Junior West(Minster) Wing

‘Mystery in the Palace of Westminster’ by Sarah Lustig

Also on the tour today, The Pufflekitteh Reads

Theo Duncan is just an ordinary student. Except he also happens to be the son of the Prime Minister, Will Duncan. 

When the parliamentary mace is stolen from inside the Houses of Parliament, Theo is determined to help his dad get it back. But he can’t do it alone. And when help is offered, there’s a problem. It comes from the new girl at school, Sammy Jhor, who’s a supporter of the opposition party. 

Theo and Sammy form an unlikely team to spy on government officials, sneak through the corridors of Downing Street and pursue the thief through the Palace of Westminster. 

But when the evidence points to suspects at the highest levels of government, finding the thief could threaten Will Duncan’s leadership. 

Can Theo and Sammy put aside their differences to find the mace – and the thief – before the government is brought to its knees? 

As always with anything which touches on politics in literature, there is the difficulty of life colliding with fiction.

For example, reading this frightfully nice book aimed at children/young adults, the thing which most stands out for a reader in the contemporary age is exactly this collision.

Hear teenage son of a Prime Minister, think Euan Blair.

Hear a Prime Minister even deigning to acknowledge paternity of a child think, ‘Nope, not going to happen’.

Also unbelievable in the modern age – a PM in any way interested in things “like recovering the parliamentary mace and by extension the legitimacy of the government.’ Our glorious leader prefer proroguing.

None of this is the fault of Sarah Lustig who has written a nice, old fashioned novel set around the aforementioned recovery of the mace of state.

Poor 14 – nearly 15, mind – Theo has to contend with the usual embarrassing parents, except his father is flanked by armed personal protection officers and he can’t open his front door without cameras clicking and journalists shouting questions.

On the bright side, Samira (Sammy ) Jhor has just joined his school, and now his heart is aflutter while they set off on a quest to help his father.

I enjoy these sort of young adult(ish) novels when they come across the review queue. A criticism might be that they central protagonists always seem very young – I work in high schools. 15 year olds aren’t this nice. There’s lot more single entendre and vaping.

However, in a world where the Home Secretary would no doubt be deporting Samira unless her parents donated a tennis game’s worth of cash in a suitcase to prove she wasn’t the wrong kind of immigrant and the Prime Minister is trying to spend his time crowbarring his partner into six figure government careers whilst simultaneously turning the heart of government into the last days of Nero’s Rome, it is nice to read a novel as well written, pure hearted and entertaining as ‘Mystery in the Palace of Westminster’.

I sincerely wish that those at the top in the real world has as much civic responsibility and interest in doing what is right for the country as 14 year old Theo.

This is as assured a debut as I have read by an author working in this genre and I look forward to Book Two immensely.  

Purchase Links

https://www.sarahlustig.com/product-page/mystery-in-the-palace-of-westminster

https://www.waterstones.com/book/mystery-in-the-palace-of-westminster/sarah-lustig/9781739773601

Author Bio –

Sarah Lustig grew up in London and went to school in Westminster, with politicians’ children. Her experiences at school and interest in politics inspired the idea for the Westminster Mysteries series. Mystery in the Palace of Westminster is her debut novel. She has been a book editor for nearly 15 years and now lives in Buckinghamshire, where she spends her time reading, writing and pottering on her balcony garden.

Social Media Links –

https://www.instagram.com/sarahlbooks/

Digging with Spades, Coming Up Trumps

‘Murder in the Cards’ by Gina Cheyne

Also on the tour today, The Word is Out – Alyson’s Reviews  

Death is the rule, survival the exception in 1960s Soho bridge circles

When the SeeMs Agency detectives play bridge online in 2020, they don’t expect their opponent to die during the game and yet a post-mortem the next day proves Brian Deliverer was dead halfway through the night. Can a dead man play bridge?

Employed by Brian’s daughter Karen to investigate his death, the team are led back to a notorious 1920s murder and to a missing teenager from a Sussex village in the 1960s.

Should they tell his daughter the terrible truth behind her father’s death even if it costs her everything?

‘Murder in the Cards’ is the third instalment in Gina Cheyne’s SeeMs Agency stories. I was lucky enough to be on the blog tour for the opening novel, ‘The Mystery of the Lost Husbands’ back in March.

That initial novel in the sequence had a lovely, quite charm to it. The establishment of the detective agency, the gentle concept of the SeeMs Dog Detective Agency all whispered cosy crime and we know what to expect.

Now at novel three, Cheyne is expanding her work to feature aspects of structure – a duel timeline narrative mixing events in the sixties with lockdown fever for Miranda in the 2020s. She’s also using a specific vernacular in the 1960s setting – that of Polari, a secret language of the gay community in use at the time. Obviously, this adds a lovely period detail and authenticity but also achieves that thing which really good crime fiction can do: educate and entertain together.

With further complications linking even further back to the 1920s, this is a novel which will keep you guessing till the end and when and if we discover whether Miranda and the team can come up trumps.

Purchase Links

Author Bio –

Gina has worked as a physiotherapist, a pilot, freelance writer and a dog breeder.

As a child, Gina’s parents hated travelling and never went further than Jersey. As a result she became travel-addicted and spent the year after university bumming around SE Asia, China and Australia, where she worked in a racing stables in Pinjarra, South of Perth. After getting stuck in black sand in the Ute one time too many (and getting a tractor and trailer caught in a tree) she was relegated to horse-riding work only. After her horse bolted down the sand, straining a fetlock and falling in the sea, she was further relegated to swimming the horses only in the pool. It was with some relief the racehorse stables posted her off on the train into eastern Australia to work in a vineyard… after all what could go wrong there?

In the north of Thailand, she took a boat into the Golden Triangle and got shot at by bandits. Her group escaped into the undergrowth and hid in a hill tribe whisky still where they shared the ‘bathroom’ with a group of pigs. Getting a lift on a motorbike they hurried back to Chiang Rai, where life seemed calmer.

After nearly being downed in a fiesta in Ko Pha Ngan, and cursed by a witch in Malaysia, she decided to go to Singapore and then to China where she only had to battle with the language and regulations.

Since marrying the first time, she has lived and worked in many countries including Spain and the USA.

For a few years Gina was a Wingwalking pilot, flying, amongst others, her 64-year-old mother standing on the wing to raise money for a cancer charity. She was also a helicopter instructor and examiner and took part in the World Helicopter Championships in Russia and the USA.

She became a writer because her first love was always telling a good yarn!

Under the name Georgina Hunter-Jones she has written illustrated children’s books such as The Twerple who had Too Many Brains, and Nola the Rhinoceros loves Mathematics.

She now lives in Sussex with her husband and dogs, one of who inspired the Biscuit and Pugwash Detective Series about naughty dogs who solve crimes.

Murder in the Cards’ is the second in the SeeMS Detective Agency series

Social Media Links –

Website: www.ginacheyne.com

Taking Wings Against A Blackened Sky

The Sky Turned Black’ by John Steele

Also on the tour today, B For Bookreview

HIS BIGGEST CASE YET. BUT IT COULD BE HIS LAST…

NYPD officer Callum Burke is on a routine drugs raid when he bursts in on a scene of unimaginable horror – and two killers about to get away.

The men are caught but they won’t talk. All the cops know is that they’re Russian and extremely dangerous which means this could be the start of a savage new gang war.

Callum Burke is tasked with finding out what is going on. It’s Manhattan in 1997 and the city is being cleaned up. The pressure is on.

But when Callum discovers there might be more to the Russian involvement than just criminal gangs, he finds himself in deeper trouble than he’s ever known…

‘Hard and intriguing. Callum Burke is a cop on the edge’ David Albertyn

‘The Sky Turned Black will make your head spin’ T. J. English

‘The Sky Turned Black is a crime saga that combines gritty detail with a global scope’ Thomas Mullen

John Steele’s last novel, 2021’s ‘Rat Island’ was a heavyweight tome which attracted praise from the some heavyweight names (Tony Parson, Claire McGowan) and drew comparisons with the undisputed heavyweight of the American crime saga, Don Winslow. So, pretty good company then.

My own review, described the first in this series of novels as, “a tautly atmospheric portrait of New York at that tipping point in its history as it moved from pimps and hoes, No-Go Zone to the sanitised tourist trap it was to become.”

Here, Steele – and what a great name for a writer of hard-boiled detective fiction that is – picks up the character in 1997 as that move towards tourist friendly city is underway.

The arrival of the post-Perestroika Russians adds a further element to the sprawling city which Steele is working to render like a 3D map of the evolution of New York as well as adding a contemporary resonance.

As well as working picture of a city becoming aware of its new identity, Steele writes action with an adrenaline-fuelled punch.

If you like your thrillers sophisticated, thoroughly rooted in the real world and sprinkled with the verisimilitude of a period piece, then ‘The Sky Turned Black’ will brighten your day.

Purchase Links

UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Turned-Black-Callum-Burke-NYPD-ebook/dp/B09T6VFQM1/

US – https://www.amazon.com/Turned-Black-Callum-Burke-NYPD-ebook/dp/B09T6VFQM1/

Author Bio –

John Steele was born and raised in Belfast, Northern Ireland. In 1995, at the age of twenty-two he travelled to the United States and has since lived and worked on three continents, including a thirteen-year spell in Japan. Among past jobs he has been a drummer in a rock band, an illustrator, a truck driver and a teacher of English. He now lives in England with his wife and daughter.

He began writing short stories, selling them to North American magazines and fiction digests. He has published four previous novels: Ravenhill, Seven Skins, Dry River and Rat Island, the first of which was longlisted for a CWA Debut Dagger award. John’s books have been described as ‘remarkable’ by the Sunday Times, ‘dark and thrilling’ by Claire McGowan, and ‘spectacular’ by Tony Parsons. The Irish Independent called John ‘a writer of huge promise’ and Gary Donnelly appointed him ‘the undisputed champion of the modern metropolitan thriller’.

Social Media Links –

Twitter: @JohnSte_author

Giveaway to Win 5 x PB copies of The Sky Turned Black (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/33c69494503/?

‘Five Dead Men’ by Rachel Green

‘Five Dead Men’ by Rachel Green

Also on the blog tour today: www.ramblingmads.com http://splashesintobooks.wordpress.com  

When the bodies of five men are discovered in a secret vault at the villa Belle Époque, suspicion falls upon the villa’s former owner, enigmatic Pascal Deveraux.

Actor, gambler, general good-for-nothing – Pascal has lived a life of privilege and excess. But with no evidence to implicate him in murder, the case goes unsolved.

Called in to investigate the cold case, it’s not long before Margot’s enquiries re-open old wounds. Aided by policière municipale, Alia Leon, the investigation moves swiftly from the smugglers’ trails of the Pyrenees to the cannabis clubs of Barcelona. And it’s there, in the dark medieval streets of the city’s Gothic Quarter, that someone finds a reason to silence her.

When I reviewed the first instalment in the Madame Renard Investigates series I described Rachel Green as “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.”

 This sense very clearly continues as the widowed investigator returns for her second outing. Green is – in a similar way to the work of Martin Walker which I praised so highly last week building a milieu and cast of characters which are becoming like familiar friends.

Also like Walker, Green has a nicely sparse style which makes these investigations easy to read and a pleasure to spend time with. Renard is a charming character – still somewhat mourning her husband, relaxing into her changing body and enjoying trainers rather than high heels these days, frustrated by her limited painting skills.

An additional similarity to the work of Walker is that Green packs a much starker picture than people will expect. These are not ‘Rosemary and Thyme’ en Francais. There’s a down to earth quality which makes the charming setting and likeable lead character undergirded by steel.

Overall, a worthy addition to the series and another accomplished performance from Rachel Green.

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

Purchase Link –

Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B09NK367Q7

Social Media Links –

www.rachelgreenauthor.com

https://www.instagram.com/authorrachelg/

https://www.facebook.com/AuthorRachelG

https://www.bookbub.com/authors/rachel-green?follow=true

A Song From the Heart

‘To Kill A Troubadour’ by Martin Walker

Author Martin Walker was kind enough to take some time out of his busy schedule to talk to me ahead of the release of ‘To Kill a Troubadour’. You can read that Q&A with him here:

It is summer in St Denis and Bruno is busy organising the annual village concert. He’s hired a local Périgord folk group, Les Troubadours, to perform their latest hit ‘A Song for Catalonia’. But when the song unexpectedly goes viral, the Spanish government, clamping down on the Catalonian bid for independence, bans Les Troubadours from performing it.

The timing couldn’t be worse, and Bruno finds himself under yet more pressure when a specialist sniper’s bullet is found in a wrecked car near Bergerac. The car was reportedly stolen on the Spanish frontier and the Spanish government sends warning that a group of nationalist extremists may be planning an assassination in France. Bruno immediately suspects that Les Troubadours and their audience might be in danger.

Bruno must organise security and ensure that his beloved town and its people are safe – the stakes are high for France’s favourite policeman.

What’s the point of life? Is it to work and strive to attain the baubles and trinkets of accomplishment and the trappings of a late stage capitalist lifestyle?

Or is it food and wine and friends and spending your days embraced at the bosom of those who love you?

I don’t know the answer to these tricky philosophical questions – although I have a suspicion I know what my own answer would be – but what I do know is that once a year, Martin Walker releases another instalment in the career of Chief of Police Bruno Courreges and I am welcomed back to the Perigord like one returning to the arms of their family.

This time out, Bruno has a pair of nationalist Spanish extremists on the loose in his region and they appear to have a sniper’s rifle with them. Police National colleague, and frequent lunch companion, JJ’s antennae is twitching and Bruno must be at his best if the concert in St Denis is going to go ahead safely.

Walker wields his pen lightly and his love of the Perigord comes through on every page like steam from the freshly lifted lid on a dinner dish.

Now, full warning, I’m not objective about this series of novels. I’ve read each one since the inception and am often at risk of just, you know, prosthelytizing over them. It is fair to note that this is not ‘The Wire’ – although they are often harder-edged than people give them credit for.

What Walker has managed, however, is to use his illustrious career from before he turned to writing novels in think tanks and the press to thread an internationalism and entanglements from the world of intelligence and the media through his storylines.

Allowing Bruno to interact with the various levels of the French bureaucratic state as well as balancing the politics of his Mayor, his eternal flickering flame Isabelle and the Police National, the Gendarmerie and the UK Security Services (as embodied by retired chief of the JIC, Jack Crimson), allows Walker to pull off the neat trick of turning St Denis into a crucible for international relations.

Fifteen novels into the cycle, perhaps this might be beginning to take on an air of contrivance but the warm glow of Walker’s prose manages to stop this being the case.

Instead, the stories feel like a warm bath for the body and soul. No investigation must be allowed to halt a good dinner or delay the town tennis tournament. These familiar, much-loved characters mean that each novel is like pulling up a chair around a family dining room and I, for one, am looking forward to catching up with them again at the earliest possibility.

Another delightful outing to the Dordogne, highly recommended.

Purchase Links:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/search/ref=sr_adv_b/?field-isbn=9781529413632&tag=hachetteuk-21

Book Depository (free shipping to the US): https://www.bookdepository.com/Kill-Troubadour-Martin-Walker/9781529413632?ref=grid-view&qid=1654698342492&sr=1-1

Blackwells: https://blackwells.co.uk/bookshop/product/9781529413632

Bookshop.org: https://uk.bookshop.org/a/10403/9781529413632

Foyles: https://www.foyles.co.uk/witem/fiction-poetry/to-kill-a-troubadour-brunos-latest-and,martin-walker-9781529413632

Author Bio:

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

Questions and Answers with Martin Walker

Questions for Martin Walker

Author of the Bruno novel, To Kill a Troubadour, kindly took time out of his busy day to answer some questions around the publication of his latest novel and to speak about his writing life. You can find a review of the book, here:

PAJNewman: To Kill a Troubadour is book 15 in the Bruno series. How do you feel that this novel stacks up against your previous work? Are you pleased with it?

Martin Walker: Yes, I’m very pleased with the way I was able to bring in my growing fascination with the degree to which medieval Europe was civilised and educated by the Moors of Spain and also by the Saracens of the Holy Land. Our musical instruments and much of our lyrical tradition comes from them, transmitted through the court of the Dukes of Aquitaine. The more I learn about Eleanor of Aquitaine, the more I think of her as the most extraordinary person – not just woman – of her day. Courtly love, the Arthurian saga, regent of England, the only queen who went to the Holy Land on Crusade, and the only woman to have been married to a King of France and King of England – and the mother of Richard Lionheart. When the troops became dispirited on the way to Jerusalem, she rode barebreated – ‘to dazzle them,’ as she put it. What a woman!

Especially in the early parts of the novel, there are some observations regarding the issues role of the Russians in Eastern Europe which look positively prophetic at this range. How important is for you to root Bruno in real world events?

Very important, because it allows me to write something with which we can all identify. I have used the IRA, Basque and, Islamic terrorists, Russian agents, American FBI agents, East Germans and assorted bad guys because they are part of the mental and political furniture of our age. Moreover, I know Russia well, having been the Guardian correspondent in Moscow for over 4 years in the Gorbachev period and I have returned often. So I was not at all surprised, after Putin’s invasion of Georgia in 2008, his grab of Crimea and the Donbas in 2014, that he was aching to swallow the lot. He even wrote an essay on the great Russian space which signalled his intentions.

How long did To Kill a Troubadour take from beginning to end to write?

About nine months, half for research, half for writing.

You, obviously, had an illustrious career before you turned to becoming a novelist. Do you find the influences of your previous work seeping into the book?

Indeed, it would be odd if they did not, since you tend to write what you know. And it does not all stem from my years in journalism, but also from what I learned in my years in think-tanks, working on globalisation, AI, technology, demographics and so on.

Who are your biggest influences as a writer?

I revere Conan Doyle since Sherlock Holmes got me interested in detective fiction and his historical novels (Sir Nigel, The White Company) made me fascinated by the Hundred Years War. And I always like to read popular historians like Trevelyan, Michelet, Carlyle and so on. The biggest influence was probably a woman called Jean Stead, my news editor at the Guardian, who made me cut the flourishes and rambles.

What is the question you wish interviewers and readers would ask but never do?

Don’t you get bored writing Bruno?

The answer is never, because I can write other stuff in between: a wine column I write each month; travel pieces about the Perigord, a new book that comes out in Germany this year on the history and culture of the region called ‘Bruno’s Perigord.’ And I’m thinking of updating my 1993 non-fiction book, ‘The Cold War – a History.’

The novel obviously appears to exist pre-Covid. I know a lot of writers are grappling with this dilemma but will Covid play a part in your future work, do you think?

No, I think after the deaths and woes and sadness of the last two years, we are going to get used to it, as we did to TB and smallpox and AIDS. And being locked down in the Perigord with my chickens and garden and dog was hardly insufferable, and in my village we were relatively lightly affected.

What is a typical writing day for you? Has it changed as you have produced a novel a year?

Not much. In my days in journalism I regularly wrote between a thousand and two thousand words a day, and I learned to write anywhere; on trains, in aircraft, in famines, even in trenches and under fire. There was an old Fleet St motto – ‘Don’t get it right, get it written,’ and the Americans made it sound better by calling journalism ‘the first rough draft of history.’ Whichever one is nearer the truth, all of us hacks learned to write fast and often.

I’m sure you get asked this a lot, but do you ever think about Bruno being adapted for the screen? Is this something you would be interested in?

Yes, film rights have been sold but there are endless discussions over whether to film Bruno in English, French or German. I’m just a bystander in this process.

Am I correct in thinking that this year will finally see the English-language publication of Bruno’s Cookbook? How have you gone about sourcing the recipes for this?

Yes, Bruno’s Cookbook comes out next autumn in the US and UK, which is great because it has now been awarded by Gourmet International the title Best French Cookbook of the Last Twenty Years.’ The recipes come from neighbours, from some local restaurants, from hunting clubs in the Perigord, and from my wife (a food writer for the Sunday Times, Washington Post etc). I cook every single recipe that we use in the cookbook and in the Bruno novels, but with my wife watching at my side.

I know Donna Leon is not keen to have her novels translated into Italian as she is worried about what her Venetian neighbours will say. What sort of a readership do you have with the readers in the Perigourd and do you find people trying to spot themselves in the novels?

I was a little nervous when the books came out in French, but my friends and neighbours all seem delighted, and many claim to have been the model for various characters – even when they are not. I think what they love most is the remarkable impact the Bruno novels have had on tourism, which is why the French Foreign Ministry gave me a gold medal, and why the regional council named me ‘Ambassador of Perigord,. The winemakers made me a Grand Consul de la Vinee de Bergerac. Guess which one makes me most proud.

Will Bruno ever find happiness, or at least the wife and family he longs for?

I really don’t know. I keep putting interesting and attractive women in his way but Bruno seems to have a mind of his own. It’s wonderful in a way, as an author to have created a character who seems so real and independent to me, but I keep hoping that I’ll be able some day to write a chapter about his marital bliss. What a woman she would have to be!

Best Forelock Forward

‘The Chase’ by Evie Hunter

When stable girl, Farah Ash, is sacked from her job, her only concern is the beloved horses she cares for. Farah suspects foul play and is determined to expose the secrets and lies she’s uncovered – no matter what.

Self-made millionaire, Isaac Fernandez witnesses Farah’s shocking dismissal and senses immediately that she has uncovered something dangerous – perhaps even deadly. And his fears are confirmed when Farah is almost killed.

And as more threats come Farah’s was, it’s clear someone is out to silence her for good. Unless Farah and Isaac can uncover the truth and put a stop to the deadly chase – before it’s too late.

Purchase Link – https://amzn.to/3LoN4ia

Whenever you come across a thriller set in the world of horses, you just automatically go to Dick Francis – or at least I do. Once one of the biggest names in the publishing world, latterly Francis’ work appears consigned to the history books even while the adaptations appear on obscure platforms like BBC Radio 4 Extra.

So, I was charmed to read this novel written by Evie Hunter, a non de plume of Wendy Soliman, a hugely experienced regency romance writer. So, was this going to be Dick Francis meets Bridgerton?

Thankfully for this reader, no.

This is a hard edged, gritty thriller in the best traditions of Boldwood Books, an imprint offering a platform for, often, women writers to unpack and expand the criminal underworld.

Hunter is talented writer and the reader is in no doubt that an experienced writer is at the helm. Tightly plotted, an enjoyable thriller packed with real world scenarios.

Author Bio –

Evie Hunter has written a great many successful regency romances as Wendy Soliman and is now redirecting her talents to produce dark gritty thrillers for Boldwood. For the past twenty years she has lived the life of a nomad, roaming the world on interesting forms of transport, but has now settled back in the UK.

Social Media Links –  

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/wendy.soliman.author

Twitter https://twitter.com/Wendyswriter

Newsletter Sign Up: https://bit.ly/EvieHunter

Bookbub profile: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/evie-hunter

Stoking the Fires

‘Fallout’ by Edie Baylis

Secrets. Lies. Revenge.

With the odds stacked against her, Samantha Reynold is determined to prove she’s tough enough to be the boss. But when a secret from the past threatens to ruin Sam’s reputation, she suddenly feels very alone in this dark new world. There’s only one man she can turn to – rival club owner, Sebastian Stoker.

Seb knows first-hand how secrets and lies can tear a family apart. He wants to protect Sam at all costs, but siding with her could threaten his own position as head of the Stoker family and risk accusations of betrayal.

With loyalties divided and two families at war – the fallout could be deadly.

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

I have made the point, several times now, that Boldwood Books are a company doing interesting work. They certainly seem to have a found a formula which works for them. Crime, often written by talented women such as Heather Atkinson, https://pajnewman.com/2022/05/08/they-aint-heavies-theyre-brothers/ Gillian Godden https://pajnewman.com/2022/02/02/whats-harder-than-nails/ and Caro Savage https://pajnewman.com/2021/03/01/jumping-for-jailbirds/ and often involving crime families and the internecine rivalries of the underworld.

Here, Edie Baylis presents the second in her Allegiance series, Fallout, which opens in 1995.

This is an interesting milleau – a world of stolen Spar sandwiches, Safeways’ own brand cider and bad dentistry. Basically, the Major-era Tories as a cost of living crisis bit the working poor.

So, no echoes of the present day at all then.

This is the type of fiction which Boldwood does so well. Interesting characters, hard-edged settings, sweary characters capturing the patois of the street.

If you want a read which flows and offers menacing characters embroiled in swirling tugs of loyalty and explosive conclusions, readers should fall in to Fallout.

Author Bio –

Edie Baylis is a successful self-published author of dark gritty thrillers with violent background settings. She lives in Worcestershire, has a history of owning daft cars and several motorbikes and is licensed to run a pub. She has signed a five-book deal with Boldwood.

Social Media Links –  

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

Twitter https://twitter.com/ediebaylis

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

Newsletter Sign Up: https://bit.ly/EdieBaylisnewsletter

Dark Hearts and Right Wrongs

Outcast‘ by Chris Ryan

After single-handedly intervening in a deadly terrorist attack in Mali, SAS Warrant Officer Jamie ‘Geordie’ Carter is denounced as a lone wolf by jealous superiors.

Now a Regiment outcast, Carter is given a second chance with a deniable mission: locate SAS hero-gone-rogue, David Vann.

Vann had been sent into Afghanistan to train local rebels to fight the Taliban. But he’s since gone silent and expected attacks on key targets have not happened.

Tracking Vann through Afghanistan and Tajikistan, Carter not only discovers the rogue soldier’s involvement in a conspiracy that stretches far beyond the Middle East – but an imminent attack that will have deadly consequences the world over . . .

As with most things in books, there are people who are sniffy about writers originating from ranks of the military. There is a snobbery around books which are designed to sell and to entertain people and this is doubled down upon if the writers have done something in a previous incarnation.

Chris Ryan, of course, had quite the life before he turned to writing thrillers. Any man who holds a Military Medal and can walk from Iraq to Syria whilst under fire deserves some form of attention.

It is this background, as part of the fabled Bravo Two Zero platoon which gives Ryan the authority to write the novels which he does. His experience in the ranks of the SAS which lend all of his thrillers the verisimilitude which so many other writers of “men of action” tales lack.

Here, however, protagonist Jamie ‘Geordie’ Carter finds himself caught up in a plot which might have come straight from the pen of Joseph Conrad – disgraced hero left to search for an outcast SA legend-gone-rogue.

That might, of course, be true only if Conrad had ever written a sentence like “the stiff afternoon breeze scraping through his dark hair, and wished to fuck he was somewhere else.” But, to be fair, this would have livened up the snoozeathon which is ‘Heart of Darkness’ no end.

There’s a healthy disrespect for authority and politician both officially and those in the rank and file which adds a layer of sympathy to the poor put upon hero.

Ryan has a control of the punchy sentence. Tension is built, backstory filled in. The point of these novels is to vicariously experience the snapping of bone and the crunch of boots on gravel and for all to be right with the world in the end.

Purchase Links

UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Outcast-Chris-Ryan-ebook/dp/B09SM14MPC

US – https://www.amazon.com/Outcast-Chris-Ryan-ebook/dp/B09SM14MPC

https://www.brownsbfs.co.uk/Product/RYAN-CHRIS/OUTCAST/9781838777616

Author Bio

Chris Ryan was born in Newcastle.

In 1984 he joined 22 SAS. After completing the year-long Alpine Guides Course, he was the troop guide for B Squadron Mountain Troop. He completed three tours with the anti-terrorist team, serving as an assaulter, sniper and finally Sniper Team Commander.

Chris was part of the SAS eight-man team chosen for the famous Bravo Two Zero mission during the 1991 Gulf War. He was the only member of the unit to escape from Iraq, where three of his colleagues were killed and four captured, for which he was awarded the Military Medal. Chris wrote about his experiences in his book ‘The One That Got Away’, which became an immediate bestseller. Since then he has written over fifty books and presented a number of very successful TV programmes.

Social Media Links  

Twitter

Chris Ryan and Zaffre Books

Bad Actors? Great Script

‘Bad Actors’ by Mick Herron

POLITICS IS A DANGEROUS GAME


In MI5 a scandal is brewing and there are bad actors everywhere.

A key member of a Downing Street think-tank has disappeared without a trace. Claude Whelan, one-time First Desk of MI5’s Regent’s Park, is tasked with tracking her down. But the trail leads straight back to Regent’s Park HQ itself, with its chief, Diana Taverner, as prime suspect. Meanwhile her Russian counterpart has unexpectedly shown up in London but has slipped under MI5’s radar.

Over at Slough House, the home for demoted and embittered spies, the slow horses are doing what they do best: adding a little bit of chaos to an already unstable situation.

In a world where lying, cheating and backstabbing is the norm, bad actors are bending the rules for their own gain. If the slow horses want to change the script, they’ll need to get their own act together before the final curtain. (Synopsis courtesy of Hachette)

Let’s be clear: Mick Herron is not the first writer to notice the similarities between actors and politicians. Indeed, the peerless Yes Prime Minister included this little interchange:

Sir Humphrey Appleby: You know what happens when politicians get into Number 10; they want to take their place on the world stage.

Sir Richard Wharton: People on stages are called actors. All they are required to do is look plausible, stay sober, and say the lines they’re given in the right order.

Appleby: Some of them try to make up their own lines.

Wharton: They don’t last long.

Now, regular readers of Herron would shudder if a phrase like “they don’t last long,” because few if any characters in his work do last long and the more beloved, the more in danger they are. You have been warned.

I suspect that the literati are coming for Herron. He’s just too good to be allowed to continue without snark and insults from lesser writers. Having a high budget adaptation of your work, one so faithful as to appear slavish, starring two of the best actors in the UK today (Gary Oldman, Kristin Scott-Thomas) as well as supporting characters played by top quality talent like Saskia Reeves and Samuel West?

No danger. The critics are sharpening their knives in the cheap seats.

For me, though, let them come. He can take it in the same way Lamb breaks limbs for sport. Herron is the best prose stylist working today, bar none. In fact, for me he’s funniest writer since the one and only master: PG Wodehouse. That’s the highest praise I can give and there’s no hyperbole in it. His greatest secret, of course, is that he is not a comic novelist. He’s a thriller writer with plots to enthral who just happens to have a sense of humour drier than badly made couscous and a pen as fluid as an oil slick.

Here, Herron is on sparkling form as ever. Tackling politicians in his oeuvre would, one might have expected legendary pantomime villain Peter Judd to the fore. Not so: here as the curtain rises it is the Dominic Cummings replacement, Anthony Sparrow, thrust into the spotlight.

This allows Herron to really break out the champagne lines:

“Sparrow wasn’t as high profile as his predecessor had been – it would have been challenging to maintain that level of unpopularity without barbecuing an infant on live television – but those in the know recognised him as a home-grown Napoleon: nasty, British and short.”

Also present is a cast of familiar household favourites. Claude Whelan returns to active duty, Diana Taverner, Roderick Ho, Lech Wicinski Catherine Standish, Louisa Guy are also all on the bill. And… is that… is that Shirley Dander in rehab like some form of Amy Winehouse record?

There’s even a cameo from a familiar face – but not one we’ve seen in the novels before. A perennial understudy forced onto the stage, if you will.

Then, of course, there is Jackson Lamb, the grotty gravitational force around which the entire Slough House orbits.

The devil may get all the best music, but the star turn gets all the best lines and boy-oh-boy does Lamb have yet another headline grabber here.

Covid exists in this world but I think it’s safe to say, Lamb is in fine form. Oh and terrorising Standish as ever like the one man culture war wrecking ball he is.

“She put the stool by the door; placed the sanitiser on top of it.

Lamb opened one eye. ‘Lubricant? Pretty optimistic for a staff meeting.’ He closed it again. ‘But I suppose it’ll give be a chance to swap these gender fluids I keep hearing about.’…

Lamb adopted a wounded pout. ‘What did I ever do to her?’

‘Broke her arm?’

‘She still on about that? Bloody snowflake.’”

Like all good playwrights, Herron likes structure to great effect; in fact aficionados of his work expect it. Here, the master uses structure even more than normal and the novel is no worse for that.

As the curtain closes, the reader is left with only some certain knowledge: Firstly, that Herron is the best in the business and long may his run continue when the quality is this high.

Secondly, that Apple TV+ really picked the right property to develop when they chose to let the Slow Horses out of the stable.

Purchase Links:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/search/ref=sr_adv_b/?field-isbn=9781529378702&tag=hachetteuk-21

Blackwell’s: https://blackwells.co.uk/bookshop/product/9781529378702

Book Depository (Free shipping to the US): https://www.bookdepository.com/Bad-Actors-Mick-Herron/9781529378719

Bookshop.org: https://uk.bookshop.org/a/10403/9781529378702

Foyle’s: https://www.foyles.co.uk/all?advsearch=1&isbn=9781529378702&aCode=AFW&awc=1414_1652294215_49841d552e93c65d33eb53ee0852e906

Author Bio

Mick Herron is a bestselling and award-winning novelist and short story writer, best known for his Slough House thrillers. The series has been adapted into a TV series starring Oscar-winning actor Gary Oldman as Jackson Lamb.

Raised in Newcastle upon Tyne, Herron studied English Literature at Oxford, where he continues to live. After some years writing poetry, he turned to fiction, and – despite a daily commute into London, where he worked as a sub editor – found time to write about 350 words a day. His first novel, Down Cemetery Road, was published in 2003. This was the start of Herron’s Zoë Boehm series, set in Oxford and featuring detective Zoë Boehm and civilian Sarah Tucker. The other books in the series are The Last Voice You Hear, Why We Die, and Smoke and Whispers, set in his native Newcastle. During the same period he wrote a number of short stories, many of which appeared in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine.

In 2008, inspired by world events, Mick began writing the Slough House series, featuring MI5 agents who have been exiled from the mainstream for various offences. The first novel, Slow Horses, was published in 2010. Some years later, it was hailed by the Daily Telegraph as one of “the twenty greatest spy novels of all time”.

The Slough House novels have been published in 20 languages; have won both the CWA Steel and Gold daggers; have been shortlisted for the Theakstons Crime Novel of the Year four times; and have won Denmark’s Palle Rosenkrantz prize. Mick is also the author of the highly acclaimed novels Reconstruction, This is What Happened and Nobody Walks. (Biography courtesy of https://www.mickherron.com/landing-page/mick-herron-about)

You can read my previous reviews of some of Herron’s earlier novels, Slough House here and Joe Country here

For all things Mick Herron, there is no finer place on the internet than Jeff Quest’s Barbican Station. You can follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/spywrite