Bishop did not want particular changes in the Church, just changes.'  She also describes with affection other attendees at the Conference.

As they gather in Highcliffe, East Anglia, to consider 'the Millennium Message'  the shocking discovery is made of the body of one of the delegates in a washing machine.  He has been stabbed.  Since no-one has a bad word to say about him what reason could there be for his murder?  Theodora is acquainted with the investigating police officer and he finds her insights into Anglican ideas and practices very helpful.  She, indeed, reaches the solution of the death and other shenanigans before the Superintendent.

The mystery is clever and well developed but some of the most interesting parts of the book consider religious ideas and give a novel of social comment.
Reviewer: Jennifer S Palmer
As I wrote earlier this is the 9th in a series and has been reprinted.

Dr Diane M Greenwood came originally from Norfolk in England. She took a first degree in classics at Oxford University, then as a mature student, a second degree in theology at London University. She taught at various schools before working for the diocese of Rochester. She retired as diocesan director of education for the diocese of Rochester in 2004.
She has been described  as "a classics teacher of terrifying erudition and eccentricity".  Between 1991 and 1999 she published nine books featuring Deaconess Theodora Braithwaite (in her thirties).  D M Greenwood was last heard of living in Greenwich with her lurcher.

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.

Monday 11 August 2014

‘Euro Noir’ by Barry Forshaw

 Published by Oldcastle Books,
26 June 2014.
ISBN: 978-1-84344-245-5

This reference book is a personal guide to European crime in books, film and TV: ‘a user-friendly, wide-ranging snapshot of the best achievements ... of crime not originally written (or played) in English.  It’s divided by country, and there’s a short introduction followed by more detailed entries on notable writers, roughly in chronological order.  Then there’s a description of selected films and TV, by date.  At the back are two appendices with a ‘top ten’ in book and screen per country, and an index. 

It’s most certainly a wide-ranging guide.  Forshaw’s other books include guides Nordic Noir, British Crime Film and British Gothic Cinema as well as British Crime Writing: An Encyclopedia.  The book assessments are spattered with anecdotes about the authors, and the prose is lively and readable.  It’s always interesting to read someone else’s comments on a book you know, and it’s full of ideas for new authors to try, or good films to watch.

I wasn’t so sure it was completely user-friendly.  It was organised more as a chatty guide than a reference work, so Simenon, for example, had three ‘chunks’ of text, each with a bold headline, and the headlines themselves were amusing rather than clear or factual.  Other writers got one ‘chunk’ or two. There weren’t many spoilers (warning: this reader’s eyes had read the spoiler by the time her brain had clocked ‘spoiler alert’) but I felt we were given more of the plot than I wanted for a book I might like to read.  I’d also have liked the original title, as well as the translation title, for both book and film (for films, Forshaw generally gave both).

An entertaining guide by a real expert, with a lot of ideas for writers and film/TV to try.
Reviewer: Marsali Taylor

Barry Forshaw's latest books are British Crime Film and Death in a Cold Climate: A Guide to Scandinavian Crime Fiction. Other work includes British Crime Writing: An Encyclopedia, The Rough Guide to Crime Fiction and Guns for Hire: The Modern Adventure Thriller, along with books on Italian cinema and the first biography of Stieg Larsson. His next books are British Gothic Cinema and a study of Thomas Harris and The Silence of the Lambs. He writes for various newspapers, edits Crime Time, and broadcasts for ITV and BBC TV documentaries. He has been Vice Chair of the Crime Writers' Association.

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.

Sunday 10 August 2014

‘Gallowglass’ by Gordon Ferris

Published by Corvus,
3 April 2014.
ISBN: 978-1-7823-9075-6

Gallowglass (Scots Gaelic): an elite Scottish mercenary warrior

Glasgow: June 1947. Douglas Brodie, chief crime reporter on the Glasgow Gazette, is anticipating a quiet few months at his job and enjoying his relationship with advocate Samantha Campbell when he is contacted by Sheila Gibson, wife of the wealthy banker Sir Fraser Gibson. Gibson has been kidnapped and the kidnappers are demanding a ransom of £20,000. If the police are contacted Gibson will  be killed so Sheila asks Brodie to deliver the ransom money with the utmost discretion. Brodie is initially unwilling but Sheila is desperate so Brodie agrees and accepts the small payment that Sheila offers him. But when he finally gets to the rendezvous he is attacked by an unseen person and knocked out; when he recovers consciousness Gibson is there all right - but dead. The police arrive almost at once: Brodie is the obvious suspect. Bad enough that his fingerprints are on the gun that killed Gibson and that the investigating officer is his old adversary Detective Chief Inspector Walter Sangster who would be quite happy to see Brodie hang. Worse still is that Sheila denies all knowledge of Brodie. Worst of all is that Brodie, still haunted by his experiences in the war (North Africa, Normandy, Berlin) and in post-war Glasgow (see Ferriss earlier novels The Hanging Shed, Bitter Water, Pilgrim Soul) cannot be sure that he did not after all kill Gibson. He is arrested and detained in prison and so cannot himself investigate what actually happened. So he, Samantha and his MI5 contact Harry Templeton concoct a brilliant deception which will free him from jail and free him to find the truth about Gibsons death the heart of which, Brodie believes, lies in the vaults of Gibsons bank.

This is an exciting and ingenious thriller in the vein of Raymond Chandler with a strong sense of period in particular Britain’s parlous economic condition at the time.
Reviewer: Radmila May

Gordon Ferris was born and bred in Kilmarnock. After school where he enjoyed writing and rugby he took a job working for the Ministry of Defence, procuring guided missiles and a tactical nuclear weapons system, before moving to global accountancy firm Price Waterhouse, making partner in seven years. But something inside was calling him back to writing. On a long haul flight with a laptop and hours to kill, he began the internal journey that led to Truth Dare Kill and its sequel The Unquiet Heart. With the launch in early 2011 of the first 'Brodie' book - The Hanging Shed , which was followed by Bitter Water.
Pilgrim Soul is his latest book