Reviews

October 2021

Rhiannon Ward - The Shadowing

"...an addictive read of the old tradition... "

Synopsis:
When well-to-do Hester learns of her sister Mercy's death at a Nottinghamshire workhouse, she travels to Southwell to find out how her sister ended up at such a place.

Haunted by her sister's ghost, Hester sets out to uncover the truth, when the official story reported by the workhouse master proves to be untrue. Mercy was pregnant - both her and the baby are said to be dead of cholera, but the workhouse hasn't had an outbreak for years.

Hester discovers a strange trend in the workhouse of children going missing. One woman tells her about the Pale Lady, a ghostly figure that steals babies in the night. Is this lady a myth or is something more sinister afoot at the Southwell poorhouse?

As Hester investigates, she uncovers a conspiracy, one that someone is determined to keep a secret, no matter the cost...

Review:
Ward treats us to another mix of crime with a dash of the supernatural. The ghostly visions – or 'shadowings' as Hester has come to name them, are subtle, giving us that hint of the otherworld. Ward's second novel in this genre is a definite homage to those who practised the art of the ghost story – James, le Fanu, Blackwood and not forgetting the women – Amelia B. Edwards, E. Nesbit, Edith Wharton, Rosemary Timperley. In recent years there have been supernatural tales from Ruth Rendell, Celia Fremlin and Antonia Fraser. Thankfully, there has been a renaissance of the ghost story in recent years – maybe one would go so far as a resurrection as this genre really was, if you'll forgive me one more pun, dead in the ground!

What Ward does so well is bring her characters to life. I couldn't help cheering Hester on, watching her grow after years of submission under her tyrant father, Amos. What begins as a sad journey to collect a few facts, Hester realises there is more to be dug up from the paltry information she has been given by the vile Kirkhams who run the Southwell workhouse. Ward conjures up a sense of place or foreboding with an economy of words. She gives you what is needed and moves on with her plot. I could not stop this book until I had reached the end with Hester. The conclusion is satisfactory and you feel, as with Hester, that a particular chapter has closed. I didn't feel this latest as spooky as 'The Quickening' which had the whole Shirley Jackson 'house is alive' vibe, but 'The Shadowing' is definitely an addictive read of the old tradition that you won't want to put down until the final page.

Reviewed by: C.S.

CrimeSquad Rating:

William McIlvanney and Ian Rankin - The Dark Remains

"It is wonderful to yet again become immersed in McIlvanney’s universe..."

Synopsis:
Bobby Carter is no respectable lawyer. He works for one of Glasgow's crime bosses — Cam Colvin. And when he is found murdered behind the Parlour, a pub, it presages gang warfare in Glasgow. The year is 1972, and Jack Laidlaw, then a detective constable, is called in to investigate. Who murdered him? Was his death ordered by John Rhodes, a rival crime boss? Was it ordered by Cam Colvin himself? Was it Archie Love, whose daughter was at one time going out with Carter, who, even though he was married to Monica, was a serial philanderer? As he investigates, Laidlaw is drawn into the murky world of gang warfare, bent football coaches and ruthless gang members who use spanners and razors as weapons of choice.

Laidlaw is a loner, and Central Division's Commander, Robert Frederick, has asked DS Lilley and DI Ernie Milligan to keep an eye on him. Unfortunately, Laidlaw and Milligan have never seen eye to eye, with Laidlaw considering him, with good reason, to be an incompetent. So there is conflict all aspects of the case, which impedes the investigation while offering, in literary terms, many red herrings.

Review:
When he died in 2015, Mclvanney left the uncompleted, handwritten manuscript of this book. Ian Rankin picked up the mantle and completed it. So well has he done that the seam doesn't show. The book is spell-binding: dark, dangerous and compelling, set in a Glasgow of the early 70s before it became gentrified - a Glasgow where violence ruled and nothing happened unless sanctioned by gangland bosses. Maybe this has been a touch over-romanticised and overstated in the book, but that is no bad thing, as it breathes life into the lean, terse dialogue, and don't forget, dialogue, especially in a McIlvanney book is action. Laidlaw is tough and uncompromising. He is committed to justice and to his work, and even sleeps in a city centre hotel during an investigation rather than go home to his wife and kids in a Glasgow suburb every evening.

The plot twists and turns, and Laidlaw's disdain for DI Milligan permeates every action he takes. The DI's incompetence leads the investigation team up many a blind alley, only for it to return empty-handed. But then, in a blinding flash, because of an innocent remark made my someone, Laidlaw cuts through it all and solves the case. It is wonderful to yet again become immersed in McIlvanney's universe and Rankin has given us a gem of a book we didn't think we'd ever get to read, and one to cherish.

Reviewed by: J.G.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Claire Douglas - The Couple at No.9

"I particularly liked the twist at the end - for me at least, most unexpected."

Synopsis:
Saffron Cutler and boyfriend Tom move into her grandmother's old cottage to await the arrival of their new baby. Grandmother Rose is in a care home suffering from Alzheimer's and is increasingly confused about the past. When two bodies are discovered as alterations are being made to the cottage, the peace and tranquillity the couple were experiencing is disrupted. The bodies have been there for around thirty years and it is not clear whether Rose was either there at the time and could have been in some way involved.

Someone else seems to be interested in what is happening at the cottage and Saffron feels that someone is watching her. She proves to be right and when both she and her mother are confronted by an individual, it seems that there is a lot more than just the deaths to investigate.

Review:
I engaged very quickly with the protagonists in this book and was eager to follow their story from the very beginning. The action continued to develop rapidly and as it moves along, layer upon layer of past history is unveiled. Something momentous has happened in the past but exactly what is hidden from view for most of the book.

Family secrets hide the pasts of both Rose and her erstwhile companion in the cottage. Several people hold parts of the answer and when it is revealed it came as a big surprise to me. I loved the characters in the book, both current and those emerging from the past. I particularly liked the twist at the end - for me at least most unexpected.

Reviewed by: S.D.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Georges Simenon - Death Threats and Other Stories

"This collection is a welcome addition to anyone's bookshelf..."

Synopsis:
This collection of five short stories—three of which have never before been published in the UK - is a welcome addition to the oeuvre of one of the world's most popular novelists. Here Maigret encounters a mysterious death in a Cannes hotel, a love triangle in the Loire Valley, the Bagatelle murder in Paris, in which a man is followed constantly until the case is successfully resolved, a seemingly impossible murder in a country inn, and a wealthy businessman called Émile Grosbois who receives a death threat which contains the date and time of his murder.

Maigret is instructed by his superintendent to act as a bodyguard at Grosbois's home in Coudray, near Paris, before and on the day that the murder is supposedly to take place. What Maigret finds is a family in turmoil, ruled by Émile, who is a thoroughly unpleasant tyrant. The other family members are just as unpleasant, and Maigret despairs. If the murder is to take place, it will obviously be done by one of the family—but which one, and why? They all hated Grosbois, and would have benefitted, if not financially, from his death.

Review:
These stories were written in the 1940s, just after the Second World War, and after Simenon had intended to write his last Maigret novel. They are an eclectic mix, featuring warring families, infidelity, human weakness and deceit, with Maigret using his powers of reason, rather than forensic science, to solve each crime. The writing is as crisp and sharp as ever, and once again Simenon uses his remarkable talent to turn dialogue into breath-taking action.

The last of these, 'Death Threats' - after which the collection is named, 'Grosbois' is particularly satisfying. The story's denouement is one of Simenon's best - startlingly innovative, and yet inevitable, as the clues are all there in plain view. This collection is a welcome addition to anyone's bookshelf, and in many ways it is a how-to-do book for wannabe crime writers. Sublime Simenon.

Reviewed by: J.G.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Ann Cleeves - The Heron's Cry

"Ann Cleeves is a master of her craft and I thoroughly enjoy all her books. ‘The Heron’s Cry’ is no exception."

Synopsis:
Detective Inspector Matthew Venn is called out to a murder at the home of a local philanthropist and the associated workshops of two artists. The victim is the father of one of them, a talented artist in glass. The murder weapon is a shard of one of her art vases. There seems to be no reason for the murder, as Dr Yeo is well respected in the area and much loved by his daughter. But then another body is found, again stabbed with a shard of art glass.

Matthew has to investigate the undercurrents of jealousy and anger in the apparently idyllic community. He has recently returned to the area where he was brought up and battles with overcoming the resentment he feels for his mother. The uncomplicated love of his husband helps him to deal with both.

The key to finding the perpetrator lies in a secret website which purports to support young people with mental illness. This touches several families in the area and Matthew doggedly pursues this line of enquiry until he finds the answer.

Review:
Matthew Venn is developing in this second book into a more confident and accomplished detective, and a more relaxed and sympathetic human being. He knows his faults and works (with the help of his husband, Jonathan) to overcome his stiff persona. Venn is a completely different character to Jimmy Perez and Vera Stanhope, but Venn is equally engaging and likeable. His fellow detectives, Jen and Ross, both have their own stories that grab your interest. I think that one of Ann Cleves' greatest talents is in creating characters to whom we can relate and care about what happens to them.

The theme of this novel relates to something that we are slowly learning about in the real world - the problem of young men living with despair and an illness that causes them to turn to suicide.

As well as an exciting story and well-developed characters, this book gives an insight to more serious issues. Ann Cleeves is a master of her craft and I thoroughly enjoy all her books. 'The Heron's Cry' is no exception.

Reviewed by: S.D.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Elly Griffiths - The Midnight Hour

"There’s something comfortable and warm about this series, but the crimes are dark and disturbing..."

Synopsis:
Brighton, 1965. When theatrical impresario Bert Billington is found dead in his retirement home, no one suspects foul play. But when a post-mortem reveals that he was poisoned, suspicion falls on his wife, eccentric ex-Music Hall star Verity Malone.

Frustrated by the police response to Bert's death and determined to prove her innocence, Verity calls in private detective duo Emma Holmes and Sam Collins. This is their first real case, but as luck would have it, they have a friend on the inside. Max Mephisto is filming a remake of Dracula, starring Seth Billington, Bert's son. But when they question Max, they feel he isn't telling them the whole story.

Emma and Sam must vie with the police to untangle the case and bring the killer to justice. They're sure the answers lie in Bert's dark past and in the glamorous, occasionally deadly, days of Music Hall. But the closer they get to the truth, the more danger they find themselves in.

Review:
I am huge fan of the Brighton Mysteries series, and it has been a joy to watch them evolve over the six books from a double act of a detective and former magician solving crimes to a private detective agency at the heart of the series.

'The Midnight Hour' is a fast-paced read and one that hooks from the first page as a retired theatre impresario is found dead in his armchair. An innocuous opening, I agree, but this is a book by Elly Griffiths, and her choice of language, her eloquent descriptive narrative tells us there is definitely more than meets the eye. Straight away, we're gripped by the strange behaviour of his wife, Verity, a former actress who may or may not be playing the role of her life. As the case unfolds and secrets are revealed, more suspects come to life and Griffiths obviously enjoys dropping red herrings throughout to tease the reader. She knows what the crime fiction audience wants and expects, and she more than delivers. It's no surprise that all of her novels shoot straight into the Sunday Times bestseller lists. She is one of Britain's favourite authors. She's certainly mine.

The pairing of Holmes and Collins is an interesting one, but Collins doesn't get much page time. She still needs to earn a living as a journalist and is soon whisked away to investigate the infamous Moors murders in Manchester, leaving Holmes and WDC Meg Connolly to team up. Their road trip north is a joy to read, and I'd love to see Connolly quit the force and join Emma and Sam's detective agency. They'd make a formidable team.

The Brighton Mysteries series always puts me in mind of Agatha Christie at her best. There's something comfortable and warm about this series, but the crimes are dark and disturbing making for an interesting and brilliant combination.

There aren't many British crime fiction series about private detectives anymore, a great shame, but Griffiths has shown the genre still has an audience. I'm hoping for many more cases for Holmes and Collins.

If you're a fan of nostalgia in your fiction, this is a series for you. There are pop culture references and nods to real life events that given an extra layer of realism to the characters and the series. Griffiths is one of the hardest working writers in crime fiction, but she makes it seem so effortless.

Reviewed by: M.W.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Linwood Barclay - Find You First

"A terrific read that will not let go until the final page."

Synopsis:
Tech millionaire Miles Cookson has more money than he can ever spend, and everything he could dream of - except time. He has recently been diagnosed with a terminal illness, and there is a fifty percent chance that it can be passed on to the next generation. For Miles, this means taking a long hard look at his past…

Two decades ago, a young, struggling Miles was a sperm donor. Somewhere out there, he has kids - nine of them. And they might be about to inherit both the good and the bad from him - maybe his fortune, or maybe something much worse.

As Miles begins to search for the children he's never known, aspiring film documentarian Chloe Swanson embarks on a quest to find her biological father, armed with the knowledge that twenty-two years ago, her mother used a New York sperm bank to become pregnant.

When Miles and Chloe eventually connect, their excitement at finding each other is overshadowed by a series of mysterious and terrifying events. One by one, Miles' other potential heirs are vanishing - every trace of them wiped, like they never existed at all.

Who is the vicious killer - another heir methodically erasing rivals? Or is something even more sinister going on? It's a deadly race against time.

Review:
Linwood Barclay has always been able to write a thriller that has me hooked from the first page and keeps the interest building throughout. As with previous novels, Barclay is amazing at misdirection and red herrings to keep you guessing, and 'Find You First' is no exception.

This book is all about greed, ego, morality, murder, deception and depravity. How far will someone go to get what they want? With plenty of murders and plenty of suspects, Barclay will keep you guessing until the end. Another gripping read from a master of his genre, constantly leading you down the wrong path. A terrific read that will not let go until the final page.

Reviewed by: H.A.

CrimeSquad Rating:

A.J. Cross - Dark Truths

"A strong start to this exciting series."

Synopsis:
While jogging on a popular jogging path in Birmingham, Zoe Roberts is stabbed to death and then decapitated. DI Bernard Watts is given the case, along with inexperienced but enthusiastic rookie DC Chloe Judd. The case takes an even more gruesome turn when more buried skulls are discovered at the murder site. Judd totally exasperates the detective inspector, but his troubles only worsen when his boss, Chief Inspector Brophy, brings in Will Traynor, criminologist, to assist in the case. Watts knows of Traynor, and his eccentric ways, and is not impressed. Watts' investigation gets bogged down, with no motive being apparent for the killings. The skulls are identified, but the names throw up no clues.

Meanwhile, where is Zoe's estranged husband, Christian? Why the strange behaviour of Zoe's parents and her brother, Alec? How does Justin Rhodes, whose skull is one of the others found on the site, fit in to all of this? He was a journalist, so was he investigating a news story of some kind about the killings, and had to be eliminated?

Traynor is convinced there is a link between all of the murders, and this will solve the case. Watts is not so sure. Traynor has a past - he is obsessed by the murder of his own wife ten years previously, and even tries to link her murder with the skulls found at the murder scene.

Review:
'Dark Truths' is the no doubt first in a series about Will Traynor, and is the police procedural of all police procedurals. We are taken every step of the way as the investigation proceeds. Dead ends are coolly described, coincidences investigated (don't be fooled by fictional detectives who exclaim 'It's a coincidence, and I don't like coincidences'. They happen all the time).

Watts is a methodical investigator who makes connections, and is frustrated when he can't. PC Chloe Judd is also well delineated. She is totally committed but inexperienced, and makes mistakes. Maybe Watts' intolerance of her is a touch over-written, but they make an intriguing pair.

The denouement is totally unexpected, and yet believable, as all the signs are in the book. The final flourish is a conversation between Watts and Judd which offers intriguing possibilities.

A.J. Cross is a forensic psychologist and expert witness, and her experience and knowledge shows through in this excellent book. A strong start to this exciting series.

Reviewed by: J.G.

CrimeSquad Rating:

S.D. Sykes - The Good Death

"This is a very exciting series..."

Synopsis:
In this fifth book of the Somershill series we learn of Oswald's life as a monk before he succeeded to the lordship of Somershill in unexpected circumstances. As Oswald recounts to his ill mother the story of how his mentor at the Abbey, Father Peter, influenced his life and future, we learn of the duplicity and treacherous behaviour of those whom Oswald trusts. We learn how Oswald comes to realise that his place is not in a monastery and his gradual realisation of the perfidy of his close relations. In 1349, whilst Oswald is at the monastery, the Plague is slowly working its way across England.

Review:
This is set in the fourteenth century England, a period not widely described in fiction. Sykes brings the tastes, smell and atmosphere of the time vividly to life. It is fascinating because the details of everyday life of the time are unfamiliar yet so convincing. People have such different lives but the passions and petty jealousies that are described in such a convincing way are recognisable. Emotions are rawer and reactions more violent but the characters remain true to life.
There is more than a hint of familiarity as we read about the country facing the pandemic of Bubonic Plague. Some things never seem to change. I hope that no one used the threat of Coronavirus to remove threatening relations!

I really enjoyed hearing more about Oswald's early life; the knowledge gained helps to flesh out the series and strengthens the hold on the imagination. This is a very exciting series and 'The Good Death' certainly stands up in its own right.

Reviewed by: S.D.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Anthony Horowitz - A Line To Kill

"The ingredients are all there for this being a classic of the genre..."

Synopsis:
There has never been a murder on the tiny island of Alderney. But as writers gather for a brand new literary festival, a killer lies in wait. An island full of secrets is about to become an island full of suspects.

Private Investigator Daniel Hawthorne and the writer, Anthony Horowitz, have been invited to the festival to talk about their new book. Very soon they discover that dark forces are at work.

Alderney is in turmoil over a planned power line that will cut through it, desecrating a war cemetery and turning neighbour against neighbour. And the visiting authors seem to be harbouring any number of unpleasant secrets.

When the festival's wealthy sponsor is found brutally murdered, Alderney goes into lockdown and Hawthorne knows he doesn't have to look too far for suspects. There is no escape. The killer is still on the island. And there's about to be a second death.

Review:
If it wasn't genetically possibly, I'd swear Anthony Horowitz the love child of Arthur Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie. He has successfully managed to channel both celebrated authors and use elements that made Holmes and Poirot so successful and mash them together to create the metaphysical Hawthorn series.

'A Line to Kill' is the third book in the series and although it isn't necessary to read the previous two first, I urge you to begin at the beginning. This is the twenty-first century version of the golden age of crime fiction.

Horowitz places himself in the thick of the action as he narrates the investigations. Hawthorn, a disgraced detective, has approached the writer of Foyle's War to write about his life's work. Reluctantly, he has done so, and the third novel takes place as the first novel is about to be launched.

Horowitz, a genuine fan of the works of Conan Doyle and Christie, is obviously having fun with Hawthorne and his readers. Hawthorne is Sherlock/Poirot as he sees clues and traits no-one else can, leaving Horowitz, as Watson/Hastings, to gape open-mouthed. Horowitz is also Christie as there is no love lost between him and his creation. In fact, as the books launch and Hawthorne is becoming more popular than the writer, there are hints Horowitz may begin to regret unleashing this monster, as Christie and Conan Doyle famously grew to dislike their famous creations. This is where Horowitz shows off his superior writing skills. He knows the works of the two celebrated crime writers inside and out and seems to effortlessly put them into play here.

The tiny island of Alderney hosting a literary festival at a time when the residents are torn apart by upcoming change, is straight from the pages of Christie and there are hints of 'Evil Under the Sun' here. Every character has a reason to kill off the wealthy and despicable Charles le Mesurier and as Hawthorne has told Horowitz many times during all three novels, all the clues are there for him to solve the crime, we're told once more, and you'll be kicking yourself you didn't listen to Hawthorne's sage advice when the killer is eventually unmasked.

'A Line to Kill' is a multi-layered novel and Anthony Horowitz cleverly reveals the tricks of what makes a great crime novel as well as delivering a great crime novel. Despite Horowitz 'reluctantly' signing a three-book deal, and this now being complete, I hope there are more. This is a series that deserves to run. The ingredients are all there for this being a classic of the genre, and after three books, is rapidly becoming one of my favourites.

Reviewed by: M.W.

CrimeSquad Rating:

James Patterson and Adam Hamdy - Private Rogue

"...you find that you have flown through another book breathless and by the seat of your pants. "

Synopsis:
In Afghanistan, a US Special Forces pilot is shot down during a covert mission.

In New York, a mother is forced to flee with her two young children.

A wealthy businessman approaches Jack Morgan, head of Private - the world's largest investigation agency - with a desperate plea to track down his daughter and grandchildren, who have disappeared without a trace.

What at first seems to be a simple missing persons case soon escalates into something much more deadly, when Jack discovers the daughter is being pursued by highly trained operatives.

As Jack uncovers more of the woman's backstory, the trail leads towards Afghanistan - where Jack's career as a US Marine ended in catastrophe. Jack will need to face the trauma of his past to save a family's future.

Review:
Once more, we join the rollercoaster world of Jack Morgan, who does appear to have more lives than a cat. But here, even Jack's luck may be up as he is really in a tight spot in Afghanistan. It felt quite surreal reading 'Private Rogue' whilst watching on television the scenes in Kabul, as the Taliban sauntered into the capital as troops were withdrawing in what felt an atmosphere of pandemonium. It enforced the chaos of this war-torn country that Patterson and Hamdy were portraying. Suspicion is rife between each other, let alone strangers.

What made me happy was the re-appearance of Dinara and Feodor who are the Russian branch of Private and a huge draw of the previous book, 'Private Moscow'. Their role was brief, but it was good to have them involved, especially as how the plot evolves. Swinging from the viewpoint of Captain Joshua Floyd, on the run in Afghanistan and Jack, the plot managed to sustain a fast pace throughout. All the Patterson ingredients are here and yet again, you find that you have flown through another book breathless and by the seat of your pants. Adam Hamdy has certainly settled himself in the captain's seat with these two Private books. He is in harmony with what Patterson wants and he sure delivers.

Reviewed by: C.S.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Colin Dexter - The Dead of Jericho

"Dexter was sublime at the labyrinthine plot..."

Synopsis:
Morse switched on the gramophone to 'play', and sought to switch his mind away from all the terrestrial troubles. Sometimes, this way, he almost managed to forget. But not tonight . . .

Anne Scott's address was scribbled on a crumpled note in the pocket of Morse's smartest suit.

He turned the corner of Canal Street, Jericho, on the afternoon of Wednesday, 3rd October. He hadn't planned a second visit. But he was back later the same day – as the officer in charge of a suicide investigation.

Review:
This is the very first Morse I read back circa 1990. Of course, I hugely enjoyed it and read other Morse cases that were on offer at that time. I must have enjoyed it as coming back to this book after thirty years (crikey!), I still remembered the solution, if not the whole points of the case. On second reading I still read this with huge enjoyment. Dexter was sublime at the labyrinthine plot and how he steered Morse through several different scenarios.

Dexter was unkind to his creation, and yet again a woman is the basis of this case and how Morse has missed this particular boat as well as many others. The nucleus of the case is quite sad and Morse will have time to reflect and bitterly regret. Something he appears to be good at doing. Dexter litters his books with literary references. One suspect's alibi is being home alone reading Gibbons, which Morse is inclined to believe simply because of the highbrow literature that was being read at the significant time! If only all suspects could be exonerated due to their literary tastes! Dexter was to win a CWA Silver Dagger for this title as he did with his previous Morse, 'Service of All The Dead'. I feel 'The Dead of Jericho' is more controlled than other Morse cases and delivers a twist that shows that when Dexter was firing on all cylinders he could come up trumps… as he does here. Spellbinding.

Reviewed by: C.S.

CrimeSquad Rating:

P.D. James - The Skull Beneath the Skin

"...shows why James could write haunting and atmospheric magnificently. "

Synopsis:
Clarissa Lisle hopes to make a spectacular comeback in an amateur production of The Duchess of Malfi, to be played in Ambrose Gorringe's sinister castle at Courcy Island. Cordelia is there to ensure her safety following the appearance of a number of poison-pen letters. But it soon becomes clear that all are in danger. Trapped within the walls of the Gothic castle, the treacherous past of the island re-emerges, and everyone seems to have a motive for sending Clarissa 'down, down to hell'.

Review:
My re-reading of James' entire catalogue continues apace. James only wrote two Cordelia Gray novels. This second was published in 1982. As with many of James' books, she takes her time to set up the drama to come. Particularly here, James is luxurious in describing Courcy Castle, its architecture and history. While this is fascinating, James appears to get carried away describing roofs, walls, doors, etc. which tends to hinder the pace of her plot. Where James does succeed is with her characterisation. Her cast is three-dimensional and each one stands out on their own merit. At times I felt I was reading a Ngaio Marsh book with the amount of theatricals about Courcy Island.

I am not sure why James stopped her Gray novels here. Maybe as a Private Investigator, James felt there were limited scenarios for her young heroine. Cordelia's power to bring the guilty to justice is severely limited. Here, Cordelia unearths the truth, but sadly James is too eager to make Cordelia inexperienced, if not wet behind the ears, meaning the perpetrator may have got away with his crime. The claustrophobic journey in the underground tunnels leading to the Devil's Kettle is highly chilling and shows why James could write haunting and atmospheric magnificently. Not her best, but an entertaining read.

Reviewed by: C.S.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Robert Goddard - The Fine Art of Invisible Detection

"Without a doubt one of my stand out reads in recent years."

Synopsis:
Umiko Wada has had quite enough excitement in her life. With her husband recently murdered and a mother who seems to want her married again before his body is cold, she just wants to keep her head down.

As a secretary to a private detective, her life is pleasingly uncomplicated, filled with coffee runs, diary management and paperwork. That is, until her boss takes on a new case. A case which turns out to be dangerous enough to get him killed. A case which means Wada will have to leave Japan for the first time and travel to London.

Following the only lead she has, Wada quickly realises that being a detective isn't as easy as the television makes out. And that there's a reason why secrets stay buried for a long time. Because people want them to stay secret. And they're prepared to do very bad things to keep them that way...

Review:
A new book by Robert Goddard is always something to look forward to. When I was sent a review copy of his latest novel, I couldn't wait to get stuck in. And let me tell you, I was not disappointed.

'The Fine Art of Invisible Detection' is a belter of a book. An intelligent thriller with a compelling central character and enough plot twists and turns to make you dizzy, this is a real page-turner. I devoured it in a few hours and felt a real sense of loss when I reached the end.

There are so many things to praise here. The perfection of the prose, the lightness of the writing, the humour and the sheer brilliance of one of the most original protagonists I've had the pleasure of encountering in a very long time.

Die-hard Goddard fans, of whom I am one, have strongly held opinions on which is his best novel. For many of us, that remains his first novel, 'Past Caring'. I think 'The Fine Art of Invisible Detection' may be slightly better. It is a joyous read from start to finish; the work of a novelist at the very top of his game.

There's a hint, at the end, that this might be the first in a new series. If that's the case, I cannot wait to read the next instalment. If it turns out to be a one-off, and this is my last encounter with Umiko Wada, all I can say is I'm grateful for the opportunity. She's a fabulous creation. Without a doubt one of my stand out reads in recent years.

Reviewed by: S.B.

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