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Tuesday 30 June 2020

‘Stop At Nothing’ by Michael Ledwidge

Published by Headline,
5 March 2020.
ISBN: 978-1-47226576-0 (HB)

Michael Gannon is enjoying a day’s fishing aboard his diving boat, the Donegal Rambler.  He is some thirty miles offshore from Little Abaco, an island in the Bahamas he now calls home, when he witnesses a jet plane crashing into the sea a short distance away.  Gannon is unable to send a mayday alert from the remote spot because his radio antenna is broken.  There are no other boats around and he quickly makes his way towards the sinking wreckage.  When he arrives, there is still no sight or sound of a rescue team, so he grabs his diving gear and plunges into the water to see whether there are any survivors.  As he swims into the twisted metal fuselage, he makes a discovery that leads him into a situation that will threaten not only his own life, but also the lives of those around him.

The writing is characterised by the author’s use of succinct sentences which burst from short chapters to drive a relentless and thrilling narrative.  Gannon, the likeable tough guy protagonist, finds himself working alongside two equally engaging characters as the tragedy of the plane crash turns into a full-blown international conspiracy.  The trio endeavour to make sense of a world in which truth and justice are turned upside down but find themselves moving from disbelief to anger when they confront treachery deep within the security services to which they are, or have been, attached.

Stop At Nothing thunders along at breath-taking speed and it took me along with it.  The story is absorbing, outrageous and unpredictable.  There are twists and turns galore as Gannon and his friends confront powerful villains who kill without mercy from their positions of power and privilege.  A rip-roaring read that intrigues and entertains from the first page to the last.
Reviewer: Dot Marshall-Gent

Michael Ledwidge is an American author of Irish decent. He was born and raised in the Bronx. A graduate of Manhattan College, he is married and has two children.

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.     

Monday 29 June 2020

‘Heat Stroke by Hazel Barkworth

Published by Headline,
28 May 2020.
ISBN: 978-1-4722-6580-9 (HB)

If you’re in the mood for all-action, high-octane thrills, this book probably isn’t the one to try. On the other hand, if you’re looking for something that suits the slower pace of hot summer days, it just might fit the bill. The crime at the heart of it doesn’t involve death or violence. The damage is the emotional kind, the kind that happens when one person wields power over another and messes not with the body but with the mind.

Lily is fifteen, part of a tightly knit group of friends, pretty, talented, and eager as all teenagers are to grow up and experience what she sees as the real world. She fails to appear one evening for a gathering of their little coterie, and by next morning it is clear she’s missing.

The other girls have no idea where she is; none of them saw it coming, so at first it’s assumed she has been abducted. Even Mia, the girl to whom Lily was closest, is mystified. The story is seen through the eyes of Rachel, Mia’s mother, a teacher at the school the girls attend. She follows the girls on their evening outings, observes them, telling herself they need extra care and supervision – but she has picked up clues, from things they say and from Lily’s bedroom, and realizes that she knows exactly what has happened. But telling the police, or Lily’s parents, would entail giving up a dark secret of her own...

It all takes place during a heatwave, and the sultry, syrupy atmosphere, thick with swirling emotions and uncomfortable memories, forms an almost tangible background to Rachel’s unfolding recollections about her own past and imaginings about Lily’s fate. The writing is lush and languorous, evoking locations and situations in detail: memories of an apartment in northern France, descriptions of the girls’ gatherings in a local park, preparations for the annual prom, accounts of emotional encounters past and present.

The characters are woven almost seamlessly into the background, and only a few stand out:  Graham the head teacher, efficient and innovative; rough diamond Aaron, Mia’s boyfriend; Lily herself, na├»ve and unsophisticated. 

This isn’t a crime novel in the accepted sense; rather, it’s a portrayal of the harm we do to ourselves and to others, both by what we do and say and by what we keep to ourselves. It’s a novel about guilt, and betrayal, and the balance of power, and that cusp time we all go through, between child and adult.
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick

Hazel Barkworth grew up in Stirlingshire and North Yorkshire before studying English at Oxford. She then moved to London where she worked as a cultural consultant.  She has an MSt in Creative Writing and the Curtis Brown Creative Novel-Writing Course. She now works in Oxford where she lives with her partner. Heatstroke is her first novel.

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 in Oxfordshire in a house groaning with books, about half of them crime fiction.