Mari Hannah- Killing For Keeps

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Killing For Keeps is the fifth instalment of the excellent DCI Kate Daniels series, and once again consolidates Hannah’s growing reputation at the core of the British crime genre, alongside the names of Denise Mina, Ann Cleeves and Sharon Bolton.

Two brothers from the same criminal family die within hours of each other, five miles apart: one on the edge of a Newcastle industrial estate, the other in a busy A & E department, unseen by the triage team. Both victims have suffered horrific, brutal and bloody injuries (rubs hands with ghoulish glee). As the investigation in the toerags’ deaths gathers pace, our estwhile heroine Daniels, gets drawn into some moral conundrums, which inevitably lead to her breaking of the rules. As the body count rises, Hannah transports us from Newcastle, to Scotland and then to the warmer climes of Europe, as Daniels and her intrepid sidekick DS Hank Gormley navigate the dangerous waters of this particularly testing investigation to its bloody conclusion.

Being a little disillusioned with some of the British crime thrillers over the past year, Hannah has delivered a breath of fresh air once again. Although I would hesitate to say that Killing For Keeps was as good personally as the previous book, Monument To Murder  with its near perfect rendition of police procedural and location, even a slightly less good book from Hannah still steals the competition amongst her peers. As usual Hannah is spot on in terms of her forensic detail, the inner workings of a murder investigation, and the professional demands this places on Daniels and her team. Although I felt myself less engaged with the tit-for-tat killing of the brothers grim, and its consequences among the criminal fraternity, it is the allure of Hannah’s characterisation of Daniels and her cohorts that really carries the book.

Up to now most of the books have been driven by the knotty emotional entanglement of Daniels and her very off/on lover psychologist Jo Soulsby. Although this story goes some way to resolving the ups and downs of this personal relationship, what I found most engaging were the slight chinks that appeared in Daniels’ professional armour. With the distressing death of one of her unofficial informers hitting her hard, this investigation causes Daniels’ to fly beneath the radar of professional standards. We bear witness to a previously unseen side of her that makes the morality of her actions come under scrutiny, and Daniels goes a bit maverick. And I liked it. With the unfolding of the investigation, Daniels forms an unlikely respect for a member of the criminal fraternity, particularly when he saves Gormley’s skin, and it was good to see her loosen her fixed ideals as the book progressed. As usual I enjoyed the repartee between Daniels with not only her partner, Gormley, and the rest of her team but also the spiky but respectful relationship with her superior officer Superintendent Bright. And it was nice to see a little touch of Cupid’s arrow, with everyone’s love lives being placed on a more even keel…until something or someone upsets the apple-carts I suspect!

Another good addition to the series, and thanks to Hannah’s assured control of back story, this is a series you can dip into at any point. But why would you dip? Start at the beginning with The Murder Wall and give yourselves a treat. Happy reading.

See more reviews of Killing For Keeps at Crimepieces   Crime Fiction Lover.com  and from Pamreader

(With thanks to Macmillan for the ARC)

Raven’s Crime Debut of 2014

_DSC0185 (Common Raven)Well, what an incredibly close-fought competition this was and having read so many debuts this year, a mammoth task to select one clear winner! So, in the spirit of fairness, I will give some very honourable mentions to the following before revealing my winner…

 

neelyNeely Tucker- Ways of The Dead: I had a sneaky eye on this one from the minute it arrived into the bookstore where I work, due to the dual temptations of a cover recommendation from Michael Connelly, and a Washington setting promising echoes of George Pelecanos. To be honest, I could not have been any more delighted with this book, as it not only delivered in spades from this starting point, but also imbued all the social critique and wry humour of The Wire too. I know. You’re intrigued now too aren’t you?

Read my review  here

fewNadia Dalbuono- The Few: A singularly impressive Italian set crime debut that I cannot recommend highly enough. The story focuses on Detective Leone Scamarcio, the son of a once powerful mafia figure. Scamarcio has turned his back on the family business and is on the Rome police force. He is handed a file containing compromising photographs of the Italian foreign secretary with male prostitutes, and soon after that embroiled in the disappearance of a young American girl on holiday with her family. With the possible links between both cases revealing themselves to our suave detective, Dalbuono conjurs up a thriller that is dark, compelling and totally unputdownable.

Read my review here

springCilla & Rolf Bjorlind- Spring Tide: Opening with the unsettling murder of a young pregnant woman at the time of the spring tide, twenty-four years previously and now designated as a cold case: a case which a young police trainee, Olivia Ronning, is designated as a summer project. The plot unfolds in a number of directions, bringing the reader into the world of contemporary Sweden and a series of brutal attacks on the homeless community, cold-bloodedly filmed and uploaded to social media sites, a series of attacks that the police are failing to solve. An assured Scandinavian debut that kept me completely gripped…

Read my review  here

 

And the winner is…

 

the-lying-down-roomThe Lying- Down Room is an astounding, emotive and utterly gripping French debut thriller by Anna Jaquiery that it was my great pleasure to review in June. I didn’t think that there was anyone to challenge Pierre Lemaitre (author of Alex and Irene)  in my affections as a French crime author par excellence but delighted to discover that there is. I implore you to discover this one too!

The Lying Down Room introduces us to the charismatic and dedicated Chief Inspector Serge Morel. The story opens in Paris in the stifling August heat, and Morel is called to examine a disturbing crime scene. An elderly woman has been brutally murdered to the soundtrack of Faure’s Requiem, and her body grotesquely displayed. The reasons for this murder and the choice of victim baffle Morel and his team.

But our detective has problems of his own. His father, such an influence in his life, is descending into the grip of senility. If that weren’t enough for him, Morel is having an affair with a friend’s wife, but has become unsettled by the reappearance of his lost love, Mathilde. Like so many other fictional detectives, Morel has a quirky interest to relieve his angst and focus his mind. In his case it’s origami.

As the investigation continues, and further murders happen, his fingers fold faster and faster. He makes a connection between the victims and two individuals – a middle aged man and a young boy – who distribute religious pamphlets in the suburbs. Soon his inquiries take him back into the past, away from Paris into the French countryside, and eventually to the heart of Soviet Russia. A tragic story begins to unfold.

In terms of characterisation, The Lying Down Room contains all the key ingredients needed to herald the arrival of a new detective in the crime fiction genre. Morel is a very carefully constructed and wonderfully realised character. He combines natural charm and humour that immediately resonate. His interactions in both his professional and personal lives allow the many different facets of his character to shine – like the focused and dedicated police officer, and the man thwarted in love. There are some intensely moving scenes between him and his father. This relationship is filled with pathos, adding poignancy to Morel’s situation. Morel is a man of contradictions with his character being all the more emotionally interesting for it, and consequently the scene is set for further exploration of this detective.

The narrative is particularly impressive, with nice, clean delineation between the various strands that come into play within the plot. Not only is the central murder storyline well paced and realistic, but as Jaquiery expands the story to encompass the personal narratives of the perpetrators themselves, she weaves together various locations and timelines. What emerges is an incredibly human tale of lost opportunities and wicked twists of fate that can put an individual on the path towards murder. Cleverly, this aspect of the novel invokes natural sympathy in the reader as we bear witness to the incredibly sad events in our antagonists’ pasts, evinced in the stark portrayal of life in Soviet Russia, and the mental and physical wounds this produces. At times, Jaquiery handles the sheer emotional heartache of some of these scenes more in the vein of literary fiction rather than a genre crime novel.

There is little to fault in this debut, combining as it does a superbly plotted and emotive criminal investigation with the introduction of a police protagonist more than imbued with enough charm and interest to carry the weight of a series. Anna Jaquiery demonstrates all the natural flair and quirks of French crime fiction that fans of Vargas, Lemaitre, et al, will relish reading. More than proud to proclaim this as my debut of the year.

 

Raven’s Best Discovery of 2014…

_DSC0185 (Common Raven)Ooh, I love this time of year, as I cast my mind back to all the wonderful and not-so-wonderful books that I have encountered over the past twelve months. Starting a series of posts on the highlights of my reading year, I feel that I must start with this. My favourite discovery of 2014 has to be Marco Malvaldi, an Italian crime author with more than one string to his bow. I have read and reviewed three of his books this year at Crimefictionlover.com , but am keen as mustard for more people to discover this clever, witty and hugely entertaining writer, with the added bonus of Howard Curtis’ pitch perfect translations. I implore you to enter the madcap world of amateur sleuth Massimo the barman, and the curmudgeonly elderly patrons of his bar, with whom you will share more than a few wry smiles along the way…

gameforfive200Game For Five is the first instalment in the Bar Lume series, which are bestsellers in the author’s native Italy. Set in a small coastal town in Tuscany, the book features Massimo – a barman and amateur sleuth – and a gaggle of hilarious old timers in their 70s and 80s. Between downing shots of espresso, and lively card games, Massimo and his cohorts while away the time chatting and arguing. When a young girl is brutally murdered near their watering hole, and left in a trash can, they start theorising about events surrounding her death.

The victim’s less than moral lifestyle makes everyone think her death is connected to the world of drugs and casual sex in which she was immersed. Two of the prime suspects in her murder are linked to this very lifestyle. Out of their love of gossip and their wit and intelligence, the old friends at Bar Lume begin to pull the case to pieces.

With his connection to the discovery of the body, Massimo is coerced into the role of amateur sleuth and becomes the overseer of this band of merry pensioners. He systematically scrutinises their friends and neighbours. Add into the mix an arrogant yet ineffectual local police officer called Fusco, who investigates the murder, and the scene is set for the amateurs to solve the crime.

The book has an endorsement from Andrea Camilleri, and if you are an admirer of the Inspector Montalbano series you won’t be disappointed. The characterisation is absolutely marvelous throughout, from the hangdog barman Massimo through to the unruly pensioners with their politically incorrect observations and acidic treatment of their neighbours, who are possible suspects.

What I found particularly interesting were the slight differences in the relationships Massimo has with each player in the piece. His elderly customers exasperate and entertain him in equal measure. With the barmaid, Tiziana, there is consistently flirtatious and affectionate interaction. As Massimo becomes more entwined with the murder investigation there are some wonderfully spiky scenes between him and Inspector Fusco. They stiffen Massimo’s resolve to find the real culprit, and bring justice for the victim’s mother, with whom he confers during the course of his unsolicited investigation. Massimo really does don the hat of a detective, systematically eliminating potential suspects, and gradually working out who the real killer is.

He is a multi-layered and empathetic character, and along with the colourful members of the community in which he resides, adds a real texture and solidity to the plot. The unruly old timers are fantastically well-realised, and the barbed wit and general bonhomie between them is a delight throughout the book. They’re full of humour and yet make knowing nods to the frustrations growing old. In relation to the humour, I would make special mention of Howard Curtis’ translation, which seems to convey the atmosphere, dialogue and lively writing style of the author perfectly.

With a great blend of humour and underlying darkness, Game For Five, proves to be an excellent introduction to the owner and customers of Bar Lume and their small community. An entertaining and thoroughly enjoyable read.

Three-Card Monte is the second instalment in the Bar Lume series. Set in a small coastal town in Tuscany, the book once again features Massimo – a barman and amateur sleuth – and a gaggle of hilarious old timers. Between espresso, and lively card games, Massimo and his cohorts while away the time chatting and arguing, but nothing sets their tongues a-wagging more than an unsolved crime.

The Twelfth International Workshop on Macromolecular and Biomacromolecular Chemistry – “What a waste of capital letters,” one character comments – has descended upon the small coastal town of Pineta in Northern Italy. Massimo and Aldo, one of the curmudgeonly pensioners, are to provide catering during its coffee and lunch breaks. Much excitement and speculation ensues when an esteemed Japanese professor dies under mysterious circumstances – it is quickly deemed a homicide.

Massimo reluctantly reprises his role as an amateur detective when summoned by the marvellously ineffectual Inspector Fusco to aid the investigation. With the conference ending in three days, with all delegates heading back to their native countries, there is little time to catch the killer. But fear not. Within the safety of their favourite watering hole, Massimo and his aged band of speculators have their own theories and serendipitous insights into the murder and who is culpable.

From the opening chapter Malvaldi instantly draws us back into his cynical and witty writing style that so impressed in the first book. Koichi Kawaguchi is seen as nervous, apprehensive of Italy’s chaos and of attending the conference. He ponders the travails of the days ahead. Meanwhile, Massimo is blighted by the installation of WiFi in Bar Lume – it only works at one table, under a tree, which is invariably occupied by his stubborn, elderly cohorts. There’s a less than serious tone to this murder mystery, but it’s one that will entertain and delight in equal measure. Malvaldi’s attention to characterisation is superb throughout, as you find yourself, like Massimo, exasperated by his unruly pensioners but thoroughly entertained by their non-PC observations, saucy humour, and scathing complaints about their friends and neighbours.

In common with Andrea Camilleri and Marco Vichi, the inherent wit of the book is tempered by an intriguing murder mystery. Malvaldi has constructed a neat and engaging crime plot, nicely peppered with scientific geekery. It illustrates perfectly the competitive professional rivalries that exist in the scientific professions, and the race to make that one great discovery, and how far others will go to thwart this. The level of detail that Malvaldi insinuates into the plot adds to the overall enjoyment of the mystery, lending a credible feel to the whole affair. His fluid and engaging prose with its perfectly placed vignettes of humour is totally entertaining, but yet sates the thirst of those craving a tricksy and puzzling murder mystery. An absolute gem.

And why not seek out this cheeky little stand alone with its tongue-in-cheek on the Golden Age murder mystery genre…

A country house murder mystery, complete with locked room conundrum and a nod to the Golden Age, The Art of Killing Well is set in a Tuscan castle in the year 1895. It’s the home of the seventh Barone di Roccapendente and his extended family, all of whom seem indolent, rude or quite simply barking mad.

On this particular weekend they plan to hunt wild boar. The Barone has invited not only the reputable photographer Signor Ciceri, but also the real life chef Pellegrino Artusi who is compiling his masterpiece, The Science of Cooking and The Art of Eating Well.

With two cats as companions, and his well-thumbed edition of Sherlock Holmes, Artusi’s presence is an absolute joy, giving rise to the inveterate snobbery of the Barone’s clan, however he is generally indifferent to the supposed wealth and influence of his hosts. Things get underway with a murder. This time, it wasn’t the butler… no, he was the victim. Artusi, with his nose for a mystery, relishes the challenge of unmasking a killer. As he delves into the inner workings of this not so noble family, he uncovers a hotbed of gambling, sexual shenanigans and greed, but can he reveal the true murderer?

Few books make me laugh out loud, but the acidic and wry humour here is pure entertainment. With the gentle intrusion of an omniscient narrator, who provides a series of observations from a contemporary viewpoint as well as injecting dry asides as to the moral integrity of the aristocratic family, the book sparkles with wit. Malvaldi excels in a series of humorous little vignettes, detailing the weaknesses and foibles of these eccentric and incredibly dislikable people. Characters are described variously as having the intelligence of a fruit bowl, or dressing in a cross between a monk’s habit and a grain silo. Much fun is poked at the idiosyncrasies of the rich along with cynical asides about the politics and social mores of the period. The natural alacrity and joie de vivre of Artusi is set against the rather buttoned down dryness of his eminent hosts. The author garners considerable enjoyment from the jokes at their expense.

The rumbustious Artusi is a wonderfully warm and multi-layered character, seemingly intent on just sampling the earthy and rustic Tuscan fare for his cookery book, but actually donning the mantle of detective with consummate ease, walking in the footsteps of his hero Holmes. Added to the mix is local policeman l’inspettore Artistico, who has little time or patience for the demands of the Roccapendente family, but who forms a touching alliance with our chef in the course of the investigation, particularly in the wake of a second attempted murder.

It is not a thick book, but a fully satisfying one not only due to how the unfortunate butler is dispatched, but also because of how this death unearths such a viper’s nest of corruption. The plot unfolds with all the charisma of a traditional Agatha Christie, but its near-the-knuckle humour and bizarre characters provide an all together more fulfilling reading experience. A perfectly bijou and mischievous crime book, I would be more than happy to read it again in years to come.

(With thanks to Europa Editions and Quercus for allowing me to discover Malvaldi)

Quercus #GreatestGift Christmas Campaign #Win Crime Bundle Giveaway

XMAS-Quote-Card_1000x500px_REV2-487x243 I am very pleased to have been chosen to take part in the Quercus Christmas Campaign and to be able to share my thoughts on why books make the #GreatestGift. As an extra bonus, there’s a giveaway courtesy of Quercus , and you can win a wonderful bundle of 5 crime books- cherry-picked by me. So let’s crack(er) on…

As the Yuletide season descends upon us, and our thoughts turn to giving gifts to our nearest and dearest, why do books make the greatest gift? IMG_20141204_233711As a passionate reader, I can only speak from the heart about the power of books, and how they accompany us throughout the course of our lives. Books can open our eyes to the world, from our first tentative steps as children into the realm of reading and imagination and stories, shared with parents, teachers and friends, and later as we define our own character, developing our own singular tastes in books. Books can take you onto magical flights of fancy, into alternate worlds and realities, peopled by strange characters, and mystical kingdoms. They open a window into other people’s lives; their fears, their happiness, their struggles, and their victories. You can find people who are like you, people who are the polar opposite to you, people who inspire you, people who have shaped history, and people you’d rather not meet in a dark alley. You can be transported across the globe to places you can only dream of visiting from darkest Peru to Timbuktu, and all points in between. In a high-speed world, books allow you to put the brakes on, to take time to relax, reflect, and indulge yourself in a little me-time. Books can awaken your senses, and tug at your emotions, fuelled by your own engagement and imagination. They give you freedom of thought, and interpretation. Books can be practical, informative or beautiful, and can be passed down through generations. Books are to be talked about, to be shared, or just simply to be cherished. I think they are wonderful, and without a doubt, the greatest gift to give or receive…

GIVEAWAY ****NOW CLOSED***

So with the theme of #GreatestGift in mind here’s your chance to win a bundle of crime books, and what a cracking selection it is! getImage     getImage1     getImage2     getImage3     getImage4 + passion-for-reading-pos_thumb Yep- all 5 of these brilliant crime reads could be yours, plus a jolly smart bookmark/poster/postcard set, all courtesy of the lovely folks at Quercus. To enter the giveaway Tweet @ravencrime @QuercusBooks using the #GreatestGift hashtag and answer this: Which book do you think makes the #GreatestGift? One entry per person and the competition closes at 8pm today ( Monday 8th December) The lucky winner will be announced shortly after. Good luck everyone! Don’t forget to Follow the #GreatestGift hashtag on Twitter, find details of the full campaign at the Quercus blog, and be sure to check out Fantasy Faction tomorrow for more on the #GreatestGift and another giveaway of an amazing bundle of books.   (The wonderful book illustration is by Tom Gauld from a recent cover of the New Yorker. Visit his website   here )

Attention budding authors! BNBS announces a quest to find Britain’s Next Bestsellers…

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Competition alert – on a quest to find Britain’s Next Bestsellers!!

The announcement of the launch of a fantastic new writing competition on December 1st 2014. Britain’s Next Bestseller.co.uk B(BNBS) and Scriggler.com are teaming up to look for the best 10 crime/thriller short stories to feature in a compilation book. The 10 shortlisted stories will get a crowd-funding campaign that may see their story published and sold around the world. All author royalties earned from the book sales will be donated to “The Hope Academy for Girls” – A self-sustaining, multi-purpose school for at-risk girls in the western rural area of Sierra Leone, West Africa. So not only could you get to see your work in print, but you could help to fund the education of young girls in West Africa. A cause very close to our hearts.

The competition runs from 1st December 2014 until 31st January 2015 and is open to ALL authors whatever your country of residence. So whether you have always wanted to write a short story or you have a manuscript under your bed, you have until 31st January to enter. Remember the theme is crime/thriller and ideally word count should not exceed 7,500 words. But don’t fret if it does. Once you have your manuscript ready you will need to register with Scriggler.com and publish your story to their site. Details on how to do this are below.

The overall winner will also see their story’s title chosen as the compilation’s title. Each winner will receive 10 free copies of the book and a 50% discount on any further copies they would like to purchase once published.

Britain’s Next Bestseller are proud to be joining forces with Scriggler.com in their quest to find Britain’s Next Bestsellers. We hope you are as excited as we are!

How will we select the winners?

  • A shortlist of stories will be created on the basis of points (Scriggles) they receive from the audience. 
  • The final list of 10-12 stories for the book will be selected from this shortlist by the judges.
  • The winning stories will be put together into one collection.
  • The overall winner will see the title of their story used as the title of the entire collection.
  • Winners will be notified within 28 days of the competition closing. Should the number of entrants exceed expectations and longer time be required for judging, the entrants will be made aware of this via social media channels so we would encourage entrants to continue following both BNBS and Scriggler on Twitter and/or Facebook after the competition has ended.

How will the crowdfunding campaign work?

 

  • BNBS will create a project page on www.britainsnextbestseller.co.uk for the collection.
  • BNBS will create a short trailer video for the book, a book cover and populate the project page, all of this is free of charge. Browse the manuscripts on BNBS site for examples.
  • The Authors of the winning entries together with BNBS and Scriggler, will then need to secure 250 pre-orders for the book between them within 8 weeks of launching the crowdfunding campaign. This should be very achievable.
  • 12 weeks later the book will be printed. BNBS will look to secure shelf space with the appropriate booksellers.

 

How do you register and publish on Scriggler.com?

  • Registration on Scriggler is very straightforward and only takes a minute.
  • Once registered authors are able to publish immediately.
  • Authors maintain all rights to their publications and can remove them from the platform at any time.
  • All publications are promoted by Scriggler via other social media outlets.
  • In order to take part in this competition, participants must publish their entries in the ‘Story’ category and use ‘BNBS’ as a tag.
  • All entries are eligible for the standard monthly writing contest run on Scriggler, with winners receiving additional promotion as a prize. This will not have an impact on BNBS competition as the final shortlist will be chosen by the panel of judges.

 

What are the publishing agreement terms?

 

  • The royalties’ are 50% net receipts. However the Author’s royalties in this instance will go to The Hope Academy for Girls – for information about the great work they do go to www.britainsnextbestseller.co.uk/index.php/sites/giving_back
  • If the crowdfunding campaign is successful, Authors will get 10 free copies of the published collection and be able to buy additional copies at 50% discount once published.
  • If the book is published, the author licences BNBS to publish, print, sell and distribute their book. The author retains the copyright.

Introducing BNBS

Hopefully we have explained everything you need to know about the competition. Now a little about BNBS and Scriggler. BNBS launched in March 2014. We offer authors a new, fairer, more profitable and faster way to publish their manuscripts. We empower readers so they can decide the books that get published. The books they want to read! And it would appear that both writers and readers agree this is a good idea… in the first seven months of business 16 authors have been awarded publishing deals already!

 How Does BNBS Work?

Any UK author can submit a manuscript to us. As long as it is unpublished and fully edited. We agree a pre-order target (usually around 250 books) and a deadline (8 to 16 weeks). Our authors have access to a vibrant online platform via www.britainsnextbestseller.co.uk and powerful social media tools. They must demonstrate demand for their book by securing their target pre-orders. If they do they are guaranteed a publishing contract, with industry beating royalties. They will then see their book go from manuscript to printed masterpiece in just 12 weeks. The more popular a manuscript is, the more resources we throw at it to make it a Bestseller. If the public want to read it we want to publish it!

Readers get a great deal too… browse exciting manuscripts, search out and support that next bestselling author, their name printed in every edition of the book, along with getting a copy of the book two weeks before public release.

Introducing our new friends Scriggler

Scriggler.com is the first content platform focused on helping authors maximise their outreach. A hub for writers, poets, thinkers, scientists, activists – anyone looking to share their writing on any topic, in any genre, in any level of detail. Contributors keep the rights to their work. All publications are easily sharable, authors get access to analytics on audience engagement. There is a number of tools and algorithms for the readers to discover content relevant to them. Scriggler aims to democratise the information flow and make it easy to connect authors with the right audience and readers with the right content.

We are excited to be offering our followers this opportunity. All that is left to say is good luck, enjoy and we look forward to reading your stories! Remember the competition opens 1st December 2014 and you have until 31st January 2015!

The boring bit – rules of Entry

  • Participants need to register and publish their entries on Scriggler.com
  • All entries must be previously unpublished.
  • Entry is not limited to UK residents. Authors can be based in any country for the purposes of this competition.
  • Only entire stories would be considered, no extracts.
  • Word count should not exceed 7,500 words.
  • While authors keep their rights when publishing on Scriggler, the purpose of the contest is to compile and publish a book of short stories and winning authors would be expected to enter into an agreement with BNBS. Please consider this when entering.

If you have any questions about the competition please contact Clare from BNBS via clare@bnbsbooks.co.uk or Dmitry from Scriggler via selemir@scriggler.com

You can follow BNBS : www.facebook.com/BNBSbooks and Twitter: @BNBSbooks

You can follow Scriggler: www.facebook.com/Scriggler and Twitter: @IScriggle

November Round-Up and Raven’s Book of the Month

_DSC0185 (Common Raven)Another busy month of reading and reviewing by the Raven, not only here, but also in conjunction with the brilliant New Talent November feature that has run for a month over on Crime Fiction Lover . NTN November has revealed some great new talents and I’m sure you will all discover some debut crime novels to tickle your fancy!

Elsewhere, there was much talk of Iceland Noir 2014 and check out these sites for some fascinating and informative posts around the events that took place:

Mrs Peabody Investigates

Crimepieces

Euro But Not Trash

In sad news for crime fiction fans everywhere I was called upon to post a tribute to the wonderful P. D. James on her passing. She will be greatly missed amongst readers and fellow authors alike. P.D.James 1920-2014 A Retrospective

On a happier note I was pleased as punch to take part in David Baldacci’s UK Blog Tour with a specially written post on the roles of heroes and villains in his writing and reading- David Baldacci:Giveaway-The-Escape

I also need to pass on thanks again to Andrew James for his nomination for Raven as a Very Inspiring Blogger- much appreciated! Andrew James Writer

December beckons, and with it I will post a series of articles revealing my best reads of the year and new discoveries, as well as the usual reviews and crime news. Working in book retailing, December is a busy, busy month for me, but wearing this hat I would urge you to remember that there is no greater gift than a book! Unless you can afford that natty sports car, or a condo in Florida…

Have a good month :)

Books reviewed this month:

Matthew Pritchard- Werewolf

Elly Griffiths- The Zig Zag Girl

Chris Ewan- Dark Tides

Tammy Cohen- Dying For Christmas

J. G. Jurado- The Tipping Point

Nadia Dalbuono- The Few (www.crimefictionlover.com)

Sheila Bugler- The Waiting Game (www.crimefictionlover.com)

Paddy Magrane- Disorder (www.crimefictionlover.com)

Alexander Hartnung- Until The Debt Is Paid(www.crimefictionlover.com)

Raven’s Book of The Month

fewRead as part of the New Talent November feature at Crime Fiction Lover this debut novel really struck a chord with me, and I have now hand-sold all my copies at the bookstore where I work. Yes- it’s that good. Focusing on the less salubrious activities of a group of Italian politicians, and the disappearance of a young American girl on holiday in Italy with her parents, Dalbuono has constructed a compelling plot, that will keep you guessing until the end. Add to that her police protagonist, the charming and determined  Detective Leone Scamarcio, who has seemingly turned his back on his Mafia connections, and what Dalbuono has achieved is a thoroughly accomplished debut crime novel that will leave you itching for another in the series. A truly 5 star read and perfect for fans of top notch Euro crime thrillers.

The TBR Double Dog Dare Challenge

tbr-dare-2014I have been tempted into taking this challenge by James Reads Books , Jose at The Game’s Afoot , Tracey at  Crime Reader  and Marina Sofia at Finding Time To Write , in the vain hope that in-roads will be made into the teetering mass of books that comprise my To Be Read mountain…

James says: “Is your TBR list getting you down?  Do you own more books than you can read in one lifetime?  Are there so many books on your nightstand that you have no place to set your coffee mug down in the morning? The TBR Double Dog Dare is here to save the day! The TBR Double Dog Dare is not a reading challenge; it’s a dare. This means that people who do not participate in reading challenges are allowed to participate. I’m not challenging you; I’m double-daring you. All you have to do to win the TBR Double Dog Dare is to read only from your TBR pile between January 1 and April 1. You can still buy books, you just can’t read them until the TBR Double Dog Dare is over. (You can make exceptions for books clubs, arcs, and other things you really want to make exceptions for. The TBR Double Dog Dare is all about having fun. So if you join in for a week or a month, no worries.)” Join the fun at:  James Reads Books Are you brave enough to join us?

P. D. James- 1920-2014- A BBC Retrospective

PD James- 1920 – 2014

Like many, many crime readers across the globe, I was saddened to hear of the death of P. D. James today- a consistently entertaining and hugely influential crime writer whose books have been a constant source of pleasure for readers and fellow authors alike. I can offer no better tribute to this remarkable writer than this selection of her finest moments broadcast across the BBC that perfectly illustrate her talent, integrity and  the wonderful feistiness that defined her character. She will be greatly missed.

P D JAMES at the BBC

Famous for her detective Adam Dalgliesh, James penned more than 20 books which sold millions around the world, with many adapted for film and TV. Her best known novels include The Children of Men, The Murder Room and her Pride and Prejudice continuation Death Comes to Pemberley. BBC Arts presents a selection of PD James highlights from the archive.

From the archive

PD James (Getty)

About the author

PD James always rejected the notion that detective novels were not proper literature. She proved her point with a string of well-researched and beautifully constructed crime stories.

Read more

Born in Oxford on 3 August, 1920, from her early days at Cambridge High School for Girls, Phyllis Dorothy James nurtured an ambition to write.

The daughter of a civil servant, she was forced by her family’s financial circumstances to leave school at 16 and find a job as a filing clerk.

Baroness James of Holland Park, as she was latterly known, began writing seriously in the mid-1950s, composing parts of her first novel during her commute to work.

The resulting book Cover My Face, published in 1962, introduced readers to Adam Dalgliesh, the intellectual, poetry-writing senior officer of the Metropolitan Police who would feature in most of her crime novels.

Dalgliesh was the latest incarnation of that bastion of English crime writing, the gentleman detective, epitomised by Lord Peter Wimsey and Albert Campion. However, unlike them, Dalgleish was a serving police officer – as was Colin Dexter’s Inspector Morse, who would follow a decade later.

But it was not until 1980, with the publication of her eighth book Innocent Blood, that her small but loyal following exploded into mass international popularity.

Her books were not cosy in the style of Arthur Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie. Her victims died in brutal and often shocking ways and the perpetrator was not always brought to justice.

Speaking to the BBC in November 2013, the author said she was hard at work on a new detective novel.

Credit: Simon Richardson, BBC Readings Unit

Blog Tour-Guest Post- David Baldacci + Giveaway- The Escape

daveTo celebrate the launch of David Baldacci’s latest novel, The Escape, as well as the paperback publication of his fourth Will Robie novel, The Target,  I am  pleased to welcome the author to Raven Crime Reads as part of his blog tour. In this special blog post David discusses the roles of heroes and villains in his writing…

“For a writer who didn’t start out crafting thrillers, I have certainly written a lot of them. And they’re fun and fast and people seem to really love them. But along the way I’ve tried my hand at other genres and enjoyed them all. Whether it be a family drama, a light-hearted mystery on a train over Christmas or a YA fantasy title, for me the story is the thing. If you keep doing the same thing over and over, you’ll get the same result. That’s why I strive mightily to get out of my comfort zone and challenge myself to do things differently. I like to create different series with very diverse characters inhabiting each, to throw off complacency by tackling subject matters that force me to go out and learn, and then write, about a totally new world. Fear is a great antidote to complacency and fear is a great thing for a writer. Otherwise, you become formulaic.

I think readers enjoy crime fiction for a variety of reasons, aside from the obvious fact that it tends to be exciting and fast-paced. As children we loved (and hated) to be scared by the boogeyman. We wanted to look under the bed or in the dark closet, but at the same time we were terrified to do so. Adults retain this childlike wonder about being scared. We like to be scared from a safe distance, and that’s what crime fiction provides. It also allows readers to root for heroes, which we always need, both in real life and between the pages. And it allows us to root against, even if we find them curiously fascinating, the villains. After this battle is concluded and one side (usually good) wins out, we have closure, which people also like, but sometimes, maybe oftentimes, do not find in real life.

In that way, a good crime story can be perfect for what ails us!

Among my favorite villains in my own books is Jackson from The Winner. That book is fifteen years old and I still get fan letters asking if Jackson is going to come back. Chung-Cha from The Target was probably the most sympathetic villain I ever created. Sam Quarry from First Family is a close second on that score. I tend to favor villains who live in the gray area, doing the wrong thing for what they believe are the right reasons. Knights in shining armor are scarce if even nonexistent. Good people do bad things for what they believe are the right reasons. Robie and Reel are prime examples of that. Conversely, villains who are simply purely evil are boring. The gray in life is what fascinates me.”

David Baldacci is a worldwide bestselling novelist. With his books published in over 45 different languages and in more than 80 countries, and with over 110 million copies in print, he is one of the world’s favourite storytellers. David is also the co-founder, along with his wife, of the Wish You Well Foundation, a non-profit organization, dedicated to eliminating illiteracy across America. Visit his website here .

GIVEAWAY

Military CID investigator John Puller has returned from his latest case to learn that his brother, Robert, once a major in the United States Air Force and an expert in nuclear weaponry and cyber-security, has escaped from the Army’s most secure prison. Preliminary investigations show that Robert – convicted of treason – may have had help in his breakout. Now he’s on the run, and he’s the military’s number one target.John Puller has a dilemma. Which comes first: loyalty to his country, or to his brother? Blood is thicker than water, but Robert has state secrets which certain people will kill for. John does not know for sure the true nature of Robert’s crimes, nor if he’s even guilty. It quickly becomes clear, however, that his brother’s responsibilities were powerful and far-reaching.With the help of US intelligence officer Veronica Knox, both brothers move closer to the truth from their opposing directions. As the case begins to force John Puller into a place he thought he’d never be – on the other side of the law – even his skills as an investigator, and his strength as a warrior, might not be enough to save him. Or his brother…

I have a copy of The Escape  up for grabs as an early Christmas gift! For a chance to win just head over to Twitter and tweet me @ravencrime with the message ‘Escape with Baldacci’ and I will randomly select one lucky winner. The closing date is 3rd December and giveaway open to UK entrants only. Good luck!

 

Nadia Dalbuono- The Few

few

I have recently posted this review at  Crimefictionlover.com  as part of the New Talent November month of features. As this is a very strong contender for my book of the month I feel that the repetition is justified!  

This is the intriguing debut from an author who is originally from the UK but now lives in Italy, where The Few is set. The story focuses on Detective Leone Scamarcio, the son of a once powerful mafia figure. Scamarcio has turned his back on the family business and is on the Rome police force. He is handed a file containing compromising photographs of the Italian foreign secretary Giorgio Ganza with male prostitutes.

Scamarcio’s boss Garramone is a confidante of the country’s prime minister, and sends him to deal with the possible fallout, including the suspicious deaths of Ganza’s companions. As his investigation begins, a young American girl is spirited away from her parents on the beach in Elba, and Scamarcio finds himself drawn into her disappearance and possible links to his primary case. It turns out he has to call on his family’s mafia connections to navigate his way into the darkest currents of Italian society to uncover corruption and conspiracy.

Nicely sitting alongside the ranks of Donna Leon, Michael Dibdin and Tobias Jones, Nadia Dalbuono has crafted an engaging thriller with a fascinating and likeable police protagonist. Scamarcio is a multi-layered man, who on more than one occasion fulfils others’ perception of him as a brilliant maverick. He is a composite of dedicated detective counterbalanced with the strong roots of his family in the ‘Ndrangheta mafia, and is not shy of using his former connections to get to the bottom of this sordid case. He is persistent, clear-thinking (despite his occasional use of marijuana), and perhaps, echoing my favourite line in the book, unafraid to engage in more physical methods of extracting information. “I’m a busy man- places to go, people to mutilate,” he says.

In terms of plot, it’s hard to believe this is a debut novel, so cleverly does Dalbuono weave the various strands of the story together, unveiling a few surprises along the way. Running parallel to the main investigations are a series of cutaways to another stream of consciousness where it’s not initially clear who’s speaking. As the book progresses these come into focus for an unsettling denouement, reinforcing how far the sexual deviance and violence of those in power has spread in Italy. I enjoyed the way that Dalbuono provided an insight into the Roma immigrant community as the story played out. The rum doings of various branches of the branches of organised crime are described with relish.

As the action pivots between Rome, Elba and Naples, the rendition of location and local knowledge shines through every scene. The sights, sounds and atmosphere of each setting will invade your senses. Particularly sentient were the scenes where Scarmacio, in the course of his investigation, is dispatched to a coastal fortress prison housing a sex offender dubbed The Priest. Only accessible by boat, Dalbuono totally captures the forbidding atmosphere of this sinister location, and the inherent sense of fear that each visit produces. Likewise, Rome and its inhabitants are ripe in detail, bringing to the fore the vibrant and well known sights of the city, and the scenes in the seeming idyll of Elba’s tourist community take on a whole character of their own.

It is a delight to encounter a protagonist who I would be keen to meet again, and given such a promising beginning to a potential series, I very much hope this will be the case in subsequent books. The Few is a thoroughly enjoyable and thought-provoking debut.

This is the intriguing debut from an author who is originally from the UK but now lives in Italy, where The Few is set. The story focuses on Detective Leone Scamarcio, the son of a once powerful mafia figure. Scamarcio has turned his back on the family business and is on the Rome police force. He is handed a file containing compromising photographs of the Italian foreign secretary Giorgio Ganza with male prostitutes.

Scamarcio’s boss Garramone is a confidante of the country’s prime minister, and sends him to deal with the possible fallout, including the suspicious deaths of Ganza’s companions. As his investigation begins, a young American girl is spirited away from her parents on the beach in Elba, and Scamarcio finds himself drawn into her disappearance and possible links to his primary case. It turns out he has to call on his family’s mafia connections to navigate his way into the darkest currents of Italian society to uncover corruption and conspiracy.

Nicely sitting alongside the ranks of Donna Leon, Michael Dibdin and Tobias Jones, Nadia Dalbuono has crafted an engaging thriller with a fascinating and likeable police protagonist. Scamarcio is a multi-layered man, who on more than one occasion fulfils others’ perception of him as a brilliant maverick. He is a composite of dedicated detective counterbalanced with the strong roots of his family in the ‘Ndrangheta mafia, and is not shy of using his former connections to get to the bottom of this sordid case. He is persistent, clear-thinking (despite his occasional use of marijuana), and perhaps, echoing my favourite line in the book, unafraid to engage in more physical methods of extracting information. “I’m a busy man- places to go, people to mutilate,” he says.

In terms of plot, it’s hard to believe this is a debut novel, so cleverly does Dalbuono weave the various strands of the story together, unveiling a few surprises along the way. Running parallel to the main investigations are a series of cutaways to another stream of consciousness where it’s not initially clear who’s speaking. As the book progresses these come into focus for an unsettling denouement, reinforcing how far the sexual deviance and violence of those in power has spread in Italy. I enjoyed the way that Dalbuono provided an insight into the Roma immigrant community as the story played out. The rum doings of various branches of the branches of organised crime are described with relish.

As the action pivots between Rome, Elba and Naples, the rendition of location and local knowledge shines through every scene. The sights, sounds and atmosphere of each setting will invade your senses. Particularly sentient were the scenes where Scarmacio, in the course of his investigation, is dispatched to a coastal fortress prison housing a sex offender dubbed The Priest. Only accessible by boat, Dalbuono totally captures the forbidding atmosphere of this sinister location, and the inherent sense of fear that each visit produces. Likewise, Rome and its inhabitants are ripe in detail, bringing to the fore the vibrant and well known sights of the city, and the scenes in the seeming idyll of Elba’s tourist community take on a whole character of their own.

It is a delight to encounter a protagonist who I would be keen to meet again, and given such a promising beginning to a potential series, I very much hope this will be the case in subsequent books. The Few is a thoroughly enjoyable and thought-provoking debut.

(With thanks to Scribe for the ARC)