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Raven Crime Reads

Criminally good reads…

Month

July 2013

Arnaldur Indridason- Strange Shores

Product Details

A young woman walks into the frozen fjords of Iceland, never to be seen again. But Matthildur leaves in her wake rumours of lies, betrayal and revenge. Decades later, somewhere in the same wilderness, Detective Erlendur is on the hunt. He is looking for Matthildur but also for a long-lost brother, whose disappearance in a snow-storm when they were children has coloured his entire life. He is looking for answers. Slowly, the past begins to surrender its secrets. But as Erlendur uncovers a story about the limits of human endurance, he realises that many people would prefer their crimes to stay buried…

And so the end is near, and Detective Erlendur faces his final curtain.  Billed as the last book of the superlative Murder In Reykavik series to feature Erlendur, I will of course endeavour not to give anything away in terms of how likely he is to return or not, not wishing to mar your own journey across the frozen wastes with our long established Icelandic detective…

From the initial epigraph, taken from a poem by Icelandic poet Snorri Hjartarson, the novel carries a strange ethereal air, compounded by Erlendur’s involvement in two missing person cases, firmly rooted in the distant past. Indridason uses the conceit of Erlendur being on vacation to facilitate this, and crucially camping out in the ruins of his childhood home, neatly casting the pall of past events over the novel. From the haunting echoes of his past life that Erlendur experiences, as he revisits his brother’s disappearance when they were young boys, to the case of a missing woman, Matthildur, from many years previously that piques his interest as a detective, the associated guilt and the sense of unfinished business looms large throughout. Erlendur doggedly tracks the course of events leading to the woman’s disappearance, stirring up some uncomfortable truths and uncovering the wounds of the past in a controlled and slow burning, but eminently satisfactory central plot. Indridason employs his characteristic sublime pacing neatly reflecting the slow march of time, but also how incidental this is for those whose lives are so defined by events of the past.

The more elderly and curmudgeonly characters Indridason employs in this storyline are a joy, providing a wonderful mirror image of Erlendur’s own tendencies towards these darker and introspective moods. His interactions with them,  seeking to tease out the truth of past events is, at times, so filled with such poignancy that as a reader you will be genuinely moved, as the story of Matthildhur’s disappearance and that of Erlendur’s lost brother Bergur, converge and separate throughout the course of the book. The way that Indridason portrayed the older members of his cast was beautifully done, with some neatly fitting the traditional characteristics of a long hard life lived not without its attendant miseries, and others with a veritable twinkle of mischievousness about them. Erlendur himself pitches between his role as a natural investigator, and yet a man seemingly unable to solve the greatest mystery of his life, leading to his own reference back to and meditation on, his familial relationships.  The dark sense of introspection peppered throughout the story makes the tone absolutely fitting to a book billed as a final chapter to the exploits of long standing character. As to the outcome of Erlendur’s personal journey of discovery, I’m giving nothing away…

This was classic Indridason, employing his trademark precision of style and pared down dialogue, all within the arena of a beautifully imagined and flawlessly described Icelandic wilderness. Slow moving, thoughtful and with an almost supernatural feel to the whole book, Indridason continues to adhere to my own belief that he is incapable of letting the reader down, yet again producing a five star read to satisfy any lover of Scandinavian crime fiction.

Arnaldur Indridason, author of the Reykjavík Thrillers, was born in 1961. He worked at an Icelandic newspaper, first as a journalist and then for many years as a film reviewer. He won the Glass Key Award for Best Nordic Crime Novel for both Jar City and Silence of the Grave, and in 2005 Silence of the Grave also won the Crime Writers Gold Dagger Award for best crime novel of the year. The film of Jar City (available on DVD) was Iceland’s entry for the 2008 Academy Award for Best Foreign Film. Indridason lives in Reykjavík with his family. Strange Shores published by Harvill Secker 15/8/13.

(With thanks to Harvill Secker for the ARC)
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Michael Harvey- The Innocence Game

Product DetailsThey’re young, smart, mostly beautiful  – graduate students at an elite university who are naive enough to believe they can make a difference.  Little did they know the most important lesson they will learn is how to stay alive. For Ian Joyce and Sarah Gold the first day of class starts like any other. Then a fellow student, Jake Havens, pulls a wrinkled envelope from his jacket. Inside is a blood-stained scrap of shirt from a boy murdered fourteen years ago and an anonymous note taking credit for the killing. The only problem is the man convicted of the murder is already dead. Suddenly, the class has a new assignment: find the real killer.

As a bookseller, I regularly recommend Michael Harvey to those needing an alternative to Michael Connelly and his ilk, as Harvey so consistently produces incredibly readable Chicago-set police procedurals. The Innocence Game is slightly different than his usual fare, straying into the legal territory of John Grisham and Mark Gimenez in this highly enjoyable stand alone.

With the interplay between the three central characters- a small group of intuitive and ambitious legal students, tasked with finding the real perpetrator of an abduction and killing of a young boy- Harvey immediately envelops the reader in their backgrounds and defining characteristics. As the book progresses, we discover their particular strengths and weaknesses, and certainly in the case of Ian, their back stories are discovered to be intrinsically bound up with their central ambitions in training to enter the legal world. As a further series of killings occur, all three protagonists are put in danger as their investigations bring them into the direct sight of a killer, and causes them to question the actions of those in whom they have a belief and trust. Harvey carefully illustrates the consequences of these actions on the psyches of Ian, Sarah and Jake, and plays with the central dynamics of the relationships between them, as they find themselves inextricably embroiled in physical danger. For my money, Sarah is perhaps the weak link in the characterisation, but only because the two male characters have a much more intriguing back story and unusual set of circumstances that have paved their way in life, but on the whole their interactions work well within the central plot. The plotting cannot be faulted as Harvey closely controls the gradual revealing of key information and there are enough twists and turns along the way to keep those pages a-turning, with one reveal in particular catching me completely off guard. An accomplished thriller from a writer who could be a great new discovery if you’ve not had the pleasure of reading him before…

Michael Harvey is the author of The Chicago Way, The Fifth Floor, The Third Rail and We All Fall Down, and is also a journalist and documentary producer. His work has won numerous national and international awards, including multiple Emmy Awards, two Primetime Emmy nominations and an Academy Award nomination. He holds a law degree from Duke University, a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and a bachelor’s degree in classical languages from Holy Cross College. http://michaelharveybooks.com/

(With thanks to Bloomsbury for the ARC)

David Thomas- Ostland

Product DetailsGeorg Heuser joins the Murder Squad in the midst of the biggest manhunt the city has ever seen. A serial killer is slaughtering women on S-Bahn trains and leaving their battered bodies by the tracks. Heuser must confront evil eye-to-eye as he helps track down the murderer. July 1959, peacetime West Germany: a pioneering young lawyer, Paula Siebert, is the sole woman in a federal unit investigating men who have committed crimes of unimaginable magnitude and horror. Their leader has just been arrested. His name is Georg Heuser. Siebert is sure of his guilt. But one question haunts her: how could a once decent man have become a sadistic monster? The answer lies in the desolate wastes of the Russian Front, the vast landmass conquered by Hitler’s forces… the new empire the Nazis call Ostland.

To simply label Ostland as a crime thriller would not only do a great disservice to the sheer power and scope of this novel, but would in turn devalue a book that truly encompasses the very best elements of both the crime and historical fiction genres. This is without a doubt one of the most affecting novels that I have read, so much so, that at times I had to take a breath, emotionally undone by the, at times, harrowing depictions of one of the greatest evils perpetrated in the history of mankind, which is so strongly brought to the reader’s consciousness. This is not a book that just deserves to be read but a book that also needs to be read…

From its deceptive beginning as a seemingly straightforward and compelling crime read, Thomas not only manipulates our emotions to the central protagonist, Georg Heuser, but then allows us to bear witness to the atrocities committed by the Nazi regime during the latter stages of World War II. Opening with the real-life investigation of a brutal serial killer, stalking the S-Bahn network, Heuser makes his entrance as a young  idealistic detective, driven by an innate sense of morality in the hunt for a killer. At the close of the S-Bahn killer case with the apprehension of the murderer Heuser tries to come to terms with his encounter with “a genuinely evil human being” and that to enter the killer’s mind was to “enter a world of violence, degradation and filth, a world without pity, morality, or any feeling whatsoever for his fellow human beings- a world with which I had nothing in common at all” and a sentiment of the young Heuser that remained in my mind throughout the book. With the indelible links between the German security departments Heuser quickly comes to the attention of SS-Reinhard Heydrich and his cohorts, and being promoted to SS-First Lieutenant is despatched to Minsk, an area where half the population is Jewish and which quickly becomes a major processing centre for Reich Jews and the beginning point for Heuser’s descent into evil, previously such an anathema to him.

What strikes me most about this novel is the adept way in which not only Thomas assails our sensibilities in his description of the harrowing processing of the Jews, using at times the most understated of images to convey the horror, but how the almost  banality of murder imprints itself on the consciences of those despatched to accomplish this task. Hence, our empathies and reactions to Heuser are consistently manipulated and changed, as we bear witness to his actions, and through a parallel post-war storyline involving the bringing of war criminals to justice. Suffice to say that our original perceptions of Heuser as a formerly steadfast harbinger of morality are significantly coloured by the extreme brutality that we witness in the latter half of the book- a brutality that Thomas evokes so deeply in our minds through the powerful and affecting nature of his writing, that at times is almost too uncomfortable to bear but so necessary to read. Thomas’ evocation of historical fact, and the prevailing atmosphere of evil, gives rise to some of the most powerful writing I have experienced, and a true study of the shifting nature of morality and its indelible role at the heart of our inherent instinct for survival.

In conclusion, I can only say that Ostland is a book that transcends our expectations as crime readers, and is a richly rewarding read. It effortlessly causes us to engage with it, never shying away from  the realities of evil and the destruction of morality it brings in its wake. A novel that unerringly stimulates the thoughts and emotions of the reader, compounded by the harsh realities of human history that form its foundation. Quite simply, a must read.

 Read David Thomas’ thoughts on Ostland courtesy of http://grahamsmithwriter.blogspot.co.uk

(With thanks to Quercus for the ARC)

Dan Smith- Red Winter

Product DetailsIt is 1920, central Russia. The Red Terror tightens its hold. Kolya has deserted his Red Army unit and returns home to bury his brother and reunite with his wife and sons. But he finds the village silent and empty. The men have been massacred in the forest. The women and children have disappeared. In this remote, rural Russian community the folk tales mothers tell their children by candlelight take on powerful significance and the terrifying legend of Koschei, The Deathless One, begins to feel very real. Kolya sets out on a journey through dense, haunting forests and across vast plains as bitter winter sets in, in the desperate hope he will find his wife and two boys, and find them alive. But there are very dark things in Kolya’s past. And, as he strives to find his family, there’s someone or something on his trail…

Following last year’s remarkable Ukranian set thriller The Child Thief, Smith returns with another foray into the dangerous and inhospitable territory of Eastern Europe, transporting the reader to the icy wastes of Central Russia 1920. From the very first page you are instantly filled with a sense of dread observing through a returning soldier’s eyes, a village lying still and silent with only the sounds of nature to fill the void. As Nikolai Levitsky observes the Marie-Celeste like environs of his former home, it becomes clear that something evil has cast its pall over the village; the men have been slaughtered and along with these men’s families,  Levitsky’s wife and children are nowhere to be found. Could this really be the work of Koschei, the Deathless One, a terrifying figure from Russian folklore or  is Levitsky’s fate tied to the consequences of a country in the grip of political and military terror…

What strikes me most about the book is the breadth and depth of Smith’s depiction of location and atmosphere, as we follow Levitsky’s cross country quest in search of his family. As a reader your senses are assaulted at every turn with the harsh and uncompromising nature of the landscape, chilling you to the core as the weather and terrain hamper Levitsky’s progress. In my naivety I believed that there are only so many ways of describing the biting conditions of a Russian winter, but Smith consistently implements such vivid descriptions of these surrounds that further embed themselves in your mind, constantly enriching your reading experience. Likewise, the grim realities of survival within these conditions are unflinchingly described throughout, so much so that you cannot look away and that touch on your humanity as to how people can carve a life for themselves with so much poverty and fear. Not only do they have to survive the daily grind, but find themselves unwitting victims in a turbulent and blood-stained period of Russia’s political history.

No character embodies these characteristics more than Nikolai Levitsky himself, a soldier and officer, now compelled to desert, who is cast into an emotional turmoil by the death of his brother, the disappearance of his family, and a man striving to come to terms with and escape from the horrors he has witnessed in the theatre of war. Levitsky is an essentially moral man, beginning to question his deepest held beliefs and assuming the role of a questing knight as his journey unfolds, and by his interactions with those the damaged souls he encounters along the way; Anna, a young girl who has lost her family, and with Tanya and Lyudmila, two fearless women who have their own reasons for tracking the Koschei. As their courses collide with the vestiges of Levitsky’s previous military life, there are powerful scenes of violence and heartbreak that are truly haunting, and which typify not only the propensity for immoral actions in a war torn country, but what betrayals people must stoop to in order to survive.

With its spare and uncompromising portrayal of  the historical period, the intertwining of perfectly placed references to traditional Russian folklore, the harsh environment that chills you to the marrow throughout, and a cast of characters that cannot fail to engage the reader, Dan Smith has produced another remarkable thriller, that is easily worthy of a place in my best reads of 2013 so far. Superb.

Growing up, Dan Smith followed his parents across the world to Africa, Asia and South America. Now living in Newcastle with his family, his writing is still inspired by all corners of the globe. His debut novel DRY SEASON won critical acclaim and an array of prize nominations, including a shortlisting for the Author’s Club Best First Novel Award. His second novel DARK HORIZONS was followed in 2012 by THE CHILD THIEF. Find out more about Dan at  www.dansmithbooks.com Follow on Twitter @DanSmithAuthor

 Dan Smith, acclaimed author of The Child Thief and his new novel Red Winter will be at The Murder Room forum from the 15th to 21st July 2013 to answer your questions about his books and the life of an author. Post your questions and Dan will be there to answer them!http://www.themurderroom.com/forum/

(With thanks to Orion for the ARC)

Terry Hayes- I Am Pilgrim

 

Product DetailsCan you commit the perfect crime? Pilgrim is the codename for a man who doesn’t exist. The adopted son of a wealthy American family, he once headed up a secret espionage unit for US intelligence. Before he disappeared into anonymous retirement, he wrote the definitive book on forensic criminal investigation. But that book will come back to haunt him. It will help NYPD detective Ben Bradley track him down. And it will take him to a rundown New York hotel room where the body of a woman is found facedown in a bath of acid, her features erased, her teeth missing, her fingerprints gone. It is a textbook murder – and Pilgrim wrote the book. What begins as an unusual and challenging investigation will become a terrifying race-against-time to save America from oblivion. Pilgrim will have to make a journey from a public beheading in Mecca to a deserted ruins on the Turkish coast via a Nazi death camp in Alsace and the barren wilderness of the Hindu Kush in search of the faceless man who would commit an appalling act of mass murder in the name of his God.

I Am Pilgrim is without a doubt an extraordinary take on the contemporary thriller and running to 700 pages a remarkable interweaving of the lives of two men defined by the experiences of their formative years drawing them into a headlong collision in the defence of their personal affiliations. Opening with a baffling crime scene in New York, the plot expands into a race against time to thwart a devastating terrorist plot by a man known as Saracen, scarred as a boy by the execution of his father in Saudi Arabia who seeks to wreak revenge on the rulers of his native country by attacking its most stalwart of supporters- the United States of America. Pilgrim is the codename of the man dispatched to track and nullify Saracen, himself a man with a convoluted past comprising many identities whose pursuit of Saracen takes him on a terrifying journey across the world to stop this potential act of terrorism which could lead to mass murder…

Reflecting the author’s background as a screenwriter of many influential action films, the book relies heavily on the visual quality of the locations chosen, and the undying credo of the United States as the harbinger of justice and power in the fight against terrorism, so the ending is never really in doubt but it’s a hell of a journey on the way. As the book pivots between the personal stories of Pilgrim and Saracen, so begins a convoluted and at times totally engaging story of cat and mouse, as both men strive to fulfil their roles and we become immersed in to how they have become the men they are. As Saracen’s mission becomes clear and we learn more of the background of his pursuer Pilgrim, the depth and scope of Hayes characterisation of both is probably the strongest aspect of this book. As both men embark on differing pilgrimages in their lives, there is a clever blurring of their personal demarcation as being ‘good’ or ‘bad’ as Pilgrim and Saracen exhibit the qualities of both, and my empathies as a reader were waxing and waning between the two. Despite the painting of Saracen as a ‘baddie’, I actually found the unfolding of his personal history the most gripping of the two, but unfortunately towards the middle of the book, there is an imbalance  and the weight of the story with the emphasis and drive of the narrative falls more on Pilgrim, with to my mind anyway, an opportunity to maybe have done a little more tightening up in terms of plotting. I actually found myself getting a little bored as events unfolded in Turkey in these middle sections, and wanted to get pulled back to Saracen’s skulduggery sooner. Likewise, the careful build-up to the final denouement is largely undone by the sheer incredulity of the ending, which oozed the potential incarnation of the book as Hollywood action film, and all the cliches thereof and to me bore little resemblance of how this should have played out. With this book’s evident position as a new take on the somewhat stale espionage thriller genre, I felt Hayes could have been a little braver in light of what had preceded this, and really shaken the reader up instead of relying on a truly stereotypical outcome. In the light of the sheer brilliance of some of the plot threads, the obvious depth of research he has implemented and the strength of the characterisation of both the two main characters and Pilgrim’s cohort, NYPD detective Ben Bradley whose personal story and his comeback from the depths of despair is deeply affecting within the main plot, I was disappointed that this fell at the final hurdle.

Judging by the enthusiasm for this book by other reviewers, there is no doubt that I Am Pilgrim is a unique, clever and at times enthralling thriller, that is defined by its difference in terms of superlative plotting and characterisation, to other practitioners in this genre. Despite my own observations on some of the weaknesses of this book- much of which could have been resolved by closer editing and a more credible ending- this is definitely worth reading if you enjoy an ambitious and intelligent espionage thriller with plenty of action and a truly international feel.

More reviews for I Am Pilgrim:

 Crimepieces  http://crimepieces.wordpress.com

For Winter Nights  http://forwinternights/

Bite The Book  http://bitethebook.com

Terry Hayes is a former journalist and screen-writer. Born in Sussex, England, he migrated to Australia as a child and trained as a journalist at the country’s leading broadsheet. At twenty-one he was appointed North American correspondent, based in New York, and after two years returned to Sydney to become an investigative reporter, political correspondent and columnist. He resigned to produce a prominent current affairs radio program and a short time later, with George Miller, wrote the screenplay for Road Warrior/Mad Max 2. He also co-produced and wrote Dead Calm, the film which launched Nicole Kidman’s international movie career, Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome and a large number of TV movies and mini-series – including Bodyline and Bangkok Hilton – two of which received international Emmy nominations. In all, he has won over twenty film or television awards. After moving to Los Angeles he worked as a screen-writer on major studio productions. His credits include Payback with Mel Gibson, From Hell, starring Johnny Depp, and Vertical Limit with Chris O’Donnell. He has also done un-credited writing on a host of other movies including Reign of Fire, Cliffhanger and Flightplan, starring Jodie Foster. I Am Pilgrim is his first novel.

(With thanks to Bantam Press for the ARC)

 

Damien Seaman- The Killing of Emma Gross

A prostitute is found dead in a cheap hotel room, brutally murdered. But her death is soon forgotten as the city’s police hunt a maniac attacking innocent women and children. A killer the press has dubbed the Düsseldorf Ripper. Detective Thomas Klein’s career is going nowhere until he gets a tip off leading to the Ripper’s arrest. But the killer’s confession to the hooker’s murder is full of holes, and Klein soon comes to believe this is one murder the killer didn’t commit. Motivated by spite, ambition, or maybe even a long-buried sense of justice, finding out who really killed Emma Gross becomes Klein’s obsession. Particularly when the evidence begins to point closer to home…

Having now made the successful and totally deserved leap from e-book to paperback publication, I couldn’t resist revisiting my review for this exceptional debut novel from Damien Seaman. Having heard the author talk about The Killing of Emma Gross at last year’s CrimeFest,  I was very intrigued by the premise of the story which is a historical re-imagining of the infamous serial killer Peter Kurten aka ‘The Vampire of Dusseldorf’ set in the 1920‘s and hastily downloaded it. It did not disappoint, and if you like the winning combination of historical fact vividly brought to life with an accomplished and gripping use of fiction in terms of plot and characterisation you’re onto a winner here.

I was thoroughly gripped from start to finish and found Seaman’s recreation of this period utterly real and with close adherence to original source materials (with only a little tinkering) enforcing the realism of the story and making it even more affecting. Seaman conjures up the locale and atmosphere of Weimar Germany with a deft touch, so that the sights and sounds of this period are perfectly evoked and his description of the murder victims and scenes of crime are tangible and powerful. His main protagonist, detective Thomas Klein, is a wonderfully drawn character possessing a single-minded determination to not only capture the infamous Kurten but to properly establish the truth behind the killing of the prostitute Emma Gross which Klein realises is analogous to the other murders taking place- being similar but dissimilar in certain regards. Klein is imbued with a dark and pithy sense of humour reminiscent of the quick fire hard-boiled style of McBain and Chandler and the whole atmosphere of the book reminded me of the black and white unlit atmosphere of films such as ‘The Third Man. As a prolific crime reader this was certainly an impressive debut that I would thoroughly recommend to other readers who enjoy crime based on true life cases whether you choose the e-book or tree book option!

A former journalist, editor, parliamentary assistant, financial analyst, factory worker and security guard, Damien has dabbled in petty smuggling, baboon-whispering, scuba diving and sunbathing, with varying levels of success.
He has lived in Belgium, Germany and Libya, spent probably more time than was healthy visiting Kuwait, and currently resides in the county of Shakespeare’s birth. He also has a fear of camels, but he doesn’t like to talk about it. His short crime fiction, interviews and reviews have appeared on many crime ezines and websites, and he has been published in the New York Times. http://blastedheath.com/damien-seaman/ Follow on Twitter @Damienseaman

A. D. Garrett- Everyone Lies

Product DetailsDI Kate Simms is on the fast track to nowhere. Five years ago she helped a colleague when she shouldn’t have. She’s been clawing her way back from a demotion ever since. Professor Nick Fennimore is a failed genetics student, successful gambler, betting agent, crime scene officer, chemistry graduate, toxicology specialist and one-time scientific advisor to the National Crime Faculty. He is the best there is, but ever since his wife and daughter disappeared he’s been hiding away in Scotland, working as a forensics lecturer. In Manchester, drug addicts are turning up dead and Simms’ superior is only too pleased to hand the problem to her. Then a celebrity dies and the media gets interested. Another overdose victim shows up, but this time the woman has been systematically beaten and all identifying features removed. The evidence doesn’t add up; Simms’ superiors seem to be obstructing her investigation; and the one person she can’t afford to associate with is the one man who can help: Fennimore.

It’s always a tricky proposition I imagine to undertake a crime, or indeed any kind of fiction novel with a dual writing partnership. In other books I have read with two authors there is usually a very noticeable distinction between their two styles causing me to favour one over the other, or the book falls down as one has obviously taken control over a certain facet of the story. Everyone Lies neatly bucked the trend for me and  I was incredibly impressed by this debut collaboration between  Margaret Murphy and Professor Dave Barclay, with this winning combination of established crime author and forensic scientist proving itself to be an altogether better combination than simply relying on meshing the talents of two authors.

Everyone Lies carefully combines the premise of a female  police officer, DI Kate Simms, seeking to re-establish her formerly successful career derailed by one investigation, causing her to take a transfer to Manchester, and her complicated but necessary professional and personal relationship with forensics expert Professor Nick Fennimore. Add into the mix an intriguing investigation into a cluster of suspicious drug deaths, with all the attendant forensic detail and the narrow and small minded politics of the police department and this thriller more than proves its worth. The plot was well paced and compelling with enough surprises along the way to keep the reader hooked and all in all a well-judged depiction of the insidious nature of the drugs trade and its consequent victims. Breaking the story down into the fields of expertise of its authors, the forensic detail is perfectly layered into the story, providing points of interest to the reader, but not overwhelming them with unnecessary information, and for me the tormented Nick Fennimore, who labours under the grief of his wife and daughter disappearing some time previously, is the most interesting character of the piece.  The mental conflicts this produces in him and the personal failings in his character, in addition to the insight and technical expertise his character brings to the book works exceptionally well throughout.  It quickly becomes clear to the reader that there is some shared emotional baggage between himself and Kate which adds another dimension to his more fully formed character. I was not as engaged with Kate finding her a little bland, simply because she seemed an amalgamation of pretty much all of the female detectives I have read. Throughout the course of the book I could see aspects of her more famous counterparts in her character construction, but there is always room for development as I believe this  book heralds the arrival of another series worth following in the future. Definitely worth a look if your tastes run to grittier British crime fiction,  and a good Manchester based police procedural accurately portraying the more sordid and criminal aspects of inner city life.

A. D. Garrett is the pseudonym for the writing collaboration of prize-winning thriller writer Margaret Murphy and forensic scientist Professor Dave Barclay. Margaret Murphy is the author of nine psychological thrillers. She lectures on writing and is a former Royal Literary Fund Writing Fellow. She is founder of Murder Squad, a touring collective of crime writers, and was Chair of the Crime Writers’ Association in 2009-10. Professor Barclay holds two university posts and is a forensic adviser to the police forces and the media. He was Head of Physical Evidence at the UK National Crime and Operations Faculty for 10 years. He is currently working for several UK police forces and a state of Australia on high profile murders. He is part of the ‘Murder, Mystery and Microscopes’ team which aims to explain the real science behind popular crime fiction via a national series of public lectures. Everyone Lies is their first collaboration. http://www.margaretmurphy.co.uk/

(With thanks to Constable & Robinson for the ARC )

BBC R4 Foreign Bodies- Mark Lawson 8/7- 12/7

To accompany BBC Radio 4’s dramatisations of the Martin Beck novels, which established crime fiction as a form for exploring social change, Mark Lawson presents five more Foreign Bodies focusing on Greece, Argentina, Northern Ireland, South Africa and fictional TV crime-scenes including Broadchurch. Examining subjects including the way in which crime novels have portrayed transitional societies in South Africa and Northern Ireland and explored the legacy of military rule in Argentina.

Episode 1- GREECE – Inspector Costas Haritos ( Mon 8/7- 1.45pm)

In this first episode Lawson, in Athens, talks to writers including Petros Markaris, whose detective series featuring Inspector Costas Haritos has both predicted and depicted the Greek financial crisis.

 

Episode 2- ARGENTINA – Superintendent Perro Lascano ( Tues 9/7- 1.45pm)

Mark Lawson explores how Argentinian crime writers have dramatised the country’s transition from dictatorship to democracy. He talks to Ernesto Mallo – whose cop, Lascano, works during the years of the military junta – and Claudia Pineiro, who argues that no Argentinian police officer can be a hero.

 

Episode 3- IRELAND – Inspector Benedict Devlin ( Weds 10/7- 1.45pm)

In the “borderlands” between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic, Mark Lawson meets novelist Brian McGilloway, whose books explore the long shadows of the Troubles, and talks to him and other authors from Belfast about the wave of crime-writing that the peace process has provoked.

 

Episode 4- SOUTH AFRICA – Detective Captain Bennie Griessel ( Thurs 11/7 1.45pm)

Translated from Afrikaans, the detective novels of Deon Meyer have become international best-sellers. Mark Lawson talks to Meyer about the fact and fiction of criminality in post-apartheid South Africa and meets Sifiso Mzobe, whose award-winning debut book features a young criminal in a Durban township.

 

Episode 5- SCREENLAND- DS Ellie Miller, DI Sarah Lund, Captain Laure Berthaud ( Fri 12/7- 1.45pm)

Crime dramas, home-made and imported, have become TV’s most powerful genre. Mark Lawson talks to creative talent from the ITV hit Broadchurch, the Danish show The Killing and the French success Spiral about the medium’s suitability as a crime-scene and the rise of female investigators.

 

FIND OUT MORE AT:  http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes which includes a free download and a link to interviews with some of the best known names in crime fiction as part of the Front Row Crime Writers Collection. Authors include: Jo Nesbo, James Ellroy, Ian Rankin, Walter Mosley, Henning Mankell, and many more…

 

 

 

Malcolm Mackay- How A Gunman Says Goodbye (Glasgow Trilogy 2)

Product DetailsHow does a gunman retire? Frank MacLeod was the best at what he does. Thoughtful. Efficient. Ruthless. But is he still the best? A new job. A target. But something is about to go horribly wrong. Someone is going to end up dead. Most gunmen say goodbye to the world with a bang. Frank’s still here. He’s lasted longer than he should have.

How A Gunman Says Goodbye is the follow-up to Malcolm Mackay’s exceptional debut novel The Necessary Death of Lewis Winter  forming the first two instalments of his Glasgow Trilogy ( the final book, The Sudden Arrival of Violence due to be published January 2014) , and I really don’t know what I can add to the universal praise Mackay has attracted so far. With How A Gunman Says Goodbye, Mackay merely adds to the kudos of his first, with another taut and uncompromising but utterly compelling read, this time focusing on ageing hit man Frank MacLeod, whose comeback from a hip operation, has slightly dulled his formerly razor sharp senses, thereby damaging his long standing reputation as a hit man to fear, and a man whose long term options become increasingly limited…

With the same spare and mesmerising prose that so defined the style and pace of the first book, Mackay cleverly melds moments of tangible compassion with the grim realities of Frank’s future options, that by turn raises empathy, yet an acceptance of the harsh truth within the reader as we see the diminishing of Frank’s usefulness to his former masters. As the pace and coolness of the narrative decreases the passion of the prose, you are so aware of the decreasing circle that Frank finds himself in, with the uncomfortable realisation that his options are decreasing by the hour and that his future is bleak. As Frank considers a life spent at the murderous behest of others, a sad picture comes to light of a life unlived,  that is so powerful in its portrayal with the tautness of Mackay’s characterisation and prose. The control of this writing, so illustrative of Mackay’s obvious love of, and homage to, the hardboiled tradition of American crime fiction is a joy, setting him largely apart from his other Scottish crime contemporaries, and highlighting once again the marked difference and freshness he brings to the genre.

Another interesting curve to the story is that we see an interesting reflection of Frank’s potential fate, within his erstwhile protege Calum MacLean (the focal character of the previous book), a relatively young man, who carries the uncomfortable knowledge that Frank’s life casts an unwelcome shadow on his own future, alienated from personal human relationships with a powerful sense of the clock ticking down on his long term usefulness in his chosen profession as a killer for hire. As Frank’s power and position diminishes, Calum’s star rises, but at what cost to old and young man alike, and is this the life that Calum really wants to maintain? After his crisis of conscience following his killing of Lewis Winter in the first book, MacLean is once again grappling with weighty issues, and Mackay’s use of the stream of consciousness both in relation to Frank and Calum is rhythmical and mesmeric adding a pulse to the narrative, as they, and by extension the reader, come to realise the futility of their musings.

Mackay has once again brought us a brutal and dispassionate  tale of the Glasgow underworld, but so cleverly undercut with moments of extreme poignancy that resonate with the reader on a very human level. A crime novel that is spare but emotive, beautifully constructed with an unrelenting tense pace, and compelling to the very end, thanks in no small part to the exceptional characterisation and Mackay’s ability to depict the violent underbelly of gangland Glasgow. A remarkable read.

My review:  Malcolm Mackay- The Necessary Death of Lewis Winter (Glasgow Trilogy 1)

Read an interview with Malcolm Mackay at Crime Fiction Lover here: malcolm-mackay-interviewed/ and a  feature on Mackay here: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/

 (With thanks to Kate at Macmillan for the ARC)

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