Posts tagged ‘Crime’

May 13, 2022

Bestsellers 6th – 13th May

by Team Riverside

Elizabeth Strout – Oh William!

John Le Carre – Silverview

Elif Shafak – The Island of The Missing Trees

Kazuo Ishiguro – Klara and The Sun

Cecily Gayford – Murder by The Seaside

Elizabeth Day – Magpie

Sally Rooney – Conversations With Friends

Daisy Buchanan – Insatiable

Rutger Bregman – Humankind

Meg Mason – Sorrow and Bliss

Marion Billet – Busy London

bell hooks – All About Love

Colm Toibin – The Magician

Bernadine Evaristo – Girl, Woman, Other

Chris Power – A Lonely Man

May 8, 2022

Bestsellers 1st – 8th May

by Team Riverside

Elizabeth Strout – Oh William!

John Le Carre – Silverview

Emily St. John Mandel – Sea of Tranquility

Riku Onda – The Aosawa Murders

bell hooks – All About Love

Kazuo Ishiguro – Klara and The Sun

Meg Mason – Sorrow and Bliss

Kotaro Isaka – Bullet Train

Oliver Burkeman – Four Thousand Weeks

Caroline Criado Perez – Invisible Women

M.H. Eccleston – The Trust

Min Jin Lee – Pachinko

Clara Vulliamy – Marshmallow Pie: The Cat Superstar

Oliver Jeffers – Here We Are

Elizabeth Day – Magpie

May 1, 2022

Bestsellers 24th April – 1st May

by Team Riverside

Meg Mason – Sorrow and Bliss

Riku Onda – The Aosawa Murders

Daisy Buchanan – Insatiable

Marion Billet – Busy London

Caleb Azumah Nelson – Open Water

Kazuo Ishiguro – Klara and The Sun

Taylor Jenkins Reid – The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo

Alice Oseman – Heartstopper Volume 2

Douglas Stuart – Young Mungo

Joseph Hone – The Paper Chase

Nicholas Nassim Taleb – Antifragile

Shirley Jackson – The Missing Girl

Catherine Belton – Putin’s People

Tom Burgis – Kleptopia

Emily Danforth – Plain Bad Heroines

April 2, 2022

Bestsellers 26th March – 2nd April

by Team Riverside

Kazuo Ishiguro – Klara and The Sun

Kae Tempest – On Connection

Taylor Jenkins Reid – The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo

Marion Billet – Busy London

Tom Burgis – Kleptopia

Colm Toibin – The Magician

Richard Osman – The Thursday Murder Club

Brit Bennett – The Vanishing Half

Matthew Green – Shadowlands

Daisy Buchanan – Careering

Tom Chivers – London Clay

Susanna Clarke – Piranesi

Kotaro Isaka – Bullet Train

Agatha Christie – Miss Marple and Mystery

Michael Lewis – The Premonition

March 15, 2022

Bullet Train by Kotaro Isaka

by Team Riverside
book cover Bullet Train

Paperback, Vintage, £8.99, out now

As the Shinkansen bullet train speeds out of Tokyo, several of those on board seem to be on missions to kill.  But who will kill, who will die, and why?

This is a speedy and satisfying locked-room crime novel.  It’s not clear at the outset how the disparate group of characters are connected.  What links a father bent on revenge, a hitman obsessed with Thomas the Tank Engine, and a professional killer who’s concerned that he’s unlucky and wants to quit?  And what are the roles of those off the train, including a woman who is phoning with instructions?

So many questions, and Bullet Train presents an engaging mystery for readers to try and solve.  It’s violent, but given the sheer number of murderers this is perhaps not surprising.  This was part of my ongoing Japanese crime reading jag, following on from The Aosawa Murders (https://riversidebookshop.co.uk/2020/07/25/the-aosawa-murders-by-riku-onda/).  Isaka is a prize winning author in Japan, and the movie starring Brad Pitt and Sandra Bullock is due out this summer (see https://www.imdb.com/title/tt12593682/).

For an escapist and entertaining crime read, this is a good choice.

Review by Bethan

March 4, 2022

Bestsellers 25th February – 3rd March

by Team Riverside

Tim Marshall – The Power of Geography

Caleb Azumah Nelson – Open Water

Frank Tallis – The Act of Living

Riku Onda – The Aosawa Murders

Maggie O’Farrell – Hamnet

Patrick Radden Keefe – Empire of Pain

Karen McManus – One Of Us is Lying

David Baddiel – Jews Don’t Count

Gertrude Stein – Food

bell hooks – All About Love

John Preston – Fall

Sathnam Sanghera – Empireland

Natasha Lunn – Conversations On Love

Marian Keyes – Rachel’s Holiday

Richard Osman – The Thursday Murder Club

February 17, 2022

Bestsellers 10th – 17th February

by Team Riverside

Frank Herbert – Dune

Tim Marshall – The Power of Geography

Riku Onda – The Aosawa Murders

Stanley Tucci – Taste

Richard Osman – The Thursday Murder Club

They – Kay Dick

Delia Owens – Where The Crawdads Sing

Hafsa Zayyan – We Are All Birds of Uganda

Mariana Enriquez – The Dangers of Smoking in Bed

Lorraine Mariner eds. – Ten Poems About Love

Bella Mackie – How To Kill Your Family

James Baldwin – Giovanni’s Room

Gertrude Stein – Food

Anna Malaika Tubbs – Three Mothers

Luke Kennard – The Answer To Everything

December 18, 2021

Bestsellers 11th – 18th December

by Team Riverside

Roma Agrawal and Katie Hickey – How Was That Built?

Yotam Ottolenghi and Noor Murad – Ottolenghi Test Kitchen: Shelf Love

John Le Carre – Silverview

Richard Osman – The Thursday Murder Club

Claire Keegan – Small Things Like These

Abdulrazak Gurnah – Afterlives

Hannah J. Parkinson – The Joy of Small Things

Colson Whitehead – Harlem Shuffle

Various Authors – The Haunting Season

Susanna Clarke – Piranesi

Michaela Coel – Misfits

Stanley Tucci – Taste

Dave Eggers – The Every

Various Poets – The Liberty Faber Poetry Diary

Amor Towles – The Lincoln Highway

December 13, 2021

The Big Book of Christmas Mysteries chosen by Otto Penzler

by Team Riverside
book cover The Big Book of Christmas Mysteries

Softcover, Head of Zeus, £18, out now

This is a great range of very satisfying Christmas mysteries.  Feeling like pulp crime? Try John D. MacDonald.  Classic crime? Try Ellis Peters.  Something modern?  Try Sara Paretsky.  There are also stories from lots of all time great crime writers, including John Mortimer, Agatha Christie and Colin Dexter.

I read many of these stories last Christmas when this collection came out in hardback.  Now it’s out in a striking softback edition with a smart vintage style Gothic revival cover.  For a book with over 700 pages, it’s very comfortable in the hands.  Some stories are very short and some are longish, which means you can find something that fits your time as well as mood.

I found it put me on to several crime writers who were new to me, which made for some fun reading this year (I have been cheerfully reading Ellery Queen and Rex Stout as a result).

It’s so attractive that it would make a successful present, but ideally only for someone you can borrow it off later.

Review by Bethan

July 26, 2021

Summer Reading Promotion

by Team Riverside

Our Summer Reading Promotion is now on in store, get 4 books for the price of 3 (with the cheapest book free). We have titles available across Children’s, Fiction and Non-Fiction, see our full list of titles for purchase in the 4 for 3 promotion below:

Fiction
Burnt Sugar by Avni Doshi

Girl Woman Other by Bernadine Evaristo

Troy by Stephen Fry

Invisible Girl by Lisa Jewell

The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman

Islands of Mercy by Rose Tremain

I Am An Island by Tamsin Calidas

V For Victory by Lisa Evans

The Great Fortune by Olivia Manning

Rodham by Curtis Sittenfeld

10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World by Elif Shafak

Us Three by Ruth Jones

Actress by Anne Enright

V2 by Robert Harris

All Adults Here by Emma Straub

Summer by Ali Smith

Non-Fiction
The Body Keeps The Score by Bessel van der Kolk

Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker

The Book You Wish Your Parents Had Read by Phillippa Perry

Agent Sonia by Ben Macintyre

Difficult Women by Helen Lewis

Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez

Untamed by Glennon Doyle

Diary of a Young Naturalist by Dara McAnulty

The Moth and the Mountain by Ed Caesar

Sicily ’43 by James Holland

Childrens
The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse by Charles Mackesy

The Unadoptables by Hana Tooke

Worst Holiday Ever by Charlie Higson

Rowley Jefferson’s Awesome Friendly Adventure by Jeff Kinney

The Puffin Keeper by Michael Morpurgo

Kay’s Anatomy by Adam Kay

July 4, 2021

Current Bestsellers

by Team Riverside

Our Bestsellers from 28th June to the 4th of July:

Brit Bennett- The Vanishing Half

Delia Owens- Where The Crawdads Sing

Maggie O’Farrell- Hamnet

Natalie Haynes- Pandora’s Jar

Jonathon Lee- The Great Mistake

Elena Ferrante- The Lying Life of Adults

Various Authors- Murder Takes A Holiday

James Hawes- The Shortest History of England

Peter Ackroyd- London: The Biography

Elif Shafak- 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World

Richard Osman- The Thursday Murder Club

Sasha Swire- Diary of An MP’s Wife

Irvin and Marilyn Yalom- A Matter of Death and Life

Kazuo Ishiguro- Klara and The Sun

Kenneth Cukier- Framers

Clare Chambers- Small Pleasures

Susanna Clarke- Piranesi

Xialou Guo- A Lover’s Discourse

Meriel Schindler- The Lost Cafe Schindler

Tim Marshall- The Power of Geography

July 25, 2020

The Aosawa Murders by Riku Onda

by Team Riverside

Paperback, Bitter Lemon Press, £8.99, out now

This might be the best mysterRiku Onda THE AOSAWA MURDERS.jpgy I’ve ever read.  I immediately reread it and liked it even better second time around.

A prominent local family host a party at their smart villa in a seaside town in 1970s Japan.  Seventeen people are poisoned and only one member of the family survives: teenage Hisako, a blind girl.  Hisako claims that all she can remember is a blue room, and a flower.

Convinced that she is guilty of murder, a local police inspector tries for years to prove it.  But an easier suspect takes his own life, and people start to move on.  A gathering together of multiple forms of testimony helps to find an answer at last.

The Aosawa Murders is made up of witness accounts, stories and other ‘found’ testimony.  You read along, almost as an investigator yourself, and the process is extraordinarily engrossing.  It reminded me of the things I liked best about Graham Macrae Burnet’s His Bloody Project, but ultimately it’s not really like anything else (https://riversidebookshop.co.uk/2016/09/07/his-bloody-project-by-graeme-macrae-burnet/).

Riku Onda’s writing is beautiful and the translation seamless.  The setting is so vivid it becomes a character in itself: “But the ocean here isn’t refreshing at all.  Gazing at it doesn’t give you any sense of freedom or relief.  And the horizon is always close, as if waiting for an opportunity to force its way onto land.  It feels like you’re being watched, and if you dare look away for just a moment the sea might descend upon you.” (p. 14)

The need to reread immediately is a reflection of the intricate and satisfying plot.  I suspected I could make more connections by having a second pass of the evidence, and I did.

The book literally gave me chills.  There were a couple of moments where I gasped aloud.  It’s both understated and electrifying and I’m still not sure how the author achieves this.  The Aosawa Murders has opened up a whole world of Japanese crime writing for me.  I went straight on to read The Tokyo Zodiac Murders by Soji Shimada.  I will never forget The Aosawa Murders.

Review by Bethan

June 19, 2019

Big Sky by Kate Atkinson

by Team Riverside

Hardback, DoubleDay, £20, out nowKate Atkinson BIG SKY

“Nadja Wilk and her sister, Katja.  They came from Gdansk, where they had worked in a hotel.  Real people with real lives, not just ciphers for the tabloid newspapers”.  Big Sky, the latest instalment of Atkinson’s series featuring private detective Jackson Brodie, starts with Nadja and Katja.  Ready to leave their hotel jobs for better chances in the UK, they Skype with impressive businessman Mark Price who promises good placements and offers to pay for their travel.  But: “The office was a fake.  Anderson Price associates was a fake, Mark Price was a fake.  Only the Rolex was real”.  As always, Atkinson nails the nature of violence against women in this funny, smart and devastating book.  She deals with hard subjects brilliantly, giving characters who elsewhere might simply be exploited victims both relatable features and agency.

We find Jackson looking after with his 13-year-old son while taking various low rent private eye jobs.  Jackson is still for justice, though not always in a strictly legal way.  He remains focussed on the unwanted and uncared-about.  The book’s epigraph is revealing.  Malcolm X: “I’m for truth, no matter who tells it.  I’m for justice, no matter who is for or against it”.

Many memorable characters from previous books turn up, which felt to me like a huge treat.  Skilfully plotted, this gripping mystery sees many strands and lives woven together.  A woman is murdered in her garden; a young girl hitch-hikes a lift from a lonely sea front; an interesting teenage boy looks after his young half-sister in between shifts at a ghost train and failing seaside theatre.  Jackson remains an engaging commentator on the meaning of unexpected events.  Watching a mother beat the living daylights out of someone who may have a clue about her missing child: “Jackson glanced around to see how the rest of the café’s denizens were reacting to this, but they all seemed to have quietly disappeared.  Jackson didn’t blame them.  Wives and mothers, he thought, you never wanted to get on the wrong side of them.  Madonnas on steroids”.

Atkinson’s sentences are both completely precise and deceptively easy to read.  I think it must take a great deal of work to produce something that seems so effortless.

There are two good dogs in this book.

Review by Bethan

March 19, 2019

Vanish in an Instant by Margaret Millar

by Team Riverside

Paperback, Pushkin Vertigo, £8.99, out nowMargaret Millar VANISH IN AN INSTANT

A young woman covered in blood walks down a snowy small town street, and a man’s body is found with stab wounds nearby.  Minor league lawyer Meecham tries to get the woman released from jail, and there seems to be much more to the story than is evident…

Reprinted in a smart new paperback edition, this 1952 American mystery classic has introduced me to Margaret Millar (who is possibly my new addiction – I have already been trying to find out which of her other books I can get hold of).  An excellent Noir style thriller, Vanish in an Instant is more than just a great page turner.  The psychological aspects of the work ring true, and the style is fresh and engrossing.  “On the observation ramp above the airfield she could see the faces of people waiting to board a plane or to meet someone or simply waiting and watching, because if they couldn’t go anywhere themselves, the next best thing was to watch someone else going.  Under the glaring lights their faces appeared as similar as the rows of wax vegetables in the windows of the markets back home”.

I would recommend this for fans of well written crime, particularly to anyone who enjoys Patricia Highsmith or Raymond Chandler. Val McDermid finds Margaret Millar “stunningly original” in her review of Beast in View (https://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/01/books/review/women-crime-writers-eight-suspense-novels-of-the-1940s-and-1950s.html).

The Pushkin Vertigo stuff is always worth a go – I completely loved Friedrich Dürrenmatt’s Suspicion (https://theriversideway.wordpress.com/2017/08/05/suspicion-by-friedrich-durrenmatt/) .  I hope they will publish more of Millar’s work on this showing.  I am ready to feed my new addiction.

Review by Bethan

January 6, 2019

The Stranger Diaries by Elly Griffiths

by Team Riverside

Hardback, Quercus, £12.99, out nowelly griffiths stranger diaries

A teacher is murdered in Shoreham-by-Sea in Sussex.  Her school has an historic connection with ghost story writer R M Holland.  As pupils and colleagues try to come to terms with her death, the story surrounding it unfolds with Gothic overtones.

Investigating is Detective Sergeant Harbinder Kaur, an excellent character with an acid tongue and a sharp mind.  On arriving at a witness’s home, she sees that the witness has been reading The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins, and remembers that the murder victim had been “sitting in the dark with her herbal tea.  Someone really should tell these women about Netflix” (p. 138).  Her genial home life gives me the same cosy feeling I get reading this aspect of Donna Leon’s Commissario Brunetti crime stories (see https://theriversideway.wordpress.com/2017/06/20/earthly-remains-by-donna-leon/).  She is an old student of the comprehensive where the murder happened, and knows all the rumours and ghost stories which surround the school.  The story is told from the perspectives of Harbinder, Clare (a colleague of the victim), and Clare’s daughter Georgia, who is a pupil at the school.  Also woven in are sections of R M Holland’s ghost story.

It helped that the abandoned cement works and nearby strip of workers’ houses where some of the action takes place are familiar to me, as I used to go past them on the bus… and I had often thought that it was quite a creepy place.  But I’m pretty sure this personal experience isn’t necessary for others to enjoy the book!

This was a perfect holiday read for me.  I had never read any Elly Griffiths, but a friend bought me this standalone mystery novel for Christmas.  I devoured it in two days when I should have been doing other things.  I am now looking forward to reading her series set in Norfolk, which my friend says is just as good.  There are two good dogs in this book.

Review by Bethan

August 5, 2017

Suspicion by Friedrich Dürrenmatt

by Team Riverside

Paperback, Pushkin Vertigo, £4.99, out nowFriedrich Durrenmatt SUSPICION

The dying police inspector Barlach thinks that a surgeon practising in Switzerland may be a Nazi war criminal.  He gets himself transferred from his friend’s hospital in Bern to the suspect’s institution, and a new kind of nightmare begins.

This superb and unusual mystery novel, first published in 1951/2, has been reprinted now by Pushkin Vertigo, an imprint republishing quality crime fiction of the 20th century.  The publisher says Suspicion is “a genre-bending mystery recalling the work of Alain Robbe-Grillet and anticipating the postmodern fictions of Paul Auster and other contemporary neo-noir novelists.”  (See https://www.pushkinpress.com/product/suspicion/).   I found it easy to read, but it also engages with the highly challenging subject matter in a thoughtful and interesting way.  Dürrenmatt is not afraid of taking an intellectual and moral stance, which is important when dealing with torture and crimes against humanity.

Suspicion is beautifully written and translated.  Dürrenmatt was also a playwright, with The Physicists being his most famous work.  Despite the subject matter, this book is a perfect short holiday or travel read, and I would particularly recommend it to fans of Simenon or Lionel Davidson.  I have already ordered all the other Inspector Barlach books that I can find.  A new addiction has been born.

Review by Bethan

June 20, 2017

Earthly Remains, by Donna Leon

by Team Riverside

Hardback, Cornerstone, £18.99, out nowDonna Leon EARTHLY REMAINS

Commissario Brunetti, the senior Venetian police officer and star of Leon’s previous books, is sent to recuperate from stress in a secluded house on Sant’Erasmo, an island in Venice’s laguna.  While there he makes friends with a local man.  They spend days rowing in the laguna, tending to the man’s bees, and talking.  But the bees start to die, and then his friend is found dead…

I have read many of the Brunetti books, and this is the best so far in my view.  Set in Venice, the books are stuffed with spectacular surroundings, wonderful food, and chaotic corruption in public life.  They are easy to read, and strangely addictive.

Brunetti wrestles with what is right when dealing with crimes, but also when dealing with the opaque and shifting concerns of the various authority figures he comes across, and as he addresses the other complexities of family and political life. I don’t always agree with the politics presented in the books, but I have a sneaking fondness for his arch and progressive wife Paula.

A previous winner of the prestigious Silver Dagger Crime Writing Award, Donna Leon has maintained both her popularity and the quality of her work over a long and impressive career.  Ecological themes feature increasingly strongly in her work, as this interview makes clear, and this only adds to the relevance of her work (https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/apr/15/donna-leon-interview-commissario-brunetti-earthly-remains).  Earthly Remains is a thoughtful, interesting summer read.

Review by Bethan

November 5, 2016

The Mistletoe Murder and Other Stories

by Team Riverside

Hardback, Faber and Faber, £10, out nowp-d-james-the-mistletoe-murder

This is a very welcome collection of four new short stories from the much missed author of exceptional psychological crime mysteries.  Val McDermid’s introduction commends James for taking us to places that are “dark, vicious and shocking.  But always beautifully written”.

My favourite is the deeply menacing and highly believable A Very Commonplace Murder, which reminded me of a Shirley Jackson short story in its precise and convincing suburban horror.  A man asks for a key to view a rental flat, and the house agent suspects he is not genuinely interested in renting it.  The agent is right.  “It was the first time he had been back since it all happened sixteen years ago.  He came neither as a pilgrim nor a penitent.  He had returned under some compulsion which he hadn’t even bothered to analyse”.  And so we are compelled to find out what happened in this flat, and what this man’s relationship to it was.

I was glad to meet favourite detective Adam Dalgleish again in The Twelve Clues of Christmas.

In a lovely small hardback edition, this is great gift for fans of crime fiction, especially those who thought we’d never have another new thing from P D James to savour.  If you’re buying one Christmas crime book this year, make it this one.

Review by Bethan

September 7, 2016

His Bloody Project, by Graeme Macrae Burnet

by Team Riverside

Paperback, Contraband, £8.99, out nowgraeme-macrae-burnet-his-bloody-project

This Booker-longlisted novel is the story of a 17 year old boy facing the death penalty for a triple murder committed in a remote village in the Scottish highlands.  It is 1869, and Roderick Macrae is the son of a crofter who is living in a feudal society.  His Bloody Project is presented like a true crime story, with an account by the killer of what happened and documents from other parties involved.  The novel is introduced by the author, in his own name, suggesting that Roderick Macrae was a relative of his.  You have to bring your brain to this collection of purported primary sources, and the main question you have to answer is not whether Macrae committed the crime, which he admits, but whether he was mad at the time.  If it could be proved that he was insane, he might avoid the otherwise inevitable death penalty.

What has happened to Macrae that may have led to this point?  Through his partial account we hear of brutality, unfairness, bereavement and extreme poverty.  As a study in the abuse of power, and the impunity that goes with it, the book is excellent (to be more specific would be to risk spoilers).  The language used by every character in the documents is evocative and convincing – for example, Macrae calls winter in the village the ‘black months’ and summer the ‘yellow months’.

His Bloody Project grips tighter and tighter as the pages run out.  As we find out more about the murders and the killer, we inevitably think more about how we test whether a defendant was insane or not, an issue as present today as in 1869.  Equally relevant now, is the question – when you are subject to the law but the law does not protect you when you need it, can the society you live in really be said to be based on the rule of law?

Review by Bethan

August 20, 2016

Dead Man’s Blues, by Ray Celestin

by Team Riverside

Hardback, Mantle, £12.99, out nowJacket cover

For his second crime mystery novel, Celestin takes us to Jazz age Chicago.  Louis Armstrong is transforming the cornet solo, and Al Capone largely owns the city, which is corrupt at every level.  The novel opens with a gangster funeral almost Roman in scope, where the crowds are showered with blue petals from airplanes.

Three sets of unconventional detectives have cases that converge.  Dante Sanfilippo is a New York booze runner returning to Chicago from exile in New York at the request of Capone, who wants internal gang troubles investigated.  Michael Talbot and Ida Davis, agents at the Pinkertons private detective agency, are looking for a missing heiress.  Jacob, a police photographer, is investigating a gruesome alley death, on his own time.

And so we are introduced to the several different worlds of the city.  The diversity of the characters, in terms of race and class, gives us access to these.  There is complacent old money, garish new money, smoky jazz clubs, dangerous meat yards, and lakeside views.

Ida and Michael will be familiar to readers of The Axeman’s Jazz (https://theriversideway.wordpress.com/2015/06/06/the-axemans-jazz-ray-celestin/).   Those who loved the vivid portrayal of 1919 New Orleans in that novel will be equally pleased with the 1928 Chicago of Dead Man’s Blues.  You don’t have to have read the first one to read this – it can stand alone – but this is the second in a planned quartet, each set in a different city, so it is worth reading in order.  Luckily we have both in stock!

Review by Bethan

January 10, 2016

Disclaimer: Renee Knight

by Andre

Disclaimer RENEE KNIGHTDisclaimer is yet another book being marketed with comparisons to Gone Girl on the cover. In fact, this clever debut set in London and Spain has its own distinctive style and deliciously sinister concept. When Catherine Ravenscroft and her husband downsize, she finds an unfamiliar book by her bedside just as she’s settling into a new chapter in her life. To her horror, the story of The Perfect Stranger is apparently her own: a 20-year-old secret about the tragic Spanish holiday she’d tried to forget. Its lurid plot details a holiday seduction by a married woman who’s also a bad mother – a deadly combination to appear in print. To underline the mysterious author’s baleful intentions, the standard disclaimer is scored through with red ink: any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is definitely not a coincidence.

Catherine is an award-winning documentary maker; perhaps this professional woman who charms her way into other people’s lives deserves this fictional intrusion into her privacy. Disclaimer’s dual narrative pits her against disgraced teacher and widower Stephen Brigstocke, who discovers a fiction manuscript by his wife that reveals his family’s fatal connection to Catherine. When he self-publishes and carefully distributes The Perfect Stranger, Catherine has to fight to regain control of her life – and her story – as the poisonous prose suggests a reckoning is coming. Knight is adept at creating suspense as the gradual revelation of family secrets builds to a shocking denouement in the Spanish sun. Disclaimer is a superior psychological thriller shot through with cruelty, tragedy and insights into the artful nature of fiction, though perhaps not best suited as a beach read.

October 20, 2015

The Murderer in Ruins, Cay Rademacher

by Team Riverside

Arcadia Books, £8.99, paperback out now

“Still half asleep, Chief Inspector Frank Stave reached an arm out across the bed towards his wife, then remembered that she had burned to death in a firestorm three and a half years ago. He balled his hand into a fist, hurled back tCay Rademacher THE MURDERER IN RUINShe blanket and let the ice-cold air banish the last shades of his nightmare”.

So opens The Murderer in Ruins, a gripping historical crime novel set in Hamburg in 1947. The city is experiencing the coldest winter anyone can remember, and refugees and displaced residents are living in the ruins. Hamburg is occupied by the British after being destroyed in the conflict, and it appears that a serial killer is leaving unidentifiable naked bodies in the frozen ruins. Stave has his own problems – his young soldier son is missing, and he is a frequent visitor to the Red Cross reunification office, without success.

The description of the barely-functioning city is completely convincing, and the mystery is satisfyingly gripping and surprising. The lingering poisons of the Third Reich and the war are shown to touch relationships and power structures in post war life. Translated four years after its German publication, and released here by a small press with the support of the Goethe Institute, it is intended to be the first part of a trilogy. I hope Arcadia Press crack on and publish the next two, as I can’t wait to read more from this author.

Review by Bethan

June 6, 2015

The Axeman’s Jazz: Ray Celestin

by Team Riverside

Ray Celestin THE AXEMAN'S JAZZA serial killer is targeting residents of New Orleans. It is 1919, and the Axeman is being pursued not only by Detective Lieutenant Michael Talbot, but also by his nemesis, busted former corrupt cop Luca d’Andrea. Alongside, Ida Davis, a secretary to a private detective with ambitions to be a PI herself, brings in her friend Louis Armstrong to help her solve the case.

Celestin writes so well about the food and music of the city, as well as the communities and physical places, that it made me hunger to visit. This is quite an achievement when the story concerns a real life psychotic axe killer terrorising the population. The jazz, smoke, po’ boy sandwiches, Mafia, style, and corruption all went straight to my head.

He also explores the explosively segregated nature of the city, with different groups living alongside each other but remaining entirely separate. A very young Louis Armstrong provides a useful way for us to encounter some of the jazz, the poverty and the racial violence of the period. This is another historical crime thriller to have a real person in a fictionalised detective role (a similar one is Jed Rubenfeld’s The Interpretation of Murder, which features Freud and Jung in New York in 1909). Based on a true story, this is a very satisfying historical crime mystery – I ate it up in a single bite and was ready for more.

Review by Bethan

September 15, 2014

Ruth Rendell & Penelope Lively

by Andre

Ruth Rendell THE GIRL NEXT DOORAmmonites and Leaping Fish PENELOPE LIVELYIt’s a truism that old age brings a reawakening of childhood memories. For almost every writer, memory is a rich resource, but things get especially interesting when they undergo that memory reboot in their seventies or eighties. At the age of 84 – and 50 years since her debut From Doon with Death – Ruth Rendell has written a captivating novel about that experience. The Girl Next Door is nominally a crime novel, though the killer is identified at the beginning and the crime (a double murder) occurred in 1944. The case is brought to light by the unearthing of a pair of severed hands. What’s fascinating is the effect the grisly discovery has on the 70-somethings who used to play on the site as children. Memories are stirred and lives are shaken up at a time when the days, months and years might appear to be predictable and unchanging.

Penelope Lively’s brief, meditative memoir, Ammonites & Leaping Fish: A Life in Time, is a treasure trove of memory – from childhood in Alexandria to the ‘hospital years’ of old age – filtered through her precise and discursive prose. She is especially good on the working of memory and how it becomes “the mind’s triumph over time”, as well as childhood amnesia and the importance of teaching history (our collective memory). At 81, Lively has written a rich, absorbing memoir that has you hoping for further novels from this former Booker Prize winner.

April 27, 2014

My Criminal World: Henry Sutton

by Andre

Henry Sutton MY CRIMINAL WORLDTake pity on the struggling, middle-aged crime writer. In the case of David Slavitt, his sales are nothing to shout about, younger rivals are coming up with ever more grisly plots, and his career-focused, academic wife doesn’t really think that working from home is a full-time job. And she might be having an affair. As a confessional account of the life of a crime writer, this novel is indispensable. But our fictional, rather ineffectual author doesn’t seem quite ready to kill off his wife’s academic colleagues who sneer at the detective novel; the story’s crime element is rather more subtle and depends on the blurring of fiction and reality as Slavitt gets further into his latest book.

As the police procedural he’s writing takes shape – My Criminal World’s chapters alternate between Slavitt’s humdrum life and his grisly book – he keeps spying a shadowy figure on the street and begins to believe the life he’s created with his wife and young children in suburban Norfolk is under threat. Perhaps he has a love rival ready to oust him, or maybe the danger is something that his subconscious has invented as some kind of psychological response to the travails of the mid-list author.

There are plenty of neat in-jokes in My Criminal World, including the unaccountable popularity of Slavitt in Latvia, where Sutton has also enjoyed success. He’s sharp, too, when it comes to lonely, obsessive fans, unglamorous award ceremonies and bullying agents. It’s a clever, captivating novel that will make you feel a little more sympathy towards the nation’s neglected crime writers.

September 7, 2013

Standing in Another Man’s Grave: Ian Rankin

by Andre

Ian Rankin STANDING IN ANOTHER MAN'S GRAVEIan Rankin SAINTS OF THE SHADOW BIBLEThe return of John Rebus has been one of the great comebacks of the past 12 months, along with that of The Rolling Stones – one of the fictional Edinburgh detective’s favourite bands. (Ian Rankin even named Let It Bleed and breakthrough novel Black and Blue after albums by the Stones.) Having retired Rebus after 17 books, Rankin started on a new crime series featuring the reformed alcoholic Malcolm Fox, an internal affairs police investigator.

Fox is a cold fish and readers have not relished the series as much as several hours in the company of the bloody-minded Rebus. So it was a cunning move by Rankin to bring Rebus back as a civilian working cold cases with Fox as a minor character, who’s cast as the ex-cop’s nemesis and determined to prevent him taking advantage of the raising of the police retirement age to re-join the force. Standing in Another Man’s Grave begins with Rebus contented – he still enjoys a drink in the Oxford Bar and listening to classic rock on vinyl as he nods off in an armchair – and coping with boredom by winding up the young, ambitious boss in cold cases. He’s even reached a truce with arch-enemy and local villain “Big Ger” Cafferty.

This routine’s disrupted when Rebus is persuaded to follow up on the case of a missing girl by her mother. Soon patterns are emerging with that disappearance in 1999 and recent cases of missing women, and Rebus leaves the familiar Edinburgh streets (and pubs) for a road trip along the A9 to the Scottish Highlands. He’s also reunited with his English protégée, DI Siobhan Clarke, and their relationship, fractious but with an unbreakable bond, is at the heart of a novel that has some sly references to the upcoming 2014 independence referendum. Rankin and Rebus are on fine form here – and it promises good things for the next book in the revived Scottish crime series, Saints of the Shadow Bible (out 7 November).

July 27, 2013

The Cuckoo’s Calling: Robert Galbraith

by Andre

Robert Galbraith THE CUCKOO'S CALLINGThis debut novel by Robert Galbraith was published in the spring and attracted admiring notices from fellow crime writers Mark Billingham and Val McDermid. It’s since emerged that it’s J.K. Rowling using a pseudonym and there are certainly plenty of clues this is an author who might not be a fan of the tabloids (Rowling was a witness at the Leveson Inquiry). Her crime novel about the death of a supermodel begins with sardonic description of the media feeding frenzy in the days after Lulu Landry falls from her Mayfair balcony. Yet Rowling avoids striking a high moral tone by virtue of being wickedly funny. “So many columnists made allusion to Icarus that Private Eye ran a special column,” she writes of the coverage of the suspected suicide.

The first book in a new series introduces the gruff, ale-drinking, ex-army private detective Cormoran Strike and his young temp Robin, whose nascent ability for investigation contrasts with the burden of sensible career expectations she expects will consign her to an office “full of gossipy women… all engaged in activities that meant nothing to her”. But I suspect we’ll see more of this double act.

The Cuckoo’s Calling is an ingenious, evocative mystery that takes in London high-life and low-life and Rowling tackles celebrity and wealth with a sly wit. Her insight into football and media rights shows a less sure touch: somehow Strike manages to watch Spurs v Arsenal live on a Saturday afternoon on a portable TV he’s just installed in the Soho office where he’s been camping out since splitting with his girlfriend. And I’m almost pedantic enough to investigate the appearance of handstraps on the Bakerloo Line in Rowling’s novel, though it is set in 2010. A braver editor might have cut some of the descriptive passages but this is still a stylish reinvention of the classic whodunit and a gripping read that will keep you guessing until the end.

July 19, 2013

Jack Glass: Adam Roberts

by Andre

Adam Roberts JACK GLASSAdmirers of Adam Roberts have suggested his clever, playful prose might earn him a Booker Prize nomination if it wasn’t for the fact he writes science fiction. His latest book is a mash-up of SF and Golden Age detective fiction with the exuberance of Anthony Burgess and the self-aware intricacy of academic crime author Michael Innes. Teasingly, the novel is introduced with the revelation that Jack Glass is the murderer in each of its three ensuing mysteries, though his methods and ultimate culpability may be less clear-cut.

After that Dr Watson-style teeing up of our tale, the reader is propelled into a disturbing and ingenious narrative set on an asteroid that’s both prison drama and locked room mystery. As well as being a remarkable display of Roberts’s imaginative power and ironical tone, it also introduces some running themes: the burden or absence of gravity (try cleaning up blood in zero g), the meaning of murder when life is cheap, and a Marxian perspective on intergalactic economics that perhaps places Roberts somewhere to the left of Iain M. Banks. “We’re always the cheapest option, we’re losing absolute value with every generation,” is how humanity’s economic fate is summed up under the authoritarian, trade-obsessed Ulanov regime.

However, Jack Glass is ultimately a dazzling futuristic romp that adroitly negotiates theoretical concepts such as Faster Than Light travel alongside explosive action sequences and cunning crimes. Glass is a gnomic anti-hero with the steel-trap mind of Sherlock Holmes and sagacity of Obi-Wan Kenobi. In part two he comes to the aid of a teenage dignitary, who finds herself tasked with solving what is effectively a country house whodunit (with gravity a key part of the investigation). It’s another virtuoso novel by Roberts and a deserving winner of the John W Campbell Award in the US and the BSFA award in the UK.

June 16, 2013

Generation Loss: Elizabeth Hand

by Andre

Elizabeth Hand GENERATION LOSSThis first book in an edgy new US crime series introduces us to burnt-out punk photographer Cass Neary. Cass is a mess but at least she hasn’t sold out: she’s hooking up with younger men (and sometimes women) in gnarly New York clubs, still listening to Patti Smith and refusing to ditch her ancient Konica for digital. We’re soon rooting for Cass – though we’re also a bit scared of this hard-drinking, tattooed kleptomaniac and her steel-tipped cowboy boots.

Granted a rare journalistic assignment to interview an influential, reclusive photographer, Cass takes a drug-fuelled drive to Maine where she finds a desolate coastal town dotted with posters of missing teenagers. After reaching the photographer’s isolated island (‘what you’d imagine a fairytale would look like if you fell into one’), the interview doesn’t go to plan; now she’s stuck there. So she drinks, hangs out with the more arty locals and picks up on dark hints about an abandoned commune. Cass can’t help stirring up old secrets, though as one character says it’s more that she makes things weird not worse.

This is a story where the crime is revealed, like death-fixated Cass’s creepy photos in the darkroom, slowly and with a sense of dread. Hand also follows Stephen King’s dictum that readers love the intricacies of work by rubbing our noses in the chemical smells and processes of pre-digital photography. Generation Loss is an eerily atmospheric crime novel with an unrepentant bad girl snarling acerbic one-liners between swigs of Jack Daniel’s. Yet Hand’s prose, preoccupied with creative power and its decline, gleams with a luminous beauty even as it’s pulling the reader to an explosive finale. A Sequel, Available Dark, is out on August and Hand’s next book will take Cass on a trip to London – a terrifying but thrilling prospect.

May 25, 2013

The Shining Girls: Lauren Beukes

by Andre

Lauren Beukes THE SHINING GIRLSLauren Beukes has sprung herself from the South African science fiction ghetto into more lucrative high-concept thriller territory, following her sardonic cyberpunk debut Moxyland and the Arthur C. Clarke Award-winning Zoo City. The Shining Girls is a serial killer story set not in Cape Town but Chicago, and it’s based firmly in the 20th century. True, Harper Curtis – a limping drifter who guts his victims, usually moments after a burst of folksy charm – can track his targets (his ‘shining girls’) at various points in time via a portal in a creepy, abandoned house. But, like Stephen King’s 11/22/63, the constrained time travel is a fantastical conceit that you accept within a few pages.

Beukes’s restless narrative certainly jumps across the decades: Harper will be shuffling around Depression-era Chicago then committing a grisly murder in 1943 a few pages later, while in 1993 his pattern of killings is confounding the novel’s protagonist, journalism intern Kirby Mazrachi, the shining girl who got away four years earlier. The writing is economical and affecting and the use of research is almost as formidable as Hilary Mantel’s Tudor novels: Beukes weaves in toxic period detail – racial inequality during World War II, underground abortion clinics in the Sixties – while her authorial voice has an all-American register even if it was honed 8,500 miles away in Cape Town.

The violence is shocking and graphic and Harper is not a murderer we ever really understand. The real strength of the novel is the voice Beukes gives to Harper’s victims, whose lives are documented with humanity and a keen historical perspective. If Studs Terkel had written Silence of the Lambs it might have turned out something like The Shining Girls.