Bloody Scotland Preview: EVA DOLAN, MARI HANNAH & BEN MCPHERSON

One of the events I’m really looking forward to at Bloody Scotland is the Saturday 10.30am panel with Eva Dolan, Mari Hannah and Ben McPherson. Having seen each of these dynamic writers in action before, I’m sure this is going to be a lively and entertaining debate. So, in advance of the festival, I thought I’d pop them a few questions, you know, to get them warmed up …

Firstly, for those new to your work, can you tell us a little bit about your latest novel?

EVA: After You Die is the third in the Zigic and Ferreira series and follows the investigation into the suspicious death of a young right-to-die activist and the murder of her mother, in an idyllic commuter village a long way away from the team’s usual stamping ground. It was quite an emotional book to write as it covers the complicated and contentious issue of right to die, the demands of being a carer and the way a family copes in the aftermath of a terrible accident.

BEN: A Line of Blood is my first novel. It’s about a father and his eleven-year-old son who discover a corpse in the house next door. The father fails to stop his son from seeing the dead man, and at first he thinks that’s his biggest problem, but then his marriage begins to unravel, and he realises his wife knew the dead man. The murder exposes fault lines in the marriage and confronts the family with a past that none of them can escape. I’m deep into my second novel at the moment. Again it’s about a family, and again something terrible happens to that family, but this time they’ve done nothing to deserve it. They have to choose between justice and revenge… 

MARI: I’m best known for my Kate Daniels series but my latest book is a standalone. THE SILENT ROOM is conspiracy thriller introducing Special Branch DS Matthew Ryan who I am a little bit in love with. The opener sees his disgraced boss, DI Jack Fenwick, sprung from a prison van. Professional Standards officer, Eloise O’Neil investigates. Under suspicion of aiding the audacious escape, Ryan is suspended, warned not to interfere. Convinced of Jack’s innocence, he works off-book with Grace Ellis (ex-DCI) & Frank Newman (ex-MI5) to find him. I had such a lot of fun writing this book. Fear not if you are a Kate Daniels groupie. She’s back in GALLOWS DROP in November.

You’re on stage at 10.30 – 11.30am on Saturday 10th at Bloody Scotland – what can the audience expect?

EVA: At half past ten in the morning? Three bright-eyed and bushy-tailed crime writers who definitely didn’t stay up all night in the hotel bar and then quickly freshened up to go straight on stage. I think it will be a pretty lively panel, Mari Hannah is a marvellous writer and lovely lady and Ben McPherson’s book starts with a dead guy with an erection, so he’s obviously not shy!

BEN: I’m on with Mari Hannah an Eva Dolan, so I think the audience can expect to be entertained! I also hope we’ll have something to say about the big questions that crime books raise: What makes a murderer? How should people react when terrible things happen? And for me the two most important questions: Why do good people do bad things? And what does it take for a bad person to do the right thing? But the pleasure in being on a panel is that you never know exactly which way the conversation is going to go. The audience can lead you in unexpected directions…

MARI: There will be blood! Ben, Eva and I have written very different books. The discussion will no doubt reflect this. We’ve all met before and I’m looking forward to taking the stage in such brilliant company. From a personal point of view, I’m hoping to meet some passionate readers and have a few laughs.   

Bloody Scotland is one of my favourite crime fiction festivals. If you’ve been before, what makes it great for you? And, if you haven’t, what are you most looking forward to?

EVA: I love Bloody Scotland and am delighted to be back again this year as it really is the highlight of the crime calendar. The programme is always a good blend of big names and newcomers and the organisers have a knack of putting the right people together on stage so the panels are generally much sparkier and funnier than at some more, um…staid festivals. I’m marking up Chris Brookmyre and Stuart Neville in conversation, Into the Dark with Malcolm Mackay, James Oswald and Craig Robertson looks very good too and (Not) Born in the USA on Sunday afternoon is bound to be fascinating and fiery. Away from the purely bookish things I’m looking forward to catching My Darling Clementine and Mark Billingham’s The Other Half show, which I’ve heard is brilliant. Then the late night cabaret at Crime at the Coo straight after. And, of course, the Scotland v England football match, where the fittest authors available – and some who probably aren’t – show off their silky skills.

BEN: I was born in Glasgow and grew up in Edinburgh, so it’s great to becoming home to Scotland. I’ve heard such good things about Bloody Scotland. I’m most looking forward to seeing friends and colleagues, and just talking! Writing is lonely, especially if you live away from your home country, so festivals give you the chance to see people you would otherwise only know from Facebook. And the crime fiction community — writers, readers and bloggers — is very supportive. It makes you feel part of something bigger.

MARI: Living in rural Northumberland – no that far from Scottish border – I was delighted to learn that Scotland was planning its very own International Crime Festival back in 2012. So, like a true Border Reiver, my clan and I hopped over Hadrian’s Wall to see what all the fuss was about. Any excuse for a trip to Stirling. Right from the off, I knew that Bloody Scotland was a wee bit special. Over and above the quality crime writers on the programme – everyone knows that Scotland has produced some of the finest in the genre – what I like most about the festival is the relaxed atmosphere and how much fun the fringe events are. Crime in the Coo is a sell-out, must see event. Please someone drop out so I can get a ticket! And then there’s the grudge footy match. C’mon England!

And, lastly, do you have any pre-panel routines, green room riders, or quirky foibles, that you’ll have to do before you go on stage?

EVA: I’m quite relaxed about events generally and the crowd at Bloody Scotland tends to be very welcoming, which is a big help. So it’s a quick nervous wee and check my dress isn’t tucked into my knickers and I’m good to go!

BEN: Coffee. Far too much coffee.

MARI: Other than checking that I haven’t split the waistband of my pants before I’m called for a sound check – yes, that really did happen – I don’t think so. I suppose it very much depends on my fellow panelists. If Eva’s up for a rum beforehand, it would be churlish to expect her to drink alone. I’m sure Ben and I could manage a wee dram of something to take the edge off the nerves. J

Brilliant! And if you want someone to join you for a quick dram let me know!

Huge thanks to the terrific EVA DOLAN, BEN MCPHERSON, and MARI HANNAH for chatting with me in the run up to the fabulous BLOODY SCOTLAND CRIME WRITING FESTIVAL.

As you can tell, their panel is going to be a cracker. It’s not too late to get yourself a ticket. Hop over to the BLOODY SCOTLAND website and grab one quick at www.bloodyscotland.com

To find out more about EVA DOLAN follow her on Twitter @eva_dolan and AFTER YOU DIE is out now, you can buy it here

To find out more about BEN MCPHERSON follow him on Twitter @TheBenMcPherson and A LINE OF BLOOD is out now, you can buy it here

To find out more about MARI HANNAH follow her on Twitter @mariwriter and THE SILENT ROOM is out now, you can buy it here

THE BLOODY SCOTLAND CRIME WRITING FESTIVAL is held in Stirling from the 9th – 11th September 2016. It’s a fantastic programme. Find out more at their website here and be sure to follow them on Twitter @BloodyScotland to stay up-to-date with all their news

Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival launches BIG READ 2016: PD James’ AN UNSUITABLE JOB FOR A WOMAN

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This year’s Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival BIG READ has launched and is celebrating the life and work of the ‘Queen of Crime Fiction’ PD James. In partnership with Faber & Faber and libraries and reading groups in the North of England, the book chosen to be 2016’s Big Read is James’ An Unsuitable Job for a Woman. This iconic book introduces Cordelia Gray, the first modern female detective in crime fiction.  When she created Cordelia Gray, P.D. James was working as a civil servant in the crime department of the Home Office. About the novel, she wrote: ‘I wanted to have a young heroine of courage and intelligence who faces the problems of life with a determination to be successful in a job which everyone else thinks she won’t be able to do.’

P.D. James began writing aged 40 and went on to write over 18 novels and collected numerous awards and honours. Aged 91, she received the Theakstons Old Peculier Outstanding Contribution to Crime Fiction Award in 2011. She died in 2014, aged 94.

The Big Read initiative aims to encourage as many people as possible to celebrate great crime writing by reading the same novel at the same time and then getting together to talk about it. Literature Festivals Manager Gemma Rowland said: “We are enormously proud of the Festival’s outreach and literacy initiatives … Thanks to the generous support of publisher Faber, the Festival has been able to distribute 1500 copies of An Unsuitable Job for a Woman to local reading groups through our partner library services across Yorkshire, Middlesbrough and Tyneside for free.”

Crime writer Mari Hannah

Crime writer Mari Hannah

The Big Read begins on Monday May 9 and runs until Friday May 13, with free events in libraries across the North. This year, Festival Reader in Residence and bestselling crime author, Mari Hannah, will be talking about the book and leading the conversation. Mari Hannah is the award-winning author of the fabulous Kate Daniels crime fiction series. Her latest crime novel, a standalone book, The Silent Room, is available now.

Mari said. “It’s a particular honour to be taking PD James on the Big Read, not just because of her brilliance and legendary status but because of the novel itself. An Unsuitable Job for a Woman is a classic crime novel introducing a lead character ahead of her time. PD James was a true pioneer who gave the rest of us something to chase.”

The BIG READ events will be fantastic, great for crime fiction fans and those new to the genre – so get along to one if you can and chat about An Unsuitable Job for a Woman with Mari Hannah. This is when/where you’ll find her:

Acklam Library – Monday 11am 9th May

Killingworth Library – Monday 2pm 9th May

South Shields Library – Monday 6.30pm 9th May

Rowntree Park Reading Café Tuesday 11am 10th May

Ripon Library – Tuesday 2pm 10th May

Skipton Library – Tuesday 7.30pm 10th May

South Elmsall Library –   Wednesday 11am 11th May

Keighley Library – Wednesday 2pm 11th May

Holmfirth Library – Wednesday 7pm 11th May

Newcastle Library – Thursday 11am 12th May

Hartlepool Library – Thursday 2pm 12th May

Billingham Library – Thursday 7pm 12th May

Sheffield Library – Friday 10am 13th May

Rotherham Library – Friday 1pm 13th May

Barnsley Library – Friday 4pm 13th May

 

To find out more about Mari Hannah pop over to her website at http://www.marihannah.com/ and follow her on Twitter @mariwriter

To find out more about the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival (and the BIG READ) – Europe’s largest event dedicated to the celebration of crime fiction – that’s taking place from 21st – 24th July 2016 check out their website here www.harrogateinternationalfestivals.com and follow them on Twitter @TheakstonsCrime

CTG’s TOP READS 2015: CRIME

It’s that time of year again when everyone starts issuing their best books of the year lists, and I’m going to add my two-pennyworth through two ‘top reads’ lists – one for crime novels and one for thrillers.

Today is crime day, and I’ve picked my favourite books from the many fantastic crime novels I’ve read over the course of the year. It’s been hard, but I’ve managed to whittle the list down to my ten favourites.

So here they are, told in no particular order – quite frankly, it’s been difficult enough to get to ten, let alone rank them!

 

THE SILENT ROOM by Mari Hannah

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“One Fugitive. A deadly conspiracy. No rules. A security van sets off for Durham prison, a disgraced Special Branch officer in the back. It never arrives. En route it is hijacked by armed men, the prisoner sprung. Suspended from duty on suspicion of aiding and abetting the audacious escape of his former boss, Detective Sergeant Matthew Ryan is locked out of the manhunt. Desperate to preserve his career and prove his innocence, he backs off. But when the official investigation falls apart, under surveillance and with his life in danger, Ryan goes dark, enlisting others in his quest to discover the truth. When the trail leads to the suspicious death of a Norwegian national, Ryan uncovers an international conspiracy that has claimed the lives of many.”

This standalone crime novel from Mari Hannah has a great cast of characters and I was quickly drawn into their world through the narrative. DS Matthew Ryan is a highly compelling character – he’s determined, driven and, as events take a tragic twist, uses his moment of vulnerability and personal grief as fuel to continue his investigation. The combination of Ryan and O’Neil (from Professional Standards), both looking for answers but coming from different sides of the investigative coin, makes for a great dynamic and the scenes they share have a real zing of electricity.

Gritty, authentic and utterly engrossing, The Silent Room is a real seat-of-your-pants read from the dramatic opening through to the explosive ending.

To find out more about Mari Hannah and her books hop over to her website here and follow her on Twitter @mariwriter

 

 

THE DOMINO KILLER by Neil White

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“When a man is found beaten to death in a local Manchester park, Detective Constable Sam Parker is one of the investigating officers. Sam swiftly identifies the victim, but what at first looks like an open-and-shut case quickly starts to unravel when he realises that the victim’s fingerprints were found on a knife at another crime scene, a month earlier. Meanwhile, Sam’s brother, Joe – a criminal defence lawyer in the city – comes face to face with a man whose very presence sends shockwaves through his life. Joe must confront the demons of his past as he struggles to come to terms with the darkness that this man represents. Before long, Joe and Sam are in way over their heads, both sucked into a terrifying game of cat-and-mouse that threatens to change their lives for ever …”

THE DOMINO KILLER is the third instalment of Neil White’s Parker brothers series and it fully delivers on pulse-pounding tension, twists, and page-turning action with the perfect balance between procedural detail and high intensity action. There’s a real immediacy to the writing and a chilling sense of jeopardy right from the outset that carries all the way through the book to the show-stopping finale. As the story develops, and the brothers’ cases become increasingly intertwined, the tension rises ever higher – making this one of those books that has you reading well into the early hours, desperate for sleep but unable to resist reading just one more chapter.

But this book isn’t just about the action. There’s a real emotion kick too, delivered as the brothers get closer to identifying the man who was responsible for their sister’s murder back when they were teenagers. As the stakes ramp up, they are forced to decide just how far they’re willing to go in order to get justice – putting their careers, their friendships, their families, and their lives on the line. Utterly authentic and captivatingly compelling, this story grabs you by the throat and keeps you pinned right from the first page to the last.

To find out more about Neil White check out his website at www.neilwhite.net and follow him on Twitter @neilwhite1965

 

HEARTBREAKER by Tania Carver

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“After years of abuse, Gemma Adderley has finally found the courage to leave her violent husband. She has taken one debilitating beating too many, endured one esteem-destroying insult too much. Taking her seven-year-old daughter Carly, she leaves the house, determined to salvage what she can of her life. She phones Safe Harbour, a women’s refuge, and they tell her which street corner to wait on and what the car that will pick her up will look like. They tell her the word the driver will use so she know it’s safe to get in. And that’s the last they hear from her. Gemma Adderley’s daughter Carly is found wandering the city streets on her own the next day. Her mother’s mutilated corpse turns up by the canal several weeks later. Her heart has been removed. Detective Inspector Phil Brennan takes on the case, and his wife, psychologist Marina Esposito, is brought in to try and help unlock Carly’s memories of what happened that day. The race is on to solve the case before the Heartbreaker strikes again …”

HEARTBREAKER is the seventh book in the Brennan & Esposito series by Tania Carver. As you’d expect it has a fabulously twisty turny plot, a disturbing set of crimes at its core, and a tough emotional struggle for the two lead characters that threatens to destroy both their careers and their life together. What I found especially chilling in this book is the way the killer selects their victims – targeting vulnerable women who have made the decision to seek refuge. Somehow the killer is gaining access to confidential information in real time, and until they are caught every woman seeking sanctuary is a potential victim. Through the storyline, the book looks at domestic violence through the eyes of the perpetrators, the victims, and those working to help the victims, and it doesn’t hold back from showing a violent and brutal truth.

Gritty and compelling HEARTBREAKER is a tense and suspenseful page-turner of a read.

You can find out more about Tania Carver (aka crime writer Martyn Waites’ alter ego) over on www.martynwaites.com and follow Martyn on Twitter @MartynWaites

 

THE DEFENCE by Steve Cavanagh

The Defence cover image

“Eddie Flynn used to be a con artist. Then he became a lawyer. Turned out the two weren’t that different. It’s been over a year since Eddie Flynn vowed never to set foot in a courtroom again. But now he doesn’t have a choice. Olek Volchek, the infamous head of the Russian mafia in New York, has strapped a bomb to Eddie’s back and kidnapped his ten-year-old daughter, Amy. Eddie only has forty-eight hours to defend Volchek in an impossible murder trial – and win – if he wants to save his daughter. Under the scrutiny of the media and the FBI, Eddie must use his razor-sharp wit and every con-artist trick in the book to defend his ‘client’ and ensure Amy’s safety. With the timer on his back ticking away, can Eddie convince the jury of the impossible? Lose this case and he loses everything.”

THE DEFENCE is a fabulous legal thriller. Eddie Flynn – con artist turned lawyer – is haunted by the last case he took to trial. He’s turned his back on the legal profession, taken up drinking and become estranged from his wife and child. Things seem pretty bad, but as the reader discovers from the very start of The Defence, things are about to get much, much worse for Eddie Flynn.

With his daughter abducted, and a bomb strapped to his own body, Eddie is forced to represent Olek Volchek – a man he has no doubt is guilty of murder. In order to buy enough time to figure a way out of the terrifying situation he’s in, Eddie has to draw on all his skills – both legal and criminal – and his friends on both sides of the law, as he gambles against increasingly higher risks in his attempt to get his daughter safe. Smart, courageous and driven by the need to protect his young daughter, Eddie makes for a dynamic character – and someone you can really root for. This rapid-paced, page turner of a legal thriller has bucket-loads of action and piles of sky-soaring tension.

To find out more about Steve Cavanagh hop over to his website at www.stevecavanaghbooks.com and follow him on Twitter @SSCav

 

BLACK WOOD by SJI Holliday

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“Something happened to Claire and Jo in Black Wood: something that left Claire paralysed and Jo with deep mental scars. But with Claire suffering memory loss and no evidence to be found, nobody believes Jo’s story.

Twenty-three years later, a familiar face walks into the bookshop where Jo works, dredging up painful memories and rekindling her desire for vengeance. And at the same time, Sergeant Davie Gray is investigating a balaclava-clad man who is attacking women on a disused railway, shocking the sleepy village of Banktoun.

But what is the connection between Jo’s visitor and the masked man? To catch the assailant, and to give Jo her long-awaited justice, Gray must unravel a tangled web of past secrets, broken friendship and tainted love. But can he crack the case before Jo finds herself with blood on her hands?”

Banktoun might at first appear to be a small, quaint village with a low crime rate that leaves Sergeant Davie Gray wishing for a bit more police work, but scratch the surface and the secrets simmering just below the surface soon start to threaten the uneasy peace. When a spate of attacks by a balaclava wearing man jolt the villagers from their usual calm, tensions start to rise and after a visitor from the past makes an appearance at the local bookstore where Jo works it’s not long before she begins to unravel. With the flood of memories and questions arising from that fateful day in the woods over twenty years ago threatening to overwhelm her, Jo decides to try and uncover what really happened all those years ago to her and Claire.

Jo is an unpredictable, and at times unreliable, narrator who makes for an interesting and flawed heroine. Sergeant Davie Gray is an altogether more solid and reliable narrator, and as such is the perfect counterbalance to Jo. From the small village location, to the cast of engaging and interesting characters, many of whom seemed to be hiding something, I found BLACK WOOD a really ‘moreish’ read. I loved the twists and turns, and – although I’m usually pretty good at figuring out who did it – this book had me guessing to the end. It also features some pretty creepy masks!

Find out more about debut author SJI Holliday over on her blog at www.sjihollidayblog.wordpress.com and follow her on Twitter @SJIHolliday

 

SNOWBLIND by Ragnar Jónasson

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“Siglufjörđur: an idyllically quiet fishing village in Northern Iceland, where no one locks their doors – accessible only via a small mountain tunnel. Ari Thór Arason: a rookie policeman on his first posting, far from his girlfriend in Reykjavik – with a past that he’s unable to leave behind. When a young woman is found lying half-naked in the snow, bleeding and unconscious, and a highly esteemed, elderly writer falls to his death in the local theatre, Ari is dragged straight into the heart of a community where he can trust no one, and secrets and lies are a way of life. An avalanche and unremitting snowstorms close the mountain pass, and the 24-hour darkness threatens to push Ari over the edge, as curtains begin to twitch, and his investigation becomes increasingly complex, chilling and personal. Past plays tag with the present and the claustrophobic tension mounts, while Ari is thrust ever deeper into his own darkness – blinded by the snow, and with a killer on the loose.”

Ari Thór Arason relocates to the remote costal village of Siglufjörđur to take up his first job in the police. He’s thorough and tenacious, keen to learn and enthusiastic to do a good job in a community where no one locks their doors and the crime rate is virtually zero – until now. When the seemingly accidental death of an elderly writer is followed by what seems to be a vicious attack on a young woman the community is thrown into chaos – is a killer among them? And how, in a place where everyone knows everyone’s business, can there be no witnesses? Determined to get to the truth, Ari presses for answers, and as he does Siglufjörđur is covered in ever deepening snow – becoming cut off from the rest of the country and trapping the inhabitants together. As darkness descends, and Ari takes increasing risks to lure out the killer, the claustrophobic suspense ramps up to the max.

Snowblind uses its stunningly beautiful yet brutally remote setting to create a chilling, atmospheric locked room mystery. It’s a fantastic read with great writing, engaging characters and an expertly crafted plot filled with twists, turns and slight of hand. Ragnar Jónasson is an outstanding new voice in Nordic Noir, and Snowblind is the first in what promises to be a fabulous new series.

To find out more about Snowblind and Ragnar Jónasson visit www.orendabooks.co.uk/book/snow-blind. You can follow Ragnar on Twitter @ragnarjo and translator Quentin Bates @graskeggur

 

BLOODSTREAM by Luca Veste

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“Social media stars Chloe Morrison and Joe Hooper seem to have it all – until their bodies are found following an anonymous phone call to their high-profile agent. Tied and bound to chairs facing each other, their violent deaths cause a media scrum to descend on Liverpool, with DI David Murphy and DS Laura Rossi assigned to the case.

Murphy is dismissive, but the media pressure intensified when another couple is found in the same manner as the first. Only this time the killer has left a message. A link to a private video on the internet, and the words ‘Nothing stays secret’. It quickly becomes clear that more people will die; that the killer believes secrets and lies within relationships should have deadly consequences …”

This third book in the Murphy and Rossi series is a real page-turner of a read. The strong sense of place and vivid descriptions bring Liverpool to life, and Murphy and Rossi make for a great crime-solving duo.

The story brings into sharp focus how the media, and social media, feed into and off violent crime, and how the amount of media coverage, and the way individuals are portrayed, is dependent on the perceived value of that person and their death to ratings and circulation figures.

BLOODSTREAM is a dark, gritty and disturbingly sinister police procedural that I found utterly unputdownable.

Learn more about Luca Veste at www.lucaveste.com and follow him on Twitter @lucaveste

 

TELL NO TALES by Eva Dolan

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“The car that ploughs into the bus stop early one morning leaves a trail of death and destruction behind it. DS Ferreira and DI Zigic are called in from the Peterborough Hate Crimes Unit to handle the investigation but with another major case on their hands, one with disturbing Neo-Nazi overtones, they are relieved when there seems to be an obvious suspect. But the case isn’t that simple and with tensions erupting in the town, leading to more violence, the media are soon hounding them for answers.

Ferreira believes that local politician Richard Stotton, head of a recently established ring-wing party, must be involved somehow. Journalists have been quick to acclaim Stotton, with his Brazilian wife and RAF career, as a serious contender for a major political career, despite his extremist views, but is his party a cover for something far more dangerous?”

TELL NO TALES is the second book in the DS Ferreira and DI Zigic series. In it, Ferreira and Zigic are assigned to investigate the hit and run, but what at first seems a fairly straightforward case soon turns out to be far more complex than they’d originally thought. Alongside the hit and run, they’re still struggling to find suspects in a chain of recent murders. The brutal, racially motivated attacks have already claimed two victims, but Zigic’s boss wants the motive for the murders downplayed. The attackers are well prepared and ruthless, beating their victims to death and even playing up to the CCTV cameras they know are filming them. But even with video and forensic evidence, the detectives are no closer to identifying the killers. And things are going to get worse, a lot worse, before they get more leads. With tensions rising, and violence escalating, the two investigations begin to blur, and Ferreira and Zigic find their skills, and their resolve, tested to their very limits.

As in the first book, Ferreira and Zigic make a great duo, with Ferreira’s bold ‘tell it as it is’ attitude perfectly off set by Zigic’s more steady, measured, but no less determined approach. As the investigation progresses they deal with the challenges and try to cope with the shocking brutality of the cases in their own individual ways, but despite their differences, and Ferreira’s reservations about the additional officers assigned to Hate Crimes to support them, they work well together to unravel the complex and interwoven connections that have led to these extreme acts of violence taking place in the town.

A compelling story, beautifully crafted, TELL NO TALES has tension crackling off every page.

To learn more about Eva Dolan hop over to her author page at www.randomhouse.co.uk/authors/eva-dolan and follow her on Twitter @eva_dolan

 

STASI CHILD by David Young

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“East Berlin, 1975: Questions are dangerous. Answers can kill. When murder squad head Oberleutnant Karin Müller is called to investigate a teenage girl’s body found riddled with bullets at the foot of the Berlin Wall, she imagines she’s seen it all before. But when she arrives she realises this is a death like no other: it seems the girl was trying to escape – but from the West.

Müller is a member of the People’s Police, but in East Germany her power only stretches so far. The Stasi want her to discover the identity of the girl, but assure her the case is otherwise closed – and strongly discourage her asking questions. The evidence doesn’t add up, and it soon becomes clear that the crime scene has been staged, the girl’s features mutilated. But this is not a regime that tolerates a curious mind, and Müller doesn’t realise that the trail she’s following will lead her dangerously close to home.

The previous summer, on Rügen Island off the Baltic Coast, two desperate teenage girls conspire to escape the physical and sexual abuse of the young workhouse they call home. Forced to assemble furniture packs for the West, the girls live out a monotonous, painful and hopeless life. Stowing away in the very furniture they are forced to make, the girls arrived in Hamburg. But their celebrations are short-lived as they discover there is a price on freedom in the DDR …”

STASI CHILD is David Young’s debut novel and the first in the Oberleutnant Karin Müller series. Striving for justice whatever the cost is second nature to Müller. She’s a determined, strong and courageous detective, following the evidence and questioning anomalies even when warned off by some very powerful and threatening people. Defying instructions, she leads her team to find the truth hidden beneath the propaganda and cover-ups. But despite her hard-line stance in her job, in her personal life her relationships are imploding and as she juggles the conflict at home with an increasingly tense situation at work, it’s not long before Müller herself could be in danger.

Set in our chillingly authentic recent-past, this pacey page-turner of a police procedural is filled with fear, power struggles and intrigue making it one hell of a debut novel.

To find out more about David Young follow him on Twitter @djy_writer

 

TIME OF DEATH by Mark Billingham

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“The Missing: Two schoolgirls are abducted in the small, dying Warwickshire town of Polesford, driving a knife into the heart of the community where police officer Helen Weeks grew up, and from which she long escaped. But this is a place full of secrets, where dangerous truths lie buried.

The Accused: When it’s splashed all over the press that family man Stephen Bates has been arrested, Helen and her partner Tom Thorne head to the flooded town to support Bates’ wife – an old school friend of Helen’s – who is living under siege with two teenage children and convinced of her husband’s innocence.

The Dead: As residents and media bay for Bates’ blood, a decomposing body is found. The police believe that they have their murderer in custody, but one man believes otherwise. With a girl still missing, Thorne sets himself on a collision course with local police, townsfolk – and a merciless killer.”

TIME OF DEATH, the latest book in Mark Billingham’s Tom Thorne series, takes Tom out of his usual city surroundings on a visit to the countryside for a romantic break with his partner Helen Weeks. But it doesn’t stay a relaxing holiday for long. When Helen recognises the wife of the man accused of the abduction of two schoolgirls from a small Warwickshire community, their holiday is cut short as they head to Polesford for Helen to support her old school friend.

Taking Thorne out of his London comfort zone is genius move. He hates the countryside, especially the thought of antiquing and walking, so he starts his own (unofficial) investigation. This forces him to embrace everything the area has to throw at him – floods, pigs, a lot of characterful locals, and the kind of claustrophobic environment where everyone knows each other’s business. Being the outsider, and not officially involved in the case, he’s able to follow his instincts unchecked, and starts to find he’s actually rather enjoying his holiday. He even manages to entice his friend, and talented Pathologist, Phil Hendricks, out from the city to help him. They still haven’t really spoken about what happened on Bardsey Island (in the previous book The Bones Beneath) and the personal cost to Phil (and Thorne) that resulted, but their friendship is a strong as ever and their banter is, as always, a joy to read.

TIME OF DEATH is filled with mystery and intrigue from the abduction case Tom is investigating, it also layers on a growing sense of unease that coming back to the place she grew up has unearthed some deeply buried secrets that Helen has kept well hidden.

Masterfully written, this is another fabulous instalment in what I think is the best police procedural series around today.

Learn more about Mark Billingham by checking out his website at www.markbillingham.com and follow him on Twitter @MarkBillingham

 

So there they are – my top crime reads of 2015.

Pop back next week to see my top thriller reads of the year.

 

 

 

 

 

CTG Reviews: The Silent Room by Mari Hannah

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What the blurb says: “One Fugitive. A deadly conspiracy. No rules. A security van sets off for Durham prison, a disgraced Special Branch officer in the back. It never arrives. En route it is hijacked by armed men, the prisoner sprung. Suspended from duty on suspicion of aiding and abetting the audacious escape of his former boss, Detective Sergeant Matthew Ryan is locked out of the manhunt. Desperate to preserve his career and prove his innocence, he backs off. But when the official investigation falls apart, under surveillance and with his life in danger, Ryan goes dark, enlisting others in his quest to discover the truth. When the trail leads to the suspicious death of a Norwegian national, Ryan uncovers an international conspiracy that has claimed the lives of many.”

This fast paced, gritty thriller grabbed me immediately with its dramatic opening scenes of a prison van hijack. And the tension doesn’t let up. With questions unanswered about disgraced Special Branch officer Jack Fenwick’s involvement in criminal activity, and many assuming him guilty, as the hours pass after the hijack DS Matthew Ryan is convinced that the Professional Standards department are wrong to treat the hijack as an escape rather than an abduction – but no one is listening to him.

With Ryan is on suspension for much of the book he is forced to conduct his own investigation off the radar using only sources he can be sure are trustworthy. Determined to get to the truth, even if it means getting himself into more trouble and risking the career he loves, Ryan keeping digging, convinced that his commanding officer, and friend, Jack Fenwick, was framed. Meanwhile, talented investigator Eloise O’Neil from Professional Standards is keeping tabs on him as her and her team hunt for Jack Fenwick, adding an extra layer of complication for Ryan to keep his own investigation secret.

There is a great cast of characters in this book and I was quickly drawn into their world through the narrative. DS Matthew Ryan is a highly compelling character – he’s determined, driven and, as events take a tragic twist, uses his moment of vulnerability and personal grief as fuel to continue his investigation. The combination of Ryan and O’Neil, both looking for answers but coming from different sides of the investigative coin, makes for a great dynamic and the scenes they share have a real zing of electricity.

Gritty, authentic and utterly engrossing, The Silent Room is a real seat-of-your-pants read from the dramatic opening through to the explosive ending. A must for all thriller and police procedural fans.

To find out more about Mari Hannah and her books hop over to her website here and follow her on Twitter @mariwriter

You can buy the book from Amazon via this link