Category Archives: Crime

What’s a novel?

What counts as a novel? I asked the Resident IT Consultant this over dinner, when I’d read an astounding – to me – headline in the Bookseller’s emailed newsletter.

It seems Quercus has bought the rights to Eoin Colfer’s first adult novel. I thought, ‘hang on, what first adult novel?’ I looked in my bookcase and found two, Screwed and Plugged. Signed, even, so one can assume Eoin has taken responsibility for them.

We discussed how you might remove the novel-ness from a crime, erm, novel. I didn’t think it was possible. I know some people look down on crime, as they do children’s books, but if it’s full length written fiction, it seems to me we are talking about a novel. And surely Quercus who have published so much excellent crime, would not sneer at it.

Eoin Colfer

But no, it appears we are talking about Eoin’s first adult fantasy novel. I was able to click on the article to read it (I have only limited access) and found that they might have lost the fantasy word in the newsletter.

From the description it could be a Carl Hiaasen type adventure, and I can think of no better author to do this than Eoin. ‘Highfire is described as the “violent, gripping tale of Vern who’s been hiding out in the Louisiana bayou, until Squib Moreau explodes into his life, hotly pursued by a corrupt policeman, and his peaceful existence disappears in a hail of high-velocity projectiles.” ‘

Promising, yeah? ‘Publisher Jo Fletcher said: ”I was doubly hooked the moment I met Vern, the vodka-drinking, Flashdance-loving dragon whose isolated life in the bayous of Louisiana is about to be interrupted by Squib Moreau, a swamp-wild, street-smart, dark-eyed, Cajun-blood tearaway looking to save his momma from the romantic attentions of a crooked constable.”’

So I forgive them their missing fantasy word. I might quite like this book – I mean novel – when it is published. January next year, so some patience will have to be found somewhere.

Advertisements

Thyme Running Out

Far too many years after I read Justin Thyme, the first book about the Thyme family, I returned to these rich and slightly odd people in Thyme Running Out. It is just as much fun. And I might know who Panama Oxridge is.

Panama Oxridge, Thyme Running Out

There is time travel. Whether this is the cause or the cure of what happens remains a mystery. My brain has serious trouble getting itself round quite so many twists and turns. It almost gives me a haddock, as the cook, Mrs Kof, would say.

There are dodos. Obvious, when you can go far back in time. And you can never be certain if any grandfathers are their own nephews, or whatever. I don’t think I’m giving anything away. I didn’t entirely grasp who the bad guy really was. My mind boggled. A. Lot.

It’s the kind of time travelling whodunnit where you suspect everyone, including dead people and ones not yet born. At least I think so.

Billionnaire Justin is still only 13 and is still having to be the man of the castle. His older sister Robyn helps a bit, but dad Willoughby continues to be feeble, even if he means well. There is an evil new nanny. Every story should have one. And Eliza, the gorilla, is behaving oddly.

Who is Agent X? Well, there is no shortage of suspects. And you could feel that with time travel, maybe they are all X. Drumnadrochit is not as quiet a place as you might think. Also, I’m a firm believer in Nessie.

There is only one thing… This was meant to be a trilogy, and that being the case, the second book ends in such a way that you want more. Need more. Panama..!

A Step So Grave

‘Ach bash mash buch.’ I really have not paid enough attention, even to what I myself have listened to, written about or read. This quote, which might even resemble Gaelic for all I know, is from the 13th – the 13th!!! – Dandy Gilver mystery by Catriona McPherson.

I have seen Catriona in events and found her really interesting. But did I hear what she was saying? Clearly not. When A Step So Grave arrived and looked so very enticing, I read the press release. Or did I? I seem to have noticed what it was about, but not that it was the 13th Dandy Gilver book.

Catriona McPherson, A Step So Grave

Admittedly, it didn’t take me long to discover that the good Mrs Gilver had detected crimes before, now that she has stumbled on a murder at her son’s fiancée’s home. But 13?

Anyway, you’ll be glad to know that this book was just as good as I’d thought it would be. Better, even. And it would seem there are another twelve before it, should I find myself at a loss for what to read.

Set in the 1930s, which is very much a favourite period of mine for murders and detecting, this takes us in the direction of Plockton, which I’ve still to visit. It lets us move among the rich and entitled, and whatever you think of them, it’s fascinating. These ones, I mean the ones who are ‘hosting’ the murder, speak Gaelic, which goes a bit like ‘bee yellow oak banana,’ although it means something quite different. The English Dandy almost finds herself in a foreign country, despite residing in Perthshire, with her wealthy husband Hugh, and their two sons, the elder of whom is marrying the daughter of an old friend of Hugh’s.

This is newly written classic crime, where the detective has a maid who doesn’t mind helping with the detecting, along with Alec, Dandy’s partner in crime-solving. Before they are done, the reader goes from suspecting one character to another, doing the full rounds, before possibly getting there.

I think I might like a maid, as well as the piles of money. The flip side of this, however, is that you are reminded of what comes after the mid-1930s. They talk about the last war, but we know what is coming.

A Mason move

Not being rich enough to subscribe to the Bookseller – well, maybe I am, but then I’m too economical – I am now on some sort of mailing list, which means I see all their daily news, but can only click through to them once in a blue moon. (I know, I should remove my cookies.)

But last week I was lucky enough to be able to read what they said about Simon Mason, who is leaving David Fickling Books where he has been m.d., moving to Pushkin Children’s Books to do something new and exciting. It didn’t say what.

They did mention he’s been DFB’s m.d. for six years, which I’m sure is right. But I still recall coming across him in David’s basement almost nine years ago, when Daughter and I were given the guided tour. But I suppose there’s no reason why Simon couldn’t have a subterranean existence before running the company.

Which – more Bookseller news reveals – will now be done by Tom Fickling. I’m guessing he’s DFB Junior, so to speak.

So it’s all change. And I gather Simon has a third Garvie Smith book coming this year!

Our Castle by the Sea

This novel by Lucy Strange, about the outbreak of WWII, was more painful to read than I’d expected. Or, indeed, felt before. It also made me harbour quite unpleasant thoughts about Mr Churchill.

Lucy Strange, Our Castle by the Sea

12-year-old Petra and her older sister Magda live in a Kent coast lighthouse, with their lighthouse-keeper father, and their German mother. Yes, German. Never popular with local people, it seems the outbreak of war freed up any inhibitions they may have had about what you can say and do towards the wrong kind of foreigner.

The children are also tainted by their semi-foreignness and life becomes quite hard for the whole family. This is more than a war time story, however, and veers more towards crime fiction as the story grows.

It’s fascinating; no question about that. But you read it with your heart in your throat, thinking about what internment might have meant. Or treason. And then there is the case of evacuating children.

But it’s the lack of human warmth from some of the people you perhaps thought were friends and neighbours that really got to me. And more so, what it reminded me of.

Have we learned nothing?

How to rewrite books, and other Christmas television

Due to, erm, technical difficulties when trying to access Christmas University Challenge, we were faced with something unpleasant on live television last night. Several times, due to several technical hitches, before Jeremy Paxman was able to tease some more of his volunteer ‘celebrities.’ As he said, some of them really weren’t very good at this.

The unpleasant live snippets happened around a quarter to eight on Boxing Day on BBC One. Without thinking very much about it, I registered I was seeing something I really would not choose to watch. At any time. Then it suddenly dawned on me what I was seeing; the 2018 Christmas David Walliams children’s book dramatisation. In a way I was glad, because it explained why I found it so unpalatable.

On social media I read people’s comments on the new ABC Murders, with the new Poirot. They really didn’t seem to like it. It wasn’t merely a case of the BBC rewriting an Agatha Christie, but a dislike for an un-Poirot-like Poirot, and getting the retro bits wrong, and the cosy murders were too noir. Or so I believe, anyway. I might not bother, but will stick with Paxman.

We watched Carols from King’s on Christmas Eve, followed by the reindeer in Norway, which struck me as a thoroughly Nordic kind of entertainment. Slow. Cold and white. But sort of fascinating. The reindeer herders had to stop traffic on the E6 for them to cross the road. Luckily it’s not as busy in northern Norway as it is in our bit of Sweden, or even near Rome, when the E6 went to Rome. (I’m not sure why and when it stopped. The E6. To Rome.)

When we arrived at Son’s and Dodo’s on Christmas Day, we discovered the elder Dodos were watching Carols from King’s. That was swiftly followed by the full Reindeer walking through Norway, again. They crossed the E6 again. Again, it was quite restful as entertainment goes. And much pleasanter than the DW misogyny the following day.

On a Cold Winter’s Night

It’s that time of year, again, when proud dad Declan Burke shares his daughter Lily’s Christmas short story with the rest of the world.

Those of you with really good memories, will recall what I wrote about Lily last December. If not, you just follow the link, and the link there-in, and so forth. It’s good to feel good right now, about how we might have new authors to be excited about some time in the future.

This year’s story is called On a Cold Winter’s Night, and Lily very kindly sent it to me to read:

‘Kate sank down into the squashy armchair in the living room, having just had dinner. She had eaten in silence, staring into space. This is what she did most days, since May the 4th, 1998, when Paddy had his terrible accident. Kate shivered. She went to…’ (continued on Crime Always Pays)

Lily is ten. I’m guessing her parents will force her to finish her education before she gets to write novels full time, but I am hopeful.

Wishing you a ‘God fortsättning!’ as we say in Sweden.