Bodies From The Library 2 Review: Another Incredible Anthology Celebrating Golden Age Crime Fiction At Its Finest

bodies from the library 2

Initially, I found out about Bodies From The Library when someone recommended it as something I would enjoy.

They were completely right, and the first edition of this unique anthology of forgotten stories from some of the greatest golden age crime fiction writers was a real hit. I later looked into it and discovered that the anthology is linked to an event of the same name, which explores golden age writing and the influence it had on the crime fiction genre as a whole.

When I found out there was going to be a second edition I was excited to get my hands on it and see what new forgotten tales (some of which are actually previously unpublished) of this often underrated sub-genre editor Tony Medawar had in store.

This second collection is as ingenious, unique and perfectly curated as the first. Medawar has selected some real gems from previously overlooked authors, as well as old favourites such as Agatha Christie and Dorothy L Sayers, as well as writers whose work has been forgotten over the years such as Q Patrick and Jonathan Latimer.

There is a truly diverse selection of tales here, from play and radio scripts through to dialogue driven short stories, descriptive narratives through to longer, almost novella-esq works. The stories are all written in English but are set around the world, and there are a variety of different writers here so that the reader can really delve into the depths of crime fiction, rather than settling on the more common authors and the predictable detectives.

Each story is accompanied by a short description of the author and their other work, offering readers a chance to find out more about the writer, their lives and the role they played in the crime fiction market during their day. Many of the authors were members (in some cases influential ones) of the Detection Club, the renowned dining club for crime fiction authors, and through his descriptions of their lives and works Medawar weaves a unique timeline of the club and its rich history of inspiring some of the greatest works of crime fiction that the world has ever seen.

If you need any further reason to check out Bodies From The Library 2, you need look no further than the Q Patrick thriller Exit Before Midnight. This ingenious tale is incredible and the perfect choice for the anthology, and its worth picking up a copy just to read this one story, although you’d be mad not to keep going afterwards.

At the end of the day, such a perfectly collected anthology is a testament to the hard work and dedication Medawar and his associates put in to showcasing the golden age of crime fiction. For those interested in the genre, this is a must-read.

A Killing Sin Review: A Gripping Thriller To Enjoy While You Laze Around In The Summer Sun

a killing sin

Whilst searching for a read to keep me company over the warm summer weekend, I found A Killing Sin lounging on a pile of books to be read, which is worryingly tall.

So I decided to give it a go. I had been a bit sceptical about this book since I received it. After all, a book about Islamic terrorism could be full of lazy stereotypes and boring one-dimensional characters.

Instead, K.H. Irvine has created a really great novel that perfectly blends thrills and human emotion to really make the reader think and keep their attention throughout.

In a world much like ours but in the slight future, three completely different women, joined by a fragile university friendship, lead separate lives, until one day draws them all together and changes their lives forever.

There’s Amala Hackeem, lapsed Muslim tech entrepreneur and controversial comedian, who dons a burqa and, completely out of character, heads to the women’s group at the Tower Hamlets sharia community.

Meanwhile, her friend Ella Russell, a struggling journalist, leaves home in pursuit of the story of her life. Desperate for the truth, she is about to learn the true cost of the war on terror and find out some facts that may be hard to swallow.

Finally, Millie Stephenson, a university professor and expert in radicalisation arrives at Downing Street to brief the Prime Minister and home secretary. Nervous and excited she finds herself at the centre of a nation taken hostage.

All of these three women’s lives are entwined in this one day as the leap between normal people and extremists blurs. Jumping between times, spaces and actions, the book is fast-paced and requires your attention: but don’t worry, it’s so gripping you won’t want to put it down!

So if you’re searching for your perfect summer thriller, look no further. A Killing Sin will keep you hooked from page one and won’t let you go.

The Savage Shore Review: An Enchanting and Gripping Thriller

the savage shore

Having previously participated in David Hewson’s blog tour in which I interviewed him about his work, I felt it was only right that I also review his latest novel, The Savage Shore, and give you my honest thoughts on the book.

It’s one of the early publications of a new publishing imprint, Black Thorn Books, and is part of Hewson’s longstanding Nic Costa series about the search for the truth in the heart of Italy.

Throughout Hewson’s series, which spans nearly ten books and is back after a break of a decade, Costa and his team have explored the history, culture and politics of Italy in search of the criminals behind a string of diabolical crimes.

In this latest incarnation, The Savage Shore, Costa has to infiltrate a ruthless and deadly mafia organisation with the help of a turncoat witness who may very well have his own agenda. In an unfamiliar location with a fake identity, Costa is surrounded by enemies and in grave danger.

The novel has that perfect blend of pace; fast, but with enough time to describe the scenery and evoke a sense of setting for the reader. Hewson’s work has the advantage of being set in the beautiful and evocative Italy, rather than somewhere grim and dank, like Scunthorpe, but the author’s exquisite sense of timing and sumptuous descriptions shine through none the less.

With everything from intrigue and lies through to murder and threats on the table, this ingenious thriller grips the reader from the beginning and draws them in to the elite yet frightening world of organised crime in which Costa now finds himself operating as he works with the head of a notoriously brutal branch of the mafia to unravel the organisation from the inside.

In short, this is a really concise, ingenuous thriller that leaves no doubt in my mind that Black Thorn Books has bloody good taste.

 

The Folio Society’s Edition Of The Murder Of Roger Ackroyd Review: An Exquisite Illustrated Copy That Will Be Perfect For Christie Fans and Collectors Alike

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Exclusive Photography By Patrick Doherty

Written during a period of turmoil in the Queen of Crime’s life, shortly before she vanished and at a time when she was moving publisher and facing the breakdown in her marriage, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd is often proclaimed as one of her finest works.

As such, a version has been released by the Folio Society, a unique publishing house that takes some of the finest stories and books from across the literary market and creates works of art with some of the finest illustrators in the industry to produce beautiful books. The publishing house creates glorious books that are stunningly bound and look like those pristine volumes you see in fancy libraries.

Its latest offering, its version of The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, is a classic example of the stunning books the Folio Society is renowned for creating. It has been bound in majestic dark blue hardback binding with gold lettering down the spine and a vast picture on the cover depicting one of the events in the novel in colourful detail.

Encapsulating the greatest of her literary quirks The Murder of Roger Ackroyd has a truly innovative plot featuring red herrings, an unreliable narrator and an exquisite array of dastardly characters. Undoubtedly the ending, in which Poirot makes a moral choice about the fate of the killer, is the inspiration for Dorothy L Sayers’ The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club, which features a similar finale and was published in 1928, two years after The Murder of Roger Ackroyd.

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Another Exclusive Photograph By Patrick Doherty 

Andrew Davidson’s illustrations are stunning and evoke the period in question and the humours nature of Christie’s most famed detective and his unusual methods. They also fit beautifully with the style of the period and transport readers back to a time of sumptuous décor, splendid country houses and neatly tailored sartorial elegance.

This edition also features an introduction by Sophie Hannah, a crime writer who is not only an authority on Christie’s works but has also bought Poirot back to life in three amazing books. She is the perfect person to discuss the novel, and she gives an intriguing overview of the origins of The Murder of Roger Ackroyd and its place in the Christie cannon.

In all this was an inspired choice for the Folio Society to publish, as The Murder of Roger Ackroyd is one of the Christie cannon that best lends itself to being illustrated in such a beautiful way. If anyone from the publishing house happens to be reading this then I can recommend as a future option Dead Man’s Folly, a novel set in the grounds of a magnificent stately home and featuring, as a plot device no less, an array of sumptuous gowns and vast hats which will make for truly amazing illustrations.

To find out more about the Folio Society and the selection of Christie novels it has on offer have a look at their website HERE.

The Secret Child Review: Another Tense Thriller From Caroline Mitchell

The Secret Child

Following on from Caroline Mitchell’s gripping novel Truth and Lies comes the second in the DI Amy Winter series The Secret Child. Having reviewed the first in the series previously I was keen to take part in Mitchell’s latest blog tour to find out more about the second outing for this dogged and troubled detective.

In the follow-up to the thrilling first novel in her series, which will hopefully be a long one, Winter is still reeling from the news that she is the daughter of a pair of sadistic serial killers and the horrible experiences of her previous case.

Despite this she has no time to grieve as she is thrust straight into another in the form of an investigation into a horrific abduction with a sadistic twist. When another child is snatched Winter faces a race against time which sends her straight back to the one person she wished she’d never have to speak to again: her serial killer mother.

Showcasing her strong characterisation skills and her unique ability to create engaging emotional scenes Mitchell brings this frightening tale to life in her latest novel. Her characters are evolved and emotionally entangled without being annoyingly sappy, and the reader is quickly immersed in the entwined tales of the kidnap and Winter’s relationship with her psychotic mother.

Being a police officer gives Winter access to the case in full, as well as access to a myriad of other insider information and as such her manipulative mother wants a quid pro quo in return for advice on the topic she knows most about: the mind of a depraved child kidnapper.

Having enjoyed both novels I desperately hope that there’s more where this came from. I loved Truth and Lies and The Secret Child was just as thrilling and gritty, so hopefully Mitchell will bring her talent for tension and passion for the police procedural back in the future!

 

 

A Perfect Explanation Review: A Haunting Historical Human Drama

a perfect explanation

Another blog tour post for you today, this time a review of a gripping historical book depicting real-life events from a fresh perspective.

A real life story that is almost too mind-boggling to be true, Eleanor Anstruther’s A Perfect Explanation tells the story of Enid Campbell, the author’s grandmother, who sold her son Ian, Anstruther’s father, to her aunt Joan for £500 in the 1930s.

The book is incredibly rich in human emotion and, as the author explains in the epilogue, is designed to turn these half-remembered caricatures from her family’s past into living, breathing, thinking entities.

Each chapter is told from the point of view of one of the women involved: be it Enid herself, in both the 1960s, when she lives in a nursing home awaiting a visit from the son she sold and across the year leading up to his sale, as well as her daughter, who was not sold but still feels the burden it placed on her family, as well as Joan herself, who is coming to terms with the challenging fate her sister has thrust upon her.

This approach ensures that the reader is able to view the complex drama that unfolds through numerous perspectives, helping them to feel empathy and understanding. With such a personal connection to such an emotive and upsetting case, Anstruther could easily have created a take-down of her grandmother, but instead she wrote a unique and deeply moving book which explores her motives and those of the other players in the tragedy.

Throughout the book Anstruther perfectly combines human drama and emotion with evocative settings and haunting description. Each individual comes alike thanks to the writer’s skilful descriptions and human-focused narrative, which hones in on each member of the family and brings them to vivid life.

In all I was incredibly impressed by this moving portrayal of human suffering, mental illness, obsession and parenthood, and I think anyone who enjoys books of any genre that are rich in human emotion will too.

 

The Widening Gyre Review: A Modern Sci-Fi Epic

the widening gyre

The debut novel from Michael R. Johnston, The Widening Gyre, creates an entire empire peopled by numerous species in just over 200 pages. A sci-fi epic that makes the genre accessible to even those who aren’t die-hard fans, this is a detailed and intriguing novel that packs a punch.

The story follows Tarjen Hunt, a member of the human race now living in an empire run by the Zhen, a proud race who distrust and mistreat humans after they saved them. The human race was on board a ship travelling away from earth when it got damaged and had to be rescued. In author Johnston’s portrayal of the future earth is now just a distant memory, and humans now live as part of the empire in uneasy truce with their hosts.

Tarjen is a war hero turned wheeler-dealer travelling space hauling parts around for the empire after a personal tragedy alienated him from his family. When his estranged brother sends him a message begging for help, and then promptly dies, Tarjen and his newly acquired crew go on a dangerous quest to follow a path which they believe will take them back to earth.

Mistreated and overtaxed by the Zhen, the humans are considered an inferior race in the empire, and as such they are eager to reclaim their homeland and uncover the truth about their history. But Tarjen and his team face stiff opposition from ruling Zhen and a number of other dissidents as they battle to find his brother’s clues and uncover the path back to earth.

Written in the first person as a sort of ship’s log combined with a diary, Johnston’s narrative shows Tarjen’s personal opinions on each situation he’s in, building characterisation and driving tension as the plot hurtles towards a fascinating conclusion. Also Johnston gets a lot of love from me for integrating a gay protagonist and a lot of female characters into a genre traditionally not known for its representation. He does it in a very respectful way that isn’t too self-congratulatory, and as such this is a great victory for those looking for literature with more representation.

Overall this is a great debut from Johnston, who has built a unique world and created a fast-paced adventure within it. The Widening Gyre is great not just for science fiction fans but for those who enjoy thrilling, action-packed reads that will keep them captivated from start to finish.

Harry’s Quest Review: A Shockingly Good Thriller

Harrys Quest

Having interviewed Sydney based author and former police detective A. B. Patterson last year, I was pleased to be able to review the second in his series about his dogged private investigator Harry Kenmare, Harry’s Quest.

A private eye novel with real grit and drive, Harry’s Quest sees readers reunite with investigator Harry Kenmare as he seeks to right the world’s wrongs and achieve his revenge on a world that has taken a great deal from him. Drawing on Patterson’s experience as a policeman, the novel is gripping and features a host of memorable characters.

The sequel to Harry’s World, like its predecessor Harry’s Quest consists of five ‘parts’, which each act as a component part of the whole to create an interesting narrative. Gritty and spellbinding, the novel combines the same short, sharp sentence structure and witty dialogue that made the first novel so popular and adds an extra element of danger.

In this second outing for Harry Kenmare, the private detective is now inundated with work as the elite seek him out to do their dirty work. He uses these jobs to finance his real focus; revenge on those who have wronged him in the past.

Having assembled a team, Harry uses them to extract his revenge and get back at the monsters that preyed on him and those he loved. Packed with sex and violence, the novel gives an eye-opening view of the nastier side of human nature and the motives that bring out the worst in people; money, power and sex.

Ultimately, Harry’s Quest is another cracking example of author A.B. Patterson’s expert storytelling as he takes his hardboiled investigator for another spin and lets him loose on the elite and the scandalous. Balance is the key here; Patterson gets it just right, with enough gore, grime and gentile backstabbing to have the reader coming back for more.

The Man With No Face Review: Getting 2019 Off To A Thrilling Start

the man with no face peter may

Last year Peter May published the intense and gripping I’ll Keep You Safe, so I was incredibly excited to check out his latest novel, The Man With No Face, due to be released on the 10th of January. I was expecting May’s typical strong characterisation, eventful plotlines and a spectacular finale to round it all off. I was not disappointed.

Less of a domestic drama than May’s previous book and far more of an international thriller, this latest novel travels the world, focusing on jaded Edinburgh journalist Neil Bannerman, who travels to Brussels in search of a scoop. During his stay two men are murdered, with a young girl being the only witness.

Desperate for answers and to protect the child, Bannerman begins a potentially fatal race against time to uncover the truth in a very tangled web of lies. Trying to both find out what happened and protect the girl, who is the sole witness to the tragedy that killed her father and changed her life. Autistic and vulnerable, her only method of communication is drawing, but she is unable to finish her portrait of the killers face due to her own fear and the dark, terrifying surroundings in which she saw it.

As Bannerman gets closer to the truth he has to combine protecting the girl with finding the culprits and bringing them to justice, but the work brings him nothing but trouble.

Set in the late 1970s, the novel evokes an era in turmoil, both politically and socially, and shows this through the tense narrative and tightly wound plot. May’s real skill is in characterisation and dialogue, and he shows this in The Man With No Face, with every character expertly crafted.

At the end of the day, May’s books are always dependable for their excellence of characterisation and deft plotting, and The Man With No Face is no exception. Any fans of May, or of gripping international thrillers in general, will enjoy this novel no end, and it makes a great read to get the New Year off to an excellent start.