The McIlvanney Prize longlist 2018

Following the launch of the Bloody Scotland programme for 2018 the longlist for the McIlvanney Prize has been announced. The award recognises excellence in Scottish crime writing, includes a prize of £1,000 and nationwide promotion in Waterstones. The initial longlist has been compiled by an independent panel of readers from eligible books which must have been first published in the UK between 1st August 2017 and 31st July 2018 and either written by someone who is born or domiciled in Scotland or set in Scotland.

Longlist:

Lin Anderson for Follow the Dead
Chris Brookmyre for Places in the Darkness
Mason Cross for Presumed Dead
Charles Cumming for The Man Between
Oscar De Muriel for The Loch of the Dead
Helen Fields for Perfect Death
Alison James for Now She’s Gone
Liam McIlvanney for The Quaker
James Oswald for No Time to Cry
Caro Ramsay for The Suffering of Strangers
Andrew Reid for The Hunter
Craig Robertson for The Photographer

The next stage is a formal judging process and the panel comprises of chair Craig Sisterson, journalist and book reviewer, alongside Susan Calman, comedian and crime fiction fan, and journalist Alison Flood.

I’ve only read one book on the list (another woeful contribution from me) but The Photographer is really excellent, so perhaps I’ve managed to read the winner! What about you – any tips for a winner from this list?

Advertisements

Sunday Morning Coming Down – Nicci French

Title – Sunday Morning Coming Down

Author – Nicci French

Published – July 2017

Genre – Crime fiction

This is the seventh in the series of eight books in the Frieda Klein series and a review that I feel particularly guilty about. I made a bit of a fuss to get the review copy of the book as I so wanted to make sure I read and reviewed the whole series and then look – my review is about a year late! What can I say except sorry…?

If there is one thing we’ve learned about Frieda it’s how much she values the sanctuary of her home, so when a body is discovered under the floor it’s a clear, unequivocal message. Perhaps more significantly it’s the tipping point for Frieda as there is general acceptance that Dean Reeve is still alive – an important moment for her.

The main driver of the book is that it isn’t Freida who is coming under attack – it’s her friends and family. But is it Reeve who is behind the onslaught or is it a copycat? The multiple potential targets adds pace (where did all these friends come from!?) and tension. This is also an opportunity to find out more about each of them.

Frieda does dip her toe back into her psychotherapy, but the sessions have become secondary to her investigations.

It’s impossible not to have in the back of your mind, as you read this book, that this is the penultimate in the series. So without reading a word it’s easy to be pretty sure that both Frieda is going to survive to make book #8. Is that a spoiler? No – just common sense. It’s not unusual that within crime fiction the characters ‘go on a journey’ it’s just more overt here. The climax of book 1 will be, I imagine, book 8 – the pleasure is the way the story unfolds, the journey.

This is too close to the end of the series to consider reading this as a standalone, the story is interesting enough but you would be missing so much. I would recommend beginning with Blue Monday. But roll on number eight!

Many thanks to Penguin for the review copy.
1star1star1star1star

The Story Keeper – Anna Mazzola

Title – The Story Keeper

Author – Anna Mazzola

Published – 28 July 2018

Genre – Historical fiction

It’s been a long wait since Anna’s excellent debut ‘The Unseeing’ was published and I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s been looking forward to reading her second novel. Before I go any further I should say that it doesn’t disappoint!

Set on the Isle of Skye the book opens with the arrival of Audrey, running away from her family and an event which, at least in the early part of the book, is only hinted at, she is set to take up a post collecting folklore. She hopes that a return to Skye, which she remembers vaguely from  some time in her childhood spent in the area, is a way to recapture a connection to her mother, who died when Audrey was ten. Her new employer is the imperious Miss Buchanan, she is to stay with Miss Buchanan and her nephew in their family estate – the neglected and brooding Lanerly Hall.  Audrey isn’t feeling particularly confident about her ability to do the job she’s been employed for but she’s burned her bridges. And then she discovers the body of a young woman on the shore by the Hall.

While making some efforts to collect stories from the crofters Audrey asks tentative questions about the dead girl. The answers are a mix of superstition based around the folktales and more ‘earthly’ explanations. Her discovery of another girl’s disappearance only deepens the mystery. But as events play out Audrey becomes more isolated and weakened by the toll her involvement takes on her.

There is a social history aspect to the book, communities ravaged by the land owners and struggling, protective of their heritage and suspicious of outsiders. The factual background to the events which took place are probably not well known by most people and it’s always a positive to learn something from a work of fiction, especially when it’s done seamlessly, without the reader feeling that they’re being given lots of information. The folklore offers an interesting insight – does it develop as an explanation for the things which have no rational explanation; do the stories represent the truth or a warning?

I’ve read a number of historical fiction books recently which have this type of gothic feel to them but this one hits the mark in creating the dark and claustrophobic atmosphere with a set of compelling characters. There is a real sense of menace pervading this book and despite the July publication date it would be perfect for curling up on a dark night in front of a log fire.

I’ve seen comparisons to the excellent Burial Rites but for me it was similar to Burial Rites crossed with Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell. Like Burial Rites the location is hugely important – rugged coastline, isolated communities, brutal weather. Audrey stands up as the heroine of the piece – conflicted,  isolated, trying not to be defined by her past but at a time when women weren’t expected to act on their own. She has an inbuilt sense of justice but acting on it isn’t always the best course of action.

The story develops into multiple threads and there were some surprises in the way it plays out and the directions it takes. It’s unusual for a debut author not to be embarking on a series but other than the dark subjects and the compelling writing it was quite different to The Unseeing although equally enjoyable (in a dark and moody way). Many thanks to the publisher for the review copy.

1star1star1star1star

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

Animal Instinct – Simon Booker

Title – Animal Instinct

Author – Simon Booker

Published – April 2018

Genre – Crime fiction

I decided to make a list of the books I’ve read but need to review and it came out at a depressing twenty plus, so I need to make an effort to catch up and that means shorter reviews but more progress (hopefully). First up is Animal Instinct by Simon Booker (author of the Morgan Vine series). This has been published as an ebook and an Audible audio book.

Joe Cassidy is an ex-policeman trying to get his life onto something of an even keel after the resolution of disturbing case, the details of which are only hinted at. If you’ve read Kill Me Twice you may remember Cassidy – he was a minor character living in his shack on the Dungeness beach. When the daughter of a childhood friend goes missing Cassidy is asked to help find her. But not only is Cassidy off the police force he has also separated from his wife and she’s leading the police investigation into the disappearance.

Cassidy’s friend is the owner of a zoo which was where Bella was working when she disappeared and the place is the original source of the two men’s friendship. When Bella’s body is discovered the police view her father as a suspect and he wants Cassidy to maintain his involvement in an effort to track down the real killer.

This is a book of two halves. In the first there is the investigation into Bella’s death, albeit complicated by Cassidy’s relationship with his wife and her involvement in the official investigation and the fact that his son is hiding something that may be related to the murder. He’s also both helped and hindered by a journalist who is trying to get a scoop on the story. The second half sees the implosion of the family in the wake of the murder and ramifications that could rival a Greek tragedy.

For all the crime fiction I’ve read (and it’s a fair amount) this is the first book I can recall that had a zoo / wildlife park setting and dealt with issues such as animal rights and the sort of fanatics that can be attracted to this sort of cause.

I enjoyed the book, it was compelling and well-plotted, even if the climax pushed the bounds of credibility it did make me go ‘blimey’ (or words to that effect) as I was reading. I hope that a series develops for Cassidy – there’s unfinished business that I’d like to find out the resolution to.

Thank you to the publisher for the Netgalley.

1star1star1star1star

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

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

Hot on the heels of last week’s CWA Dagger longlists, the shortlist for the Theakston’s crime novel of the year has been published. The 2018 Crime Novel of the Year Award is run in partnership with T&R Theakston Ltd, The Mail on Sunday and WH Smith. The prize was created to celebrate the very best in crime fiction and is open to UK and Irish crime authors whose novels were published in paperback from 1 May 2017 to 30 April 2018.

The longlist of eighteen books has now been reduced to a shortlist of six titles:

Mick Herron for Spook Street
Denise Mina for The Long Drop
Abir Mukherjee for A Rising Man
Stav Sherez for The Intrusions
Susie Steiner for Persons Unknown
Val McDermid for Insidious Intent

The overall winner will be decided by the panel of Judges, alongside a public vote. The public vote opens on 1 July and closes 14 July at www.theakstons.co.uk. The prize will be awarded on the opening night of the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival in Harrogate. (You can now find out who won here.)

I’ve only read the one title so far and it was a book that I didn’t particularly enjoy. Have you read more? Which would be your tip for the prize?

The 2018 CWA Daggers – longlists announced

As has become traditional the CWA Dagger longlists were announced at Crimefest in Bristol on Friday evening. One  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 25 October, when Michael Connelly will be awarded the Diamond Dagger.

Each year I think ‘I’ll read a whole longlist shortlist’ but each year I seem to have read fewer and fewer of the books that find their way onto the lists. I am also always surprised about the proportion of books that I have never heard of – great coverage for these authors to get onto the long or short lists. This year I’m a little disappointed to find that I’ve not read a single book on the longlists. I do have ‘Bluebird, Bluebird’ to read as it came highly recommended on a lot of ‘best of 2017’ round ups and I also have Snare by Lilja Sigurdardóttir on my TBR . I’m particularly disappointed that I’ve only heard of two ‘new blood’ titles (The Seven Deaths Of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton and Resurrection Bay by Emma Viskic). Publishers tend to push debuts towards bloggers as a way to increase the marketing before an author becomes established, I’m not sure what conclusion to draw from the fact that the bulk of these have passed me by.

The Diamond Dagger – selected from nominations provided by CWA members – 2018 winner is Michael Connelly 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

Head Case by Ross Armstrong
The Liar by Steve Cavanagh
London Rules by Mick Herron
Since We Fell by Dennis Lehane
Sunburn by Laura Lippman
Bluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke
You Don’t Know Me by Imran Mahmood
A Necessary Evil by Abir Mukherjee
The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton
Resurrection Bay by Emma Viskic

Ian Fleming Steel Dagger

The Spy’s Daughter by Adam Brookes
The Switch by Joseph Finder
London Rules by Mick Herron
If I Die Before I Wake by Emily Koch
Bluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke
An Act of Silence by Colette McBeth
A Necessary Evil by Abir Mukherjee
Fierce Kingdom by Gin Phillips
The Chalk Man by C J Tudor
The Force by Don Winslow

 John Creasey (New Blood)

Gravesend by William Boyle
I.Q. by Joe Ide
Soho Dead by Greg Keen
Girl In Snow by Danya Kukafka
Lola by Melissa Scrivner Love
East Of Hounslow by Khurrum Rahman
Ravenhill by John Steele
My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent
The Seven Deaths Of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton
Resurrection Bay by Emma Viskic

International Dagger

Zen and the Art of Murder by Oliver Bottini Tr. Jamie Bulloch
The Shadow District by Arnaldur Indriðason Tr. Victoria Cribb
Three Days and a Life by Pierre Lemaitre Tr. Frank Wynne
After the Fire by Henning Mankell Tr. Marlaine Delargy
The Frozen Woman by Jon Michelet Tr. Don Bartlett
Offering to the Storm by Dolores Redondo Tr. Nick Caistor & Lorenza Garzía
Three Minutes by Roslund & Hellström Tr. Elizabeth Clark Wessel
Snare by Lilja Sigurdardóttir Tr. Quentin Bates
The Accordionist by Fred Vargas Tr. Sian Reynolds
Can You Hear Me? by Elena Varvello Tr. Alex Valente

Non-Fiction Dagger

Black Dahlia Red Rose by Piu Eatwell
The Story Of Classic Crime In 100 Books by Martin Edwards
Killers Of The Flower Moon by David Grann
Blood On The Page by Thomas Harding
The Fact Of A Body  by Alexandria Mariano-Lesnevich
A False Report by T. Christian Miller & Ken Armstrong
Operation Chaos by Matthew Sweet
Rex v Edith Thompson by Laura Thompson
Getting Carter by Nick Triplow
Past Mortems by Carla Valentine

CWA Short Story Dagger

The Corpse on the Copse by Sharon Bolton
from “The Body” Killer Women Crime Club Anthology 2 Edited by Susan Opie ( Killer Women Ltd)

The Last Siege of Bothwell Castle by Chris Brookmyre
from Bloody Scotland ( Historic Environment Scotland)

Too Much Time by Lee Child
from No Middle Name: The Complete Collected Jack Reacher Stories (Bantam Press)

Second Son by Lee Child
from No Middle Name: The Complete Collected Jack Reacher Stories (Bantam Press)

Authentic Carbon Steel Forged by Elizabeth Haynes
from Deadlier: 100 of the Best Crime Stories Written by Women Edited by Sophie Hannah (Head of Zeus)

Smoking Kills by Erin Kelly
from “The Body” Killer Women Crime Club Anthology 2 Edited by Susan Opie (Killer Women Ltd)

Nemo Me Impune Lacessit by Denise Mina
from Bloody Scotland (Historic Environment Scotland)

Accounting for Murder by Christine Poulson
from Mystery Tour: CWA Anthology of Short Stories Edited by Martin Edwards (Orenda Books)

Faking a Murder by Kathy Reichs and Lee Child
from Match Up Edited by Lee Child (Sphere)

Trouble is a Lonesome Town by Cathi Unsworth
from Deadlier: 100 of the Best Crime Stories Written by Women Edited by Sophie Hannah (Head of Zeus)

Debut Dagger (unpublished writers)

Bill Crotty – The Eternal Life of Ezra Ben Simeon
Nicole Wells – The Infant of Prague
Chris Dixon – Sharps and Flats
Martin Ungless – Orange612
Peter Lewenstein – Grabbed
Luke Melia – The Last Googling of Beth Bailly
Joseph James – Riverine Blood
Coleen Steele – Death Be Drammed
Linda McLaughlin – Original Sins
Sherryl Clark – Trust Me, I’m Dead

Historical Dagger

A Necessary Evil by Abir Mukherjee
Death in the Stars by Frances Brody
Fire by L. C. Tyler
Lightning Men by Thomas Mullen
Merlin at War by Mark Ellis
Money in the Morgue by Ngaio Marsh & Stella Duffy
Nine Lessons by Nicola Upson
Nucleus by Rory Clements
Prussian Blue by Philip Kerr
The Mitford Murders by Jessica Fellows

Dagger in the Library longlist

Simon Beckett
Martina Cole
Martin Edwards
Nicci French
Sophie Hannah
Simon Kernick
Edward Marston
Peter May
Rebecca Tope

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

The Feed – Nick Clark Windo

Title – The Feed

Author – Nick Clark Windo

Published – Jan 2018

Genre – Fiction

This is another debut that I picked up at the Headline ‘New Voices 2018’ event I attended in January. I have to say that the description of the book didn’t do it justice – it packs a whole lot in and it’s difficult to know where to start with a review. The book is a dystopian, post-apocalyptic, speculative, thriller with a range of themes from technology to identity.

We’re introduced to a future where technology has been extrapolated to a believable conclusion. The Feed is social media to the max – it’s in your head and it goes beyond sharing news and information but it’s also thoughts and memories. For most people it’s impossible to be without it – it’s the way everyone communicates and it’s a hundred times more addictive than social media is now.

And then a cataclysmic event ends The Feed. Six years or so on and Kate and her husband Tom are about to celebrate the birthday of Bea, their daughter. The world has changed and we’re now in territory familiar to readers of Station Eleven or viewers of The Walking Dead. Without The Feed civilisation has collapsed – no-one knew how to do anything without it, all the knowledge was stored digitally, they don’t know how to cook a meal or grow crops.  Some people were so addicted to The Feed that its loss lead to their death – corpses littering the towns and cities and the infrastructure of society has failed.

So that’s the setting and a story of survival could have been enough – but there are two more key aspects to the book. The first is that you have to have someone watch you sleep as you could be ‘Taken’ and if this does happen you need your watcher to act. But what does being Taken mean, what is it that happens to people…? And the other driver for the story is the loss of Bea – she goes missing and Tom and Kate have to embark on a search for her, leaving the safe haven they’ve established. As the story unfolds and Tom and Kate search for Bea the gaps are filled in and the reader learns more about what caused The Feed to collapse.

But there is even more to the book than this and I don’t want to give too much away. The main crux of the story seems to be a warning of the dangers to relying too much on technology, the importance of family and the lengths people will go to to survive.

There is a lot going on which means this isn’t necessarily an easy read. It’s definitely thought provoking and disturbing and it kept me guessing. As I said it’s not a genre I often read so my perception of the book will no doubt be different to those who read more sci-fi / dystopian fiction than I do. Although quite dark, without some of the lighter moments of Station Eleven, I’m not sure that it really delivered on horror or tension, I think there was room to push both a little further than they went. I didn’t find Kate or Tom to be particularly likeable, they have flaws which outweigh the more positive aspects of their characters but I don’t think that necessarily detracted from the book. It’s not a story I’ll forget in a hurry!

If you need any encouragement to put your phone down and step away from social media then The Feed should do the job! Many thanks to the publisher for the review copy.

1star1star1star1star

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave