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Wednesday 30 November 2016

‘The Domino Killer’ by Neil White

Published by Sphere,
8 December 2016.
ISBN 978-0-7515-4950-8 (PB)
This is the third book in the Parker Brothers series.  Sam Parker is a detective constable with the Greater Manchester police and his younger brother, Joe, is a criminal defence lawyer.

The book begins with a brutal, cold-blooded murder being committed by a man who didn’t know either the victim or understand why it was important that he should be killed.

Joe Parker is called to the police station and learns that the man he is being asked to represent is the man whom he believes had murdered his sister Ellie seventeen years previously.  The crime was never solved and Joe is burdened with, and driven by, the guilty knowledge that he could have saved Ellie. Indeed Joe had chosen to become a criminal lawyer only in the hope that he would come across Ellie’s murderer whom he has vowed to kill.

Whilst Joe is reeling with shock, his brother, DC Sam Parker, is trying to track the killer of the victim from Chapter One, whom it transpires has himself recently killed a schoolteacher.

The two stories gradually merge.  They take the investigators into the murky world of men seeking sex from underage girls via the Internet, and towards a warped killer who thrives on the misery his crimes generate in the families of his victims.  Gina Ross, an ex policewoman who investigated Ellie’s death, helps the brothers with their efforts to catch the killer.
This is a well-written, fast paced story in which tension builds from the first line and there is a neat twist at the end that explains the enigma raised in Chapter One.  The narrative has a great sense of place, and the personal relationships are skillfully described. Joe’s relationship with the mother of one young girl provides interest to carry that strand of the story forwards.

I hadn’t read the first two books in the series, but this was not a problem. I thoroughly
recommend the Domino Killer to anyone who enjoys a good thriller.
Reviewer: Angela Crowther

Neil White was born in 1965 in Mexborough, a small South Yorkshire mining town. The family moved several times. Eventually Neil studied law and gained his law degree in Preston. He is a criminal lawyer and a writer. During the day he goes to court. At night he write’s crime fiction. He says ‘It is as simple as that.’

Angela Crowther is a retired scientist.  She has published many scientific papers but, as yet, no crime fiction.  In her spare time Angela belongs to a Handbell Ringing group, goes country dancing and enjoys listening to music, particularly the operas of Verdi and Wagner.

‘The 12.30 From Croydon’ by Freeman Wills Crofts

Published by British Library,
19 July 2016.
ISBN: 978-0-7123-5649-7

The 12.30 From Croydon is an inverted novel. This is a novel where the reader follows the perpetrator as he or she conceives the idea of the crime, commits it and then follows the course and outcome of the investigation. However Chapter One is not in the viewpoint of the perpetrator, it is in the viewpoint of young Rose Morley. Rose is accompanying her father, Peter Morley, and her maternal grandfather, Andrew Crowther, and Crowther's manservant, Weatherup, on an aeroplane journey to Paris to be at the bedside of Rose's mother, who has been injured in an accident. In this skilful way the author manages to introduce several details about the journey through the wondering eyes of a child. However, because she is a child, Rose fails to comprehend the most important thing of all: it is not until her father tells her afterwards that she realises that her grandfather is dead.

In Chapter Two we go back to four weeks before Andrew Crowther's death and follow Charles Swinburne, Andrew's nephew, as it occurs to him that all his problems would be solved if his uncle died. Charles owns and runs Crowther Electromotor Works, the firm set up by Andrew Crowther and Charles' father. Now Andrew is retired and Charles' father has died. Charles had run the firm well until the economic slump had damaged his business. Charles knows that he is Andrew's co-heir, along with Andrew's daughter, Peter's wife. He also knows that Andrew will not understand that the current economic situation is responsible for Charles' failure and is unlikely to lend Charles a suitable sum of money for the new machinery he needs. Even worse, if he is disappointed in Charles he might well disinherit him. Charles is appalled at the thought of laying off his men, knowing that they will struggle to find new jobs and they and their families will suffer terrible hardship. However, at the root of Charles decision is selfishness, partly because he does not wish to lose the status being a successfully businessman gives him, but mainly because he is in love with Una Mellor, a mercenary young woman who would never marry a poor man.

The reader follows Charles as he first thinks of killing his uncle, shies away from it and then embraces the idea; and as he plans how to commit the crime. Having decided on poison he has to work out how to acquire it in a way that won't lead to his detection, and how to administer it. When the deed is done the reader observes his see-saw of emotions – his worry at the start of the investigation, his relief when the Coroner rules Andrew's death as suicide and his mounting fear as he realises that the police are not satisfied with this verdict; his concern when he realises that Peter Morley may be suspected of the crime; his second foray into violence; and his emotions when the case is brought to court.

As well as the local police officers, Detective Inspector French, the author's series' detective is on the case, and the final two chapters are devoted to French explaining to a group of interested professionals his insights into the murder.

The 12.30 From Croydon is a skilfully crafted book, exploring in detail the mechanics of murder and the emotions of the murderer. The author elicits some sympathy for Charles without condoning the crime he commits. It is interesting to see Inspector French from a criminal's point of view as 'a pleasant, rather kindly and very ordinary man.' The pace of the book is measured and rather slow, which gives the effect of a crime and investigation in real time, but the tension is maintained and built up throughout the book, culminating in the final trial scenes. French's exposition of what aroused his suspicions and how he built his case is fascinating. If the style of The 12.30 From Croydon was an experiment for Freeman Wills Crofts it should be counted as a successful one.
Reviewer: Carol Westron

Freeman Wills Crofts (1879-1957) was one of the pre-eminent writers in the golden age of British crime fiction. He was the author of more than thirty detective novels, and was greatly acclaimed by peers such as Agatha Christie and Raymond Chandler.

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 latest book The Fragility of Poppies was published 10 June 2016.

Tuesday 29 November 2016

‘The Borrowed’ by Chan Ho-Kei

Published by Head of Zeus,
8 September 2016.
ISBN: 978-1-78497-151-9

Six stories take us through through the career of Hong Kong detective Sonny Lok and his mentor, Kwan Chun-Dok. The series begins with Inspector Lok bringing his suspects to the hospital room of the dying Chun-Dok, the former commander of Crime Intelligence Bureau, also known to his subordinates as the ‘Eye of Heaven’, because of his genius in detection.

The stories then take us back through the way the men’s relationship has grown over the years, as well as showing key moments of Chun-Dok’s career, and the story of Hong Kong itself in the move away from Britain. Each story is a carefully crafted classic crime, with the clues fairly presented, and a clever twist to the solution. The plots include a Christie-style murder of a tycoon, a war between Triad members, an escaped prisoner, the capture of that prisoner’s brother in a bungled hostage situation, and the kidnapping of the son of a British official involved in investigating corruption in the Hong Kong police. The final story is told in the first person, by a young man who becomes involved in foiling the schemes of a terrorist gang. The backwards-telling idea is cleverly done, and it’s an interesting way of looking at Chun-Dok and Lok’s careers. While these stories follow the police point of view, and give a full picture of the Hong Kong police from the inside, Ho-Kei’s more like Christie or Conan Doyle in their use of the detective figure than a modern police procedural.

The stories also take us through the story of Hong Kong’s moves towards separation from the British, from the initial demand for indepencence through the negotiotions to the city as it is today. Each story is 80-90 hardback pages long, and the book would be ideal for carrying for those moments when you don’t want a full-length novel, but can’t be bothered with learning new characters for each short story.

An excellent read for classic crime fans, with the bonus of an interestingly exotic background, both in police procedures and the politics of a city.
Reviewer: Marsali Taylor

Chan Ho-Kei was raised in Hong Kong. He has won the Mystery Writers of Taiwan Award for his short stories, and In 2011, his debut novel The Man Who Sold the World won the Soji Shimada, the biggest mystery award in the Chinese world.

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.

Monday 28 November 2016

‘The Midas Legacy’ by Andy McDermott

Published by Headline,
22 September 2016.
ISBN: 978-0-7559-8080-0

World famous archaeologist Nina Wilde, well known for discovering Atlantis some years before is now persuaded along with her husband Eddie Chase to again try and find something that was once believed to be a myth.

Her mother, also an archaeologist had always maintained that the people of Atlantis had treasure hidden somewhere in Nepal, but was killed before she could search for it. Eddie on a dive at the site of Atlantis finds a Secret Codex seemingly pointing to the whereabouts of the gold, they decide to go and find out more. Among others, one of the reasons Nina wants to go is to prove her mother right. When her grandmother unexpectedly turns up with copious notes of her mother’s it makes her even more determined to find the truth.

Leaving their daughter Macy at home in New York with a relative, they fly out to Nepal to a monastery thought to be near the cave containing the gold. The monks agree to help them, however someone else also knows about it and they have obviously followed Nina and Eddie.

Now begins not only a desperate fight not only to keep their secret hidden but to keep their lives. It's not long before it becomes apparent that involved are not just greedy individuals but even more greedy heads of countries determined to use the gold to control the world. What follows is a frantic struggle to keep one step ahead of people very determined to keep them quiet for good.

Wow, what an exciting book, it pulls the reader in and holds you with a stranglehold grip right from the beginning. I think just about everyone is interested in the possible existence of the much talked about Atlantis and this helps to bring the story alive.

I see this is Andy McDermott's twelfth book involving Nina and Eddie and how Atlantis was discovered. I would definitely like to read some of their earlier exploits.

I highly recommend The Midas Legacy for those who like non-stop action that never lets up. What it says on the cover is what you get, quote: “Action, Adventure and Mayhem Aplenty”!
Reviewer: Tricia Chappell
Andy McDermott was born in Halifax.  He is the bestselling author of the Nina Wilde/Eddie Chase series of adventure thrillers, which have been sold in over 30 countries and 20 languages. His debut novel, The Hunt For Atlantis, was published in the UK in 2008; on its US publication the following year it became his first of several New York Times bestsellers. He is also the author of the explosive spy thriller The Persona Protocol, and the first in a planned series of short stories about celebrity sleuth Leviticus Gold. A former journalist and movie critic, Andy was the editor of respected UK magazines like DVD Review and the iconoclastic film publication Hotdog. He is now a full-time author. He now lives in Bournemouth.

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.