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Monday 26 February 2018

‘Follow the Dead’ by Lin Anderson

Published by Macmillan,
10 August 2017.
ISBN: 978-1-5098-0701-7(HB)
Published by Pan,
22 March 2018. 
ISBN: 978-1-5098-0703-1 (PB)

Like earlier novels in this series, Follow the Dead features two protagonists, forensic scientist Rhona Macleod and Detective Sergeant McNab of the Glasgow Police. Rhona is on holiday with her partner Sean in the Cairngorms to celebrate Hogmanay (the Scottish New Year) while McNab, is in the process of getting a tattoo on his back to disguise a bullet wound received during military service in Afghanistan and taking rather a fancy to the pretty girl tattooist Ellie, herself a walking gallery of tattoo art, is expecting to celebrate Hogmanay in Glasgow. Neither is able to do so. Rhona is called out to a plane crash in the mountains and then to a rock shelter where the bodies of three climbers have been found; there was a fourth climber, Isla, where is she? And McNab is called out to a rowdy night club which results in a massive haul of cocaine and a number of arrests of men having sex with under-age girls, in particular a 13-year old from Syria who had been smuggled into Scotland via Norway. She had been injured during the raid and is taken to hospital but disappears.

Meanwhile, the crashed plane has been discovered; the pilot's body is further away from the plane, apparently dead of injuries received during the crash. A search of the plane reveals remnants of a substantial amount of cocaine, but where is the bulk of the cocaine? Then the missing climber is found, alive but only just, and suffering from extreme hypothermia. Her story is that she had gone out during the night to relieve herself, had then got lost, and a stranger appeared and offered to guide her back to the rock shelter. But he did not, and Isla realised that his intentions were malign. She manages to get away and hide. But who was the stranger? And why should he want to kill her? A third strand is the arrival of Norwegian detective Alvis Olsen who believes that the two series of events are linked, not only by the cocaine but by the trafficking of refugee children not just for sexual exploitation but for something far worse. A fourth strand is the possible involvement of McNab's childhood friend Davey Stevenson with the leading Glasgow gangster Brophy. All these strands are brought together in a compelling narrative which moves from Glasgow to the Cairngorms to Stavanger in Norway culminating in a thrilling denouement across the North Sea in the depths of a winter storm.

I was particularly struck by the author's vivid and compelling description of the perils of a Highland winter and the role played by the Cairngorm Mountain Rescue Team to which the book is dedicated, also by her knowledge of forensic science techniques so necessary to establish the manner and time of death which makes such an important contribution towards establishing criminal liability. She thanks the Norwegian police authorities for providing information on which the episodes in Norway are based and also information regarding human trafficking.
Reviewer: Radmila May

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. 

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.

Saturday 24 February 2018

‘The Wife Between Us’ by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen

Published by Macmillan,
8 February 2018.
ISBN: 978-1-5098-4281-0 (HB)

New York is a bustling backdrop for this psychological suspense in the vein of Behind Closed Doors, Girl On A Train and Gone Girl.

A dual point of view, narrated in the first person, occupies the first half. There is Nellie, 27 years old, only weeks away from her wedding to Richard, wealthy, sophisticated, romantic, handsome and thoughtful. Seven years older than her, he’s every girl’s Prince Charming. But is he too good to be true? Then in comes Vanessa, centre stage, who’s trying to recover from a bitter divorce when her husband Richard left her for a younger woman. Vanessa is down on her uppers, living in her beloved aunt’s spare room and working, rather ineffectively, as a low-paid sales assistant in a department store. The second half of the book kicks off with a single viewpoint.

The novel digs down into the complexities of friendship, obsession, marriage and betrayal. At the core of the story is an ex-wife supposedly obsessed with the beautiful woman to whom her former husband has become engaged.

Nothing is what it seems. The characterisation is well crafted; the dialogue runs smoothly and naturally. The plot twists and turns in a pacy arc that keeps one guessing and turning the pages to the very end.   Although the story jumps around undeniably the co-authors have collaborated successfully to produce a book to curl up with.
Reviewer: Serena Fairfax

Greer Hendricks
Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen's prolific editor-author relationship began in 2010 with Pekkanen's debut novel, The Opposite of Me.
The two women formed an instant connection, which grew into a close friendship while Hendricks edited six more of Pekkanen's novels, the latest being The Perfect Neighbors (2016). Hendricks joined Simon & Schuster in 1994 as an assistant editor at Scribner Books. In 1996 she began working at Pocket Books and Washington Square Press. During her tenure at Simon & Schuster, Hendricks helped to discover and edit numerous writers including Jennifer Weiner, Stephen Chbosky, and Pekkanen. In 2001, she helped launch Atria Books, which acquired The Opposite of Me.
Sarah Pekkkanen
 When Hendricks left the publishing company in 2014, she told only a few people, including Pekkanen, that she wanted to write a novel. Pekkanen, who had written everything from investigative newspaper series and magazine features to short stories, was eager to challenge herself. She believed collaborating with Hendricks on a novel could help her grow creatively.  Hendricks was briefly hesitant. "When Sarah approached me about writing together, I initially worried it would be copping out to work with someone else," Hendricksexplains, "that it would be less of an accomplishment." But the former editor called Pekkanen 12 hours later and said, "Let's do it!" "I realized it would be crazy to turn down this opportunity," Hendricks says. "While I had published a few personal essays and edited hundreds of books, I knew I had a lot to learn about writing an actual novel." Pekkanen was confident the two could create something special together. "Not only do we share strikingly similar narrative instincts and approaches to storytelling, but we get along beautifully as friends," she says. And so, began the process of writing The Wife Between Us.

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.

‘The Man Who Died’ by Antti Tuomainen

(Translated by David Hackston.)
Published by Orenda Books,
10 October 2017.
ISBN: 978-1-910663- 84-7 (PB)

Jaakko is thirty-seven, the owner of a successful mushroom business, overweight and a touch set in his ways. He’s also, his doctor has just told him, dying – of poisoning by a natural toxin. The doctor blames the mushrooms, but Jaako knows better, and he’s determined to find out who, and why, before he dies.

It’s a real hook of an opening – a dying man investigating his own murder – and the story continues at this rattling pace. Jaako is the narrator throughout, and we learn all about his life, and the people in it: his athletic wife, Taina, who started the business with him; Olli, the cynic, Sanni, the career girl, Raimo, the worrier and Petri, the driver. They’re all being approached by a rival business, led by Asko, and policed by his two thugs. A visit to the rival factory gets Jaakko in trouble with the police, and from then on his life spins increasingly out of control. He’s a likeable narrator – you sympathise with his problems, both during the investigations and in the vividly-described bouts of illness, and you want him to succeed in his quest. The story’s told with humour, and there are several unexpected plot twists leading up to a surprise ending. The Finnish small-town setting is vividly described: the houses, the marketplace, the gossip, everyone knowing everyone else, and, for a change from the usual setting, instead of a wintry landscape, it’s a sweltering summer.

A real page-turner of a plot, led by a sympathetic main character – Scandi noir narrated with Chris Brookmyre humour. Highly recommended.

Reviewer: Marsali Taylor

Finnish author Antti Tuomainen was born in Helsinki, Finland where he lives with his wife. 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 labelled 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.

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