Recent Events

Monday, 12 November 2018

‘The Colour of Murder’ by Julian Symons

Reprint Published by the British Library Crime Classics,
10 September 2018.
ISBN: 978-0-7123-5227-7

The story is told in two parts. The first part is called ‘Before’ and contains the First Person narrative of John Wilkins as he makes a statement to Doctor Max Andreadis, consulting psychiatrist. In this statement, John talks about his life and how he came to marry his wife, May, although he starts with the event that changed his life and landed him in the unfortunate position that he is now in. ‘It all began one day in April when I went round to change a library book.’ It was there that John met Sheila and became obsessed with her. John is the perfect example of an unreliable narrator. He is an insecure and immature young man, convinced that his boss is treating him unfairly and, despite his marriage, he is still coddled by his doting and extremely bossy widowed mother. John is the ultimate victim, always blaming others for his own shortcomings. Throughout his narrative, John paints a cruel picture of May, with the result that the reader, seeing her through the mirror of his dislike, is forced to wonder whether she is really as unattractive as John claims. This leads the reader to query all the relationships and events that John reports.

The second part of the novel, ‘After,’ is a Third Person report of John Wilkins trial for murder. It is a sardonic look at the British legal system in the 1950s and the effect on the people involved before, during and after the trial. At the end of the book the question still remains, of whether justice was really done and if the truth was revealed.

The Colour of Murder was originally published in 1957 and has just been republished by the British Library with an excellent introduction by Martin Edwards. It was a ground-breaking book when first published and is still an intriguing and skilfully structured book, which gives an insight into the social customs of ordinary people sixty years ago and queries about a legal system that persist up to this time. A clever book that is well worth reading.
Reviewer: Carol Westron
Julian Symons (1912-1984) was a notable writer of British crime fiction from the 1950s until his death, publishing more than thirty novels in total. He served as President of the prestigious Detection Club, won two Edgar Awards from the Mystery Writers of America, and is well known as the author of Bloody Murder, a classic history of crime fiction.

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 the first in her Scene of Crimes novels, was published July 2013. Carol recently gave an interview to Mystery People. To read the interview click on the link below.

To read a review of Carol latest book Strangers and Angels click on the title.

‘Hush Hush by Mel Sherratt

Published by Avon,
18 October 2018.
ISBN: 978-0-00827-104-6 (PB)

And there I was, thinking Stoke-on-Trent was a quiet, peaceful place. Clearly Mel Sherratt knows different – and since she's been voted one of the city's most influential people, she must know what she's talking about. Or writing about, in her latest nail-biting police procedural Hush Hush. Apparently, this unpretentious midlands city is a hotbed of gang rivalry, drug peddling, sexual abuse and violent death, with the odd family squabble thrown in.

Sherratt's earlier Stoke protagonist DS Allie Shenton has been promoted and moved on. She plays a minor role this time around, leaving centre stage for newcomer DS Grace Allendale – and Grace has a secret which just might get in the way of her job. She may be new to the Stoke police force, but she has considerable history with the city itself; until twenty-three years ago, she and her mother were under the thumb of George Steele, one of its most violent and notorious criminal figures. They escaped, and now George is dead, murdered by persons unknown, so Grace thought it would be safe to return for a promotion.

As it turns out, she couldn't have been more wrong. The Steeles are still a force to be reckoned with, and when one of their associates is murdered, Grace finds herself in trouble with both sides, and eventually doesn't know who she can trust.

Sherratt weaves a complex plot which puts a whole new spin on the police procedural sub-genre. The two Steele brothers, Grace's half-brothers, are engaged in a constant battle for supremacy, though they continue to protest their innocence as the body count grows. Their sister and mother have their own agendas. And as if that wasn't enough, there's even a hint that there might be a traitor in the police ranks.

On a personal level, Grace is still grieving for her husband, who died of cancer before the book begins. She needs a new start, but if she is to forge a place for herself back in her birthplace, there are lines to be drawn, issues to be settled and the past to be laid to rest. But before that, there are murders to solve and her own loyalty to prove to her senior officers.

Grace Allendale has all the makings of a series protagonist who could run and run. More power to Mel Sherratt for setting the ball rolling and putting Stoke-on-Trent firmly on the crime fiction map.
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick

Mel Sherratt has published fifteen novels so far: police procedurals, psychological thrillers and fiction with a punch. Mel lives in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, with her husband and terrier, Dexter (named after the TV serial killer) and makes liberal use of her hometown as a backdrop for some of her books.

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.

Saturday, 10 November 2018

‘Sins of the Dead’ by Lin Anderson

Published by Macmillan,
9 August 2018.
ISBN: 978-1-50986619-9 (HB)

Forensic scientist Rhona MacLeod has been called to a body in one of the Glasgow tunnels: a young man laid out as if for burial, with a half-drunk glass of wine and half-eaten piece of bread beside him, recalling the old custom of the ‘sin-eater’... but who is the perpretator, and how has he gained his forensic knowledge?

This fast-moving PP uses several voices to tell the story, mostly in the third person: Rhona herself, the investigating officer, Mike McNab, now demoted to Detective Sergeant after their last case together, Follow the Dead. Mike’s biker girlfriend Ellie is also involved; she and her friends found the body during an illegal race under the city, and Ellie is haunted by the discovery, which takes her back to the trauma of her brother’s suicide. There are suspicious characters a-plenty, including Rhona’s friendly neighbour, and the too-interested DC Fleming. Rhona herself is a character that it’s easy to identify with: precise and determined in her work, yet unable to conquer her personal life, and in the later stages of the book you’re with her in every moment of her struggle. McNab is also a character you’re drawn to; you sympathise with his current professional frustrations, and his difficulties in forming relationships, and hope that he and Ellie will work out. The description of the places in the story, particularly the sinister tunnels, is evocative, the writing is stylish, the dialogue snappy, and the pace keeps up the speed of the opening chapters with sinister short meditations by the perp pointing to a new victim, and twists to keep the reader on their toes. The forensic detail, as always, is both fascinating and meticulously accurate. Although this is book 13 in the series, and the continuing interactions between the characters is important to readers, Anderson kept us focused on the plot throughout. I did wish I’d re-read Follow the Dead before this one, as the reverberations from that case were present through the book – but not to the extent of spoiling it as an excellent stand-alone.

A pacy, gripping PP from the point of view of a forensic scientist, with plenty of action and atmosphere. A treat for Rhona MacLeod fans, and a great introduction to her and her world for new readers. Highly recommended.
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.

Click on the title to read a review of her recent book Ghosts of the Vikings