Author: suzigun

Thirteen – Steve Cavanagh

Title – Thirteen

Author – Steve Cavanagh

Published – January 2018

Genre –  Legal / Thriller

If you haven’t heard of this book you’ve probably not been on social media this year – not only has there been a concerted campaign to promote the book but I’ve yet to hear a bad word about it. The book is the fourth in the ‘Eddie Flynn’ series and despite not having been a huge fan of Cavanagh’s debut I wanted to see what all the fuss was about.

Things have moved on for Flynn since the end of the first book, but not so much that I felt I didn’t know what was going on. He’s representing small-time clients, sleeping in his office and outsmarting the wrong people. Out of the blue he’s approached by a high-flying lawyer who wants Flynn to join him on a case representing a young Hollywood star, Bobby Solomon, accused of murdering his wife and chief of security. Initially reluctant to become involved Flynn is persuaded that the case isn’t as open and shut as it appears and his meeting with Bobby clinches the deal.

There are two points of view in the story – one is Flynn (in the first person) and the other is a mysterious character (third person) called Kane who is on a no-holds-barred quest that will see his involvement in the courtroom. Swapping between the points of view and knowing what’s happening (without perhaps understanding the purpose) is a great way of making the book compelling – you really want to keep reading to see how things will fit together.

I’m purposely trying to avoid spoilers, this is a book that would be better enjoyed letting it unfold as you read. There are some particularly devious moments and afterwards you do have to wonder how the author came up with them! Flynn remains a likeable character who takes his fair share of knocks – both physical and emotional – but has a decent moral compass. Kane on the other hand, despite being a monster, is depicted as being completely rational, although what’s acceptable behaviour to him isn’t quite the same as it is for the rest of us…

The Defence isn’t the first debut I’ve read where the author tries to pack too much in (and I don’t suppose it will be the last) and you wonder what the author has left themselves with for the future but in Thirteen Cavanagh shows that he can maintain the reader’s interest with fewer threads to the story but really smart plotting of those that remain. I can certainly see shades of early Scott Turow in this book and it’s going to be one to look out for on future awards lists.

Many thanks to the publisher for the NetGalley.

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Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Award – winner 2018

At the opening night of Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival the winner of the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Award was announced and from the shortlist of 6 books Stav Sherez took the top spot with The Intrusions. This a book I’ve yet to read but I’ve been extremely impressed by Stav’s previous books (my review of Eleven Days here) which deliver beautifully written, thought-provoking, crime fiction.

In the absence of my own review you can read one from Vicky Newham, I like the tip on a potential award winner at the end of this review by Craig Sisterson, and finally one from Rob on The View from the Blue House.

 

The HWA Crowns 2018

The longlists for the three HWA (Historical Writing Association) Crowns – their annual awards – have been announced. It’s not clear what the shortlisting process or when a shortlist announcement will be but the winners will be announced in November.

What has surprised me is that as I’ve read two of the books which I think it’s more than I’ve read from any of the crime fiction award longlists.

HWA Debut Crown
This award is for the best historical novel by a first-time fiction author first published in the UK in English.

The Wicked Cometh by Laura Carlin

Estoril by Dejan Tiago-Stankovic

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

The Sealwoman’s Gift by Sally Magnusson

The Lightkeeper’s Daughters by Jean E. Pendziwol

The Woolgrower’s Companion by Joy Rhoades

The Parentations by Kate Mayfield

Deposed by David Barbaree

The Optickal Illusion by Rachel Halliburton

The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar

Bitter by Francesca Jakobi

The Magician’s Lie by Greer Macallister

The judges include Ayo Onatade who did a Q & A for me on the subject of judging awards.

HWA Sharpe Books Gold Crown
This award is for the best historical novel first published in the UK in English.

To Die in Spring by Ralf Rothmann, translated by Shaun Whiteside

Sugar Money by Jane Harris

The Last Hour by Harry Sidebottom

Vanishing of Audrey Wilde by Eve Chase

The Zoo by Christopher Wilson

Pilgrim’s War by Michael Jecks

The Western Wind by Samantha Harvey

Prussian Blue by Philip Kerr

Blood’s Game by Angus Donald

The Coffin Path by Katherine Clements

The Tyrant’s Shadow by Antonia Senior

The Valentine House by Emma Henderson

HWA Non Fiction Crown
This award is for the best non-fiction work published in the UK in English.

Houses of Power: The Places that Shapes the Tudor World by Simon Thurley

White King: Charles I – Traitor, Martyr, Murderer by Leanda de Lisle

Six Minutes in May: How Churchill Unexpectedly Became Prime Minister by Nicholas Shakespeare

Napoleon: The Spirit of the Age by Michael Broers

The Fear and the Freedom: How the Second World War Changed Us by Keith Lowe

The Women Who Flew for Hitler: A True Story of Soaring Ambition And Searing Rivalry by Clare Mulley

Lady Fanshawe’s Receipt Book: An Englishwoman’s Life During the Civil War by Lucy Moore

Black Tudors: The Untold Story Hardcover by Miranda Kaufmann

The Debatable Land: The Lost World Between Scotland and England by Graham Robb

Hearts And Minds: The Untold Story of the Great Pilgrimage and How Women Won the Vote by Jane Robinson

A History of Rome in Seven Sackings by Matthew Kneale

Pie and Mash Down the Roman Road by Melanie McGrath

Have you read many from these lists? What would be your tip for the winner(s)?

 

Day of the Dead – Nicci French

Title – Day of the Dead

Author – Nicci French

Published – 12 July 2018

Genre – Crime fiction

Well this is it, after seven years and seven books this is the much anticipated final instalment in the Frieda Klein series. Over the time that we’ve come to know Frieda we’ve watched the game of cat and mouse that has played out between her and her nemesis, but this is the climax of the story and it’s clear that only one of them will survive to the end.

The book opens with what appears to be a road accident and it’s quite a wait for the reader before the inevitable link to Dean Reeve and Frieda becomes clear. At the same time a young criminology student, Lola, is struggling to find a subject to write her dissertation on when her tutor suggests focussing on a person, on Frieda. Anyone who has read the preceding books in the series will know that she’s probably a bad choice – introverted, secretive, and in this book she’s in hiding.

By going into hiding Frieda is trying to save her friends and family but Lola, who is terribly out of her depth, manages to track her down and in doing so she threatens Frieda’s safety and those she’s trying to protect. Lola and Frieda are thrown together and this adds an interesting aspect to the story as Frieda steps back into her psychologist role. The book draws on some familiar themes from the series – Frieda’s love of walking, her knowledge of the rivers of London and Josef’s penchant for building work.

The tension really ramps up as Frieda tries to stay one step ahead of Dean Reeve. It adds a certain thrill to a book to know that it’s the final one in a series and that the author is free to do as they wish with the characters. The writing is, as ever, excellent and there are some twists and misdirection along the way which help to keep the reader guessing, brilliant pacing makes it compelling reading.

If there is one odd thing about this book it’s that the seven before have featured a growing and important cast of characters who have supported Frieda through the tough times but they feel a bit sidelined in this final episode. I don’t have an issue with the focus being Frieda, I was just struck by their relative absence when I’d finished.

I’m sure other readers will be able to think of some examples but for me it’s been unusual to read a series that has had a such a clear over-arching story arc that hasn’t wavered through the books. In fact this is, really, just one hell of a long book. Which makes book #8 equivalent to the final chapters – and as such the book is a fitting end. I know that the publisher is marketing this as being readable as a standalone thriller and I wouldn’t want to stop anyone reading it but you really should read the whole series.

What a series, what a climax. I’m going to miss Frieda.

Many thanks to Penguin for the review copy.
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The Dead Good Reader Awards 2018

Update: the winners have been announced and I’ve marked them on the shortlists. Congratulations to all the authors.

In April readers were offered the opportunity to nominate their favourite books and authors from the past year, the most popular forming the shortlists for the Dead Good Reader Awards which then go to a public vote. To qualify, books must have been published in any format within the past year. The winners will be announced at the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival in Harrogate in July.

The shortlists are out and the vote is currently open to the public and closes on 18th July – https://www.deadgoodbooks.co.uk/dead-good-reader-awards-2018/.

While I do have some firm favourites in the more general awards (such as Best Duo or ‘Wringer’ award) I’ve read very few of the specific books that have been shortlisted. More surprisingly for shortlists that have come from reader nominations there are a number of books and authors that I’ve not heard of at all.

The categories and shortlists are:

The Holmes and Watson Award for Best Detective Duo

Arthur Bryant and John May – Christopher Fowler
Jane Rizzoli and Maura Isles – Tess Gerritsen
Ruth Galloway and Harry Nelson – Elly Griffiths – winner
Marnie Rome and Noah Jake – Sarah Hilary
Rosie Strange and Sam Stone – Syd Moore
Gino Rolseth and Leo Magozzi – P J Tracy

The Whodunnit Award for the Book That Keeps You Guessing

I Am Watching You by Teresa Driscoll
The Lucky Ones by Mark Edwards
Let Me Lie by Clare Mackintosh – winner
Skin Deep by Liz Nugent
The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton
The Lying Game by Ruth Ware

The Cabot Cove Award for Best Small Town Mystery

A Murder to Die For by Stevyn Colgan
Dark Pines by Will Dean
The Devil’s Claw by Lara Dearman
Hell in a Handbasket by Denise Grover Swank
The Dry by Jane Harper
The Chalk Man by C J Tudor – winner

The Wringer Award for the Character Who’s Been Put Through It All

Jack Reacher – Lee Child – winner
Frieda Klein – Nicci French
Lottie Parker – Patricia Gibney
Ruth Galloway – Elly Griffiths
Michael Devlin – Tony Kent
David Raker – Tim Weaver

The House of Horrors Award for Most Dysfunctional Family

Little Sister by Isabel Ashdown
Blood Sisters by Jane Corry
Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell – winner
Good Me, Bad Me by Ali Land
Let Me Lie by Clare Mackintosh
The Good Samaritan by John Marrs

The Dead Good Recommends Award for Most Recommended Book

I Am Watching You by Teresa Driscoll
The Dark Angel by Elly Griffiths – winner
Killer Intent by Tony Kent
Anything You Do Say by Gillian McAllister
The Fear by C L Taylor
The Lying Game by Ruth Ware

So if you have favourites from this list it’s time to get voting. Just one or two categories that I’ll be voting in.

Death in the Dordogne – Martin Walker

Title – Death in the Dordogne

Author – Martin Walker

Published – 2009

Genre – Crime fiction

I came to the Martin Walker / Bruno Chief of Police series at book 5 and have been curious to read the earlier books, so I took the opportunity of an offer with the Book People to buy books 1 – 3. There are quite a few references to a number of preceding events in the later books and I wanted to better understand some of the background. The problem I found, however, is that while the first book provides a lot of background it does it by ‘telling’ rather than  ‘showing’.

There are two main investigative threads to Death in the Dordogne – one is the the death of an elderly man, head of an immigrant North African family, and decorated former soldier. The other is the guerrilla tactics being used to deter EU hygiene inspectors, Brussels bureaucrats, who want to interfere with the traditional ways of the local market traders. It may have been published in 2009 but the issues that crop up – mistrust of Brussels, distrust of foreigners, the rise of the far right feel very current.

The pace is quite slow, which isn’t unusual for the series, there are the gastronomic delights that are a feature of the series and the ‘aspirational’ feel – who wouldn’t want to live Bruno’s life in St Denis? The main mystery is relatively simple and the resolution is one that demonstrates the ‘just’ side of Bruno, a man with a clear moral compass. The story also taught me some aspects of French history that I wasn’t aware of.

It’s an interesting perspective to go back to the beginning of a series because the first thing I wondered was ‘why start here?’. What was it about book one that marked the start? I think it’s the fact that although Bruno has been in his post for some time this is the point at which he has to deal with his first murder (after this there is a real increase in the number of deaths in the area…). The investigation demands that external resources are brought in so this is also the point where he meets Isabelle for the first time.

I have to say that if this was the first book I had read I might not have pressed on with the series. Whether as a conscious effort or not, the later books feel like the author gets better at filling in the backstory the reader needs to know without it being such an obstacle to the pace.

The book serves well as an introduction but the series is one that definitely gets better.

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Goldsboro Books Glass Bell Award for Contemporary Fiction 2018

Announced during Independent Bookseller’s Week this prize is awarded annually to an outstanding work of contemporary fiction, rewarding quality storytelling in any genre. The jury of ten consists of team members from Goldsboro Books, DHH Literary Agency and The Dome Press.

Longlist:

The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne
American War by Omar El Akkad
The Nix by Nathan Hill
Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
The Word is Murder by Anthony Horowitz
Good Me Bad Me by Ali Land
The Innocent Wife by Amy Lloyd
You Don’t Know Me by Imran Mahmood
Reservoir 13 by Jon McGregor
The Ice by Laline Paull (I’ve read this but am yet to write my review)
Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough
The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell
My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent

The longlist will be reduced to a shortlist, due to be announced on 30th August and the winner will be awarded £2,000, and a beautiful, handmade, engraved glass bell, at a party at the bookshop on 27th September 2018.

I’m starting to think I need to set up my own award – the only way I’ll manage to read a decent proportion from any list!

Have you read any of these? Who would you have your eye on as the winner?