Recent Reads

I always look forward to the latest Ruth Galloway novel from Elly Griffiths and in The Stone Circle, out on the 7th February, it’s great to see Ruth back in Norfolk. There’s an interesting link to Griffiths’s first book in the series,  Crossing Places. DCI  Nelson has been receiving letters similar in tone to those which tried to derail the investigation into missing children. The culprit’s son, Leif, has returned to look at a prehistoric stone circle where a twelve year old girl’s bones are discovered. The vulnerability of children and babies is explored in a sensitive manner. The bones are those of Margaret Lacey who disappeared thirty years earlier in a crime which the community has never forgotten. Griffiths is excellent at keeping up dramatic tension both in terms of the murder investigation and the Nelson/Ruth relationship.

The Boy who Lived with the Dead is the new novel by Kate Ellis featuring Scotland Yard detective, Albert Lincoln. Before the First World War, Lincoln led the investigation into the disappearance of Jimmy Rudyard, a young child in the Cheshire village of Mabley Ridge. Now, a woman has been killed, her small baby is missing and Lincoln is back to investigate the murder.  He discovers a town still reeling from war and families with plenty of secrets to hide. The book is an absorbing read and I loved the period detail.

Cuckoo by Sophie Draper is a psychological thriller set in my home county of Derbyshire. Caro inherits, along with her sister, their childhood home after the death of step-mother, Elizabeth. The villagers are unfriendly and the house brings back long forgotten memories for Caro. Cuckoo is an interesting psychological thriller, very well written, which cleverly exploits the closed confines of the story. Draper is excellent at  keeping the reader guessing until the denouement.

Thomas Mogford’s A Thousand Cuts had been on my shelf  for a while, a shameful admission given how much I love the author’s writing. The fifth book in the Spike Snguinetti series sees Spike’s fiancé about to give birth while he takes on a case that brings him into conflict with childhood friends. Spike is a fascinating character and it looks like he’s about to let his obsession with his case ruin another relationship. Mogford’s descriptions of the Gibraltar setting are wonderful but never allowed to overshadow the plot. It’s one of his best.

Reading Round-Up

I’ve had an eclectic book month as I’ve been reading for various events plus I’ve been trying novels that I’ve wanted to read for a long time. There’s something about the summer that encourages me to free up time to look beyond familiar authors and I’ve been racing through some interesting books.

Tomorrow, I’m at the Derby Book Festival chatting to Jo Jakeman about her debut novel, Sticks and Stones. It’s a fascinating story of three women involved with the same man, the violent Philip Rochester. When he threatens to make his estranged wife, Imogen, homeless she locks him in the cellar and finds unexpected allies in Ruby his former wife and in Naomi, his current girlfriend. With strong prose and complex characters, Sticks  and Stones is a summer psychological thriller to get your teeth into.

Next week-end, I’m at Alibis in the Archives, in one of the most beautifully located libraries in the UK. I’ll be giving a talk on Derbyshire crime fiction and there’s plenty to discuss from Sheridan Le Fanu to present day crime writers. I’m a fan of Kate Ellis’s writing and, in her books, she usually fuses past and present. In  A High Mortality of Doves, she turns her attention to 1919 Derbyshire and a community reeling from the effects of the Great War. Mutilated women are discovered around a village and tales of a soldier seen near the murder sites brings Albert Lincoln up from London to investigate a complex crime. Written with Ellis’s attention to detail, she provides a clever twist which adds rather than detracts from the story.

On the subject of Derbyshire, I finally got around to reading Jon McGregor’s Reservoir 13. It’s not crime novel but set in a Derbyshire town where a thirteen year-old girl has gone missing. It’s probably the book that most sums up Derbyshire for me: the well dressings, the changing of the seasons and the communities where nothing and everything happens. I absolutely loved this books which deservedly won the 2017 Costa Novel Award.

While we had an unexpected period of hot weather, I read a Christmas mystery.  Portrait of a Murderer  by Anne Meredith was  first published in 1933. It’s a country house mystery where the patriarch, Adrian Gary, is murdered on Christmas Day morning by one of his six surviving children. The murderer is revealed early on but Meredith uses an ingenious plot construction to take us through the impact of the crime and the slow unveiling of the killer. It’s a clever, soberly written mystery and a perfect read if you’re missing the winter already.

 

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Crime Fiction Round-Up

November is proving to be an interesting month for crime fiction and it would be a shame not share some of the events with readers of this blog. Sometimes, living in Derbyshire, it feels like all the interesting things take place in other parts of the country, particularly London. However, if you keep your eyes open and take advantage of the internet, you discover plenty of interest.

James Ellroy

The the self-styled demon dog of American crime fiction came to The Dancehouse,Perfidia-by-James-Ellroy Manchester in early November. The event was organised by Waterstones on Deansgate and was very well attended. For my money I would have preferred a more structured interview. It was left to Ellroy to read from his latest book, Perfidia, and then field questions from a very knowledgable audience. Manchester has plenty of fine journalists more than capable of facilitating a more structured event and I think we might have got some greater insights from Ellroy from more in-depth probing. He was, however, great to see and we were treated at the end to his recital of Dylan Thomas’s ‘In my Craft or Gentle Art’.

The Murder Squad.

The Murder SquadLast week, six of the best northern crime writers gathered at Linghams bookshop in Heswall for an evening of crime fiction talk. Cath Staincliffe, Ann Cleeves, Margaret Murphy, Martin Edwards, Kate Ellis and Chris Simms talked about their books and characters in an event of interest to both readers and writers of the genre. Again the evening had a fantastic turnout and is evidence of what a vibrant local bookshop can do to promote writers. The passion that these authors still have for their books is an inspiration and I particularly liked the discussion on which character from another author they’d most like to write about. A white haired old lady from St Mary Mead was a popular choice. Thanks to Dave Mack (via Margaret Murphy) for the photo.

Serial

Those on Twitter will notice the amount of chat taking place about a podcast coming out from the States. Serial is a week by week investigation into the culpability of Adnan Syed who was convicted of murdering, in 1999, his girlfriend, Hae Min Lee, in Baltimore, US. I’m not a huge fan of real life crime and certainly tend to avoid reading about it. But these podcasts are excellent and compulsive listening. The host, Sarah Koenig, has an impressive grasp of the minutiae of the case but it is the human element of the broadcasts that make them so fascinating. She oscillates between trusting and disbelieving Adnan’s innocence and we, as listeners, are right there with her. I don’t normally review books until I have finished them but for Serial, it is the real time unfolding of the drama that is one of its attractions. Highly recommended.

Iceland Noir

Next Thursday, Iceland Noir begins. I’ll give a full update in my return as there is a intensive programme ofIcelandnoirlogoSm events and panels. Those who want to follow the event can see live tweeting from @NordicNoirBuzz with the #IcelandNoir hashtag. Last year’s conference was a huge success and it’s fast becoming a ‘must attend’ event for readers, writers and fans of Scandinavian crime fiction. Watch this space.

While I’m in Iceland I’m hoping to catch up on my backlog of reading. If you’ve sent me a book for review, I will get there, I promise. I hope you’re all having a good reading month.