COVER REVEAL: ‘Murder at the Summer Fete’

I reviewed the first instalment of the Dedley End Mystery series, ‘Murder at the House on the Hill’ in September of last year. My headline, (“If Downton did Homicide”) seemed to summarize the plot pretty well and I can’t wait to catch up with the gang as they go after another murder in the countryside.

The cover of Dedley End Mystery, Book 2, ‘Murder at the Summer Fete’

Synopsis:

A fete worse than death…

After finding the killer of Lucy Roth six months ago, life has settled back to normal for bookshop owner, Nancy Hunter, and her grandmother, Jane. The annual Dedley End village fete is just around the corner, and Nancy is delighted when bestselling author, Thomas Green, agrees to launch his first new novel in ten years there.

But then a series of sinister events lead Nancy to realise someone is trying to sabotage their fete, so she, along with Jane and their journalist friend Jonathan, must turn detective to discover who isn’t at all thrilled about the return of Thomas Green.

When a body is discovered at the summer fete, the death scene mirroring that in Thomas’ latest bestseller, they realise that there’s another killer in Dedley End, but can they outsmart someone who appears to have pulled off the perfect crime?

The clues are right under Nancy and Jane’s noses, if only they can find them. Because the answers to life’s questions can always be found in a book…!

A twisty, unputdownable cozy mystery that fans of Richard Osman, S.J. Bennett and ‘The Marlow Murder Club’ will love.

Author Bio

Victoria Walters writes up-lifting and inspiring stories. She’s the author of the bestselling GLENDALE HALL series, which continues with its third book HOPEFUL HEARTS at GLENDALE HALL in September, as well as two other standalone novels – SUMMER at the KINDNESS CAFE, and THE SECOND LOVE of my LIFE. She has been chosen for WHSmith Fresh Talent and shortlisted for two RNA awards. Victoria was also picked as an Amazon Rising Star, and her books have won wide reader acclaim.

Victoria is a full-time author. She lives in Surrey with her cat Harry, and loves books, clothes, music, going out for tea and cake, and posting photos on Instagram.

Find out more about Victoria by following on Instagram at @vickyjwalters,

Twitter: @Vicky_Walters 

She blogs at https://www.victoria-writes.com/.

You can pre-order ‘Murder at the Summer Fete’ ahead of it’s March 17th release here:

The Ties That Bind? It’s a Family Thing

‘Blood Ties’ by Heather Atkinson

The Queen of Glasgow, Toni McVay, is no ordinary crime boss.

For one thing, she likes to discipline disappointing employees by scooping out their eyeballs and keeping them as souvenirs. Jamie Gray and his gang the Blood Brothers are happy to do her dirty work in return for lessons in the ways of the local underworld, but are in no doubt that they need to keep Toni sweet to keep themselves safe.

Rival families The Gordons and The Thompsons are ready for a turf war, keen to take over the lucrative Gallowburn estate, and weaken Toni’s grip on the city. But can the old enemies really trust each other enough to join forces? And will their assumption that the Blood Brothers are the weak link in the McVay empire, prove to be their greatest mistake?

Meanwhile Jamie’s past refuses to stay hidden, and as his biggest secret looks set to be revealed with explosive consequences, Jamie faces the battle of his life. To keep his family safe, to keep his friends safe, to keep himself safe, and to keep the woman he loves alive.  

If you love Martina Cole, Kimberley Chambers, and Jessie Keane, you’ll love Heather Atkinson. Discover the bestselling gangland author Heather Atkinson and you’ll never look back… 

Purchase Link – https://amzn.to/3iFP7CA

It is almost exactly a year since I first reviewed a novel by Heather Atkinson. Attracted by the Glasgow setting, I was full of praise for Atkinson’s ‘Blood Brothers’ and saw her as a “safe pair of hands”.

In June, I reviewed the sequel to ‘Blood Brothers’, ‘Bad Blood’ and I went on an almost hallucinatory literary mash up, taking the bone jarring violence of the novel – especially in the visceral opening battle scene on the streets of her fictional scheme, Gallowgate – and mashed it up with a plethora of ‘Macbeth’ quotes.

Which was different, if nothing else.

Here, though, Atkinson’s latest novel begins to move into different territory. There is a calmer tone, especially in the opening stages of the novel and the sense in which the author is focusing less on the crash, bang, wallop-there-goes-a-chain-to-the-face of the earlier instalments and more on the expanding cast of characters who inhabit the scheme.

It is like the world is expanding and we are peeking behind the curtains of these characters lives. There’s also a humour and a lightness of tone which was not so much in evidence in the earlier outings for these characters.

Fans of the genre and this author should not be concerned, however, there are still plenty of battles and Machiavellian scheming gangsters to go around – and that’s before we get as far as the women who, as in the Godfather, are more dangerous than shotguns.

Atkinson remains an extremely safe pair of hands ‘Blood Ties’ heralds yet another enjoyable and accomplished outing for the folk of the Gallowgate.

There is one moan I have with the novel – although I doubt it is serious or will damage anyone’s enjoyment of the work- No one in Glasgow has called a tattie scone a potato cake in the history of the world.

Either way, I’m sure we’ll live – which is more than can be said when you go against the Blood Brothers.

Author Bio –

Heather Atkinson is the author of over fifty books – predominantly in the crime fiction genre. Although Lancashire born and bred she now lives with her family, including twin teenage daughters, on the beautiful west coast of Scotland.

Social Media Links –  

Website https://www.heatheratkinsonbooks.com/ 

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/booksofheatheratkinson/

Twitter https://twitter.com/HeatherAtkinso1

Instagram https://www.instagram.com/heathercrimeauthor/

Newsletter Sign Up Link http://bit.ly/HeatherAtkinsonNewsletter

Bookbub profile https://www.bookbub.com/authors/heather-atkinson

Boldwood’s IG account – https://www.instagram.com/bookandtonic/

Alex Rider Returns

Today, December 3, sees the return of Alex Rider for the second series based upon the Anthony Horowitz novels. Below is a repost of the original blog post I wrote after having watched Series One. I can’t tell you how excited I am for this second series, as well as the opportunity to hear Samm Henshaw’s belting theme tune in action again either. Enjoy!

REPOST: Full disclosure: I came to this series a fan of the books. I think Anthony Horowitz’s (@anthonyhorowitz) Baby Bond character, now spanning at least 12 novels, is one of the prime reasons why young adult fiction continued to thrive post its initial Potter boom.

I saw the 2006 Stormbreaker adaptation which was, perhaps,  a little “too full of blue sky thinking” really. But I was well disposed towards this and my hopes went up when I realised that they are skating over the top of most of Stormbreaker, the novel, and really beginning with Point Blanc, my enthusiasm increased not least because I think this is probably the best novel in the whole of the Alex Rider series.

So, was I disappointed? Nope. I think, considering the crowded market, the pressure of adapting novels as popular as this, Eleventh Hour TV and Amazon Prime have done an exceptional job.

Casting Otto Farrant (Thomas Grey in The White Queen) as the eponymous lead no doubt attracted some negativity because he’s 20 rather than the 14 that Alex Rider is in the novels but he’s is really good as a slightly ageless late teen and it allows the character to look very convincing in the fighting and action scenes which are put together brilliantly.

One of the points about the novels which made them such a best seller is that although this is Junior James Bond, the actual world of espionage is seen almost through a jaded Le Carre-esque haze of internecine squabbles, blackmail and skulduggery. Rider is a reluctant spy forced to do the bidding of a morality-free state by adults exploiting his skills. There is no shying away from that in this adaptation.

In fact, far from shying away, the production design reflects. Gone are the primary colours of the earlier movie. Here, MI6 is rendered in greys and ash tones. The very strong supporting cast playing Alan Blunt (Game of Thrones Stephen Dillane and Line of Duty’s always excellent Vicky McClure are rooted in this world and seems to exist in a gunmetal sepia which is atmospheric and adds tension and verisimilitude to the whole series.

Added to this mix, Ronke Adekoluejo (Dr Who) as house keeper Jack Starbright and Alex’s best friend Tom Harris, another Games of Thrones alum Brenock O’Connor, a character vastly expanded from the novels, are both very well drawn and manage that difficult task of being real, rounded characters as well as vehicles for exposition and moving the story on.

The set design for Point Blanc is breathtakingly good – you can smell all of that Amazon money just pouring off the screen – and the action set pieces (the make shift snowboard, if you know, you know) are done brilliantly. Being the stunt co-ordinator on this project must have been

The sound design is also a huge bonus. Both the tension building scenes and the action are underpinned by some subtle yet effective scores and, always a bonus, there is a belter of an opening theme tune by London artist Samm Henshaw. I wouldn’t be against EON coming and sniffing around Henshaw for the next grown up Bond theme, although there’s every chance Farrant will be in an old folk’s home by the time they get around to making whatever comes after No Time to Die.

Is it perfect? No, but what is? Guy Burt has done a superb job with adapting Horowitz’s world but occasionally the dialogue is a bit clunky. There is an actual “They crossed the line,”
“No, they can’t even see the line anymore,” exchange which is just… Ouch.

Also, I’m fairly sure the street where Alex lives bears an uncanny resemblance to the one from BBC comedy Outnumbered which did keep making me expect Hugh Denis to wander out on the street and tell everyone to keep it down, which did pull me out of the story a little.

Finally, there is also something of a question about exactly who this is marketed towards – but teens are by their nature neither fully adult nor fully children and that does sit well with the tone of this production which is too violent for little kids but perhaps too slow moving for distracted second screeners?

However, any show with the charm and confidence to have a character wear a t-shirt saying, The Book Was Better, has got to be worth watching, right? Roll on Season Two!

Win a signed copy of ‘A Leap of Faith at the Vineyard in Alsace’ as well as Festive Goodies

Giveaway to Win a signed copy of A Leap of Faith at the Vineyard in Alsace plus some festive goodies (Open to UK Only)

Prize contains the following:

  • a signed paperback copy of A Leap of Faith at the Vineyard in Alsace
  • a sachet of Galaxy instant hot chocolate
  • a tin of RHS stem ginger cookies
  • a RHS Christmas bauble with a snowdrop decoration on it.

*Terms and Conditions –UK entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below or follow the link above.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email.

If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information.

This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/33c69494458/

To read a review of ‘A Leap of Faith in the Vineyard in Alsace’ just follow THIS LINK

Days of Wine and Rosé in Alsace

For your chance to win a signed copy as well as a box of festive goodies, follow this LINK

‘A Leap of Faith at the Vineyard in Alsace’ by Julie Stock

It’s winter at The Vineyard in Alsace, and wedding bells are in the air

How do you know when you’re ready for love?

Ellie Robinson has spent her life running from commitment following the breakdown of her parents’ marriage when she was young. She doesn’t believe in happy ever afters and the last thing she wants is to settle down in one place when she could be travelling the world.

Having moved from place to place throughout his childhood, Henri Weiss now calls the vineyard in Alsace home, and he loves the stability the vineyard and the people on it give him. While he enjoys travelling, it’s always good to come home again.

Following an extended travelling trip together, Ellie and Henri find their differences more marked than before, despite their love for each other being even stronger. Then a series of shocks in Ellie’s personal life throws things into turmoil, leaving Ellie unsure as to how to get everything she wants. And Henri facing the loss of the future he has dreamed of.

Can Ellie and Henri reconcile their very different desires and take a leap of faith on their love for each other? Will they get the happy ever after they’ve both been longing for?

Escape to The Vineyard in Alsace once again for this uplifting, romantic read and enjoy Christmas at Domaine des Montagnes.

Alsace has always held a fascination for me, not entirely logically. I only came across it in history class at school where its sole function seemed to be to be traded between the French and Germans like some territorial top trumps card but, you know, with real people and actual land. So, when Julie Stock’s latest novel came into my review pile, it would have been rude not to have a peek.

If I had known that this novel was the third in a trilogy, then I might have had second thoughts, but I’m very pleased I went ahead with reading and reviewing it any way.

What we have here is the perennial odd couple romance. Ellie and Henri are both decent, honourable people – but nevertheless – they are two people of very different characters. Ellie has the wanderlust in her DNA, Henri wants to stay rooted to his soil and his vineyard.

Personally, I want to do both but what do I know?

Add in the “events, dear boy, events” which have a tendency to beset us all – how’s that wanderlust working out for most of us over the last 24 months? – and you have a novel which zips along as light on the palate as a decent rosé and designed to warm your heart as the weather outside dips in temperature.

Stock shifts the narrative between her two protagonists, allowing the reader an insight into their thoughts and feelings which gives a clarity to their perspectives and acts as weight to their seemingly irreconcilable differences. This can be a high wire act for an author – if the voices are not distinct enough, it grates, if the events too trivial, the characters come off as whiny. Stock navigates these potentially choppy waters with aplomb.

As the days draw shorter in the northern hemisphere (pretty drastically if, like me, you live further north than Oslo) and as variant 3,000-and-something of the dreaded C-lurgy appears on our festive horizons, being encouraged by a charming little novel such as this to remember that the sun on your back, a loved one by your side and a glass of the good stuff in your hand is a path to happiness you can’t go wrong from.

Purchase Links

A Leap of Faith – mybook.to/ALeapofFaith

The 3 book series page – mybook.to/ddmseries

Author Bio –

Julie Stock writes contemporary feel-good romance from around the world: novels, novellas and short stories. She published her debut novel, From Here to Nashville, in 2015, after starting to write as an escape from the demands of her day job as a teacher. A Leap of Faith at the Vineyard in Alsace is her eleventh book, and the third in the Domaine des Montagnes series set on a vineyard.

Julie is now a full-time author, and loves every minute of her writing life. When not writing, she can be found reading, her favourite past-time, running, a new hobby, or cooking up a storm in the kitchen, glass of wine in hand.

Julie is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and The Society of Authors. She is married and lives with her family in Cambridgeshire in the UK.

Social Media Links –

Website

Twitter

WIN ONE OF 5 PAPERBACK COPIES OF ‘THE MURKY WORLD OF TIMOTHY WALL (UK ONLY)

Giveaway to Win 5 x Paperback copies of The Murky World of Timothy Wall (Open to UK Only)

*Terms and Conditions –UK entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over. 

Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data.  

I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/33c69494459/?

No Coal Here Just Backstories to Be Mined

‘The Murky World of Timothy Wall’ by Ian McFadyen

TO WIN A COPY OF ‘THE MURKY WORLD OF TIMOTHY WALL’ FOLLOW THIS LINK

When the body of Timothy Wall, a Private Detective, is fo und in his office, the querulous Inspector Carmichael discovers some surprising revelations and curious contradictions about the dead man. Loved by many and seemingly despised by others in equal measure, Timothy Wall’s whole world seems to be strewn with paradoxes.   

This fast-moving whodunnit, based in the North West of England, sees McFadyen’s detective team tackle one of their most taxing cases yet.

Who killed Timothy Wall? Will one of his numerous lovers or ex-partners provide the answer to the conundrum? And what about Tim’s involvement with the brothers Baybutt, the local bookmakers. Do they know more than they are telling?

As Carmichael and his team seek answers to these questions it becomes crystal clear that all was not quite how it seemed in the life of Timothy Wall. This, the nineth book in the Carmichael series, is full of twists, turns and red herrings that will keep the reader guessing right up to the bitter end. 

What is it about detective fiction that we like so much? I have no definitive answer, although like all great detectives I have my theories.

Something I do know is that I like the conclusion of the mystery, the detective proven correct, the world put to rights – at least for today.

I’m not sure what it was that attracted me to this latest in the Detective Carmichael series by Ian McFadyen. I’d not come across the stories before, I have no connection to Lancashire where they are set (in fact, to the best of my recollection, I’ve never been to Lancashire).

But, I do like a Private Investigator story and I do like a nice police procedural and here was a nice intersection of both: I was in.

Do I regret my choice? Not at all. The characters and setting are obviously well set after so many books and, as in Martin Walker’s Bruno Chief of Police novels which I have written about elsewhere, by now, they are living, breathing people in their own right. McFadyen approaches something like this with Carmichael’s family and his passion for his special pinotage wine.

And, for all Carmichael’s back story and intricate relationships with his colleagues, McFadyen is going to keep the story zipping along at pace and is not afraid to make sure the reader is never allowed to become bored.

Sometimes, the dialogue does tip a little towards the stilted for my taste, but in a novel of well fleshed out characters, with convincing motivations, backstories and plenty of mysteries to be unravelled, this is a small complaint which shouldn’t deter anyone from exploring the world of McFadyen’s Carmichael universe.

Purchase Links

Book Guild – https://www.bookguild.co.uk/bookshop/book/302/The%20Murky%20Wall%20of%20Timothy%20Wall/

Bookshop.org – https://uk.bookshop.org/books/the-murky-world-of-timothy-wall/9781913913441

Waterstones – https://www.waterstones.com/book/the-murky-world-of-timothy-wall/ian-mcfadyen/9781913913441

Foyles – https://www.foyles.co.uk/witem/fiction-poetry/the-murky-world-of-timothy-wall,ian-mcfadyen-9781913913441

WHSmith – https://www.whsmith.co.uk/products/the-murky-world-of-timothy-wall/ian-mcfadyen/paperback/9781913913441.html

Amazon – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Murky-World-Timothy-Wall/dp/1913913449/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=The+Murky+World+of+Timothy+Wall&qid=1632920646&sr=8-1

Book Depository – https://www.bookdepository.com/The-Murky-World-of-Timothy-Wall-Ian-McFadyen/9781913913441

Author Bio –

AUTHOR — Author Ian McFadyen visits Ulverston Library to talk to local people about his books. Thursday 30th October 2014. HARRY ATKINSON REF:

Ian McFadyen grew up in Lancashire, the setting for the Carmichael series of detective novels. Having studied marketing at Huddersfield University he had a 30-year career in sales and marketing with leading global companies in the electronics industry before switching full-time to writing. He has published eight books in the Carmichael series so far, several of which are available in large print, two have been translated and published in Italian and two in Czech. He lives in Bishop’s Stortford, Herts.

Social Media Links –

FB : Facebook.com/ianmcfadyenauthor

Twitter : @ianMcFadyen1

Old Friends and Home Cooked Meals

‘Bruno’s Challenges and Other Dordogne Tales’ by Martin Walker

A bumper collection of delightful stories featuring Bruno, Chief of Police and France’s favourite cop, all set in the beautiful Dordogne valley and the ravishing Perigord region of the south west. Here is a landscape of meandering rivers with medieval castles overlooking their banks, of lush hillsides and spreading vineyards, of delicious local wines and world renowned cuisine.

With titles like ‘The Chocolate War’; ‘The Birthday Lunch’; ‘Oystercatcher’; ‘A Market Tale’ and ‘Fifty Million Bubbles’, you may be sure that champagne and gastronomy will feature as well as cosy crime in ‘Dangerous Vacation’. Bruno strides through these tales, staying calm. settling local disputes and keeping safe his beloved town of St Denis.

Only on one occasion does he panic: in ‘Bruno’s Challenge’, his friend Ivan, proprietor and chef of the town’s popular eatery, suddenly collapses on the eve of a large anniversary dinner, and he asks Bruno to take over the restaurant. After a few protests followed by some deep breaths, the inimitable Bruno meets his challenge and saves the day. (Synopsis courtesy of Quercus Books)
https://www.quercusbooks.co.uk/titles/martin-walker/brunos-challenge-other-dordogne-tales/9781529418125

To be honest, I’m pretty firmly on the record as a fan of Martin Walker and his Bruno novels, so this is not exactly going to be impartial criticism.

https://pajnewman.com/2021/05/27/a-warm-heart-for-a-cold-case/

In essence, I love them. Whenever Walker launches his noble rugby-playing, cuisine-loving, unlucky-in-love village policeman on the literary world, I’m buying it and I am ready to be transported to the Perigord, sign me up and destination added to the bucket list thank you very much.

Interestingly, what I do not like is short stories. Not sure why; it’s a prejudice like an aversion to sci-fi or the ballet. I can understand that these things might have appeal, but I kind of feel like it’s not for me.

Except, these are for me. I’d actually purchased the festive story, Le Père Noël, previously as a Kindle single and it bears re-reading and is a lovely showcase for Bruno’s generosity of spirit which is at the heart of this series of stories.

The other delight of this collection of stories are two-fold. Firstly, the gang’s (nearly) all here: Pamela, the Mad Englishwoman – who is neither mad nor English which is charming as ever – Isabelle, the itch Bruno can never scratch, Florence, the schoolteacher who Bruno saved and installed at the local école and who is the woman the fans think he should end up with. Jack Crimson, retired intelligence agent assisting Bruno as he encounters various dangers, and his daughter Miranda who now works with Pamela and the horses. Finally, local doctor Fabiola and her partner Gilles, late of Paris Match and Sarajevo where he initially met our war hero Bruno, are all present and correct and often eating.

Secondly, there is the regional cuisine of the Perigord. Walker, Bruno and his fictional friends are all dedicated to these regional delicacies: as are Walker’s daughters Kate and Fanny who appear to be instrumental in the cookbook which exists (only in German at the moment, although I’ve heard tell of an English language translation on the horizon). It is this passion which sees stories of cooking flood through this collection like flavours layered in a well-made Cassoulet.

And so I have been converted to the short story as a form, at least when it brings my old fictional friends a-calling and leaves me sated for their company but hungry for dinner.

Purchase Links:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/search/ref=sr_adv_b/?field-isbn=9781529418125&tag=hachetteuk-21

Apple: http://geo.itunes.apple.com/gb/book/isbn9781529418125?app=music&at=10lwkR

Bookshop.org: https://uk.bookshop.org/books/bruno-s-challenge-other-dordogne-tales/9781529418101

Google: https://play.google.com/store/search?q=9781529418125&c=books

Kobo: http://kobobooks.com/search/search.html?q=9781529418125

EBook.com: http://www.ebooks.com/aff.asp?AID=42562&term=9781529418125&CreditorID:6500

Waterstones: https://www.waterstones.com/book/brunos-challenge-and-other-dordogne-tales/martin-walker/9781529418101

Martin Walker

After a long career of working in international journalism and for think tanks, Martin Walker now gardens, cooks, explores vineyards, writes, travels, and has never been more busy. He divides his time between Washington, D.C., and the Dordogne. You can find more about Walker at his website, http://www.brunochiefofpolice.com/about-the-author.html

Murder and Mayhem Ideal for the Time of Year

‘Murder at the Abbey’ by Frances Evesham

The Brand NEW instalment in the bestselling Exham-on-Sea series.

An unsolved murder echoes down the corridors of Cleeve Abbey for years.

The Exham-on-Sea’s History Society’s annual summer picnic comes to an abrupt end when human bones are discovered in Washford River, beside historic Cleeve Abbey.

Thrilled to find evidence of a possible centuries-old murder mystery, the members of the society organise a ghost-hunting night in the ruins of Cleeve Abbey, despite amateur sleuth Libby Forest’s reservations.

Libby is a woman of many talents, a baker, chocolatier, even a reluctant sleuth, but she’s no fan of the supernatural and her doubts are justified when a friend is attacked under cover of darkness at the ghost-hunt.

Distressed and angry, Libby sets out with her new husband Max and their two dogs Bear and Shipley to uncover the connection between the murder of a sixteenth century monk and a present-day attack in picturesque Somerset.

With friends and neighbours as suspects, Libby and Max close in on the culprit only to find that others are still in danger.

There’s no time to lose as the sins of the past threaten lives in the community.

Murder at the Abbey is the eighth in a series of Exham-on-Sea Murder Mysteries from the small English seaside town full of quirky characters, sea air, and gossip.

Purchase Link – https://amzn.to/3BJyYn1

Sometimes in one’s reading life, you just want something which acts like hot chocolate on a cold autumn afternoon. I’m new to the world of Frances Evesham’s Exham-on-Sea Murder Mystery series, but I’m willing to say, her stories fit the bill.

Considering there are now seven previous instalments I need to catch up with, it is not a surprise that the characters feel comfortable in each other’s company but what Evesham does capture so well is the niggling, internecine rivalries and petty irritations which can so blight village life.

It seems to be the season for duel aspect narratives. Coincidentally, this week I was reviewing another novel where the events ran along two timelines – https://pajnewman.com/2021/11/09/jesus-only-had-12-and-one-of-those-was-a-double/ – and rewatching the Wench is Dead episode of perennial where the ailing detective sets out to solve a Victorian murder.

One of the things I enjoyed most about this was Libby’s determination to discount the supernatural. Firstly, I have a deep rooted prejudice against those type of ghost stories on the grounds it’s a narrative cop out and secondly, setting her up as the hard bitten rationalist allows us to enjoy her intellectually outpacing her mentally sluggish neighbours.

‘Murder at the Abbey’ is a fast moving novel with charming settings and eccentric characters in the best traditions of the cozy crime genre. Be sure to sup it down with some hot chocolate on a chill evening.

Author Bio – Frances Evesham is the author of the hugely successful Exham-on-Sea mysteries set in her home county of Somerset. Boldwood has republished the complete series. Frances has also started a new cosy crime series set in rural Herefordshire, the first of which was published in June 2020.


Social Media Links – 
 

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/frances.evesham.writer/

Twitter https://twitter.com/francesevesham  

Instagram https://www.instagram.com/francesevesham/

Newsletter Sign Up Link https://bit.ly/FrancesEveshamSignUp  

Bookbub profile https://www.bookbub.com/authors/frances-evesham  

https://www.instagram.com/bookandtonic/

“Jesus Only Had 12 and One of Those Was a Double…”

‘Judas 62’ by Charles Cumming

A spy in one of the most dangerous places on Earth…

1993: Student Lachlan Kite is sent to post-Soviet Russia in the guise of a language teacher. In reality, he is there as a spy. Top secret intelligence agency BOX 88 has ordered Kite to extract a chemical weapons scientist before his groundbreaking research falls into the wrong hands. But Kite’s mission soon goes wrong and he is left stranded in a hostile city with a former KGB officer on his trail.

An old enemy looking for revenge…

2020: Now the director of BOX 88 operations in the UK, Kite discovers he has been placed on the ‘JUDAS’ list – a record of enemies of Russia who have been targeted for assassination. Kite’s fight for survival takes him to Dubai, where he must confront the Russian secret state head on… (Synopsis courtesy of Harper Collins)

For some time, Charles Cumming has been one of the best working spy writer’s today. Alongside Simon Conway and Mick Herron, he has been producing first-rate work in novels such as Typhoon, Trinity Six and his Thomas Kell trilogy (‘A Foreign Country’, ‘A Colder War’ and ‘A Divided Spy’)

It has always struck me as unfair for these writers to be consistently referenced alongside John Le Carre – a writer whom I hold in the highest regard. Whilst Cumming has been one of our best for 20 years, Le Carre was obviously a genre defining author whose very language of espionage has entered their trade. Now THAT is a legacy.

Last year’s ‘Box 88’ was a delight. It was spy ficiton as Proust, Cumming luxuriating in the school days of his lead character and (apparently) mining his own biography to weave a tapestry of a period as evocatively rendered as a tea soaked madeleine. Ironically, it was also the novel which arguably brought Cumming closest to Le Carre territory.

‘Box 88’, intercutting as it did Lachlan Kite’s present day problems as a team of skilled operatives invade and abduct his wife, with his recruitment into the shadowy organisation Box, has echoes of Le Carre’s ‘A Perfect Spy’. (‘A Perfect Spy’ is, lest anyone forget, the work labelled by no less an authority than Phillip Roth as, “the best English novel since the war” so this is far from a criticism.  

As much as I enjoyed ‘Box 88’, the structure was – if anything – the biggest issue with it. It was fairly obviously the beginning of a series and this meant that neither the story set in the 1980s nor that of the contemporary events really had an opportunity to ratchet up the tension. Kite obviously survived in the flashback, he was almost certain to survive in the present too.

‘Judas 62’ is obviously going to suffer from the same thing. But, here, Cumming avoids the trap by slightly altering the structure. We are reintroduced to Kite as Covid lockdowns are making espionage even more tricky and Box are working as a skeleton crew. Instead of then intercutting the narrative every other chapter, here Cumming chooses to tell one story then the other. Although we know Kite is not going to peg out any time soon, there is a greater tension and some fantastically palm-sweat inducing descriptions of his operation and the harrowing fall out which follows.

Few people can write such convincing action and conjure a world so effectively as Cumming. His ability to render the mundane – WhatsApp conversations, a cricket match –  and contrast with the high stakes of the missions of his characters.

There are few writers as adept at creating characters you care about and tension on a minute by minute basis as Cummings and, in Lachlan Kite, he has a flawed hero of self awareness and a lorry load of festering regrets.

‘Judas 62’ is a triumph of a novel and I look forward to the third instalment as soon as I can get my hands on it. This is vintage Cummings and I just hope he has ready access to the French patisserie and the old pot of tea if he’s going to use any more of remembrance of things past.

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Charles Cumming

Charles Cumming was born in Scotland in 1971. He was educated at Eton and graduated from the University of Edinburgh in 1994 with First Class Honours in English Literature. The Observer has described him as “the best of the new generation of British spy writers who are taking over where John le Carré and Len Deighton left off”. In the summer of 1995, Charles was approached for recruitment by the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS). A year later he moved to Montreal where he began working on a novel based on his experiences with MI6. A Spy By Nature was published in the UK in 2001. (Biography courtesy of Harper Collins)