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Raven Crime Reads

Criminally good reads…

Month

May 2014

Blog Tour- Paul Finch- The Killing Club

KC blog tourAs part of the blog tour celebrating the release of Paul Finch’s third book The Killing Club, I am delighted to be able to post the opening extract to set your crime pulses racing. Having read the book already, I can guarantee that you will quickly be hooked on Heck, the maverick detective who is both a colourful and compelling character. As the ghosts of a previous case come back to taunt DS Mark ‘Heck’ Heckenburg, strap yourselves in for a gritty, fast moving and action packed read, travelling the length and breadth of the British Isles in pursuit of a cold, calculating and violent group of men. Heck is a real man’s man and given half a chance probably a ladies man too, and you will be rooting for him solidly throughout the book, as he pivots from one moment of peril to another. Don’t worry if this is the first you read as Finch’s succinct inclusion of the back story is welcoming to new readers, and a good refresher for established ones. A great read for the beach or a lazy afternoon in the back garden as summer approaches, and a hell of a ride. Enjoy!

 

heckEXTRACT- THE KILLING CLUB

Gull Rock was just about the last place on Earth.

Situated on a bleak headland south of that vast tidal inlet called ‘the Wash’, it was far removed from any kind of civilisation, and battered constantly by furious elements. Even on England’s east coast, no place was lonelier, drearier, nor more intimidating in terms of its sheer isolation. Though ultimately this was a good thing, for Gull Rock Prison (aka HM Prison Brancaster) held the very worst of the worst. And this was no exaggeration, even by the standards of ‘Category A’. None of Gull Rock’s inmates was serving less than ten years, and they included in their number some of the most depraved murderers, most violent robbers and most relentless rapists in Britain, not to mention gangsters, terrorists and urban street-hoodlums for whom the word ‘deranged’ could have been invented.

When Detective Superintendent Gemma Piper drove onto its visitor car park that dull morning, her aquamarine Mercedes E-class was the only vehicle there, but this was no surprise. Visits to inmates at Gull Rock were strictly limited.

She climbed out and regarded the distant concrete edifice. It was early September, but this was an exposed location; a stiff breeze gusted in across the North Sea, driving uncountable white-caps ahead of it, lofting hundreds of raucous seabirds skyward, and ruffling her tangle of ash-blonde hair. She buttoned up her raincoat and adjusted the bundle of plastic-wrapped folders under her arm.

Another vehicle now rumbled off the approach road, and pulled into a parking bay alongside her: a white Toyota GT.

She ignored it, staring at the outline of the prison. In keeping with its ‘special security’ status, it was noticeably lacking in windows. The grey walls of its various residential blocks were faceless and sheer, any connecting passages between them running underground. A towering outer wall, topped with barbed wire, encircled these soulless inner structures, the only gate in it a massive slab of reinforced steel, while outside it lay concentric rings of electrified fencing…

paulPaul Finch is a former cop and journalist, now turned full time writer. He first cut his literary teeth penning episodes of the British TV crime drama, The Bill, and has written extensively in the field of children’s animation. However, he is probably best known for his work in horrors and thrillers.

His debut crime novel, Stalkers, was published last year and introduced DS Mark ‘Heck’ Heckenburg. It became a number one eBook bestseller and was followed by the sequel, Sacrifice. The third in the series, The Killing Club, is out now.

To find out more about Paul and his books visit his website at http://paulfinch-writer.blogspot.co.uk/ Follow him on Twitter @paulfinchauthor

 

 

Tony Parsons- The Murder Bag

Twenty years ago seven rich, privileged students became friends at their exclusive private school, Potter’s Field. Now they have started dying in the most violent way imaginable. Detective Max Wolfe has recently arrived in the Homicide division of London’s West End Central, 27 Savile Row. Soon he is following the bloody trail from the backstreets and bright lights of the city, to the darkest corners of the internet and all the way to the corridors of power. As the bodies pile up, Max finds the killer’s reach getting closer to everything – and everyone – he loves. Soon he is fighting not only for justice, but for his own life …

 

Having already been well-received and incredibly widely reviewed, The Murder Bag marks the first foray of Tony Parsons into the world of crime writing. With all the pre-publicity hype and long build-up to its release, I was keen to read this, but was it a gripping read, or less of a murder, and more of a mixed bag? Knowing the blood, sweat and tears that accompanies the writing of a crime book, from crime writers of my acquaintance, I am always wary of being too critical of books, but as a voracious and consistent reader of the genre, I was a little disappointed and perplexed by this book for several reasons, and would slightly question the plaudits afforded to it by other reviewers. So seeking to keep my ‘firm but fair’ reputation intact, here are my observations…

The story is basic enough, with a group of men from privileged backgrounds, linked by their school years, finding themselves being picked off one by one, for some reason as yet unknown. Enter intrepid detective, Max Wolfe- not quite a believable maverick, not quite a complete dullard- single father of cutesy five year old girl with all the mawkish sentimentality that underpins this relationship- with a dog, Stan, who I felt more intimately acquainted with than many of the human protagonists. I think it’s fair to say that The Murder Bag, is not in any way re-inventing the wheel in terms of the crime fiction genre. Indeed, in my reading of it, I felt that quite possibly the author has invested a lot of time in reading a selection of other crime writers, and extracting the best elements of several to be combined into his plot. Hence, what is produced is a curious mix of the solidity of the British police procedural, combined with the more salacious brutality of an American crime novel, with neither really working in tandem with the other.

Also, it is abundantly clear that some serious amount of research into police practices, forensic profiling, social networking, the Iraq War, etc had been undertaken, but in a similar way to other over-researched thrillers (Dan Brown- I’m looking at you), I did feel slightly bruised and battered by the amount of information crowbarred in, and its disturbance of the equilibrium of the plot overall. Consequently, I felt the book was rather stilted in its realisation and dialogue, and despite a promising opening did seem to lose its way from that point. There is a rather superfluous romantic entanglement for Wolfe along the way that added nothing tangible to the overall plot, and with the patchy unfolding of the murder plot itself, I found my attention wandering although I did not quite reach the point of giving up on it altogether, which does count for something I suppose.

Overall a pretty disappointing read, but sure that with an endorsement by Lee Child and the solidity of the author’s previous fictional output it will do well enough. Not a ground-breaking criminal debut for Parsons, but will undoubtedly not be the last of this series, as there is enough to warrant another foray with Max Wolfe in the future.

(With thanks to Century for the ARC)

 

Could you be Britain’s Next Bestseller?

bnbs-blackIntroducing Britain’s Next Bestseller …

Love reading? Love writing? If your answer to either of these questions is yes then you’ll love Britain’s Next Bestseller.

Britain’s Next Bestseller (BNBS) is a new publishers with a difference. They wanted to create something that would allow readers to choose the books that get published; and would make it easier and more profitable for writers to bag a book deal. Everyone is a winner.

So how does it work?

It’s simple.

For readers – You decide who BNBS publish. If you don’t want to read it they don’t want to publish it. It’s as simple as that. With BNBS you get to browse exciting manuscripts, watch great book trailers, search out and support that next bestselling author, and the first 250 people to order get their name printed in every edition of the book. Plus you get your copy of the book 2 weeks before public release. You will find books from all genres on the site, including crime, so what are you waiting for? Visit www.britainsnextbestseller.co.uk

 

1395866526*STOP PRESS NEWS.* Mac the Knife – a fast paced crime thriller where to survive you need to keep your enemies dead – order before 26th May*

There are just 5 days left to order gritty crime thriller ‘Mac the Knife.’ Written by Lee Callow. This book isn’t for the faint hearted. Author Lee grew up around pubs and clubs in Slough, which inspired him to write this crime story. If something terrible happened to you, through no fault of your own, where you lost everything and everyone, would your basic morals change? Lee believes they would and that is the premise for his book. To read an extract or watch the trailer please go to www.britainsnextbestseller.co.uk/book/index/MactheKnife

If you would like to read the book and help Lee launch his career please place an order before 26th May. If he doesn’t hit his pre-order target he won’t get published.

For writers – if you have an unpublished but edited manuscript simply submit it at www.britainsnextbestseller.co.uk All genres are accepted and the service is available to all UK authors, aspiring or established. They will agree a pre-order target (usually around 250 orders) and campaign period (usually 8 to 12 weeks) with you. Achieve your targets and a guaranteed publishing contract, with industry beating royalties, will see your book go from manuscript to printed masterpiece in just 12 weeks. The more popular a manuscript is, the more resources they throw at it to make it a Bestseller.

 

So, what has the response been?

BNBS launched 31st March 2014. In just a short time 2 authors have smashed their targets ahead of their deadlines and so have been awarded publishing contracts. There are a selection of other authors well on their way to hitting targets too. With new and exciting manuscripts arriving every day it would appear that they aren’t the only ones excited about this new concept. But to see for yourself visit www.britainsnextbestseller.co.uk

You can follow via Facebook : BNBSbooks or Twitter @BNBSbooks

Thomas Mogford- Hollow Mountain

Media of Hollow MountainAt the heart of Gibraltar lies the Rock.

At the heart of the Rock lies darkness.

The late-morning sun beats down on the Rock of Gibraltar as bored tourists photograph the Barbary Apes. A child’s scream pierces the silence as she sees a monkey cradling a macabre trophy. A man’s severed arm. In the narrow streets of the Old Town below, lawyer Spike Sanguinetti’s friend and colleague is critically injured in a mysterious hit-and-run. Spike must drop everything and return home to Gibraltar, where he is drawn into a case defending a ruthless salvage company hunting for treasure in the Straits. As Spike battles to save his business, he realises that his investigations have triggered a terrifying sequence of events, and that everything he holds dear is under threat…

 

Having read and reviewed the two previous books, Shadow of the Rock and Sign of the Cross featuring charismatic and slick lawyer Spike Sanguinetti, I could not wait for the third instalment to appear. So here it is, Hollow Mountain, and I think I can confidently say that it does not disappoint…

     The novel opens in Gibraltar with a great scene- you can’t beat an ape appearing with a dismembered human arm and frightening a small child- quickly followed by the introduction of Spike Sanguinetti in Genoa on the trail of his errant former lover, the enigmatic and mysterious Zahra. Theirs has been a tricky relationship played out over the course of the three books, and this wily female continues to elude and frustrate the lovelorn Spike. Throw into the mix an almost fatal accident involving Sanguinetti’s partner in his law firm, and an intriguing tale involving the territorial rights of salvaging sunken ships highlighting also the push-me, pull-you battle over the sovereignty of Gibraltar- the hollow mountain of the title- and what transpires is a multi-faceted tale all played out with Mogford’s superb narrative control. Certainly for me, this tightness of plotting meant that no single strand of the story was more overplayed than the others, which is some feat in a relatively short crime novel.

     Added to the assured control of plot, Mogford once again presents a cast of contrasting and full characters imbued with wit, charm, nastiness or greed in equal measure. Spike Sanguinetti is a charmer, with his air of calm control and suaveness, undone sporadically by not only the pursuit of Zahra, the heartwarming but fraught relationship with his father, but also by his uncanny knack to find himself in the thick of trouble and murder. Mogford’s characters generally have a nifty line in humour in the face of adversity, and there are some lovely laugh out loud moments. I am particularly fond of Spike’s curmudgeonly father Rufus, and the interaction between them, and despite Spike’s protests to the contrary, there are more alike than either would concede. Likewise, Spike’s police associate Jessica Navarro is growing in stature as the series progresses, and will be interested to see how her character is developed further.

     In Mogford’s usual style, the book weaves in little snippets of pertinent information as regards location and socio-political mores as the action pivots between various locations, with Gibraltar itself standing front and centre, bathed in mystery and rich in history. In a nod to psycho-geography, Gibraltar is imbued with almost human characteristics in Mogford’s depiction, and his gradual unfurling of the colourful history of this contentious piece of land over the course of the three books has been fascinating.

     So another thumbs-up from me, and delighted to discover recently that Mogford is on his research travels once again in Italy and Albania for the next book. What on earth will Spike be up to next? Rest assured I look forward to finding out. A great read.

Another review of Hollow Mountain can be found at Crimepieces

My reviews of  Shadow of the Rock and Sign of the Cross

Thomas Mogford has worked as a journalist for Time Out and as a translator for the European Parliament and the UEFA Champions League. While studying to be a lawyer, he looked into practising abroad. Instead, he decided to write a series of thrillers set in the Mediterranean region. Shadow of the Rock introduces Spike Sanguinetti, a lawyer from Gibraltar who is willing to risk everything to protect his client www.thomasmogford.com follow on Twitter @ThomasMogford

(With thanks to Bloomsbury for the ARC)

Gilles Petel- Under The Channel

petelAnother little slice of French noir and the first of Gilles Petel’s five books to be published in English. Written whilst Petel was living in London and working as a teacher at the Lycee Francais Charles de Gaulle, Under The Channel is a gripping and mysterious tale about identity, opportunity, and the clash of two cultures.

John Burny is a libertine Scottish estate agent, who in spite of his forty-five years is fit and youthfully handsome. Lieutenant Roland Desfeuileres is a French police officer, married with two children and somewhat tired of life despite the fact he is only forty. Their lives collide when Burny is murdered on the Eurostar en route to a sexual assignation in Paris, and Roland is charged with investigating the death. His investigation takes him to London, a welcome excuse to escape his failing marriage. But who was the real John Burny, and why was he murdered? Desfeuileres immerses himself in the victim’s hedonistic lifestyle, ostensibly searching for clues, and the longer he walks in the dead man’s footsteps, the more he discovers about himself.

To be honest, I would be reluctant to label Under The Channel as a crime book per se. Admittedly, the premise of the murdered Englishman is enough to hold the plot together as a criminal investigation ensues, undertaken by our hangdog French policeman, but far more interestingly, the book hinges far more on the psychological collision of our protagonists lives and the consequences of this. Desfeuileres is a marvellous character, experiencing the neurosis and midlife crisis of a man drowning in an unfulfilling marriage, despite his efforts to spice it up, and whose sojourn in England opens his eyes to a life he could have lived in different circumstances. Working against the reluctance of his police chief to invest time and effort in this cross border murder investigation, Desfeuileres adopts a stubborn stance, prolonging his stay in London to try and establish the reasons for Burny’s death. Very much in the spirit of the flaneur, Desfeuileres tramps the streets of London during the height of the financial crisis, imbibing the chasm between wealth and poverty in the bustling metropolis. The depiction of London and the searing differences in neighbourhoods, merely a few streets from one another, is well portrayed and as Desfeuileres immerses himself in the more affluent lifestyle of his victim, he realises that London could indeed be paved with streets of gold for him personally. As Desfeuileres comes into contact with Burny’s work colleagues, the sensual Kate Reed, and Burny’s male lovers, past and present, Petel cleverly manipulates Desfeuileres character and we see a man undergoing a complete change of personality, as the life of Burny begins to seep into his consciousness, and forces a change in his own life and sensibilities that is gradually revealed to the reader. It is deftly handled, and as Desfeuileres adopts this rebirth in his personality, the book holds a series of surprises. Consequently, the actual murder plot, plays second fiddle to the growth of Desfeuileres character, as this appears to be the real motivation behind the writing, so was perhaps a less fulfilling and well realised aspect of the book. I became entirely uninterested in the our poor victim’s fate, as I found the psychological and personal development of our morose French policeman altogether more interesting, and how easily a man’s moral and physical credo can be undermined and changed with the influence of another man’s life.

As an admirer of the late Pascal Garnier, I was reminded of his writing in some of the scenes played out within this compact novel. With flecks of wit, and a singularly unexpected outcome to the whole affair, there is a dark and almost sordid feel to the book. The ending will leave the reader with unanswered questions, but for my money the journey to this is more than worthwhile.

(With thanks to Gallic Books for the ARC)

 

Patrick Redmond- The Replacement

redmondEveryone envies the Randalls. As Robert embarks on a luxurious retirement, his beautiful wife Caroline thrives as an accomplished hostess, and their handsome twins launch their own high-flying careers. It is almost too good to be true.

No one envies Stuart. Used to fending for himself after a childhood of foster homes, he is now making his way as best he can, vowing to lose a bit more weight and become a bit more successful.

But a chance encounter sets in motion a series of events which will shatter everything. Some will think they’ve lost, and some will think they’re winning, but none of them will be prepared for what is to come in the final catastrophe of jealousy, betrayal and agonizing justice. They should never have invited Stuart in – and Stuart should never have trusted them…

From my initial experience of reading The Wishing Game some years ago, still to my mind one of the best psychological thrillers ever, I have been a regular reader of Patrick Redmond. The Replacement is his latest, and once again demonstrates his prowess in the understanding of human psychology, and the pitch perfect transference of this talent into crime fiction.

Meet the Randalls, a wholly dislikeable and affluent family, with the superior and boorish attitudes that such status inevitably yields in their day to day lives. Robert Randall, the dominant patriarch, a retired lawyer, and his hostess with the mostess wife, the attractive Caroline. The twin sons, James and Thomas with their successful  careers, after a childhood empty of love and praise for Thomas, and with all the family expectations and opportunities invested in James. Theirs is a family with a bedrock of sexual duplicity, societal position and petty jealousies and rivalries. It’s absolutely fascinating. And then the masterstroke as a large cuckoo in the nest, in the shape of the hapless Stuart- an overweight, low achieving man scarred by his upbringing in the care system- arrives to send this family into free-fall, and then, as they say, it all kicks off. Big style.

The building and development of each player in this almost Borgia-esque nightmare is beautifully rendered with a narrative control that Redmond is well known for. Each character is fully developed with a 360 degree viewpoint that plumbs the depths of their interior lives and motivations. This is particularly true of Thomas, James and Stuart, who are so wholly different, but you know each of them so intensely with the width and breadth of the characterisation. Indeed, every single character is so clearly defined, regardless of their influence in the plot, that the reader is totally engaged in the machinations of their lives, arousing our sympathy or vitriolic bile in equal measure. There’s a wonderful quote regarding Ma and Pa Randall saying, “He was an unpleasant man. She was an unpleasant woman. But even the most objectionable of people could still have feelings”, but as the plot unfolds the finer qualities of these feelings such as they are, are roundly undermined by the revealing of the truly appalling actions of both. The way that they have manipulated their sons, and the degradation and falseness of their marriage, puts the whole family set-up into sharp focus, leading us to question how James and Thomas have survived as long as they have with such awful parents, and how Stuart will fit into this equation. I loved the permutations of the relationships in the book, between the sons themselves, their respective girlfriends, whether pleasant or grasping, and how all their worlds collide, as each revelation of the misdemeanours of the past is unveiled. The close-quartered study of the dynamics of this family is utterly realistic, where jealousy underscored with shifting loyalties is at the fore.  The book is incredibly dialogue driven, but is precise and most important very naturalistic and flowing. This intense use of dialogue immerses you even more in the character’s fractured relationships and personal scheming, that in some cases puts Machiavelli himself to shame…

This is a twisted tale of murder, suicide, and sexual and monetary jealousy that slowly envelops you in its grasp and for me certainly, became utterly compulsive reading. The characters are so nice and nasty in equal measure that I bet you have your own candidate as the eventual murder victim- I certainly did- and will fully enjoy this slow potboiler from start to finish. Loved it…

Author’s website:

www.patrickredmondbooks.com

Follow on Twitter @predmondauthor

(With thanks to Little Brown for the ARC)

 

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