My latest reads: The Feed, An Anatomy of a Scandal and A Fatal Drug

I love dystopian thrillers and have done ever since I read Nevil Shute’s On the Beach. The Feed of Nick Clark Windo’s debut refers to the virtual reality network which governs society in the near future. People have stopped talking to each other and communicate via a feed which allows family and friends long distances from each other to chat as if in the same room. One day, the feed is destroyed and Tom and Kate are forced, with their young daughter, to live in a society where no-one is able to fall asleep unwatched in case they are ‘taken’, their bodies invaded by an alien force.

The Feed is a complex but entertaining book. The ‘reality’ of the alternative world that Windo has created takes a while to get your head around but once you immerse yourself in the narrative, it’s a very rich read.

An Anatomy of A Scandal is a stylish thriller from Sarah Vaughan. Married government minister, James, admits to having an affair with a much younger colleague who accuses him of a sexual assault. His wife Sophie, who has known him since their student days at Oxford, is convinced of his innocence but the prosecuting barrister, Kate, is certain he is guilty and determined to bring him to justice. As the trial approaches, the women are forced to confront their respective pasts and the actions of a charismatic man who appears to be protected by the prime minister.

An Anatomy of a Scandal is a thoughtful, well-written thriller which explores the nature of relationships and how closely we’re prepared to look at personality of those around us . As a reader who doesn’t read many courtroom based crime novels, I thought these scenes were among the best and a fascinating glimpse into the world of prosecuting sex crimes. Given the quality of the prose, I’m unsurprised that the book is riding high in the book charts.

Tony R Cox is a former journalist and he uses his experience of working on local news to great effect in A Fatal DrugSet in 1971, ambitious Derby reporter Simon Jardine reports on a mutilated body found in a hotel. Sensing a story, he digs deeper and uncovers a drugs network that extends from the Midlands to Spain. Cox’s depiction of seventies journalism is fascinating and it makes you long for the days of strong local news. You forget that, underneath the ‘peace and love’ portrayal of seventies hallucinogens there was a vicious side to drug supply and addiction. Cox provides an authentic portrayal of a cat and mouse chase around the brothels and drug houses in the city and I can’t wait to read the next book, Vinyl Junkie.

This post is dedicated to an Australian blogging friend of mine, Bernadette from Reactions to Reading, who sadly died recently. Bernadette was hugely supportive of both my writing and blogging and her own reviews were honest and uncompromising. I’ll miss reading her thoughts on both bestselling novels and those of crime writers who don’t receive the attention they deserve.

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Granite Noir Reading Part Two

It’s Granite Noir this weekend. Last week I reviewed the books I’ve been reading for the first two panels I’m moderating. This post rounds up the rest of the books: it’s been fascinating to read the novels of four diverse crime writers.

On Saturday afternoon, I’ll be moderating the Page and Screen panel with MJ Arlidge and Stefan Ahnhem. Both writers combine successful screenwriting careers with writing bestselling crime novels. Eighteen Below is Ahnhem’s latest thriller featuring his detective Fabian Risk. A car crashes off a quay in Helsingborg but the autopsy reveals that the victim, Peter Brise, was already dead when he hit the water. Below Eighteen is a substantial read and, in the best Scandi style, Ahnhem moves the narrative beyond the confines of the immediate investigation to incorporate Risk’s family life and the politics of the wider investigative team. A real treat for Nordic Noir fans.

Love Me Not is the seventh book in MJ Arlidge’s series featuring DI Helen Grace. A woman is killed in a hit and run accident closely followed by the shooting of a shopkeeper. Helen Grace struggles to find the common thread between the murders as a killing spree spreads through Southampton. Love Me Not cleverly takes place over the course of a single day adding high tension to this fast-paced and compelling thriller.

At my final panel on Sunday morning, I’ll be talking to Louise Voss and Torkil Damhaug about Psychological Noir.  Louise’s latest book, The Old You, isn’t out until May but there’ll be early copies available at the festival.  It’s a fascinating thriller about memory loss and deception within a marriage. Ed Naismith is diagnosed with early-onset dementia which devastates his wife of ten years, Lynn. He becomes fixated on a possible cure for his illness while his condition deteriorates and Lynn begins to wonder if her own mental health isn’t begging to suffer. The Old You is a fascinating read and full of twists and turns.

Certain Signs That You Are Dead is the fourth book in Torkil Damhaug’s Oslo Crime Files series. A patient disappears at a university hospital and retired forensic pathologist Jennifer Plåterud is called in to examine the dead man. Her son, Sigurd Woods, believes his girlfriend, Katya is having an affair and begins to follow her about the city. It’s a complex, modern story with various threads weaving through the narrative. Damhaug is excellent at keeping up the tension.

That’s it! See some of you at Granite Noir.

Granite Noir Reading

I’m off to Aberdeen at the end of this month for Granite Noir, Aberdeen’s celebration of crime fiction. Last year’s event was great fun and I’m looking forward to visiting the granite city again. If you’re nearby, I’ll be appearing alongside Jorn Lier Horst and Mari Hannah on the May the (Police) Force be with You on Friday evening. It would be lovely to see you if you can make it.

I’m also moderating four panels which I’ve been reading for over the last few weeks. It’s always great to see what others are writing and, as usual, it’s heartening to see the diversity of stories which make up the crime fiction genre. Because there are a fair few authors involved, I’ve split my reading over two blog posts, the second of which will come next week.

My moderating begins on Friday lunchtime with the Breathtaking Thrillers panel with Lilja Sigurdardottir and Catherine Ryan Howard. I reviewed Lilja’s English language debut, Snare, in a previous post in a and it’ll be fascinating to dig deeper into the world of her Reykjavik thriller.

Appearing alongside her is Catherine Ryan Howard who I met in a recent trip to Dublin. It was a fascinating city to visit not least as I’d just read Howard’s latestbook, The Liar’s Girl. In this tightly-plotted thriller, Alison Smith, after a decade living in the Netherlands returns to Ireland to face her former boyfriend who is serving a sentence for multiple murders. Following a recent copy-cat killing, he states he has some news on the murderer that he is only prepared to reveal to her. The Liar’s Girl is very well written and unsettling thriller set around Dublin’s canals which explores the assumptions we make about those accused of heinous crimes.

On the Saturday, I’ll be interviewing Lucy Atkins, Sarah Stovell and Louise Hutcheseon about their books.  It’s rare in a panel that themes intertwine seamlessly but all three authors have a written books that explore the world of authors and the truthfulness of particular narratives. In The Night Visitorprofessor Olivia Sweetman publishes a bestseller, a book based on a Victorian diary found by Vivian Tester in a house where she is working as a housekeeper. Vivian’s role has been kept hidden from Olivia’s publisher and readers, but has created a dependent relationship that Olivia is determined to break. It’s a fascinating, page-turning read with the narrative alternating between London, Sussex and the South of France.

Exquisite by Sarah Stovell also documents a destructive relationship, here between bestselling author Bo Luxton and Alice Dark, an aspiring writer recovering from a fractured childhood. The women are drawn together after meeting on a writing retreat led by Bo but soon their views on what their relationship entails begin to diverge wildly. The unsettling Exquisite cleverly portrays  an intoxicating relationship where secrets and power struggles hint at darker forces at work.

The Paper Cell by Louise Hutcheson is a short, exquisitely written book about the deception that Lewis Carson undertakes when, as a publishing assistant, he steals a young woman’s novel after she is found strangled on Peckham Rye. Hutcheson is excellent at deceiving the reader and it’s an intelligent and satisfying book.

I hope to see some readers of Crimepices at Granite Noir. Do come up and say hello if you’re there. I’ll be posting lots of pictures on my Facebook page.

 

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Recent Reads: Mr Scarletti’s Ghost & Cliff House

A recent e-mail by new digital publisher, Sapere Books, alerted me to the fact they’re now publishing Linda Stratmann’s three books in the Mina Scarletti series. I had Mr Scarletti’s Ghost on my bookshelf and I rescued it this week to read. Spirit mediums are all the rage in 1871 Brighton, preying on the bereaved and vulnerable. A Miss Eustace claims to produce apparitions of the dead and ensnares Mina Scarletti’s widowed mother along with many of her friends, gaining financially from the seances. Mina is determined to expose Miss Eustace but comes up against devotees of the medium whose respectability in Brighton society is hard to break. Only by enlisting a band of family and friends can she expose the fraud.

Mr Scarletti’s Ghost is a clever and well written mystery with a wide-scale deception rather than murder at its heart. Particularly strong is the character of Mina Scarletti, disfigured by sclerosis of the spine but with a spirited character.  I’m sure she will carry the series through many books and I look forward to reading more by Stratmann. This new digital edition is out on the 5th February.

The other book I’ve read over the last week isn’t out until May but, if you enjoy a thriller with a  Cornish setting this one’s for you. Cliff House is Amanda Jenning’s fourth book and centres on a clifftop house which holds an enduring fascination for Tamsyn Tresize. She’s drawn to Edie, the daughter of the glamorous family who spend their time between London and the house, bringing a whiff of glamour and dissipation. Tamsyn’s mother, who cleans the house, warns against her getting too close to the family but both she and her brother, Jago are pulled into the destructive circle with tragic consequences.

Jennings cleverly sets most of the book in 1986, a time when bored teenagers drift into friendships just to while away the time. She touches on class divisions and local suspicion of outsiders along with destructive family forces. It’s atmospheric thriller which will delight her readers and if you haven’t read her books before, now’s the time.

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