Sunday, 28 April 2013

The Villa of Mysteries by David Hewson

The Villa of Mysteries (2004) is the second book in the Detective Nic Costa series based in Rome, Italy.

Hardback:  When a young woman turns up dead in a peat bog near the River Tiber, Teresa Lupo, a maverick pathologist, thinks she's got the victim of an ancient pagan ritual on her hands.

She's wrong.

Inspector Leo Falcone knows this case is recent history and the horror is still very much alive.

So begins an investigation that will take the police deep into the dark underworld of modern-day Rome's most disturbing and sinister secrets.

Nic Costa is trying to stay off the drink.

Gianni Peroni used to work vice until he was caught in one of his own department's stings.

Emilio Neri, the local Mafia boss, can't trust his own son and Vergil Wallis, the former American mobster, is refusing to talk.

Meanwhile, someone is trying very hard to kill the pathologist.

And now another beautiful young woman has gone missing.

A riveting thriller that appropriates the beauty and savagery of classical Rome and plays them off against the corruption and sleaze of the present day.

About the author:  David Hewson was born in Yorkshire in 1953.  He worked as a staff writer on The Times from 1978, and was a weekly columnist for the Sunday Times before giving it up entirely in 2005 to concentrate on writing fiction.  Hewson is also the author who recreates the Bafta-winning Danish TV series The Killing into literary form - The Killing (2012) and The Killing II (2013).  Both books are available in shops now.  The author lives in Kent, England.

More information and updates can be found on the author's website.

Rating:  4/5

Friday, 26 April 2013

The Coroner (The First Book in the Jenny Cooper series) by M R Hall

Hardback:  "I'm a coroner.  I spend my life laying things to rest..."

When lawyer Jenny Cooper is appointed Severn Vale District Coroner, she's hoping for a quiet life and space to recover from a traumatic divorce, but the office she inherits from the recently deceased Harry Marshall contains neglected files hiding dark secrets and a trail of buried evidence.

Could the tragic death in custody of a young boy be linked to the apparent suicide of a teenage prostitute and the fate of Marshall himself?

Jenny's curiosity is aroused.

Why was Marshall behaving so strangely before he died?

What injustice was he planning to uncover?

And what caused his abrupt change of heart?

Perhaps she had been too swift to imagine a conspiracy, too easily swept up in the emotion of a teenager's shocking death?

In the face of powerful and sinister forces determined to keep both the truth hidden and the troublesome coroner in check, Jenny, the coroner, an impartial, clear-headed, determined investigator of the truth, embarks on a lonely and dangerous one-woman crusade for justice which threatens not only her career but also her sanity.

About the author:  M R Hall is a screenwriter, producer and former criminal barrister.  The Coroner (2009) is his first novel and was nominated for the Crime Writer's Association Gold Dagger in the best novel category.  Educated at Hereford Cathedral School and Worcester College, Oxford, he lives in Monmouthshire with his wife and two sons.  Aside from writing, his main passion is the preservation and planting of woodland.  In his spare moments, he is mostly to be found amongst trees.

Other books in the Jenny Cooper series are

The Disappeared (2010)
The Redeemed (2011)
The Flight (2012)

The Innocent (2012) - a free Kindle edition

Hall introduces his protagonist, coroner Jenny Cooper and his debut:

Rating:  5/5

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

The Misremembered Man (First Book in the Tailorstown series) by Christina McKenna

Hardback:  County Derry, Ireland.  Summer, 1974.

Problem:  Loneliness.

Jamie McCloone's early years in a grim, cruel orphanage have left him wary of people and anxious of change.

Now in his early forties, he has no dreams of changing his lonely life as a bachelor farmer until his kind-hearted neighbours, Patrick and Rose, tell him he is in need of a wife.

Lydia couldn't be more different to Jamie.

Rector's daughter and proper schoolteacher, she still lives at home, looking after her demanding mother.

She does dream of changing her spinsterly fate, but has no idea how - until a friend suggests putting an ad in the Lonely Hearts column of the Mid-Ulster Vindicator.

The result is a meeting of absolute opposites:  farmer Jamie with his cavalier attitude to personal hygiene and Lydia Devine, for whom everything must be neat and in its proper place - including her ideal man.

The Misremembered Man (2008) is a beautifully rendered portrait of rural life which delights with its authentic characters and gentle humour.  But the tears it evokes are not only tears of laughter.  This vivid portrayal of the universal search for love brings with it a darker tale, for Jamie's search for love is truly a search for innocence and the childhood that was stolen from him.

In this exquisite tragi-comedy, Christina McKenna lays bare a sinister period of Ireland's history;  one which many would prefer to leave hidden and safe from investigate eyes.

About the author:  Christina McKenna grew up in County Derry, Northern Ireland.  She attended the Belfast College of Art, gaining an honours degree in Fine Art, and studied postgraduate English at the University of Ulster.  In 1986, she left Northern Ireland and spent ten years teaching both of these subjects abroad.  She was, at the same time, pursuing a career as a painter.  She mounted several exhibitions of her work - both as a solo artist and in group context - when abroad, but also on her return to Northern Ireland.  She has written a memoir, published in 2004, titled My Mother Wore a Yellow Dress, and co-authored a book on exorcism, The Dark Sacrament (2006), with her writer husband, David M Kiely.  She has also written a collection of true-life ghost stories set in the Ireland of the present day entitled Ireland's Haunted Women (2010).

The Misremembered Man is her first novel to be followed by a sequel, The Disenchanted Widow, in September 2013.  She lives in Rostrevor, County Down.

Rating:  5/5

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Hardback:  What are you thinking, Amy?

The question I've asked most often during our marriage, if not out loud, if not to the person who could answer.

I suppose these questions stormcloud over every marriage:

What are you thinking?

How are you feeling?

Who are you?

What have we done to each other?

What will we do?

Just how well can you ever know the person you love?

This is the question that Nick Dunne must ask himself on the morning of his fifth wedding anniversary, when his wife Amy suddenly disappears.

The police immediately suspect Nick.

Amy's friends reveal that she was afraid of him, that she kept secrets from him.

He swears it isn't true.

A police examination of his computer shows strange searches.

He says they aren't his.

And then there are the persistent calls on his mobile phone.

So what really did happen to Nick's beautiful wife?

In Gone Girl (2012), marriage truly is the art of war.

About the author:  Gillian Flynn's first novel, Sharp Objects (2006), was the winner of two CWA Dagger Awards and was shortlisted for the CWA Gold Dagger Award, and an Edgar.  Her second, Dark Places (2008), was published to great critical acclaim.  A former writer and critic for Entertainment Weekly, her novels have been published in twenty-eight countries.  She lives in Chicago with her husband and son.  Go to her website for more information and updates.

Rating:  5/5

Friday, 19 April 2013

The Law Of Second Chances by James Sheehan

"The death penalty is an intricate part of politics in America.  So many people on Florida's death row had been found innocent than in any other state in America.  In The Mayor of Lexington Avenue, I tried to put a face on the injustice of the system.  In The Law of Second Chances, I continued with the same theme and further expanded the subject by...asking some important questions:

1) Should we care why people become criminals?  

2) Or should we simply concern ourselves with punishment?  

3) And if we never look deep enough at the socioeconomic causes and try to eliminate or modify them, are we going to run out of space for all the prisons we are going to need to build in the years to come as the rich get richer and the poor get poorer?  

I hope that the stories will cause the reader to think a little more about the criminal, the crime, the legal system and the society we live in." (by James Sheehan, Florida, 2008)

Paperback:  Henry Wilson has been on death row for seventeen years for a crime he did not commit.

His execution by lethal injection is just eight weeks away.

Small-time crook Benny Avrile is being pursued by the cops for his part in a high-profile robbery that ended in murder.

Both men will rely on trial lawyer and death-row advocate Jack Tobin to represent them.

About the author:  James Sheehan was a trial attorney in Florida.  He went into private practice and began to represent ordinary practice - people who'd lost their jobs or livelihoods, or were victims of police brutality or of racial, age, sexual and handicap discrimination.  With one associate and a secretary, James Sheehan has sued such giants of industry as United Parcel Service, IBM, and Delta Airlines.  He has long been interested in cases that have resulted in the death row penalty in America, and his two books, The Mayor of Lexington Avenue (2005) and The Law of Second Chances (2008) are based on some of the characters he has met and represented, and the injustices he has seen.  His third book featuring trial lawyer and death-row advocate, Jack Tobin, The Lawyer's Lawyer (2013) is out now.

Rating:  5/5

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Meredith by John Kercher

Hardback:  Meredith Kercher was tragically murdered in November 2007, in Perugia, Italy.

Since then, her murder and the subsequent trial have been a source of constant intrigue and media speculation all around the world, with the spotlight famously focusing on the accused, Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito.

Now, Meredith's father John speaks out for the first time and tells the world about the beautiful daughter he and his family so tragically lost.

This book is a celebration of Meredith's life.

It is also a father's story of losing a beloved daughter, and the first account of the torment the family have suffered and their ongoing quest for justice.

About the author:  John Kercher has been a full-time professional writer and journalist for over thirty years, during which time he has published several thousand articles and interviews for British and overseas newspapers and magazines.  He is the author of The Film Biography of Warren Beatty (1982) and has written 24 children's annuals and edited several magazines.  He holds a BSc degree in Sociology from the University of London and lives in Surrey.

Meredith (2012) is also available as an ebook.

Breaking news update (30 January 2014):  The Amanda Knox retrial began in September 2013.  Today, Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito are found guilty of the murder of Meredith Kercher in 2007, for a second time.  Amanda is sentenced to 28 years and 6 months in jail whereas Raffaele received 25 years.  The judges ordered that damages should be paid by Amanda and Raffaele to the family of Meredith.

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Unthinkable by Kris Hollington

Paperback:  It was the news story that shocked the UK to its core.

In May 2012, nine men were convicted of the appalling exploitation of disadvantaged young girls in Greater Manchester.

Men who kept pictures of their wives and children in their wallets.

None of those relatives knew what their husbands and fathers liked to do to young white girls.

Their offences included grooming, sexual abuse and trafficking.

Many thought it was the first case of its kind.

It was not.

For more than two decades, thousands of vulnerable girls were trapped in a chaotic system that wasted billions of pounds failing to protect them.

As a result, organized gangs were able to abuse the system for their own evil ends.

Outreach workers and charities tried for years to bring the scandal to the attention of authorities but, in many cases, care homes, child safeguarding boards, police and social services did nothing to help.

The results are catastrophic.

Unthinkable (2013) pulls no punches in telling the heart-breaking stories of some of the young casualties of sex trafficking and the outreach workers who tried to help them.

* * * * * * * *

These girls are real people.  They have personalities, hopes and dreams like you and I and, as Hilary Willmer, whose charity helps the parents of children who have been sexually exploited told the author:  anybody's child, rich or poor, can become a victim.

The scandal of sexual exploitation and of the care system is, as this book's title suggests, unthinkable.

It is about time the unthinkable is finally believed, confronted and dealt with.

Writing this book made me angry.  I hope reading it makes you angry too.  

(Italics passage is taken from the Introduction of Unthinkable by Kris Hollington, 2013)

Attention:  If you have been the victim of sexual abuse, whether yesterday or twenty years ago, it's vital to report it.  

Even if you don't want to follow it up with a criminal investigation, you hold valuable criminal intelligence that could be used to help protect other children.

Also, by coming forward, you will have taken their first step on the road to achieving some kind of closure.

You can do this by contacting your local police (or anonymously via Crimestoppers), local social services and various voluntary organisations.

Childline:  0800 1111

Crimestoppers: 0800 555 111

NSPCC:  0800 800 5000

Parents Against Child Exploitation (PACE):  0113 2403040

About the author:  Kris Hollington is a Sunday Times bestselling author, ghost-writer and freelance journalist living and working in London.  As a journalist, he has written a number of investigative pieces on subjects as diverse as mass murder, assassination, armed robbery, African drug smugglers, diamond mining, art and jewellery theft, the space race, HM Customs and Excise and police corruption for The Sunday TimesThe GuardianThe Mail on SundayThe News of the WorldThe Evening StandardArena and Loaded.

In 2010, Kris co-wrote a script for BBC Radio 4's Saturday Play based on the true story of the theft and recovery of Edvard Munch's painting, Scream.  Kris was also involved in the production of Noble Cause Corruption, a controversial crime drama, also for Radio 4, broadcast on 5 March 2013.

Several of Kris' articles and books have been featured in TV documentaries including Channel 4's Cutting Edge and ITV1's Real Crime.  The Interceptor (co-written with Cameron Addicott) has been commissioned by BBC Drama for an eight-part season due to be broadcast on BBC1 in Autumn 2014.

He is the co-author, with Detective Sergeant Harry Keeble, of three bestelling titles about child protection - Baby X (2010), Little Victim (2011) and Hurting Too Much (2012).

Monday, 8 April 2013

The Gift Of Rain by Tan Twan Eng

Paperback:  Penang, 1939.

Sixteen-year-old Philip Hutton is a loner.

Half English, half Chinese and feeling neither, he discovers a sense of belonging in an unexpected friendship with Hayato Endo, a Japanese diplomat.

Philip shows his new friend around his adored island of Penang, and in return Endo trains him in the art and discipline of aikido.

But such knowledge comes at a terrible price.

The enigmatic Endo is bound by disciplines of his own and when the Japanese invade Malaya, threatening to destroy Philip's family and everything he loves, he realises that his trusted sensei - to whom he owes absolute loyalty - has been harbouring a devastating secret.

Philip must risk everything in an attempt to save those he has placed in mortal danger and discover who and what he really is.

About the author:  Tan Twan Eng was born in Penang, Malaysia.  He worked as an intellectual property lawyer in Kuala Lumpur before becoming a full-time writer.  His debut novel, The Gift of Rain, was long-listed for the Man Booker Prize in 2007 and has been widely translated.

The Garden of Evening Mists (2012) is his second novel and was short-listed for the Man Booker Prize in 2012 and won the Man Asian Literary Prize.  He divides his time between Kuala Lumpur and Cape Town.

Do visit Tan Twan Eng's website for more news and updates.

Rating:  4/5

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

The Mayor of Lexington Avenue by James Sheehan

The Mayor of Lexington Avenue (2005) is the first book in the Jack Tobin legal thriller series and also James Sheehan's first novel.  There are two other books in the series - The Law of Second Chances (2008) and The Lawyer's Lawyer (February 2013).

Paperback:  Small town Florida.

A place where police corruption has become an art form.

A place where favours are traded at the expense of truth.

A place where terrifying miscarriage of justice is about to unfold.

When a young man is railroaded into a murder conviction, trial lawyer Jack Tobin resolves to pay back a debt to his best friend, the boy who once dubbed him 'the Mayor of Lexington Avenue'.

Heartbreak, tragedy, courtroom drama and the hope of redemption play out in this utterly page-turning, thought-provoking legal thriller.

About the author:  James Sheehan was born and raised in New York City and grew up in a four-room railroad apartment with his five brothers and sisters.  He started working at the age of twelve, shining shoes at a local shoe repair shop.  At fourteen, he had a newspaper route.  During school, he worked at a local delicatessen, an antique store where he stripped and delivered furniture, as a construction worker during the summers, a short-order cook throughout his college years, and as a roofer's assistant while he attended graduate school in Florida.  He was a trial attorney in Tampa, Florida where he practised law for over thirty years.  Presently, he is a law professor at Stetson University College of Law and the Director of the Tampa Law Center.  His experience of growing up in New York has shaped his life.

Getting to know the author:

Rating:  4/5