Booktopia Crime 
April/May 2010 | Edition Three
Welcome to the April/May Crime and Mystery Buzz
There is a swag of terrific crime in this edition of Crime Buzz.

The offerings cover the waterfront, from superb British mysteries and police procedurals, to heart-pounding American thrillers from writers new and old. Great new historical crime is represented (don't miss Lynn Shepherd's delightful take on the Jane Austen classic Mansfield Park; Murder at Mansfield Park!), as well as European titles from established and up-and-coming authors.

Swaziland-born and Australian resident Malla Nunn has just released the second Emmanuel Cooper story Let The Dead Lie. It is a wonderful read. And check out my interview with Malla in which she describes some of the background to her novel.

Every now and then I'm going to include a quick, and admittedly  personal  overview of some of my favourite classic crime novels. Three are included in this edition, and I'd love to hear from you about whether you agree or disagree,  with suggestions of your own.

Hope you enjoy the selections. Happy reading!

Chris Bilkey
Crime Buzz Editor
Book of the Month
Bleed for Me
Michael Robotham

When I was a bookseller, the first of Michael Robotham's thrillers, The Suspect, hit the shelves. For some reason I took a dislike to its cover, and resisted reading it or its successors. More fool me!

I should have listened to my customers who were telling me what a great writer he was - and is. The latest is Bleed for Me, and it is a terrific psychological thriller featuring the very damaged psychologist Professor Joe O'Loughlin. Joe is battling the irresistible march of Parkinson's disease and the disintegration of his marriage.

When his daughter's best friend returns home to find her father murdered, Joe becomes embroiled in an investigation that quickly uncovers a trail of predatory activity that points to school teachers and the murdered father, an ex-policeman. Meanwhile, Joe's estranged wife is working as a translator in the trial of three young men accused of firebombing a family of asylum seekers. Gradually the threads of these plots are woven together, and the result is a very satisfying thriller.

Robotham invests Joe with an almost child-like refusal to accept the loss of his marriage. He bumbles his way through clumsy attempts at reconciliation, and his anguish is palpable. He likewise struggles to find common ground with his daughter. Despite his misplaced optimism and his unworldliness, Joe's humanity and decency are his redemption.

Robotham is Australian, but his novels have found more enthusiastic audiences in Europe. Like the others, this one is set in England, near Bath, and feels authentically English. His wider popularity here is surely a formality.

Click here to order Bleed for Me
RRP $32.99 Booktopia price $25.95  SAVE 21%

Malla Nunn Speaks ...

How does a girl from Swaziland end up in Sydney writing crime novels?

I was brought up there but moved to Australia with my parents in the seventies. Most of my work has been screenplays and film making, so the novels have come only recently.

How do you compare screenwriting with writing novels?

Well, writing novels is a lonelier business. Screenplays require a lot of collaboration and consultation. With a novel I find a greater sense of satisfaction. For good or ill the end product is all my own.

The apartheid background to your novels is a powerful driver of the books. What's your own heritage?

My background is a mixture of Zulu, English and Scottish - mixed race in apartheid South Africa.

You've created Emmanuel Cooper as neither black nor white. Why is that?

By making Cooper a mixed race character, he is able to move between the cultures and racial groups more effectively and believably. It's a useful writer's device to allow him wider access, although there are very real limits on what he can do with that.

Your books resonate with the injustices of apartheid, but they do so without being strident.  How important is that?

Well, first and foremost, these are crime books with a story to tell. They are not political pieces and preaching would be the first way to lose your reader. Secondly, the characters may be good guys, bad guys or whatever, but their goodness and badness is not defined by race. Like all of us, they are a product of their time and place.

More Emmanuel Cooper planned?

Oh, yes. Pick-up of the books, A Beautiful Place to Die, and Let the Dead Lie has been good in Australia, South Africa and elsewhere so Cooper will certainly be back.

I understand you were married in a traditional ceremony back in Swaziland, and that there was a price involved. Can you tell us what you are worth?

Oh, this is embarrassing. I fetched a marriage price of 16 cows. But I hasten to add that it could have been more but my poor housekeeping counted against me!

Malla, thanks for talking to Crime Buzz.

You're very welcome.

Let the Dead Lie

Malla Nunn

Malla's new release is a beauty.

Emmanuel Cooper has been forced out of the police and is working as a labourer and part-time spy for the mysterious Captain van Niekerk. When he stumbles on the body of a murdered boy, he cannot leave well enough alone. Soon he is being pursued for that and two more murders and it is only the intervention of van Niekerk that saves him. But it comes at a price; he must solve the murders within 48 hours, and the clock is ticking fast.

This novel works very well as a crime/thriller, but it is much more. It is charged with social comment and outrage at the injustices of the apartheid era in South Africa. But it isn't strident, and acknowledges that people are people, good and bad and mostly in between. It's a terrific read.

Click here to order Let the Dead Lie
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Best of British
Blue Lightning The Dead of Winter
Ann Cleeves

Last weekend I picked up a second-hand copy of Agatha Christie's classic And Then There Were None (originally titled Ten Little Niggers!). I hadn't read it since I was a teenager, and was struck anew by its tightly written genius. It remains a benchmark in the closed community mystery that is a bedrock under British crime fiction.
Ann Cleeves has reprised the genre, and added a dose of contemporary psychological tension in her fourth novel featuring Shetland Island detective Jimmy Perez.

Jimmy faces a difficult homecoming when he returns to the Fair Isles to introduce his fiancee, Fran, to his parents. It's a community where everyone knows each other, and strangers, while welcomed, are still viewed with a degree of mistrust. With the autumn storms raging, the island feels cut off from the rest of the world. Trapped, tension is high and tempers become frayed. Someone is driven to murder.

When a woman's body is discovered at the renowned Fair Isles bird observatory, with feathers threaded through her hair, the islanders react with fear and anger. With no support from the mainland and only Fran to help him – Jimmy has to investigate the old-fashioned way. He soon realises that this is a murder of cold and calculated intention. With no way off the island until the storms abate – Jimmy knows he has to work quickly. There's a killer on the island just waiting for the opportunity to strike again.

Ann Cleeves deserves her growing reputation as a thoughtful and intelligent writer of gripping mysteries. Blue Lightning is her best yet ...

Click here to order Blue Lightning
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  Rennie Airth

Rennie Airth is the real deal when it comes to writing about wartime England. His evocation of the place, its the tension and fragility, make you swear he was there.

During a blackout on the streets of London on a freezing evening in late 1944, a young Polish land girl, Rosa Nowak, is suddenly and brutally killed.

For the police, their resources already stretched by war regulations and the thriving black market, this is a shocking and seemingly random crime. No one can find any reason why someone would want to murder an innocent refugee.

For the former police inspector John Madden, the crime hits close to home. Rosa was working on his farm and he feels personally responsible for not protecting her.

His old colleagues Angus Sinclair and Billy Styles are still at the Yard, but struggle to make sense of their few clues. Their only lead points towards war-torn Europe - but as the fighting sweeps across the

continent, how will they find the killer before he strikes again?

The Dead of Winter is the third novel featuring John Madden. They don't have to be read in order, and this is a good place to start. If you like it (and I'm sure you will!), get hold of the first two: River of Darkness and The Blood-Dimmed Tide.

You'll love them all.

Click here to order The Dead of Winter
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Captured This Body of Death
Neil Cross

Neil Cross has probably been entertaining you even if you haven't read any of his books. He was the lead writer for the immensely successful British spy drama Spooks. And his mastery of telling stories about the darker side of man is fully realised in his latest novel Captured.

It begins with a simple and seemingly innocent premise. Kenny has cancer and is dying. Really soon. He decides that in the few weeks he has left he will track down a Callie Barton, a girl who was kind to him in primary school. He hasn't seen her since then and has no idea how to find her, but his new perspective on life makes it important for him to make sure she knows how important that kindness was for him.
But when Kenny begins his search, he discovers that Callie has gone missing. Although cleared of any involvement, her husband Jonathan seems to be hiding something.

Kenny believes he has no choice but to take matters into his own hands. And knowing that time is running out on him, he's prepared to do whatever it takes. Unfortunately, "whatever it takes" involves some unintended collateral damage.

The writing is pared down and the story pulls you along irresistibly. It's a great read that gives you pause to think about unintended consequences of good intentions.

Click here to order Captured
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  Elizabeth George

Elizabeth George is back with a spellbinding tale  featuring Scotland Yard Detective Inspector Thomas Lynley.

On compassionate leave after the murder of his wife, Thomas Lynley is called back to Scotland Yard when the body of a woman is found stabbed and abandoned in an isolated London cemetery. His former team doesn't trust the leadership of their new department chief, Isabelle Ardery, whose management style seems to rub everyone the wrong way. In fact, Lynley may be the only person who can see beneath his superior officer's hard-as-nails exterior to a hidden—and possibly attractive—vulnerability.

While Lynley works in London, his former colleagues Barbara Havers and Winston Nkata follow the murder trail south to the New Forest. There they discover a beautiful and strange place where animals roam free, and outsiders are not entirely welcome. What they don't know is that more than one dark secret lurks among the trees and the story turns dark and tragic.

This is Elizabeth George at her peak - a skillfully constructed story that will have you guessing to the very end! Fans of Inspector Lynley will welcome his return, and new fans can pick up the story in this terrific novel.

Click here to order This Body of Death
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Literary Crime
Dark Matter
Juli Zeh

Juli Zeh is probably unknown to most Australian readers, but she has a long list of prizes to her name, and with Dark Matter, you can see why. It is written with grace, humour and a rigorous internal logic that makes this philosophical thriller a must-read.

Sebastian and Oskar have been friends since their days studying physics at university, when both were considered future Nobel Prize candidates. But their lives took divergent paths, as did their scientific views. Whenever Oskar comes to visit from his prestigious research post in Geneva, there is tension in the air, and it doesn’t help their friendship that he feels Sebastian has not lived up to his intellectual capacities, having chosen marriage and fatherhood as an exit strategy. A few days after a particularly heated argument between the two men, Sebastian leaves his son sleeping in the back seat while he goes into a service station.

When he returns, the car has disappeared without trace. His phone rings and a voice informs him that in order to get his son back he must kill a man.

Click here to order Dark Matter
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Murder at Mansfield Park
Lynn Shepherd

Murder at Mansfield Park is a witty and clever rei-imagining of Jane Austen's much-loved novel Mansfield Park. But in this Mansfield Park, things have changed...

Formerly Austen's meekest heroine, Fanny Price has become not only an heiress to an extensive fortune but also a heartless, scheming minx. Hiding her true character behind a demure facade, Fanny is indeed betrothed to Edmund, now Mrs Norris's stepson; but do the couple really love each other? Henry and Mary Crawford arrive in the country ready to wreak havoc with their fast city ways, but this time Henry Crawford is troubled by a suspicious past while his sister, Mary, steps forward in the best Austen style to become an unexpected heroine.
Meanwhile, tragedy strikes the safe and solid grand house as it becomes the scene of violence. Every member of the family falls under suspicion and the race begins to halt a ruthless murderer.

Funny and sharp, Murder at Mansfield Park is simply a delight to read. And, while Austen fans have been spoilt with yet another inspired literary mash up, you don't have to have read the original to enjoy this deadly comedy of manners!

Click here to order Murder at Mansfield Park
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Thrillers and Chillers
Adrenaline Accused
Jeff Abbott

Jeff Abbott has a pedigree in writing classy thrillers that few can boast. His books are multi-award winning and some are optioned for films. And you can see why. They are action-packed with edge-of-your-seat thrills. The plots race along assisted by smooth writing and empathetic characters. Adrenaline is no exception, and if you're looking for knuckle-biting ride, buckle up. This one is for you.

Sam Capra is living the life of his dreams. A young American in London, he has a perfect flat, a perfect job with the CIA and a perfect wife, Lucy – who is seven months pregnant with their first child.

But one sunny day, it all goes up in flames. Sam receives a call from Lucy while he’s at work. She tells him to leave the building immediately, which he does – just before it explodes, killing those inside. Lucy vanishes, and Sam wakes up in a prison cell.

Why did Lucy call him? Was she a loving spouse or an enemy operative? Is Sam’s unborn child safe? Adrenaline coursing through his veins, Sam enters a frantic race to save his life and discover the truth about those he thought he knew so well.

Lee Child (of 61 Hours fame) said "Jeff Abbott writes suspense classics".

Hear, hear!

Click here to order Adrenaline
RRP: $32.99 Booktopia Price: $25.95
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  Mark Gimenez

Gimenez is now the legal thriller writer to catch. He has left the others in his wake with his refreshing style human lawyers with foibles and baggage. I recently read Perk, and became an instant fan. The stories have depth, pathos and humanity, as well as being cracking legal thrillers.

Accused is all that, and more. The hero, Scott Fenney, is a very laid back Texan lawyer until, after years of silence, his ex-wife rings him. 'Scott, it's Rebecca. I need you.'

She has been accused of murdering her boyfriend, Trey, the man she left Scott for,and is being held in a police cell. Now she is begging Scott to defend her. Scott is used to high-stakes cases, but this one is bigger than anything he has handled before.

If Rebecca is found guilty, under Texan law she will be sentenced to death. He will have her blood on his hands. As he prepares to take the stand in the most dramatic courtroom appearance of his life, Scott is forced to question everything he believes to get to the truth. And of course he desperately wants to save the life of the ex-wife he still loves.

If you've been starved of convincing legal thrillers, Mark Gimenez and Accused will be just what the doctor ordered.

Click here to order Accused
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Deliver Us From Evil Think Twice
David Baldacci

David Baldacci is one of the few masters of the thriller craft. You know when you pick him up it will be well worth it.

In Deliver us From Evil, a wealthy ninety-six year old South American man reads a book late into the night. Within an hour, he is dead, leaving a trail of secrets behind him.

Six months later, in Provence, Shaw (the hero with no first name from The Whole Truth) witnesses the murder of a mysterious man, his body left lifeless at the bottom of a pool. Shaw barely escapes the incident himself; and with a new partner of sorts in tow, begins to realise that there has to be another organisation at work that rivals his own in secrecy. At the same time journalist Katie James is working on a new story. But shortly after meeting with a potential inside source she’s unconscious and on a plane to an unknown destination.

As Baldacci pulls the reader around the
world at a blinding pace, the new Shaw and Katie James chronicle will leave readers' hearts pounding; and wondering if anyone is actually safe anymore …

Click here to order Deliver us From Evil
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  Lisa Scottoline

Unbeknownst to her identical twin Bennie Rosato,
Alice Connelly is on the run from her drug-dealing confederates who are trying to kill her. Alice sees only one way out - to become Bennie. She slips a drug into her drink, and usurps her life. Not only does she sleep with her boyfriend, impersonate her at work - and steal her money, but she also warns the police that her evil twin is out to get her.

Her plan works perfectly, because when Bennie emerges to fight back, everyone thinks she's Alice - including the police. Meanwhile, Mary DiNunzio, distracted by personal problems is also duped by Alice. Bennie, with everything at stake, is fighting for her life - on all levels. She's reached breaking point.

But when the chips are finally down, what will she do? Is blood thicker than water, and can an ordinary, law-abiding woman be driven to evil?

Lisa Scottaline has delivered another heart-pounding thriller that will keep you up long past a sensible bedtime!

Click here to order Think Twice
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Something a Little Different
A Game of Sorrows
Shona MacLean

This isn't strictly a crime/mystery tilte; it's more historical adventure. But it captured me because it tells of a time in Ireland when loyalties were divided (plus ca change!) between the English and the native Irish, to the extent that a mis-marriage in a family could bring down whole cities and clans.

It is 1628, and Alexander Seaton's happily settled life as a university teacher in Aberdeen is shattered by the arrival in town of a stranger carrying a plea for help from his dead mother's family in Ireland. The family has been placed under a poet's curse, elements of which have begun to come true. Reluctantly answering the call, Alexander travels to Ulster, to find himself among a family riven by secrets and long-standing resentments.

His life and liberty are threatened as he is confronted with murder within his own family, and he finds the lines between superstition and faith, duty and loyalty blurred. He begins to question his own identity, and is forced to face up to the destructive power of love.

It's a great read in its own right, and a terrific insight into little known history.

Click here to order A Game of Sorrows
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War Damage
Elizabeth Wilson

War Damage is both a high-class thriller and a wonderful evocation of Britain staggering back to its feet after the privations of the war.

London in the aftermath of World War Two is a beaten down, hungry place, so it's no wonder that Regine Milner's Sunday house parties in her Hampstead home are so popular. Everyone comes to Reggie's on a Sunday: ballet dancers and cabinet ministers, left-over Mosleyites alongside flamboyant homosexuals like Freddie Buckingham. And when Freddie turns up dead on Hampstead Heath one Sunday night there is no shortage of suspects. In Regine Milner it possesses a truly memorable heroine. She's full of secrets - just what did happen in Shanghai before the war? - and surprises - Reggie's living proof that sexual experimentation was alive and well long before the sixties.

Look out for more by this terrific writer.

Click here to order War Damage
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American Crime
City of Lies Reckless Split Image
Alafair Burke

Daughter of the wonderful James Lee Burke, Alafair Burke is rapidly building a deserved reputation for gritty nail-biting thrillers. Her previous life as an Assistant District Attorney shows through in this latest offering.

New York University student Megan Gunther is murdered in a vicious attack after receiving threats posted on a campus website. NYPD Detective Ellie Hatcher and her straight-talking partner J. J. Rogan try to identify Megan's enemies, but Ellie begins to wonder if the girl's murder was more than just the culmination of a cyber obsession.

Then phone records reveal a link between Megan and a murdered real-estate agent who was living a dangerous double life. Even more suspiciously, the detectives also learn that the dead real-estate agent shared a secret connection to a celebrity mogul whose bodyguard was mysteriously killed a few months earlier.

And when Megan's roommate suddenly disappears, the race is on.

Click here to order City of Lies
RRP: $32.99
Booktopia: $25.95

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  Andrew Gross

Andrew Gross cut his writing teeth co-writing with James Patterson. All his collaborations with Patterson went to the NY Times Best Seller list. As a stand-alone writer, he is no less impressive.

The hero of Reckless, Ty Hauck, has left law enforcement for a job with a big-time private security firm. But he quickly learns that life in the private sector can be every bit as dangerous as wearing a badge -- if not more so.

When a successful trader at one of Wall Street's largest firms is murdered in his suburban home along with his wife and daughter, it seems at first to be a case of burglary gone wrong.

Then another financial executive is found dead in a very suspicious 'suicide'. As Hauck digs deeper he uncovers a horrifying financial conspiracy that stretches from New York to Central Europe to London. And the masterminds behind it will kill anyone who gets in their way.

Tight writing with believable characters and very nasty villains!

Click here to order Reckless
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Robert B. Parker

Parker is the doyen of police crime writing in America. His long list of works stands collectively head and shoulders above the pack, and a new novel from him is always eagerly awaited.

In Split Image, two 'retired' mobsters, two nymphomaniac identical twins, one religious commune add up to more trouble in Paradise, Massachusetts for Police Chief Jesse Stone.

A body has been found in the trunk of a Cadillac. Jesse's investigation takes him to the neighbouring homes of two 'retired' gangsters. But it isn't the mobsters who fascinate Jesse - it's their wives: two completely identical twin sisters, who not even their husbands can tell apart.

And when one of the mobsters is found with a bullet in his skull, Jesse is forced to start digging into the twins' past.

If you haven't discovered Robert B Parker, now's your chance. The writing is stripped back without thrills and hyperbole, and he relies on the story to keep you.

And it does!

Click here to order Split Image
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Deception American Devil Trust Me
Jonathan Kellerman

Kellerman is the American master of the psychological thriller. Think Val McDermid with a US accent.

When a substitute teacher at an upmarket school is found dead, psychologist Alex Delaware and homicide detective Milo Sturgis receive a refresher course in the meaning of duplicity.

Alice Freeman was found dead, in a vat of dry ice, soon after she recorded a DVD confession claiming she was sexually harassed and raped during her 18 months as a teacher at Los Angeles’ elite Oak Canyon Preparatory Academy.

In order to investigate Alice’s death, Sturgis and Delaware must knock down some tightly-closed doors in this esteemed institution, renowned for moulding Ivy Leaguers. But by searching for predators among the privileged, they may well be walking into a highly-polished death trap.

Click here to order Deception
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  Oliver Stark

This is a  brilliant debut thriller from new talent Oliver Stark. The American Devil is stalking New York's streets. Will a cop and a psychiatrist be able to stop him? Detective Tom Harper, one of the New York Police Department's star homicide detectives, is on administrative leave for striking a superior officer when the city is left reeling by a series of brutal murders.

Young socialites are being targeted by one of the most gruesome killers New York has ever seen and the top brass know that Harper is the only detective who has a chance of stopping the newly dubbed 'American Devil' before he strikes again. With Harper already living on the edge, they have no choice but to appoint psychiatrist, and new profiler, Denise Levene, to oversee his return. 

The big question is do Harper and Levene have what it takes to bring him down?

Click here to order The American Devil
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Booktopia: $23.99

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  Peter Leonard

Peter Leonard is one of those writers of wonderful noir thrillers that give American crime a good name.

When Bobby and Lloyd decide to rob local restaurant owner Lou Starr's home in the night, they don't reckon on being propositioned about an even bigger scam by Lou's so-called girlfriend Karen. But after yet another bad decision in her life Karen has been looking for a way out and, more specifically, a way to recover her life savings, stolen from her by the treacherous Samir. And so set in motion is a plan that sounds all too simple.

It's a high octane novel of money, guns and some serious double crossing. Featuring a virtuoso cast of bad guys, a disgraced ex-cop who finds himself in more trouble than he bargained for, and an anti-heroine to die for, Trust Me is a superb novel from one of the emergent voices in crime writing today.

Click here to order Trust Me
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European Crime
A Question of Belief
Donna Leon

As Venice experiences a heatwave, Commissario Brunetti prepares to escape the city. For Ispettore Vianello, however, the weather is the last thing on his mind; it appears his aunt has been withdrawing large amounts of money from the family business. Not knowing what to do, he consults Brunetti and asks permission to trail her. This ‘unofficial’ investigation leads them to the flat of Stefano Gorini. But who is this man? And why is Vianello’s aunt giving him large amounts of money?

Meanwhile, Brunetti is made aware that discrepancies have been occurring at the Courthouse involving Judge Luisa Coltellini and Araldo Fontana, an usher with a flawless track record. When news surfaces that Araldo Fontana has been
murdered in a violent attack, Brunetti heads up the investigation – why would someone want a good man dead, and what might his death have to do with the discrepancies at the Courthouse?.

Donna Leon delivers her usual flawless performance. Her knowledge and love of Venice shines through, and her Commissario Brunetti is as believable and empathetic as ever. Another joy!

Click here to order A Question of Belief
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The Dogs Of Rome
Conor Fitzgerald

Here's the first of a new Italian series to get your teeth into.
It's one of the hottest days of the year. Chief Inspector Blume is enjoying a rare solitary lunch in a tranquil corner of Trastevere when an unwelcome phone call shatters his peace with news that an animal rights activist has been brutally killed on the outskirts of the city.

At the scene  the Chief Inspector is surprised to find the investigation already well underway - the case itself apparently clear-cut, the prime suspect quickly identified.

The victim's widow is an elected member of the Senate, and the case is naturally given special priority. A couple of awkward questions refuse to accept the simple answers given, but Blume, well acquainted with the city's underworld, knows from bitter experience that in Rome even a murder enquiry must bow to the rules of political expediency.

But when worrying procedural shortcuts sanctioned by one of his superiors are uncovered, Blume is left no option but to take matters into his own hands. The complex and uncomfortable truth he will unravel will shock even him, and in a world where compromise rules and the rules are compromised, Blume must risk his reputation - and his life - to see justice done.

Click here to order The Dogs of Rome
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The Snowman
Jo Nesbø

Scandinavian crime at its best.

The first snowfall in Oslo brings a series of gruesome murders, and Harry Hole is pitted against a brutal killer who will drive him to the edge.

The night the first snow falls a young boy wakes to find his mother gone. He walks through the silent house, but finds only wet footprints on the stairs. In the garden looms a solitary figure: a snowman bathed in cold moonlight, its black eyes glaring up at the bedroom windows. Round its neck is his mother’s pink scarf.

Inspector Harry Hole is convinced there is a link between the disappearance and a menacing letter he received some months earlier. As Harry and his team delve into unsolved case files, they discover that an alarming number of wives and mothers have gone missing over the years. When a second woman disappears Harry’s suspicions are confirmed: he is a pawn in a deadly game.

Jo Nesbø is the real deal!

Click here to order The Snowman
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Crimes Past
Empress of Rome: Nest of Vipers The Holy Thief
Luke Devenish

Rome is bathed in blood as the Emperor Tiberius is tormented by fears of treason. The innocent are butchered while the guilty do evil in darkness. None are guiltier than the Emperor’s devoted and deluded ‘son’, Sejanus.

In this city of poison, three beautiful women are locked in a lethal rivalry. Agrippina – driven mad with grief, her obsession with revenge for her murdered husband imperils the lives of her children. Apicata – robbed of her eyes and embittered in her heart, she schemes to empower the husband who despises her. Livilla – sensual and sly, she is gripped by a lust for a lover as deadly as he is desirable.

Three women. One goal. Who will be Empress of Rome? Rome is a nest of vipers, and Livia, the one true Empress
of Rome, is hell-bent on wreaking her vengeance.

Luke Devenish writes about Rome in a way that makes you smell the smells and hear the sounds - and feel the tension!

Click here to order Empress of Rome: Nest of Vipers
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  William Ryan

Introducing Captain Alexei Dimitrevich Korolev, and an outstanding new voice in historical crime fiction.

Moscow, 1936 and Stalin’s Great Terror is beginning. In a deconsecrated Church, a young woman is tortured to death, her mutilated body displayed on the altar for all to see. Captain Alexei Dimitrevich Korolev, finally beginning to enjoy the benefits of his success with the Criminal Investigation Division of the Moscow Militia, is asked to investigate.

But when he discovers that the victim is an American citizen, the NKVD - the most feared organisation in Russia - becomes involved. Soon, Korolev’s every move is under close scrutiny and the Zone - the place where not only Russia’s criminals are dispatched, but anyone deemed to be an Enemy of the State - doesn’t seem quite so distant.

William Ryan is a great new talent. Enjoy this one - it's terrific! Like me you will be itching for the next.

Click here to order The Holy Thief
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In This Issue

Book of the Month

Malla Nunn Speaks

Let the Dead Lie

Best of British

Literary Crime

Thrillers and Chillers

Something a Little Different

American Crime

European Crime

Crimes Past


Classic Oldies


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STILL NOT ENOUGH CHOICE? Booktopia's  May Favourites

James Patterson

A young mother and her infant child are gunned down while returning to their car at a shopping mall. There
are no witnesses, and Detective Lindsay Boxer is left with only one shred of evidence: a cryptic message scrawled across the windscreen in blood-red lipstick.

The same night, the wife of A-list actor Marcus Dowling walks in on a cat burglar who is about to steal millions of dollars worth of precious jewels. In just seconds there is an empty safe, a lifeless body, and another mystery that throws San Francisco into hysteria.

James Patterson does it again!

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9th Judgement

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Harlan Coben

This is a stand-alone thriller from the prolific pen of the very talented Harlan Coben.
Wendy is a reporter on a mission, chasing down sexual predators and exposing them on national television. She's there when child advocate who works with abused kids is nailed. Her cameras capture it all.

Three months later, Wendy is looking for Erin, a girl missing in a nearby suburb. Long-buried secrets start to throw doubt on the guilt of the first man, and Wendy is forced to face the possibility that she has been manipulated in an attempt to destroy an innocent man.

All the tension and class we have come to expect from Harlan Coben

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Robert B Parker

A wealthy woman has just recruited Spenser to accompany her to her private island to attend her daughter's wedding as a sort of stand-in husband. Spenser consents, but only after she agrees his beloved Susan Silverman will also be invited.

It should be a straightforward job for Spenser: show up for appearances, have some drinks, and spend some quality time with Susan. But when Spenser's old nemesis Rugar - the Grey Man - arrives, Spenser realises that something is amiss. A storm, a kidnapping and murder tear apart what should be a joyous occasion and Rugar is seemingly at the centre of it all.

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Rough Weather

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Margie Orford

Dr Clare Hart is sent to profile a possible serial killer in Namibia. Working with Tamar Damases, the woman who heads up the town's Murder Unit, Clare is glad for the distraction. Until a few days ago, her budding relationship with Captain Riedwaan Faizal seemed to be going very well indeed - but she knows she is not the only woman in his life...

As the two investigate the savage killings they discover that nothing is as it first seemed. Clare realizes that their lives - and the lives of everyone around them - are in great danger.

A breathtaking, atmospheric thriller and a stunning return for investigator Dr Clare Hart.

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Blood Rose

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Matt Rees

This is the fourth Omar Yussef mystery from CWA John Creasey Dagger winner Matt Rees. When Omar Yussef travels to New York for a UN conference, he is eager to see his youngest son, Ala.

But the discovery of a decapitated corpse in his son's empty apartment catapults him into a police enquiry full of contradictions. In his desperation to clear Ala's name, Omar's investigations place him at the heart of a deadly international conspiracy.

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The Fourth Assassin

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Camilla Lackberg

Camilla Lackberg is an economist turned writer - quite a career change! And like other Scandanavian crime writers, she has a knack of digging out the darkest side of human nature, mining it to chilling effect.

The Stonecutter is set in the remote resort of Fjällbacka which has seen its share of tragedy, though perhaps none worse than that of the little girl found in a fisherman's net. But the post-mortem reveals that this is no case of accidental drowning. Local detective Patrik Hedström has just become a father. It is his grim task to discover who could be behind the methodical murder of a child both he and his partner, Erica, knew well.

He knows the real question - and answer - lies with why. What he does not know is how this case will reach into the dark heart of Fjällbacka and the town's past, and tear aside its idyllic façade, perhaps forever.

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Michael Gregorio

Michael Gregorio are the married couple Michael G. Jacob and Daniela De Gregorio. Daniela teaches philosophy. Michael is interested in the history of photography in the nineteenth century. Together they have created the wonderful character Hanno Stiffeniis, magistrate.

In A Visible Darkness Hanno is called to Prussia's Baltic coast, where the naked, mutilated body of a young woman has been found by the shore. This is an area rich in amber, harvested - mainly by women - to be transformed into priceless jewellery. The occupying French army has taken over this lucrative trade to finance the battle against the Russian invasion, but as more women are killed, they suspect the Prussian resistance movement. Hanno's fears meanwhile point towards a psychotic serial killer, and no woman here is safe.

Wonderful historical crime with a truly authentic feel.

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Carol Goodman

Carol Goodman has written a wonderfully atmospheric mystery that is much more than a mystery. It is about dealing with the past and finding a way forward. And it works very well.

For two hundred years, painters, poets and musicians have come to the Catskill Mountain village of Arcadia Falls to escape the pressures of modern life and pursue their artistic visions, and Arcadia College was founded with a mission to nurture young artists and writers.

When Meg Rosenthal gets an offer to teach at Arcadia College, it seems a godsend - an escape from a life that's fallen apart. She hopes, too, that Arcadia Falls will be a place where she and her daughter Sally can find some peace and reconciliation. But even though Arcadia Falls proves to be even more beautiful then Meg imagined, it is hardly peaceful. Soon she begins to realize that the public story behind the school conceals deceit, betrayal, and perhaps even murder.

As Meg struggles to reconcile the choices she's made in her own life, she begins to fear that by coming to Arcadia Falls she's put herself and her daughter in danger. And that's an understatement!

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Dorothy Sayers

Many people believe that this is a great novel, let alone a great mystery.

Sayers' inimitable hero, Lord Peter Wimsey, finds himself stranded in the Fen landscape of East Anglia due to a car accident. He is then persuaded to take part in a complicated bell-ringing event at the nearby village. There follow a number of deaths, the emergence of a mystery surrounding the theft of some jewels, and a climax involving the flooding of the fens that will knock your socks off.

Throughout the book runs the thread of the arcane art of bell-ringing (campanology) that is critical to the plot. Wimsey and his imperurbably and frighteningly efficient manservant Bunter are wonderful characters. This is my favourite Sayers novel, although she did write some other beauties.

Give it a go; you'll love it!

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The Nine Tailors

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Josephine Tey

In Bertolt Brecht's play Life of Galileo, Galileo says "Truth is the daughter of time, not of authority". This certainly proved to be the case for Galileo, and is the basis for Tey's thesis in this brilliant and original detective story.

Scotland yard Inspector Alan Grant is laid up in hospital and is bored witless. He happens upon a portrait of Richard III, and is convinced that the  face could not be that of a murderer as conventional history asserts.

So he sets out to prove it. In a fascinating review of the history, Tey manages to maintain tension and interest in an investigation run from a hospital bed and to deliver a satisfying finale, irrespective of the truth of the matter.

The book remains a benchmark for historical fiction. Alan Grant features is a number of other novels by Josephine Tey, and they are well worth the read. But this one is her best.

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Agatha Christie

Originally titled Ten Little Niggers, and subsequently renamed for obvious reasons, this book, I think, shows Agatha Christie at her inventive best.

In the classic cut-off-from-help setting, ten characters assemble for an unknown purpose. Previously strangers to each other, each of them has a shady past involving sudden death. And they find themselves being murdered one by one!

Christie tells the story by alternating between the characters, and does so in a totally engaging way. She has the ability to produce a solution that makes you say "Oh, that's not fair!" until you realise that it is indeed very fair, just fiendishly clever.

It's easy to see in this book how  the work of Christie still informs much of today's writing.

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