Theatrical Frames, Plenty of Twists

You can support the blog by purchasing ‘The Twist of a Knife’ from Bookshop.org here

‘Our deal is over.’

That’s what reluctant author Anthony Horowitz tells ex-detective Daniel Hawthorne in an awkward meeting. The truth is that Anthony has other things on his mind.

His new play, ‘Mindgame’, is about to open in London’s Vaudeville theatre. Not surprisingly Hawthorne declines a ticket.

On opening night, ‘Sunday Times’ critic Harriet Throsby gives the play a savage review, focusing particularly on the writing. The next morning she is found dead, stabbed in the heart with an ornamental dagger which, it turns out, belongs to Anthony and which has his finger prints all over it.

Anthony is arrested, charged with Throsby’s murder, thrown into prison and interrogated.

Alone and increasingly desperate, he realises only one man can help him.

But will Hawthorne take his call?
(Synopsis courtesy of Penguin)

Everyone is always so grouchy about targeted advertising. Big companies like Amazon and Apple mining your online behaviour to sell you products people like you have already bought, their algorithms churning away in the background to manipulate you into parting with your hard earned cash.

I get it. It’s never nice to feel like a sheep, manipulated and herded. Netflix’s documentary, ‘The Social Dilemma‘ does an excellent job of exploring the dystopian overtones of how we live now.

But, here’s the thing – sometimes, it’s quite nice to be offered products people like you would like. Those algorithms are really just the video rental clerks of the 80s, but with about the same level of interaction skills and better personal hygiene.

So, I suspect I was the proverbial fish in a barrel when Audible told me the daily deal was Anthony Horowitz’s ‘A Line to Kill’.

Firstly, it’s written by Anthony Horowitz. I’ve written elsewhere of my affection for the latest adaptation of his Baby Bond series, ‘Alex Ryder, and I have taught the first in that series, Stormbreaker, https://uk.bookshop.org/a/10526/9781406360196 for a good number of years now.

Secondly, I had just finished reading his second James bond continuation novel, ‘Forever and a Day’, the single best continuation of that franchise in literary form since Kingsley Amis’ ‘Colonel Sun written under the pseudonym Robert Markham .

Finally, there was the setting. Alderney is the only Channel Island I have been to – as a child no less – but even as a teen I could see its potential as a locked room murder mystery setting. Throw in a literary festival – very much my “thang” and I was in.

Well, hooked does not do justice. I’ve now read – or more accurately had read to me by the superb Rory Kinnear – all of the novels in the series. Kinnear is – somewhat confusingly – the voice of Anthony Horowitz. Because what this series needed was more meta-overtones.

The latest novel in the series, Book 4, ‘The Twist of a Knife’, continues the conceit of having Horowitz as his own Watson, trailing along behind enigmatic private detective Hawthorne as he strides out in front.

Horowitz clearly has some fun depicting himself as vain and whiny in a way which must have been delightful to write but is also quite cruel and he continues to let Hawthorne get away with all the best lines.

At the opening of the novel, narrator Anthony has to grapple with the reluctance to write any more books in this series and the indisputable fact that the reader is holding/listening to the book he is refusing to write. A deliciously meta conundrum if you like that sort of thing: I do.

The US cover of ‘A Twist of the Knife

As well as being one of the most successful and clearly the hardest working writers in the UK today, Horowitz is a master craftsman. And in these novels, he deploys all of his well-honed talents to best effect.

Suspects are introduced, dismissed and re-interviewed. The theatre is also a motif in another excellent novel of this year, ‘Bad Actors’ by Mick Herron. However, Horowitz does not succumb to the temptation of making theatre related pun after pun. But, Hawthorne can’t resist an Agatha Christie dénouement and it arrives with a welcome theatrical flourish.

Narrator Anthony is worried that the books have run out of steam – after all, he’s even run out of writing allusions after ‘A Line to Kill’ (probably best he didn’t go with ‘The Pun-ishment is Death’ for this one in fairness). He’s damned if he’s going have them named Hawthorne Investigates as well: but, as a reader, I don’t think he need worry.

This is a series with plenty more puff in the tank and for anyone who likes classic murder mystery fiction, crafted by a professional at the top of their game, this is for them.

Purchase Links:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Twist-Knife-bestselling-Hawthorne-Horowitz-ebook/dp/B09MF6Z1CQ

Audible: https://www.audible.co.uk/pd/The-Twist-of-a-Knife-Audiobook/B09TCSCZGN

Blackwells: https://blackwells.co.uk/bookshop/product/9781529124323?a_aid=prh

Bookshop.org: https://uk.bookshop.org/a/10526/9781529124323

Foyles: https://www.foyles.co.uk/all?term=9781529124323&aCode=AFW&awc=1414_1661248936_a7999c61868fb301e8f14dce21d3b564

Waterstones: https://www.waterstones.com/book/the-twist-of-a-knife/anthony-horowitz/2928377085537

Author Bio:

Bestselling author Anthony Horowitz has written two highly acclaimed Sherlock Holmes novels, ‘The House of Silk’ and ‘Moriarty’; three James Bond novels, ‘Trigger Mortis’, ‘Forever and a Day’ and ‘With a Mind to Kill‘; the acclaimed bestselling mystery novels ‘Magpie Murders’ and ‘Moonflower Murders’ and the Detective Hawthorne novels, ‘The Word is Murder’, ‘The Sentence is Death‘, ‘A Line To Kill’, and the latest ‘A Twist of Knife’ is out in August 2022.

He is also the author of the teen spy Alex Rider series, and responsible for creating and writing some of the UK’s most loved and successful TV series, including ‘Midsomer Murders’ and ‘Foyle’s War’. In January 2022 he was awarded a CBE for his services to literature. (Biography courtesy of https://www.penguin.co.uk/authors/185113/anthony-horowitz?tab=penguin-biography)

Social Media

Twitter: @AnthonyHorowitz

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/anthony-horowitz/

Baddies in Braddie

‘Unjust Bias’ by Liz Mistry

Also on the tour today, Once Upon A Time Book Reviews, Bibliophilverse, Jane Hunt Writer, Nesie’s Place

A murdered boy disowned by his family.

A teen terrified his past will catch up with him.

A girl with nowhere to go.

Men with rage so visceral they will do anything.

With the unsolved murder of a homeless boy still preying on his mind, DI Gus McGuire is confronted with a similar murder, a missing teen and no clues.

Does the answer lie with an illegal dark web site where ‘slaves’ are auctioned off? Or with an online forum for teens?

How can Gus keep people safe when unjust bias rears its head and being different could cost you your life…?

I’ve only been to Bradford once. I was about eight years old and it was the sort of Keystone Cops holidays my parents specialised in: we travelled to Bradford from some god-forsaken location, the car got a puncture, my Dad’s tooth fell out when biting into a flowery bap twinned with a concrete breezeblock, we couldn’t the KwikFit which had the car.

My overwhelming memory, however, was the Film and Television Museum. It had, what was then, the only IMAX cinema in the UK and a chance to try and be a newsreader, reading an autocue. I couldn’t do it. I cried.

They also had a gigantic copy of that famous mugshot photo of Myra Hindley. After getting my mum to explain who she was, I tootled off but that night, I came down in floods of tears, scared that this real life monster was going to get me.

A tough street kid I was not.

A writer who deals with real life monsters, is Liz Mistry. I reviewed another of her Bradford-set crime novels in February 2021, ‘Dark Memories’. https://pajnewman.com/2021/02/07/unravelling-the-mistry-of-bradford/

‘Unjust Bias’ clearly shares DNA with this earlier novel. Mistry’s hard-bitten representation of the city is here. Her predilection for shifting narrative stances from first to third and back again depending upon the character focus of the chapter is there and her obvious interest in the on-going psychological effects of the world upon these people is baked through the stories like logos through a stick of rock.

These are not happy-go-lucky, easy readers with a cozy element. These are dark and realistic depictions of a hard world and bad things happening to people in the wrong place at the wrong time.

But Mistry is a very fine writer and her Bradford is becoming a character in the way that Rankin’s Edinburgh is central to understanding the events.

Purchase Links

UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Unjust-Bias-different-Fiction-Procedural-ebook/dp/B0B61NXSZK/

US – https://www.amazon.com/Unjust-Bias-different-Fiction-Procedural-ebook/dp/B0B61NXSZK/

Author Bio –

Born in Scotland, Made in Bradford sums up Liz Mistry’s life. Over thirty years ago she moved from a small village in West Lothian to Yorkshire to get her teaching degree. Once here, Liz fell in love with three things; curries, the rich cultural diversity of the city … and her Indian husband (not necessarily in this order). Now thirty years, three children, two cats and a huge extended family later, Liz uses her experiences of living and working in the inner city to flavour her writing. Her gritty crime fiction police procedural novels set in Bradford embrace the city she describes as ‘Warm, Rich and Fearless’ whilst exploring the darkness that lurks beneath.

Struggling with severe clinical depression and anxiety for a large number of years, Liz often includes mental health themes in her writing. She credits the MA in Creative Writing she took at Leeds Trinity University with helping her find a way of using her writing to navigate her ongoing mental health struggles. Being a debut novelist in her fifties was something Liz had only dreamed of and she counts herself lucky, whilst pinching herself regularly to make sure it’s all real. One of the nicest things about being a published author is chatting with and responding to readers’ feedback and Liz regularly does events at local libraries, universities, literature festivals and open mics. She also teaches creative writing too.  Liz has completed a PhD in Creative Writing on Diverse voices in crime fiction.

In her spare time, Liz loves pub quizzes (although she admits to being rubbish at them), dancing (she does a mean jig to Proud Mary – her opinion, not ratified by her family), visiting the varied Yorkshire landscape, with Robin Hoods Bay being one of her favourite coastal destinations, listening to music, reading and blogging about all things crime fiction on her blog, The Crime Warp. 

Social Media Links –

Twitter: @LizMistryAuthor  

Facebook: @LizMistryBooks 

Website: lizmistry.com

Reaping What Was Sown

‘A Harvest Murder’ by Frances Evesham

Also on the tour today Scrapping&Playing and Niki Preston

You can read a previous review of a Frances Evesham novel here: https://pajnewman.com/2021/11/14/murder-and-mayhem-ideal-for-the-time-of-year/

One unexplained disappearance is strange, but two are sinister.

In Lower Hembrow, an idyllic village nestled beneath Ham Hill in Somerset, the villagers are preparing to enjoy the autumn traditions of the rural English countryside until Joe Trevillion, a curmudgeonly local farmer and the father of six children, vanishes.

When Adam Hennessy, the ex-detective proprietor of The Plough, the village’s popular Inn, investigates, he finds ominous undercurrents beneath apparently harmless rumour and gossip.

Meanwhile, a vicious campaign of vindictiveness forces Adam and his three amateur sleuth friends to dig deep into the secret lives of their neighbours to expose the source of a cruel vendetta and prevent another death.

As they uncover the disturbing truth, the friends learn they must also lay their own past lives to rest before they can hope to make their dreams for the future come true.

One of the first jobs I ever had was a freelance gig writing pieces profiling towns for Sussex Life magazine. The money was fine – scarily this is at least 20 years ago and I doubt I could earn as much freelancing now as I did then – but what was really interesting was the opportunity to go nosing about the villages of the Home Counties and trying to pry under their skin a bit.

I’m not exactly sure what it is in crime fiction which attracts us to these small, rural villages but from Agatha Christie through GK Chesterton via Margery Allingham and right up to some of the writers working today – Fiona Leitch, Isabella Muir, Anna Legat and Simon Whaley – readers can’t get enough of peering behind the net curtain and white washed walls of the small English village.

Frances Evesham here provides another accomplished entry into the genre. Lower Hembrow is everything this sort of village should: picturesque, nicely appointed church, local pub.

And, obviously, dark undercurrent with disappearances and dark secrets from the past threatening to raise their ugly heads.

I know Raymond Chandler wanted to take murder out of the drawing rooms and put it back in the streets, but in the same way that Chandler was a Dulwich College educated public schoolboy, I like my murders cozy and my villages adorning the pages of Somerset Life.

Heartily recommended for fans of Midsomer Murders, Miss Marple and Poirot, A Harvest Murder arrives at the best time of year and should allow you a pleasant read as the workers gather the crops around you.

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

Author Bio –

Frances Evesham is the bestselling author of the hugely successful Exham-on-Sea murder mysteries set in her home county of Somerset, and the Ham-Hill cosy crime series set in South Somerset.

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: https://bit.ly/FrancesEveshamNews

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

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