Sunday Times Crime Club


Myself, with the help from a few below authors made the Sunday Times Crime Club this month:

Crime Club

We love their books — but what do we know about our favourite crime authors? John Connolly gives some frank answers about the nature of evil and 1980s pop music (apparently unrelated) in our Q&A, while Abir Mukherjee and Eva Dolan, among others, reveal the deepest fears they tap into in their writing. We’ve got terrific giveaways in this bulletin, including the chance to win Donna Leon classics and novels by Val McDermid’s favourite new crime writers, and there’s a free Stuart MacBride ebook for every reader. I hope you enjoy Crime Club each month — let me know what you think on the email address below.


Karen Robinson

The Sunday Times [6]
@timescrimeclub [7]

Q&A: John Connolly

I made a decision to write a series of novels that allowed readers to start anywhere in the sequence and not feel lost, but to have a larger story building up in the background, so that if people read the books in order, they had a different experience. I’ve also let Parker grow older, so he is not the same man he was nearly 20 years ago. I still get a great deal of pleasure from looking at the world through Parker’s eyes.

I wanted to get away from what I felt was a very restrictive view of what an Irish writer should be: someone who wrote about the nature of Irishness. I was lucky in that we didn’t have a strong tradition of mystery fiction, so the models I looked to were mostly American. That left a choice: should I try to import the conventions of the American mystery novel to an Irish context — which I didn’t think would work — or could I bring a European perspective to that American model, and try to create something new? I hope that’s what I’ve done: combined the hard-boiled novel, which is very American, with mythology and folklore.

Along with mystery fiction, supernatural fiction was what I devoured when I was young. It may also be related to my Catholic upbringing and its themes of reparation and redemption. And I was interested in exploring concepts of evil — from human selfishness to the possibility of an older, deeper evil from which humanity, in extremis, sometimes draws. I think there was a feeling among a rump of narrow-minded critics and writers that it wasn’t appropriate to mix genres, but it’s a view many readers don’t share. There has always been a tension between the rational and the anti-rational in the genre: The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins, one of the earliest English detective stories, is suffused with a fear of the supernatural, and Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of the paragon of rationalism, Sherlock Holmes, attended séances and believed in the Cottingley Fairies.

Most human beings aren’t evil. They’re selfish, or fearful, or angry, and as a consequence they do terrible things, but they don’t actively set out to do evil. Real evil requires premeditation. I used to think of it as the absence of empathy, but I’m not sure that’s sufficient anymore. It’s close, but it’s not quite there.

The Parker books were never written with film or TV in mind. They’re not structured that way, and I think the pleasure for readers lies as much in the narrative voice and the language as it does in the characters. That’s hard to transfer to screen. (God, I seem to be talking myself out of an adaptation.) But if it happened, it would be great, and we’re close to signing a deal. I’ve never described Parker in detail, and I’ve always been reluctant to put an actor’s name to him.

Keep the hardest question for last, why don’t you? Off the top of my head, and in my current mood, Antmusic by Adam & The Ants; Mirror Man by The Human League; and Baggy Trousers by Madness, but ask me tomorrow and you’ll get a different answer. When it comes to the Eighties, we’re spoiled for choice.

_A Game of Ghosts by John Connolly is published by Hodder on April 6. Buy it here [8] / Read first chapter [9]_

Gordon Brown: the fear of writing

When I was a kid I’d often wake up, pouring with sweat, unable to take a breath. Each time, I was convinced that I was going to die. This has left me with a morbid fear of suffocation that has surfaced in many of my books. Am I alone in tapping my deepest fear when writing? Here’s what some of my fellow authors confided in me when I asked them.

STRANGER DANGER: Alexandra Sokoloff (_Bitter Moon, Thomas & Mercer / Buy it here [10]_) told me of the time a paedophile tried to grab her when she was walking home from school. “That specifically gender-based fear and experience of being prey, and my anger about it, constantly informs my books and screenplays,” she says.

CAR CRASH: Abir Mukherjee (_A Rising Man, Harvill Secker / Buy it here [11]_) was in the family car when it was crushed between two trucks in India. “I remember the crack of shattering glass, the wrenching of metal and the heart-stopping fear that we were about to die,” he says. “I now channel that feeling of dread when I write.”

CONFINED SPACE: “Many years ago I was led into a disused underground tunnel in Glasgow which I found terrifying,” admits Alex Gray (_Still Dark, Sphere / Buy it here [12]_). “I am now terribly claustrophobic and I make my protagonist suffer from this phobia as well.”

Abduction: Simon Kernick (_The Bone Field, Century / Buy it here [13]_) was 16 when he was abducted, beaten and threatened with death by a gang of three men he’d accepted a lift from. “I’ll never forget the sheer terror I experienced as they drove me to an isolated wood and dragged me from the car. It’s this memory that I always call upon when trying to recreate a sense of fear in my books.”

INSECURITY: When Eva Dolan (_Watch her Disappear, Harvill Secker / Buy it here [14]_) was young she “didn’t mind spiders and wasn’t scared of clowns”, but she was “truly terrified of having the security of family whipped away.” Her novels frequently focus on this fear.

_Gordon Brown is a founding board member of Bloody Scotland, an international crime writing festival. His latest book, Darkest Thoughts, is published on April 27 by Strident. Buy it here [15] / Read first chapter [16]_

Looking ahead: our April picks

Death Message by Kate London


In Post Mortem, London’s 2015 debut, detective Sarah Collins first encountered PC Lizzie Griffiths — and the relationship was fraught from the off. As their paths cross again on two troubling investigations, the prospect of a thaw is distant, so there’s hope that the duo is being set up for a series-long sparring partnership. London uses her experience of working in the Met’s homicide division to describe policing with immediacy and a telling eye for detail.
Read first chapter [17]

Buy this book [18]

★ Star pick

Prussian Blue by Philip Kerr


Twelfth outing for German cop Bernie Gunther, which finds him in 1956 fleeing the French Riviera pursued by the Stasi and remembering a 1939 murder investigation at Hitler’s Bavarian retreat. Off his head on the Berchtesgaden drug of choice, methamphetamine, Gunther offers a wry view of several real figures, notably Heydrich and Bormann, and a pithy up-close analysis of the whole Nazi machine. Thrilling. Read first chapter [19]

Buy this book [20]

The Awkward Squad by Sophie Hénaff, translated by Sam Gordon

MacLehose Press

Misfit Paris cops bring an entertaining collection of idiosyncrasies to the newly-formed cold-case team headed by impetuous detective Anne Capestan — though the fun has to stop as they start to piece together evidence of serious corruption in high places. Original and amusing, it’s French noir with a sly smile.
Read first chapter [21]

Buy this book [22]

A Dangerous Crossing by Rachel Rhys


It’s 1939 and glamour, danger, intrigue, snobbery and best frocks are all aboard SS Orontes as the liner leaves Tilbury for Sydney. As ex-waitress Lily, on her way to domestic service in Australia, gets to know her fellow passengers — including a dazzling couple from the first-class deck — it becomes clear that they are travelling with as many troubling secrets in their baggage as she has. The menace builds, with a backdrop of exotic ports of call, to an excitingly modern twist.
Read first chapter [23]

Buy this book [24]

The Cutaway by Christina Kovac

Serpent’s Tail

In the thriller landscape, Washington DC is where media, power and sex are all at their most intense. Kovac, a veteran Beltway TV news producer, has her heroine Virginia — a veteran Beltway TV news producer — propelled into ever greater danger as the mystery of a disappearing woman spirals into areas important people would rather she stayed out of. Pacey and tense, with added stress for Virginia courtesy of her boss-from-hell.
Read first chapter [25]

Buy this book [26]

Three Envelopes by Nir Hezroni, translated by Steven Cohen

Point Blank

A chillingly smart Israeli intelligence assassin has taken his job rather too seriously. But why is an agent being sent to mess with his head — and who’s she working for? Bold forks in the plot and contemporary neuroscience make this an inventive page-turner.
Read first chapter [27]

Buy this book _ [28]

The Thirst by Jo Nesbo, translated by Neil Smith

Harvill Secker

The Norwegian blockbuster-merchant brings his edgy detective Harry Hole back into the Oslo police to catch a killer who has eluded him in the past. Powerful writing weaves a switchback story around Hole and his unusual relationships with his colleagues, though the sickening violence the villain wreaks on defenceless female victims may turn your stomach. You can find Nesbo’s national book tour schedule HERE [29]_
Read first chapter [30]

Buy this book [31]

Quicksand by Malin Persson Giolito, translated by Rachel Willson-Broyles

Simon & Schuster

Voted Sweden’s best crime novel of 2016, Quicksand is narrated by Maja, sole survivor of a mass shooting in an exclusive high-school. Nine months after the event, she’s on trial for her role in the killings — but is she a cold-blooded murderer or the innocent victim of her disturbed boyfriend? Keeps you guessing.
Read first chapter [32]

Buy this book [33]

Hope to Die by David Jackson


Even by the standards of the genre, Liverpool detective Nathan Cody’s backstory trauma is intense, though surprisingly his superiors don’t seem to worry much about it affecting how he does his job. Reunited with DS Megan Webley to investigate the murder of a schoolteacher with an apparently blameless life, and pushed to the edge by taunting reminders of his past, Jackson’s flawed hero has a case and a beat that serve up plenty of excitement.
Read first chapter [34]

Buy this book _ [35]

A Dark So Deadly by Stuart MacBride


Dark and sharp as malt vinegar on a deep-fried fish supper, MacBride’s sense of humour splashes all over his crime fiction as DC Callum MacGregor hunts for a serial killer and for answers to the long-ago disappearance of his mother, while facing shattering personal betrayal. Lifelike portrayals of his colleagues and the whip-smart LOLs make this stonking 600-pager a first-class swathe of tartan noir. Don’t miss your chance to download this month’s free Times+_ _ebook, In the Cold Dark Ground by Stuart MacBride. The offer closes at midnight tomorrow, March 31. Download it _here [36]_._
Read first chapter [37]

Buy this book [38]

Fatal Crossing by Lone Theils, translated by Charlotte Barslund

Arcadia Books

Young London-based journalist Nora stumbles across the 20-year-old mystery of two Danish girls who went missing on a ferry to England and is determined to find out what really happened. The plot ricochets between Denmark and Britain, propelled by youthful enthusiasm and a rekindled high school romance.
Read first chapter [39]

Buy this book [40]

★ Star pick

Lola by Melissa Scrivner Love


Women are supposed to take a minor role in Los Angeles’s Latino gang life, but Lola finds herself at the centre of complicated, dangerous narco power struggles — while still playing the dutiful roles of daughter and girlfriend. A tough, enterprising and vulnerable heroine, Lola gives the reader an unvarnished insight into ghetto life.
Read first chapter [41]

Buy this book _ [42]

Donna Leon giveaway

Commissario Guido Brunetti has been on the Venice beat since 1992, and will make his 26th appearance in Donna Leon’s latest novel Earthly Remains (Buy it here [43] / Read first chapter [44]_). To celebrate the Venetian veteran’s amazing career, publisher Heinemann is offering 10 Crime Club readers the chance to win four books from the Brunetti backlist: By Its Cover, Beastly Things, The Waters of Eternal Youth and Death at La Fenice. To enter, email your name and address to [45] by April 13, with “LEON” in the subject line.

Barry Forshaw: four underrated US crime writers


LAURA LIPPMAN has been producing some of the best-written domestic noir in the USA for years. After I’m Gone (Faber / Buy it here [46]) shows that the genre can be infinitely flexible in tackling its basic concerns (and a few new ones). Lippman describes the lives of five women whose happiness is destroyed by Felix Brewer, a white-collar crook and adulterer who vanishes in 1976, leaving chaos in his wake.

After Ryan Gosling, pictured above, starred as a cool getaway driver in the film of JAMES SALLIS’s lean and sinewy masterpiece Drive (No Exit Press / Buy it here [47]), the writer became known to more than just the cognoscenti. Personally, I’d be happy if he remained caviar to the general, but you can’t blame the Sallis and his publisher for wanting the kind of success enjoyed by many a less talented writer.

ATTICA LOCKE’s debut novel Black Water Rising — ambitious, socially committed and beautifully written — created a stir, and the subsequent Pleasantville (Serpent’s Tail / Buy it here [48]) is just as impressive. In Houston, a mayoral election is pending, and a key swing area is the African-American neighbourhood Pleasantville. The nomination seems to be assured: Axel Hathorne has the perfect pedigree. But Axel’s nephew is charged with murder and the would-be-mayor’s credentials are soon under threat.

THOMAS H COOK is cherished by aficionados, but The Quest for Anna Klein (Corvus / Buy it here [49]) deserves wider appreciation. In 1939 the privileged Thomas Danforth is tasked with training an enigmatic young woman at his estate in Connecticut as part of a secret wartime project. The result is a mystery that he is forced to pursue over decades and continents.

_Barry Forshaw’s American Noir is published by Pocket Essentials. Buy it here [50] / Read first chapter [51]_

Harrogate festival giveaway


One of the highlights of the annual Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival is Val McDermid’s New Blood panel, when the reigning crime queen anoints a handful of chosen successors. Val said: “Over the years, I’ve been able to introduce some formidable new talents to the Harrogate audience, and through them to a wider readership.” The organisers of the festival, which takes place in Harrogate on July 20-23, are offering five Crime Club readers the chance to win signed copies of each of this year’s New Blood titles: Rattle by Fiona Cummins (Pan Macmillan), The Dry by Jane Harper (Little, Brown), Sirens by Joseph Knox (Doubleday) and The Last Place You Look by Kristen Lepionka (Faber & Faber) — you’ll have to wait for Lepionka’s novel, it’s not out until July. For a chance to win, email your name and address to [52] by April 13, with “NEW BLOOD” in the subject line. For the full festival programme, CLICK HERE [53].

Crime wave: the latest books news

SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS? Winnie M Li has been named as one of Lancôme’s 40 Incredible Women, a list that includes cyclist Laura Kenny and disabled TV presenter Sophie Morgan. Li says she’s “very honoured and slightly amused” to have been chosen for the — unpaid — role selling the new range of Teint Idole Ultra Wear Foundation for the cosmetics giant. Legend Press, her publisher, says she was awarded the accolade “for her inspiring work as a sexual assault activist”. And it might well widen the potential readership of her forthcoming debut thriller, Dark Chapter (Buy it here [54] / Read first chapter [55]_), which is based on her own personal experience.

HORRIBLE HISTORIES: from the 1671 attempt to steal the Crown Jewels to the 2015 Hatton Garden heist, and taking in Burke and Hare, Bonnie and Clyde and the Bandit Queen of Uttar Pradesh, The Crime Book by Dorling Kindersley is an exhaustively researched and lavishly illustrated treasure-trove of malfeasance through the ages and around the world. The publisher is giving away five copies to Crime Club readers. ENTER HERE [56] by April 13.

THE ICE QUEENS COMETH… soon, to CrimeFest in Bristol, where Yrsa Sigurdardottir will be joined by three of her Icelandic crime-writing sisters for a thrilling, if chilling, panel. Other attractions at the event on May 18-21 include Ann Cleeves, Anthony Horowitz and several panels featuring new talent on the crime scene. I’ll be hosting two of those and I’m looking forward to interrogating Steph Broadribb, GX Todd, and others. For full details, visit [57]. To book tickets with a Crime Club discount of 25% on the four-day £195 pass, BOOK HERE [58] before May 15.

DOING TIME: Scottish novelist Christopher Brookmyre is always happy to promote his own books and his fellow crime writers, usually at bookshop signings and literary festivals — but now he’s found a new captive audience. On April 20, the day his new book Want You Gone is published by Little, Brown (_Buy it here [59] / Read first chapter [60]_) Brookmyre will visit Scotland’s toughest jail, meeting inmates at HMP Barlinnie, in Glasgow. He’s already been behind bars at HMP Cornton Vale, a women’s prison near Stirling — thoughtfully coinciding his visit with International Women’s Day — where he “found the audience to be highly receptive, engaged and appreciative”. He’s hoping for a similarly warm welcome at the “Bar-L”, where he is “looking forward to once again being kept on my toes”.

PRIZE CONTENDERS: six titles have been shortlisted for the 2017 Petrona Award for the Best Scandinavian Crime Novel of the Year published in the UK. Neil Smith translated the two Swedish books on the shortlist: The Dying Detective by Leif GW Persson (Doubleday), and The Wednesday Club by Kjell Westo (MacLehose Press). Small indy publisher Orenda Books claims half the list with The Exiled by Kati Hiekkapelto, translated from Finnish by David Hackston, plus two from Norway: The Bird Tribunal by Agnes Ravatn, translated by Rosie Hedger, and Where Roses Never Die by Gunnar Staalesen, translated by Don Bartlett. 2015 Petrona winner Yrsa Sigurdardottir is on the list with Why Did You Lie? translated by Victoria Cribb (Hodder & Stoughton). Well done all of them — authors and translators — even if geography purists might complain that Finland and Iceland aren’t actually in Scandinavia — though they’re definitely Nordic. The winner will be announced at CrimeFest on May 20.

DEATH OF A HERO: “In many ways he mirrored characteristics of the much earlier, similarly cultured intellectual sleuth, Sherlock Holmes, with his fierce brain and quiet nature, and like Holmes, he came off the page and stepped out of our screens to become a living person, someone any of us could imagine meeting for a drink in a pub.” Last week, Peter James led the tributes to the creator of Inspector Morse, Colin Dexter, who died earlier this month at the age of 86. John Thaw famously played the grumpy sleuth on television — search catch-up TV for episodes. There’s still time to hear Neil Pearson’s version of the character in House of Ghosts, an original Radio 4 Morse drama by Alma Cullen set in 1980s Oxford, broadcast last Saturday [61]. Read The Times obituary of Colin Dexter HERE [62].

Shady seaside dealings


The Haven Bridge crosses the River Yare, linking Great Yarmouth to Gorleston-on-Sea. My great uncle Ralph Moore, who went on to become a squadron leader in the Second World War, flew under this bridge in a Tiger Moth. The tide was out and the river low. Also for a bet, he once raced someone from Great Yarmouth to Lowestoft, in reverse. This was in a Rover 14, and I’m told that all the gears could be used going backwards as well as forwards. Needless to say, he won.

He came from a family of gamblers and builders. His biggest ambition, however, was never realised.

In the 1930s, Moore and Sons put in planning permission to build a vast, glittering hotel out on Scroby Sands, a series of sandbanks or shoals some two miles off the coast of Great Yarmouth. Seals frolic there, ships used to get wrecked, and now it’s a massive wind farm.

The war and some unexpected storm surges scuppered that idea, much to Ralph’s dismay. (He died from eating a chicken bone — the bet being that he could eat the whole carcass.)

Before the war, Yarmouth was still something of a great British seaside resort. Centuries earlier, Daniel Defoe thought it “infinitely superior to Norwich”. These days the town is troubled by unemployment, crime, alcohol and drug abuse.

Part family homage, part a desire to curb the deprivation, if only in fiction, I made the central premise of my new novel, the first in a series, Great Yarmouth’s regeneration. My fictional crime family — they were never going to be straight — are planning to build a massive hotel and casino complex on a couple of piers pointing towards Scroby Sands.

_Time to Win by Harry Brett, is published by Corsair on April 27. Buy it here [63] / Read first chapter [64]_

Crime in the papers

Heretics by Leonardo Padura, reviewed by Siobhan Murphy

Read the full story [65]

Joan Smith’s monthy crime roundup

Read the full story [66]

Thrillers roundup by John Dugdale

Read the full story [67]

March crime roundup by Marcel Berlins

Read the full story [68]

Crime bestsellers

1 16th Seduction by James Patterson
2 The Girl Before by JP Delaney
3 The Caller by Chris Carter
4 War Cry by Wilbur Smith & David Churchill
5 Backstabber by Kimberley Chambers
6 Ragdoll by Daniel Cole
7 Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough
8 Dangerous Lady by Martina Cole
9 Shadow Kill by Chris Ryan
10 The Chalk Pit by Elly Griffiths

1 Never Never by James Patterson
2 The Twenty-Three by Linwood Barclay
3 Out of Bounds by Val McDermid
4 Saturday Requiem by Nicci French
5 Every Dark Corner by Karen Rose
6 The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
7 Black Water Lilies by Michel Bussi
8 The Gangster by Clive Cussler & Justin Scott
9 The Hanging Club by Tony Parsons
10 Lie with Me by Sabine Durrant

_Lists prepared and supplied by and copyright to Nielsen BookScan, taken from the TCM for the four weeks ending 25/03/17_