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Friday, 16 April 2021

‘Siena’ by Phil Rowlands

Published by Williams & Whiting,
30 August 2017.
ISBN: 978-1-91126668-6 (PB
)

Imagine watching the fallout from a horrific gun crime incident on TV, and realizing that some of the victims were the people you loved most in the world. That's the kind of nightmare scenario film producer Phil Rowlands took on for his debut novel.

Not an enviable task, putting it on the page. The husband and son of Sara, his protagonist, are 'collateral damage' in the latest horror perpetrated by a serial assassin. Small wonder she spends the first quarter of the book so close to the edge of total insanity that the only thing that keeps her alive is not having a clue how to kill herself.

She pulls herself back, or is pulled back, from the brink by a chance meeting with psychologist Peter. A relationship blossoms between them, and eventually Sara not only finds a way to cope again, but also decides to set off on a journey to try to track down the man who killed her beloved husband and son.

The journey takes her to Siena, the home city of the intended victim – and that's when things start to get really complicated.

Sara is an artist, and sees the beautiful mediaeval city through an artist's eyes. She is befriended by Carlo, another, much better-known artist, who introduces her to dishy Paulo, a wealthy dilettante with an enviable lifestyle. Art, the city and the promise of romance help to soothe her still flayed emotions in the run-up to the world-famous Palio, the annual horse race which takes the city over for part of each summer.

But of course, not everything is as it seems. Sara's psychologist saviour has another life he has not shared with her, Paulo has his own demons, and as the Palio approaches things begin to get really complicated...

It's hard to categorize this book. It's part thriller, part murder mystery, part romance, even part travelogue: something to appeal to most tastes, you could say. As well as the more conventional elements, Siena is portrayed in glorious technicolor, and the barn conversion Sara lived with her family is also vividly described. Sara herself seems to recover rather too suddenly from her devastating trauma, and there's a slightly confusing twist at the very end; but those are minor flaws, probably down to the author's inexperience, and nothing a good editor couldn't fix.

One way of interpreting that odd little twist could be as a signal that a sequel is on the way. We'll have to wait and see...
------

Reviewer: Lynne Patrick

Phil Rowlands has worked as an actor, mainly in film and television for twenty years, appearing in over 200 film and television productions as well as many plays and short stories for BBC Radio 4. He then moved into the production side as a freelance writer and film producer. He has written feature films, TV and radio dramas, documentaries and animation series and worked as a script doctor. Currently he is in development as writer/producer on a movie set in Wales and Canada due to begin production in early 2018. As an actor he, is founder and MD of Funky Medics, a production company focussing on innovative health education and is an Honorary Associate of Cardiff University. Funky Medics is currently developing projects in India, Europe and the UK. For over ten years he has been a freelance project consultant with various Foundations and NGOs mainly working in India. He lives in Penarth near Cardiff. Siena is his first novel.

 http://www.philrowlandswriter.com/

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. 

CWA Dagger Awards Longlists Announced

 

The 2021 longlists for the prestigious CWA Dagger awards, which honour the very best in the crime writing genre, have been announced.

The world-famous Crime Writers’ Association (CWA) Daggers are the oldest awards in the genre, and have been synonymous with quality crime writing for over half a century.

Past winners of the prestigious Gold Dagger, which is awarded for the crime novel of the year, include Ian Rankin, John le Carré, Reginald Hill and Ruth Rendell. This year sees 2019’s winner of the Gold Dagger, M W Craven, return with The Curator. The former probation officer credited the CWA Debut Dagger competition in 2013 for opening the door to his career as an author.

Amer Anwar, who won the Debut Dagger competition in 2008, makes the list with Stone Cold Trouble. Anwar is up against the mighty JK Rowling writing as Robert Galbraith, alongside multi-award-winning authors including Nicci French, Elly Griffiths and Antonia Hodgson.

The Ian Fleming Steel Dagger is famed for showcasing blockbuster thrillers – past winners include Gillian Flynn and Robert Harris. Robert Galbraith is once more in the running, along with Ian Rankin, Stuart Turton, Catherine Ryan Howard, Ruth Ware and Michael Robotham, last year’s Gold winner.

Holly Watt, who won the Fleming Dagger in 2019, also returns to the longlist with The Dead Line.  Another to watch on the Fleming longlist is Chris Whitaker; his book Tall Oaks won the CWA John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger in 2017. Whitaker is long-listed for his latest novel We Begin At The End, which was a Waterstones Thriller of the Month and has sold in 17 territories, with screen rights snapped up by Disney.

Linda Stratmann, Chair of the Crime Writers’ Association, said: “The CWA Dagger awards are unparalleled for their reputation and longevity. The longlists showcase authors – established and new – at the top of their game. It’s not surprising that sales of crime fiction have been so strong during Covid-19. Both fiction and non-fiction have proven to be a great escape for many as we have been stuck at home. As our longlists show, these stories and insights take readers all over the world and through time, from Bombay of the 1950s to ancient Athens to modern-day California and many points between. 

“Crime books can be thrilling mysteries, but they can also provide social commentary, insights into true crime, or explore big questions in life. The vast and diverse talent in these longlists show why it’s the UK’s most popular and enduring genre. We are proud to provide a platform for debut, emerging and established authors, and to honour the very best in crime writing.”

The much-anticipated John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger highlights the best debut novels. Among the rising stars of 2021 is Susan Allot with her Australian-set debut, The Silence, praised by the Wall Street Journal as ‘emotionally wrenching’.

New writing duo Chris Rickaby and Barney Thompson, writing under the pseudonym Ben Creed, also feature with their debut, City of Ghosts, a tense historical novel set in 1951 Russia. The global theme continues with Stephanie Scott’s accomplished debut, What’s Left of Me Is Yours, set in modern day Japan, exploring romantic and familial love, duty and murder.

Booker prize winner John Banville is a heavyweight contender on the Sapere Books Historical Dagger longlist. The prizewinning novelist and literary polymath, considered Ireland’s greatest living novelist, is in the running for Snow, his first murder mystery published under his real name rather than his nom de plume, Benjamin Black.

This Sapere Books Historical Dagger longlist also includes Nicola Upson, who was shortlisted for the award in 2018, and S J Parris, whose Giordano Bruno books, Heresy, Sacrilege and Treachery have all been previously shortlisted. Vaseem Khan also features on the list as he swaps his contemporary light-hearted Baby Ganesh Agency series with his historical crime novel Midnight at Malabar House, set in 1950s Bombay.

The Crime Fiction in Translation Dagger sees the bestselling Jo Nesbo on the list with his stand-alone thriller, The Kingdom, translated by Robert Ferguson. Joining the Norwegian is Swedish writer Mikael Niemi with his sumptuous blend of historical fact with fictional intrigue, To Cook a Bear, centred around the Laestadian revivalist movement of the 1850s, translated by Sarah Death.

From one of Israel’s most beloved writers is Three by D A Mishani, translated by Jessica Cohen, and from South Korea, Yun Ko-eun’s original and inventive thriller The Disaster Tourist makes the longlist, with translator Lizzie Buehler.

The CWA Daggers are one of the few high-profile awards that honour the short story. Christopher Fowler, the award-winning author of the Bryant & May mystery novels, has written over 50 novels and short story collections. Fowler, who won the CWA Dagger in the Library in 2015, is longlisted for his short story, Head Count. The list also features acclaimed authors Clare Mackintosh and Stuart Turton. Founding member of the North East Noir crime writers’ group, Robert Scragg, also dominates the category as an editor and writer of short stories.

The ALCS Gold Dagger for Non-Fiction features the 2020 CWA Diamond Dagger winner, Martin Edwards, with Howdunit. A renowned editor, prolific novelist, and leading authority on crime fiction, Howdunit offers a masterclass in crime writing by leading exponents of the genre.

Dan Smith also features with The Peer and the Gangster which tells the incredible story of one of the largest-scale political cover-ups in British history – the 1964 scandal of an alleged homosexual affair between Lord Boothby, a well-known member of the House of Lords, and London’s most notorious mobster Ronnie Kray.

The Dagger in the Library is voted on exclusively by librarians, chosen for the author’s body of work and support of libraries. This year sees firm favourites from the genre including Nicci French, Lisa Jewell, Margaret Murphy, Erin Kelly, Peter May and Denise Mina on the longlist.

The Best Crime and Mystery Publisher of the Year Dagger, which celebrates publishers and imprints demonstrating excellence and diversity in crime writing, pits big publishing houses Harper Fiction and Faber & Faber against independent publishers such as No Exit Press. 

The CWA Dagger shortlist will be announced in May with the awards ceremony taking place at the start of July. The 2021 Diamond Dagger for lifetime achievement, the highest honour in British crime writing, has already been announced, awarded to Martina Cole.

The Longlists in Full:

GOLD DAGGER

Amer Anwar: Stone Cold Trouble (Dialogue Books, Little, Brown Book Group)

S A Cosby: Blacktop Wasteland (Headline, Headline Publishing Group)

M W Craven: The Curator (Constable, Little, Brown Book Group)

Ben Creed: City of Ghosts (Welbeck Fiction, Welbeck Publishing Group)

Garry Disher: Peace (Viper, Profile Books)

Mick Finlay: Arrowood and the Thames Corpses (HQ, HarperCollins)

Nicci French: House of Correction (Simon & Schuster)

Robert Galbraith: Troubled Blood (Sphere, Little, Brown Book Group)

Elly Griffiths: The Postscript Murders (Quercus)

Antonia Hodgson: The Silver Collar (Hodder & Stoughton)

S G Maclean: The House of Lamentations (Quercus Fiction, Quercus)

C D Major: The Other Girl (Thomas & Mercer)

Thomas Mullen: Midnight Atlanta (Little, Brown, Little, Brown Book Group)

S J Parris: Execution (Harper Fiction, HarperCollins)

Tade Thompson: Making Wolf (Constable, Little, Brown Book Group)

Nicola Upson: The Dead of Winter (Faber)

Chris Whitaker: We Begin at the End (Zaffre, Bonnier)

Rebecca Whitney: The Hidden Girls (Mantle, Pan Macmillan)

 

IAN FLEMING STEEL DAGGER

Charles Cumming: Box 88 (HarperFiction, HarperCollins)

Robert Galbraith: Troubled Blood (Sphere, Little, Brown Book Group)

Ryan Gattis: The System (Picador, Pan Macmillan)

Ian Rankin: Song for the Dark Times (Orion Fiction, The Orion Publishing Group)

Rod Reynolds: Blood Red City (Orenda Books)

Craig Robertson: Watch Him Die (Simon & Schuster)

Michael Robotham: When She Was Good (Sphere, Little, Brown Book Group)

Catherine Ryan Howard: The Nothing Man (Atlantic Books)

Stuart Turton: The Devil and the Dark Water (Raven Books, Bloomsbury Publishing)

Ruth Ware: One by One (Harvill Secker, Vintage)

Holly Watt: The Dead Line (Raven Books, Bloomsbury Publishing)

Chris Whitaker: We Begin at the End (Zaffre, Bonnier Books UK) 

 

JOHN CREASEY (NEW BLOOD) DAGGER

Eva Björg Ægisdóttir: The Creak on the Stairs (Orenda)

Susan Allott: The Silence (Borough, HarperCollins)

Emma Christie: The Silent Daughter (Welbeck Publishing              )

Catherine Cooper: The Chalet (Harper Fiction, HarperCollins)

Ben Creed: City of Ghosts (Welbeck Publishing) 

Judi Daykin: Under Violent Skies (Joffe Books)    

Egan Hughes: The One That Got Away (Little Brown, Sphere)

S W Kane: The Bone Jar (Thomas & Mercer)       

Rob McInroy: Cuddies Strip (Ringwood Press)    

Stephanie Scott: What's Left of Me Is Yours (Orion, Weidenfeld)

Stephen Spotswood: Fortune Favours the Dead (Headline, Wildfire)

John Vercher: Three Fifths (Pushkin Press)          

S R White: Hermit (Headline)

 

SAPERE BOOKS HISTORICAL DAGGER

J M Alvey: Justice for Athena (Canelo Digital Publishing Limited)

John Banville: Snow (Faber)

Vaseem Khan: Midnight at Malabar House (Hodder & Stoughton)

Laurie King: Riviera Gold (Allison & Busby)

Chris Lloyd: The Unwanted Dead (Orion Fiction, The Orion Publishing Group)

S J Parris: Execution (HarperFiction, HarperCollins)

Ben Pastor: The Night of Shooting Stars (Bitter Lemon Press)

Michael Russell: The City Under Siege (Constable, Little, Brown Book Group)

David S. Stafford: Skelton’s Guide to Domestic Poisons (Allison & Busby)

A D Swanston: Chaos (Bantam Press, Transworld)

Nicola Upson: The Dead of Winter (Faber)

Ovidia Yu: The Mimosa Tree Mystery (Constable, Little, Brown Book Group)

 

CRIME FICTION IN TRANSLATION DAGGER

Fredrik Backman: Anxious People, translated by Neil Smith (Michael Joseph, Penguin)

Roxanne Bouchard: The Coral Bride, translated by David Warriner (Orenda Books)

Marc Elsberg: Greed, translated by Simon Pare (Black Swan, Penguin)

Yun Ko-eun: The Disaster Tourist, translated by Lizzie Buehler (Serpent's Tail)

Volker Kutscher: The March Fallen, translated by Niall Sellar (Sandstone Press)

D A Mishani: Three, translated by Jessica Cohen (Riverrun, Hachette Book Group)

Jo Nesbo: The Kingdom, translated by Robert Ferguson (Harvill Secker, Penguin)

Håkan Nesser: The Secret Life of Mr Roos, translated by Sarah Death (Mantle, Pan Macmillan)

Mikael Niemi: To Cook a Bear, translated by Deborah Bragan-Turner (Maclehose Press, Quercus)

Agnes Ravatn:  The Seven Doors, translated by Rosie Hedger (Orenda Books)

Maike Wetzel: Elly, translated by Lyn Marven (Scribe UK)

 

SHORT STORY DAGGER

Robert Scragg: ‘A Dog is for Life, Not Just for Christmas’ in Afraid of the Christmas Lights, edited by Robert Scragg (Robert Scragg)

Elle Croft: ‘Deathbed’ in Afraid of the Light, edited by Robert Scragg (Robert Scragg)

Dominic Nolan: ‘Daddy Dearest’ in Afraid of the Light, edited by Robert Scragg (Robert Scragg)

Adam Southward: ‘Especially at Christmas’ in Afraid of the Christmas Lights, edited by Robert Scragg (Robert Scragg)

Christopher Fowler: ‘Head Count’ in First Edition: Celebrating 21 Years of Goldsboro Books (The Dome Press)

Victoria Selman: ‘Hunted’ in Afraid of the Christmas Lights, edited by Robert Scragg (Robert Scragg)

Clare Mackintosh: ‘Monsters’ in First Edition: Celebrating 21 Years of Goldsboro Books (The Dome Press)

Stuart Turton: ‘Murder Most Vial’ in First Edition: Celebrating 21 Years of Goldsboro Books (The Dome Press)

Livia Llewelyn: ‘One of These Nights’ in Cutting Edge: Noir Stories by Women, edited by Joyce Carol Oates (Pushkin Press, Pushkin Vertigo)

James Delargy: ‘Planting Nan in Afraid of the Light, edited by Robert Scragg (Robert Scragg)

Simpson Grears: ‘The Foot of the Walk Murders’ in The Foot of the Walk Murders, edited by Simpson Grears (Rymour Books)

 

ALCS GOLD DAGGER FOR NON-FICTION

Sue Black: Written in Bone (Doubleday, Penguin)

Amanda Brown: The Prison Doctor; Women Inside (HQ, HarperCollins)

Becky Cooper: We Keep the Dead Close (William Heinemann, Penguin)

Martin Edwards: Howdunit (Collins Crime Club, HarperCollins)

Andrew Harding: These Are Not Gentle People (MacLehose, Quercus)

Debora Harding: Dancing with the Octopus (Profile Books Limited)

Nick Hayes: The Book of Trespass (Bloomsbury Circus, Bloomsbury Publishing)

Ben MacIntyre: Agent Sonya (Viking, Penguin)

Jax Miller: Hell in the Heartland (HarperCollins)

Daniel Smith: The Peer and the Gangster (The History Press)

Ravi Somaiya: Operation Morthor (Viking, Penguin)

Kate Summerscale: The Haunting of Alma Fielding (Bloomsbury Circus, Bloomsbury Publishing)

Mark Townsend: No Return (Guardian, Faber & Faber)

 

DAGGER IN THE LIBRARY

Lin Anderson

Nicci French

Lisa Jewell

Erin Kelly

Peter May

Denise Mina

Margaret Murphy

James Oswald

L J Ross

C L Taylor

             

PUBLISHERS’ DAGGER

Bitter Lemon Press

Faber & Faber

Harper Fiction

Head of Zeus

Michael Joseph

No Exit Press

Orenda Books

Pushkin Vertigo

Raven

Sphere

Viper

The CWA was founded in 1953 by John Creasey. Its aim is to support, promote and celebrate this most durable, adaptable and successful of genres and the authors who write within it. It runs the prestigious CWA Dagger Awards, which celebrate the best in crime writing.

https://thecwa.co.uk/

Tuesday, 13 April 2021

‘The Apothecary's Daughter’ by Jane Adams

Published by Joffe Books,
18 December 2020.
ISBN: 978-1-78931604-9. (PB)
Originally Published August 2000 as The Angel Gateway.

Detective Inspector Ray Flowers is on sick leave after being attacked and badly burned on his face. He failed to get a good look at his assailant, and it remains a mystery as to why it happened. Perhaps it was a case of mistaken identity. When he receives a newspaper cutting and a note hinting at who the attacker may have been, he enlists the help of a friend, George Mahoney.

 

Meanwhile we learn that Ray has just moved into an old cottage left to him by his aunt Mathilda. He finds a journal of hers seeming to tell of the ghost of a Kitty Hallam who lived in the early 1600's in the cottage and was tried for witchcraft. There are many entries in the journal mentioning her visiting Mathilda.

 

As George's enquiries into who Ray's attacker was progress, he uncovers not only the involvement of a drugs cartel but evidence of police corruption. Now they don't know who to trust. Ray begins to fear for his life when the drugs baron finds out he is behind all the enquiries being undertaken.

 

Throughout the book we are constantly taken back to 1642-43 and learn more of Kitty and how she came to be accused of being a witch. As Ray learns more about her, he too starts seeing her ghost and becomes obsessed with finding out more.

 

He meets a Sarah Gordon at the local records office and together they look into the history of what happened to Kitty.

 

Meanwhile of course, together with George, Ray is still trying to find out who attacked him and the reason why. At the same time they must do their best to stay one step ahead of the drug dealers. Will he be able to solve both mysteries satisfactorily?

 

A really in depth and intriguingly intricate plot. The author very cleverly intertwines the present-day investigations with the events of the 1600's.  It is seemingly unbelievable how women were accused of being a witch on such flimsy evidence.

 

An added interest is the mention throughout the book of the start of the civil war and how it affected the common people.

 

I thoroughly enjoyed this story and highly recommend it especially for readers interested in trying to solve two crimes at once.
------

Reviewer:  Tricia Chappell

Jane Adams was born in Leicestershire, where she still lives. She has a degree in Sociology and has held a variety of jobs including lead vocalist in a folk rock band. She enjoys pen and ink drawing; martial arts and her ambition is to travel the length of the Silk Road by motorbike. Her first book, The Greenway, was shortlisted for the CWA John Creasey Award in 1995 and for the Author's Club Best First Novel Award. Jane writes several series.  Her first series featured Mike Croft. Several books featuring DS Ray Flowers. Seven titles featuring blind Naoimi Blake, and six titles featuring Rina Martin. Her most recent series is set between the two World Wars and featuring Detective Inspector Henry Johnstone and his sergeant, Micky Hitchens. Jane has also written several standalone novels. She is married with two children.

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.