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Friday 26 February 2021

‘Allegation’ by R G Adams

Published by Riverrun,
18 February 2021.
ISBN: 978-1-52940-466-1 (HB)

The vast majority of crime fiction involves a murder or two and a modicum of violence; but real-life crime is hugely varied, and often no less catastrophic to the victims. Historical sexual abuse has been much in the news in recent years, and its effects and aftermath can shatter families and lives as powerfully as any suspicious death.

Proof and punishment are up to the police and the courts – but what of those left behind in its traumatic wake? The children and spouses, the victims themselves? Who cares for them, and helps them salvage something from the wreckage? Social workers, that’s who – an often disrespected and maligned profession, but one that’s full of people with the best of intentions. Theirs is a world that R G Adams knows well, and in this novel, she puts that knowledge to excellent use. 

Allegation is not so much a whodunit? as a how-can-they-prove-he-dunit? Kit Goddard is a member of the First Response team in her local social work department; part of her job is to ensure the children are safe when an allegation is made against an adult family member. But it’s not often the allegation is against a pillar of society, a man from a wealthy and influential background, who has the power to end her career if she puts a foot wrong.

But Kit is nothing if not determined, especially when she finds that one of the children is severely disabled and unable to communicate in any meaningful way. Her own background is troubled, and she has a lot of experience of social workers from the other side; she and her siblings spent their childhood in and out of care, and the backwash informs everything she does. The extra insight it gives her is a mixed blessing, but it hardens her resolve.

The characters which people this richly drawn tale are its great strength: Vernon, Kit’s immediate boss, who skates close to the line at times but is as dedicated as she is; Cole the clueless manager, who reveals hidden depths when they’re needed most; Kit’s colleagues: Maisie, slightly flaky but well-meaning, and Ricky, diffident and inexperienced but wiser than he realizes. Then there’s the family Kit has to work with: Matt, the accused father, who is far too charming; combative Annie, the mother; Chloe, the chatty, outgoing six-year-old, and wheelchair-bound Lucy. Kit’s damaged twin brother Tyler has his own issues which have to be dealt with. Other people too, are equally well drawn, and the small Welsh coastal town which I now feel I could find my way around with no difficulty.

Allegation is R G Adams’s debut, but you’d never know it. It’s as accomplished and engrossing a novel as many I’ve read from authors with a whole string of successes behind them. I look forward to meeting Kit Goddard again, and watching both her and her creator’s careers develop into something special.
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick

R. G. Adams is a former social worker with thirty years of experience across all areas of social services. She lives in Wales with her family, and Allegation 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.

Thursday 25 February 2021

Alan Veale - An Exclusive!


After Alan's  recent announcement about The Titanic Document, you may be surprised to know there’s just only eleven days until the eBook version is released!

Those who prefer to do their reading electronically will be the first to experience all that is on offer from Monday 8th March.
Whether you have a Kindle, Nook or Kobo, there’s an opportunity to download The Titanic Document from your favourite online retailer.

Alan says as writer (much like being a parent all over again), it’s a nervous time for him. Bracing himself for reactions like “Another Titanic book? Bet that goes down well…” or “Does the ship sink?”

On the other hand, there’s a lot more to the story than a collision with an iceberg, and he simply hopes that readers will enjoy the fictional cat and mouse elements that thread through the majority of the story, largely set in the present day.

For an exclusive glimpse of what to expect through a short video?

Sinister tones, take your cue…  The Titanic Document on YouTube

: @writetoAlanVeale 

‘The Perfect Father’ by Charlotte Duckworth

Published by Quercus,
18 February 2021.
ISBN: 978-1-52940-8-30-0 (PB)

If something looks too good to be true, it probably is. A cliché, perhaps, but clichés usually become clichés only because they’re true.

From the outset Robin Morgan appears to be the perfect father to baby Riley, and that apparently allows his wife Esther to have the perfect life. He is happy to put his career on hold to be a stay-at-home dad while she pursues hers, enabling her to keep all three of them in reasonable comfort. Until the day she arrives home to find Robin and Riley gone, their passports missing, and just a single word in a text message by way of explanation: Sorry.

But of course, their life wasn’t as perfect as it seemed. As the police investigate and Esther looks back over the previous three years, the story begins to resemble the layers of an onion, peeling away one by one, an effect which is underlined by the alternating viewpoint narration. It’s impossible to say any more about this tense, intricately plotted novel without giving away spoiler after spoiler; suffice to say there’s a new surprise on almost every other page, right up to the final shocking twist which comes just when you think it’s all over.

For anyone who has read Charlotte Duckworth’s previous work, though, it’s no surprise at all to find not only that well-paced, complex story, but also a cast of characters who live and breathe in a world you could step into and recognize instantly. Robin is outgoing to the point of ebullience, but with an edge which suggests an underlying streak of vulnerability and almost too much eagerness to please. Esther is the sensible one, hardworking, passionate and confident about her career in charity administration, but less self-assured at home. Her friend Vivienne is warm and caring, but outspokenly honest to the point of bluntness. Robin’s parents are more two-dimensional, he dismissive and disparaging, she mousy and cautious. Riley is as cute and adorable as a toddler ought to be. And then there’s Kim, who is something of an enigma.

It’s not really a spoiler to say there are medical conditions described in uncomfortable detail, all germane to the plot. And accounts of parties and domestic detail all add to the rich texture of the background.

It’s a novel that demands to be read at a sitting, or two at the most, but after you’ve raced through it to find out what’s really going on and how it all ends, it will stay with you. Charlotte Duckworth is a name that deserves to be known more widely in her chosen field of domestic noir. Perhaps The Perfect Father will make that happen.
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick

Charlotte Duckworth has spent the past fifteen years working as an interiors and lifestyle journalist, writing for a wide range of consumer magazines and websites. She lives in Surrey with her partner and their young daughter. You can find out more on her website.


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.


Wednesday 24 February 2021

The Last Resort by Susi Holliday

Published by Thomas & Mercer,
1 December 2020.
 978-154202001-5 (PBO)

Seven people, four women and three men are lured to accept a luxury, all expenses paid, break at an unknown destination.  They are not allowed to discuss their invitations with one another -or with us – so nobody knows why anybody has been invited.  They have been promised payment and a party at the end of the day, but as some of them, like the hedge-fund manager Brenda are well-heeled, one assumes that curiosity, greed and large egos must all have played a part in them accepting their invitations.

They are flown to a small island where six of them are fitted with small, over-the-ear contraptions that function as memory mining devices. These cannot be removed and are used by unseen organizers to select memories of the dreadful things – fraudulently stealing a young relative’s money, burning an ex-husband and his family alive in their house etc., that the various guests have done. Their deeds are broadcast to the rest of the group in graphic video clips so there is no escaping their shame. One of the guests is subjected to the humiliating experience of seeing their beloved boyfriend enjoying a threesome with two other ladies. Some of them also suffer horrific accidents, like being bitten by a poisonous snake, as they explore the island.  The action occurs over a single day: by the end of it, rather than having had a relaxing and enjoyable luxury experience, the participants are physically and mentally broken.

The seventh participant, charity worker, Amelia, is treated differently from the start. She is fitted with a less invasive wrist device and assumes the role of peacemaker and helper. She is never forced to face up to or confess her worst deed and, as the day proceeds, it gradually dawns on her that the whole event revolves around her.  In a prelude we are told about two children aged around ten years old. They didn’t know each other but spend an unforgettable few hours together.  One of the children insists they adopt nicknames, George and Anne like the characters in Enid Blyton’s Famous Five.  Anne is clearly Amelia. George’s identity is revealed later. Every so often we’re given little insights into vague memories Amelia has of the island and the day she and George spent together twenty years ago -the day Anne believes she pushed a man to his death on the rocks.

Amelia’s story, and how she then resolves the problem she is presented with, are admirably explained at the end. I never did understand why the other six were chosen.  For all I know it may have been to test the neural pathway programmes of the uniquely powerful memory retrieval devices the participants were fitted with, or to help emphasize the island throw-back to Agatha Christie, or it might even have been a gentle nod towards Melmoth, Sarah Perry’s remarkable treatise about everything that is important in life. But as you will discover, it doesn’t really matter that much.  Anyone who likes horribly creepy books that are half SciFi, and half psychological thrillers will love The Last Resort.
Reviewer Angela Crowther.

Susi 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.

Angela Crowther  is a retired scientist.  She has published many scientific papers but, as yet no crime fiction.  In her spare time Angela belongs to a Handbell Ringing group, goes country dancing and enjoys listening to music, particularly the operas of Verdi and Wagner.

Tuesday 23 February 2021

2021 CWA Diamond Dagger Annoucement

Martina Cole Receives 2021 CWA Diamond Dagger

Martina Cole is the recipient of the highest honour in British crime writing, the Crime Writers’ Association (CWA) Diamond Dagger.


The long-reigning Queen of Crime Drama is a publishing powerhouse. Martina has written 25 novels, all published by Headline, seventeen of which reached No.1 and her books have collectively spent over 4 years in the bestseller charts. Total sales stand at over 17 million copies, making her Britain’s bestselling female crime writer and with The Faithless she became the first British female adult audience novelist to break the £50 million sales mark since Nielsen Bookscan records began.  Her books have been translated into 31 languages and adapted for multiple stage plays and television series.

Martina’s own story is as remarkable as any bestseller plot. Martina grew up on an Essex council estate and Ronnie and Reggie Kray once visited her family’s home when she was a child.

The youngest of five children in a large, poor, Irish Catholic family, she attended a convent school, where her struggle against authority started; this culminated in two expulsions. She finished school at 15 with no qualifications; was married at 16, divorced at 17 and pregnant at 18. A single mum, she struggled to bring up her son, Chris, taking on waitressing jobs.

Aged 21, she lost both her parents and started to write her iconic debut novel, Dangerous Lady, but it wasn’t until she was 30 that she gave up her job and decided to devote herself seriously to writing and finished the manuscript. Dangerous Lady caused a sensation when it was published in 1992 – and the rest is history.

Martina is a passionate advocate for prisoner rehabilitation and visits prisons to give writing classes. She often quips to her classes: ‘there’s one thing you’ve got that all writers want – time’. It’s therefore no surprise her books are the most requested in Her Majesty’s prison libraries, and the most stolen from bookshops.

The Diamond Dagger award recognises authors whose crime-writing careers have been marked by sustained excellence, and who have made a significant contribution to crime fiction writing.

The CWA Diamond Dagger is selected from nominations provided by CWA members. Martina Cole joins icons of the genre who have been recognised with the accolade, including Ruth Rendell, Lee Child, Ann Cleeves, Ian Rankin, PD James, Colin Dexter, Reginald Hill, Lindsey Davies, Peter Lovesey, and John Le Carré.

Martina said: “It means so much to me to be receiving this prestigious award from my peers at the CWA. I can’t believe it’s nearly thirty years since Dangerous Lady was published - some people dismissed me as an Essex girl and a one-book wonder – but as one of my favourite songs goes: ‘I’m still here’!”

Linda Stratmann, Chair of the CWA, said: “We are delighted to award the Diamond Dagger to a crime-writing legend.”

 Maxim Jakubowski, Hon CWA Vice Chair, said: “A much-overdue reward for a major crime author who has often been badly overlooked by the critical establishment. Martina has single-handedly created a new crime genre and brought so many new readers on board, and has always been a vocal supporter of her fellow writers in word and deed.”