Author: suzigun

Out of the Ashes – Vicky Newham

Title – Out of the Ashes

Author – Vicky Newham

Published – 30 May 2019

Genre – Crime fiction

This is the second outing for Detective Inspector Maya Rahman following on from Vicky Newham’s debut ‘Turn a Blind Eye‘ last year.

In the heart of Brick Lane a flash mob gets people dancing in the street, only for a sudden explosion to replace the excitement with terror. A frantic phone call brings Maya to the scene which turns out to have been a fire at an upmarket soup shop. Inside the gutted building are two bodies, arson becomes murder, but while the identity of one victim is clear who is the second?

As the investigation unfolds it draws Maya back to her own past, she grew up in the location and alongside some of the characters central to the case. In pursuing it she is prompted to deal with some of the issues that she and her family have avoided, including the disappearance of her own father.

I preferred the plot of this story to its predecessor, where the first book followed more of a serial killer route this story felt more true to life (I know – it’s all fiction really!).  The story starts with the single incident and the subsequent direction of the plot is driven by this. The ‘race against time’ aspect is in controlling the fallout from the initial incident – and there is plenty to keep them busy. The detectives have a lot of questions to answer – who is the mysterious second victim, were the victims deliberately killed, who is behind the mysterious anti-gentrification group,  does the diverse ethnicity of the location have a bearing?

The book is told from two main perspectives – Maya’s and her colleague Dan’s – both giving insights into the development of the police investigation and the characters of the detectives. In Maya’s case there’s perhaps less focus on her backstory than in the first book, but her character and her life beyond the investigation form an important core to the story.

While it might appear to some people that the author has perhaps tried too hard to include as many different ethnicities as possible, anyone who has walked down Brick Lane will easily recognise the landscape, which is vividly depicted. And while it may be the heart of the city’s Bangladeshi community it is a hugely diverse location with the new and the old sitting cheek by jowl – it’s surprising more authors don’t use the setting.

A topical novel which deals with issues it’s easy to spot on London’s streets, the social commentary is woven into an intriguing mystery with some strong and memorable characters. I’m definitely looking forward to finding out more about Maya’s story. Many thanks to the publisher for the review copy.



Fault Lines – Doug Johnstone

816HGaMoWLLTitle – Fault Lines

Author – Doug Johnstone

Published – 2017

Genre – Crime fiction

I’ve had this book on my shelf for a while and if I’m honest I was slightly put off by the blurb. While I do read speculative fiction books they’re definitely the exception rather than the rule and it was the ‘reimagined contemporary Edinburgh’ that caused the delay in my starting. In fact I needn’t have delayed, the premise concerns the discovery of a man’s body on a volcanic island in the Firth of Forth, the reimagining having created a volcanic island, but in fact this is actually the only part of the book that is different to contemporary Edinburgh, in every other way this book’s world is ours.

The body is discovered by Surtesy, a PhD student, and the dead man, Tom, is her boss and her clandestine lover. In a decision she may come to regret she abandons the body and waits for someone else to make the discovery. In the meantime she receives a mysterious message from someone who knows something they shouldn’t.

The story is told from Surtesy’s point of view and her life wasn’t a particularly happy one before her lover’s death. She is sharing a house with her younger sister, who is something of a rebel, and her best friend from the university, and they seem to spend a lot of time drinking or taking drugs. They’re all living in the house that was Surtsey’s family home as her mother is in a hospice along the road.

As the discovery of Tom’s body opens up a police investigation aspects of Surtsey’s life come under the spotlight and she has to acknowledge the damage that her affair has done. At the same time she has to contend with her terminally ill mother with whom she has an uneasy relationship, then there is another death of someone close to her.

This is a book that just didn’t do it for me. I did find the ‘mysterious message’ aspect of the story gripping and it added an extra level of tension. I do think it could have a better sense of the place, I felt that the volcanic island could have been off any piece of coast and it wouldn’t have made too much difference to the story. I enjoyed the writing and was swept along with wanting to reach the end but I didn’t really like Surtsey too much, I was confused by the need for the volcanic island and I figured out the ‘whodunnit’ too soon.

Thanks to the publisher for the review copy.


The Craftsman – Sharon Bolton

81ofF+-8H-LTitle – The Craftsman

Author – Sharon Bolton

Published – 2018

Genre – Crime fiction

I’ve been a fan Sharon Bolton’s books since I read Sacrifice, I missed The Craftsman when it was published so picked it up on an offer in (whispers) Tesco.

The story is told across two timelines. The book opens in the present (1999) with a dramatic scene in a graveyard, as it transpires a location that has some prominence within the story; it’s the funeral of Larry Glassbrook – former casket (or coffin) maker and convicted child-murder. The story is told in the first person by Florence Lovelady, now an Assistant Commissioner in the police, who has returned to the place, and the case, where her career was made. She and her teenage son are staying in the village for a couple of nights which seems to be in order bring some closure for her. As the day of the funeral unfolds the disturbing and chilling details of the death of the final teenager to die are revealed and it becomes clear why Glassbrook was so reviled.

While in Sabden Lovelady takes a trip to Glassbrook’s house, where she roomed as a WPC when she was in the local police,  while there she makes a discovery that makes her wonder if Glassbrook acted alone and implies that she may now be a target.

The story then skips back to 1969, the disappearence of the teenagers and the investigation to find them. This is a ‘Life on Mars’ type of leap, where the male-dominated force didn’t take kindly to any input from a woman, WPC or not. Sabden is a villlage in the shadow of the infamous Pendle Hill and not a welcoming one for the young Flossie Lovelady. So Lovelady is an outsider in lots of ways but seems to be the brightest person on the force – picking up on clues no-one else spots and eventually becoming a target herself. The location isn’t used by chance – the connection to the Pendle witches and the history of witchcraft is an important one and Lovelady herself finds a connection to some of the women in the local coven.

As the case is resolved the story moves back to 1999, Lovelady’s opened old wounds and yet again finds herself at the centre of the action.

I found the events of the case in 1969 a little flatter than most of Bolton’s police procedurals. It’s not a fault in the writing but a result of the structure of the story – giving the end of the investigation and the solution to disappearences upfront means that the opportunities for tension and jeopardy were reduced. Afterall, however damaged Florence may now be in 1999 we know that she survived whatever came her way.

The real tension and the real ‘creepy’ aspect of the story came towards the end of the book when the timeline returns to 1999 and Florence decides to pursue the idea that the case wasn’t resolved correctly.  There is one scene when she is in a house in the dark at night that I found particulalry tense!

Even if this was a little slower in the middle than I would have liked it was still an enjoyable (if dark) story. Lovelady was an engaging main character although she could be frustrating and behave inconsistently at times – but then we can all be a bit like that! The setting and the hints of witchcraft are used with quite a light touch, particularly at the beginning of the book – I can be quite critical of the use of supernatural elements in crime fiction but nothing here felt out of place.






The 2019 CWA Daggers – longlists announced

As has become traditional the CWA Dagger longlists were announced at Crimefest in Bristol earlier this month. The Diamond Dagger has already been confirmed and the shortlists for the remainder will be announced in July. The winners of all the CWA Daggers will be announced at the Dagger Awards Dinner to be held on 24 October.

The Diamond Dagger – selected from nominations provided by CWA members – 2019 winner is Robert Goddard and the award will be presented at the CWA Dagger Awards Dinner in October.

The longlists for the following daggers were announced during Crimefest and the shortlists will be announced in July.

Gold Dagger

All the Hidden Truths by Claire Askew

Snap by Belinda Bauer

The Mobster’s Lament by Ray Celestin

The Puppet Show by M W Craven

Body and Soul by John Harvey

What We Did by Christobel Kent

Unto Us a Son Is Given by Donna Leon

Fade to Grey by  John Lincoln

Cold Bones by David Mark

American By Day by Derek B. Miller

Smoke and Ashes by Abir Mukherjee

Salt Lane by William Shaw

Before She Knew Him by Peter Swanson

The Fire Court by Andrew Taylor

A Station on the Path to Somewhere Better by Benjamin Wood



Ian Fleming Steel Dagger

Give Me Your Handby Megan Abbott

Thirteen by Steve Cavanagh

Safe Houses by  Dan Fesperman

The Stranger Diaries by  Elly Griffiths

No Tomorrow by Luke Jennings

Lives Laid Away by Stephen Mack Jones

The Wolf and the Watchman by Niklas Natt och Dag

Homegrown Hero by Khurrum Rahman

To The Lions by Holly Watt

Memo From Turner by Tim Willocks


 John Creasey (New Blood)

Motherland by G D Abson

All the Hidden Truths by Claire Askew

The Boy at the Door by Alex Dahl

When Darkness Calls by Mark Griffin

Scrublands by Chris Hammer

Turn A Blind Eye by Vicky Newham

Blood and Sugar by Laura Shepherd-Robinson

Something In The Water by Catherine Steadman

The Chestnut Man by Søren Sveistrup

Overkill by Vanda Symon


International Dagger

A Long Night in Paris by Dov Alfon, translator Daniella Zamir

Weeping Waters by Karin Brynard, translators Maya Fowler & Isobel Dixon

The Cold Summer by Gianrico Carofiglio, translator Howard Curtis

Newcomer by Keigo Higashino, translator Giles Murray

The Root of Evil by Håkan Nesser, translator Sarah Death

The Forger by Cay Rademacher, translator Peter Millar

The Overnight Kidnapper by Andrea Camilleri, translator Stephen Sartarelli

The Courier by Kjell Ola Dahl, translator Don Bartlett

Slugger by Martin Holmén, translator A A Prime

The Katherina Code by Jørn Lier Horst, translator Anne Bruce


Non-Fiction Dagger

All That Remains by Sue Black

An Unexplained Death by Mikita Brottman

Trace by Rachael Brown

Murder by the Book by Claire Harman

The Feather Thief by Kirk Johnson

Eve Was Shamed by Helena Kennedy

In Your Defence by Sarah Langford

The Spy and the Traitor by Ben Macintyre

The Five by Hallie Rubenhold

My Life with Murderers by David Wilson


CWA Short Story Dagger

Room Number Two by Andrea Camilleri in ‘Death at Sea’ by Andrea Camilleri

Strangers in a Pub by Martin Edwards in ‘Ten Year Stretch’, edited by Martin Edwards and Adrian Muller

How Many Cats Have You Killed? by Mick Herron in ‘Ten Year Stretch’, edited by Martin Edwards and Adrian Muller

Death Becomes Her by Syd Moore in ‘The Strange Casebook’ by Syd Moore,

The Dummies’ Guide to Serial Killing by Danuta Reah in ‘The Dummies’ Guide to Serial Killing and other Fantastic Female Fables’

I Detest Mozart by Teresa Solana in ‘The First Historic Serial Killers’ by Teresa Solana

Paradise Gained by TeresaSolana in ‘The First Historic Serial Killers’ by Teresa Solana

Bag Man by Lavie Tidhar in ‘The Outcast Hours’, edited by Mahvesh Murad and Jared Shurin

Debut Dagger (unpublished writers)

Shelley Burr – Wake

Mairi Campbell-Jack  – Self-Help for Serial Killers: Let Your Creativity Bloom

Jerry Krause – The Mourning Light

Michael Fleming – The Fruits of Rashness

Carol Glaser – Down the Well

Catherine Hendricks – Hardways

Anna Maloney – The Right Man

David Smith – The Firefly

Fran Smith – A Thin Sharp Blade

Matthew Smith – InWolf’s Clothing

Historical Dagger

Blood & Sugar by Laura Shepherd-Robinson

Destroying Angel by S G Maclean

Gallows Court by Martin Edwards

Smoke and Ashes by Abir Mukherjee

Tombland by C J Sansom

The Angel’s Mark by S W Perry

The House on Half Moon Street by Alex Reeve

The Mathematical Bridge by Jim Kelly

The Mobster’s Lament by Ray Celestin

The Quaker by Liam McIlvanney



Dagger in the Library longlist

M C Beaton

Simon Beckett

Mark Billingham

Christopher Brookmyre

John Connolly

Kate Ellis

Sophie Hannah

Graham Masterton

Denise Mina

C J Sansom

Cath Staincliffe

Jacqueline Winspear


So how’s your reading going – will you have read enough to judge a category for yourself?

Dark Vineyard – Martin Walker

71h0Mf4nPQLTitle – Dark Vineyard

Author – Martin Walker

Published – 2009

Genre – Crime fiction

I’m starting this review with a bit of an unrelated moan, but WordPress has been driving me mad of late. I use a Mac and haven’t been able to open WordPress via Safari for weeks. Having established that’s the issue I’ve had to install a different browser and although I have access again I now can’t persuade the browser or WordPress to do any spellchecks. I seem to be spending a lot of time trying to fix things that a few weeks ago weren’t broken and my ‘to review’ pile is just getting bigger & bigger!

But back to the point of this post – my review of the second book in the ‘Bruno, Chief of Police’ series ‘Dark Vineyard’. While I felt that the first book (Death in the Dordogne) wasn’t quite as good as the later books I’ve read, I thought this one was up to the standard I’ve come to expect.

There is only really one mystery that gets this book started and that’s who has set fire to a field of GMO crops – could it be a disgrunted local or an environmental activist? As the investigation into the fire begins a Californian wine producer, Bondino, meets with the Mayor to make a business proposition, one that will change life in St Denis, however he won’t pursue the deal if there is a hint of any futher trouble. The proposal adds a political dimension to the plot, pitting tradition against progress, and Bruno is under some pressure from the Mayor to reach the right conclusion speedily.

As ever, Bruno draws on his local knowledge to take the investigation in the right direction and that puts one of the young men from the rugby club, Max, in the spotlight.   He has strong environmental credentials and plans a future in wine production, he also seems to be a rival for the affections of Jacqueline, a young, Canadian student of wine who has been linked romantically with Bondino.

As the investigation into the fire progresses and the day-to-day life of the town carries on there are two further deaths which while odd aren’t necessarily anything more than accidents, although their timing could suit Bondino who, as an outsider, would make the perfect suspect for Bruno.

Bruno’s love life continues to feature – his ‘on/off’ relationship with Isabelle, as she pressures him to follow her to Paris and a new romance sparks on his doorstep. One of the disadvantages of reading the series out of order is knowing how these things will pan out.

Wine production features heavily in this book – adding to my knowledge from Proof by Dick Francis and more recently All This I Will Give to You by Dolores Redondo (which was excellent & I must write up my review). The book, as with the others in the series, evokes the location – if I ever visit the Périgord Martin Walker will be have to take some responsibility. Bruno also conjours up more of his remarkable meals, the notable one featuring ‘bécasses’ which I had to Google afterwards and are woodcocks (not a dish I plan to order!).

An engaging read with a charming yet fallible lead character, an idyllic setting (despite the increasing bodycount) and some aspirational lifestyles, I do enjoy this series. I note that, jumping ahead, the twelfth book in the series, The Body in the Castle Well, is due out in June.



Villa America – Liza Klaussmann

Title – Villa America

Author – Liza Klaussmann

Published – 2016

Genre – Historical fiction

I saw Liza Klaussmann talking about her book alongside Kelleigh Greenberg-Jephcott (author of Swan Song) at the Cheltenham Literary Festival last year and had to add it to my wishlist for Chirstmas (and many thanks to Mr Novel Heights for buying it for me).

Like Swan Song this is a fictional take on real events, although in this case there is more on the ‘fiction’ side. ‘Villa America’ is the name of the villa built by husband and wife Gerald and Sara Murphy, in Cap d’Antibes. Their presence heralded the fashion for spending the summer (and not just the winter) on the French Riviera and introduced sunbathing as a fashionable activity. The circles they moved in (or rather, that appear to have moved around them) included Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, John Dos Passos, Pablo Picasso, Archibald MacLeish, Cole Porter, Dorothy Parker and Robert Benchley.

In ‘Villa America’ the author tells the story of the couple’s relationship (they married in 1915) with the bulk of the story taking place in the period between the two World Wars. To the framework of the historical records about the lives of the Murphy’s and their guests Klaussmann has fleshed out a pilot who flew in caviar for them and he (Owen) becomes the representation of Gerald’s struggles with his sexuality.

By creating the character of Owen, Klaussmann has given herself the opportunity to explore a huge ‘what if’ in the lives of the Murphys and weaves that extra dimension into their story. Told from multiple perspectives it’s the story of how the relationships shift within the marriage as Gerald develops a bond with Owen. While much of the book is a story of excess and glamour Gerald Murphy’s character is torn by the duality of his love life and as the Depression hits so very personal tragedies take their toll on the Murphys. It’s not a story with a happy ending!

Gerald became an artist during his time in France and it’s been interesting to see some of the paintings referred to in the book. Of course having read the book first I have to remind myself that the pictures existed before the author started the book and not the other way round! And Sara herself was something of a muse for Picasso.

Yet another book that sends me off in a new direction for my reading, I should add Tender is the Night (F. Scott Fitzgerald is said to have based the characters of Dick and Nicole Diver on the Murphy’s) and the couple are also possibly referenced by Hemingway in The Garden of Eden. I should probably also go back to Mrs Hemingway  to see how this perspective fits with Villa America.

An enjoyable read and one ideal for reading on a hot and sunny beach.




Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year award – 2019 longlist

I wasn’t particularly planning to keep up the series of posts I did last year for the various crime fiction awards but when the longest for this year’s Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year award was published I was pleased to see that I’ve read a few of the book son the list. The full longest is:

Snap by Belinda Bauer (Transworld)

Our House by Louise Candlish (Simon & Schuster UK)

Thirteen by Steve Cavanagh (Hachette)

Wild Fire by Ann Cleeves (Pan Macmillan)

This Is How It Ends by Eva Dolan (Bloomsbury Publishing)

Take Me In by Sabine Durrant (Hodder & Stoughton)

The Dark Angel by Elly Griffiths (Quercus)

London Rules by Mick Herron (John Murray Press)

Broken Ground by Val McDermid (Little, Brown Book Group)

The Quaker by Liam McIlvanney (HarperCollins)

The Way of All Flesh by Ambrose Parry (Canongate Books)

East of Hounslow by Khurrum Rahman (HarperCollins)

Hell Bay by Kate Rhodes (Simon & Schuster UK)

Salt Lane by William Shaw (Quercus)

The Chalk Man by C. J. Tudor (Penguin Random House)

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton (Bloomsbury Publishing)

Anatomy of a Scandal by Sarah Vaughan (Simon & Schuster UK)

Changeling by Matt Wesolowski (Orenda Books)

It’s interesting to see Snap on the list as it was on the Man Booker longlist, The Quaker took The McIlvanney Prize (Bloody Scotland’s annual prize awarded to the best Scottish Crime book of the year) and The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle won the 2018 Costa First Novel Award. Alongside these winners are some of the really big names writing crime fiction at the moment. I’ve not read enough from the list to feel I can make a call on the winner, or even the shortlist, but it’s definitely a great list of crime books from the last year, if you were looking for more books for your TBR pile.

Any omissions that you would have liked to have seen included?