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Tuesday 24 March 2015

'Good Girls Don't Die' by Isabelle Grey

Published by Quercus,
9 October 2014.
ISBN 978-1-78206-766-5

Detective Sergeant Grace Fisher has just started a job with the Major investigation Team in Essex.  The case of a student disappearing and another one being found dead is the one with which she has to deal.    In a new place she finds an old friend but cannot talk to her easily in the circumstances.  The tabloid frenzy around the student death leads to suspicion that a detective is revealing information.  As a new member of the team and with a background of trouble in her previous post Grace is having problems.

The development of the investigation is well done as the team struggle to discover the truth.  The characters are really well established as the story of the young women is developed.  Grace is divorcing her husband but he tries to talk her into a resumption of their relationship.  To make things worse for Grace in her professional role there is a review team brought in which is headed by the man who had been DCI in Grace's last post.  He had been unpleasant in the hard circumstances she had faced.  Nevertheless it is Grace's efforts that bring resolution to the case.
Reviewer: Jennifer S. Palmer

Isabelle Gary was born within the sound of Bow Bells in London's East End, grew up in Manchester, lived for ten years on what was once a tidal island at the edge of the Romney Marsh She has published two previous psychological suspense novels. , Out of Sight and The Bad Mother, are also published in paperback, ebook and audio by Quercus. For several months The Bad Mother was Amazon's No.1 bestselling novel in psychological suspense and was in the top ten crime fiction bestsellers.
Good Girls Don't Die, the first in a series featuring Grace Fisher, a murder detective with the Essex Major investigation Team Isabelle also writes screenplays for television crime drama, including The Bill, Wycliffe, Rosemary & Thyme and Midsomer Murders'. With Jimmy McGovern, she co-wrote Tina's Story, the final episode in the Bafta and International Emmy award-winning BBC series Accused  which starred Anna Maxwell Martin, Robert Sheehan and John Bishop.
A former non-fiction author (writing as Isabelle Anscombe) and journalist for national newspapers and magazines such as 'Cosmopolitan', 'Country Living' and 'Psychologies', she has also taught screenwriting at Central Saint Martin's and the Arvon Foundation. She now lives and works in north London.

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.

‘Cold Cold Heart’ by Tami Hoag

Published by Orion,
23 January 2015.
ISBN: 978-1-4091-5194-4

When this story opens Dana Nolan, a TV reporter in her twenties, has already killed and escaped the man who had kidnapped, raped, tortured and brutalised her.   But although she has escaped from him physically she has not escaped mentally.  Her injuries are extensive. And her head injury has affected her memory and her ability to speak coherently. 

After months in a rehab facility, Dana is still far from independent and has no choice but to
move back to her hometown and live with her mother and stepfather.  Obviously her mother is protective of a daughter she thought she had lost forever, but she does suffocate her rather trying to shield her from the questions from the police who want any information she can give them as they are certain that her abductor had previously killed many other women. But Dana cannot recall the man who brutalised her, although as the story progresses she is tormented with flashbacks.

Moving back to her hometown she becomes aware that her abduction has reignited interest in the disappearance of her best friend Casey Grant, who went missing the summer after they both graduated.  In fact she herself had been investigating the disappearance of a young girl just prior to her own abduction.  Casey’s ex-boyfriend, John Villante, had at the time been the police’s prime suspect but no evidence had ever been found. John had later joined the Army, and had been decorated for bravery several times, but was now back suffering from PTSSD, and living with his vile drunk father.

Clearly Dana and John have much in common both traumatised, but the first time Dana encounters John Villante she blurts out “You killed my best friend.”

She also encounters  her old boyfriend Tim Carver who had been set for great things but unaccountably is now with the local police force.

Unable to return to her old life, as a TV reporter, Dana at the behest of her therapist to take an interest in something, becomes interested in what happened to her best friend. Not quite I think what her therapist had in mind.

Whilst I was pretty sure early on what had happened to Casey, the strength of the book lies in the emotion turmoil in which Dana seeks to find some sure ground. Struggling with her terrible handicaps she begins to retrace her life that summer after graduation in the hope of finding some clue as to what happened to Casey. 

This is a gripping and emotional book that you will not be able to put down. I hope that there is a sequel.    I
Reviewer: Lizzie Hayes

Tami Hoag's novels have appeared on international bestseller lists regularly since the publication of her first book in 1988. Her work has been translated into more than thirty languages worldwide and over twenty-million copies of her books are in print. Tami is a dedicated equestrian in the discipline of dressage and shares her home with two English cocker spaniels. She lives in Palm Beach County, Florida.

‘Murder and Mendelssohn’ by Kerry Greenwood

Published by Poisoned Pen Press,
May, 2014.
ISBN: 978-1-4642-0246-9 (HB)
ISBN 978-1-4642-0248-3 (TPB)
ISBN 978-1-4642-0247-6 (Large Print)

The Hon. Phryne Fisher, even after 20 novels, remains true to herself in this latest mystery in which she even joins a chorus to sing Mendelssohn’s Elijah, exhibiting yet another talent to her apparently unlimited repertoire.  The reason she undertakes the task is because not one but two conductors have been murdered and Detective Inspector Jack Robinson is not only at a loss to solve the crimes but is completely unfamiliar with the world of music.

A side plot involves matchmaking and preventing the murder of a former code-breaker, Rupert Sheffield, by Phryne plotting to join him up with an old acquaintance from the trenches in France when she was an ambulance driver in the Great War and pitting a couple of gangs against each other to eliminate the bosses.

The accustomed cast of characters to whom readers have become addicted, Dot, Mr. and Mrs. Butler, Jane, Ruth and Tinker, all play their roles with aplomb.  And the usual touch of sex in the series play a major part in this one, as homosexuality, certainly a forbidden subject for the period (the 1930’s), is a central focus (not to mention Phryne’s free spirit and penchant for lovemaking with anyone to whom she is attracted).  All in all, lots of fun, and recommended.
Reviewer: Ted Feit

Kerry Greenwood was born 17 June 1954 in the Melbourne suburb of Footscray and after wandering far and wide, she returned to live there. She has a degree in English and Law from Melbourne University and was admitted to the legal profession on the 1st April 1982. Kerry has written twenty novels, a number of plays, including The Troubadours with Stephen D'Arcy, is an award-winning children's writer and has edited and contributed to several anthologies. In 1996 she published a book of essays on female murderers called Things She Loves: Why women Kill.
The Phryne Fisher series (pronounced Fry-knee, to rhyme with briny) began in 1989 with Cocaine Blues which was a great success. Kerry has written sixteen books in this series with no sign yet of Miss Fisher hanging up her pearl-handled pistol. Kerry says that as long as people want to read them, she can keep writing them.
Kerry Greenwood has worked as a folk singer, factory hand, director, producer, translator, costume-maker, cook and is currently a solicitor. When she is not writing, she works as a locum solicitor for the Victorian Legal Aid. She is also the unpaid curator of seven thousand books, three cats (Attila, Belladonna and Ashe) and a computer called Apple (which squeaks). She embroiders very well but cannot knit. She has flown planes and leapt out of them (with a parachute) in an attempt to cure her fear of heights (she is now terrified of jumping out of planes but can climb ladders without fear). She can detect second-hand bookshops from blocks away and is often found within them. For fun Kerry reads science fiction/fantasy and detective stories. She is not married, has no children and lives with a registered wizard. When she is not doing any of the above she stares blankly out of the window.

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.

Friday 20 March 2015

Theakstons Old Peculiar Writing Festival

On Thursday 19 March a large crowd gathered at Brown’s Courtrooms St Martin’s Lane to celebrate the London launch of the programme for the 13th Theakstons Old Preculiar Crime Writing Festival.

After an most entertaining speech by Simon Theakston on the similarities of a good mystery to Theakstons Old Peculiar, Anne Clevees, this years programme organiser gave us a brief overview of the wonderful schedule of events we could expect in this year’s programme.

With the wine flowing and tasty canapés the evening went with a swing. See photographs,  top left Alison Joseph current CWA Chair. Below Alison Anne Cleeves.  The third photo shows the audience listening with rapt attention. Centre in the picture is Brenda Blethyn who plays Vera in the television adaptation of Anne’s Vera series.

There was also a chance to sample Theakstons new IPA bitter, which my partner greatly enjoyed.

For details visit

‘The Doll Maker’ by Richard Montanari

Published by Sphere,
21 August 2014.
ISBN: 978-0-7515-4931-7 (HB)
2 April 2015.
ISBN: 978-0-7515-4933-1 (PB)

Philadelphia is known as the City of Brotherly Love, but if Richard Montanari’s Balzano and Byrne police procedural series is an accurate representation, it appears it has its fair share of murder and mayhem.

The Doll Maker is the eighth in the series, and the characters are already well developed. Kevin Byrne has a dysfunctional personal life which includes a deaf daughter and a broken marriage; Jessica Balzano is happily married to another cop, and has two kids and ambitions beyond the squad room.

What sets this pair apart from other American cop duos is that it’s the male partner who has the highly developed intuition – the instincts which border on second sight. Balzano is a good detective who knows how to read the clues and join the dots, but it’s Byrne who has senses on high alert and hunches that pay off.

In The Doll Maker they are faced with a decidedly spooky situation: a serial killer who leaves a doll at every crime scene – but no ordinary doll. Each doll is meticulously dressed and painted to resemble the previous victim.

The path trodden by the two detectives to solve this dark and cryptic crime is a convoluted one, veering from Death Row to child psychology, and sometimes the connections they make are far from easy to follow. But somehow the reader trusts them to get there in the end, even if it’s sometimes unclear where they’re going.

The reader has the advantage of them, of course, because Montanari interleaves the progress of the investigation with chapters from the viewpoint of the murderer – or, since it’s revealed quite early and isn’t really a spoiler, the two murderers. He does it skilfully, capturing the voices of the macabre pair with a deft precision.

There’s plenty of suspense to hold the attention; by the edge-of-the-seat final showdown I had long since given up on getting an early night. Both pace and tone are sufficiently varied to make nearly 500 pages feel more like 300.

Occasionally I felt Montanari showed a tendency to over-explain in a number of places where he could have trusted the reader to make the connections. But that was a minor flaw, and a small price to pay for an absorbing read and the discovery of a pair of intriguing cops I never knew existed before I picked up this book.
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick

 Richard Montanari was born in Cleveland, Ohio, the scion of a traditional Italian-American family, which means he learned two things very early in life. One: ravioli tastes much better than baby formula. Two: if you don't get to the table on time, there is no ravioli. After an undistinguished academic career, Richard traveled Europe extensively, living in London for a time, where he sold clothing in Chelsea, and foreign language encyclopedias door-to-door in Hampstead Heath.  Needless to say, he hawked a few more ties than tomes, but neither job paid enough to keep him in beer and skittles. So, he returned to the States and joined his family's construction firm.  Five years and a hundred smashed thumbs later, he decided that writing might be a better job. After working as a freelance writer for years, during which time he was published in more than two hundred publications -- including The Chicago Tribune, The Detroit Free Press, The Seattle Times, and many others -- Richard wrote three pages of what was to become the first chapter of  Deviant Way.  He was immediately signed to a New York agency. When he finished the book, Michael Korda signed him to a two-book deal at Simon & Schuster. In 1996 Deviant won the OLMA for Best First Mystery.

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.