The Colorado Kid – Stephen King

91UVzYpWv9LTitle – The Colorado Kid

Author – Stephen King

Published – 2019

Genre – Crime fiction

I’ve been on the lookout for a copy of The Colorado Kid since the TV series Haven was first broadcast in 2010, so I jumped at the opportunity to get a review copy of this new issue. It’s worth saying that if you’ve seen the programme it was LOOSELY based on the book and while you can see a few similarities there are definitely more differences. However, it’s difficult to read the book without picturing some of the characters and locations as those from the screen, regardless of the fact that they’re not ‘like for like’.

King wrote the story specifically for the Hard Case Crime publisher and the new edition includes an introduction from Charles Ardai, founder and editor of Hard Case Crime, an Afterword by Stephen King and is illustrated throughout. The story is a mystery that fits in the HCC covers without some of the frills and spills that other King books feature.

“The book tells the story of two veteran newspapermen and their investigation into the mysterious death of a man on an island off the coast of Maine. How does a man wind up dead on a beach, alone, with no identification, two thousand miles from home? And what does it mean to grapple with questions like that, not knowing if you’ll ever learn the answers?”

In fact the story is told by the two veteran newspapermen to a young student on an internship at The Weekly Insider. The story is an example of a real mystery, something that may have no rational explanation, something that would make folks feel uncomfortable. It’s also, through its telling, about times changing and passing on the baton.

Unusually for me I’ve actually taken away a quote from the book that really struck me – “A wave is a pretty thing to look at when it breaks on the beach, but too many only make you seasick.”

I’m one of those people who like a story with a firm conclusion, or at worst a ‘musta been’ but this is a lesson in how you don’t necessarily need either.

A good, and short, read. Many thanks to the publisher for the review copy.

1star1star1star1star

Crime fiction events in 2020

One of the regular posts on my blog is my listing of forthcoming crime fiction events, despite the fact that I hardly managed to make it to any events this year – a combination of having a new puppy and more limited funds than normal. I hope that I can find a way to attend at least a few in 2020.

Remember this isn’t all literary events (there are plenty of lists of those and there must be hundreds of events) but it is a list of the main dedicated crime fiction events taking place in the UK (with a few notable additions). Please see the bottom of the list for smaller events which are repeated throughout the year.

I aim to maintain the list and update it as dates are confirmed, so do let me know if there’s anything I should add.

Annual events

January

27 January – West Barnes Library Author event
A triple bill of thrills with authors Barbara Nadel, Derek Farrell & Valentina Giambanco. £2 entry, refreshments provided, book in advance with library staff.

February

20 – 23 February – Granite Noir 2020, Aberdeen’s crime writing festival
This is the fourth year for this crime writing festival featuring some of the most celebrated talent from the Nordic Noir scene alongside Scotland’s own Tartan Noir authors.

21 – 23 February – Crime and Punishment, Lockerbie
A slightly different event, this is a creative writing course are designed for budding crime fiction authors of all levels.

March

15 March – Killer Women Festival, London
A one-day event being run by the ‘Killer Women’ group there is a really varied programme with something for everyone.  (I’m personally tempted by the live police dog demonstration!)

NOIRELAND International Crime Fiction Festival, Belfast
Last year saw this event take place in March – no news on 2020 yet.

Quais du Polar – Lyon
I can’t see yet that dates have been published for 2020 yet.

April

24 – 26 April – Books by the Beach, Scarborough
Not a dedicated crime fiction event but this does get a good contribution from crime writers, full details still to be published.

May

1 – 3 May – Newcastle Noir, Newcastle
Programme still to be released although the PR says “This year, organisers will seek to widen the appeal of this criminally fine weekend by seeking to attract younger readers and crime fiction lovers with small children.”

June

4 -7 June – Crimefest – Bristol
After last year’s change of venue we now have a change of month. This is a four-day convention drawing top crime novelists, readers, editors, publishers and reviewers from around the world.

6 June – Fairford Festival of Fiction – Fairford, Gloucestershire
A small event but the participants are Russell T. Davies, John Connolly and Rachael Stott. 

Crime and Coffee Festival, Cardiff
This would be the third year if and when dates are confirmed.

Slaughter in Southwold, Southwold
This will be the eighth year, dates to be confirmed.

19 – 21 June – Alibis in the Archives, Gladstone Library, Hawarden, Flintshire
An event run in association with the Crime Writers’ Association and The Detection Club.

26 – 28 June – Lyme Crime, Lyme Regis
A new event this festival will bring the very best talents in crime & thriller fiction to Lyme Regis for a relaxed weekend of talks, conversations, panels and other events.

July

2 – 4 July – Captivating Criminality, Bath
The seventh UK conference from the Captivating Criminality’, “Memory, History and Revaluation” will examine the ways in which Crime Fiction as a genre necessarily incorporates elements of the past – the past in general and its own past, both in terms of its own generic developments and also in respect of true crime and historical events. The CfP will thus offer opportunities for delegates to engage in discussions that are relevant to both past and present crime writing.

4 July – Bodies from the Library – British Library, London
A one day conference with an exciting programme of discussions, presentations and panels on the Golden Age of Detective Fiction Writers.

23 – 26 July – Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival – Harrogate, Yorkshire
Four days of Europe’s biggest come writing event, the full programme for 2020 is due to be announced in Spring 2020 and tickets will be released shortly after including Day Rover and Weekend Rover tickets.

31 July – 2 August – Bute Noir, Bute
Bute Noir celebrates five years of its crime writing festival held on the Isle of Bute, bringing together bestselling authors from the U.S, England and Scotland.

August

14 – 16 August – St Hilda’s Mystery and Crime Weekend – Oxford
One of the longest running dedicated crime fiction events (it started in 1994) the 2020 event is ‘All Our Yesterdays’: historical crime fiction.

September

15 – 19 September – International Agatha Christie Festival – Torquay, Devon
It’s not clear from the IACF website what the plans are for 2020 but the tourist board are advertising these dates.

10 – 13 September – Noirwich Crime Writing Festival, Norwich, Norfolk
The Noirwich Crime Writing Festival is an annual celebration bringing together superstar crime authors, exciting new talent and fans of all things crime fiction.

12 – 13 September – Morecambe & Vice, Morecambe
The fourth year for this event.

18 – 20 September – Bloody Scotland – Stirling, Scotland
Scotland’s festival celebrating crime writing – bringing together leading Scottish and international writers, showcasing debut voices and encouraging new writers.

October

1 – 3 October – Capital Crime, London’s West End
A second year for this event. The brains behind this event are David Headley, MD of  Goldsboro Books and organiser of the infamous ‘Crime in the Court’ and novelist and screenwriter Adam Hamdy so it has excellent credentials. Capital Crime welcomes some of the world’s favourite authors and filmmakers to London

2 – 11 October – Cheltenham Literary Festival, Cheltenham
I wouldn’t normally include this festival as it’s so diverse and doesn’t have the same focus as most of the other events listed here but it’s worth a check of the programme when published.

October – Crime Writing: Truth, Myth, Death and Mayhem at Darkfest, Portsmouth
Part of Darkfest – no confirmed dates at time of writing.

November

November – Margate Bookie, Margate
No confirmed dates at time of writing.

20 – 21 November is the biennial Iceland Noir, Reykjavik
No website or programme as yet…

December

All busy shopping for books …

Recurring events

There are a few smaller events which will be happening throughout the year.

First Monday
Regular events which take place on, would you believe, the first Monday of each month (with a few exceptions). A free event with a consistently good panel of authors.
https://www.firstmondaycrime.com

Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers
Val McDermid, Mark Billingham, Chris Brookmyre, Luca Veste, Doug Johnstone and Stuart Neville are the Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers and after a year that saw them play Glastonbury they have quite a tour coming up in 2020 https://funlovincrimewriters.com/gigs/ 

Noir at the Bar
These are events, apparently originated by Peter Rozovsky of Detectives Beyond Borders, which can be summed up as “A relaxed evening in a local hostelry where crime writers (established, emerging & would-be) read from their work.” Having started in the US they now make appearances in the UK either as part of a larger crime fiction event or as small standalone events. I’ve tracked down a few UK location where you can find them. Let me know if you come across more!

Bath – next meetings 13 Feb and 21 May

Edinburgh – no future events showing

Newcastle – 19 Feb

London – no recent events

It would be nice to be able to find a comprehensive list of these small events as they are so accessible – low cost and take little time commitment.

Managing the TBR pile – part 3

I’ve posted a couple of times in the past about managing my “To Be Read” (TBR) pile and the turn of the year is a great opportunity to see if I’ve made any progress.

I didn’t have any specific plans for 2019 but there is always a general plan to get some of the older books read (and reviewed), prevent the unread books creeping on to the floor around the bookshelves and keeping the shelves of read books well-organised.

As with 2018 there has been something of a dip in books coming in from publishers. In fact this year I think you could say that it’s crashed rather than dipped, I’ve only gained 23 books over the last year (this was written excluding any Christmas books), a mixture of gifts, purchases, Netgalleys and just seven were physical review copies from publishers.

I’ve read 31 books at the time of writing, so that’s a net book deficit of 8 – progress! This means I’ve also read (and reviewed) some books that I’ve been meaning to get to for a while. Although it’s a little awkward when the PR info that I’ve kept with a book refer to a publicist who has got married, had a baby and is no longer at the publisher 😂.

My reading for this year has been a bit down – the combination of not commuting and having a puppy.

Screen Shot 2019-12-22 at 21.19.43

I’ve posted 21 reviews so far this year although am hoping to get a backlog of about a dozen books to review (yes, some were read in 2018) but I might skip posting a few where I didn’t really enjoy the book.

We have built new bookshelves which are now the home for most of our hardback fiction. The consequence of this has been the ability to unpack all the ‘read’ books we have and get rid of a few titles that we’re not particularly fond of. The ‘TBR’ shelves have also seen a little bit of a clear out.

Now for some other stats. That ‘To Read’ bookcase has 152 (it was 179 a year ago) books on it, there are 82 (103) books to read packed in boxes and there are 37 (39) still to read on my kindle. Looks like my clear out made a bit of a dent but unfortunately slowing down on my reading means it’s actually going to take me longer to get to the end of the TBR than it was a year ago.

I’ve no specific plans for 2020, I’m currently job hunting so having a commute, or not, may affect my reading time. It’s a shame that I’ve received so little from publishers (I’m obviously grateful for what I have received) but I do feel I’m missing out on the continuation of a lot of series I’ve been enjoying and I’m not ‘in the loop’ so much with the popular books of the year. I need to get back to the library and borrow a few titles that I want to catch up on, although as I often have the dog with me when I’m passing they may not be very welcoming!

So how do you manage your arrivals and keep on top of your ‘to read’ books? How has 2019 been for your TBR?

The Immortalists – Chloe Benjamin

Title – The Immortalists

Author – Chloe Benjamin

Published – March 2018

Genre – Fiction

I’m making a concerted effort to clear up all my outstanding reviews before the start of the next decade (😱). You can see how far behind I am – I read this just after it was published in March 2018. My intention was to do a few short reviews but as I’ve picked this up and can remember some of my thoughts I may go on a little longer.

This isn’t a book that I might normally read but sometimes a review copy prods you to read outside of your normal genre. This is more along the lines of women’s fiction rather than crime fiction and has a historical slant to it; it follows the fortunes of young four siblings who in New York 1969 visit a fortune teller, a woman who will supposedly tell them the dates of their deaths. So this question forms the premise of the book – if you know the date of your death does this become a self-fulfilling prophecy? Do you still have free will, or are the choices you make and the way you live determined by the knowledge of how long you have before you die?

Which all sounds a bit deep, but armed with whatever the fortune teller has told them the siblings embark on their lives – all vividly portrayed against a near-history background. Of course for the reader the knowledge of the period they’re living through makes you want to challenge the choices some of them make and you can see disaster looming before they can!

Each character is complex and three-dimensional, their lives lived an a richly atmospheric landscape drawn by the author, all against a background that encompasses their religion (Judaism) and evokes the period of recent history (a risk when most readers will have lived through it themselves). I became really invested in the characters and their fates.

Each of the four deals with the knowledge they’re given at the beginning in completely contrasting ways and you’re still left to consider the question of destiny versus choice. But this isn’t all the book is about – it’s about family and belief and emotion and drama, a potted family saga told over forty years.

Many thanks to the publisher for the review copy. You can see Liz’s thoughts on LizLovesBooks and Jackie’s at Farm Lane Books.

1star1star1star1star

A Deadly Thaw – Sarah Ward

A Deadly Thaw coverTitle – A Deadly Thaw

Author – Sarah Ward

Published – 2016

Genre – Crime fiction

This the sequel to ‘In Bitter Chill‘ and opens with one of the most intriguing mysteries I’ve come across.

In 2016 the body of a man is discovered in a remote, disused mortuary and his identity brings some uncomfortable questions – both for his wife who was imprisoned for his murder in 2004 and the police who pursued the investigation. How intriguing is that??

The story is told across two timelines – 2004, when the initial murder was investigated and 2016, when the body is found a year after the release of his wife from prison. There are so many questions to be answered – who died in 2004, why did Lena confess to a murder she didn’t commit, where has the man been since 2004 and why didn’t he come forward, and who has now killed him? And of course all these questions mean that it would be easy to include spoilers – so I’ll keep the review short and hopefully spoiler-free.

Leading the current investigation are DI  Francis Sadler and DC Connie Childs, with the returning characters becoming further developed as the story progresses. There’s some interesting politics, too, about investigating the possible mistakes of their predecessors and superiors.

When Lena disappears her sister, Kat, takes matters into her own hands and tries to track her down – and this creates the second pov for the book, adding to the police perspective. This means that we learn about Lena and the background to the story from others rather than directly from Lena herself. The climax of the book comes as the two investigations begin to come together.

The author’s style mixes the elements of a cosy Peak District mystery with the chill of Nordic Noir. An enjoyable read, especially if you like intriguing British police procedurals which offer a slow burn rather than a thrill a minute – well this is rural Derbyshire!

Many thanks to the author for the review copy.

1star1star1star1star

Deadland – William Shaw

Cover DeadlandTitle – Deadland

Author – William Shaw

Published – 2 May 2019

Genre – Crime fiction

Picking up where Salt Lane left off, this is the second in the Alex Cupidi series and also sees the return of William South from The Birdwatcher.

The opening line is a real attention grabber, something Dick Francis would have been proud of! Two teenage boys who are fairly inept thieves manage to steal a bag from the wrong man. They’re forced to go on the run when they realise how seriously the victim has taken the loss and what he’s prepared to do to get his belongings back.

At the same time Cupidi involves herself in a strange mystery after a severed arm is discovered in a work of art. Whose arm is it? Is there someone, somewhere who is injured and needs help or might this be a murder? Or is there even a crime to investigate?

This is a much simpler book than its predecessors, with two main investigations and two main points of view (Cupidi and the two boys on the run). As the stories unfold the huge contrasts in the social divide between the young petty thieves who have to hide out on the marshes and the characters they come into contact with, versus the incredibly wealthy celebrity owners of the artwork add an extra dimension to the story. There is also a lesson to be learned about being taken in by the perception of ‘celebrity’.

During the course of the book we learn more about Detective Constable Jill Ferriter, who is now becoming one of the mainstays of the series. Cupidi’s home life is still an important part of the book and we learn more about the circumstances that led to her moving out to the Kent coast and Zoë, her daughter, continues to worry her.

As in the earlier books in this series and in Shaw’s Breen and Tozer series, the excellent characterisation brings the diverse cast to life. They are truly believable and that really draws you into the story. The sense of place is important, as has been the case with the preceding books, and the experience of these characters provides a different point of view of the desolate coastline and the more urban areas.

A really enjoyable read.

1star1star1star1star

All This I Will Give To You – Dolores Redondo

Title – All This I Will Give To You

Author Dolores Redondo (translated by Michael Meigs)

Published – September 2018

Genre – Crime fiction

This has to be one of my favourite reads of the year so it’s quite remiss of me to have left it so long between reading and reviewing (9 months) but the fact that I can still remember it well enough to review says something about the quality of the book.

The initial premise of the story is one that’s not completely unfamiliar – novelist Manuel Ortigosa learns that his husband, Álvaro, has been killed in a car crash and then discovers that he didn’t know the man he married at all. So far, so similar to other books – but this has lots of very important differences. The main couple being gay is an obvious one, although it’s just a very matter of fact situation rather than feeling as if it’s for effect, the secrets that Álvaro has hidden from his partner are on a surprising scale and the reason for the deception is unusual.

When a shell-shocked Manuel attends his husband’s funeral he begins to understand the scale of the deception that he’s been subject to. Álvaro’s death is seemingly the result of a car accident and it’s clear that there is more to the death than meets the eye. Supported by two unusual allies – a retired policeman and an old friend of Álvaro’s, Manuel embarks on a difficult journey to uncover the truth, whatever it may cost him.

While this is crime fiction/thriller it’s a pretty long book (at almost 500 pages) and the story develops slowly, the lives of Manuel and his husband and the way Manuel deals with his grief are really important, so if you’re after a fast-paced thriller then this might not be for you. This really is at the ‘literary’ end of the genre, it’s beautifully written (and translated), compellingly evocative, and emotionally resonant. The story of the relationship between the two men is just as important as the investigation into Álvaro’s death. I’ve not read many books set in Spain and the author also does a great job of painting a vivid picture of the locations, creating a real sense of place and culture. The characters are all deftly drawn – recognisable, realistic and flawed, and the relationships are at the heart of the story.

Definitely one of the best books I read in 2019.

Many thanks to the publisher for the review copy.

1star1star1star1star1star