It’s October, the month of the encroaching dark and unexplained hauntings, and I’ve been reading lots of ghost stories which I’ll be reviewing here on Crimepieces. I want to bring you recommendations of spooky tales by writers who you might be familiar with along with some forgotten authors.
I’m a big fan of Elizabeth Jane Howard and in particular the Cazalet Chronicles. I bought Mr Wrong a year or so ago and was delighted when I picked it up to see that it was a collection of ghost stories loosely based around haunted travel. In the opening story, a woman buys a car and, on her first drive out of the city, encounters the strange feeling that something is desperately wrong. She tries unsuccessfully to return the car and the phenomena persists to the extent that she begins to put off the weekly visit to her parents. Finally, the car’s history emerges and that of her own role in the continuing story of the vehicle.
Another other excellent story in this collection was the slightly better known Three Miles Up. Two men are on a canal boat holiday which has become marred by discontent and bickering. When they pick up a girl to transport part way along the canal, the dynamic shifts. The landscape is as much part of the horror as the protagonists and it’s a haunting tale which stays with you long after you’ve finished it.
Do you have a favourite ghost story? Do let me know in the comments below and I’ll see if I have it on my shelf…
It’s always very exciting when one of my favourite writers publishes a new book. The summer and autumn of 2020 has brought a raft of new titles, some delayed because of COVID, and here are four of my favourites.
First up is Margaret Murphy who I first read in back in 2005, I think. Her thought-provoking psychological thrillers were enthralling and I particularly loved the Liverpool settings. Murphy went on to write thrillers under the name of AD Garrett and Ashley Dyer. I was delighted to see that Joffe books are now publishing her backlist along with a new book, Before He Kills Again featuring Detective Cassie Rowan. Cassie is working undercover on the streets of Liverpool to capture a predator known as the Furman who is killing women sex workers. As I’ve come to expect from Murphy’s books, this new thriller combines a compelling plot along with a keen eye on life for the working girls and the subtleties of Cassie’s relationship with her colleagues.
Marnie Riches is a versatile writer whose crime series have been published to rave reviews. She’s written a series of historical sagas about the early days on the NHS under the name of Maggie Campbell, the first of which is Nurse Kitty’s Secret War. It has a Manchester setting, Park Hospital which is now the Trafford General. It’s just after the war and Kitty Longthorne is a nurse juggling a family unsupportive of her career, a romance with a doctor and the stresses of nursing in a new regime. There’s plenty of suspense, especially in relation to Kitty’s love life and I personally loved the insights into the birth of the NHS and it’s impact on ordinary lives still reeling from the effects of war. Meticulously researched this book is a perfect celebration of the early days of the NHS.
Elly Griffiths is one of my favourite writers. The Lantern Men is the latest outing for DCI Harry forensic archaeologist Ruth Galloway and DCI Harry Nelson. A man convicted for killing two women is prepared to reveal the location of other bodies but only if Ruth will do the digging. Ruth has relocated to Cambridge but is unsettled personally and professionally. I love how Griffiths keeps the will they/won’t they drama going for Ruth and Nelson and there’s a nice touch of folklore about the existence of the lantern men in the marshes. Possibly my favourite in the series, I couldn’t stop turning the pages.
Jane Bettany is a debut writer who I met at one of my writing workshops and was lucky enough to get a glimpse of the early chapters of the book which became In Cold Blood. DI Isabel Blood investigates a body in the back garden of a house she once lived in as a child. The forensic team think the body has been in the ground for forty years which coincides with the date of Isabel’s father’s disappearance. In Cold Blood won the 2019 Gransnet and HQ writing competition and it’s easy to see why. It’s a tightly written police procedural with a very relatable protagonist and a compelling plot. If you like Elly Griffiths, I’m sure you’ll love this book.