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Wednesday 27 April 2016

‘The Hunter of the Dark’ by Donato Carrisi

Published by Abacus (Little Brown),
5 November 2015.
ISBN: 978-0-349-14118-3

The Hunter of the Dark is a priest named Marcus who belongs to ancient Italian team within the Vatican called the Penienzieri. They are trained in detecting evil that no one else can see.

A murderer is at large in Rome who kills couples and subjects them to strange rituals bordering on the occult.
Sandra is a police photographer and she teams up with Marcus whom she knew previously to set about catching the “Monster” as the killer becomes known.

Investigations lead them back many years to an Institute for children who had committed terrible crimes. There then begins the job of tracing all the children and staff , leading them into many narrow escapes as they unveil the evil character responsible for the ritual killings.

Also what is the meaning of the image of a man with a wolf's head which appears at the scene of some of the murders?

Just as they think they are getting nearer the truth, something leads them in another direction, making for a gripping read which races along at a break neck speed. Also running parallel with the main story is the mystery of the discovery of the dismembered body of a nun in the Vatican garden a year earlier. Marcus found her body and is determined to find the killer and wonders if it is at all connected to the later murders.

What a great book, I had real trouble putting it down. The pace never lets up and one surprise after another actually made me gasp out loud. I love Rome and was transported there so good is the description.
Very interesting is the Author's note at the back. The penitenziere does actually exist and subjects mentioned in the book were based on reality. Although, obviously as he says Donato Carrisi “took liberties” with them to produce a story. A really fantastic read.
Reviewer: Tricia Chappell

Donato Carrisi was born in 1973 and studied law and criminology. Since 1999 he has been working as a TV screenwriter.  The Whisperer, Carrisi's first novel, won five international literary prizes, has been sold in nearly twenty countries, and has been translated into languages as varied as French, Danish, Hebrew and Vietnamese. Carrisi lives in Rome.

Tricia Chappell. I have a great love of books and reading, especially crime and thrillers. I play the occasional game of golf  (when I am not reading). My great love is cruising especially to far flung places, when there are long days at sea for plenty more reading! I am really enjoying reviewing books and have found lots of great new authors.

‘Cat Among the Herrings’ by L C Tyler

Published by Allison & Busby,
18 February 2016.
ISBN: 978-0-74901-986-0

The village of West Wittering was burying the last of the Paghams, a family, the rector said had for centuries been significant landowners in the area. That the family fortunes had in recent years declined through gambling, drinking and bribery, he glossed over. Robin Pagham had met a tragic end when out sailing. “Probably drunk” mused the congregation.  However, it appeared that Robin’s fiancée Catrina did not share the general view, as just as they were all ready to take their leave of the church and head for refreshment at the wake, Catrina lifted her veil and surveying the congregation declared: ‘One of you bastards murdered Robin, and I’m going to have your arse.’

At the wake Ethelred Tressidor funds himself buttonholed by Catrina to find out who killed Robin, but he politely refuses. However, when taxed by journalist Tom Gittings, who reveals that his family and the Paghams have lived side by side as it were for centuries, and asks Ethelred to look into the murder of his ancestor John Gittings, he is intrigued. After all, there might be a book in it.

When Ethelred’s former agent Elsie Thirkettle  gets wind of a possible murder investigation in the village of West Wittering, she wastes no time in scheduling a visit. While Elthelred proceeds to investigate the murder of John Gittings, Elsie pursues her own investigations, with comic results.

Despite their current estrangement it was joy to visit again with Elthelred and Elsie. An intriguing murder, interspersed with the life of a literary agent.  All those rejection letters to write, to point budding authors in the right direction with encouragement and kindness. And to help one’s PA to understand irony.

I loved this book. And heartily recommend it.
Reviewer: Lizzie Hayes

L. C. Tyler was born in Southend, Essex, and educated at Southend High School for Boys, Jesus College Oxford and City University London. After university he joined the Civil Service and worked at the Department of the Environment in London and Hong Kong. He then moved to the British Council, where his postings included Malaysia, Thailand, Sudan and Denmark.

Since returning to the UK he has lived in Sussex and London, and was Chief Executive of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health for eleven years. He is now a full time writer. His first novel, The Herring Seller's Apprentice, was published by Macmillan in 2007, followed by A Very Persistent Illusion, Ten Little Herrings, The Herring in the Library and Herring on the Nile. The first book in a new historical series, A Cruel Necessity, was published by Constable and Robinson in November 2014. The follow up is A Masterpiece of Corruption and was published in January 2016.

‘Hester and Harriet’ by Hilary Spiers

Published by Allen & Unwin,
3 March 2016.
ISBN: 978-0-92526-681-8

Theft, people-trafficking, manufacturing illegal drugs, car chases: typical ingredients of a fast-paced thriller, wouldn’t you say? 

How about knitting, cooking, bridge and the cutest, best-behaved baby that ever drew breath? 

In Hester and Harriet, Hilary Spiers manages to include all of the above, with hardly a policeman in sight, give or take the odd village bobby and a raid on a cannabis farm that takes place off-stage. The eponymous characters are sisters, both widowed, formerly a senior local government officer and comprehensive school teacher, enjoying a peaceful retirement in a rural village; the most excitement in their lives is the occasional skirmish with another vehicle on account of Harriet’s terrible driving. 

Then one Christmas they find themselves rescuing Daria, a young eastern European woman, and her baby Milo, who they discover sleeping in a bus shelter. Shortly afterwards Ben, their teenage nephew, arrives on the doorstep in search of sanctuary from his over-protective parents – and Hester and Harriet’s quiet existence is set to become a lot more interesting. 

As Daria’s unfortunate story unfolds, village life goes on, though not quite as normal. There’s gossip over an afternoon of bridge regarding a dispute between a snooty neighbour and the local philanderer turned property developer. Finbar the highly educated tramp finds himself involved in a dispute with a shady character. The vicar’s wife starts behaving quite out of character. And Ben, a typical fifteen-year-old, acne-ridden, school-phobic and welded to his mobile phone, reveals hidden depths.  

Hester, Harriet, Daria and Ben are rounded, believable characters: ordinary people caught up in extraordinary circumstances. Both the village background and the supporting characters are two-dimensional and just a little larger than life: do-gooders Isabelle and George, opinionated Peggy,  wide-boy Teddy, a tweedy solicitor, an avuncular desk sergeant, a distinctly seedy private detective. There’s even a martinet of a hospital sister for good measure – but it all works in the context of a gentle, humorous narrative in which two ladies of a certain age discover that there’s a big, bad world outside their cosy sitting room, and that they quite enjoy the stimulation it provides. And of course it all turns out fine in the end.  

The result is an easy read, comforting in the face of the real big, bad world, beautifully written and perfectly pitched. 
 Reviewer: Lynne Patrick 

Hilary Spiers is a novelist, award-winning short story writer and playwright. She enjoys writing about ordinary women in extraordinary circumstances. Hilary lives in the finest stone town in England, with her husband and their neurotic cat Lola. When she isn't writing (which she is most of the time), she is directing, performing or cooking up a storm. Pies are a speciality.

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 26 April 2016

Brit Noir: The Pocket Essential Guide to the Crime Fiction, Film and TV of the British Isles by Barry Forshaw.

Published by Pocket Essentials,
21 April 2016.
ISBN: 978-1-84344-640-8

Forshaw has followed his previous Nordic Noir and Euro Noir with this similar format volume on British crime. This handy book is subtitled “A definitive investigation of the contemporary crime field”, and that’s a well-earned description. In his introduction, Forshaw speaks of a ‘new Golden Age’ of crime, and the variety of genres, detectives, themes and authors he then gives details of certainly bear that out. He’s interpreted ‘noir’ loosely to include contemporary writers he feels meet his criteria of the key four elements: strong plotting, literate, adroit writing, complex characterisation and vividly evoked locales. This means non-noir writers like McCall Smith and other ‘cosies’ are included, so it is a real snapshot of crime writing in Britain today. The only crime genre not included is historical crime, although a number of writers who are usually historical are included for their contemporary novels.

The guide is roughly organised by region, so if you enjoy researching your favoured holiday spot with a look at their crime scene, you can do that. However, as Forshaw points out, writers like McDermid and Cleeves are known for several locations, so the easiest way to find a particular author is through the index. All our favourites are here, along with many less well-known (I’m honoured to be included). Each author is then given a paragraph describing the work, the series detective, locale, writing strengths, and a recommendation of a representative book. These paragraphs are descriptions, rather than reviews, as Forshaw points out in his introduction, but he can’t help his enthusiasm breaking through when he talks of his particular favourites. England is divided into regions, with Wales and the Borders part of this section, and Scotland and Ireland each have a section of their own. The Irish section includes the whole of Ireland, because, as Forshaw says, he wanted to celebrate as many interesting and talented writers as he could. This is followed  by ‘A World Elsewhere’, with British writers who set their novels abroad. Finally, there’s a list of films and TV series, with a paragraph of description of each.

A must-have for crime fans: for reminding yourself about old favourites, for finding new authors, and for that ‘What shall we watch?’ moment as you contemplate settling down on the sofa for an exciting evening of TV. Highly recommended.
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.