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Sunday 29 January 2017

‘The Mine’ by Antti Tuomainen

Published by Orenda Books,
15 Novenber 2916.
ISBN: 978-1-91063-353-3

Finland; the present day. Investigative reporter Janne Vuori is sent an anonymous message about a cover-up of an environmental disaster causes by one of North Finland’s flagship companies, Finn Mining Limited. His quest for the truth leads him into danger, and puts pressure on his already fragile relationship with his family.

This stylish page-turner is narrated through two key characters: in the first person by Janne himself, and in the third person, following a mysterious assassain who is also involved in the events, although we are only gradually shown how – this strand of the plot has a particularly good end twist. Janne is a compulsive journalist, blocking out everything else once he’s on the track of a story – there were times when I definitely sympathised with his partner, Pauliina, particularly when he kept forgetting to pick up their daughter, and when his activities put his family at risk. However he’s also quick-witted in following the threads of this intricate plot, and the action in the novel keeps going.The description gives a real feel of wintry Finland, and the differences between Helsinki and the country highlighted – not least in the indifference of politicians to places that have few voters and no news cameras, and the way big businesses can hold country areas to ransom with offers of work. The environmental plot looks in detail at the viability of mining in North Finland, following a real-life example, but the main story is of a father’s relationship with the son he abandoned as a baby.

An elegantly-written environmental thriller, combining message with action, and with an unusual supporting character in the assassain, Emil. Highly recommended.
Rviewer: Marsali Taylor

Antti Tuomainen  was born in 1971. He was an award-winning copywriter when he made his literary debut in 2007 as a suspense author. The critically acclaimed My Brother's Keeper was published two years later. In 2011 Tuomainen's third novel, The Healer, was awarded the Clue Award for 'Best Finnish Crime Novel of 2011' and was shortlisted for the Glass Key Award. The Finnish press labeled The Healer - the story of a writer desperately searching for his missing wife in a post-apocalyptic Helsinki - 'unputdownable'. Two years later in 2013 they crowned Tuomainen "The king of Helsinki Noir" when Dark as my Heart was published. With a piercing and evocative style, Tuomainen is one of the first to challenge the Scandinavian crime genre formula.

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.

‘Second Strand’ by Carolyn McCrae

Published by Troubador,
28 January 2017.
ISBN: 978-1-785898389

Alex Brownlow has shared his life with Teri Barnes for over ten years but the relationship has run its course and they have begun to discuss the possibility of an amicable separation.  These domestic preoccupations change, however, when their elderly next door neighbour, Walter Brittain, is murdered.  Detective Sergeant Ann Hill is assigned to the case and questions the couple, but then Alex disappears and, inevitably, becomes a prime suspect.

Two years earlier DS Hill had been criticised when an apparently open and shut case she was leading failed to result in a conviction.  During the trial the defendant’s lawyer exposed embarrassing flaws in the investigation and Hill is determined not to repeat her mistakes.  She embarks on the Brittain enquiry with determination and vigour, hoping that a successful outcome will reignite her career.  Meanwhile, Teri engages a husband and wife investigation team, Fergal and Skye Shepherd, to find Alex.

As the various strands of the investigation converge, secrets and lies that have been hidden for over thirty years are gradually exposed.  They reveal a deadly game of betrayal and revenge that is still being played out and moving inexorably towards one final killing… 

Second Strand skillfully weaves the complexity of Teri and Alex’s unravelling relationship into the tangled mosaic of the murder enquiry.  The writing is compelling and crisp, and one is never quite sure who can be trusted because the characters are unpredicable and often unreliable.  The author has successfully combined plot, style and enigmatic personalities to create a tense thriller that keeps the reader guessing until the end. 
Reviewer: Dorothy Marshall-Gent

Carolyn McCrae was born in West Kirby on the Wirral when it was in Cheshire not on Merseyside. Having moved at least 13 times in the past 20 years she is now living in Dartmouth (Devon, England not Massachusetts, USA) with her husband Colin. Writing (whilst following the fortunes - or otherwise - of Liverpool Football Club and the English Cricket team) is now her career of preference after 33 years working in the marketing data management business she founded in 1983. An Archers-Addict of 55 years, she is currently taking a sabbatical from Ambridge while the Helen/Rob storyline plays out. In 2007 she won The David St John Thomas Prize for Self-published Fiction for her novel, The Last Dance, the first title in The Iniquities Trilogy so she can truthfully describe herself as a 'Prize-winning author'.

Dot Marshall-Gent worked in the emergency services for twenty years first as a police officer, then as a paramedic and finally as a fire control officer before graduating from King’s College, London as a teacher of English in her mid-forties.  She completed a M.A. in Special and Inclusive Education at the Institute of Education, London and now teaches part-time and writes mainly about educational issues.  Dot sings jazz and country music and plays guitar, banjo and piano as well as being addicted to reading mystery and crime fiction.  

Wednesday 25 January 2017

‘Solitaire’ by Jane Thynne

Published by Simon & Schuster,
17 November 2016.
ISBN: 978-1-4711-5579-6 (HB)
Berlin 1940 and Britain is now officially at war with Nazi Germany. Shortages are extreme and the authorities keep an ever stricter eye on the population while draconian penalties are metered out for infringement of regulations – for instance, listening to the BBC brings an automatic death penalty.
In this, the 5th Clara Vine novel, film actress Clara is still in Berlin and with the borders of Germany closed she cannot leave. Worse than this, she has been informed that her lover the British agent Leo Quinn has been shot and killed. It was Leo who had persuaded Clara to use her reluctant acquaintanceship with Magda Goebbels, wife of the infamous Joseph Goebbels, Adolf Hitler’s Propaganda Minister, to pass on to Leo any titbits of useful gossip she picks up from Frau Goebbels and the other wives of the Nazi leadership. And this Clara has successfully done on a number of occasions (see, for instance, the Mystery People review of the previous Clara Vine novel, Faith and Beauty). Now, however, devastated by grief at the news of Leo’s death and fearful that Goebbels suspects her double role, she has withdrawn into herself. All she cares about is Erich, the son of her friend Helga Schmidt who was murdered by her Nazi thug boyfriend (see the first Clara Vine, Black Roses); Erich, now old enough to be called up, would like to go into the Luftwaffe (the German airforce). And she is becoming involved with a young German orphan, Katerina Kempel, who has been in a state orphanage after the disappearance of her older sister Sonja. Then, an unexpected development: Goebbels, at the behest of the sinister Walter Schellenberg, head of the counter-espionage department of the SS, orders Clara to Paris to report on a German entertainer. But in her double role, Clara warns the entertainer of the possible danger he is in. Then Clara is ordered, again at Schellenberg’s behest, to go to Lisbon, capital of neutral Portugal. Once there she discovers that her task is to spy on the Duke and Duchess of Windsor (the Duke would have been King Edward VIII had he not renounced the throne to marry the thrice-divorced American Wallis Simpson). Just what is delaying the couple’s departure to the Bahamas? Their notoriously pro-Nazi sympathies? Or something else? And when Clara returns again to Berlin, can she use her acquaintance with Emmy Goering, wife of the Luftwaffe head, Hermann Goering, to ensure that Erich achieves his wish? And can she save little Katerina with her deformed foot from the all-too likely fate of those children deemed eugenically unfit to live?
If readers can suspend disbelief in the basic premise of all these novels, and the stories are so gripping it is easy to do so, each one is a great read, nor do they have to be read in sequence to understand what is going on. Clara is a heroine one can admire: apart from her ability as an actress to act a part convincingly, she has only her courage and intelligence to see her through. Although there are numerous characters in all the novels the fact that so many are real historical characters whose names will be known to readers helps to avoid confusion. Even Ian Fleming who was a wartime secret agent in Lisbon makes an appearance! At the end of the novel it becomes apparent that Clara’s own story is not over and I am looking forward to its successors, not only for Clara but for the many others with whom she becomes involved – will any of them survive? Recommended.
Reviewer: Radmila May
Jane Thynne was born in Venezuela and educated in London. She graduated from Oxford University with a degree in English and joined the BBC as a journalist. She has also worked at The Sunday Times, The Daily Telegraph and The Independent, as well as for numerous British magazines. She appears as a broadcaster on Radio 4. Jane is married to the writer Philip Kerr. They have three children and live in London. Find out more at connect with her on Facebook or follow her on Twitter @janethynne

Radmila May was born in the U.S. but has lived in the U.K. since she was seven apart from seven years in The Hague. She read law at university but did not go into practice. Instead she worked for many years for a firm of law publishers and still does occasional work for them including taking part in a substantial revision and updating of her late husband’s legal practitioners’ work on Criminal Evidence published late 2015. She has also contributed short stories with a distinctly criminal flavour to two of the Oxford Stories anthologies published by Oxpens Press – a third story is to be published shortly in another Oxford Stories anthology – and is now concentrating on her own writing.

Thursday 19 January 2017

‘None but the Dead’ by Lin Anderson

Published by Macmillan,
25 August 2016.

Orkney, on the northern island of Sanday. There’s a murder in the past – then, in the present, reclusive incomer Mike Jones finds a muslin flower in his loft – representing the soul of a dead child, the island’s historian, Sam Flett, tells him, adding ‘Put it back!’ But Mike feels strangely drawn by the flower ...then a skeleton’s found in Mike’s yard... but how could it be connected to a dead pensioner in Glasgow? If the islanders know, they’re not telling – but Rona MacLeod and her sidekicks Chrissie and McNab are determined to find out.

This novel brings forensic scientist Rhona Macleod to the most remote island of the Orkney archipelago, where the wind plays havoc with transport links, the only mobile phone signal is outside and behind the house, and there’s no point in putting up a tent, because it would be straight in the Atlantic. Anderson has captured the feel of somewhere very different, where everyone is related, and everyone knows everything about everyone else; where bones turning up in the soil are part of the Neolithic or Norse heritage; where islanders police themselves, and resent incomer law officers coming in; where the past is still important enough to kill for. We’re also given a flavour of wartime Orkney – far from being a safe haven then, the islands were in the front line, with thousands of soldiers, sailors, airmen and prisoners of war billeted there. Rhona MacLeod is a determined, resourceful heroine, even with her lab for test results several days away, and her profession adds an interesting and convincing dimension to her detective work – her use of soil, for example, to trace where people have been. Glaswegian McNab, a natural city-dweller, has no CCTV to help him find out what people were up to, just a lot of chatty islanders whose dialect is too strong for him to follow, and a determination that nobody’s going to attempt to murder him and get away with it. The different strands of the story – the murder in the past, the Glasgow death, and a child’s disappearance – are all woven together smoothly, and the supernatural atmosphere of the muslin flowers is creepily done. This novel is the eleventh in the Rhona MacLeod series, and so there are a number of references to previous books, usually in the characters’ relationships with each other, rather than in plot spoilers. If you wanted to begin at the start, the first story in the series is a prequel novella, Blood Red Roses, and the first novel is Driftnet.

A fast-moving, atmospheric PP with an extra dimension added to the investigation by the forensic scientist heroine, and set in an unusual and vividly-evoked place. A treat for Rhona MacLeod’s many fans, and highly recommended to those who haven’t met her yet.
Reviewer: Marsali Taylor

Lin Anderson was born in Greenock. She attended the University of Glasgow and Edinburgh. Lin is a Tartan Noir crime novelist and screenwriter. Whilst best known as the creator of forensic scientist Rhona MacLeod, Lin  has a second mystery thriller series featuring private investigator  Patrick de Courvoisier, set in glamorous Cannes (think  The Rockford Files meets James Bond). As of 2010 the Rhona MacLeod books are being developed for ITV. 

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.