Tom Mead Interview: “Telling stories is what I love to do”

Tom Mead is an author of locked room mysteries who recently published his debut novel. I chat to him about his work and the road he took to publication.

How did you come to become an author? What’s your career experience and how do you draw on it in your writing?


Well I studied creative writing at university, but before that I always had my head in a book. The idea of being a writer has always appealed, ever since I was young. Telling stories is what I love to do. I grew up reading classic mysteries by Agatha Christie, so fair-play puzzle plots have always been a significant feature of my reading life, too. It just seemed like a natural progression to take my enjoyment of the puzzles and use it to construct mysteries of my own.

Tell me about how you came to define your writing style. What drew you towards locked room mysteries?

I’ve always had a fascination with magic tricks and illusions, and really the locked-room mystery is the closest literary equivalent. The best kind of locked-room mysteries are the ones that give you a sense of “retrospective illumination”- a moment where you want to kick yourself because you realise how deceptively simple the solution is and you can’t believe you didn’t think of it. I love reading those kinds of book, and so I want to try and give readers the same sense of joy that I get from them.

How did you come to publish a book? As a debut novelist, what was your journey towards publication like?

My publishing experience was a pretty unorthodox one. I’d been writing short mystery stories for a long time- several years, in fact- when my story “Heatwave” was selected by Lee Child for inclusion in his anthology The Best Mystery Stories of the Year 2021, which was published by Mysterious Press in the US and Head of Zeus here in the UK (under the title The Best Crime Stories of the Year). This put me in touch with Otto Penzler, who runs Mysterious Press, and who shares my love of locked-room mysteries. So I took a chance and sent him my manuscript, hoping for a bit of feedback at best. Not only did I get the feedback, but I also got an offer to publish it, which certainly exceeded my wildest expectations. But it was through Mysterious that I established a connection with Head of Zeus, which is why the book came out in the US first, although I live in the UK.

Why did you decide to write Death And The Conjuror? What was the inspiration behind the book?

I’d written about my detective character, Joseph Spector, in several of my short mystery stories. I’d been wanting to use him in a piece of longer fiction for a while, but it didn’t initially occur to me that Death and the Conjuror might turn into a full-length novel. It was only while I was plotting it out, and adding characters and complications, that it occurred to me that it would take a novel to fully explore the complexities- all the twists and turns- of this story.

What’s your research process? How do you go about finding out important facts and integrating them into your work?

Writing about the 1930s is a lot of fun because that era was the height of the Golden Age of Detective Fiction, when so many of my favourite writers were at the peak of their creative powers. Crime fiction offers such a brilliant insight into the social mores of an era that I couldn’t ask for better research material. But when it comes to adding period verisimilitude to my depiction of London society, there are plenty of nonfiction resources out there. Historical records, photographs, documentaries and of course books. I used as many as I could lay my hands on.

What style of writing do you enjoy reading yourself? Are there any particular writers you admire?

My favourite writer is John Dickson Carr, commonly known as the master of the locked-room mystery. He didn’t invent the genre, but he certainly took it to new heights. Discovering his works was certainly pivotal for me. That’s why I’ve dedicated Death and the Conjuror to his memory.

If you could collaborate with any person, living or dead, on a writing project, who would it be and why?

I actually have two collaborations happening at the moment. I’ve co-written a murder mystery for younger readers with the author Michael Dahl. I’m also co-editing an anthology of all-new locked-room mystery short stories with Gigi Pandian, another brilliant US author who’s written a number of fantastic mystery series.

Have you got any projects coming up that you are particularly excited about?

At the moment it’s all systems go for the UK publication of Death and the Conjuror in hardback, so I’m really excited about that. But I’ve also recently announced the US publication date for the sequel, The Murder Wheel. It comes out in the US in July 2023, and in the UK later next year. So perhaps it goes without saying that I’m also incredibly excited about that.

Are there any new books or writers that you are looking forward to going forward?

I’m looking forward to diving into the latest book in Martin Edwards’s magnificent Rachel Savernake series- it’s called Blackstone Fell. Other recent books I’ve enjoyed include Anthony Horowitz’s The Twist of a Knife, Victoria Dowd’s The Supper Club Murders, and Fiona Sherlock’s Twelve Motives for Murder. Another author whose works I greatly admire is Robert Thorogood, creator of the BBC show Death in Paradise. Last year I read his brilliant novel The Marlow Murder Club, and I’m very excited for the sequel, which I understand includes a locked-room mystery.

Is there anything you’d like to add?

Just that I’m always delighted to hear from people who’ve enjoyed the book, and I try to be very responsive to readers. You can find me over on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/tommeadauthor/) and Twitter (https://twitter.com/TomMeadAuthor), or you can check out my website (https://tommeadauthor.com/).

Thanks for taking the time, it’s been amazing to hear about your debut novel and I’m looking forward to your future work!

The Divider Review: A Timely Reminder Of Why Trump Should Never Be President Again

As he gears up for another presidential run, I felt now was an ideal time to share a review of an incredible book chronically the 45th President’s absurd and chaotic White House administration. I’ve already shared some of the best books about Trump a few years ago, but I’ve recently read this defiitive guide and I thought that now would be a great time to share my thoughts on this book that everyone who used to, wants to, or is supporting Trump.

The Divider: Trump in the White House, 2017-2021 is an incredible overview of the manic Trump presidency, from his initial run to becoming the unlikely underdog to win the presidency, to his mis-handling of the coronavirus pandemic right through to his incitement of the January 6th riots when he didn’t win reelection.

Dubbed ‘the adhocracy’, the madness of Trump’s White House set-up, including the infighting, nepotism and backstabbing is brilliantly outlined by husband and wife journalism team Peter Baker Susan Glasser.

Drawing on interviews with insiders, a detailed analysis of the media and Trump’s former favourite social media platform, Twitter, the pair analyse how the former president was perceived by those around him, both in and out of the White House. The book is incredibly detailed and delves into all of the major scandals and events of Trump’s tumultuous presidency.

Throughout the book, which takes its name from the nickname given to Trump’s staff management style of pitting his staff against one another, Baker and Glasser make droll comments about how duplicitous and contradictory the former Commander In Chief was throughout his one-term tenure in office. By combining their own opinions with those of former staff members, the authors are able to highlight the craziness in the Trump White House.

Alongside the chapters, which are each named after a comment from or about the 45th President, the book features a selection of well-chosen photographs that encapsulate Trump’s presidency. Some of the highlights include the picture of a stern looking Angela Merkle standing over the former president, Nancy Pelosi wagging a finger at him, Melina Trump strutting around her husband’s concentration camp for migrant children separated from their parents wearing a jacket with “I really don’t care, do u?” emblazoned on the back, the image of Trump holding a bible upside down outside a church after clearing aside peaceful Black Lives Matter protestors with tear gas, and many other iconic photographs. Each image is accompanied by a scathing inditement on Trump’s behaviour and astute observations about how the pictures were perceived in the media, by the public and behind closed doors in Trump’s fractious White House. The imagery is perfect, and although the text isn’t fully proofread and grammatically correct, it’s still a great read.

The one thing I’m not entirely sure about when it comes to The Divider is how Baker and Glasser portray many of Trump’s enablers, such as his multiple Chiefs of Staff, Vice President Mike Pence, the Republicans who chose not to impeach him and other former supporters in Washington’s political class. The authors assert that many of these individuals didn’t support Trump at all, and were just working on his behalf because they were concerned that if they left, they would be replaced someone worse than they were. Allegedly, many of these individuals didn’t believe in the policies they were promoting, but were instead pushed by Trump and had a sort of moral imperative to stay in the White House and do their best to do everything in their power to derail Trump’s worst plans.

Perhaps the worst instance of this is the way the writers discuss Kirstjen Nielsen, who is perhaps most famous for implementing Trumps family separation program, which has devastated thousands of lives. Many of the children separated from their parents have still not been reunited with their families all these years later, yet the book tries to make readers feel sorry for Nielsen and argues that she, in fact, opposed the plan and just had to pretend to support it and go through it to keep her role. While this might be true in some cases for some of the White House staff members mentioned in the book, it seems a bit of a reach for some, including Nielsen. It seems impossible to me that someone so disgusted with such an immoral policy could still be its champion and spokesperson. While Nielsen tried to justify the policy in public statements and tried to make out like the policy was less serious than it was, that doesn’t say to me that she vehemently disagreed with the policy. Neither of the authors spare the rod for Trump himself or his family, but many Republicans who enabled him and supported his appalling work are made to seem sympathetic because they were themselves targets of Trump’s wrath and because the White House was such a toxic workplace. We’ll never know the full truth, but it seems like the authors are pushing to provide an acquittal for many of the key players in the Trump administration, which I don’t believe they deserve.

However, despite this, The Divider is still a useful read for anyone who wants a complete chronicle of the entirety of Trump’s presidency. It doesn’t gloss over any of the worst of the administration’s actions, and reviews them from multiple angles. For example, Baker and Glasser explore Trump’s removal of American troops from Germany through the lens of multiple players throughout Europe. Additionally, every action Trump takes that has an impact on the current Russian invasion of Ukraine, and there are many, is chronicled in detail and the authors work to outline how these affect major players on the world stage as well as how they make America look.

In all, The Divider is a timely read for anyone who’s considering voting for Trump, or who thinks that a return of the Donald to the White House might not be as bad as people say it will be. Donald Trump is a serial liar with no capacity for empathy or interest in anyone but himself. The man has multiple legal cases against him right now, and he deserves to be locked up for his complicity in the January 6th riots and his attempt to pervert the course of justice and disrupt democracy. Trump might not have announced his bid for re-election in 2024, but he’s clearly gearing up for it, so anyone who’s unsure about how dangerous he is, or how fundamentally unhinged, should read this book before passing judgment.

Five Paddington Bear Novels For Newbies

As most people now know, the Queen of England has recently passed away. Whatever your opinions on the monarchy, you can’t deny that Elizabeth the Second has had a significant on culture.

From her cameo appearances in short skits to her iconic profile, she’s had an impact on almost every aspect of the cultural world.

One of the most symbolic ways the Queen has impacted our culture is her short film with Paddington Bear.

Michael Bond’s cute, cuddly little bear, who’s a refugee from darkest Peru, has become a famous symbol over recent years and became the unlikely, unofficial mascot of the late Queen, after she appeared in a humous skit with an animated version of Paddington.

In light of this, many readers are returning to this childhood favourite to bring them comfort in these tough times. I myself have loved the Paddington books for years, and found myself going back to them when I saw all the Paddington artworks and mentions that spread across social media after the Queen’s passing.

The Paddington books were illustrated beautifully and transport readers into a simple yet spellbinding world of imagination and gentility. Each book is a series of short stories that follow one another, meaning you can pick the book up and revisit it again at your leisure. All the stories involve a moment of minor peril, but every mishap is overcome in the end, so there’s always a happy ending and, occasionally, a moral to be found.

If you’re new to Paddington Bear and want to start reading about the plucky orphan bear and his madcap adventures, then here are 5 great books to start you off.

5. Paddington at Work: Back from a visit to Aunt Lucy in darkest Peru, Paddington quickly gets into some high-jinx with a man claiming to be from the Stock Exchange. There’s also a trip to the ballet and a few unique adventures involving the Browns, their housekeeper and their curmudgeonly neighbour Mr Curry. Paddington is renowned for being reluctant to spend money, but he does buy gifts for the Browns in this novel to thank them for the trip, and it’s sweet tales like that which make this book a must-read.

4. Paddington Helps Out: In this series of fun stories, Paddington tries to help those around him, usually with pretty disastrous results. That includes his hilarious trip to a laundrette, where he’s helped out by the kind staff, his experiments with DIY and the time he prepared dinner for Mr and Mrs Brown when they’re sick and everyone else is away. It ends with an utterly brilliant story about a meal out to celebrate Paddington’s birthday. As you can probably expect, all doesn’t go to plan, with brilliantly funny results. While Bond doesn’t lecture the reader on massive cultural or social morals, he does offer a great perspective on how to be more understanding of others and teaches kids valuable lessons through his tales, and Paddington Helps Out imparts some great values to readers.

3. More About Paddington: The second book in the series is a fun caper featuring the mystery of the missing marrow, a chaotic family portrait of the Brown family and the bear’s first ever Christmas in London. The book is fun for kids and adults alike, with some cute capers that are funny and show the values Bond tried to impact through his Paddington tales: friendship, honesty, understanding, tolerance and family unity even through trying times.

2. Paddington Goes To Town: In this series of stories, Paddington goes on a selection of adventures, including a trip to the golf course with Mr Curry that ends with a visit to the hospital, an adventure to find the finish touch for Mr Gruber’s patio and finally, more Christmas shenanigans, as Paddington tries out carol singing and goes to view the town Christmas lights. This book is fun and cosy, and the final stories are great for anyone who gets the winter blues around this time of year.

1.A Bear Called Paddington: Beginning at the beginning is a great way to immerse yourself in a new book series, and it also helps when the first book in a series is as good as A Bear Called Paddington. From his first meeting with the Brown family at Paddington Station, where he tries out tea in a cafe and find the experience truly unique, to his acceptance as a member of the family, his visit to the theatre to his time building sandcastles at the seaside, every one of the stories in this book is a fun-filled adventure.

Check Out Josephine Tey Newly Designed Editions

Reading, or even re-reading, classic Golden Age crime fiction is a great way to relax and comfort yourself.

That’s particularly important right now, as the world’s a scary place and there’s a lot for us all to worry about.

While we can’t fix everything, we can find ways to make ourselves feel less trapped and make the world feel like a less frightening place to be.

If you’re thinking about re-reading some classic crime fiction, then Josephine Tey’s seminal novels might be among the first that spring to your mind.

The name is one of several pen names for the successful author, who also wrote a wide range of plays for radio, theatre, film and TV.

She only wrote a small number of crime fiction books, but they were incredibly popular and well received. As a result, Tey’s name is now listed alongside other major detective story titans of the Golden Age, most of whom wrote significantly larger back catalogues of crime fiction tales.

While you could reach for an old and worn out copy, sometimes it’s nice to have a new one with a stunning design.

Thanks to Penguin and it’s re-release of three of the most popular and intriguing of Tey’s stories, you can combine your love of traditional crime novels with your love of new books. In celebration of the world’s renewed interest in the author, who is being honoured with a blue plaque over her former home in Inverness and many other phenomenal accolades, Penguin has launched these new versions to give existing and new fans a great addition to their collections.

These three beautiful volumes depicts three beloved Inspector Alan Grant stories, and are designed with creative representations of the texts. Each one also comes with an exclusive introduction from a revered author, so you can get some new material and learn more about your favourite books from this amazing author.

Here’s a brief synopsis of each book and an overview of why you should check out Penguin’s new version.

The Daughter Of Time

Recently named the number 1 best crime novel of all time by the British Crime Writer’s Association, Tey’s amazing Inspector Grant novel combines a traditional police procedural with a historical exposé to create a unique piece of fiction that would inspire countless other authors, most notably Colin Dexter and his award-winning novel The Wench Is Dead. The Daughter Of Time sees Grant languishing in a hospital bed after an accident. With nothing to do and no motivation to read or learn, the intrepid and usually deeply curious policeman is left with nothing to occupy his mind until a close friend arrives with images of faces to tempt him to uncover the truth behind old mysteries.

Grant is intrigued by an old portrait of Richard III and starts to dig a little deeper into the life and many scandals of the crippled king who supposedly murdered two of his own nephews in cold blood. As he explores further, Grant learns more about the case and the man. Although the case is as cold as they come, he’s determined to find out more, taking the reader on a unique and unforgettable journey through British history.

This latest edition of the beloved classic from Josephine Tey is introduced by Alexander McCall Smith, who explores the timely rerelease of the book following the recent discovery of the remains of Richard III’s remains under a car park in Leicester. The informative introduction and bold cover design make this a great addition to any collection or an ideal way to start your obsession with this wonderful author.

To Love And Be Wise

Another Inspector Grant novel, To Love And Be Wise is gripping from the beginning. Grant is picking up his actress friend from a literary party in London where he meets a mysterious, handsome young American stranger. The young man is a friend of a friend of the nephew of an associate of the hosts- yes it’s convoluted!

Invited down to the small country village where most of the party lives, the photographer is a firm favourite with the ladies from the off, upsetting many of the local men and some of the matriarchs who had their eyes set on better matches for young female relatives.

Quickly, the young American assimilates himself into life in the country, and goes with his friend to complete a book about the local river. Their journey is a resounding success until the American disappears. Propelled by the higher-ups and the influence of his actress friend, Inspector Grant finds himself enmeshed in an unusual case.

There’s no body, and no telling if a crime actually occurred. But as Grant digs deeper he finds that the young American photographer had many secrets, and his motives for visiting Trimmings, the country manor where he was staying, might not have been as innocent as they first appeared. There’s a chilling twist that transforms the novel from basic police procedural into a full-blown gripping crime drama.

Introduced by Kate Mosse, the acclaimed novelist not, as I initially thought, the 90s supermodel with her name spelt wrong, this new edition also boasts a bold cover design featuring a smashed camera. It’s a great option for anyone who’s looking for a cute copy of this phenomenal novel. `

The Franchise Affair

Perhaps one of the most famous of Tey’s crime fiction novels, The Franchise Affair is the third in this selection of Inspector Alan Grant novels, featuring a truly unique problem. The owners of a house in the country, previously a beautiful manor and now a little run-down, are accused of abducting a young girl and forcing her to work as a domestic slave.

The girl runs away and her adopted parents are contacted, with Inspector Grant bought in to review the case against the women, which mostly hinges on local prejudice and hearsay, but with a few strange details included. The girl seems to have some inside knowledge of the property that seems to indicate she’s been in the house, but some of the details don’t quite ring true.

Grant quickly enters into the world of village gossip, prejudice and rumour, which leads him to question the truth in this unusual case. The twist is inventive and comes as a surprise to the reader, so you’ll always be on the edge of your seat throughout this original Golden Age detective story.

With a beautiful new cover design featuring an old fashioned car, this new design of the novel is the least easy to link to the story than the others, although the car does link to the plot eventually, but it is still gorgeous. Tana French introduces the book, and explores the real life case that inspired the novel and how the author turned the tale into an iconic crime fiction caper.

Whether you’re already a fan of Tey’s bold prose, complex plots and creative characterisation, or are a Golden Age crime fiction fan searching for a new favourite, these three redesigned classics are the perfect choice for you. Penguin has chosen three of the best of this renowned author’s books to redesign in a bold and beautiful way, and these three books will soon be an important fixture on every crime fiction fan’s bookshelf.

A Fatal Crossing Review: An Innovative Nautical Take On A Golden Age Locked Room Mystery

Right on time for summer of the roaring 2020s comes the debut novel by Tom Hindle, set in the roaring 1920s. A Fatal Crossing is everything you could possibly want from a vintage crime novel, packed with dark twists, droll dialogue and tantalising mysteries galore.

Set onboard a luxury ship that sails between London and New York, and is on its way to the Big Apple, the novel is an innovative take on the classic locked room mystery. The passenger liner the Endeavour has just 4 days left of her voyage when an elderly man is found at the bottom of a staircase after a night of heavy rainfall. The captain, keen to reach New York and begin his retirement, sweeps the death away as an accident and places the body in an old cold store. After all, his is a passenger liner, and he doesn’t have the time or facilities to investigate the death. He’s happy to wait for the ship to dock and leave it to the cops in New York.

However, a Scotland Yard police officer who is onboard the ship believes that the death is no accident. Inspector James Temple convinces the Captain to let him investigate, but only under the supervision of troubled ship’s officer Timothy Birch. Initially the inspector is reluctant to accept the help, but he eventually agrees to get the investigation moving.

From the beginning, the reader is led into a world of intrigue, with new twists and turns in every chapter. The prose is very descriptive and almost military in its formation, an approach that allows the author to pack a lot into less than 500 pages. Narrated by Birch, the novel following the officer and Temple as they attempt to unravel what happened to the old man.

Quickly, the unlikely duo, neither of whom is particularly happy with the other’s presence, learn that the dead man was travelling under a false name. He’s an art dealer from Bath, on his way to the New York Art Fair, who has been meeting with several passengers onboard to discuss various deals.

One of these is the purchase of a painting believed to be the only portrait by a renowned landscape artist. The picture once belonged to the victim, but was purchased for much less than its true value by an old associate of his, who now plans to sell it at the fair for its true value. On the night of the death, the picture was stolen and a threatening note left in its place.

As the days wear on and the body count rises, our two detectives are forced to work together to uncover the truth before it’s too late. The strangely civil odd-couple pairing of the two detectives reminds me a lot of traditional Golden Age crime fiction double acts like Wimsey and Parker or Poirot and Hastings. While the situations are different, the dynamic is similar, in that one is significantly more intelligent than the other, who is more personable and likeable. Together, the pair work well and fight against the clock to find the killer and uncover the truth.

With a set amount of time before the vessel docks in New York and no way for the passengers or crew to get off the ship, the novel is a take on a locked room mystery that was incredibly popular with Golden Age crime writers. Author Tom Hindle has named Agatha Christie as one of his writing inspirations, and it’s easy to see her influence in this incredible debut crime novel. The plot is filled with twists and new information, but as we follow the narrative of the brave and observant yet unintelligent Officer Birch, the reader is easily able to keep up with each new development in the case.

So in summary, if you’re looking for a fun and thrilling historical crime caper, then A Fatal Crossing is the perfect book for you. The characters are engaging and unlikeable in the best possible way, and the plot powers along as fast as the Endeavour on her way from London to New York. The author skilfully reveals new information at the perfect pace, which keeps you on your toes from the first page to the final paragraph. Hindle is set to release another take on a locked room mystery next year, and I for one will be looking forward to checking it out.

What More Male Characters Means For Literature And What We Can Do About It

Recently a study conducted using AI technology uncovered a statistic that male identifying characters are four times more prevalent in fiction than female ones.

By searching for pronoun usage among a sample of 3000 books from across a range of genres, the study was able to identify a significant gender bias in favour of male characters.

The study couldn’t identify non-binary characters, but it did throw up some interesting insight into the language used around male or female identifying characters. Female characters were commonly described using terms such as ‘weak’, ‘amiable’, ‘pretty’ and even ‘stupid’. Male characters, were more commonly associated with terms such as ‘leadership’, ‘power’, ‘strength’ and ‘politics’.

While this might not be exact, and definitely requires further exploration, it’s certainly an interesting jumping-off point. It also shows what many women knew and have been saying all along- we need to make more of an effort to focus on improving diversity in literature.

As mentioned, this study isn’t exact, but it does go to show that there remains a lot of work to be done to make sure that more women and minority groups are represented, and represented properly, in literature.

One factor I think has a significant impact on the types of characters created in fiction is the types of authors writing it. Currently, while women and members of the LGBTQIA+, disabled and BAME communities are represented, usually this is a tactic to make publishers appear more diverse, and they aren’t often given the support and publicity they deserve. It’s why many of the longest standing writers, particularly in the crime fiction market, are straight white guys.

While there is slowly becoming more diversity, there are still limitations. It is true straight men are writing a lot of fiction, but the larger issue is that they’re also more likely to be the ones behind the scenes at publishing houses and book publicity agencies.

Luckily, diversity is slowly getting there, and we’re starting to see more books featuring a diverse range of characters from a broader selection of writers. Even as few as 10 years ago you wouldn’t have seen so many books featuring homosexual or non-white characters, particularly in the kid’s section.

Nowadays there is more diversity, but still not enough, particularly when it comes to actual authors. Representation matters, and it’s definitely great that we’re seeing more differently abled and diverse characters in books, but if they’re written predominantly by straight white men then they’re not going to resonate with the communities they’re supposed to represent.

Don’t get me wrong; plenty of straight white men make bloody good authors, but they’re taking opportunities from others in marginalised communities who have had to work twice as hard for half the success. So, we need more diverse writers and more people in the wider literary community to support diverse writers. We need publishing houses with more women and people from diverse backgrounds, so we can find the gems from these often overlooked communities and set them centre stage where they belong.

In the future, I think that publishers need to make more of an effort to support minority writers and give them the platform they deserve, and not just because they’re part of a different community. We need to normalise seeing pictures of a wide range of authors that don’t come in a specific section for LGBTQIA+ or BAME writers, but are just listed because their writing is awesome. We also need to make sure that more studies like this are done, so that we can continue to see what’s going on and how we can make a difference going forward.

Dead In The Water Review: A Whirlwind Of An International Historical Thriller

I’ve been a massive fan of Mark Ellis’s poetic and sensitive detective Frank Merlin for many years, and so I was excited for a new instalment to this incredible series.

It’s hard to believe that now there are 5 novels in the series, and that there’s another one that’s just come out! Dead In The Water is the latest addition to this amazing collection, and it shows Frank Merlin as a father and husband coming up against a range of different obstacles.

The book is set later in the war than the earlier novels in the series, in 1942, and the Americans have now joined the war against Hitler. Ellis loves drawing on real historical events and people in his novels, so there are plenty of mentions for history buffs to enjoy. When it comes to the fiction characters, Merlin and his team are now up against bureaucracy from both sides of the Atlantic and dealing with a spate of social unrest when a body is discovered down an alleyway.

At the same time, a shady art deal is going down, which has ramifications on many throughout London’s creative scene, including the purveyors of an avant garde fledgling literary magazine. This deal soon turns sour, and as Merlin’s body count begins to rise, he realises that something’s afoot that affects the very highest echelons of polite society.

From the very first page, readers are transported into the murky world of underground art dealing during the war, shady financial transactions and corrupt millionaires who use their power and influence for their own ends. The novel is a perfect blend of historical insight and a unique plot that holds the readers attention from the outset.

Every character is intricately constructed, and despite the sheer number of characters, the author still manages to make you care about or despise each of them. That’s one of Ellis’s key skills as a writer: being able to create characters you can hate, as well as those you can admire. It’s easy to craft likeable characters, but not so easy to write well-thought out individuals that are unlikeable. They might not necessarily be the villain of the piece, but Ellis is great at making characters who are unlikeable and, in many cases, downright creepy.

My one disappointment, and criticism, is that when I opened the book I saw how short it was. One of my first encounters with Frank Merlin was in Merlin At War, which was considerably longer than this. Having so much more to read makes me happy and means that we get to see more of Ellis’s little side plots. The author is amazing and creating unique and interesting characters, and he usually gives them more space so that their side stories really come to life.

In this novel, there are many smaller stories within the main frame of the narrative, and it would’ve been great to have them get more time and space within the book. Despite this, Ellis still does a great job of keeping them all tied into the main storyline, which concerned a shady art deal that goes horribly wrong. With a body in the river and the artwork gone, Merlin and his team face a race against time to uncover the truth. There are many suspects to choose from, and with the true ownership of this valuable art in question, there’s a lot to keep readers on their toes throughout this gripping thriller.

Also in play are the security services, a nephew of Merlin’s who’s working on a covert mission in London and a shady crew of sneak thieves trying to rob the wealthy individuals at the heart of the case. With so much going on, it’s no wonder that the book is so gripping it’s almost impossible to put down. You’ll be spellbound as you rattle around the world with Ellis’s eclectic cast of characters. Despite so many sub-plots, the novel remains surprisingly easy to keep up with, and the characters are so well-written that you’ll feel like you know them before you’re even 50 pages in.

All in all, this is another incredible addition to an already phenomenal series. It’s a great read for anyone who loves Frank Merlin already, and if you’re new to the character then it could be a good place to start, although I would recommend going from the beginning of the series. The novel covers have recently been redesigned and some of them have been renamed, so now’s as good a time as any to get into them if you haven’t already. I firmly believe that the Frank Merlin series is one of the best to be written over the past 10 years, and Dead In The Water is a truly great addition to it. I just hope the next one is longer!

Happy 6th Birthday To The Dorset Book Detective!

It’s crazy to think that it’s been 6 years since I launched the Dorset Book Detective! It’s been a mad few years, but I’m really proud of how far this blog has come.

I’ve been slowing up on posting lately because I’ve bought my own home and been going through a lot, but I’m going to keep on posting at least once a month, if not 2 or 3 times, for the foreseeable future.

So thanks ever so much to everyone who’s stayed with my blog and continues to read my ramblings. Also, a huge thank you to all the authors and book publishers who’ve helped me to find new books to review!

Here’s to many more years of great reads and fun suggestions! Thanks again for all the support!

The Long Weekend Review: A Roller Coaster Of A Plot That’s Scarily Intense

The Long Weekend has been on my TBR pile for some time, and I’ve been looking forward to checking it out. I’m glad to say that Gilly Macmillan’s latest novel did not disappoint. The book is a masterpiece of modern crime fiction, with the author, who already has many bestsellers under her belt, crafting a unique and fast paced thriller. The plot races along and the story quickly transforms from a typical locked room mystery to something much more sinister.

The book begins in the remote Northumbrian countryside, right on the border between England and Scotland, where 3 very different women arrive for a weekend away at a secluded barn. They’re set to be joined by their husbands the next day, after they all gave last minute excuses not to travel with their wives. Taking weekend breaks has become a tradition for the group, but not all of them are looking forward to it, for various reasons.

Owned by a troubled farming couple, the barn is near the site of a historic Neolithic burial ground. The husband has recently been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and his wife is concerned that he’s now harassing guests at their barn, which they rent out for short term visitors. The couple are also rattled by a strange request before the group arrives, and wrapped up in their own troubles.

When they arrive at the barn, the 3 women discover an unsettling note, supposedly from Edie, another woman who was part of their social circle until her husband died, and who subsequently decided not to come to on the trip. The note suggests that harm might have come to one of the group’s husbands, leaving them all feeling confused and angry. Edie is supposedly on a spa retreat in Wales, while her teenager daughter is at band camp, but it’s soon clear that neither of them is where they said they’d be and the pair, despite being absent from the trip, are integral, in one way or another, to the plot.

Without phone signal or any other means of contacting their husbands, and with their hosts down at the farmhouse with their car, which couldn’t make the steep drive up to the barn, things aren’t going well on the trip. Add in personal disagreements and a strong storm and the women face a difficult night. The 3 women are very different, each with their own fears and concerns. There’s Jayne, a former solider who planned the trip, and who has a secret reason for choosing the barn as the location for this latest trip. Then there’s Ruth, her old friend who’s just had a baby, and is struggling to cope with being a mother and dealing with problems in her marriage. Finally, there’s Emily, a newer addition to the group who is significantly younger than the other two, being the trophy girlfriend of the oldest man in the friendship group.

The novel shifts between the misery at the barn, and back nearer the womens’ homes in Bristol, where the orchestrator of the mayhem might not be who we originally believed it to be. It also switches between perspectives, drip feeding the reader small clues so that we’re never bored, but always keeping us one tantalising step away from fully understanding what’s going on. You’ll never see the full picture until the end, and even then, this thriller is so psychologically intense that you might still not grasp the true motives behind the crimes.

One thing that makes me smile every time I look at my copy of the novel is the tagline, which states: ‘Three couples. Two bodies. One secret.’ The one secret part is what is so laughable; Macmillan is not one to confine her characters to just one secret. Every member of the group has her secrets, and their husbands too. There are failed investment projects, adultery, and more to contend with. Some of the secrets are simply basic issues that form part of ordinary life, and others are more sinister and could be the clue to unravelling the author’s tangled web.

So if you’re looking for an enthralling and compelling read to take your mind off all the madness that’s going on in the world right now, then I would heartily suggest that you check out The Long Weekend. It’s an unforgettable read that will haunt you long after you finish it thanks to Macmillan’s devilish plotting, intense characterisation and slow burning plot.