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Raven Crime Reads

Criminally good reads…

Month

April 2013

CRIMEFEST 2013- International Crime Fiction Convention

First organised in June 2008, CRIMEFEST has become one of the most popular dates in the crime fiction calendar. The annual convention draws top crime novelists, readers, editors, publishers and reviewers from around the world and gives delegates the opportunity to celebrate the genre in an informal atmosphere.

2013 Highlights include: bulletGala Dinner bulletInterviews with the featured Guest Authors and Toastmaster bulleteDunnit Award bulletSounds of Crime Awards bulletLast Laugh Award   In addition, there will be author panels, crime writing workshops, a pitch-an-agent strand, etc.

FEATURED GUEST AUTHOR/ TOASTMASTER
CREATING SHERLOCK
WORKSHOP LECTURER
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sherlock
Jeffery Deaver
[SPACE]
HIGHLIGHTED GUEST AUTHORS
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Participating authors include Ann Cleeves, Colin Cotterill, Lindsey Davis, Jeffrey Deaver,  Sophie Hannah, David Hewson, Peter James, Simon Kernick,  Robert Wilson, Anne Zouroudi, and many many more.

FULL PROGRAMME AND BOOKING INFORMATION HERE: : http://www.crimefest.com/

Venue: Bristol Marriott Royal Hotel, United Kingdom   Email: info@crimefest.com

Lauren Beukes- The Shining Girls

Product DetailsThe girl who wouldn’t die, hunting a killer who shouldn’t exist…

Chicago 1931. Harper Curtis, a violent drifter, stumbles on a house with a secret as shocking as his own twisted nature – it opens onto other times. He uses it to stalk his carefully chosen ‘shining girls’ through the decades – and cut the spark out of them.

He’s the perfect killer. Unstoppable. Untraceable. He thinks…

Chicago, 1992. They say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Tell that to Kirby Mazrachi, whose life was shattered after a brutal attempt to murder her. Still struggling to find her attacker, her only ally is Dan, an ex-homicide reporter who covered her case and now might be falling in love with her. As Kirby investigates, she finds the other girls – the ones who didn’t make it. The evidence is impossible. But for a girl who should be dead, impossible doesn’t mean it didn’t happen…

With a plethora of reviews having appeared already and a good amount of pre-publication publicity hype, I was both keen and intensely curious about this foray into crime from Lauren Beukes, author of the excellent Zoo City and Moxyland.

With a clever and quite unique premise The Shining Girls is something really quite different in crime fiction fare, but I almost fell at the first hurdle I must admit. Stupidly I read the first 50 pages or so in small chunks, racing to finish another book at the same time, so initially I was quite discombobulated by the changing timelines and was quickly losing track of what I had read. So…I started again, reading a larger block which worked so much better and causing me to engage much more with flow of the story and making the different timelines infinitely clearer. Beukes assuredly avoids the inherent pitfalls of changing timelines by ensuring that both the historical and more contemporary storylines are equally engaging, as we follow the dark deeds of Harper Curtis- a time travelling serial killer- and the story of Kirby Mazrachi- a young woman who has survived one of Curtis’ brutal attacks. Beukes transports us through the culturally and socially different periods of American history with ease, demonstrating her breadth of research to make each period perfect in detail and atmosphere. From the shanty towns born out of the Depression era and through the ensuing decades, the reader is instantly fixed in a time and place familiar through the smallest details, as Curtis travels back and forth through time attacking his female victims. It’s a very clever conceit for a story and one that I think Beukes pulls off with aplomb throughout.

I actually really liked the character of Curtis- serial killing psychopath that he is- and the exploration of the contrasting demons within his character. There were moments that you felt he was on the verge of desisting in his crimes, but the strength of his compulsion for killing is ultimately too strong to resist. As the book progresses, a showdown with Kirby, the heroine of the story, is unavoidable and I enjoyed the build-up to Curtis’ realisation that one of his ‘shining girls’ had evaded death at his hands. Kirby is again a compelling character with a wonderful balance of sassiness and a quiet vulnerability at play in her character. Her relationship with Dan, her mentor as an intern at a Chicago newspaper, is deftly handled, with their differences in character and age defining their stumbling but heart warming relationship.

I would say that I do tend to shy away from crime fiction that dips its toe in the realm of the fantastical, but I genuinely enjoyed this intriguing meld of crime and time travel, with the historical detail a major component of my ultimate enjoyment of the book. A different read for me, but one that I would definitely recommend.

Lauren Beukes is a novelist, TV scriptwriter, documentary maker, comics writer and occasional journalist. She won the 2011 Arthur C Clarke Award for her novel Zoo City, set in a fantastical Johannesburg where guilt manifests as spirit animal familiars. Her previous works include Moxyland, a dystopian cyberpunk thriller set in Cape Town under corporate apartheid. She helped create South Africa’s first half-hour animated TV show, URBO: The Adventures of Pax Afrika, and has written kids animated shows for Disney UK and Millimages in France. Visit her website here: http://laurenbeukes.com/

See the book trailer for The Shining Girls  at YouTube:  http://bit.ly/XYwIld

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(With thanks to HarperCollins for the ARC)

Sarah Pinborough- Mayhem

Product DetailsWhen a rotting torso is discovered in the vault of New Scotland Yard, it doesn’t take Dr Thomas Bond, Police Surgeon, long to realise that there is a second killer at work in the city where, only a few days before, Jack the Ripper brutally murdered two women in one night.  Though just as gruesome, this is the hand of a colder killer, one who lacks Jack’s emotion.  And, as more headless and limbless torsos find their way into the Thames, Dr Bond becomes obsessed with finding the killer. As his investigations lead him into an unholy alliance, he starts to wonder: is it a man who has brought mayhem to the streets of London, or a monster?

Being led by the hand through the sinister gas-lit streets of Victorian London by the marvellous Sarah Pinborough, this is masterful genre-defying  thriller that will endlessly feed your curiosity and mess with your mind…in a good way! Blending together all the atmosphere of a city gripped by fear in the shadow of Jack The Ripper, Pinborough draws on another unsolved series of murders from the same period, the Thames Torso murders, and melds and manipulates aspects of both investigations with an intriguing dose of the supernatural, in this the first of a projected series. So why was it so good, I hear you cry. Read on…

Mayhem introduces us to Dr Thomas Bond, Police Surgeon, a seemingly respectable and professional fellow who harbours more than a few demons of his own, suffering sleepless nights and not averse to trips to the seedy underbelly of the city to sate his desire for opium. With his involvement in the first grim discovery in the confines of Scotland Yard, he embarks on an investigation of his own into this heinous murder, joining forces with a mysterious priest and the real life figure of Aaron Kominski, a man deemed insane in the Ripper investigation and a chief suspect in the original case.  Pinborough’s assured craft of characterisation shines through in this unlikely trinity, with the dour Dr Bond immersed in a world of  supernatural influence so readily embraced by the beliefs and experiences of his two cohorts. The priest and Kominski have an unwavering belief in otherworldly forces, which sets them against Bond’s position of a man of science, but Bond’s belief in the tangible is unsettled by the priest’s tales of the curse of the Upir- a folkloric spirit who inhabits a man body baying for blood- and the strength and veracity of Kominski’s visions of the future. I thought the charaterisation of  all three protagonists was extremely well-executed throughout with the variances between their physical and mental characters seeming absolutely authentic, without resorting to the melodramatic characters of the penny dreadful, a trap that too many authors fall into when attempting to capture the spirit of this age. Kominski, in particular, I found most affecting and I admired the way that Pinborough drew so closely on the factual sources of this tormented man’s life to create such a credible character cleverly exposing the humanity that lay beyond his tortured soul. Equally the bringer of tales, the wild-eyed priest, was an extremely effective foil to Dr Bond, and toyed with our reactions to him having a largely quite sinister air throughout. Although I was not immediately enamoured with Dr Bond, who is to be the recurring figure of the series, I was converted by the end to the nuances of his character, and look forward to how the experience of this investigation will colour his actions in the next books.

I must confess to having a slight aversion to ostensibly crime thrillers set in this period, having been tainted by reading a right couple of groaners recently- probably the fault laying in the fact that they were chockful of Americanisms and badly edited- but my fears were assuaged instantly. The atmosphere is tangible throughout, capturing the sounds, sights and smells of this iconic period in London’s history. The portrayal of the professional and social world of Dr Bond was perfectly balanced with the poverty and criminality of the world of Kominski, with the barriers of  two men in completely different classes falling by the wayside in the hunt to capture a killer. As the storyline unfolded with a sojourn to the world of the Grand Tour and an ill-judged (for one character certainly) stopover in Eastern Europe, the reader is consistently entertained and wrongfooted throughout with the changing locales and a nicely terrifying search for a killer.

As you have probably ascertained, I really quite liked Mayhem, and if you enjoy your crime with a twist this will be a good read for you too. Packed full of attention to historical detail and with a marvellous band of characters, I think this marks the start of a great series.

Mayhem is released 25th April (Jo Fletcher Books) but treat yourself to a peek here: Want to read 3 chapters of @SarahPinborough  Mayhem completely free? Check it out here: http://www.quercusbooks.co.uk/mayhem/ with sound effects!

Sarah Pinborough was born in 1972 in Stony Stratford, Buckinghamshire and spent much of her childhood and adulthood travelling all over the world – her father, now retired, was a diplomat.  She is a member of the British Fantasy Society, The Horror Writers’ Association and, along with fellow horror authors Sarah Langan, Alex Sokoloff and Deborah LeBlanc, is part of the writing collective known as MUSE. Although best known as a horror writer,  Sarah has begun to also write supernatural thriller novels, and is branching out into YA, under a pseudonym. A Matter of Blood is her debut novel on the Gollancz list: a dark, compelling psychological thriller with a touch of the supernatural. Her influences include Stephen King, Clive Barker, Graham Joyce, Michael Marshall (Smith), John Wyndham, Dean Koontz and Madonna . . . and she admits that she really doesn’t know what people who don’t write do with their time. Housework, probably. Visit her website here: http://sarahpinborough.com/

Also by Sarah Pinborough:

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(With thanks to Quercus for the advance reading copy)

Simon Toyne-The Tower (Sancti Trilogy 3)

Product DetailsThe forbidden Citadel at the heart of the ancient Turkish city of Ruin opens its gates for the first time in history. Why now, after centuries of secrecy? A deadly disease has erupted within, and threatens to spread beyond its walls. Infected charity worker Gabriel Mann may hold the cure – but can one dying man stop an epidemic? Without him, former journalist Liv Adamsen is vulnerable, surrounded by strangers in the desert oasis that is her new home. Liv, however, has far bigger concerns than just her own life. In the USA, newly qualified FBI Agent Joe Shepherd investigates the disappearance of NASA’s most senior professor. Is it a vanishing act, an abduction, or something darker? Shepherd’s investigation approaches a powerful conspiracy with global reach, and profound consequences. For them all, this much is clear: something big is coming. Something that will change everything. But will it be a new beginning or the End of Days?

And here endeth the lesson in how to write a really good religious conspiracy thriller, as The Tower brings to a close this excellent trilogy. Beginning with Sanctus and The Key, this final instalment instantly propels you back into the world so succinctly and powerfully portrayed in the first two books. I  instantly took to these books, despite my original and somewhat cynical poo-pooing of this genre, thanks to the scars left by reading other less effective authors of this kind of fare. I can safely say that I had no such qualms as having read Sanctus in pretty much one sitting, and then champing at the bit for The Key, I awaited this closing book with a sense of anticipation and it did not disappoint…

Trying to avoid spoilers for those who have not yet had the pleasure of reading the full trilogy, The Tower draws on the perilous and unresolved events at the end of the previous books, with the present time juxtaposed with a catch-up on events eight months previously until the two timelines converge. As our erstwhile hero Gabriel grapples with a torturous journey back to the sinister auspices of The Citadel at Ruin (the predominant setting of the first two books), our heroine Liv is left to deal with the increasingly bizarre events in a desert wilderness as an ancient prophecy begins to gather muster, heralding the possible End of Days. In the present timeline there are some devilish deeds going on within the confines of NASA with the sabotage of two major space exploration programmes at the hands of what appears to be religious fantics, but is there more to it than meets the eye and are there greater powers at work? It falls to a rookie FBI agent and his surly superior to unravel the mystery leading to a denoeument linking all the characters and interlocking plot threads together.

Other reviewers have commented on the slower build-up of this book and I can see their point, but I actually enjoyed this sense of the plot gathering a momentum, and felt my own tension for the characters ratcheting up at the same speed, also noticing my reading speed increased substantially as the book reached its conclusion, so found this all rather clever.  I must confess that I found the NASA plot utterly fascinating and enjoyed the fruits of Toyne’s research into this particular field of science and technology, enjoying the exploration of the age old argument of science vs religion as the plot unfolded. With this new plotline set predominantly in America, and the skilful interweaving of the pre-existing locations and story from the first two books, fear not if you have come to this series anew with this book, as the back story is coherently referred to throughout so you won’t miss anything. On the strength of this one alone the impetus will be there to seek out the other two books post haste!

I think one of the major strengths of this series has been the excellent standard of characterisation, and although The Tower gives Toyne the chance to further flesh out some familiar figures, the introduction of some new faces further illustrates his adept hand at this. I particularly took to newly qualified FBI Agent Joe Shepherd and his boss Special Agent Benjamin Franklin and the nature of their professional relationship with the seeds of distrust between them sown by some unspoken secrets of Shepherd’s past. There was a real depth and believability to their working and personal interactions and bolstered by the existing strength of the recurring characters, I was completely drawn into these people’s lives and tribulations as the plot played out. There is usually an inherent failing within this genre of matching the strength of characterisation to the needs of the conspiracy thriller pace and plotting, but Toyne experiences no such problems in balancing the needs of both with an assured grip throughout.

In conclusion then, I would highly recommend The Tower, be it as a conclusion to you having read Sanctus and The Key or equally if this is your first foray into Toyne’s writing. An exceptional thriller that left me with a slight wistful air that the series was now finished. Can’t wait to see what’s next!

Simon ToyneVisit the author’s website here: www.simontoyne.net

Connect with Simon Toyne via:

www.facebook.com/simon.toyne.writer

https://twitter.com/sjtoyne

Interview With Simon Toyne and Raven’s reviews of  Sanctus/The Key.

Two excellent reviews of The Tower can be found by Miles at: http://www.milorambles.com/

and by Kate at:  http://forwinternights.wordpress.com/ (see her cameo on page 205!)

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(With thanks to HarperCollins for the ARC)

Hakan Nesser- The Weeping Girl

Winnie Maas died because she changed her mind . . . A community is left reeling after a teacher – Arnold Maager – is convicted of murdering his female pupil Winnie Maas. It seems the girl had been pregnant with Maager’s child. Years later, on her eighteenth birthday, Maager’s daughter Mikaela finally learns the terrible truth about her father. Desperate for answers, Mikaela travels to the institution at Lejnice, where Maager has been held since his trial. But soon afterwards she inexplicably vanishes. Detective Inspector Ewa Moreno from the Maardam Police is on holiday in the area when she finds herself drawn into Mikaela’s disappearance. But before she can make any headway in the case, Maager himself disappears – and then a body is found. It will soon become clear to Ewa that only unravelling the events of the past will unlock this dark mystery . . .

 Another one for you Scandinavian crime fiction fans from the consistently superb Hakan Nesser. The Weeping Girl sees ex-Chief Inspector Van Veeteren’s protege DI Ewa Moreno take the reins in this intriguing investigation, following the time honoured tradition of crime fiction protagonists unable to take a holiday without being immersed in a murder mystery…

It’s always difficult I would think to introduce a convincing new character from the shadows of such a compelling figure as Van Veeteren who has been at the heart of Nesser’s previous books, but he achieves this with aplomb. Using Van Veeteren as her point of reference in her machinations of this perplexing case, his voice can still be heard loud and clear, and Moreno soon proves herself to be an able protege of the now retired detective. Moreno is an assured combination of dedicated and compassionate police officer, cut through with the normal doubts of a woman in the throes of a new relationship with..well…in Moreno’s words ‘bloke/lover/stallion’. This is indicative of the humour that cuts through the plot with Moreno as queen of the apt aside to relieve the tension of this disturbing case, and as in Nesser’s previous books, these forays into the realm of humour are balanced perfectly. The characterisation is excellent throughout, with Moreno clashing horns with the utterly inept, and ‘stiff-collared pain in the neck’  local police chief Vrommel, but finds an ally in the charming and intuitive detective Vegesack, who more than proves his worth in terms of his  dogged determination to get to the bottom of this case taking some degree of delight in ticking off his boss.

The plot mores than support Nesser’s assured characterisation, opening with a young girl’s mission to talk to her father having discovered his true identity on her eighteenth birthday. The only kink in her plan is that he is a murderer, incarcerated in a psychiatric unit, having been accused of killing a teenage girl some years previously. However, after meeting her father she disappears and so the intrigue begins. Moving fluidly between the earlier events leading to her father’s incarceration, and the real-time investigation of her disappearance with the unveiling of dark family secrets, Nesser effortlessly leads us through the case, with his trademark attention to procedural detail. Admittedly stalwart crime readers may cotton on to how the plot will play out but, bolstered by the fine characterisation and a cameo appearance by the great Van Veeteren himself, there is more than enough to satisfy the reader and I have no qualms in recommending this as a good read overall.

Hakan Nesser is one of Sweden’s most popular crime writers, receiving numerous awards for his novels featuring Inspector Van Veeteren, including the European Crime Fiction Star Award (Ripper Award) 2010/11, the Swedish Crime Writers’ Academy Prize (three times) and Scandinavia’s Glass Key Award. The Van Veeteren series is published in over 25 countries and has sold over 10 million copies worldwide. Hakan Nesser lives in Gotland with his wife and spends part of each year in the UK. The Weeping Girl published in the UK 25/3/13

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(With thanks to Mantle for the ARC)

David Mark- Original Skin (DS Aector McAvoy 2)

Product DetailsSimon and Suzie are two pleasure seekers defined by their flamboyant tattoos.

Peter Tressider is a politician on the fast track to the top.

DS Aector McAvoy is a policeman with scars to his body and career.

Each is marked in their own way.

And soon each will be branded by the same sinister foe.

 

Following the successful Dark Winter, this is the second outing for the freckled, flame-haired warrior DS Aector McAvoy, and this sequel lacks none of the punch of the first- I would dare to say that I actually enjoyed this one more. This is an altogether darker and seedier affair from the outset, beginning with a particularly brutal murder that sparks a complicated and taxing investigation for McAvoy. When the investigation diverges into the world of local politics and police monitoring, it soon becomes clear that all is not as it would appear, causing McAvoy and his superior officer DI Pharoah to navigate their way through a world of secrets and lies. Despite the thrust of the main investigation there is also ample time for McAvoy’s horse-whispering skills and bare knuckle fighting as you will discover…

I’ve really taken to the character of the slightly lumbering but incredibly thoughtful and moral McAvoy and as I’ve said before it’s nice to see a police character not totally encumbered by the stresses of their private lives or less savoury habits. Despite the small blips caused by his marriage to Roisin who hails from a traveller background, McAvoy has the luxury of being able to pursue his police career relatively painlessly. He is a ruminator to the highest degree, much to the chagrin of his impulsive boss Pharaoh, and has an inherent compassion for people that leads him to not falling prey to snap judgements. He is what is known in the trade as a nice bloke, that consequently makes him an altogether nicer police officer if at times slightly too ponderous. His boss Pharoah, who I have compared in a previous review to a watered down DI Steele from Stuart MacBride’s series, lacks none of this hesitation. She is bold, impulsive, brash and completely brilliant! Her interplay with the diametrically opposite McAvoy is a joy, and transmits a sense of fun from Mark in the way they bounce off each other, but never losing sight of the fact of the effectiveness of their teamwork and this was one of my favourite aspects of the book.

As I referred to in my review of Dark Winter, the setting of Hull is perfectly rendered throughout the book. Like other Northern based crime novels, this book reads as a twisted appreciation of a city down on its luck through years of urban degeneration, but still carrying at its heart an indominitable spirit. McAvoy is used as a mouthpiece for this obviously encountering the worst aspects of life that this formerly prosperous city has to offer, but appreciating the essential heart and soul of the city. In reflection of its setting, this is a particularly dark tale drawing on the more unusual activities of people’s sexual behaviour, and I must confess I did enjoy the bloody outcome of a misjudged night of dogging- see now you’re intrigued! As the plot unfolds there are dark revelations indeed emanating from those in positions of responsibility and the unwitting victims of their personal depravations, all hedged by Mark’s firm control of the novel as an entirely satisfying police procedural. Overall a good read and I’m looking forward to the next foray into McAvoy’s world.

 Raven’s review of Dark Winter (DS Aector McAvoy 1)

Product DetailsDS Aector McAvoy is a man with a troubled past. His unwavering belief in justice has made him an outsider in the police force he serves. When three seemingly unconnected people are brutally murdered in the weeks before Christmas, the police must work quickly to stop more deaths. It is only McAvoy who can see the connection between the victims. A killer is playing God – and McAvoy must find a way to stop the deadly game.

I really enjoyed this debut crime novel and think that David Mark could do for Hull what John Harvey does for Nottingham and Chris Simms does for Manchester. I thought the novel painted an incredibly realistic picture of Hull as a city on the slide and you got a real sense of the atmosphere of the city in all its grim reality. I thought that McAvoy was a good grounded character without the cliched baggage that crime writers are so fond of shoe-horning into their books and that alone would encourage me to read the next in the series. I also liked the character of ‘Pharaoh’ the female boss who whilst slightly lacking the acidity of DI Steel in the Stuart MacBride books was feisty enough to give her character credibility. The central plot was quite clever with a particularly twisted killer targeting those poor unfortunates who had previously escaped death and there was a nicely balanced gore factor. Not a bad read at all…

(With thanks to Quercus for the advance reading copy)

 

Luke Delaney- Cold Killing

Product DetailsDI Sean Corrigan is not like other detectives. The terrible abuse he suffered in childhood hasn’t stopped him enjoying family life with his wife and two daughters, or pursuing an impressive career with South London’s Murder Investigation Unit. But it has left him with an uncanny ability to identify the darkness in others – a darkness he recognises still exists deep within his own psyche and battles to keep buried there. Now Sean’s on the trail of the most dangerous killer he’s ever encountered. The perpetrator has no recognisable MO, leaves no forensic evidence and his victims have nothing in common. But Sean knows they were all murdered by the same man. Now all he has to do is find the evidence, convince his bosses and stop the killing before his adversary gets too close to home…

 As an enthusiastic crime fiction reader I always relish the opportunity of reading a crime novel written by someone who has actually walked the walk and talked the talk in law enforcement , drawing on their personal experience to construct an authentic story- as long as they have the propensity to spin a good yarn as well! As an ex-London Met detective with many years service under his belt, Luke Delaney not only exhibits this complete authenticity in terms of the police procedural, but more than demonstrates his finesse as an author in this gripping and well-constructed novel. Delaney has personal experience of policing in tough inner city areas, and as a CID detective he encountered everything from fledgling serial killers to violent gang crime and gangland assasinations, and all this is brought to bear in this impressive debut thriller.

Sean Corrigan is an exemplary creation in terms of a detective with just the right balance of good cop/disturbed cop having overcome the traumas of his childhood experiences, the experience of which give him a unique perspective on the motivations and psyche of a killer. In Corrigan we observe a man who could easily teeter over the precipice emotionally due to the horrendous events in his own life, but who fights every day to use these experiences to become a perceptive and astute detective, with an inate ability to tap into the mind of the killer at large in this investigation. He is a terrier of a man, unrelenting in his pursuance of the man he believes is guilty of these brutal killings, and like all good detectives more than willing to challenge the dictates of his largely inept paper-pushing superiors to catch a killer. I found him an entirely empathetic character and  wholly believable in his characterisation, which is absolutely essential if this is to be the first of a projected series. Likewise, his nemesis in the shape of slimy financier James Hellier, the object of Corrigan’s investigation, is a perfectly realised character combining charm with an undercurrent of wolfishness in his interactions with Corrigan, but has Corrigan got the right man in his sights?

The plot is perfectly paced as the police team grapple with a forensically aware, and ultimately psychopathic killer, capturing the tenseness and frustrations of a multiple murder investigation. This is where Delaney’s experience as a police officer kicks in, with a true depiction of the nitty gritty procedures that the police are bound by, and a continual feeling of them racing against the clock. There are a couple of nicely placed barbs directed towards crime fiction writers and film-makers at the liberties they take in their own depiction of police work, which again added to the sense of realism in Delaney’s own presentation of a police investigation. There is a nice balance in the plot between Corrigan’s professional and personal life, and I thought this added an extra dimension to our perception of Corrigan as a husband, father and cop, with an effective drawing back from the violence of the main plot.

I have no qualms at all in comparing this with some of the best exponents of the psychological police procedual- I’m thinking Mark Billingham, Stuart MacBride, Adam Creed et al- so would definitely rate Delaney as an author to discover for yourselves. You will not be disappointed.

Discover more about Cold Killing at http://www.coldkilling.com

(With thanks to Hannah and Kate {@killerreads] HarperCollins for the ARC)

Sabine Durrant- Under Your Skin

Product DetailsThis morning, I found a body.

Soon the police will arrest me for murder.

And after that my life will fall apart.

 Gaby Mortimer is the woman who has it all. But everything changes when she finds a body on the common near her home.

 Because the evidence keeps leading back to her.

 And the police seem sure she’s guilty…

As regular readers of my reviews know, I will often admit to having minor quibbles with books that are usually of such a nature as to not impair my overall enjoyment of the story, but I’m afraid to admit that ‘Under Your Skin  caused me many irritations- no pun intended.

Ostensibly this is a psychological thriller charting the experience of TV personality, Gaby Mortimer who according to the blurb ‘has it all’ but then stumbles upon a corpse whilst out jogging, and finds herself at the centre of the murder investigation. As the investigation proceeds, Gaby’s marriage and professional career begin to unravel, leading to much navel gazing and her unlikely personal involvement with a journalist who takes up her cause. Perhaps due to Durrant’s characterisation I found Gaby to be intensely irritating with her middle class smugness, which the author tried to offset with a complete over use of parentheses for the first 150 pages using these to either try to poke fun at the vagaries of the middle class from the author’s security of a middle class viewpoint that sounded hollow in its mockery, or for Gaby to try to grapple with her personal insecurities. Although the parentheses did subside, any sympathy I could have possibly had for this character was well and truly lost by this point, such was my annoyance with the over-egging of the middle class theme and the obvious markers in the story as to her guilt or innocence. As the plot unfolds, Gaby’s life and activities come under the scrutiny of the police and suspicions as to her involvement in the murder intensify Don’t get me started on the characterisation of the police protagonists, as in an effort to introduce some quirkiness to the lead investigator DI Perivale, who Durrant depicts as a long-haired ‘dandy gone wrong’, with a penchant for literary quotes,  I’m afraid I found his whole character pretty unrealistic, and indeed many of the aspects of the police investigation, bearing  little resemblance to police procedure. even allowing for artistic licence.  Disappointingly, the ending was as I guessed, and I thought pretty well signposted from early in the book, so all in all I was left feeling a little flat.

I’m sure this will be marketed with comparisons to the excellent Elizabeth Haynes Into The Darkest Corner or S J Watson’s Before I Go To Sleep, and will no doubt be a contender for  the Richard and Judy Book Club, but sadly I was disappointed, despite my initial expectations as a fan of the psychological thriller genre. Shame.

Sabine Durrant is the author of Cross Your Heart, Connie Pickles, as well as the adult novels The Great Indoors and Having It and Eating It. She is a former assistant editor at The Guardian and a former literary editor at The Sunday Times. She lives in London, England, with her three children. Follow the author on Twitter @SabineDurrant #underyourskin

 Under Your Skin published by Mulholland Books- 11.4.13

 (With thanks to Hodder & Stoughton for the ARC)

Russ Litten- Swear Down

Product DetailsA young gang leader is found stabbed on a Hackney estate – but two people confess to the murder. Ndekwe, an ambitious, newly promoted Detective Sergeant within a subtly racist police force, believes the more obvious of the two confessions: from McKenzie, a teenager from the estate with a police record of juvenile crime.But why does Jack Shepherdson – an ex-merchant seaman in his sixties – come forward with his own confession? Is he covering for McKenzie, his colleague in the bar they worked at? Or is there more truth in his statement than Ndekwe at first believes?As we listen, with Ndekwe, to their stories – to the lives of the segregated and unheard – a heartbreaking and suspenseful story emerges.

 I’m always keen to discover crime books that offer something new to the genre and demonstrate a different approach what could be a straightforward police procedural- Russ Litten more than achieves both in his powerfully affecting new novel.

Employing a unique premise with two men both confessing to one murder, Litten leads us through both their testimonies with an assured touch, and genuinely muddying the waters in terms of guilt or innocence. By using two such different protagonists- a black London born youth, McKenzie and  wily old Northerner, Jack- Litten exhibits his skills as a writer to achieve an absolute authenticity to both their voices and character, as their confessions come under the microscope of fast track detective Peter Ndekwe, who embarks on a personal mission to uncover the ‘true’ perpetrator of the crime. The characterisation is absolutely superb as Litten captures the tone and nuances of McKenzie’s and Jack’s speech patterns, and their differing life experiences as each layer of their confessions are slowly revealed to us throughout the book. McKenzie is an inherently good lad who like some many youths becomes embroiled into the nefarious world of gang culture. He comes from a broken home and has his own half baked dream of escaping to Jamaica and tracking down his errant father. He crosses paths with Jack, formerly from Hull, whose speech not only draws on his Northern roots, but is also subtly interlaced with old fashioned London slang, and whose life experience and genuine concern for young McKenzie, draws the two into an unlikely but touching friendship. I’m probably not explaining this properly, but there is a real sense of the oral tradition of storytelling running throughout the book, with the narration prompting the reader to soundlessly tap into the cadence of their speech. The rhythms of these confessional passages conjured up the pace and tone of both their accents in my head, and felt myself seamlessly switching between the two. With their exceedingly different backgrounds and divisions of age and race, Litten characterises both with precision and, more importantly, complete plausibility and totally immerses the reader in their powerfully affecting narratives.

Likewise newly promoted and fast tracked DS Ndekwe adds another essential dimension to the plot, as we bear witness to the subtle racism and feelings of resentment that his career progression causes amongst his colleagues. His determination to get to the bottom of the two confessions, to the chagrin of his superior officer Gorman, establishes him as a barometer of morality when confronted with the events leading up to the murder, and as to why both McKenzie and Jack have acted in the way they have. We see a man who is totally focused on his professional life juxtaposed with sporadic snapshots of his home life, as a personal connection outside of his work begins to loom large in the investigation, adding another facet to this unsettling tale.

This is a slowburner, in the best sense of the word, and I would urge you to just be carried away by the beautifully paced narrative, and  be absorbed in the slow rendering up of McKenzie’s and Jack’s hopes and dreams thwarted by the real demands of their day to day existences. Litten’s use of  plot, narrative and dialogue is pitch perfect and a rare treat for those readers who look for an added dimension to their crime fiction but who also relish an ultimately tough and uncompromising read. This novel will challenge your conceptions and most importantly have you thinking about it long after the final page is turned. A remarkable novel that deserves to be talked about.

Russ Litten was born at the end of the 60’s, grew up in the 70’s and left school in the 80’s. He spent the subsequent decades in a bewildering variety of jobs before becoming a freelance writer at the turn of the century, contributing pieces to The Independent, Reader’s Digest, The Yorkshire Post and BSKY B. He has written drama for television, radio and film and currently works as a writer in prisons. His first novel, SCREAM IF YOU WANT TO GO FASTER was published by William Heinemann in January 2011. SWEAR DOWN is published by Tindal Street Press April 2013. Find Russ on Twitter @RussLitten

(With thanks to Luke Brown at Tindal Street Press for the ARC and to Nick Quantrill  for tipping me the wink about Swear Down!)

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