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Tuesday 31 July 2018

‘Knoxley Hall' by Eddie Heaton

Published by Matador,
28th May 2018.
ISBN: 978-1-78803375-6 (PB)

Detective Sergeant Jack Todd is called to the murder of Terry Dehavilland, a newspaper reporter who had been jailed previously for phone hacking a Government Minister's telephone and had recently been released. His boss then gives him Terry's address and instructs him to go and have a look round.

He breaks in the back door, finds a computer, and when he turns it on sees it contains Terry's journal. It has details of how he started digging the dirt on well-known people, some high up in the government. One particular article describes famous men involved in child abuse cases mainly concerning a home called Knoxley Hall.  While he is reading this, a Lucy Mainwaring, a journalist comes in, and says she has been sent to confront him with an accusation that he preys on women, which he vehemently denies. It is obvious to him that they have both been set up, but why? Lucy takes some convincing but finally comes around to his way of thinking.

Todd decides to follow up some of the leads in Terry's journal. He reads that a Lord Warrington is one of the men involved together with two bent policemen, Norcross and Barrowclough and a Bishop Frobisher another well-known figure. However, he does not realise what dangerous enemies he is making, delving into their lives, as he finds to his cost.

Then the laptop is stolen, but Lucy, now helping Todd has managed to scan the contents onto her phone. She is determined not only to expose the child abusers but also to make a big name for herself as the person who helped bring them all to book. Even when it seems her own father is involved.

However, the men in high places have other ideas and are just as determined to stop anyone exposing their identities and all activities both past and present, with dire consequences.

Quite a thought provoking subject which has many parallels to the recent scandals involving names at Westminster suspected of child abuse. In fact, in the Postscript at the back of the book, there is mention of a paedophile ring associated with Elm Guest house in the 1980's and how the scandal was hushed up and that enquiries since have really not achieved anything at all.

Recommended reading for those interested in government 'cover ups'.
Reviewer: Tricia Chappell

Eddie Heaton is a veteran journalist and publisher.

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.

Sunday 29 July 2018

‘The Warehouse’ by S.S. Mausoof

Published by Hope Road Publishing,
16 March 2018.
ISBN: 978-1-908446-59-6 (PB)

Syed Qais, known as Cash, is a Karachi-based insurance adjuster. He is widowed with a daughter Shereen. He is a Muslim but moderately so. For instance, he drinks but not before sunset. Except this once, which is what, he tells us at the outset, got him into trouble when his former lover Sonia appears with a commission for him – to deal with an insurance problem arising from the burning down of a warehouse (also known as a ‘go-down’) and its contents, a large amount of cigarettes. The contents of the warehouse had been insured under a complex series of insurance and reinsurance arrangements but there is a problem: the ultimate client, a transporter named Malik Awan should claim on the insurance and he won’t because after his son was killed in a drone strike he has become fundoo, ie a fundamentalist, and such transactions are contrary to his religious beliefs.

So, Sonia has arranged for Cash to persuade Malik to take the money. There is a generous commission and Cash is tempted; his daughter wants to go to university and in present-day Pakistan money unlocks doors even in the academic world and he would like to buy a better flat for his widowed but formidable mother. And he still has feelings for Sonia – although a Catholic marriage between the two of them would be unthinkable but all the same . . . And the commission is really generous . . .  But the warehouse is in Waziristan where the ruthless Taliban has taken control and the Pakistan Army (also pretty ruthless) is fighting to regain control with the aid of U.S. airpower. So, Cash, against his better judgement, agrees and finds himself in a maelstrom of danger and betrayal.

Although the author now lives in the U.S.A. he was born in Karachi. When he spoke at the 2018 Bristol Crimefest he told us that he had even been to the troubled province of Waziristan. This gives his writing a sense of deep authenticity which other writers who choose to set novels in such locales after only a brief visit or a trip around the internet do not have. He is also writing about a society which he knows well, and this again adds to the authenticity of his writing. Cash is an attractive protagonist who doesn’t take himself too seriously. I enjoyed this book although, not knowing how big insurance contracts operate, I had to concentrate sorting out the insurance difficulties which are the trigger for the story.
Reviewer: Radmila May

S.S. Mausoof was born in Karachi, educated in the US, and is currently residing in San Francisco. He is a writer-filmmaker with multiple IMDB credits and an active fan base build upon noir films like Kala Pul and Absolution and a much-acclaimed documentary on the Indus valley civilization called In Search of Meluhha: The Story of Mohenjodaro, and he is an active member of Friends of South Asia (FOSA) an organization that works to promote peace and harmony in South Asia, a board member of the Third I South Asian film festival and a frequent commentator for KPFA radio station on events concerning Pakistan. The Warehouse is his first novel inspired by relief work in the region.

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 28 July 2018

Agatha Raisin and the Witches Tree by MC Beaton

Published by Constable,
26 April 2018.
ISBN: 978-1-47211736-6 (PB)

The Witches Tree is the latest in the long running Agatha Raison series of books. It is, as all are, set in the beautiful Cotswolds.

This one begins on a deeply foggy Autumnal evening as the local vicar Rory Devere along with his wife, drive slowly home from a night at friends. As they strain to see the road in front of them in the severe weather conditions, they pull up sharply in front of a tree that has been struck by lightning. On closer inspection they see a body is hanging from the tree. The body belongs to a local spinster from the village, Margaret Darby.

Agatha Raison is a PI, and of late has had nothing but lost cats and mischievous husbands to keep her in business. She is delighted when the local vicar calls on her to help solve the murder.

The inhabitants of the village of Sumpton Harcart seem to be very private people and are not taking well to Agatha’s interference. Then two further murders occur. Agatha realises that she herself is in mortal danger when she uncovers the fact the fact that this village has a covert of witches.

As one would expect with any Agatha Raison mystery this book is light-hearted and pure fun. Her relationship with Charles features, as ever, and adds to make the story pure escapism.

Maybe, not her best Agatha Raison outing. But with such sharply observed and well- drawn characters, and the setting a village we could only dream to live in, it is always a joy to journey through her adventures. And with the holiday season right here, what better a time than now to lie in the garden and do just that. Agatha Raison books are on radio, and television and have sold in millions.
Reviewer: Linda Regan

M.C. Beaton was born in Glasgow, Scotland, in 1936 and started her first job as a bookseller in charge of the fiction department in John Smith & Sons Ltd. While bookselling, by chance, she got an offer from the Scottish Daily Mail to review variety shows and quickly rose to be their theatre critic. She left Smith’s to join Scottish Field magazine as a secretary in the advertising department, without any shorthand or typing, but quickly got the job of fashion editor instead.  She then moved to the Scottish Daily Express where she reported mostly on crime. This was followed by a move to Fleet Street to the Daily Express where she became chief woman reporter. After marrying Harry Scott Gibbons and having a son, Charles, Marion went to the United States where Harry had been offered the job of editor of the Oyster Bay Guardian. When that didn’t work out, they went to Virginia and Marion worked as a waitress in a greasy spoon on the Jefferson Davies in Alexandria while Harry washed the dishes. Both then got jobs on Rupert Murdoch’s new tabloid, The Star, and moved to New York. Anxious to spend more time at home with her small son, Marion, urged by her husband, started to write Regency romances. After she had written over 100 of them under her maiden name of Marion Chesney and getting fed up with 1811 to 1820, she began to write detectives stories. On a trip from the States to Sutherland on holiday, a course at a fishing school inspired the first Hamish Macbeth story. They returned to Britain and bought a croft house and croft in Sutherland where Harry reared a flock of black sheep. But Charles was at school, in London so when he finished and both tired of the long commute to the north of Scotland, they moved to the Cotswolds where Agatha Raisin was created.

Linda Regan is the author of six police procedural crime novels. She is also an actress. She holds a masters degree in critical writing and journalism, and writes a regular column, including book reviews, for three magazines. She also presents the book-club spot on BBC Radio Kent. She is an avid reader and welcomes the chance to read new writers. 
  To read a review of Linda's most recent book
click on the title.