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Friday 30 November 2018

‘The Other Couple’ by Sarah J Naughton

Published by Trapeze
9 August 2018.
ISBN: 978-1-4091-6698-6 (PB)

A fairytale wedding. An idyllic island honeymoon venue. A new husband who has money to burn and looks to die for, but still manages to be the most sensitive, thoughtful guy any girl could wish for. Especially a girl like Asha, bright and beautiful but mixed-race and with a background firmly rooted on the wrong side of the tracks.

What could possibly go wrong?

Well, everything, of course. This is mystery fiction, where nothing is ever as it seems, and the past can be guaranteed to catch up with you.

In the best kind, the mystery remains a mystery until the very end, and so it is in The Other Couple. It's only Sarah Naughton's second novel for adults, but her long experience as a children's writer shines through; her characters have depth, her locations positively glow, and the plot twists and turns enough to make you dizzy.

The narrative is structured in three time-frames: first the honeymoon, then a flash-forward to its aftermath, then back to the wedding day, and then moving between the three. Naughton juggles the various scenarios without a moment's confusion, releasing just enough information in each time-shift to keep the reader intrigued. Who are David and Sophie, the couple Asha and new husband Ollie meet at the resort? What is the secret Ollie's best friend Milo is determined to keep? Why is Ollie so troubled both at the wedding and on the honeymoon? And what happened a few months ago which left Asha so upset?

It takes real skill to keep all the balls in the air, and Naughton has it in spades. The whole story is from Asha's perspective, which helps, but a lot of the time she is as much in the dark as the reader. Asha herself is a rich mix of strength and vulnerability: the former when she stands up to her snobbish in-laws and goes in search of answers to the many questions that arise; and the latter when things go horribly wrong both before and after the wedding.

Other characters, too, are well drawn. Ollie's charm is far more than skin-deep. Zainab, Asha's best friend, is feisty and fiercely loyal. Some are a tad one-dimensional; Milo, for instance, has no redeeming features apart possibly from loyalty to some of his friends; and Asha's mother-in-law is unashamedly, and probably irredeemably, arrogant and high-handed.

The Other Couple is definitely a treat for fans of psychological thrillers, and I look forward to seeing what Sarah J Naughton does next.
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick

Sarah J Naughton was born in 1975 and grew up in Dorset.  She studied English Literature at UCL and has been in London ever since, spending ten years as a copywriter in an advertising agency before giving up to have children.

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.

‘The Hubley Case’ by J. Lee

Published by Moonshine Cove Publishing,
6 November 2018. 
ISBN: 978-1-945181-42-9 (PB)

The Hubley Case starts and ends with highly dramatic killings, one of a good man and one of a bad man. I’m not sure whether this ratio was maintained throughout the book. It wasn’t always that easy to tell the goodies from the baddies.  Suffice to say there was a high body count.

One man it would be impossible to find a good word to say about is Dominick Riddle. He thrives on making millions/billions by orchestrating high-powered intelligence scams and terrorist atrocities.  He achieves his nefarious goals in many different ways – paying exorbitant fees to talented crooks, blackmailing decent professionals, and having people executed if their deaths either consolidate or get in the way of his plans.  He also has the charming habit of regularly “clearing out his colleagues” so there is nobody left to incriminate him in any of the wrongdoings.

Peter Hubley was a decent, honest, businessman who happened to get wind of Dominick Riddle’s latest scam.  Peter was, of course, murdered- very publically. He was then effectively assassinated for a second time when Riddle’s misinformation guru spread false rumors about virtually aspect of Peter’s life and character.

Ben Siebert is an ex-Marine. One assumes he was thrown out of the Marines because the Robin Hood side of his character got the better of the James Bond side of his character once too often. Unfortunately for Riddle, Peter Hubley’s wife Sally is one of Ben’s best friends.  When Sally asked him to find out why her husband had been killed Ben couldn’t refuse to help her.  

It isn’t long before Ben discovers that he isn’t the only one on the case, Nikki Benton, a diligent and glamorous FBI special agent is also investigating Peter Hubley’s death. Ben and Nikki have to work hard at trusting each other but helped and hindered by friends and colleagues they eventually work out what was ultimately behind Peter Hubley’s death.

The Hubley Case is an entertaining, action packed thriller that I thoroughly enjoyed reading.  Ben Siebert is another of today’s superhuman characters.  He is good at everything but still presents as a vulnerable and honorable human being – albeit one who is good at killing.  I imagine we will be hearing more of Ben.
Reviewer: Angela Crowther.

J Lee was born and raised in Illinois. He graduated with dual degrees in Engineering and Sociology from Duke University. He worked in Engineering, Marketing, Product Management, Program Management, Supply Chain and Operations, but always wrote in his spare time. It started as a hobby, a creative outlet that helped him balance the stress of a day spent in numbers. Then at some point, it morphed into a passion.  The Hubley Case is his debut.

Angela Crowther is a retired scientist.  She has published many scientific papers but, as yet, no crime fiction.  In her spare time Angela belongs to a Handbell Ringing group, goes country dancing and enjoys listening to music, particularly the operas of Verdi and Wagner.

Wednesday 28 November 2018

‘Palm Beach Finland’ by Antii Tuomainen

Published by Orenda Books,
18th October 2018.
ISBN: 978-1-912374-31-1 (PB)

How can one shy away from what’s described as Sex, lies and ill-fitting swimwear…Sun Protection Factor 100? In some ten years in the genre of crime fiction   this Finnish author has amply demonstrated his talent and   versatility. Three acclaimed books precede this one, namely  The Healer, The Mine and The Man Who Died all quite different and page-turning and earning him the accolade from the Finnish media as the King of Helsinki Noir.  

Assuredly translated by David Hackston, the story whisks the reader to a sleepy seaside town that has been subjected to a rebranding, as the title suggests, as a must go to holiday resort, by businessman Jorma Leivo, a small-time fraudster.   Desperate to get his hands on the last piece of real estate to add value to his garish chalet village dotted with plastic palm trees, he hires, on the cheap, a couple of hapless bungling amateurs to scare and wear down its owner, glamorous windsurfer Olivia recently back in her home town to claim her dilapidated inheritance.

Their tactics goes awry and Jan Nyman, a canny detective in the covert operations unit of the National Central Police is rushed in undercover (a Maths teacher on holiday) to investigate a professional hit that has taken place. 

Written from multiple viewpoints which render the story truly engaging, the cast of characters is diverse and wildly eccentric, and simply leap from the page; the situations are satirical, slapstick and farcical and the dialogue is crisp and darkly comic.  The author’s skill in weaving a riveting tale that never falters or bores is not only highly original, deeply tongue in cheek, and imaginatively spunky but also masterful.  What’s not to like?  It’s a fantastic read that doesn’t disappoint.  
Reviewer: Serena Fairfax

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.

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.