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Monday, 18 February 2019

‘Mummy's Favourite’ by Sarah Flint

Published by Aria,
10 January 2019.
ISBN: 978-1-78954185-4 (PB)

Charlie Stafford is a trouble-magnet; a problem in most walks of life, but it can come in useful when you're an ambitious detective constable. In the first few pages of Mummy's Favourite, she has already started her day by chasing a fare-dodger on the London Underground before she even arrives at work.

The crime at the heart of this first-in-series police procedural is a particularly horrible one. A mother and one of her two children have disappeared; we learn from the abductor's point of view that they are buried in woodland in a deserted part of London; the child is dead, his throat cut, and the mother is slowly starving to death, watched by the highly disturbed killer.

For Charlie and her colleagues in the Community Support Unit of CID, it starts out as missing persons' enquiry, and focuses on the woman's violent husband. Charlie herself falls victim to his savage temper, but a conviction proves hard to achieve. Which, of course, makes this feisty young woman all the more determined to get to the bottom of the case, even before there's a second abduction in which her assailant couldn't possibly be involved.

Sarah Flint has a sound background in the Metropolitan Police, so it comes as no surprise that the police procedure in this richly detailed novel rings all too true. I especially enjoyed the account of an episode of Crimewatch, in which Charlie's boss DI Hunter takes centre stage and Charlie herself is taking calls from potential witnesses.

The same meticulous approach is applied to the characters.  Even the bad guys have redeeming features, and I felt I was starting to get to know Charlie's colleagues, especially motherly Bet and harassed Naz, and of course Charlie herself. But perhaps my favourite is a peripheral character called Ben Jacobs, a war veteran suffering from PTSD. He has a soft spot for Charlie, and she for him, and despite his drink problem and sad past there could even be romance in the air in future. Charlie too has a sad past, which has helped to shape her into the spirited and enterprising person she is.

The background too is well drawn. Flint knows her London, even its less familiar corners; and there are various houses and flats which suit their occupants very well. And that Crimewatch studio came alive too.

DC Charlie Stafford is a promising newcomer to the police procedural canon. I look forward to seeing where Sarah Flint takes her next.
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick

Sarah Flint is the author of the best-selling 'DC Charlotte Stafford' series, her first novel Mummy’s Favourite having reached the top ten on Amazon UK, Australia and Canada. Her books are now available throughout Europe. Sarah has been based in South London all her life and served 35 years in the Metropolitan Police, working in pro-active roles dealing with serious violent crime and the victims and perpetrators of such violence. She retired 18 months ago and now writes full time. Her books are based in the area in which she worked and have been described as ‘gritty and authentic.’  She was inspired to write at the age of 43 by her older sister and she has never looked back. Now living with her partner in Berkshire, she has three grown-up daughters but regularly returns to her old stomping ground to refresh her memories and get inspiration for new stories.

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.

Sunday, 17 February 2019

‘The Last’ by Hanna Jameson

Published by Viking,
31 January 2019.
ISBN 978-0241349175

I thoroughly enjoyed this book as it is something a bit different. The Last is one for those who like crime novels with a difference as it is a skilful blend of dystopia, psychological thriller and murder mystery.

The IRISH TIMES quoted it as ‘A Post-Apocalyptic Version Of Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None . . . The Last Delivers on Its Intriguing Premise as The Veneer of Civilisation Wears Away and A Collective Savagery Starts To Take Hold.’ 

American Jon Keller is at breakfast in a Swiss Hotel when the news breaks that nuclear bombs have gone off in the USA and the UK and then other places across the world. Is this the end of mankind? The hotel becomes chaotic as people make snap decisions about whether to leave or not. Should they go and face whatever is out there? Or stay at L’Hotel Sixieme and wait to be rescued? Jon is at the hotel as part of a conference. His wife and children are still in the USA and he has no idea whether they are alive or dead. As there are unlikely to be any flights out, Jon stays on at the hotel and waits.

There is hysteria and several suicides in the early days as more news filters through. Soon the transmissions and connections to the outside world stop. Some people stay in their rooms, but Jon needs to keep occupied and gets involved in the day to day running of things. There are just 20 people left in the hotel, maybe the world. The hotel is a long drive from the nearest city and is isolated. Days turn into weeks and no one comes to rescue them. The small community settles into new habits and makes adjustments so that they can survive. The sun is hidden behind the clouds but there is no rain. Plants and trees begin to die. The birds and animals disappear. There is a constant fear of radiation and food and the water supplies are diminishing.

When a group go to check on the levels in the rooftop tanks, they make a grisly discovery. A child’s body is floating in one of the water tanks. Jon begins to investigate who she is and how she could have got there, and whether the murderer is still in the hotel. But the process is divisive, and the small society begins to implode. Soon no one knows who they can trust.

Written in the form of a journal, chronicling the day to day activities of survival, works brilliantly for this book as the reader has no idea of the final outcome of the narrator. The hotel has a dark history of murders and suicides and this adds to the tension. For a long time, I kept wondering if the whole situation was some kind of large scale social experiment as the narrator is quite unreliable and holds things back. But maybe, the worst has happened and what is left of society is on the brink of collapsing into savagery - if it hasn’t already done so.
Reviewer Christine Hammacott

Hanna Jameson published her first novel, Something You Are, when she was just twenty-one. It was nominated for a CWA Dagger. She has lived in Australia and travelled the USA, Japan and Europe

Christine Hammacott lives near Southampton and runs her own design consultancy. She started her career working in publishing as a book designer and now creates covers for indie-authors. She writes page-turning fiction that deals with the psychological effects of crime. To read a review of her debut novel The Taste of Ash click on the title.

twitter: /ChrisHammacott

‘A Double Life’ by Flynn Berry

Published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson,
31 July 2018.
ISBN: 978-147460703-2 (HB)

For years Claire has been obsessed with uncovering the mystery at the heart of her life; did her father try to kill her mother but murdered the nanny instead?

Inspired by the case of the disappearance of Lord Lucan in 1974, Flynn Berry explores what it is like for the family left behind when someone disappears, when the primary murder suspect is your father, and how upper class society sticks together to protect one of their own.

Did her father murder the nanny or was it an intruder as was suggested? Why did her father disappear? Is he still alive? These are some of the questions Clare needs answered so that she can have closure.

Clare was eight when the nanny was killed, and she saw the body. Not only did she have to deal with the trauma of someone she loved being bludgeoned to death, but she then had a whole change of life including a move to Scotland and a new identity. Her father was a wealthy, expensively educated, privileged man with a tight group of friends who Clare thinks hold the key to discovering exactly what happened. Clare has moved back to London and, even though she knows it could be dangerous, she finds a way of getting close to her father’s inner circle so that she can start probing for information.

Clare’s story is told in the first person with chapters retelling her parent’s backstory in the third person. Written in the first person, the conversational style of narration draws the reader in. The gentle pacing as you are drip-fed the details make the book a good choice for those who like lighter psychological suspense and the conclusion was unexpected and satisfying. 
Reviewer: Christine Hammercott

Flynn Berry is a graduate of the Michener Center and has been awarded a Yaddo residency. She graduated from Brown University. Under the Harrow was her first novel.

Christine Hammacott lives near Southampton and runs her own design consultancy. She started her career working in publishing as a book designer and now creates covers for indie-authors. She writes page-turning fiction that deals with the psychological effects of crime. Her debut novel The Taste of Ash was published in 2015.

To read a review of
Click on the title