The Man Who Died Twice Review: Another Hilarious Instalment Of The Bestselling Series

In his long-awaited follow-up to his bestselling debut novel The Thursday Murder Club, quiz show host turned author Richard Osman brings back his unique flair for cosy crime fiction.

The plot of this latest novel sees readers return to Coopers Chase, the luxury retirement community where the four members of the Thursday Murder Club reside. The man mentioned in the title is the ex-husband of Elizabeth, one of the club’s founders who used to be in the secret service.

He uses the name of a man who’s already dead to tempt his ex-wife to come and speak to him. It turns out he ran a search on a renowned gangster’s home that went wrong. A cache of valuable diamonds went missing, and the gangster knows who led the raid. He’s now out for revenge and Elizabeth’s ex-husband wants protection.

Reluctantly, Elizabeth agrees, but before she and the other club members can start protecting her ex-husband a member of the criminal’s gang breaks into Coopers Chase and is killed by the young secret service agent charged with the official job of protecting him.

After this deadly incident Elizabeth’s ex is moved out of the residential home for the elderly, but his new safe house in Hove turns out to be less secure than expected. He and his young protection officer are murdered, leaving Elizabeth and her friends to uncover the truth. While the ‘who’ of the mystery doesn’t seem too difficult to understand, things are more complicated than they seem and the diamonds further complicate matters.

Meanwhile, Ibrahim, one of the club, is brutally attacked while walking back from a shopping trip outside of Coopers Chase. The group rallies around him but he’s left living in fear and stressed out about going outside of the senior residential community. Elizabeth and her other friends work with the police officers they befriended in the first book to find and punish the criminals responsible.

Osman deals with these sensitive subject with his usual panache and dry wit. His characters are remarkably funny and droll, with Joyce, the former nurse who is a first person narrator throughout the book, being the funniest of them all. Her ramblings are hilarious and make the book well worth a read for her witticism alone.

As well as being funny, the book is also suspenseful. Osman draws on many of the traditional tropes of the cosy crime fiction sub-genre and transforms his group of seemingly ordinary old age pensioners into a bunch of crime fighters. It has to be said, at times his characters are a little far fetched- his police characters are far more blasé with the law than actual coppers. The same goes for his secret service characters; I’ve met some policeman, no secret agents, but they don’t strike me as particularly realistic.

Still despite this minor issue, I really enjoyed the latest outing from the Thursday Murder Club team. They’re as witty and chaotic as ever. While the professional characters are un-relatable, the club members are brilliantly lifelike. I used to work in a care home and I can see similarities between the members, particularly Ron and Joyce, and some of the residents I used to work with.

In all, I enjoyed The Man Who Died Twice. Osman has found his niche in the cosy crime fiction space and created a memorable series that I think readers will enjoy for many years to come. I wouldn’t be surprised if the series doesn’t keep going and going; even though the characters are older, I definitely think there’s a few more books left in this phenomenal series.

C.J. Abazis Interview: “I think of writing as a simulation inside this simulation”

Crime fiction author and software developer talks to me about his work and the influences that drive him.

Tell me about how you came to define your writing style. What drew you towards darker fiction?

You know about the simulation argument? It’s the idea that, based on an infinite amount of outcomes, we most probably all live in a computer simulation. Well, I think of writing as a simulation inside this simulation. As authors, we simulate alternate realities and characters to prepare our readers for alternate outcomes. Writing “darker fiction” – as you call it – is doing this very knowingly, as if reaching out to the master simulation and trying to mess up its algorithms. It’s the only conceivable freedom.

What is your career background and how did you become a professional writer?

I mostly manage a software development firm. Software development and novel writing share many characteristics. You pick a language, choose frameworks/styles and set down requirements of what needs to be done. In novels it’s “the feel” of the work, what it wants to say, what it leaves behind. Then you write to assemble the plot and go sub-plot by sub-plot, feature-by-feature to make the thing work. Because it has to work. And performance counts in a novel, the same with software, you can never “consume” unnecessary resources, the readers are there to be transported in different worlds, not to play with widgets or investigate your moods. No one cares about your moods except for Spotify.

Where do you take your inspiration? Are there any rituals you do to get yourself in the mood for writing?

I’m a deep conformist; I wear different clothes every day, but they’re of the same brand, same colors and designs. I love doing the same things early in the morning, when I write. Driving to work at exactly the same time. Getting coffee at the same time. We are all Melvin Udalls (As Good as It Gets) in this business, we esteem ritual and sameness and are basically extremely boring people. Otherwise it wouldn’t work. You can never allow drama to spill from the page on to your life and especially vice-versa.

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

I keep a safe five-year distance from publication to reading and I expect that your smart readers will be doing the same and ignore The Machine Murders until 2026. A book needs to grow organically, you cannot boost it like a Facebook post. So looking at the past five to ten years, I love what Liu Cixin has done with his The Remembrance of Earth’s Past trilogy. The scope is tremendous. I don’t think any other writer can expand the scope, like him. A daring guy. Beyond literature, I’ve been blown away by Nick Bostrom and his Superintelligence. Couldn’t you tell I’m a Bostrom fan?

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

Well, I’d love to work with Bostrom for the third novel of The Machine Murders. He has thought and deeply understands our challenges with artificial intelligence and where we should focus our attention in dealing with the control problem. Sometime in the future, it’s going to be a writer, a philosopher and a developer in front of an AGI (artificial general intelligence) agent, trying to save us from turning into paper clips. The politicians and the generals will be useless. We may begin simulating options on this from now.

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

Currently, I’m working on The Machine Murders: Desert Balloons, which will be the second book in the Manos Manu series. It feels better than the first.

Are there any new books or writers that you are looking forward to later in the year?

As I said, I rarely follow the publishing cycle because I think it’s going to be the long tail bringing up marvels like a gold mining pan, that will define my choices. But sometimes I get carried away. And I’m never disappointed by authors like Nassim Taleb, Yuval Harari, Ian McEwan and Kai-Fu Lee – I have pre-ordered his latest, AI 2041 and can’t wait to read it. Ambition is not in shortage in the writer species and these people always deliver on their ambition.

Anything you’d like to add?

I want to thank you Hannah for this interview. Your hands move steadily with the mining pan and the role of great blogs such as the Dorset Book Detective is more important than ever.

Huge thanks to C.J. for answering my questions and writing amazing books: without artists like you we’d have never gotten through the past few months!

Mo Hayder Obituary

It’s with a heavy heart that I share the news that novelist Clare Dunkel, who wrote under the pseudonyms Mo Hayder and Theo Clare, as died at the age of just 59, after battling Motor Neurone Disease.

Mo Hayder, as she was most commonly known, worked around the world, before her debut novel Birdman was published at the end of 1999. It was a shockingly graphic tale of the investigation into the ritualist murders of multiple women in London. The novel was revered as refreshingly intense and deeply thriller by both readers and critics alike.

In book she introduced her main protagonist, Jack Caffery, who appears in several of her novels. He’s a driven detective inspector who’s not phased by anything. He’s often called to the scene of gruesome crimes. Many of Hayder’s books involve despicable crimes and horrendous crime scenes, or difficult topics, such as paedophilia.

As well as the Jack Caffery novels, the author also wrote four standalone novels and put together the screenplay for a Dutch language version of her novel The Treatment. A versatile writer and supportive member of the writing community, Hayder contributed a great deal to the world of literature and thriller writing. Her work inspired many other dark crime fiction writers, and helped to define the modern thriller market.

Despite having left school at just 15 years old to become a waitress, then working around the world, including in Tokyo, a city which she eventually named a novel after, Hayder later returned to the world of education and earned herself two Master’s degrees; one in film making from the American University in Washington DC and the other in creative writing from Bath Spa University. She also had jobs as a waitress, security guard and international English teacher before she started writing professionally and making a name for herself in the thriller writing community.

These jobs and degrees helped her to hone her writing skills, enrich her already extensive life experiences and get the confidence she needed to start writing professionally. Her first book was beloved by readers and critics alike, and all of her subsequent works have achieved similar success.

Her work is most notable for being gripping and gruesome, without being overly gory. Hayder got the balance just right, making her work appealing to a wide variety of readers. The author created amazing characters who did crazy and often terrible things. Every book was a roller coaster of emotions, and the author crafted beautiful narratives that kept readers hooked from start to well after they were finished reading.

As well as being international bestsellers, many of her novels also won accolades, including the coveted CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger Award. Her contribution was noted through the winning of these awards and by many reviewers who regularly pointed out the gripping nature of her work. Her work is often seen as similar to the very best Scandinavian crime fiction, as it uses many of the same tropes and similar plot devices to grip the reader and really shock them to the core.

Although Hayder’s bibliography isn’t exceptionally extensive under any name, she has made a lasting impact on the crime fiction and thriller genres thanks to her imagination and amazing skill with words. She helped to pave the way for many other writers to incorporate dark themes into their work and highlight the gruesome side of human nature.

Drawing on her extensive and varied life experiences as well as the people she knew and loved, Hayder created rich narratives and unique plots that would haunt readers long after they put her books down. Her second husband, to whom my thoughts go out at this difficult time, was a retired policeman, and presumably she drew on his past experiences, as well as her own, when writing her novels.

Shortly before her unfortunate demise, Hayder completed a new novel, The Book Of Sand, which was written under her second pseudonym, Theo Clare. The book is set to be released posthumously next year.

Ultimately, this latest novel will be an exciting addition to Hayder’s legacy of writing gripping, tense thrillers that show the very worst that humanity has to offer. It’s such a colossal shame that the thriller industry has lost such a celebrated writer, but Hayder’s work will live on and be loved by many generations to come. She’ll always be known as a master of suspense and turning difficult topics into engaging narratives. She died too soon but her work remains and will be a lasting reminder of her commitment and unique creative mind. My thoughts are with her family and loved ones, and I can only hope that her success in her profession brings them some small comfort as they grieve for their loss. It’s always a shame to lose a talented individual so soon, but she made an impression on millions of readers, as well as those lucky enough to know her and spend time with her in person.

Death In Daylesford Review: Another Inventive 1920s Crime Caper

Since the announcement that Kerry Greenwood was writing another of her excellent novels about the flapper turned sleuth Miss Fisher and her merry band of misfits, I’ve been excited to read it. It took some time for Death In Daylseford to be published in the UK, where I live, but now it’s here I’m really pleased that it is.

I’ve been a massive fan of Kerry Greenwood and her amazing Miss Phryne Fisher novels for a long time now. There are over 20 books in the series, which has been turned into a successful TV series and also a film. The series is progressive and gives great visibility to many often-overlooked communities, such as LGBTQIA+, Asian and indigenous Australian individuals.

The book begins with Miss Fisher and her faithful companion Dot embarking on a holiday. They’ve been invited to a spa that’s designed to support wounded veterans and help them to recuperate safely and properly. It seems like a great opportunity for the pair to relax and unwind, but as ever, trouble isn’t far behind.

In fact, it’s actually ahead of them: as soon as the intrepid duo arrives they’re informed of mysterious disappearances of women around the town, as well as a young child who went missing alongside his mother. These mysteries soon pale in comparison to the murderous intent of one of the villagers, who uses ingenious methods to murder an individual, seemingly at random, during a Highland Games event.

The disappearances continue, and soon Miss Fisher and Dot find themselves tangled in a potentially deadly web, with many different strands and a list of suspects a mile long. Many of the townsfolk are acting suspiciously and have secrets that they’d rather keep hidden, so the pair has a lot of sleuthing to do and not a lot of time. The killer keeps going, leaving our intrepid duo to unravel the threads of this tangled web and uncover the truth in the lead-up to another event that could spell yet more murder.

Meanwhile, in her Melbourne home, Sergeant Hugh Collins is staying over while his own home is being renovated. Just as he moves into his temporary home, his boss, DI Jack Robinson, is moved onto a new taskforce to help take down one of the city’s most renowned criminals, known as Barry The Shark. The Shark is well connected in the criminal underworld, and most of those who oppose him end up either being dismissed on fake corruption charges or, worse, dead in the river.

With Collins now under the temporary leadership of a deeply incompetent acting detective inspector, he’s given a new case that links him to Miss Fisher’s household. Tinker, her adoptive son, finds a body floating in the river while he’s out fishing with Miss Fisher’s communist wharfie friends, Bert and Cec. The body is of a young woman who went to school with Miss Fisher’s adoptive daughters, Ruth and Janie.

Both girls were fond of the murdered girl, so they’re determined to uncover the truth. When Tinker thinks that the killer could be one of the boys at his school, the group hatches a plan to ensure that the rightful killer is unmasked and that an innocent man isn’t convicted by the spineless and lazy acting Detective Inspector.

While the plot might start slowly, it evolves into multiple mysteries that both Miss Fisher and her Melbourne cohort have to unravel. The information is slow in coming, but once it does, the reader quickly becomes invested in the outcome and eager to find out more about the various characters and their murky backgrounds.

Almost every character from the series is involved in the story in some small way. Miss Fisher’s long-term lover meets with her at the beginning of the story. Bert and Cec appear at the beginning only briefly, and Mr and Mrs Butler also dip in and out of the novel. However, none of these characters are actually essential to the plot, so Greenwood quickly moves on from them, making them feel a little shoe-horned into the book. Jack Robinson and his taskforce are only mentioned at the beginning and the end of the novel, which is a shame as it sounds like it could’ve made for an interesting addition to the tale.

It might’ve been better for the author to focus on fewer characters, and not slot the rest in. This would have allowed the reader to see more of the important individuals who drove the plot forward, rather than getting a little of everyone, but as a fan of the series it is good to see them appear, however briefly. Clearly Greenwood is focusing on giving fans of the TV show what they want, but it might be at the expense of the book itself. One minor inconstancy I found is that Ember, Miss Fisher’s cat, becomes female, where previously he had been male. It’s a small thing, but it bugged me more than it probably should have done.

However, for the most part Death In Daylesford is a triumph that’s easy and fun to read, making it ideal for summer. It’s a unique cosy crime novel with a truly ingenious ending that even the Queen Of Crime herself, Agatha Christie, would’ve been impressed by. Everything ties up nicely in the end- if it were a modern book, then it would almost be too perfect, but cosy crime novels rely on this slightly unbelievable style of ending, making this a perfect example of the genre.

Ultimately, I feel the same about Death In Daylesford the same way I do about the full-length film Miss Fisher And The Crypt Of Tears. It’s a great read, but I wouldn’t let it be your initial introduction to the series. Start at the beginning, or go in with a amazing book like Dead Man’s Chest. This book is an intriguing and interesting addition to the series, but it doesn’t show Greenwood’s skills at their fullest. So, in all, if you’re looking for a nice summer read, then a cosy crime fiction book like Death In Daylesford could be the ideal choice for you, but if you’re new to the series, start somewhere else.

The Marlow Murder Club Review: A Cosy Cryptic Mystery

It’s been a long time coming, but I’ve finally got round to sharing my thoughts on the popular cosy crime fiction novel The Marlow Murder Club. I’ve had the book on my TBR pile for a while, but I didn’t get around to checking it out until recently.

Written by Robert Thorogood, the creator of the longstanding TV series Death In Paradise, the book is a cute cosy crime novel. It fills ever aspect of the cosy crime fiction formula, giving you a feel-good read from start to finish.

It was published at around the same time as Richard Osman’s amazing book The Thursday Murder Club, and while the novels are similar, they’re unique in their settings and storytelling.

The Marlow Murder Club is set in a small town in Buckinghamshire, and tells the story of a eccentric old woman named Judith Potts. She lives in a mansion she inherited from her aunt, and sets crosswords as a job. She also loves to swim naked in the river wending its way behind her house, which is what she’s doing one day when she hears a scream coming from her neighbour Stefan’s house.

Then she hears a shot, which leads her to call the police. Despite the police visiting, it’s Judith herself who finds the body of her neighbour, who used to run a art gallery before he was brutally killed. He’s been shot and the police are quickly called back.

Judith isn’t taken seriously by the police, but she finds it hard to stop thinking about the crime. Then another murder takes place in the sleepy, small village, this time a local taxi driver, who is seemingly unconnected to Stefan. While investigating both crimes, Judith meets Becks, the wife of a local vicar, and Suzie, a dog walker who took care of the taxi driver’s Doberman.

At first, the dog walker is eager to join in on the fun while Becks tries desperately to stay out of it, but gradually the three unlikely friends start working together to solve the murders. Like in The Thursday Murder Club, there’s a local policewoman who just about tolerates the group enough to let them in on some of the information about the investigation.

There are plenty of similarities between the two books, including the age of the main characters, how their lives become entwined with the investigation as it continues, the fact that they all seem to know the ins and outs of everything that goes on in their small town and more.

At the same time, Thorogood’s novel is just different enough from Osman’s to make them both worth checking out; they’re definitely made to fit the same mould, but they’re also individual books. In that respect, they’re a lot like Death In Paradise: they follow a set formula but each book, as is the case with the show’s episodes, is slightly and clearly different. In that way, these novels are comforting for those of us who enjoy knowing that we’ll definitely enjoy reading a book without wanting to re-read an old favourite. We know what we’re in for, but we still get the benefit of checking out something new. It’s a win-win.

From the beginning, Thorogood gives both the reader and the main characters an obvious suspect: an obnoxious local auction house owner with a shady past who was seen fighting with Stefan a few weeks before his death. However, from the beginning both the readers and the group of characters that becomes the murder club are faced with the insurmountable issue of the character’s watertight alibis for each of the crimes.

The plot is as cryptic as the crosswords that the elderly, aristocratic protagonist Judith writes for national newspapers. She works with her two new friends to uncover the truth, and the group come up against everything from a sleazy lawyer who fakes his client’s will, through to cryptic clues, art fraud, theft and more. The group works together with the police, who after their initial apathy are eager for all the help they can get.

All the twists and turns are still predictable and comforting, making this a cosy book that’ll make you feel relaxed while still keeping you gripped. It’s like an episode of Death In Paradise, but without the vague colonial undertones and cheesy British actors who look about as out of place in the Caribbean as a Vulcan walking around a Tesco Metro.

In all, with a sequel in the works, it’s clear that The Marlow Murder Club was a hit, and while it’s probably not going to become an unforgettable classic, it’s still a great read. If you’re looking for something to read that’s cosy, comforting and uncomplicated, then this is a great choice. It’s surprisingly easy to read and delightfully entertaining, even if it’s not a hard-hitting read that will make you question humanity.

Why Golden Age Crime Fiction Is A Great Choice For Summer

Despite what you might think, summer is a great time for reading. While you’re relaxing on the beach or making your way to a fun outing in the sun, you’ll need something fun to keep you occupied.

That’s why reading is a great pastime- in the summer, it’s easy to do and doesn’t require you to get sweaty or wear any fancy protective gear. It’s also a cheap and accessible way to spend your time. Whether the weather outside is frightful even in the summer (I live in the UK, so it usually is), or it’s finally giving us a blast of sunlight, you can enjoy a good book.

Buying books for winter is a lot easier than for summer. When reading in the winter, you’re looking for something unique and gripping that will give you thrills. In the summer, however, you’re looking for something comforting and interesting, that will mean that you don’t have to think too much, especially when it’s hot and you don’t want to have to strain your brain.

If you’re looking for books to read in summer, then I’ve found the perfect solution: Golden Age crime fiction is the way to go. It’s the perfect blend of cosy fiction and instantly familiar stories.

As you might have guessed from my recent post about my favourite underrated characters from Agatha Christie novels, I’ve been on a bit of a Golden Age crime fiction binge lately. Primarily I’ve been re-reading old faves, but I’ve also checked out some exciting new books in this genre.

That’s because, as the sun finally starts to come out in the UK (it’s only June after all), I’ve found myself delving back into the arms of my old Golden Age crime favourites. I’ve enjoyed a lot of these books and stories in the past, and now I’m happy to be re-reading them now that the sun’s out.

For me, Golden Age crime fiction is the ultimate in summer reading. When you’re looking for comfort and something to cheer you up, a rip-roaring thriller is the ideal way to bring yourself out of your shell. As long as it’s not too gory, a police procedural or a modern thriller usually fits the bill for cheering me up.

When it comes to sunshine, I need something fun and calm, and I want something that’s set during a sunny period. Many Golden Age crime fiction writers wrote books and short stories set in sunny climates, so I can usually find something sunny and bright.

That’s particularly important when you live somewhere like England: where we get like four hours of sunshine every year, usually in bloody May. Right now, we’ve been very fortunate to have some nice weather, and I want to make the most of it by reading books that transport me to a sunny place, even in the evenings when it goes dark.

Still, I don’t want to read those awful romance books that some of my friends take on holiday with them. I want something that still interests me and is gripping, rather than just some soppy book that’s simply set in sunny climes.

That’s why I love reading Golden Age crime fiction during the summer, particularly when we get rare bouts of sunny weather in the UK, or if I travel to another country with decent weather. Books by classic authors from the period, including my old favourites Agatha Christie and Dorothy L Sayers are great for taking on holiday, or a staycation, or to simply enjoy at home.

There are also Golden Age style novels, written today, that can give you the feel of traditional, quaint cosy crime fiction. One of my favourite modern series that feels like traditional Golden Age crime fiction is the Phryne Fisher novels by the amazing Kerry Greenwood. These amazing books are set in the 1920s, and feature an incredible female protagonist who’s unconventional detective style allows her to uncover the truth about a range of sordid crimes and murders.

If you want to check out something that feels familiar, then you could consider some reimagined version of your favourite Golden Age crime fiction serials. There’s plenty of incredible reimagined crime series out there, including Sophie Hannah’s amazingly authentic Poirot stories and Jill Paton Walsh’s version of the Lord Peter Wimsey books. Whatever you like, you’ll be able to find something that you love that extends your enjoyment of your favourite Golden Age book series this summer.

So, if you’re searching for a new book or a series of novels that will help you to enjoy the summer sunshine, then I think you should check out Golden Age crime fiction. Whether you’re a die-hard fan or you’ve never even read an Agatha Christie novel (how I don’t know, but I’m sure there must be at least one of you out there somewhere), you should try reading Golden Age crime fiction this summer.

Steven Powell Interview: “I would encourage all readers to return to their local bookshops”

I’ve been privalleged to speak to Steven Powell, an acedemic and author of several studies on crime fiction, including 100 American Crime Writers and several books about James Ellroy. He discusses his passion for all things crime fiction and how he came to study the topic for a living.

Talk to me about your scholarly work. What drew you towards studying crime fiction?

I have always loved the written word, and I was studying a Victorian Literature MA at Liverpool University when I realised, as fascinating as that period is, it was not something I wanted to pursue in further research. The course was heavily slanted towards poetry and the realist novel and ignored say, Penny Dreadfuls, and other elements of Victorianism which we now recognise as the harbingers of detective fiction.

With the encouragement of my future wife Diana, I decided to do a PhD on the author I have always been the most fascinated, even obsessed with – James Ellroy

What drew you towards James Ellroy? Why are you so passionate about his work?

I remember spotting a copy of Ellroy’s American Tabloid in a bookshop in my early teens and just getting hooked immediately. His portrayal of history is so urgent, visceral and immediate. When you read him, it feels like you’re there: whether he is portraying 1950s Los Angeles or the Mob hatching deals to build casinos in the Caribbean in the 1960s. He has experimented with various prose styles and persona and found a formula which, as he might put it, ‘will leave you reamed, steamed and dry-cleaned, tied, dyed, swept-to-the-side, screwed, blued, tattooed. These are books for the whole fuckin family if the name of your family is the Manson family’

What’s your approach to researching your books?

Over the past twenty years or so, there has been an expansion of scholarly interest in crime fiction, when previously genre works could be dismissed as not worthy of critical attention. It’s exciting, but it also leaves significant room for development in how we can conduct research into the genre. I read a heck of a lot: novels, critical material, contemporaneous material. Personally, I love interviewing authors, editors, agents, anyone involved in the publishing biz. For Ellroy, I have visited his archive at the University of South Carolina and know him well personally. He has been very generous and cooperative with my research. I’ve written and/or edited three books on James Ellroy so far.

When you wrote 100 American Crime Writers, who were your favourite authors in the collection?

One of the most difficult challenges of editing that book was to narrow the list of writers down to one hundred names and still do justice to the long history of the genre and experiments in sub-genre. Of the ‘newer’ writers I’m a big fan of Megan Abbott and James Sallis. My personal favourites would be the great Charles Williams and David Goodis.

Did you learn anything interesting that you’d like to share while researching that book?

Crime writers have suffered for their art and many of them paid a heavy price to pursue the craft they love. It’s no secret that getting published is difficult today and even harder to make a full-time living out of, but it was no easier back in the days of Black Mask magazine and Fawcett Gold Medal paperbacks. I really grew to appreciate the sacrifices writers make, and the sacrifices made by the people who love them. I loved putting that book together and still receive great feedback about it. Recently, a companion volume titled 100 British Crime Writers, was published, edited by Esme Miskimmin. I contributed a few chapters to that edition.

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

I do, but I’m currently sworn to secrecy about it. I would expect my next book to be published in late 2022, and when it is, you will be the first to know Hannah!

What’s your personal opinion on the future of the crime fiction market?

Whichever way you look at it, the future is bright. Crime fiction is so naturally popular, whether it be dark Scandi tales or vintage British Golden Age Detective Fiction, and it lends itself so well to film, television, theatre and music. COVID has presented its challenges but lockdown has, I feel, proved the wellbeing benefits that come from reading, and someone out there must be writing a great (lockdown) room mystery. I would encourage all readers to return to their local bookshops, be it Waterstones or independent businesses. They deserve our support, especially as we ease our way out of lockdown.

Anything you’d like to add?

Only to thank you Hannah for inviting me on and for everything you do for the written word. Worship the book and spread the word!

Huge thanks to you Steven it’s been great to learn more about you and your work. If any of my fabulous readers are interested in finding out more about his work, you can check out his website HERE.

My Favourite Underrated Agatha Christie Characters

When you think of the Queen of Crime, Agatha Christie, you probably remember her most notable detective, the Belgium private sleuth Hercule Poirot.

If you’re a bit more of a fan of the undisputed Golden Age crime fiction genius, then you might also love her homely, elderly amateur detective and general busybody, Miss Marple.

While this pair characters are, indisputably, amazing, there’s a lot more to the Queen of Crime than just these two.  Christie was a prolific author, who wrote 66 full-length novels, as well as hundreds of short stories that were published in over a dozen collections and many newspapers and periodicals over the years.

Her work defined the Golden Age of Crime Fiction, and became a source of inspiration for writers and artists from around the world. Her work is popular everywhere, and it’s even been turned into animated series in Asia and major blockbusters in Hollywood.

While Christie’s Poirot and Miss Marple novels are renowned around the world, and even the sight of a set of dark moustaches invokes an image of her famed detective, the Queen Of Crime also created many other memorable and intriguing characters.

Many of these characters aren’t given the attention and renown that they deserve. During the pandemic, I’ve been turning to Golden Age Crime Fiction and old favourite authors like Christie to bring me comfort, and I’ve found myself revisiting some of her amazing, yet underrated, characters.

That’s why I’ve put together this brief list of some of my favourite and, in my opinion, under appreciated, Christie characters. It’s not a definitive list, and I’m sure other fans of the author might not agree with all of my choices, but hopefully this list will inspire you to check out some Christie characters that you’ve not investigated before.

Parker Pyne: Parker Pyne is a sort of consultant life coach, who aids private individuals in everything from relationship issues through to suspicious deaths and almost everything in between. He advertises in the newspapers with short, cryptic ads that entice many individuals from all walks of life to reach out to him and embroil him in their mysteries and lives. The character appears in a selection of short stories that are really interesting. He also appears in a short story entitled Death On The Nile, which later became the name of one of Christie’s most famous Poirot novels. The story is an early incantation of the novel, but it’s very different in plot, with only a few small similarities. This progression shows how Christie used short stories as a creative springboard.

Ariadne Oliver: Appearing in several Poirot novels and a couple of standalone short stories, Mrs Ariadne Oliver was Christie’s literary self-portrait. The character is an eccentric author who created a Finnish detective, who she’s sick of- similar to Christie herself, who told many of her friends and fans that she was tired of writing about Hercule Poirot. Ariadne Oliver also adores apples, and is generally just a funny and witty character who’s great fun for readers, as well as being a useful foil for the detective. I love her TV portrayal in the ITV Poirot series and the character is definitely undervalued in the books. She’s wacky and funny, while also being intelligent and she has the ability to command the attention she deserves, rather than getting dismissed as so many similar characters are in books. She’s funny but also droll and makes acute observations about the human condition, which is again a refreshing change.

Luke Fitzwilliam: This ex-policeman character returns from India in the novel Murder Is Easy and meets an elderly lady on a train. She states that she’s going to report a serial killer to the police. Before she gets to Scotland Yard, she dies in mysterious circumstances. Unable to let the matter lie, Luke Fitzwilliam decides to investigate. The character isn’t a reoccurring one, but he does stick with me because he’s deeply compassionate and has an intuitive understanding of human nature. He’s also wrong many times, and is open and honest about his lack of knowledge, which is refreshing as many of Christie’s protagonists are very arrogant and proud of their abilities.

Superintendent Battle: While Inspector Japp, the character inspired by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Inspector Lestrade is perhaps the best known of Christie’s policemen characters; Superintendent Battle is arguably the most interesting. Battle appears in five of Christie’s full-length novels, including standalone tales and Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot books. He also appears in several short stories. The character is related to several others who turn out to be instrumental in other Christie mysteries. He’s also a lot more in-depth and insightful than some other police characters, who simply act as an official counterpart to private detectives. Battle is intelligent in his own right, and brings a lot of information and useful ideas to the investigation, even if, ultimately, the protagonist detective is the one who eventually gets the glory of actually solving the case in the end. 

Miss Lemon: Hercule Poirot’s secretary who also appears in a selection of other short stories, including a couple of Parker Pyne tales is also a funny character in her own right. Christie’s description of the character, who is portrayed as having no imagination and being dedicated exclusively to the creation of the perfect filing system, is droll and witty. It’s also an interesting commentary on the way that many detective novels at the time portrayed working women as sexless, dull people who have no lives outside of their work. Miss Lemon has a sister, and the novel Hickory Dickory Dock contains funny passages about how Poriot doesn’t realise that the character would ever have a family and that she was born as a secretary with a desire to improve filing. The character is a funny commentary on the portrayal of women in literature and a useful soundboard for the eccentric Belgium sleuth.

Mr Satterthwaite: In The Mysterious Mr Quin short story collection, and a few other tales, Mr Satterthwaite and Harley Quin muse over a selection of unusual and seemingly unsolvable crimes. While Harley Quin might be the titular character in the series, he’s merely a plot device used to prompt his friend, Mr Satterthwaite, into uncovering the truth. While his name appears in the title of the book of short stories, Quin not a two-dimensional character, whereas the elderly and old-fashioned Mr Satterthwaite is a fully-fledged character with inventive ideas and witty repartee. He’s an avid and astute observer of the human race who uses his insight to help him to find out the truth in even the most unsettling and confusing cases. The character also appears in the Poirot novel Three Act Tragedy and the short story Dead Man’s Chest, which shows how useful a foil and observer he is.

Guilty Review: A Shocking Thriller With A New Twist In Every Chapter

Having recently interviewed author Jane Hobden, I was eager to check out her book, Guilty.

It’s billed as a unique version of a traditional crime novel, and it’s easy to see why as soon as you turn the first page. The narrative is divided into sections, so that the reader sees the case from multiple perspectives. It offers almost Gone Girl esq perspective flips, but more of them, so that the reader is constantly unsure about whose version of the truth is the real one.

The plot follows the strange case of Megan Sands, a young mother whose six-year-old daughter is taken into care following a fall down some stairs. The teaching assistant who took the child to hospital and urged the staff there to call social services is also a mother with a daughter in the same class; indeed, the two young girls are friends.

Not long after Lola Sands is taken into care, someone breaks into the teaching assistant’s home and throws acid over her husband’s face, before tying her up and berating her before letting her go. The teaching assistant, Becky Thurston, recognises the assailant and identifies her as Megan Sands. She tells the police that Megan had threatened her before and been abusive prior to the devastating attack.

When the police go to visit Megan at her flat to quiz her about the attack, they find a bottle of acid and a blanket out in the hall on the floor below where she lives. It’s this coincidence, and Megan’s lack of alibi and shifty behaviour that leads the police to arrest and charge her with the crime.

The novel details the court case, as well as the events leading up to it and in between. Skipping from different perspectives and narrative styles, Hobden creates an enthralling tale that’s very difficult to put down. The reader is thrust into this captivating story and soon finds themselves wondering who to believe.

Many of the characters that narrate chapters, and deliver witness statements that Hobden uses to change up the writing style, are unreliable, with their versions of events differing drastically from other people’s accounts. So, the reader is left on tenterhooks and you’re unable to guess what’s going to happen next.

Thanks to Hobden’s diverse writing style, which includes witness statements, court dialogue and first person, character narrated chapters, the reader gets a complete perspective over the case. As mentioned, several of the characters are, at specific times throughout the story, unreliable, meaning that we see the action unfold slowly. The tale becomes increasingly complicated as Megan gives her evidence in court, and twisted versions of the truth start to come out.

The book is great, but it’s not without its flaws. The main issue I find is that the witness statements, used at the beginning of the novel to break up the narrative, feel a little samey. For those that are supposed to be written by characters in professional jobs, they don’t quite hit the right note. The same goes for the court proceedings: at times, the lawyers just don’t sound right. I’m not a lawyer or an expert myself, but I’ve read enough crime fiction to know that some of the text isn’t quite accurate.

That being said, accuracy isn’t everything, and while these minor issues might impede the narrative slightly, they don’t change the fact that this is an incredible book that keeps you hooked to the very end. Hobden structures the novel well, so that you feel compelled to keep going to get to the next twist and uncover the next fact.

It’s this propulsion that drives the reader through the novel and makes Guilty such a great read. You’ll be surprised how quickly you finish this compelling read. Once you’ve finished it, you’ll be haunted by the plot. It’s not just the plot that’s unforgettable; the characters are also engaging and memorable. Megan Sands, whose first-person account is interspersed with her witness testimony, is a relatable and understandable character who inspires both pity and understanding.

Her supposed victim’s wife, Becky Thurston, is also relatable and is both suspicious and subtly threatening. Even small, minor characters are intriguing and memorable, including Megan’s lawyer. He’s a robotic career man who has no compassion for his client and is neither sympathetic nor particularly competent. Through characters like him and the unsympathetic policemen who interview Megan, Hobden makes a point that the legal system in the UK is often incredibly prejudice, particularly towards single mothers living in social housing. 

When all’s said and done, Guilty is a unique thriller that works on many levels. It’s not without its flaws, but those don’t detract from the novel. It’s still a great read that will keep you riveted for a long while to come. The book also makes you question the truth and how every story has more than one side. So, if you want to enjoy a gripping summer read, then this could be the perfect solution for you.