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Friday 31 January 2020

‘The Price of Silence’ by Nikki Copleston

Published by Silverwood Books
11 November 2019.
ISBN: 978-1-78132-938-2 (PB)

The community of Barbury, the Wiltshire market town, is deeply shocked when the body of popular local businesswoman Holly Macleod is found by a young girl in squalid public toilets near a pub on the town’s outskirts. Examination of the body establishes first of all that she was beaten about the head, and then strangled, and there is also semen on her underclothes. More shocked than anyone else is Holly’s partner Meg Spry in the employment agency that she and Holly ran together along with their assistant Sarah as well as a charity, Second Time Trust (STT), which funds training for women who are going back into work but do not have the requisite skills.

Detective Inspector Jeff Lincoln is the officer investigating the crime along with his detective colleagues Sergeant Mike Woods, Constables Pam Smyth, Dennis Breeze and Graham Dilke. Right from the beginning of the investigation there are a number of puzzles: where is Holly’s handbag? The motive was plainly not robbery, but then what was it? Her car, an elderly Volvo, has disappeared so where is it? And the car found abandoned near the toilets belongs to a London businessman, Leo Goldsmith; does he have a connection? Holly has always denied having married before she met her husband, second-hand bookseller Bruce Macleod or have had children, but on her stomach are the scars of a C-section; how come? And why does Macleod show no interest in how Holly died or whether there had been a sexual assault? Meg uncovers apparent fraudulent activity in the activities of STT: is it some sort of money-laundering exercise? Who is Samuel Faraday? Was there something going on between Holly and her accountant, Jack Avery, who seems to be more upset about Holly’s death than her husband? Meantime Lincoln has to cope with his own emotional problems: his wife left him several years ago for a lecturer at a local college, Andy Nightingale, and then died. But Nightingale has also been affected by the fraudulent activities in STT. And just how does Macleod’s research into the deceased artist Withold Bartmann and his partner Inigo Jay, names given to Lincoln by the attractive librarian Trish Whittingham, fit in? And behind everything in the Barbury hinterland is the dubious businessman Doubleday and the plans of him and others to redevelop some waste land near Barbury.

All this and many other ramifications contrived to make this story engage me until I reached the end. Another aspect which intrigued me is the setting. Barbury itself seems to be fictitious but presumably it is in the environs of the real-life Barbury Racecourse and the prehistoric Iron Age hillfort, Barbury Castle near the ancient Ridgeway trackway, one of a series of such forts which offer spectacular views across the countryside below. I wonder if it is. Recommended.
Reviewer: Radmila May

Nikki Copleston was born in Somerset and raised in the West Midlands and Wiltshire, Nikki Copleston worked in local government in London for many years. Her grandfather and great-grandfather were policemen, which may explain why she's always enjoyed watching detective series on television and reading crime novels. She is an active member of Frome Writers' Collective, which supports and promotes writers in the Frome area. When she isn't writing, she enjoys exploring the West Country with her camera. She is already working on the next DI Jeff Lincoln novel. She and her husband now live in Wells, Somerset, with their cat.

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.

‘He Will Find You’ by Charlie Gallagher

Published by Joffe Books,
17 July 2019.
ISBN: 978-1-78931151-8 (PB)

Charlie Gallagher is a serving UK police officer and, as you might expect from a man who spends his days as a frontline police detective, both his Langthorne Police Series and the Detective Maddie Ives series are underpinned by his expert knowledge as are his three standalone novels. But make no mistake – these are not cosy police procedurals, they are gripping – sometimes gruesome – thrillers.

He Will Find You is the third book featuring DS Maddie Ives. In the opening chapter the reader is introduced to a bewildered ten-year-old child covered in blood who wanders into the road oblivious of the traffic. Maddie and her team are called to the scene, but the boy is either unable or unwilling to speak. Maddie eventually manages to make some sort of connection to him.

In a separate incident, the body of a man is discovered on a lonely road on the outskirts of town. His trussed body had been dragged behind a vehicle for some distance. Maddie Ives, her boss DI Harry Blaker and Rhiannon Davies recruited from CID have a difficult job on their hands. The signs are that some kind of strange occult practice is involved and that this is only the first in what could become a series of similar killings.

Only when the team realise the connection between the two seemingly unconnected incidents can they discover the identity of the killer. When Rhiannon disappears minutes after Maddie leaves her to continue her early morning run through the woods, the race is on. Will they be able to find where the group have taken her before her body is roped and tied to the back of a truck to be dragged to her death?

The story is told from multiple viewpoints including those of the villains and their victims. In this way, the reader is ahead of the detectives which adds to the impending sense of doom as for example when Maddie and Rhiannon head into the woods. 

This gripping novel has all the ingredients of a great thriller – a complex and compelling plot, well-drawn believable characters, fast pace with plenty of action. Although I’m fond of edgy suspenseful writing, I freely admit that hard-bitten, stomach-churning fiction is not my usual choice, but I found 

He Will Find You compulsive reading and plan to read more by Charlie Gallagher. What appealed to me most was Gallaher’s ability to create characters the reader wants to know more about. Take for example DI Harry Blaker – on the surface, he may seem a morose ‘difficult colleague, but we soon learn the reason for his reserve. The early release from jail of a petty criminal responsible for the death of Harry’s wife tests all of the detective’s reserves almost to breaking point. He is also burdened by a sense of guilt when he is unable to stop his daughter self-harming. None of which stops him from throwing himself wholeheartedly into the desperate search for Rhiannon.

A great read. I highly recommend it.
Reviewer: Judith Cranswick

Charlie Gallagher has been a serving UK police officer for ten years. During that time he has had many roles, starting as a front-line response officer, then a member of a specialist tactical team and is currently a detective investigating serious offences. Charlie is the author of four Lanthorne police procedurals. His new series features DS Maddie Ives.

Judith Cranswick was born and brought up in Norwich. She wrote her first novel (now languishing in the back of a drawer somewhere) when her two children were toddlers, but there was little time for writing when she returned to work teaching Geography in a large comprehensive. It was only after leaving her headship that she was able to take up writing again in earnest. Judith teaches Tai Chi, and line dancing, yoga, Pilates and Zumba. Her other hobbies include reading and travelling. She is lucky enough to be a cruise lecturer. You can read some of her adventures – the Ups and Downs of Being a Cruise Lecturer on her September 2014 blog on her home page. Judith’s latest book is Blood Flows South to read a review click on the title

‘When the Dead Come Calling’ by Helen Sedgwick

Published by Point Blank,
9 January 2020.
ISBN: 978-1-78607-569-7 (HB)

This novel is the first in the Burrowhead Mysteries, an unusual trilogy set in a decaying rural area on the northwest coast of England.  Although DI Georgie Strachan has her fair share of ups and downs, she is a thoughtful, unpretentious person who loves her husband and is not your average damaged detective.

The writer tackles ‘false memory syndrome.’ This is a psychological condition in which the identity or interpersonal relationships of a person centres on a memory of traumatic experiences that is objectively false or distorted but which the person emphatically believes happened.

When psychotherapist Alexis Crosse is found gruesomely murdered in the playground, the local police force, comprising threesome George, Trish and Simon, grieving partner of Alexis, are challenged.  Somehow the police station has managed to survive swingeing budget cuts and closures but it’s in a run down state with out-of-date equipment and limited resources worsened by Simon conflicted out of the investigation.  Embittered and resentful villagers are scarily prejudiced; racism, misogyny   and homophobia rear their ugly heads and Pamila, a woman owner of a local convenience store that is repeatedly vandalised is subjected to an appalling personal assault. 

The story unfolds with a first person narrator hiding in a cave and this sets up the atmospheric scene.  Who is he/she and why is that person there? Is it a real person or a figment of someone’s imagination? Is this happening now or in the past? 

 The author has created an intriguing plot with twists and turns underlaid with the supernatural and her descriptions of the landscape and changing weather, brooding and windswept, bright and sunny is an original metaphor for how the investigation is proceeding. 

This is a stunning, complex, out-of-the mainstream novel that’s completely immersive.  I’m always comfortable with head hopping and constantly changing points of view because I believe this makes the characters come alive with their different reactions and perspectives. I don’t find this technique to be distracting and here the author cleverly deploys it to draw in and grip the reader and, best of all, leaves questions unanswered.
Reviewer: Serena Fairfax

Helen Sedgwick is the author of The Comet Seekers (Harvill Secker, 2016) and The Growing Season (2017). She has an MLitt in Creative Writing from Glasgow University, she won a Scottish Book Trust New Writers Award in 2012, and her writing has been broadcast on BBC Radio 4 and widely published in magazines and anthologies. Before writing her debut novel she was a research physicist, with a PhD in Physics from Edinburgh University.

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.