Sunday, 17 October 2021

Storm Front

Storm Front is a mystery novel from R. S. Sutton, featuring a new character, private detective Valerie Stone.

Valerie has two things that are of value to her. An old watch and her vintage Jaguar motorcar.

She is addicted to French cigarettes and she lives on a Thames houseboat. She has male admirers but prefers to keep them at arm's length. Even, or perhaps especially, one particular suitor.

Times are a bit tougher than usual so the arrival of a commission to investigate a death on behalf of an insurance company has come at a very fortunate time.

After all, what's wrong with a bit of judicious expenses padding and some stretching out the billable hours, so long as she doesn't go overboard? At least not as overboard as the dead man, who apparently tumbled to his death from a yacht? 

Or did he? What if things were not quite as they seemed? What if the insurance company was right to be concerned, but perhaps not for the right reasons?

What is the link between a former Thames Estuary Word War Two fort, latterly used as the base for a pirate radio station in the 1960s?

And why did Valerie find herself a target of a covert group with mysterious connections to the government, who want her assistance in their parallel investigation into the mystery of the corpse? Can they be trusted? And had the deaths finished?

This is a very interesting and highly plausible detective thriller and I hope to see more stories about Private Investigator Valerie Stone in the future.

It's published by The Book Guild at £8.99. It will make a great Christmas gift for the mystery novel fan in your life. Or as a self-gift for you.

The Harvard Curse


The Harvard Curse is a new mystery novel from Martin Chevreau.

Two female students and a college lecturer have gone missing at the end of the 2019 Fall Term. The media have dubbed it The Harvard Curse and everyone has declared that the students, Clementine Miller and Eveline Macdonald were murdered and their remains spirited away by Professor Adrien Renard.

In fact, journalist Geoff Penn had been sitting long into the evening, rapidly typing up an article based on that very theme for the next day's Boston Herald. 

With an hour to go before the article would be sent off to the printers, Penn received a phone call at his desk. The voice on the other end was tense and stressed. He told Penn that he knew that Renard wasn't the killer. And that he wanted to meet him the next evening when he would reveal what had really happened.

So, if the mystery caller was correct, what, exactly, had occurred that December? If Renard had not been involved in the disappearance of the two students, who had? Were the student alive or dead? And what of Renard? Why had he apparently gone missing at the same time as the two students? Was it merely a coincidence?  Or had Renard met with the same, unknown, but strongly suspected, fate of the students?

Was the situation somehow linked to the tragic accident the previous year which had put Renard into a coma and caused the death of his wife?

And why was Clementine investigating the crash a year later?

Why was she stalking Renard? 

Who was murdered? Who did the killing?

This is an interesting mystery novel, published by The Book Guild at £7.99. 

Chronicles of the Time A Gina Gray Investigation

 I am a very happy mystery reader, because Penny Freedman has brought out another mystery novel featuring her character Gina Gray, Chronicles of the Time.

Set in March 2020, Gina Gray has made a return to the Lake District. 

It is her intention to enter COVID isolation with Eve, who is her oldest friend. Also joining them in their splendid isolation (the Lake District is a splendid part of Britain) is Gina's teenage granddaughter Freda, who found her own home a little overbearing and too crowded for her comfort.

As she was enjoying the Lake District idyll, she was not expecting anything to take place. She was enjoying creative cookery with home-grown vegetables, some baking and several rows of knitting. Which was all she needed, obviously?

Unfortunately these worthy pursuits began to pale and she found herself longing for some adventure, something a little more interesting than thinking about what knitting needles and wool would be required for whatever particular garment she was knitting.

But then, Gina starts to think. Exactly why did her friend Eve invite her to share her lockdown retreat with her?

The couple whose garden backs on to Eve's garden. Are they really as weird as Gina thinks? Where's the cat? Freda is working on a history project. But she's being somewhat mysterious about the whole thing. Why?

And Gina's boyfriend, the redoubtable Detective Superintendent David Scott is involved in a high-profile investigation into the murder of a teenage girl on the bank of a river in an upscale part of suburban London. But how would David successfully discover who murdered the girl without the assistance of Gina?

The book cleverly explores several overlapping mysteries, whilst also being recognisant of the personal stresses and strains of normally close personal relationships during the most unusual of recent times; the lockdown months of 2020.

So, will David help bring the killer to justice with or without the help of  Gina? Why did Eve invite her? Are the strange neighbours really all that strange? What is it with Freda's project? Why is she so secretive? 

And what has happened to the cat?

This is the eighth novel featuring Gina Gray and it is published by Matador at £8.99.

It will make a perfect Christmas present for the avid mystery fan or the more specialist fan of Gina Gray novels.

Trying to See Round Corners

Trying to See Round Corners is a new non-fiction book by retired social worker Reg Morris.

It gives readers the opportunity to take a glimpse behind the curtain that often seems to obscure the inner workings of the world of the social worker.

Reg Morris has taken a collection of genuine day-to-day episodes and challenging events and people that actually took place within several Midlands social services departments throughout the latter part of the last century.

Of course, Reg Morris has changed names concerned to protect the anonymity of those concerned, be they victims, non-victims or bystanders.

He tells the story through the character of Colin Millwood, a former teacher, who begins as a wet behind the ears but very enthusiastic new social worker dealing with children and young people

Just before his arrival the Social Services Department where he worked had taken the decision to combine the previously separate branches of social care, mental health, children and families, the elderly and the disabled.

It had been intended that this move would bring great benefits with social workers being general practitioners (so to speak) rather than, as before, having specialist roles with different client groups. 

However, it transpired that the expected benefits failed, in the main, to materialise.

But it was into this melting pot that a young Colin Millwood was dropped. However, under the guidance of a skilled and experienced mentor Colin makes good progress.

We see children who have unexplained bruises. Is the child genuinely clumsy and in need of help of one kind? Or is the child the subject of abuse and in need of help of another kind?

He learned a great deal. For example, that a bit of dirt on a child wasn't exactly life threatening. There was also the office flutter on the Grand National. 50 pence a go per horse. All part of the office camaraderie. Plus the outside chance of winning a few quid.

He learned the dubious joys of being an on call social worker, which often involved being at home from 5pm on Saturday to 9am on Sunday.

There was a case of a group of girls who had been arrested for shoplifting in the Wolverhampton branch of Boots. 

One of the mothers was so disheartened by her daughter's behaviour that she refused to have her returned home. 

The shoplifting (which was with a group of schoolfriends, all arrested at the same time) incident was, as far as her mother was concerned, the last straw. She did not want her daughter at home. She wanted her to be "taught a lesson" by being taken into care. How could Colin successfully deal with this situation?

There was also the case of two young women performing a striptease in an upstairs room of their house. They were entertaining prisoners in the jail that was on the other side of the road. As a result, the prisoners in the wing involved were put into lockdown and on the point of rioting.

As a result the two women were arrested and held, potentially on charges of public order offences and even of inciting a riot. To complicate matters one of the women involved had a child of just over a year old, who had to be looked after. Luckily her maternal grandmother stepped in to look after the baby.

There were holidays for disabled clients to organise, family health visitors to liaise with, new colleagues to get to know and visits to numerous clients to arrange and copious notes to keep on them and also on meetings of various other agencies.

It's an interesting book and is a revealing read into the life of a dedicated social worker.

It's published by Matador at £8.88.

Moth Boy

Moth Boy, by Clare Hudman tells the story of Ches, who was left, as a new-born baby, in a plastic bag on a doorstep. With Ches was a letter from his birthmother, which he was to read when he was ten years old.

However, he learns that people in his adopted family have already seen the contents of the letter, so he runs away.

After spending the night in a garden shed he is discovered, on his birthday, by Raffy, his sort of brother, who has spent years tormenting him at school.

Raffy decides to disguise Ches as a girl and takes him on a madcap adventure using bikes and trains to reach Brean Down, which is not far from Weston-Super-Mare.

Ches needs to learn if Raffy is now really a new friend, or if Raffy is still, after all, his sworn enemy?

But Raffy's own life (along with his twin sister Inga) hasn't been easy. After Ches was adopted by his loving family, Mrs Trunk's husband decided to leave his wife (after her third miscarriage) and managed to impregnate his new wife with the twins, named, for no good reason Ches could discern, as Raffy and Inga.

Raffy and Ches have come into the world in different, though equally dysfunctional, ways. And this has resulted in them both (understandably) having issues. And they both have the same questions. Am I loved? Can anyone love me?

A situation comes about that pushes them towards finding at least some of the answers they seek for themselves.

Nana Lil might be able to help them, but alcohol means that her mental acuity isn't quite what it once was. So, can she help them? After all, Nana Lil has not had an easy life, either.

This is a very moving book which will, in all probability make you cry.

It needs to be in many Christmas stockings this year.

It's published by The Book Guild at £7.99. 

The Murky World of Timothy Wall

The Murky World of Timothy Wall is a new novel in the DI Carmichael series of crime novels from the inventive pen of Ian McFadyen.

A couple of weeks ago I was sat in our conservatory and I said to my wife: "I hope there'll be a DI Carmichael novel out soon."

And thank goodness, there is!

This year found me once again relaxing in a hot bath, reading the latest DI Carmichael crime novel. The ninth one in the series, as it happens.

A local private detective, Timothy Wall, is OK with allowing his secretary to finish a little earlier than normal to go out on a date with her new boyfriend. After all, all he has left to do that afternoon was to meet a new client at 5.20pm. 

But who was the stranger watching her leave the building, from the vantage point of a nearby café? Why was he watching her?

Later that night a cleaner employed by a contract cleaning company finds the blood-stained corpse of Timothy Wall in his office.

Stock, the irascible forensic scientist, confirms, with his typical bad grace, that it is, indeed a murder case.

Carmichael and his team of detectives find the case to be a complex one that taxes their combined abilities as never before.

Why? Because Timothy Wall seems to have been loved and hated in equal measures. A considerate and attentive lover, he had the bizarre habit of keeping a red book in which he kept scores of his lovers, using a scoring system only completed after their brief relationship came to an end. And the vast majority of his relationships were brief. And some actually overlapped...

So, could his book (kept throughout his romantic life) hold a clue to his murder?

Or could it be the fact that he was working for the HMRC conducting fraud investigation on their behalf? 

Or the Poulter case, which involved trying to locate a missing person, sought by a person who is claiming to be terminally ill?

But is there a link between the murder and the Baybutt family, local bookmakers? After all, one member of the family seemed to have been more than a little satisfied when he heard reports of the death. After all, nobody likes the HMRC, and a local private detective, investigating their tax affairs.  And who told the Baybutt family that Wall had died?

There are also added complications for DI Carmichael. His normally loving wife Penny was in a foul mood. And he was worried that Lucy Martin, with whom he had had a brief dalliance whilst they were on a case that had taken them to Winston-Salem in North Carolina several years previously, is returning to work as a member of his team. And Carmichael is unaware that Penny knows at least something of what had taken place.

Could Carmichael and his team disentangle Wall's complex life? Could they work out who had been responsible for the murder? Was it the mysterious new client, Mr Haverstock-Price? And who, exactly, is Haverstock-Price?

This is another thrilling read from Ian McFadyen.

It's published by The Book Guild at £8.99 and deserves to be in the Christmas stockings of all mystery and crime novel fans. 


White Scar

The novel White Scar written by Jill Petts is set in the White Scar Cave in Ingleton, Yorkshire.

Jill tells the story of Ralph and Alba Milway who are twins of 14-years-old.

In 2050 a young woman called Aster is accused of the murder of two fairy folk, a Bishop and the sacrifice of an only son.

By the use of magic she, the judge who sentenced her and her loving, faithful cat are imprisoned in the White Scar Cave, together with one of the three magical wands used to bind them all in the cave.

In the year 2150, a century later, the boys inadvertently free them from their prison cave which, quite understandably, brings more than a little confusion and adventure into their lives.

They find themselves involved in a titanic battle between good an evil. But the twins need to exercise extreme caution, for some things are not exactly what they appear to be.

The background of the story is made even more complicated because it is set against a backdrop of the Earth being post-apocalyptic, when a third world war was brought to an utterly unexpected conclusion when a meteor smashed into the Earth.

What would happen to Ralph and his sister, Alba? 

This is a magical, mysterious story and will make a wonderful Chirstmas gift for young readers.

It's published by The Book Guild at £8.99.

For readers who are interested in exploring the White Scar Caves, please visit