More (lockdown) crime reads

My reading this month has consisted of books by international authors. Probably due to the restriction on travel, my mind has needed to journey into spaces other than Derbyshire! The good news is that we’re lucky in the UK in that publishers are willing to take a chance on writers from around the world.

First up was Australia. I’m a big fan of the recent books by Jane Harper and Chris Hammer so I put this debut to the top of my reading pile. Hermit by S R White is the twelve-hour narrative of a crime investigation in rural Australia. Nathan Whittler disappeared fifteen years earlier and is found next to the body of a murdered shopkeeper. Detective Dana Russo has a short period of time to question the troubled, inscrutable suspect and get to the bottom of both the murder and the man’s disappearance. Tense and absorbing, I loved everything about this intelligent thriller which is out in September.

I love Iceland in the winter and The Mist, the new novel from Ragnar Jonasson, beautifully evokes the splendid isolation of its rural farmsteads. In 1987, an elderly married couple are found murdered in their farmhouse after a month long snowstorm. Hulda Hermansdottir is sent from Reykjavik to investigate but she is haunted by her own family tragedy and her failure to spot a crime which was taking place in her own home. Bleak and haunting, I read this lovely novel in one sitting. The translation is by Victoria Cribb.

 

Hijack City is a novel set in Cape Town by Michael Williams. A group of car jackers are terrorising the city and detective Jake Mulligan is given the task of setting up an anti-hijack unit in a crummy building away from the main police station. His partner, Jackson Sondile, has been accused of corruption, tainting all he has come into contact with especially Jake. I loved the descriptions of various facets of Cape Town society, the excellent pace and, most of all, the character of Jake Mulligan.

 

Finally, the trenches of the First World War are the setting for Jon Wilkins’ excellent Poppy Flowers at the Front. Poppy is a ambulance driver ferrying wounded soldiers to the casualty clearing station. This is the story of a young girl plunged into the horror of the trenches, the experience of which assaults all her preconceptions of what it is to live and die. Her companion is Elodie, a French nurse, who provides Poppy with hope and flashes of joy amongst the horror. Beautifully written, with letters to home peppering the prose, I enjoyed this endearing love story.

 

Latest (Lockdown) Crime Reads

I hope everyone is well and keeping safe. During Lockdown, my concentration has taken a dive and rather than open new books I’ve been re-reading many of my favourite novels. However, as we all adjust to the new normal, I’ve finally started on my reading pile – some newly published, others books which I’ve always meant to read.

Lots of parallels have been made between our current crisis and the trials of life in Britain during the Second World War. The Walls We Build by Jules Hayes was a timely read as it has the character of Winston Churchill playing an important role in the story which unfolds. The friendship of Frank, Florence and Hilda is strained by a marriage of convenience in the 1930s the ramifications of which continue through to the turn of the century. Beautifully written, I loved the complex relationships and mystery at the heart of the novel.

Our Fathers by Rebecca Wait is a story of a family obliterated by a sudden act of violence and the impact it has on a remote island community. Tom, eight years old when his father shot his mother and siblings, returns to Litta to find answers to their deaths. Lyrical and reflective, the surprises in this book are as much to do with the web of relationships as to the reveal of the motivation behind the killings.

I enjoyed Lucy Atkins’ debut novel, The Night Visitor, and was looking forward to her follow up which was published recently. Magpie Lane is set in Oxford where protagonist Dee is a nanny to the daughter of a Oxford College Master. We discover, as the book opens, that Felicity is missing and police are struggling to identify any suspects. Dee narrates how she got the job and the odd dynamic of the family, taking the reader on an interesting and twisty journey. I love an intelligent thriller and this is one!

While re-reading Jamaica Inn last week, I realised I had a Daphne Du Maurier on my shelf I hadn’t yet read. The Flight of the Falcon is set in the Italian town of Ruffano which tour guide Armino Fabbio returns to after he’s unwittingly implicated in the murder of his childhood family servant. There, he discovers that a brother he thought was dead is instrumental in reviving the cult of the sinister Duke Claudio who reigned with terror five hundred years earlier. An atmospheric, absorbing read, it has Du Maurier’s trademark eye for the unusual and sinister.

Finally, I was sent this book detailing walks around London with a bloody/murderous theme written by David Fathers. The walks in Bloody London span two thousand years of history and there was plenty I wasn’t aware of, even though I lived in the capital for ten years. With a forward by David Aaronovitch, I particularly enjoyed reading about the goings on in peripheral areas around the city. At the moment, the book is for armchair browsing only but fingers crossed that changes soon as there are plenty of great places to discover thanks to this book.

Latest Crime Reads

Hello everyone. Apologies for the lack of reviews over the last two months. I’ve been incredibly busy, both editing my new book The Quickening and working on another project which I hope to tell you about soon. I have been doing lots of reading – some of it crime – and I’m finally getting around to writing my reviews. I’ve also been reading lots of ghost stories which I’ll be reviewing on separate posts but, first up, here are my recent crime reads.

Ann Cleeves has a new book out, The Long Call, the beginning of a new series set in north Devon. Her protagonist, detective Matthew Venn, is a native of the county who, as the book opens, attends the funeral of his father. He comes from a Brethren family, a closed religious society, who disapprove of his homosexuality. When a man’s body is washed up on a beach, Venn has to investigate the community he tried to escape from. I loved the moving plot and, as ever, Cleeves excels in her descriptions of the landscape. A wonderful start to what promises to be an excellent series.

Camilla Bruce’s debut novel, You Let Me In, is a strange and magical thriller set in Norway. Locals think that bestselling novelist, Cassandra Tripp, has murdered members of her family but, as her tale unfolds, we discover the influence of the Pepper-Man, either Cassanda’s imaginary friend or something much more dark. A mix of thriller and folk horror, it was great to read a narrative which kept me enthralled throughout.

 

Finally C M Ewan’s new book, A Window Breaks, is a fast-paced page-turning thriller which I couldn’t put down. A family recovering from the death of their teenage son take a holiday in a remote Scottish lodge when they hear a window break in the middle of the night. The book examines how far you’d go to defend your family and the secrets people keep in order to protect others. I loved it!

The Quickening: Cover Reveal

Here’s the gorgeous cover for The Quickening coming on the 20th August 2020 under the name Rhiannon Ward. My publishers Trapeze have done a fantastic job with the image which reflects the book’s gothic story.

 

 

 

 

 

 

England, 1925. Louisa Drew lost her husband in the First World War and her six-year-old twin sons in the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918. Newly re-married to a war-traumatised husband and seven months pregnant, Louisa is asked by her employer to travel to Clewer Hall in Sussex where she is to photograph the contents of the house for auction.

She learns Clewer Hall was host to an infamous séance in 1896, and that the lady of the house has asked those who gathered back then to come together once more to recreate the evening. When a mysterious child appears on the grounds, Louisa finds herself compelled to investigate and becomes embroiled in the strange happenings of the house. Gradually, she unravels the long-held secrets of the inhabitants and what really happened thirty years before… and discovers her own fate is entwined with that of Clewer Hall’s.

I absolutely loved writing the book which is available for pre-order here.

Latest Crime Reads

I’ve been reading a lot of non-fiction at the moment alongside ghost stories so apologies for the lack of recent posts. However, I have read some great crime novels and here’s a selection of books I loved.

All the Rage by Cara Hunter is the lastest book in her series featuring DI Adam Fawley. An attack on a girl on April Fool’s Day is dismissed by the victim as a joke but Fawley believes there’s more to it than the girl suggests. When Sasha Blake is abducted in a van, he believes it has echoes of a previous case. Written in Hunter’s trademark style which mixes points of views and juxtaposes prose alongside texts and court papers, this is an engrossing thriller and a great addition to the series.

The Keeper is Diane Saxon’s first crime novel and she’s clearly a natural thriller writer. DS Jenna Morgan turns up to a Shropshire crime scene where a dead woman is found along with a dalmation belonging to Jenna’s sister. Jenna and her team have to discover both the identity of the murdered woman and who has taken her sister. The Keeper has a beautiful setting and a dark plot, and is a stunning start of a series.

The Measure of Malice is a collection of detective short stories from British Library Publishing around the theme of science. It begins with an 1891 Sherlock Holmes story The Boscombe Valley Mystery and concludes with a Freeman Wills Croft tale.   It’s fascinating the extent to which scientific rigour is applied to the discovery of bodies and crimes from early on in the genre. There’s a lovely story with the hint of the supernatural, The Horror of Studley Grange by Lt Meade and Clifford Halifax which, despite an unrealistic premise, really does have undertones of terror. There’s also an excellent Wimsey story from Dorothy Sayers not to be read if you’ve a visit to the dentist anytime soon. As usual, Martin Edwards has picked an excellent selection to highlight the theme with not a dud amongst them.

Blood Orange is the debut novel by Harriet Tyce. It garnered widespread acclaim on publication and I’d been dying to read it. The protagonist is Alison, a married barrister with a drink problem who’s indulging with occasional flings with a colleague putting her marriage and career at risk. She takes on a case of a woman who killed her husband but she’s being taunted via text message from someone who knows her secrets. Dark with an array of suspect characters I loved this book from the off.

Finally, this isn’t a crime novel but it does have a theft in it. One Christmas Night is the new book by Hayley Webster set on a single street in Norfolk. Nine households’ lives are entwined and their secrets are shown one Christmas Eve. The novel opens with the burglary of one house by a thief who clearly knows the street and its occupants well. As the narrative opens out, we discover how relationship break ups, deaths and old secrets unite the residents. Webster is great at creating believable characters without a hint of saccharine and has a clear eyed view of people’s foibles. This is the book you want to read this Christmas.

Three great crime books coming soon…

It’s been a while since I blogged as I’ve been doing my structural edits on The Quickening coming in August next year. It’s hard to immerse yourself in your own novel while reading critically others’ books. I do keep reading but it’s been mainly non-fiction which I’ve been updating readers about over on my Facebook page. If you’re ever wondering what I’m up to when all is quiet on Crimepieces, do head over to Facebook.

However, I have recently read some great crime novels which are due to be published later in 2019 and in early 2020. It’s always great to read strong debuts alongside more established authors and these three books show how diverse and entertaining crime fiction can be.

Magpie by Sophie Draper is the hotly anticipated follow-up to her debut, Cuckoo. Claire is making plans to escape a loveless marriage to serial adulterer Duncan. She’s convinced he’s having yet another affair possibly with a colleague in his veterinary practice. However, Claire and Duncan’s teenage son Joe has gone missing which may be connected to his discovery of an old coin which comes to the notice of fellow metal detectorists. The narrative moves between passages describing the time before and after a key event, the nature of which is only revealed at the end of the book. It makes for a page-turning structure and an unsettling read. There are gorgeous descriptions of the Derbyshire countryside alongside the realities of a disfunctional marriage. I loved it. Magpie is out at the end of November.

Another book partly set in Derbyshire is Firewatching by former Waterstones bookseller, Russ Thomas. In Sheffield, an arsonist is creating havoc while gaining a group of followers who name him ‘The Firewatcher.’ While the police try to identify the culprit, DS Adam Tyler is investigating the discovery of a body in a house at the edge of the Peak District. Gerald Cartwright disappeared six years earlier but the main suspect has a personal connection to Tyler which could jeapordise his position on the case. This is an intelligent police procedural delivered at great pace and I’m sure the start of a brilliant career for Russ Thomas. You’ll have to wait until February next year, I’m afraid to get your hands on a copy but it’ll be worth the wait.

I’m a big fan of Syd Moore’s writing and the short story format, so it was great to see that she has a collection of stories out soon. The Twelve Strange Days of Christmas are a group of interweaving stories featuring Rosie and Sam from her Essex Witch Museum series. Those not familiar with these books will find this an excellent introduction to Moore’s writing and the characters which inhabit her world. It’s always a nightmare to review short story collections because I really don’t want to give away any spoilers. The writer shares my love of cats and there’s an excellent story, Snowy, about an elderly woman who sees her cats as reincarnations of the people around her, and a brilliant follow up tale full of grim humour. The book is out on the 26th September.

 

July’s Recommended Reads

My recent reads have been a mixture of fiction and non-fiction for various festivals but I’ve managed to sneak in two books I’ve been dying to read for a while.

In the Night Wood by Dale Bailey is a creepy, unusual read set in the the Yorkshire countryside. Charles and Erin Hayden are mourning the loss of their young daughter, wrapped in grief and recriminations. Newly arrived from the States, they take up residency in Hollow House which Erin has inherited from her distant relative, Caedmon Hollow. Erin retreats into an alcohol and drug haze while Charles becomes increasingly drawn to the history of the house. An interesting story with a dark theme Bailey portrays the mistrust and blame that follows an unexpected death.

The Vanished Bride is a historical novel featuring the three Bronte sisters, by Rowan Coleman written under the pseudonym of Bella Ellis, a play, of course on the moniker used by Emily to initially publish her books. Emily, Charlotte and Anne are back under the same roof for the first time in years. Charlotte is recovering from her unhappy love affair with the married Monsieur Heger and Anne has been forced to leave her last employment because of Branwell’s affair with the lady of the house. When a married woman goes missing in the nearby town of Arunton, leaving behind a bloodied chamber, the three sisters, aided by Branwell decide to investigate.

The novel is told from the points of view of the three sisters and, interestingly, it is Anne who comes across as the most forceful. Coleman has done her research and  references the sisters’ past and family life at Haworth parsonage. As Coleman says, there’s no evidence that the sisters investigated a crime but then there’s no evidence that they didn’t. I think Coleman, or rather Bella Ellis might be on to a winner here so I’m keeping my fingers crossed for the book. You have a while to wait though. The Vanished Bride is out on ebook on the 12th September and hardback in November.