Boulangeries, Bodies and Widowhood

‘Body on the Rocks’ Rachel Green

Mourning the death of her police inspector husband, Margot Renard moves to a small seaside town in the south of France. But when the body of a small boy washes up on a beach, Margot is drawn into a dangerous world of drug smugglers and people trafficking, and forced to cross paths with two feuding gangsters.

Other people on the tour today include Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers and Westveil Publishing

It is pretty exciting in the week that the ‘Friends’ reunion has dominated social media and TV, to get a novel from the pseudonymous pen of a Rachel Green – although, presumably this one still has her original face.

What we have in this novel is Book One in a series – Book Two is already available, as is a short story when you visit Green’s website – featuring Madam Renard.

Relocating from Paris to the Mediterranean town of Argents-sur-Mer, the recently widowed Renard is soon investigating the dark undercurrents of the pretty surface of rural France.

This is a novel bathed in melancholy – there certainly seems to be overtones of the awful Alan Kurdi case in the set up – and Green is willing to delve into the unpalatable attitudes of some of the locals. This sadness is reinforced by the way that the character of Renard is still processing the life she was going to live with her husband in their rural escape, a future now snatched away from her.

Green is clearly an accomplished writer. She is alert to colour and the subtleties and nuance of people’s movements and, always a big bonus for me, her dialogue has the snap and sparkle of real people.

Overall, this is moving, novel as bathed in the ambience of France as an oven fresh croissant with a piping hot coffee accompaniment. I look forward to reading Book Two. Bravo!

Purchase Links

UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Body-Rocks-France-Madame-Investigates-ebook/dp/B08X1GJ9GX

US –  https://www.amazon.com/Body-Rocks-France-Madame-Investigates-ebook/dp/B08X1GJ9GX

Author Bio – Rachel Green is the pen name of a writer from the UK. Rachel has twice been longlisted for both the Bath Novel Award and the BPA First Novel Award, as well as being on the shortlist for the Capital Crime New Voices Award. Rachel lives in a tiny village in England, but travels frequently to the south of France where the stories from the Madame Renard Investigates series are set.

Social Media Links – Twitter: @AuthorRachelG  Facebook: AuthorRachelG

A Warm Heart for a Cold Case

The Coldest Case’ by Martin Walker

An anonymous skull, an unsolved murder, sinister rumors from the Cold War era of espionage–Bruno’s investigation into a long-standing cold case finds him caught between an enigmatic winegrower and a menacing Communist organization from the past.

After attending an exhibit on the facial reconstruction of ancient skulls, Bruno wonders if this technology might provide an invaluable clue to a thirty-year-old cold case. But learning the identity of the murder victim is only the beginning.

The investigation quickly turns thorny and leads Bruno to a reclusive vintner, Henri Bazaine, whose education at a vocational school in a formerly Communist region has raised some eyebrows. An inquiry into the defunct school turns up shadowy reports of possible connections and funding from the Stasi, the repressive police agency of the former East Germany. The scrutiny on Henri intensifies once Bruno discovers that he was declared dead thirty years ago and has been living under an assumed name ever since.

The strange case is further complicated as Parisian bureaucrats get involved, hinting that essential diplomatic relations might be at stake. And to make matters even worse, the Dordogne is suffering from an intense summer drought that is sparking fires across the region. But as always, Bruno will keep a cool head through it all–and, bien sûr, takes time to enjoy a sumptuous Périgordian meal!

Blurb courtesy of Penguin Randomhouse

In 2008, I paid an amount of money I am now horrified to recall, to go to the Harrogate Crime Writing Festival.

Before I left the small, Highland village I was then living in, I paid a visit to its delightful little bookshop and picked up a paperback copy of Martin Walker’s debut novel, Bruno Chief of Police (now known as Death in the Dordogne I believe) on the strength of a friendly little cover illustration and the blurb on the back.

I gulped that opening instalment down and – by the time I got to Harrogate – I had already pre-ordered the then upcoming sequel, The Dark Vineyard, in hardback and was sufficiently impressed to rather shyly and haltingly stop Walker in the street to tell him that I was terribly sorry but could I just tell him how much I enjoyed his book.

He was graciousness itself and told me never to worry about saying that to an author, which seems like good advice. I’ve also remained a loyal fan of the series which now extends to The Coldest Case, the fourteenth episode in the life and adventures of Chef de Police, Bruno Courreges.

To be honest, most reviewers focus on the setting and the cooking. I have been close to the Perigourd but never had the pleasure. It sounds idyllic. I’m also very pleased to learn that next year will see a release of Bruno’s cookbook in an English translation – till now only available in German.

Personally, however, whilst I love a nice description of a prehistoric cave or of Bruno whistled rendition of the Marseillaise being the perfect length of time to boil an egg, my love of the series is because of the characters and the fact that these are tightly plotted, espionage-tinged stories with enough in them to satisfy any true genre fan.

Walker is clearly interested in the Cold War, it’s ripple-like effects on the present day and the intricacies of the complex working of the French security services and the way they intersect with someone on the lowest of shop floors – even if they are a Croix de Guerre holder constantly being seconded to the Interior Ministry like Bruno.

All in all, these are possibly the most underrated series of novels in the crime/espionage genre currently available today and – considering there is a top notch set of audiobook narrated by Peter Noble available – there is really no excuse for not entering the world of Bruno and St Denis.

Martin Walker, after a long career of working in international journalism and for think tanks, 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

Wider Horizons

‘The Legacy’ by Alison Knight

An unexpected inheritance. A web of deceit. A desperate escape. 

London, 1969.

James has his dreams of an easy life shattered when his aunt disinherits him, leaving her fortune to her god-daughter, Charlotte. He turns to his friend, Percy, to help him reclaim his inheritance – and to pay off his creditors. But when their plans backfire, James becomes the pawn of Percy and his criminal associates.

Charlotte is stunned when she is told of her windfall. After an attempt at cheating her out of her inheritance fails, James tries to intimidate her. But she is stronger than he thinks, having secrets of her own to guard, and sends him away with a bloody nose and no choice but to retreat for now.

Resigned, James and his spoilt, pampered girlfriend, Fliss, Percy’s sister, travel across France on a mission that promises to free James from the criminals for good. But James isn’t convinced he can trust Fliss, so he makes his own plans to start a new life.

Will James be able to get away, or will his past catch up with him? Will Charlotte’s secrets turn the legacy into a curse?

Purchase Link –  mybook.to/legacy

When I reviewed Alison Knight’s debut novel, ‘Mine’, in November of 2020 (https://pajnewman.com/2020/11/30/fate-and-the-effects-of-mine/) I did not expect to be reviewing her next instalment in the sixties universe she created so soon.

However, here I think I may have underestimated the industry of Knight who has produced this entertaining novella in short order.

Also existing in the Eastender-meets-the-Krays milieu of the full length novel, this takes a relatively minor event from that story and spins out the event offering a fresh perspective and Knight’s usual classy writing.

An enjoyable amuse bouche of a novella which can be gulped in a nourishing afternoon.

Author Bio

Alison has been a legal executive, a registered childminder, a professional fund-raiser and a teacher. She has travelled the world – from spending a year as an exchange student in the US in the 1970s and trekking the Great Wall of China to celebrate her fortieth year and lots of other interesting places in between.

In her mid-forties Alison went to university part-time and gained a first-class degree in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University and an MA in the same subject from Oxford Brookes University, both while still working full-time. Her first book was published a year after she completed her master’s degree.

The Legacy is a drama set in 1960s London. Like her previous book, Mine, it explores themes of class, ambition and sexual politics, showing how ordinary people can make choices that lead them into extraordinary situations.

Alison teaches creative and life-writing, runs workshops and retreats with Imagine Creative Writing Workshops (www.imaginecreativewriting.co.uk) as well as working as a freelance editor. She is a member of the Society of Authors and the Romantic Novelists’ Association.

She lives in Somerset, within sight of Glastonbury Tor.

Social Media Links –

www.facebook.com/alison.knight.942
https://twitter.com/Alison_Knight59  
www.imaginecreativewriting.co.uk
www.darkstroke.com/dark-stroke/alison-knight/

And Then There Were Five Trapped on a Creepy Island

‘Buried For Good’ by Alex Coombs

On a remote island, everyone is a suspect…

When Private Investigator Hanlon is hired to protect famous yoga instructor Camille Anderson on her Scottish island retreat, she thinks this may be her simplest job yet.


But when an attack on Camille’s life goes wrong, it soon becomes clear that there is a murderer on the island – and Hanlon will stop at nothing to track them down.

With only a small group of guests the suspects are clear, but as the body count rises Hanlon must step up to find out who the killer is before it’s too late…

A tense, atmospheric page-turner from Alex Coombs. Perfect for fans of Angela Marsons and Lisa Regan.

Last year, I wrote that Alex Coombs’ first outing in the Hanlon series, ‘Missing for Good’ was “a rattling good read, sprinting along with enjoyable gusto and building to a satisfying crescendo.”

I liked the eye for detail that Coombs displayed and those tensions between areas – Hanlon’s Argyll base contrasting with the pretentions of Edinburgh’s art world and Glasgow’s rougher edges.

In ‘Buried for Good’ Hanlon is back in fine form. Some of the clunkier aspects of the dialogue are absent here (although all writers should immediately exorcise the phrase “as you know” from their work forthwith – you hear me Mercurio?)

Here Hanlon is on a mission to protect a yoga teacher-cum-social media influencer who has been receiving threatening messages and our fearless detective must join a retreat on a remote Scottish island.

So far, so Agatha Christie – remote, cut off location? Check. Limited cast of characters, to whom bad things are going to happen? Check. Storm clouds – literal and metaphorical – gathering? Check and double check.

It is not a sophisticated formula, but it is certainly an effective one. Coombs is a writer who moves things along making the readers cheer on our emotionally fragile heroine as she scraps away at the darker sides of life.

This is another fast, paced engaging read from a seriously talented storyteller. Once the elements are all lined up, Coombs lets the spiralling mayhem rip in accomplished fashion. Another highly recommended outing for Hanlon, PI.

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

Author Bio –

Alex Coombs studied Arabic at Oxford and Edinburgh Universities and went on to work in adult education and then retrained to be a chef. He is the author of the highly acclaimed DCI Hanlon series.

Social Media Links –

Newsletter sign up: http://bit.ly/AlexCoombsNewsletter

Website – http://www.alexcoombs.co.uk/

Twitter https://twitter.com/AlexCoombsCrime

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