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Sunday 28 June 2015

‘The Girl on the Pier’ by Paul Tomkins

Published by Matador,
28 January 2015.
ISBN: 978-1-78462-104-9

The Girl on The Pier is a well written captivating story about Patrick’s life flicking between three different decades it builds a picture of his childhood, college days and present day. It’s very cleverly done, you as the reader know within the first sentence of each new part which era you’ve been transported too.

You’re shown Patrick’s story through Patrick’s eyes and how he perceives situations as he’s abandoned time and again by those he holds dear.  Now as a forensic sculptor he helps identify the unclaimed and missing. But he can’t leave behind a remarkable summer night in 1993, spent on Brighton’s derelict west pier with Black, a beautiful photography graduate. No sooner does he get to know her than she disappears.

Decades on Patrick is tasked with reconstructing the skull of an unclaimed girl found on the pier in the 1970’s, a crime he remembers from his turmoil childhood.


The final few chapter have such a dynamic conclusion, a brilliant read.
Reviewer: Nicky Cooper Brown

Paul Tomkins formerly a London-based designer, Paul has been writing full-time for over a decade. To date he has written eleven football books, some of which have topped the sports chart, as well as making the overall top 40. Dynasty spent a full year in the FourFourTwo/ football top 10.
Paul has also written for a number of prominent football websites, including five years as a weekly columnist for the official Liverpool FC site, and also runs the highly-acclaimed subscription-based The Tomkins Times (, for which thousands of dedicated readers pay a monthly fee.
The Girl on the Pier is his first novel.

Nicky Cooper Brown came late to this game we call writing. Growing up, up North, she was always praised for her talents with her hands, rather than her mind, she harboured an artistic flair often drawing and painting into the night. It wasn't until she moved south to the Beautiful picturesque New Forest that she took pen to paper so to speak. Now Nicky enjoys writing short stories and articles and has a funny and light hearted style, but when it comes to her novels she displays a darker side and a taste for psychological thrillers.

Saturday 27 June 2015

‘A Study in Murder’ by Robert Ryan

Published by Simon & Schuster,
15 January 2015.
ISBN: 978-1-4711-3506-4

At the start of the First World War, Dr John Watson re-enlisted to act as an army doctor in the trenches. Now a Major and a prisoner-of-war, Watson's age means that he should be released into a neutral country for the duration of the war. However, an old enemy of Holmes and Watson uses his power in the German army to block Watson's release and send him to one of the harshest prisoner-of-war camps deep in German territory.
Back in Britain, Watson's 'friend' Mrs Gregson is working tirelessly behind the scenes of the Secret Service to enable Watson's release and, of course, in the background, there is the shadowy figure of Sherlock Holmes, who is never quite as retired as he appears to be.

The Allied blockade has led to severe food shortages and when a new prisoner-of-war is murdered it is assumed that he was killed for his Red Cross parcel. However Watson has been Sherlock Holmes' companion for a long while and his instincts tell him that the true motive for the murder is very different and much more sinister. Watson decides to investigate, even though this involves grave risk to his own life.
Study in Murder is the third in the series of Dr Watson thrillers. It brings to vivid life the privations of life in a German prisoner-of-war camp, mixed with scenes of life and dangers in London in 1917.  Watson is shown as a strong and honourable man, capable of conducting an investigation in his own right. The story is complex and might be easier to follow if one had read the two preceding Dr Watson books (Dead Man's Land and The Dead Can Wait.) However A Study in Murder is an interesting and involving book in its own right.
Reviewer:  by Carol Westron
Robert Ryan was born in Liverpool and moved south to attend university. He graduated from Brunel with a M.Sc. in Environmental Pollution Science, intending to go into teaching. Instead, he spent two years as a mechanic for a Hot Rod team, racing highly tuned Fords (“the fag-end of motorsport”, as Bernie Ecclestone calls it) where he became addicted to the smell of Castrol R. Weaning himself off that, he became a lecturer in Natural Sciences in Kent, while dabbling in journalism. His articles on comic (or graphic novels as they were just becoming known) gurus Alan Moore and Frank Miller found their way into Nick Logan’s The Face magazine, which led to work for the American edition of GQ, The Guardian, Sunday Times, Telegraph and Arena. Eventually he took a position on staff at The Sunday Times as Deputy Travel Editor. It was while on assignment in Seattle that he came across the setting for his first novel, Underdogs – the ‘lost’ city beneath the sidewalks of downtown – that was called ‘Alice in Wonderland meets Assault on Precinct 13’ by Esquire.
He continues to contribute to The Sunday Times. He lives in North London with his wife, three children, a dog and a deaf cat.

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. Her second book About the Children was published in May 2014.

‘Unravelling Oliver’ by Liz Nugent

Published by Penguin,
29 April 2015.
ISBN: 978-0-241-96564-1 (PB)

If I might be allowed to paraphrase Shakespeare – some are born sociopathic, some achieve sociopathic tendencies, and some have sociopathy thrust upon them.

Oliver Ryan, the black heart of Liz Nugent’s powerful debut psychological thriller, reveals himself as a sociopath in the first chapter – possibly even the explosive first line – and elements of all three become evident as the narrative progresses.

Oliver is locked up in a secure psychiatric unit, having beaten Alice, his wife of many years, into a coma. That’s not a spoiler; it’s where the book begins. The story unfolds in a series of flashbacks recounted from several points of view, all in the first person, and each voice and character distinct, including Alice’s mentally handicapped brother, whose chapter almost reduced me to tears. Alice herself is unconscious throughout, and therefore gets no say, but she nevertheless has a presence and a personality.

The true extent of the corrupt – or corrupted – soul which lies under Oliver’s sophisticated charm is revealed a little at a time, as each person adds his or her own account of an incidence of cruelty or abuse to the developing jigsaw of his past and Oliver himself seeks to justify his behaviour. That no one quite knows what goes on in someone else’s relationship is something of a truism; here the axiom is not only illustrated, but extended to show that sometimes not even the people in the relationship quite know what’s going on.

The action moves between Ireland and France, and one of Liz Nugent’s skills is the creation of subtle differences in atmosphere and tone which underlie the physical descriptions. A dour boarding school, seedy bedsits, wealthy and less rich homes all contribute to a vividly realized background, along with a chateau and vineyard, each with its own ambience.

Another of Nugent’s talents is the deft way she makes the apparently disconnected pieces of the story fit together in a way which ultimately create a complete and satisfying explanation of how the events in that attention-seizing opening chapter came about. It’s an explanation with its share of twists; and it’s not an excuse – there can be no excuse for the behaviour which emerges, either that night or in the years before. But the critic quoted on the cover who called it ‘a compelling whydunnit’ has hit the nail on the head.

A lot of good writing has come out of Ireland, and Liz Nugent is another name to add to that growing list of authors. Unravelling Oliver cannot be other than a standalone, but I look forward to whatever she does next.
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick

Liz Nugent was born in Dublin in 1967. Liz has worked in Irish film, theatre and television for most of her adult life. She is an award-winning writer of radio and television drama and has written short stories for children and adults. Unravelling Oliver is her first novel.                             

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.

Wednesday 24 June 2015

‘Helsinki Noir’ edited by James Thompson

Published by Akashic,
20 Niovember 2014.
ISBN: 978-1-6177-5241-4

This is a collection of fourteen stories in the popular noir series – all set, this time, in and around Helsinki. They give a vivid picture of modern city Finland: the bourgeois houses and moneyed lifestyle of the south, in the stories of a spoiled rich girl whose murderous plan backfires (The Silent Woman), a damaged woman’s envy of  another’s blogged life (Stolen Lives), and shark eating shark on the stock exchange (The Broker); these contrast with the housing estates and deprivation of the north (Jenkem), the growing problem of drugs (the beautifully Gothic The Hand of Ai), and the immigration and abuse of vulnerable women (Little Black). There’s humour with the feisty woman PI of Kiss of Santa, classic PP puzzles with the Christmas eve Silent Night and the macabre Snowy Sarcophagus, and a percipient twist on domestic abuse with Good Intentions. Every story is atmospheric, we meet a variety of sympathetic and less-than-sympathetic narrators (the fascist security guard of Hard Rain definitely leaps to mind here), and every one has a neat sting at the end. As far as noir goes, they range from dark grey to best Gothic territory.

The best and blackest in the noir series yet, and a treat for short story fans.
Highly recommended.
Reviewer: Marsali Taylor

James Thompson (1964–2014) lived in Finland for over fifteen years and was one of the most popular representatives of Nordic noir, with his work being published in a dozen countries. His novel Snow Angels, the first book in his acclaimed Kari Vaara series, was one of Booklist's Best Crime Novel Debuts of the Year and was nominated for Edgar, Anthony, and Strand Critics awards. Kirkus selected Lucifer's Tears, the second book in the series, as one of the best books of 2011. G.P. Putnam's Sons will release Helsinki Dead, the fifth installment in the series, in 2014. Jim was a reviewer for the New York Journal of Books and held a master's degree from the University of Helsinki. He was the editor of Helsinki Noir.

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.