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.


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.



Review: A D Garrett – Everyone Lies

AD GarrettI’ve never been particularly bothered about reading novels set in the place where I’m based. While living in Greece, my staple was Scandinavian thrillers and in London I read crime fiction from home and abroad. However, one attraction of Everyone Lies, the new book from A D Garrett, was its Manchester setting, a city I’m gradually getting reacquainted with after years away. It’s a different place to the one I left and yet very familiar. A D Garrett is the collaboration between crime writer Margaret Murphy and forensic scientist, Professor Dave Barclay. I’ve long been a fan of Margaret Murphy’s writing. Although I haven’t reviewed any of her books on this blog, she writes tense thrillers with a strong sense of place and I’m pleased she’s turned her attention to Manchester.

DI Kate Simms is a former fast-track detective whose career was derailed after a case when she gave information to a colleague that had far reaching ramifications. Forensics expert Professor Nick Fennimore is her former lover who is mourning the loss of his wife and child and working as a lecturer in Scotland. When a succession of prostitutes are murdered in central Manchester, Kate Simms pleads for Nick’s expertise in helping her solve the case and reignite her career. But their fractious personal relationship hides wounds that give those who wish to damage their careers once more plenty of opportunity to do so.

Writing duos are a difficult thing to get right but when they work well they can give a novel added depth. I’d love to hear how Murphy and Barclay wrote the book because the narrative has a consistent feel to it, even when steeped in technical forensic detail. The minutiae of forensic analysis is dealt with in an interesting way and adds depth to an solid murder plot. What is particularly touching is the way in which both Simms and Fennimore, in their respective roles, are determined to elicit the cause of death of a group of women who have sunk so low that their killings have barely been registered as suspicious.

The characters are given a huge amount of back story and the book at times read like a sequel as plenty of the narrative is given over to the loss of Nick’s wife and his previous relationship with Kate. I thought this was a clever device but I kept having to remind myself that there is no previous book, just an interesting story that I suspect will be explored in later novels.

Everyone Lies is an excellent début by A D Garrett which, given the pedigree of the writers, should come as no surprise. Thanks to Constable and Robinson for the copy of my book.

Harrogate Crime Writing Festival #2

A second post on the crime writing festival that took place in Harrogate last week-end. I had been looking forward to the New Blood AL photopanel and I wasn’t disappointed. Moderated by Val McDermid, it featured the talented Anya Lispka along with other debut writers Derek B Miller, Colette McBeth and Malcolm Mackay. The writers gave a brief overview of their books and what had prompted them to write within the crime fiction genre. What was interesting was not all the writers set out to write a crime novel but were influenced by the conventions of the genre that allowed them to tell the story they wanted to write. The authors also shared with us their journey to publication and the ups and downs of a writer’s life. A fascinating panel and a must-see for me every year. Anya can be seen with her fellow panelists standing on the far left of the photo.

Much of the rest of the festival involved me catching up with friends I’ve met over the years who are too numerous to mention here and I run the risk of missing someone out. All I can say that it was great catching up with you all. Crime writers, readers, bloggers and reviewers are some of the friendliest people I know and I’ve made some great friends.

Saturday evening at Harrogate is marked by the crime fiction quiz. This year I was on the stellar team featuring writers Martin Edwards, Paul Johnston, Margaret Murphy, Linda Stratmann and Martin’s agent James Wills. With a team of such calibre you would expect a decent ranking. Well, we came second. Next year maybe….