Recent Events

Thursday 28 January 2021

‘To the Dark’ by Chris Nickson

Published by Severn House,
31st December 2020.
ISBN: 978-0-7278-9245-4 (HB)

It is 1823 in Leeds, a place full of factories and mills. Smoke and soot hang in the air from all the chimneys making it a job to breathe.

On a cold winter's day with snow on the ground, thief taker Simon Westow and his assistant Jane, come across a crowd gathered at an old derelict mill. A body has been found under the slowly melting snow. Simon recognises him as Lawrence Poole, a thief who he had tracked down a few weeks ago. Simon and Jane rush to Poole's address to carry out a quick search before Williams the constable and his men arrive. They find a notebook, but it is mainly in code, one name however that they can make out is Harker a well-known fence. He also has a reputation for dealing harshly with anyone who cheats him. Could he be the culprit?

Later when Simon questions him he says it was two cavalry men who killed Poole as he used to steal for them. Simon wonders if he is telling the truth or just putting the blame onto them to cover himself.

Simon is surprised when the constable hires him to help catch the killer as Williams has no time for him. He surmises that it is to claim the credit for himself and so ensure he keeps his job. The powers that be have another man ready to take the position of constable should Williams fail, and he loves his cushy position.

Meanwhile, a terrified looking Harker is seen catching a coach leaving Leeds. Simon decides to follow up his accusations of the cavalry officers committing the murder.

However, the garrison they are attached to is very hard to penetrate and Simon is thwarted at every turn. He discovers that the two soldiers in question frequent the local public house and play cards. He gets to meet them, but can he find out if they had anything to do with Poole's death without causing suspicion?

Jane meanwhile has her own problems. She is continuously pursued by “Big Tom” a notorious criminal whom she had maimed the previous year. He is out to exact revenge. She grew up with the very poor of Leeds and uses all her knowledge of the places they hide out in to help Simon gather more information. They think they are slowly getting nearer solving the murder, but not before there are more deaths, one of which affects Simon very badly.

An incredibly descriptive book which transports the reader back to the grime and thick smoky air of 1823 Leeds. The author creates such an atmosphere that I could almost taste the acrid pollution.

I really enjoyed this murder mystery and thoroughly recommend it.

Reviewer: Tricia Chappell

Chris Nickson was born and raised in Leeds. He is the author of the Richard Nottingham books, historical mysteries set in Leeds in the 1730s and featuring Richard Nottingham, the Constable of the city, and his deputy, John Sedgwick. The books are about more than murder. They're about the people of Leeds and the way life was - which mean full of grinding poverty for all but the wealthy. They're also about families, Nottingham and his and Sedgwick, and the way relationships grow and change, as well as the politics, when there was one law for the rich, and another, much more brutal, for everyone else. Chris has penned a further six series, and to date has published 31 books. For full details visit his web site. In addition to this Chris is also a music journalist, reviewing for magazines and online outlets

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.

‘I Am the Night’ by Ethan Cross

Published by Head of Zeus,
1st October 2020.
ISBN: 978-1-83893094-3

 “The night is dark
My soul is darker…”

I Am The Night juxtaposes two protagonists.  The first, Francis Ackerman Jr. is a sadistic psychopath who wreaks havoc as he moves from place to place killing complete strangers without mercy or remorse.  The second is Marcus Williams, a former New York City detective who is tormented by memories of his past life and has recently moved to the small town of Asherton to make a new start.  Things seem to be going well for Marcus when he meets Maggie, the local sheriff’s daughter.  The two are clearly attracted to each other and provide a love interest although, as with most things in the book, things soon become complicated when it transpires that Marcus is not the only newcomer in town – Ackerman is already preying on some unfortunate residents in the area. 

Ackerman and Williams at first seem to be opposites, but, as the saying goes, opposites attract.  Both men have complicated family histories that have left them traumatised and emotionally damaged.  As the narrative progresses, they find their paths moving inexorably closer until they are bound to collide.  The question is, who will survive and what carnage will their violent encounter leave in its wake?

This is a high octane, fast-paced and brutal thriller as the ex-lawman is compelled to track down the serial killer only to find that he becomes the hunted.  In between the gruesome murders and non-stop action, the author weaves a political sub-plot and allows his characters to philosophise about the meaning of life and death.  The characters are carefully nuanced, and the book depicts more than just a battle between good and evil as it exposes flaws in the heroes as well as the villains.

I Am The Night is the first in the Ackerman Thrillers series and a thriller it certainly is, even the book’s cover evokes evilIts pages portray cruelty and sadism with explicit realism.  Cross’s graphic prose reveals the very worst we expect of a masochistic killer who believes that murder is his vocation.  Yet, the novel also taps into contemporary anxieties relating to deep state conspiracy.  Alongside the appalling acts of terror described as Ackerman murders with impunity, another theme reveals political corruption at the highest level of government as law makers become law breakers.

A super scary read!

Reviewer: Dot Marshall-Gent

Ethan Cross is the international bestselling and award-winning author of more than a dozen novels of suspense, science, and serial murder.




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.  

Tuesday 26 January 2021

‘Death at High Tide’ by Hannah Dennison

Published by Minotaur Books,
18 August 2020.
ISBN: 978-1-250-19448-0 (HB)

Having enjoyed all the Honeychurch Hall and the Vicky Hill mysteries I was excited to receive a book in a new series featuring two sisters Evie and Margot. I loved it.

Still reeling from the death of her husband Robert from a heart attack, Evie Mead is shocked to discover from her husband’s accountant Nigel Hearst that not only she has no money, but that she may not even be able to keep her house. ‘But we didn’t have a mortgage’ she said.  Nigel hastens to tell her not to worry as he will take care of her.

Among the papers is an envelope addressed to Evie, which states that she is the owner of a hotel on Tregarrick Rock, one of the Isles of Scilly.  Whilst Evie is content to leave the matter in the hands of Nigel to investigate, her sister Margot who has flown over from LA where she leads a glamourous life as a film producer, immediately buys two tickets to Tregarrick Rock – one way.

Despite several obstacles, the difficult in getting a boat to the island owing to fog, and, discovering that the hotel is closed for the winter, and no way can they have reservations, they finally fetch up at the Salty Boatman for the night. 

Eventually, the following day they get to hotel Tregarrick, but the only thing on offer seems to be hostility. The owner of the hotel denies any knowledge of knowing Robert.  However, they as they dig around it is clear that this is a lie.   

There are some interesting character’s, boat owner Cador Ferris, who turns out to be the son of the unpleasant hotel owner, Detective Sergeant Patricia Williamson of the Devon and Cornwall Constabulary, Lily Tavis and the cat Mr. Tig. Whilst the sisters attempt to piece together the history attached to the hotel a murder occurs.  What is the mystery of Hotel Trgarrick? Are the sisters in danger?
Reviewer: Lizzie Sirett

Hannah Dennison was born and raised in Hampshire, but on leaving school landed a job as an obituary writer/amateur dramatic reviewer for a Devon newspaper. Hannah is the author of the Honeychurch Hall Mysteries and the Vicky Hill Mysteries, both set in Devon, England. She has been an obituary reporter, antique dealer, private jet flight attendant and Hollywood story analyst. Hannah originally moved to Los Angeles from England to pursue screenwriting.  Hannah is a member of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, The Crime Writers Association, Mystery People, The Historic Houses Association, the National Trust and the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings. She enjoys hiking, horseback riding, skiing, theatre and seriously good chocolate. 

CWA Margery Allingham Short Mystery Competition

The world-famed Crime Writers’ Association (CWA) is on the hunt to find the best unpublished short mystery story.

Entries are being invited for the 2021 CWA Margery Allingham Short Story competition, with just weeks before deadline closes on 26 February for the international writing competition.

The Margery Allingham Society, set up to honour and promote the writings of the great Golden Age author whose well-known hero is Albert Campion, works with the CWA to operate and fund the writing competition. Each year the competition attracts many entries from the UK and overseas.

Dea Parkin, Secretary of the CWA, said: “This year promises to be hotly contended. Editors and agents have predicted mystery stories are a strong trend in 2021, with Richard Osman’s soar-away hit debut, The Thursday Murder Club, a key touchstone for publishers. This short story competition is a fantastic way of building a writer’s craft, and profile, in this genre.”

Entrants are asked to focus on specific elements to match Margery Allingham’s definition of a mystery, which is: “The Mystery remains box-shaped, at once a prison and a refuge. Its four walls are, roughly, a Crime, a Mystery, an Enquiry and a Conclusion with an Element of Satisfaction in it.”

Dea said: “It’s easy to see why authors like Robert Thorogood are so popular as readers are craving proper whodunnits in the pandemic. Thorogood created the TV hit show, Death in Paradise, and his latest novel The Marlow Murder Club is another example of this trend. Real life is so uncontrollable and daunting at the moment, but these ‘cosy’ stories provide some reassurance as they offer clues, suspects, great characters and locations, with a satisfying resolution and the mystery solved.”

The CWA anthology, Vintage Crime, is edited by the 2014 winner of the Margery Allingham prize – acclaimed crime writer Martin Edwards. Shortlisted authors for the prize have also found wider success, such as Christine Poulson, whose short story ‘Accounting for Murder’ featured in the CWA anthology, Mystery Tour, and went on to be shortlisted for the CWA Short Story Dagger.

Submissions have a limit of 3,500 words. It costs £12 to enter. The winner receives £500, a selection of Margery Allingham books, and two passes for the international crime writing convention CrimeFest in 2022. Being shortlisted for this renowned competition also brings attention and prestige.

The longlist, shortlist and winner will be announced by the CWA online in spring/summer.

For rules and to submit an entry, go to Short Story Competition on the
CWA website.
The deadline is 6pm on 26 February 2021.