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Friday 12 July 2024

‘The Summer Dare’ by Joanna Dodd

Published by Canelo Hera Books,
11 July 2024.
978-1-80436-842-8 (PB)

Some childhood and teenage friendships fade away when life intervenes, and everyone goes their separate way. Others last into adulthood, held together by – what? Geography? Mutual interests? Or something darker: a long-held secret, perhaps?

Maddie, Hayley, Claire, Jenna and Lucy were members of the cool crowd at school. Well, maybe not Lucy, two years younger and a newcomer to the area, but the others took pity on her. Especially Maddie, the self-styled leader of their little group. Twenty-five years later four of them are still close and have formed a WhatsApp group calling themselves the FabFour. But Maddie hasn’t been seen since they were teenagers. She disappeared during a summer camp, and an extensive police investigation failed to turn up any trace of her.

Then Lucy starts to receive strange, vaguely threatening texts from an unknown number. And she thinks she’s being followed. And there’s something very important that they never told anyone about the night Maddie went missing, not even the police. Especially not the police.   

The FabFour set out to track down the sender of the texts, and it soon emerges that theirs is not the only longstanding secret. Joanna Dodd sends them down a twisty, multi-timeline path, and creates a vivid picture of complex adult relationships and even more tortuous teenage ones. As women, the four are almost like grown-up Spice Girls – a sporty one, a clever one, a shy one and a bold one. As teenagers they are still feeling their way, all but confident Maddie, who knows exactly what she wants and goes all out to get it, and ironically is the one who meets a sticky end. Or does she...?

The other characters – parents, spouses, people involved in the original investigation – all come to life too; there’s a real sense of ordinary people trying to get on with ordinary life after something huge crashed through it. It all helps create the tension that pulled them all together in the past and still pervades everything in the present. Maddie’s disappearance has always hovered in the background, because when a question like that remains unanswered, it never goes away.

The ending is as shocking as it is inevitable, and Joanna Dodd leaves a tantalizing loose end – not to make room for a sequel, but to let the reader decide what happened next.

So, what did happen to Maddie? There’s only one way to find out – read her story.
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick

Joanna Dodd is fascinated by toxic friendship and family groups and the long shadows cast by old secrets. She lives in London and enjoys acting in plays, running very slowly, and spending time with her (lovely and not at all toxic) family and friends. She’s wanted to be a crime writer since she became addicted to Murder She Wrote as a teenager (although her real-life sleuthing skills are probably not quite as honed as Jessica Fletcher’s). When she’s not writing crime fiction, she also loves reading it!


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.

‘The Murderer Inside the Mirror’ by Sarah Rayne

Published by Severn House,
4 July 2024
ISBN: 978-1-4483-1095-1 (HB)

It is 1908 and the Fitzglen family is one of the best known theatrical families in London. However very few people outside the Fitzglen family are aware that they are also have a part-time career as thieves. When it comes to their ‘filches’ the Fitzglens have a firm code of conduct and they never steal from people who cannot afford to lose the object or will be badly hurt by the loss.

At the start of the story the entire Fitzglen family is distressed to hear of the death of Montague Fitzglen who had fallen down the stairs of his house. Montague was one of the senior members of the family, he was Great Uncle to Jack, the leader of the family, and to Byron, Jack’s contemporary who shares many of Jack’s more physically demanding adventures, and also to Tansy, the orphaned youngest member of the family, who has just been allowed to join their deliberations. As well as his work in the theatre Montague was also a highly skilled forger, a master of deception and a superb storyteller. He has been teaching Byron his forgery skills, but Byron is not yet as proficient as Montague. As well as the sadness of loss the Fitzglen family are anxious to discover and retrieve any evidence of their illegal activities that might be present in Montague’s house. Also, Montague had told a story about his possession of a mysterious tin box but would never tell anybody about the contents. The family is anxious to search Montague’s house to find and remove any notes he had made about the next prospective filch, the theft of a Gainsborough portrait from a country house, before anyone else discovers them, but Jack and Byron are also eager to discover the iron box. It is Jack who finds the box and when he opens it, he discovers a manuscript that seems to be an unknown play by one of Ireland’s leading playwrights, Phelan Raffety, who died five years ago. When Jack reads the first few pages he is overwhelmed by an inexplicable feeling of dread; because of this he does not immediately remove the manuscript and when he returns to do so it has disappeared.

This is a multi-viewpoint novel set in several times and in both England and Ireland. Some of the story is in the viewpoint of Ethne Rafferty, Phelan’s daughter, who still lives in Ireland in Westmeath House, the family house she had shared with her much-loved father. Ethne has always been obsessed with a portrait that has been in the house for centuries, although nobody knows who painted it or how it came to be hung in Westmeath House. The portrait is of Thomas Fitzgerald, the 10th Earl of Kildare, known as Silken Thomas, an Irish nobleman who led an abortive rebellion against Henry VIII of England. This portrait and another sketch of a young woman link several aspects of the mystery, as the third story line goes back many centuries and starts in 1534 as it traces the love affair between Thomas Fitzgerald and Catherine Ó Raifeartaigh.

Back in Edwardian London, the manuscript of the play, which is called The Murderer Inside the Mirror, resurfaces in the hands of another theatrical company who are the Fitzglens’ long term rivals. Tansy is the only member of the Fitzglen family who is not widely known, which means she has to go undercover to discover whether the manuscript is a threat to her family. Jack knows that sending Tansy into this situation is risky, but nobody anticipates how dangerous it will prove to be.

The Murderer Inside the Mirror is the second book in the series featuring the Theatre of Thieves. It is a complex multi-viewpoint novel with separate storylines that are skilfully linked and often enter dark and disturbing territory. The historical action is skilfully depicted, which is especially impressive as it involves storylines in both the sixteenth and nineteenth century, and the characters are engaging, especially Jack, Byron, Tansy and other members of the Fitzglen family. This is a darkly compelling story, which explores love, loyalty and obsession. It is a page-turner which I thoroughly recommend.
Reviewer: Carol Westron

Sarah Rayne's first novel was published in 1982, and for several years she juggled writing books with working in property. Much of the inspiration for her dark psychological thrillers comes from the histories and atmospheres of old buildings, a fact that is strongly apparent in many of her settings - Mortmain House in A Dark Dividing, Twygrist Mill in Spider Light, and the Tarleton Theatre in Ghost Song. Her work has met with considerable acclaim, and is also published in America, as well as having been translated into German, Dutch, Russian and Turkish.  In 2011, she published the first of a series of ghost-themed books, featuring the Oxford don, Michael Flint, and the antiques dealer, Nell West, who made their debut in Property of a Lady. This was followed by a series featuring music researcher, Phineas Fox. Her most recent series is the Theatre of Thieves.

Carol Westron is a successful short story writer and a Creative Writing teacher.  She is the moderator for the cosy/historical crime panel, The Deadly Dames.  Her crime novels are set both in contemporary and Victorian times.  The Terminal Velocity of Cats the first in her Scene of Crimes novels, was published July 2013. .

Carol recently gave an interview to Mystery People. interview
To read a review of Carol latest book click on the title
Death and the Dancing Snowman

Thursday 11 July 2024

‘The Small Museum’ by Jody Cooksley

Published by Allison & Busby,
23 May 2024.
ISBN: 978-0-74902-315-2 (HB)

This story was inspired by the extraordinary cabinet of curiosities in the Hunterian Museum in London.  It is a Victorian melodrama with overtones of Blue Beard and Gothic horror.  It is set in the late Victorian period when medical experimentation was at its height and continues to fascinate readers today. 

The main character is Madeleine Brewster who marries a Dr Lucius Everley at the beginning of the story.  She is a rather innocent young girl who is strongly encouraged to marry the doctor as a means of improving her family's standing in the community.  There are strong hints of malign intent from the very beginning and the house she is meant to be the mistress of is run by an unpleasant couple Mr and Mrs Barker who do not allow Madeleine any control over her life in this oppressive house.  She is very lonely, and her only friendship is with Caroline the wife of another doctor and her maid, Tizzy. 

Madeleine is curious about her husband's work as a collector of natural curiosities and tries to help him by offering her services as an accomplished artist.  As she learns more about his small museum of bones and specimens in jars, she becomes increasingly worried about the true origins of these items.  Madeleine becomes pregnant and is hopeful that perhaps at last she and Lucius can form a proper family.  However, her fears increase as her maid is removed and her sister-in-law becomes ever more unpleasant.  Her baby is apparently still born although Madeleine knows she has been drugged and has no memory of the birth.  She is not allowed to see her baby. 

We are then transported to the Marlborough Assizes where Madeleine is on trial for her life having been accused of murdering her baby.  This is a truly frightening account of what it must have been like for Victorian prisoners in gaol at that time.  Her friend Caroline is determined to help her’

This is a dark tale, with a Gothic setting. An exhilarating read - I loved it - and can thoroughly recommend it to any readers who enjoy the thrill of a drama set in Victorian England and with an immense amount of research into the age of discoveries of fossils and bones which of course continues to this day. 
Reviewer:  Toni Russell

Jody Cooksley studied literature at Oxford Brookes University and has a Masters in Victorian Poetry. Her debut novel The Glass House is a fictional account of the life of nineteenth-century photographer, Julia Margaret Cameron. The Small Museum, Jody’s third novel, won the 2023 Caledonia Novel Award. Jody is originally from Norwich and now lives in Cranleigh.

Toni Russell is a retired teacher who has lived in London all her life and loves the city.  She says, ‘I enjoy museums, galleries and the theatre but probably my favourite pastime is reading.  I found myself reading detective fiction almost for the first time during lockdown and have particularly enjoyed old fashioned detective fiction rather than the nordic noir variety.  I am a member of a book club at the local library and have previously attended literature classes at our local Adult Education Centre.  I am married with three children and five grandchildren.

Wednesday 10 July 2024

‘Dig Two Graves’ by Helen H. Durrant

Published by Joffe Books,
7 March 2024.
ISBN  978-183526492-8 (PB)

Dig Two Graves is the first in a new series of books by the prolific Police Procedural author Helen Durrant. It features Superintendent Headly Sharpe – an irascible, curmudgeonly individual rapidly approaching retirement. His cynical take on life is often at odds with those of his more sympathetic sidekick DI Stuart Vasey. Despite their different approaches the two men work well together.

A dead body with a single shot to the head is found in a cellar beneath an empty shop. Sharpe and his DI are called to investigate the crime scene. The body had lain there for over a year. A second body is found in the cellar next door on the following day also shot in the head although this murder is recent, and the victim identified as that of a local homeless man known as Cowboy. The first victim is eventually identified as Dean Rawlins a gangster who Headly Sharpe believes was responsible for murdering his wife but has managed to evade justice despite all police attempts.

The pace of this novel is fast and furious. Every chapter raises yet another question, and the picture becomes more and more complicated as the investigation proceeds. Further down the line, it becomes clear that things are not quite what they seem. Everyone appears to have their own agenda. Can their stories be believed? What is it that they are keeping secret?

Although the reader is compelled to keep reading by the breakneck action, Hellen Durrant’s characters are skilfully defined by their dialogue. In less experienced hands, Superintendent Headly Sharpe might well be a difficult character to like but I found myself drawn to this outwardly difficult man from the beginning because I had absolute faith in his ability to find his way through the web of confusion and uncover the truth.

I loved this book – one of the best I’ve read in recent months – and I have no hesitation in recommending it.   
Reviewer: Judith Cranswick  

Helen H. Durrant writes gritty police procedurals and is published by Joffe Books. Until six years ago she hadn’t written a word, now she has twenty six titles out there and counting. Her novels are set in the Pennine villages outside Manchester. Writing was a dormant ambition. It was retirement that gave her the opportunity to have a go. The success of her books came as a huge surprise, now she can’t stop!  

Judith Cranswick was born and brought up in Norwich. Apart from writing, Judith’s great passions are travel and history. Both have influenced her two series of mystery novels. Tour Manager, Fiona Mason takes coach parties throughout Europe, and historian Aunt Jessica is the guest lecturer accompanying tour groups visiting more exotic destinations aided by her nephew Harry. Her published novels also include several award-winning standalone psychological thrillers. She wrote her first novel (now languishing in the back of a drawer somewhere) when her two children were toddlers, but there was little time for writing when she returned to her teaching career. Now retired, she is able to indulge her love of writing and has begun a life of crime! ‘Writers are told to write what they know about, but I can assure you, I've never committed a murder. I'm an ex-convent school headmistress for goodness sake!’ Her most recent book is Passage to Greenland

Tuesday 9 July 2024

‘How to Solve Murders like a Lady’ by Hannah Dolby

Published by Head of Zeus,
6 June 2024.
ISBN: 978-1-80454443-3(PB)

1897, and life is getting interesting for Violet Hamilton, Hastings and St Leonards’ first Lady Detective. A local lady has been murdered – immediately after Violet overhears her accusing the respected doctor of being a quack. Can this case really be that simple? Not with Violet investigating.

The novel’s narrated by Violet herself, and her bouncy personality makes for a cheery read. She’s determined to pursue her unconventional career, in spite of her father’s disapproval, her fiancé’s concern and the horror of her former schoolfellows.

The scrapes and actual danger she gets herself into, and then out of, are laugh-out-loud funny. She’s surrounded by great characters: her gloomy father, who’s fallen in love with a farmer’s widow (pass the smelling salts!); her long-suffering ‘new man’ fiancé; Hildebrand, her ex-prostitute maid; the wistful pre-Raphaelite Lady Laxton and her businessman husband; even Farmer Wicken, who locked her into an oast house at the start of the book, reappears to help her at the exciting finish.

Incidents and clues whizz by, and there are great episodes, like her spell in the sinister doctor’s health spa. As suspicion deepens, the pace rattles along.

An ultra-cosy, fast-moving period romp with plenty of action and an engaging, lively heroine. This is the second in the series, so if it sounds fun (and it is!) you might want to begin with the first, No Life for a Lady.
Reviewer: Marsali Taylor

Hannah Dolby's first job was in the circus, and she is keen to keep life as interesting. She trained as a journalist in Hastings and has worked in PR for many years, promoting museums, galleries, palaces, gardens and even Dolly the sheep. She completed the Curtis Brown selective three-month novel writing course, and she won runner-up in the Comedy Women in Print Awards for this novel with the prize of a place on an MA in Comedy Writing at the University of Falmouth. She currently lives in London. 

You can follow Hannah on Twitter @LadyDolby

Marsali Taylor grew up near Edinburgh and came to Shetland as a newly qualified teacher. Marsali is a qualified STGA tourist-guide who is fascinated by history, and has published plays in Shetland's distinctive dialect, as well as a history of women's suffrage in Shetland. She's also a keen sailor who enjoys exploring in her own 8m yacht, and an active member of her local drama group. She lives with her husband and two Shetland ponies.  

Friday 5 July 2024

2024 CWA Dagger Awards Announced


Una Mannion, Jordan Harper, Jo Callaghan,
and Anthony Horowitz
receive CWA Dagger Award.

 The 2024 winners of the prestigious Crime Writers’ Association (CWA) Dagger Awards, which honour the very best in the crime-writing genre, have been announced.

Created in 1955, the world-famous CWA Daggers are the oldest and most respected awards in the genre and have been synonymous with quality crime writing for over half a century.

The awards were announced [11pm, 4 July] at a 
CWA gala dinner at the Leonardo Royal Hotel in London.

 The Gold Dagger, which is awarded for the best crime novel of the year, went to Una Mannion for her second novel, Tell Me What I Am. 
The Irish-American author has won numerous prizes for her poetry and short stories.

 Mannion beat stalwarts of the genre shortlisted for Gold, including Dennis Lehane and Mick Herron. Past winners of the coveted Gold Dagger, include Ian Rankin, John le Carré, Reginald Hill, and Ruth Rendell.

The judging panel praised it for being ‘haunting and beautifully written’ saying the character-driven thriller ‘expertly examines the boundaries of love, power and control and will stay with you long after you turn the last page.’

The Ian Fleming Steel Dagger, sponsored by Ian Fleming Publications Ltd, showcases the thriller of the year. This year it went to Jordan Harper, with his second thriller, Everybody Knows.

Judges said Harper’s novel was ‘brilliantly constructed and fast-paced’ taking readers into the ‘heart of the darkness of Hollywood, guided by a sensationally atypical protagonist.’

Maxim Jakubowski, Chair of the Daggers Committee, said: “Yet another remarkable year of crime writing in which our impartial judges have uncovered a crop of wonderful books. In a year in which many of our 'big beasts' had new books, it's refreshing to see so many new names and talents winning. And a momentous occasion for independent publishers who have swooped on the majority of the awards and, in particular, Faber & Faber who have achieved a rare double of Gold and Steel Daggers.”

 The much-anticipated ILP John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger highlights the best debut novels. 2024’s recipient is Jo Callaghan with her BBC Between the Covers Book Club pick, In the Blink of an Eye, praised for being ‘fresh, original and gripping.’

The Historical Dagger goes to Jake Lamar for Viper’s Dream, a daring look at the jazz-scene of mid-century Harlem and the dangerous underbelly of its drug trade. Judges praised its skilled plotting and ‘elegantly spare prose’ creating a ‘pungent sense of the jazz age’.

The ALCS Gold Dagger for Non-Fiction was awarded to Nicholas Shakespeare’s Ian Fleming: The Complete Man, praised as a ‘panoramic biography of the creator of the most charismatic 20th century hero’. Judges found it a ‘deeply felt and meticulous portrait’ that adroitly shows how Bond emerged from Fleming’s own life and career.

The Crime Fiction in Translation Dagger was awarded to Maud Ventura’s My Husband, translated by Emma Ramadan, which was a sensation in France, likened to Patricia Highsmith and Gone Girl. Judges praised its ‘sharp twist in the tail’.

The CWA Daggers are one of the few high-profile awards that honour the short story. This year the accolade goes to Sanjida Kay for The Divide in The Book of Bristol, edited by Joe Melia and Heather Marks. Judges said it was a ‘tale of social division, loneliness, and how our desire for connection can make us vulnerable, with a bittersweet conclusion.’

The Dagger in the Library nominees are voted by librarians and library users, chosen for the author’s body of work and support of libraries, and was awarded to Anthony Horowitz.

 The CWA judging panel said: “Renowned for Foyle’s War and Midsomer Murders on the screen, Anthony’s books are triumphs too; the Alex Rider series, his James Bond, and his Sherlock Holmes novels. Now the author has surpassed himself with standalone mysteries and the endearing, inventive Hawthorne, and Horowitz series.”

The Best Crime and Mystery Publisher of the Year Dagger, which celebrates publishers and imprints demonstrating excellence and diversity in crime writing, goes to Pushkin Vertigo (Pushkin Press).

The CWA Diamond Dagger, awarded to an author whose crime-writing career has been marked by sustained excellence, is announced in early spring and in 2024 it was jointly awarded to Lynda La Plante and James Lee Burke.

The Daggers also recognise individuals whose contributions to the crime genre deserve special merit. The Red Herring Award dates back to 1959, and have been awarded to over 40 recipients. This year it goes to Jean Briggs and Dea Parkin. Darren Wills also received a Red Herring award, which was presented to him privately earlier in the year.

The awards were co-hosted by the Sunday Times bestselling author of Truly Darkly Deeply, Victoria Selman, and the barrister and bestselling author, Imran Mahmood, whose debut You Don’t Know Me was adapted by the BBC.

Guest speaker on the night was the New York Times and Sunday Times number one bestselling author who has been published worldwide in over 25 languages, Lisa Jewell.

The Winners in Full:


Una Mannion Tell me What I Am, Faber & Faber


 Jordan Harper Everybody Knows, Faber & Faber


Jo Callaghan In The Blink of An Eye, Simon & Schuster UK


 Jake Lamar Viper's Dream, No Exit Press


 Maud Ventura My Husband, translated by Emma Ramadan, Hutchinson Heinemann


 Nicholas Shakespeare Ian Fleming: The Complete Man, Vintage


 Sanjida Kay The Divide from The Book of Bristol edited by Joe Melia and Heather Marks, Comma Press


Anthony Horowitz


Pushkin Press

‘The Curse of Penryth Hall’ by Jess Armstrong

Published by Allison & Busby,
20 June 2024.
ISBN: 978-0-7490-3148-0 (HB)

It is 1922 and the trauma of the Great War is still distorting the lives of many of its survivors. American heiress Ruby Vaughan has tried to rebuild her life and is running a rare bookshop in Exeter with the shop’s owner, octogenarian Mr Owen. The two are fond of each other, united by the endurance of loss: Ruby’s parents and sister were drowned when the Lusitania was sunk, and Mr Owen’s sons were killed in the war. Ruby has another more recent loss, which she never speaks of and tries not to think about. Her beloved friend, Tamsyn, rejected the plans Ruby had made for spending their future together. Instead, Tamsyn married a baronet, Sir Edward Chenowyth, and has gone to live with him at Penryth Hall in rural Cornwall. Ruby was heartbroken but she refuses to look back and drowns her grief in large quantities of gin and wild extravagant parties.

Ruby is used to delivering book consignments for Mr Owen but she is horrified when he asks her to take a box of books to a man living in the Cornish village of Lothlel Green, which is situated in close proximity to Penryth Hall. She protests but Mr Owen insists that Ruan Kivell needs the books straight away. When Ruby accepts the task, she knows that she will have to visit Tamsyn, who had written to her eighteen months ago. In this letter Tamsyn admitted that she had made a mistake in marrying Edward and claims that Penryth Hall is cursed. Ruby had ignored this plea, but she cannot be so close to Penryth Hall without responding to the appeal for help from the girl she had loved.

When Ruby visits Penryth Hall she is appalled by how much Tamsyn has changed. She has become a ghostly shadow of the vibrant young woman she had been, and her only joy is her young son, Jori. Edward is even more loathsome and dictatorial than Ruby remembered him, and she is determined to discover what he is doing to Tamsyn and whether he is physically harming his wife. However, during the night Ruby is tortured by bad dreams which are broken by the tolling of Penryth’s bells. When Ruby investigates, she encounters the Hall’s housekeeper, Mrs Penrose, and accompanies her to discover Edward lying in the orchard, brutally murdered.

To Ruby’s astonishment, Mrs Penrose not only sends for the local policeman but also for Ruan Kivell, the Pellar. At this point Ruby has no idea what a Pellar is, although she realises that he has great status and authority amongst the villagers. She discovers that the Pellar is a combination of herbalist, healer and witch. Mrs Penrose and most of the other people in the village believe that Sir Edward was killed by the same curse that killed his uncle and aunt years before and they are convinced that the Pellar is the only person who can break the curse before it claims more victims. Ruby does not believe in curses or witch powers, but she feels strangely drawn to the enigmatic Ruan.

Despite the pain that Tamsyn has caused her, Ruby is determined to prevent Tamsyn and Jori from becoming the next victims, whether the violence is due to a curse or, as Ruby believes, the acts of an evil person. Ruby is a person who has always taken risks and not counted the cost. In the war she had driven an ambulance to rescue wounded soldiers from the most isolated first aid posts during heavy shelling, regardless of the danger to her own life. Now she joins forces with Ruan Kivell and brings the same persistence and wild courage to her quest to save her friend and discover the truth, but soon it becomes evident that Ruby herself may be the target, whether of human killer or supernatural curse, and more than once she comes perilously close to death.

The Curse of Penryth Hall is the first book in the series featuring Ruby Vaughan. It is a fascinating debut with a protagonist who is flawed but also courageous and generous hearted. It has a compelling plot that combines mystery with a strong vein of Gothic horror and is a superb depiction of a rural community that is dominated by superstition in a way that compromises the actions of otherwise decent people.

The Curse of Penryth Hall is a page turner which I wholeheartedly recommend, and I look forward to the next book in the series.
Reviewer: Carol Westron

Jess Armstrong's debut novel The Curse of Penryth Hall won the Mystery Writers of America/Minotaur First Crime Novel Competition. She has a masters degree in American History but prefers writing about imaginary people to the real thing. Jess lives in New Orleans with her historian husband. When she's not working on her next project, she's probably thinking about cheese, baking, tweeting or some combination of the above. 

Carol Westron is a successful author and a Creative Writing teacher.  Her crime novels are set both in contemporary and Victorian times. Her first book The Terminal Velocity of Cats was published in 2013. Since then, she has since written 8 further mysteries. Carol recently gave an interview to Mystery People. interview
To read a review of Carol latest book click on the title
Death and the Dancing Snowman 

Thursday 4 July 2024

‘Current of Death’ by Sylvia Vetta

Published by Oxford eBooks,
28 September 2023.
ISBN: 1-91077904-0 (PB)

Crime fiction writer Alex Hornby loves her home in Thames Reach, just outside Oxford. The only drawback is that this peaceful, idyllic village provides her with no inspiration for murder mysteries. This changes when Alex is on a nature walk beside the River Thames and discovers a body floating in the water. The victim is Godfrey Price, a builder, who Alex later describes as the most unpopular man in the village. The main reason for this is that he demolished his grandfather’s house and built an ugly ‘fortress’ in its place and in doing so destroyed some ancient trees. Most of the objectors to this vandalism are convinced that Price is bribing someone with influence in his Planning Department. As well as the passionate conservationists who are dedicated to rewilding the area and preventing further destruction of wildlife habitats, there are many other people with more personal motives for Price’s murder.

When Price divorced his first wife, Carol, in order to marry a very young, very glamorous, blonde shop assistant, he treated Carol very badly, humiliating her and destroying her self-confidence and cheating her of the settlement she was entitled to by threatening to disinherit their two children. Their daughter, Angela, was so angry about Price’s treatment of her mother that she broke off all contact with him but his son, Kevin, works for his father in his building business. Carol’s mother, Margaret, also hates Price for his behaviour and she also lives in the village, however local gossip says that she is behaving very erratically and seems to be developing dementia. As if this local and domestic enmity is not enough, Price has angered an Albanian builder who feels that Price has cheated him.

The death is being investigated by Detective Chief Inspector Ranjit Singh and his sergeant, Kate Parr. Both of these conscientious and ambitious officers have moved from the Metropolitan Police to escape systemic prejudice, whether racist or misogynistic, and they are both desperate to prove themselves by solving the first murder investigation that they have been entrusted with. However, the complexity of the case and the demands it makes on the officers’ time causes conflict with the conflicting demands of Singh’s family life and adds to his stress. To make matters worse another suspicious death occurs, which may well be connected with the first murder, and the pressure upon the investigators becomes even more intense.

Fortunately for the detectives, Kate becomes friendly with Alex, who has a good insight into the village news and has also started to help support Samantha, Price’s second wife, who finds herself pregnant and isolated. The information that Alex passes on to Kate proves helpful in solving the original murder and several connected cases.

Current of Death is a crime novel that has many elements. It is multi-viewpoint and, as well as the central murder case, it explores planning fraud, dodgy builders, environmental activism, modern slavery and systemic racism, as well as domestic problems like mental breakdown and dementia. The village of Thames Reach is inspired by Kennington, which lies between Oxford and Abingdon, and one of the most engaging features of the book is the exquisite description of the scenery and wildlife and the passion of the characters who are dedicated to preserving and rewilding the countryside and fighting those who wish to destroy it.

Current of Death is a debut crime novel with a complex and interesting plot, which explores many important issues in contemporary life.
Reviewer: Carol Westron

Sylvia Vetta. For twenty years Sylvia wrote the life stories of others including 120 Oxford Castaways for The Oxford Times turned into three books and three novels inspired by real events and real people. Sylvia says ‘It’s been difficult writing about myself, but I needed to tell the refugee story of my Indian born husband, Dr Atam Vetta too. In Brushstrokes in Time Sylvia recovers lost history. Ai Weiwei began his career with the courageous Stars artists in that glimmer of a Beijing Spring in 1979. When Sylvia heard their story from a founder, Qu Leilei, she wondered why it was not well known. As NO-ONE had written about the Stars Art Movement in detail, (and no one in China could) she decided to do it. To her knowledge, Brushstrokes in Time is the ONLY book on the Stars. She made it a NOVEL 

Carol Westron is a successful author and a Creative Writing teacher.  Her crime novels are set both in contemporary and Victorian times. Her first book The Terminal Velocity of Cats was published in 2013. Since then, she has since written 8 further mysteries. Carol recently gave an interview to Mystery People. interview
To read a review of Carol latest book click on the title
Death and the Dancing Snowman 

Wednesday 3 July 2024

‘The White Circle’ by Oliver Bottini.

Translated by Jamie Bulloch. 
Published by Quercus,
6 June 2024.
ISBN:  978-1-52940-923-9 (HB)

In this, the sixth and last of Oliver Bottini’s Black Forest Investigations series, Louise Boni an independently minded, proactive Chief Inspector with Freiburg’s criminal police, has reached a state of emotional and psychological exhaustion. On the domestic front she rarely communicates with her family, on the emotional front she and her lover Ben can’t agree on what country to live in, and at work she is missing and mourning her old boss, Rolf Bermann.

Late one night, a young colleague, Kilian, who is working undercover with the regional Criminal Investigation Bureau, arrives at Louise’s flat with disturbing news: someone in Freiburg has just taken delivery of two pistols with silencers.  The inference is clear. Somebody is going to be shot. Unfortunately, Kilian has no idea who is the intended victim or when and why they are going to be shot. Louise must answer these questions, but time and resources are short. Germany is hosting the World Cup: every spare policeman is on security duties.

Louise’s new boss, Lief Enders, offers to help, but he is constantly distracted by problems with an alcoholic wife who doesn’t want to move to Freiburg. Louise has sympathy for the couple because of her own history with alcohol. Her other helpers are Natalie, who deals with the IT side of things, and colleagues in patrol cars who help when they are available. There is some hindrance from other agencies in the force who are either corrupt or guarding their empires.

Louise identifies the problem as originating from a right wing, neo-nazi type organisation. Unfortunately, its members act in a carefully constructed network - nobody knows whom they are dealing with so they can’t incriminate others or help the police with enquiries even supposing that they wanted to. The potential victim’s attitude to their impending fate doesn’t make her job any easier either. After selflessly putting herself in danger fighting for justice and peace and coping with seeing a colleague killed in front of her, we leave a drained Louise Boni heading for some well-earned rest and recuperation. 

Masterly written with both insight and foresight, and beautifully translated from the German by Jamie Bulloch, The White Circle highlights the re-emergence of disturbing racist tendencies in Europe.  At the same time, Bottini take us on a complicated, investigative journey and portrays the personal lives of a wide variety of characters with inherent sensitivity.  Will Louise and Enders return in another series?   Who knows? 
Reviewer: Angela Crowther
Other books by this author:  Zen and the Art of Murder, A Summer of Murder, The Dance of Death, and Night Hunters, The Invisible Dead..

Oliver Bottini was born in 1965. Four of his novels, including Zen and the Art of Murder and A Summer of Murder of the Black Forest Investigations have been awarded the Deutscher Krimipreis, Germany’s most prestigious award for crime writing. In addition, his novels have been awarded the Stuttgarter Krimipreis and the Berliner Krimipreis. He lives in Berlin.

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 2 July 2024

The Turkish Detective


Sunday 7 July 2024
Sees the first of a new Series on BBC2

Based on the books by author
Barbara Nadel 
featuring Detective Cetin Ikmen.

Not to be missed.

Barbara Nadel was born and brought up in the East End of London. She has a degree in psychology and, prior to becoming a full-time author, she worked in psychiatric institutions and in the community with people experiencing mental health problems. She is also the author of the award-winning Inspector Ikmen series and received the Crime Writers' Association Silver Dagger for the seventh novel in the series Deadly Web. There are now 27 books in the series.