Recent Events

Thursday, 14 November 2019

‘Quick off the Mark' by Susan Moody

Published by Severn House,
1 March 2018.
ISBN: 978-1-84751-760-9 (PB)

 Alex Quick, a former police detective now an art historian is lingering over a cup of tea at the breakfast table and pondering on her single status, and her one or two unsuccessful romantic encounters following the demise of her marriage to Jack the Love Rat, when her reverie is broken by a frenzied banging at her front door.  Opening the door reveals Dimsie Drayton, a drama Queen to the core, who immediately begins sobbing.  Eventually, informing Alex that her brother Tristan is dead having been found in a field - tortured – his knees smashed, and bits cut off his body and castrated.   Alex is dumfounded, Tristan had always appeared the most harmless of men, languid in a particularly English way.  Who would want to harm him, let alone carve the word ‘Cheat’ across his chest?

Reluctantly, Alex agrees to Dimsie’s entreaties try to find the killer of her beloved brother.  Although a long standing friend of the family Alex had only a surface knowledge of Tristan Huber, but as she talks to his business acquaintances, friends and even his family, it becomes clear that people are not too keen to talk about Tristan and that he was not what he appeared to be.  With very little to go on Alex visits the rural area to see the crime scene, only a short walk from the house of Major Horrocks who had found Tristan’s body or rather his dog had.  Major Horrocks is a stereotype of what you would expect for a Major Horrocks, but definitely a sweetie. He explained that Marlowe wasn’t his dog but his neighbour’s Nell Roscoe who went into the hospital and never returned. Despite her enquires Major Horrocks can tell her no more and Alex heads for home. Passing Sam’s bookshop, she decides to call in and unburden.  To cheer her up Sam suggests a drink with his neighbour Edward.  But while enjoying a glass of wine Edward takes a call informing him of the murder of his friend Kevin Fuller.

As the body count rises Alex is no further forward, but as she continues to investigate several things seem to her a little off. Like the affable con-man about whom she knows nothing but accidentally runs into in a different situation which sparks her interest.   And still conscious of her need to meet people she joins the drama group, but all may not be what it seems even here.

This is a true mystery, surrounded by well-fleshed out characters you want to know all about and would so like to meet.  I own to being completely baffled right to the end.  And if you want a murder mystery, then look no further this one will keep you on your toes. Highly recommended.
Reviewer: Lizzie Sirett

Susan Moody was born in Oxford is the principal nom de plume of Susan Elizabeth Donaldson, née Horwood, a British novelist best known for her suspense novels. Susan Moody began writing crime novels with Penny Black, the first of the seven Penny Wanawake crime novels.  She has a second series of six books featuring bridge player Cassie Swan. In all, she has published 29 novels, most of them crime and suspense. Susan spent two years as a Creative Writing Tutor in Her Majesty's Prison, Bedford. She is a past Chairman of the Crime Writers' Association, serving in all as a CWA Committee member for seven years. She is a long-standing member of the prestigious Detection Club and served for three years as the President of the International Association of Crime Writers.  In 2016 Susan Moody began a new series featuring Alex Quick. Click the title to read a review of the first book in her Alex Quick series. Quick and the Dead 

‘Missing Person’ by Sarah Lotz

Published by Hodder & Stoughton,
5 September 2019.
ISBN: 978-1-473-62462-7 (HB)

Shaun lives in Northern Ireland with his dog Daphne. He leads a quiet life living in the flat above the bookshop where he works.  He had always been led to believe that his uncle Teddy had been killed when he was young many years ago. Howeverr, a doubt arises in his mind when he has a visit from Johnny an old acquaintance of his uncle's. He is adamant that he was not killed but because he was gay the family rid themselves of him by paying his fare to New York. He was told never to come back and he didn't. 

Shaun decides to try and find out the truth for himself. He learns of a group of people in America called, made up of amateur sleuths, people trying to give a name to unidentified bodies. They all have avatars, so no one knows of the others identities.

Shaun gets in touch with them and sends a photo of Teddy. One of the group thinks he looks like an unidentified body known as “The Boy in a Dress” discovered in 1996.

The rest of Shaun's family are not happy about him trying to find the truth and when he has a telephone call supposedly from Teddy telling him not to look for him, he really is puzzled and not sure what to think. Could it be one of the family trying to put him off?

When he is told that Teddy abused a ten-year-old, he decides that he really must get to the bottom of Teddy's disappearance and he flies to America. One of the group who lives near where the body was found invites him to come and stay.

Meanwhile it is slowly disclosed to the reader that the murderer of “The Boy in a Dress” is also a member of the group and loves to manipulate them. Is the body really that of Teddy and was he a pervert as the family maintained? Shaun needs all the help he can get to find the truth but will he find it?

A very unusual and cleverly written story. A really intriguingly good read. It demonstartes the lengths some families will go to, to cover up the supposed seedy actions of one of their members.  It was also interesting to see inside the devious and clever mind of a murderer. Highly recommended. 
Reviewer: Tricia Chappell

Sarah Lotz is a screenwriter and novelist with a fondness for the macabre and fake names. Incapable of holding down a 'proper' job, over the years she's painted outrageous frescos for dubious casinos, written scripts for South Africa's first full-length sci-fi cartoon show and lived homeless on the streets of Paris as a teenage runaway. Among other things, she writes horror/thriller novels under the name S.L. Grey with author Louis Greenberg, a YA pulp-fiction zombie series with her daughter, Savannah, under the pseudonym Lily Herne, and quirky erotica novels with authors Helen Moffett and Paige Nick under the name Helena S. Paige. Stephen King said her solo novel The Three was 'really wonderful' (which made her cry in a very good way. She likes cake, scruffy dogs, fast cars and sitting in her attic making stuff up.

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.

Wednesday, 13 November 2019

‘Paint a Murder’ by Lily Ashton

Published by Magenta Lily Publishing,
29 July 2019.  

ISBN 978-1-9161062-0-8 (PB)

Alice Haydon is working at the Gregory House Art Gallery, in a small riverside town.  On her way to work she sees the police removing a body from the river.  Shocked, she gets to work only for another shock, that the Senior Curator, Jenna, has broken her leg, giving Alice the opportunity to take charge of the forthcoming exhibition, celebrating the Gallery’s 100th birthday.  Part of her role is to assemble the pieces that will comprise the exhibition, including one from the District Council collection.  But when the painting arrives, it is not the one promised.  Her attempts to sort this out and the problems she encounters when another painting is stolen from the Gallery lead her along a mysterious and ultimately dangerous trail.  She annoys her boss, argues with her boyfriend, and has to cope with the unexpected appearance of a previous boyfriend, now a Detective Inspector.  But she is determined to solve the mysteries of the dead man and the missing artworks.  Could they be in any way connected?

The art world has great potential for criminal activity (as does the average small town) and this plot develops that potential neatly, with twists and turns that hold the interest and provide continual surprises.  Alice is a strong new character, determined, intelligent, and committed.  It will be interesting to follow the progress of this crime-fighting curator.
Reviewer: Jo Hesslewood
The second book in the series, Sculpt a Murder, will be published shortly.

Lily Ashton says that her Alice Heydon mysteries are inspired by lifer around her writing hut on the river. In ​her spare time, she likes to nose around art exhibitions and craft markets.

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.

Tuesday, 12 November 2019

‘Violet’ by SJI Holliday

Published by Orenda Books,
14 November 2019.
ISBN:978-1-912374-85-4 (PB)

Lone backpackers would do well to find room for this cautionary tale in their kit.  Violet and Carrie, two solo travellers, are randomly thrown together when they first rub shoulders in a frustrating Beijing ticket office and then find themselves drinking in the same Beijing hotel.   Desperate to ride the Trans Siberian express through Mongolia to Russia, Violet, dumped by her boyfriend, eagerly grabs the opportunity to tag along with Carrie as Carrie’s spare ticket becomes unexpectedly available since the latter’s erstwhile travelling companion can’t join her having sustained an accident.  

And thereby hangs a tense, psychological drama told in the first person by Violet interspersed with Carrie’s point of view in emails exchanged with her absent friend.  The two start to forge a bond fuelled by the consumption of copious amounts of alcohol and confidences about failed relationships.

They head off together sharing a cramped cabin on the long journey and it’s when they spend time in hedonistic partying/drinks and drugs stupor in Ulaanbaatar and Irkutsk that the author digs deep into the characters enabling the reader to get to   know them better. Carrie is carefree, manipulative and engaging, drawing strangers to her like a moth to a light, while Violet is edgy, ridden with jealousy and with a short fuse. Both have more than a screw loose. 

Which of the two unhinged psychopaths does the reader side with? The author slowly ratchets up the tension and menace, the plot twists and turns and the reader, even when expecting the unexpected, is totally blindsided by the sequence of the many truly dark and disturbing episodes.

This is a cleverly constructed, atmospheric and punchy thriller with vivid descriptive material and natural dialogue although some readers might find the endless partying a little repetitive.   That aside, it’s a compelling, toxic read that will linger hauntingly in the memory, and make for a riveting TV film. And the book cover is very creative and shouts ‘buy me.’
Reviewer: Serena Fairfax 

SJI Holliday grew up in East Lothian. A life-long fan of crime and horror, her short stories have been published in various places and she was shortlisted for the inaugural CWA Margery Allingham competition.  She has written three crime novels set in the fictional Scottish town of Banktoun, which are a mix of police procedural and psychological thriller. Susi also works as a pharmaceutical statistician. She is married and lives in London, and you will find her at crime fiction events in the UK and abroad.

Serena Fairfax spent her childhood in India, qualified as a lawyer in England and practiced 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. 

Monday, 11 November 2019

'In The Galway Silence' by Ken Bruen

Published by Head of Zeus,
2 May 2019.
ISBN: 978-1-78854-588-4 (PB)

How’s this for an opener?

“I didn’t want to investigate the murder of the twins. To immerse in darkness again was a road I had no wish to travel. Battered and wounded by all the loss of previous cases, I had barely managed to survive. Beatings, attacks, had left me with
Mutilated fingers
Hearing problems
A limp
Lethal dreams
A shitload of anxiety that Xanax barely kept a lid on.”

Notice the absence of full stops. Not a typing error, but the deliberate rule breaking style of Irish thriller writer, Ken Bruen – one of the most original voices in crime fiction. 

In the Galway Silence is number 14 in the Jack Taylor series. It is grim, brutal and tragic; an explosion of wry humour, pandemonium, revenge and murder.

This latest chapter in Jack’s life is as gripping as ever. The hard-drinking, Xanax popping ex-Garda, attracts violence like no other private eye. This time, it begins when he saves a man bent on drowning himself. Only to discover the old adage made flesh – no good deed goes unpunished. 

The man is the father of murdered twins, over privileged, over indulged brats, driven by their sense of entitlement to not giving a toss about anybody else. Not exactly much of a loss to the world, but Jack has saved their father’s life and thus he’s in this for the long haul…

Enter a vigilante assassin Michael Ian Allen, aka “The Silence” – as in his words are the last you will hear – who brings mayhem, destruction and violence into Jack’s busted life, and proceeds to take it apart.

I came to the Jack Taylor novels via the masterful TV series starring the great Iain Glen; bowled over by the lean, diamond hard dialogue, the broken characters and the stunning Galway locations. 

From movies to books is not the traditional direction of travel (it’s usually the other way around) but the magic of Bruen’s lean, staccato, prose is impossible to resist. It reads as though we are listening to Jack thinking out loud; the words and phrases spill out in unbroken rhythm. Even when Bruen reverts to paragraphs of more flowing prose, the sentences are some of the best you’ll read…

“A young man, four times with his licence suspended, got behind the wheel of a Toyota Carolla. He had been on a marathon drinking session. At over 100 mph he ploughed into a Mini Cooper, killing a young mother and her daughter.
His defence cited his depression and deep remorse. His life, said the defence, was ruined.
He got eighteen months suspended and a year’s probation.
He celebrated in the nearest pub.
He wouldn’t, he said,
“Drink tequila any more.”
A week later, in a field near a bus stop, he was found with his suspended licence shoved down his  throat, the word silence written in red marker across his forehead”

Ken Bruen’s writing has won praise and fans around the world. No surprise there. The Jack Taylor books make up a 
Darkly funny

In the Galway Silence drags you into a kind of literary car smash, almost in slow motion, until you are embedded deep.  I read the 310 pages in two sittings. This book, like the best of writing, will make you laugh, make you cheer and break your heart. 
Reviewer: Jeff Dowson 

Ken Bruen was born 3 January 1951 in Galway, Republic of Ireland. He was educated at Trinity College Dublin.  He spent twenty-five years as an English teacher in Africa, Japan, S.E. Asia and South America. He is an Irish writer of hard-boiled and noir crime fiction. The Guards (2001), his highly acclaimed first Jack Taylor novel, is to be filmed in Ireland by De Facto Films. His White Trilogy has been bought by Channel 4. 

Jeff Dowson began his career working in the theatre as an actor and a director.  From there he moved into television as an independent writer/producer/director. Screen credits include arts series, entertainment features, drama documentaries, drama series and TV films. Turning crime novelist in 2014, he introduced Bristol private eye Jack Shepherd in Closing the Distance.  The second thriller, Changing the Odds, was published the following year.  Cloning the Hate is the latest in the series. He is a member of BAFTA, the Crime Writers Association, and Mystery People.

‘The Woman on the Cliff’ by Janice Frost

Published by Joffe Books,
5 June 2019.
 ISBN: 978-1-78931131-0 (PB)

In 1988 Ros, Elspeth, Moira, Lucy and Shona were all at university in St Andrews, Scotland, and shared a house in North Street. One day the police knock on the door to tell them that Moira Mackie has been murdered, her body found on the clifftop. DI John Menzies and PC Innes Nevin were the investigating officers but the girls were never completely honest with them about their housemate. However, the mystery of Moira’s death was quickly resolved when one of the men she was dating committed suicide, leaving a note saying that he had killed Moira. 

Thirty years on, Ros’s daughter takes up a place at the same university and as a result Ros bumps into Innes Nevin again. Innes has now retired from the police force but has recently come across some information that raises questions about his former DI and the case of Moira Mackie. He enlists Ros’s help in raking up the past to try and make sense of what he has learned and, with nothing to keep her from returning home to London, Ros stays on to help. Looking back at the case with hindsight and the distance of time, they begin to view events differently and realise that there was more going on than they could have imagined.

This is a more gentle murder mystery and romance rather than a thriller. The characters are warm and likeable as it explores the idea of the long-term impact murder can have on those left behind. The story switches back and forth between the present and past as Ros and Innes dig into the events of the late 1980s. Chapters in the present are written in the present tense with scenes from the past in the past tense which makes it very easy to follow. An entertaining read.
Reviewer Christine Hammacott 

Janice Frost is the author of two crime/mystery books featuring Detectives Jim Neal and Ava Merry. Dead Secret and Dark Secret are set in the imaginary East Midlands city of Stromford. Dead Secret sees Jim and Ava pairing up to investigate the murder of a teenage girl. It is their first major case together and the two soon discover that they have very different personalities. Neal is intellectual and considered, Ava clever and occasionally reckless. Both are passionate about the job they do but have to work hard at being an effective team.

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 A Taste of Ash Click on the title
twitter: /ChrisHammacott
Facebook: /

Sunday, 10 November 2019

‘Into the Dark’ by Karen Rose

Published by Headline,
14 November 2019.
ISBN: 978-1-4722-6565-4 (HB)

After a trip to Baltimore and another to Sacramento, Karen Rose returns to Cincinnati for her latest 600-page blockbuster – and what a page-turner it is.

This time around it's the turn of IT expert and gentle giant Diesel Kennedy and life-damaged medic Dani Novak to get it together, complete with Rose's trademark steamy sex scene. But as always, there's a whole lot more to Into the Dark than the romantic interest. Dedicated Rose fans will be familiar with many of the characters on the side of the angels: crusading journalists Marcus and Stone, therapists Faith and Meredith, FBI agents Deacon, Kate and Decker all put in more than a passing appearance, and get involved in one of her most riveting plots yet. 

There's an intriguing twist: Cade Kaiser, the bad guy they spend most of the book hunting down has an agenda many people would find admirable. He tracks down and disposes of paedophiles, people-traffickers, domestic abusers, drug dealers: the kind of low-life anyone with a conscience regards as the scum of the earth. But he doesn't plan to get caught and has a much less admirable desire to 'snip loose ends'.

It's his own conscience which places him in the sights of police, FBI, and even more unfortunately for him, Diesel Kennedy, who comes to the rescue of one of Kaiser's targets. Teenager Michael Rowland saw Kaiser deal with one of his victims, and rapidly becomes one of those loose ends.

Karen Rose weaves multiple themes into the thrilling chase which ensues. Dani Novak's personal emotional baggage includes being HIV positive through no fault of her own; Diesel has buried his own baggage, childhood trauma at the hands of a paedophile, and it comes back to bite him; Michael Rowland suffers from Waardenburg's Syndrome (as do Dani and her brothers) and is profoundly deaf; both Michael and his five-year-old brother Joshua are victims of domestic abuse. So, it's hardly surprising the book is Rose's usual doorstop size. But it's still a page-turner you won't want to put down, from the opening scene in dark, atmospheric woodland through multiple episodes in a variety of well-realized locations to the final, joyous moments filled with laughter, babies and cake. 

Like every Karen Rose novel I've read, it has a little of everything: romance (and great sex!), suspense, a modicum of gore; characters who will soon become like family to the regular reader; and the kind of twisty, complicated plot that interferes with sleep and everyday routine because you can't bear to put it down. Definitely a book for a bad weather weekend.
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick

Karen Rose was born 29 July 1964 at Baltimore, Maryland USA. She was educated at the University of Maryland. She met her husband, Martin, on a blind date when they were seventeen and after they both graduated from the University of Maryland, (Karen with a degree in Chemical Engineering) they moved to Cincinnati, Ohio. Karen worked as an engineer for a large consumer goods company, earning two patents, but as Karen says, “scenes were roiling in my head and I couldn't concentrate on my job, so I started writing them down. I started out writing for fun, and soon found I was hooked.” Her debut suspense novel, Don't Tell, was released in July 2003. Since then, she has published twenty-four more novels. 

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.

Saturday, 9 November 2019

‘A Knife to the Heart’ by Barbara Nadel

Published by Headline,
19 September 2019.
ISBN: 978-1-47225459-7 (PB)

In 1976 a young woman was found dead, killed by a single stab wound to the heart, in the grounds of a beautiful coastal villa near Istanbul.  A murder investigation was immediately launched, but no perpetrator could be found and eventually a verdict of suicide was recorded.  The house was known as Kara Lale Yalı and was the home of Admiral Alaaddin Tonguç his wife Halide and their family - the victim was one of their daughters, Deniz. 

Fast forward forty years and the decrepit wooden structure has just been purchased from the cash strapped Tonguç family by Tayfun Yıldırım.  Yıldırım has made a fortune buying and tearing down similar derelict villas in order to transform them into luxury homes for the wealthy - it seems that Kara Lale Yalı is likely to suffer the same fate.  Before demolition begins, however, he allows his niece, historian Suzan Tan, to explore the villa in the hope of finding historically valuable artefacts that will support her latest research project.

The novel opens as Suzan finds a Ouija board amongst some photographs she is examining.  The board intrigues her and she questions Halid Tonguç about its significance.  The response she receives is so bizarre and unsettling that the academic decides to delve further.  She discovers that the Ouija board had predicted Deniz’s death during a séance Halid was leading.  The family members have never recovered from the events that followed and Suzan feels compelled to discover what really happened to Deniz.  She partners up with recently retired police inspector Çetin Ikmen and before long the pair bring to light unpleasant and long-hidden family secrets relating to the Tonguçs.  Ikmen calls on favours from his former colleagues who, although they are currently engaged on their own series of baffling murders, are glad to be working with their past boss.  As the old and new cases develop, the investigations zigzag through the fascinating city of Istanbul which becomes an absorbing character in its own right. The bewitching metropolis is a liminal space in which past meets present and superstition co-exists with contemporary secularism.  The narrative reveals ghosts and demons who travel alongside their corporeal counterparts, blurring boundaries and challenging rational preconceptions. 

This is the twenty-first novel in the Inspector Ikmen series but can be read perfectly well as a stand-alone.  A series of delicious subplots revolve around the strong central detective story to create a deceptive and intriguing puzzle.  The author’s style is witty and absorbing and her characters are complex, often conflicted, and always interesting.  The narrative also tackles the impact that followed 2016’s failed political coup, as well as highlighting the ways in which unscrupulous property development disadvantages the poorest inhabitants of Istanbul. 

A Knife to the Heart is compelling, informative and entertaining.  It is little wonder that Viacom UK has just announced plans to screen The Turkish Detective a new television series based on the Ikmen novels.  A super read, highly recommended.
Reviewer: Dot Marshall-Gent

Barbara Nadel was born in the East End of London. She rained as an actress, and used to work in mental health services. She now writes full time and has been a visitor to Turkey for over twenty years. She received the Crime Writers' Association Silver Dagger for her novel Deadly Web.

Dot Marshall-Gent worked in the emergency services for twenty years first as a police officer, then as a paramedic and finally as a fire control officer before graduating from King’s College, London as a teacher of English in her mid-forties.  She completed a M.A. in Special and Inclusive Education at the Institute of Education, London and now teaches part-time and writes mainly about educational issues.  Dot sings jazz and country music and plays guitar, banjo and piano

Friday, 8 November 2019

Antti Thomainen and Lilja Sigurdardottir at the Icelandic Embassy

Wednesday 6th November 2019

Above left to right Karen Sullivan, Pirjo Pellinen (Finnish Embassy), Antti Tuomainen, Lilja Sigurdardottir, Þurý Björk Björgvinsdóttir from the Icelandic Embassy, and editor West Camel.
The launch of Little Siberia by Antti Tuomainen and Cage by Lilja Sigurdardottir was celebrated at the Icelandic Embassy on the 6th November.

We were warmly welcomed by West Camel who talked a little about both books his final words being they are both  'corkers' .

Lilja talked about her book Cage which is the last book in the trilogy. She said it's about time and what time does to people. It starts five years after the last book Trap and she said you can see where the characters are now.  
 She gave words of thanks to Karen Sulliavan of Orenda books for taking a chance on her and publishing her books. She expressed the importance to her of her books being available in other languages. Translation she said was so important and thanked Quentin Bates who is her translator and West Camel for his wonderful editing. She thanked us all for coming and for being so nice.

Antti Tuomainen thanked us for coming saying it would be so lonely here if you hadn't.  He gave thanks to many people, but I didn't catch all the names.
He said that it was an important book for him but modesty prevented him from listing the plaudits received and then proceeded to do so.🌝 
He said although a very funny book it does get a bit dark.

It was a lovely friendly evening.
Additionally they served the most marvellous canapes. 

Thursday, 7 November 2019

‘Black Wolf’ by G D Abson

Published by Mirror Books,
28 November 2019,
ISBN (HB): 978-1-912624-53-9. 

In the forests north-east of St Petersburg (founded by Tsar Peter the Great and renamed Leningrad during the Soviet period before reverting to its original name) are buried more than 30,000 men, women, children, murdered during Stalin’s reign of terror. It is to this area that Captain Natalya Ivanovna and Sergeant Rogov of the Criminal Investigations Directorate come following reports that a young woman’s body has been found in the ditch by the road that leads through the area. There are no visible signs of injury or sexual assault. They know her name: Elizaveta Kalinina and when Expert Criminalist Leo Primakov arrives on the scene he is able to confirm what Natalya has suspected – that she died elsewhere and her body had been transported to the ditch after death. Natalya’s boss, Lieutenant General Dostoynov, leaves it to Natalya to perform the distressing task of informing Elizaveta’s mother but when she calls on her and Elizaveta’s two-year-old son to tell them the news she is interrupted by the arrival of two officers from Sledkom or Sledstvennyi Komitet, the Investigative Committee, the Russian version of the FBI, who tell her that she is to be taken off the case. Natalya learns that the reason for this is that Elizaveta is a member of the Decembrists, a protest group which has taken the name of a revolutionary group from the time of the Tsars but which now confines itself to activities publicly mocking the Putin regime as do the real-life art anarchist collective Voina and the girls of Pussy Riot. There is not a lot that Natalya can do about this, so she has to face the prospect of Christmas on her own since Dostoynov has sent her husband Mikhail off to Siberia to deal with some cold cases. But then another Decembrist contacts her: Vita, who tells Natalya that her twin brother Max, also a Decembrist, is missing and she wants Natalya to find out what has happened to him. This could put Natalya’s career at risk; nonetheless she agrees to investigate unofficially. And this leads her into a snake-pit of lies and corruption and danger at the highest level, the more so because Putin’s re-election campaign is in full swing and, although the result is in no doubt, there are those who do not relish any adverse publicity. Even Mikhail is at risk, not to mention Anton, Mikhail’s son by his first marriage, who has taken rather a shine to Vita. 

This is the second in this author’s series featuring Senior Detective Natalya Ivanovna in what the publishers describe as ‘the dark heart of Putin’s Russia’ and which powerfully evokes that country’s corruption, criminality and violent revenge. (The first, Motherland, was published in 2018, also by Mirror Books, ISBN : 978-1-907324-83-3). Natalya, with her steely determination to get to the truth of the crimes she investigates, is very much in the mould of today’s fictional female sleuths. 
Reviewer: Radmila May

G.D. Abson was born in County Durham and grew up on army bases in Germany and Singapore before returning to the North-East. He is the author of Motherland, the first in a series featuring Senior Investigator Natalya Ivanova, and was shortlisted for a Crime Writers' Association Debut Dagger.

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. 

‘It Walks by Night’ A Paris Mystery by John Dickson Carr

Published by British Library Publishing,
September 2019. 

ISBN: 978-0-71235264-2 (PB)

It Walks by Night, as the full title suggests, is set mainly in Paris and is a classic “locked room mystery” that baffles everyone with the exception of the Director of Police, Inspector Henri Bencolin.  The investigative prowess of this aloof genius is recorded by his affable, but sometimes naïve, American sidekick Jeff Marle.  

In Chapter 1, Bencolin and Marle visit “Fenelli’s,” a modish salon, complete with jazz band and casino, and where alcohol and drugs are available – for a price.  On their arrival, a party is in full swing to celebrate the marriage of the Duc de Saligny and his beautiful bride, Louise
.  Bencolin seeks out Dr Hugo Grafenstein, an eccentric but renowned psychiatrist.  The detective has invited Grafenstein to discuss a former patient, Alexandre Laurent, who also happens to be the bride’s ex-husband.  The Laurent’s marriage ended a few years earlier when Alexandre attacked his wife with a razor.  Incredibly, she survived and managed to detain her crazed husband until he could be arrested.  Following Grafenstein’s psychiatric assessment,  Laurent was declared criminally insane and incarcerated in a private asylum.  Bencolin tells Grafenstein that, seven months earlier, Laurent had escaped from captivity and that he has used his freedom to change his appearance.  The psychiatrist is even more horrified to learn that Bencolin anticipates that the escapee may turn up at the salon that very evening.

Carr undoubtedly owes a debt to Edgar Allen Poe and Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle, both of whom are cited in the novel, which combines Gothic horror with crime and detection.  He uses imagery to evoke terror and revulsion.  This can be seen, for example, in the relentless employment of red imagery to depict the décor of the murder-room, a technique that highlights the visual horror of the scene. At times the writing shifts into an hypnotic, dreamlike prose that perfectly captures the mood of the Paris salon and its atmosphere of decadent ennui.  The novel’s characters frequently display melodramatic mannerisms, gestures and language reminiscent of the burgeoning melodrama films of the 1920s and 30s.

It Walks by Night was the first of Carr’s novels to be published and is reproduced as part of the British Library Crime Classics series.  Martin Edwards, the series consultant, once more provides a fascinating introduction to the book including some biographical details about the author and an explanation of some of the many literary references included in the narrative.  One such insight explains that the work is a “Harper Sealed Mystery Story.”  All the clues required to solve the mystery were, the publishers claimed, contained in the first twelve chapters and the pages from Chapter 13 onwards were enclosed within a thin seal.  So, if the reader worked out who committed the murder and returned the book with the seal still intact, they were entitled to a refund.  The book is the first work by an American author to be included in this popular British Library series, and includes Carr’s short story, The Shadow of the Goat, in which Inspector Bencolin made his first appearance.  I thoroughly enjoyed the book, particularly its surreal descriptions and, in case anyone is wondering, I would not have been able to claim my refund – it kept me guessing to the end!
Reviewer: Dot Marshall-Gent 

John Dickson Carr  (1906-1977) was born in Uniontown, Pennsylvania, in 1906. Through born in the USA, Carr developed a distinctly British style to his mystery writing from his time living in England and became one of only two Americans ever admitted to the Detection Club. It Walks by Night, his first published detective novel, featuring the Frenchman Henri Bencolin, was published in 1930. Apart from Dr Fell, whose first appearance was in Hag's Nook in 1933, Carr's other series detectives (published under the nom de plume of Carter Dickson) were the barrister Sir Henry Merrivale, who debuted in The Plague Court Murders (1934).

Dot Marshall-Gent worked in the emergency services for twenty years first as a police officer, then as a paramedic and finally as a fire control officer before graduating from King’s College, London as a teacher of English in her mid-forties.  She completed a M.A. in Special and Inclusive Education at the Institute of Education, London and now teaches part-time and writes mainly about educational issues.  Dot sings jazz and country music and plays guitar, banjo and piano as well as being addicted to reading mystery and crime fiction.