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Sunday 30 January 2022

‘Dead End Street’ by Trevor Wood

Published by Quercus,
20 January 2022.
ISBN: 978-1-52941-478-3 (HB)

Jimmy Mullen earned the moniker Sherlock Homeless in the first two books in this highly original trilogy, but a few years on the description doesn’t really apply any more – the Homeless part, that is. With the help of some useful and sympathetic friends, and in no small part due to how solving mysteries has changed the way people look at him, Jimmy has got his life together. He has a job helping to run a hostel, a flat which goes with the job, and he’s reconnected with the daughter he thought he would never see again.

But he hasn’t lost touch with the friends he made in his homeless days; and crime-solving seems to dog his footsteps whether he wants it to or not. Mostly he doesn’t, but when his old mate Gadge, one of the three musketeers of the streets of Newcastle, finds himself charged with a murder he didn’t do and the police aren’t listening, Jimmy is the only person he trusts to dig out the truth.

In book one we learned something of Jimmy’s own background, where he came from and how he ended up on the streets. In book two it was the turn of Deano, the youngest of the trio. Now in Dead End Street we catch a glimpse of Gadge’s past, and even learn where he picked up his nickname, and why he knows so much about modern technology.

Some familiar characters are back: Andy Burns, the policeman who owes Jimmy a favour or six; Sandy his abrasive but down-to-earth social worker; Aoife the friendly librarian. Newcomers include Charlie Gascoigne, a sparky and unconventional solicitor; Bev, Jimmy’s acid-tongued ex-wife; Hardass Harding, Sandy’s belligerent stand-in when she goes on the sick list. A host of bad guys too, of course, the baddest of all being Stevie Connors, gang leader and out-and-out villain in every way.

We get to revisit the Pit Stop, where Newcastle’s homeless people gather to be fed and given the help they need. And the many faces of Newcastle itself, including a very spooky graveyard, are more than just a background for the narrative.

Will Jimmy prove Gadge’s innocence? Will he bring down the bad guys who are beating up Newcastle’s homeless people; will he keep his life on track? Well, what do you think?

This is the last of Trevor Wood’s trilogy about the homeless community; a pity, but it’s easy to understand why. I shall miss Jimmy and his cronies, but there’s always Wood’s next unlikely hero to look forward to.

Reviewer: Lynne Patrick

Trevor Wood has lived in Newcastle for 25 years and considers himself an adopted Geordie, though he still can't speak the language. He's a successful playwright who has also worked as a journalist and spin-doctor for the City Council. Prior to that he served in the Royal Navy for 16 years joining, presciently, as a Writer. Trevor holds an MA in Creative Writing (Crime Fiction) from UEA. His first novel, The Man on the Street, which is set in his home city, was published by Quercus 19 March 2020, winning the The CWA John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger 2020.

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.

‘Aftermath’ by Ruth Dudley Edwards

Published by Harvill Secker.
June 2009.
ISBN 978-1-436-20599-6

This is the harrowing but uplifting true story of the fight for justice from the families of the victims of the Omagh bombing.

On 15th August 1998, a 500lb bomb placed by the Real IRA ripped through the town of Omagh, killing two unborn babies, seven men, eleven women and eleven children and injuring over two hundred innocent Saturday shoppers. The lack of evidence prevented anyone being brought to justice for the worst atrocity in Northern Ireland’s modern history. The families of the victims took it upon themselves to pursue the men who the police believed responsible, but couldn’t prove anything. This book is the story of those simple folk drawn together through the horror of terrorism, and how, with no money and no experience of law, they stood together until justice was delivered. One cannot help but be moved by this story – it could be any one of us, at any time. The July 7th bombings tore the streets of London apart and touched us all.

The writing of Aftermath is raw, brave, honest, and nothing short of brilliant. Ruth Dudley Edwards is known for her sharp wit and satirical books, and, for her, nothing could be more different. This story is as inspiring as it is gripping. The film Shindler’s List came to mind when I read this book, in as much as it details another horror of history that should never be forgotten. That film touched all who saw it, and this book has the same effect. I hope it will be read in generations to come. To Miss Dudley-Edwards I raise my hat for this honest, heart-wrenching and beautifully written account.

Reviewer: Linda Regan
Editor’s Note
: Since 1993, Ruth has written seriously and/or frivolously for almost every national newspaper in the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom and appears frequently on radio and television in Ireland, the UK and on the BBC World Service.  Her series featuring Baroness Ida (Jack) Troutbeck are:  Corridors of Death, The Saint Valentine Day Murders, English School of Murder, Clubbed to Death, Matricide at St. Martha's, Ten Lords a Leaping, Murder in a Cathedral, Publish and Be Murdered, The Anglo-Irish Murders, Carnage on the Committee, and Murdering Americans. Murdering Americans won the Last Laugh Award presented at Bristol CrimeFest 2008.

Ruth Dudley Edwards has been a teacher, marketing executive and civil servant and is a prize-winning biographer as well as an historian, journalist and broadcaster.  The targets of her satirical crime novels include the civil service, gentlemen’s clubs, a Cambridge college, the House of Lords, the Church of England, publishing, literary prizes and politically-correct Americans. In 2008 she won the CrimeFest Last Laugh Award for Murdering Americans.  Killing the Emperors is about conceptual art and won the CrimeFest Last Laugh Award 2013.

Linda Regan is the author of six police procedural crime novels. She is also an actress. She holds a Masters degree in critical writing and journalism, and writes a regular column, including book reviews, for three magazines. She also presents the book-club spot on BBC Radio Kent. She is an avid reader and welcomes the chance to read new writers. 

  To read a review of Linda's most recent book
The Terror Within
click on the title.

Saturday 29 January 2022

‘Evil Intent’ by Jane Isaac

Published by Legend Press,
1 February 2022.
ISBN: 978-178955071-9 (PB)

The discovery of a woman’s body at 7.20am in Blackwell Wood throws DCI Helen Lavery in at the deep end on her first day back at work after injury leave. The victim is naked, and some sort of star surrounded by a messy circle, has been carved into her chest.  Later identified as a pentagram dating back to the ancient Greeks, but a symbol which has also been used by Christians. Could this be a religious killing?

Helen and her term start to investigate various local spiritual organisations, but they are just fact finding, and have been careful to keep the information about the pentagram from the press.  Helen is not sure of the wisdom of this but is overruled by her boss Assistant Chief Constable ‘Call Me Alison’ Broadhurst.

The chance spotting of a car sticker that resembles the pentagram carved onto the body leads Helen to a group called ‘The Alternatives’, Their leader Guy Thorne says that sign was abandoned long ago, but provides the team with a list of members. Working through the list is proving a time consuming and fruitless task. But they have hardly started when a second woman’s body is found by a lake, naked and bearing the same engraving on her chest.

Both the victims have children and lead seemingly ordinary lives but as the team delve, something surprising turns up, that send them in another direction.

On a personal level, following her injury sustained on the case that brought down organised crime boss Chilli Franks, who has held a grudge against Helen’s family since her father first put him away in the 1990’s is aware of her position as mother and father to her two boys Matthew and Robert - their father having been killed in a helicopter accident when they were young. Luckily, she has her mother living in a granny flat attached to the house. Without her keeping an eye on the two boys. Helen couldn’t possibly work the hours her job demands of her. But following on from her injury, she is aware that her mother is extra sensitive about her job.  And then she learns that her younger son’s new best friend is Chilli Franks nephew, something she may have to report to her boss. All too close for comfort

As the body count rises, and Helen purses the killer, she finds herself yet again in a dangerous position. 

Told from multiple points of view, that of the families of the victims, and the police this is a terrific entry in this excellent series. Highly recommended

Reviewer: Lizzie Sirett

Jane Isaac lives with her husband, daughter and dog, Bollo, in rural Northamptonshire, UK. Her debut novel, An Unfamiliar Murder, was nominated as best mystery in the 'eFestival of Words Best of the Independent eBook awards 2013.' The Truth Will Out was nominated as 'Thriller of the Month - April 2014' by and winner of 'Noveltunity book club selection - May 2014'. Jane's latest title, A Deathly Silence is her latest book published by Legend Press on the 15 October 2019. Jane loves to hear from readers and writers. Visit her website at.

‘Fell Purpose’ by Cynthia Harrod Eagles

Published by Severn House,
1st January 2010.
ISBN: 978-0-7278-6842-8 (HB)

Inspector Bill Slider is now a father, and the elegant Sergeant Atherton now has a steady girlfriend. It’s a Bank Holiday and Bill has arranged to take Katie and Matthew, the children of his first marriage, and Joanna and the new baby, to visit his elderly father in Essex, whilst Atherton has arranged a day out with Emily. But both outings are off when the body of a young girl is found in the Wormwood Scrubs area.

The girl is identified as Zellah Wilding, a straight A student from a good family. But there are anomalies – why would she be seeing Ronnie Oates, a boy from the wrong side of the tracks, and where is her mobile? When they get a confession, Superintendent Porson looks as if he’s been thrown a lifeline, but Slider isn’t sure. But as Porson says, ‘Rhodes wasn’t built in a day’

Whilst the main protagonist is Bill Slider, who I like enormously, as I do Atherton, any devotee of this series like me must love the Porsonisms which abound in this book. Not sure if it’s a good or bad thing that I love it when Superintendent Porson is supplying his own band of proverbial expertise – just throw some words out, some will make it through! Highly recommended.

Reviewer: Lizzie Hayes

Earlier books in the series are,
Orchestrated Death, Death Watch, Necrochip, Dead End, Blood Lines, Killing Time, Shallow Grave, Blood Sinister, Gone Tomorrow, Game Over

Cynthia Harrod-Eagles was born in Shepherd's Bush in London. She was educated at Burlington School, a girls' charity school founded in 1699, and at the University of Edinburgh and University College London, where she studied English, history and philosophy. She wrote her first novel while at university and in 1972 won the Young Writers' Award with The Waiting Game. Afterwards she had a variety of jobs in the commercial world, while writing during the evenings and weekends. The birth of the Morland Dynasty series enabled her to become a full-time writer in 1979. The series was originally intended to comprise twelve volumes, but it has proved so popular that it has now been extended to thirty-five. In1993, she won the RNA Novel of the Year Award with Emily, the third volume of her Kirov Saga, a trilogy set in nineteenth century Russia, and she also writes the internationally acclaimed Bill Slider Mysteries. There are now twenty three books in the series. Cynthia Harrod-Eagles still lives in London. Apart from writing her passions are music (she plays in several amateur orchestras) horses, wine, architecture and the English countryside.