Recent Events

Sunday, 22 July 2018

‘Guilt’ by Amanda Robson

Published by Avon Books,
19 April 2018.
ISBN: 968-0-00-821224-7 (PB)

A debut novel that has won many plaudits is always a hard act to follow and this, the author’s second, must demonstrate the same knockout qualities.

Here the reader encounters fraternal twins, Zara and Miranda, who live in Miranda’s flat in Bristol.  Zara is a dropout and gets her kicks by cutting herself but eventually manages to enrol on a photography undergraduate degree course. Miranda is a high-flying accountant in a prestigious firm. They’re chalk and cheese   but have always supported each other through thick and thin. Enter Sebastian, handsome, manipulative and charismatic with whom Zara is besotted. He moves in to the flat, slowly and surely undermining the twins devoted relationship and lands a job not only in the same firm as Miranda, but also in the same room.

The story is narrated in the first person present tense from the perspective of each of the three principal characters.   Each chapter is sharp and short, no more than a page or so long, that is tautly dramatic.  That Sebastian has ulterior motives is apparent from the outset and Miranda takes an instant dislike to him. However, she’s between the devil and the deep blue sea and can’t get rid of him because to do so would compromise not only her close sisterly relationship with Zara but also Zara’s fragile mental state.

Zara is persuaded by Sebastian to believe that Miranda is jealous of her and desires Sebastian for herself. Without providing a spoiler, a toxic crime scene, born from lies, deceit, mind games and lust, arises that leads to one of the twins being locked away in a women’s prison and puts her in the dock, battling, against all the evidence, to establish her innocence.

The writing is fast paced, characterisation is well explored, the dialogue frisky and natural. The reader will root for some characters but not for others, but it will certainly keep him/her on tenterhooks and guessing to the end.
Reviewer: Serena Fairfax

After graduating, Amanda Robson worked in medical research at The London School of Hygiene and Tropical medicine, and at the Poison’s Unit at Guy’s hospital where she became a co-author of a book on cyanide poisoning.  This has set her in good stead for writing her debut novel, Obsession, a dark and twisted tale about love affairs gone wrong. Amanda attended the Faber Academy writing course in 2011, and now writes from home full time. She lives in London and Wales, with her lawyer husband

Serena Fairfax spent her childhood in India, qualified as a lawyer in England and practised in London for many years. She began writing by contributing feature articles to legal periodicals   then turned her hand to fiction. Having published nine novels all, bar one, hardwired with a romantic theme, she has also written short stories and accounts of her explorations off the beaten track that feature on her blog. A tenth, distinctly unromantic, novel is a work in progress. Thrillers, crime and mystery narratives, collecting old masks and singing are a few of her favourite things.

Friday, 20 July 2018

Theakstons Old Peculier
Crime Novel of the Year 2018 announced

Stav Sherez has tonight (announced 19 July, 9pm) scooped the
Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Award for The Intrusions.
Now in its fourteenth year, the Award is considered one of the most coveted crime writing prizes in the country.
The Intrusions by Stav Sherez was a 2017 Guardian and Sunday Times book of the year, dubbed ‘A Silence of the Lambs for the internet age’ by Ian Rankin. The book was acclaimed by critics for its echoes of Emile Zola and influences from Graham Greene to Dostoyevsky.
Stav was presented the award by title sponsor Simon Theakston and broadcaster Mark Lawson at the opening night of the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival. The annual Festival, hosted in Harrogate, is the world’s biggest celebration of the genre.
Stav said: “I’m so shocked. Thank you so much for everyone who reads books, everyone who buys books, and talks about them. The world is full of hardships, but we have so much great stuff in culture and it means so much that there’s something to hide in.”
Stav talked about the inspiration of social media offering a new vein of storytelling and criminality.
“The Intrusions are the stuff we have all around us – all the static and scatter of TV and phones – everything is impinging on our consciousness and you don’t have time to think. So many great crime writers have come before us that have used all the great plots – Christie, James Ellroy – it’s good to have new criminality to deal with. But it’s not only criminality, the internet is affecting politics, it’s affecting elections, it affects us and our kids.”
Sherez beat off stiff competition from the shortlist of six, whittled down from a longlist of 18 crime novels published by UK and Irish authors whose novels were published in paperback from 1 May 2017 to 30 April 2018.
The 2018 Award is run in partnership with T&R Theakston Ltd, WHSmith, and The Mail on Sunday.
Stav Sherez collected a £3,000 cash prize, as well as a handmade, engraved oak beer cask made by Theakston Old Peculier.
The winner was decided by the panel of Judges, comprising literary and media figures chaired this year by Lee Child, alongside a public vote.
The Intrusions is structured around the lead character – Carrigan’s - visits to the hospital to visit his mother who suffered a stroke.
Stav said: “I didn’t know anyone who died from stoke, then a year into writing the book my dad had his first stroke, and was in and out of hospital rewriting scenes I’d already imagined. Philip Roth in his book at his father’s death was shocked at himself writing notes, in a way it’s remembering the dead, making sure their stories are never lost, which is in a way is what all literature is about.”
A special presentation was made to John Grisham - the winner of the ninth Theakston Old Peculier Outstanding Contribution to Crime Fiction Award.
Grisham joins Lee Child, Val McDermid, Sara Paretsky,
Lynda La Plante, Ruth Rendell, PD James, Colin Dexter and Reginald Hill as recipients of the Award.
John Grisham said: “About twenty years ago I attended a Chelsea football match with my close friend and editor, Oliver Johnson.  Afterwards, we retired to a pub and I had my first pint of Theakston Old Peculier.  Others followed.  It’s my favourite beer in the world.” 
He added: “I want to thank you for your loyal readership over the years, because of you, the readers, people like myself and Lee Child are lucky enough to do what we do. Thank you very much.”
Title sponsor and executive director of T&R Theakston, Simon Theakston, said: “We’re particularly delighted to honour John Grisham. He is truly a giant of the genre, having sold 300 million books worldwide, with nine of his novels being adapted by Hollywood. His appearance at the Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival marks the first time he’s visited Yorkshire, something that will be remembered in Harrogate history for many years to come. The fact that he is a devotee of Old Peculier only adds to our delight!”
The shortlist in full:
  • Mick Herron, Spook Street
  • Val McDermid, Insidious Intent
  • Denise Mina, The Long Drop
  • Abir Mukherjee, A Rising Man
  • Stav Sherez, The Intrusions
  • Susie Steiner, Persons Unknown

Wednesday, 18 July 2018

‘Zen and the Art of Murder’ by Oliver Bottini

Published by MacLehose Press,
11 January 2018.
ISBN 978 0 85705 735 8
Translated by Jamie Bulloch

Louise Boni is a Chief Inspector in the Black Forest crime squad.  But, as is the case with many female police characters in current crime fiction, she is struggling with personal problems:  the ghosts of past cases, a divorce, her parents, and alcohol to list a few.  The action starts on a snowy Saturday in Liebau when Johann Hollerer, one of Boni’s colleagues, looks out at the High Street and watches a Japanese monk walk towards the Church.  His presence is causing a mild sensation and Hollerer realises that he must do something for the monk’s own protection.  Louise gets called in and sets off to find the monk …. She catches up with him, but this is not the end of the trail, which crosses European borders and, ultimately, leads to death and discovery and, maybe, to help for Louise.  This is a sad and serious story, its measured and contemplative moments perhaps reflecting the Buddhist element.

Oliver Bottini is a well-known krimi (crime fiction) author in Germany and this is a translation from the original German.  The impression is that the translator, Jamie Bulloch, has grasped the essence of the novel, its nuances and pace.  Four of the author’s novels, including this one, have been awarded the Deutscher Krimipreis, Germany's most prestigious award for crime writing and this book is on the long list for the CWA International Dagger (which is for crime novels not originally written in English, but translated into English for publication).
Reviewer: Jo Hesslewood
Other books (English translations) by this author:  A Summer of Murder

Oliver Bottini was born in 1965. Four of his novels, including Zen and the Art of Murder and A Summer of Murder of the Black Forest Investigations have been awarded the Deutscher Krimipreis, Germany’s most prestigious award for crime writing. In addition, his novels have been awarded the Stuttgarter Krimipreis and the Berliner Krimipreis. He lives in Berlin.

Jo Hesslewood.  Crime fiction has been my favourite reading material since as a teenager I first spotted Agatha Christie on the library bookshelves.  For twenty-five years the commute to and from London provided plenty of reading time.  I am fortunate to live in Cambridge, where my local crime fiction book club, Crimecrackers, meets at Heffers Bookshop .  I enjoy attending crime fiction events and currently organise events for the Margery Allingham Society.