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fullybooked2017

CRIME FOR THE COGNISCENTI!

WELCOME TO FULLY BOOKED! If you are a fan of crime writing – old, new, true or fiction – you should find something to entertain you here. Among the regular features will be a focus on real life crimes, both in the UK and further afield, the classic fiction of The Golden Age, and the latest new releases from top authors and publishers.

CHECK OUT A SELECTION of our best graphics – covers, descriptions and images relating to crime novels. A click on the Pinterest icon will take you straight there!

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THE POSTMAN DELIVERS … Hall & Parsons

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OUR KIND OF CRUELTY by Araminta Hall

AramintaI had the pleasure of meeting Araminta Hall (left) recently at a publisher’s ‘do’ and so I was doubly delighted when a copy of Our Kind of Cruelty arrived at Fully Booked Towers. It is due to be published later this year, and it concerns a couple, Mike and Verity, whose relationship features a deadly game called the Crave. Mike describes the rules:

“The rules of the Crave were very simple. V and I went to a nightclub in a pre-determined place a good way from where we lived, but entered separately. We made our way to the bar and stood far enough apart to seem that we weren’t together, but close enough that I could always keep her in vision.”

Verity basically makes herself very visible, catching the eyes of any lone male who might be interested, and then drawing him into her web with her stunning looks and overt sexuality. Then, the game kicks in:

“We have a signal: as soon as she raises her hand and pulls on the silver eagle she always wears around her neck I must act. In those dark throbbing rooms I would push through the mass of people, pulling at the useless man drooling over her, and ask him what he was doing talking to my girlfriend.”

When the relationship eventually sours, and Verity needs to move, she finds to her cost that the perverse twist in her relationship with Mike cannot be simply cast off like an unwanted piece of clothing.

Sounds a cracker, doesn’t it? The bad news is that you will have to wait until May to get your hands on a copy, but I can guarantee it will be worth the wait.

GIRL ON FIRE by Tony Parsons

Tony PI may as well continue the shameless name dropping and say that I was lucky enough to meet Tony Parsons (right) too, at the same Cornerstone  event where I met Araminta Hall. He was full of fascinating background information about the mysterious and hidden world beneath The Old Bailey in London – the setting for an earlier DC Max Wolfe novel, The Hanging Club. Now, Max Wolfe returns with another London based case, but this time the stakes have ratcheted even higher. There is a very heated argument playing out on social media just now about what kind of city London has become, with acid attacks, knifings and terror threats becoming – some would say – commonplace. As topical as you like, Girl On Fire has terrorists using a drone to bring down an aircraft on a crowded London shopping centre, and in the ensuing chaos, Max Wolfe finds himself in clear and present danger. The book is due out in March, but I am going to pull rank and read my copy in the next few days. Why? Four words sum up Mr Parsons – top books, top bloke.

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PRIZE DRAW … Win the new DI Tony McLean novel by James Oswald

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OUR LATEST COMPETITION has a mouth-watering prize – a mint hardback copy of The Gathering Dark, by James Oswald. The author has found time away from his life as a farmer to write the most compelling novel yet in his series featuring DI Tony McLean. McLean has a complex personal life and is blessed – or afflicted, depending on your view – with a sixth sense which reminds us of Hamlet’s famous line:

“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy. “

Just click the link to read the Fully Booked review of The Gathering Dark – you will find that the novel, as befits the title, is certainly the darkest and most disturbing of this excellent series.

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Look For Me . . . Between the covers

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Boston Police Department dates back to 1893 and has employed many brave and distinguished real-life officers, but the Queen of fictional Boston cops is surely the redoubtable DD Warren. Author Lisa Gardner first introduced her in the 2005 novel Hide, which was later adapted as a Ted Turner made-for-TV movie of the same name. The episodes in Sergeant Warren’s career now run into double figures, and now she returns in Look For Me – aided and abetted by none other than Flora Dane, who featured in Find Her (2016). Flora is a victim turned avenger. Kidnapped and tortured for 472 days by the sadistic Jacob Ness, she emerged from the horror of her captivity and has now focused her energies on extracting violent revenge on men who abuse women.

Look For MeWe are taken to an autumnal Boston. Initially, Warren has nothing more on her mind than the consequences of giving in to the demands of her young son that they should adopt a dog. Her domestic reverie is rudely and violently interrupted when she is called to a house in the Brighton district of the city, where she is confronted by a scene of carnage. Householder Charlie Boyd is sitting on his sofa, as dead as a doornail. His girlfriend Juanita Baez is in the kitchen, shot as she was taking something from the cupboard. In the bedroom, even worse horrors await. Lola and Manny Baez, two of Juanita’s children, are clasped in a protective embrace, but just as dead as the adults.

Warren is faced with an immediate question. Where is Roxanne, Juanita’s elder daughter, and where are the elderly dogs which were a vital part of thr Baez family? The missing Roxanne has recently joined a social media group, founded by Flora Dane, which aims to provide solace, advice – and suggestions for pay-back – for female victims of male violence. Thus, Flora and DD are reunited in an uneasy alliance. Their task? To find the elusive Roxanne and determine if she is responsible for the gunning down of her immediate family.

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The story plays out with three narrators. Flora Dane speaks for herself, as does Roxanne, via a series of school essays on the subject of The Perfect Family. The actions of DD Warren and her colleagues on the BPD are reported in third-person observation. Lisa Gardner is nothing if not a consummate storyteller, and she paces out the action in classic funnel-fashion. Everything – action, timelines and discoveries – narrows down to the point when the killer is revealed.

As Warren and Dane pursue their parallel investigations, we become a fly-on-the-wall of a perfectly horrendous foster home, presided over by a grotesque woman whose only concern is to make sure that her outgoings – food, heat, lighting, clothes – are well below what the state of Massachusetts pays her to look after an ever-changing roll call of damaged children.

In the meantime, however, we have a masterclass in how to blend a police procedural with a domestic Noir thriller. The main characters – DD Warren and Flora Dane – are convincing and authentic. Above all, Lisa Gardner makes them enough to compel us to care about what they think and what happens to them. If, as a crime writer, you can do this, then the battle is won.

Lisa Gardner’s website is here

Check buying options for Look For Me here

BRILLIANT NEWS … Dyson Devereux returns!

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It’s not often that an item of book news from Fully Booked Towers comes with a warning, but this one definitely does. Back in 2014, I read and reviewed a startling tale centred around a young man called Dyson Devereux who is Head of Burials and Cemeteries for the local council of a fictional town in Essex. Necropolis is one of the funniest – and most disturbing books – I have ever read. The warning? Please don’t go near Necropolis – or its successor, Sepultura – if you are a sensitive soul whose idea of risqué humour is a re-run of Dad’s Army. Dyson Devereux’s creator is Guy Portman, and he writes – excuse the pun – graveyard humour of the blackest sort. You will find yourself in Catch 22 territory, where no socially-aware virtue goes un-targeted.

NecropolisNecropolis has a surreal plot involving, amongst other characters, an African drug dealer, a fugitive from the genocide of the 1990s Balkan wars – now working as a gravedigger – and a sadly deceased local resident for whom the undertakers have abandoned any pretence of good taste:

A hearse pulled by two horses is approaching. The horses’ coats have been sprinkled with glitter, and their manes dyed pink. They look like colossal My Little Ponies,”

SepulturaAfter a pause of three years, Dyson Devereux returns in Sepultura, to be published on 11th January. I have yet to get my hands on a copy, but it seems that Dyson has both a new job and a new son, but his cold rage and venomous disgust at his work colleagues and the world in general appears not to have abated one little bit. I can only guarantee that there will be death, cruelty, abrasive satire – and brilliant writing.

 

 

 

 

Guy Portman’s web page is here

Check out Necropolis and Sepultura here.

COMPETITION . . . Win DIE LAST by Tony Parsons

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“This is compelling stuff from one of our best crime writers, and his anger at the utter disgrace of modern slavery drives the narrative forward. Die Last is a novel that will hook you in and keep you turning the pages right to the end.”

That was the Fully Booked verdict when we reviewed the hardback edition of this novel by London author Tony Parsons. You can read the full review here, but when you’ve done that, how about entering our prize draw to win a mint copy of the forthcoming paperback edition of Die Last?

You have two ways to get your name on the list. Send an email to Fully Booked and put the words DIE LAST as the subject, or go to the Fully Booked Facebook page and simply “like” the post. COMPETITION CLOSES 10.00pm GMT, Sunday 14th January. The links are below.

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if the email link plays up, we’re at fullybooked2016@yahoo.com

 

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THE POSTMAN DELIVERS . . . Hartwell & Harvey

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Many thanks to the good people at Camel Press in Seattle and, a little closer to home, William Heinemann for the latest delivery. Two books, very different in style and content. Elena Hartwell brings us the latest case for her intrepid PI, Eddie Shoes. Expect the great outdoors – in this case, Washington State – and a dead body or two. In what he says is the final Frank Elder novel, John Harvey is in more sombre and reflective mood as his retired copper battles to protect his daughter.

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Elena Hartwell (above) is a former actress who now shares her time between writing novels, teaching, editing – and looking after her horses, cats, dog and husband, but not necessarily in that order. She lives on a farm in Washington State, and you can find out more by visiting her website.

John Harvey (below) is a native of Nottingham, as are his fictional characters Charlie Resnick and Frank Elder. Harvey is widely regarded as one of the most thoughtful and accomplished modern crime writers and it is no surprise, given the quality of his writing, that his poetry is also highly thought of. You can find him on the web here.

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THREE STRIKES, YOU’RE DEAD will be available in April 2018

BODY & SOUL will be available in April 2018

THE CONFESSION . . . Between the covers

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Here’s a challenge for you. A challenge for writers, and for those who like to write about writing. Begin your novel like this. Time? The present day. Scene? A comfortable room in an Irish house. Characters? A man and woman watching television, and an unknown intruder. Action? The intruder hacks the man to death in front of his horrified wife. Placement in book? The opening pages. Now, write a compelling and hypnotic novel of 400 pages which follows this dramatic beginning, and keep your readers hooked until the last paragraph.

The ConfessionJo Spain not only takes on the challenge, but she meets it head on and completes it with subsequent pages of The Confession which manage to be, as night follows day, bravura, intense, full of authentic and convincing dialogue, utterly mesmerising and, in places, literally breathtaking. A countryman of Spain’s began his most famous novel with Stately, plump Buck Mulligan came from the stairhead, bearing a bowl of lather on which a mirror and a razor lay crossed.” She counters with:

“It’s the first spray of my husband’s blood hitting the television screen that will haunt me in the weeks to come – a perfect diagonal splash, each droplet descending like a vivid red tear.”

Now that is as fierce an opening paragraph as you will ever read. The speaker is Julie McNamara. The victim – of a perfectly timed swing with a golf club – is husband Harry, a financier who has recently fallen from grace as his empire took a huge hit in the 2008 financial crash. He is still formidably rich by most people’s standards, but his reputation as some kind of investment Midas has been destroyed. We hear the story of his rise and fall through Julie’s voice. She says, of the beginning of their love affair:

“Young, innocent, hopeful, in love. That was us at the beginning of our fairytale. But here’s the thing about fairytales. Sometimes they’re darker than you can ever imagine.”

Jo Spain continues to defy crime fiction convention by eschewing the standard police procedural manhunt. Instead, the killer of Harry McNamara turns himself in at the nearest police station in his blood-stained clothes and announces himself as John Paul Carney. At this point, Spain introduces us to a very distinctive member of An Garda Síochána, Detective Sergeant Alice Moody:

“Gallagher’s senior detective sergeant arrived at the top of the stairs, sweat patches already forming under her armpits from the three flights, her thin mousy brown hair gleaming from the perspiration emanating from her scalp.Every time that woman took the stairs she gave a convincing performance of somebody on the verge of a heart attack.”

 So DS Moody is not cut out to be a TV producer’s idea of a marketable sharp, charismatic – and stunningly sexy – detective. But she is bright. Very, very bright, as we are to discover.

The Confession unfolds like a beautiful but deadly flower opening its petals, one by one. Our narrators are the widowed Julie, Alice Moody, and JP Carney himself. A phrase here and there, a paragraph or two, an apparent revelation, and we think we know why JP Carney has bludgeoned the living daylights out of Harry McNamara. But this is Jo Spain’s skill. A page at a time, she weaves her spell and points us in the direction of the truth. Except we come to a dead end. A literary rockfall. An emphatic no-entry sign.

JSOf course, we get there in the end, and understand why JP Carney has exacted such an emphatic revenge on the handsome, charismatic and plausible Harry McNamara, but sometimes book reviews have to stop dead in their tracks, and say, “Trust me, this is a brilliant novel, but to tell you any more would be little short of criminal.” Yes, The Confession is a brilliant novel. Yes, I read it through in one sitting, deep into the early hours of a winter morning. Yes, I am a fan of Jo Spain (right). Yes, if you don’t get hold of your own copy of this, you will receive scant sympathy from me. The Confession is published by Quercus, and will be on sale as a Kindle from 11th January, and as a hardback from 25th January. Check online buying choices here.

For reviews of earlier Jo Spain novels, click on the titles below.

Sleeping Beauties

Beneath The Surface

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ROBICHEAUX:You Know My Name … Between the covers

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Chat-Author-James-Lee-BurkeJames Lee Burke (left) turned 81 in early December 2017. When I picture the face of his majestic but flawed hero, Dave Robicheaux, it is his creator’s face I see. The Robicheaux books have been filmed several times but the best one I have seen is In The Electric Mist (2009) starring Tommy Lee Jones, and Mr Jones is good a ringer for Mr Burke – and my vision of Robicheaux – as you will ever see.

Dave Robicheaux is a police officer in New Iberia, Louisiana, a few miles down the road from its big sister, New Orleans. Burke introduced him in The Neon Rain (1987) and, since then, fans like me have followed Dave’s every move, in and out of alcoholism, sharing his visions of ghostly Confederate troops trudging their spectral way through the swampland and along the fringes of the bayous, and bringing down bad men with the help of his bail skiptracer buddy, the elemental force known as Cletus Purcell.

Robicheaux: You Know My Name has an end-of-days feel about it. Is this endgame for Robicheaux? Emotionally, he is in a bad way. His wife (the latest of several) Molly is dead, innocent victim in a case of reckless driving.

“I could not sleep Sunday night, and on Monday I woke with a taste like pennies in my mouth and a sense that my life was unspooling before me, that the world in which I lived was a fabrication, that the charity abiding in the human breast was a collective self-delusion …”

His adopted daughter Alafair is away writing her novels and making her way in the world. Even Tripod, his three-legged raccoon pal is no more. Choose your metaphor; a gathering wind bearing a scent of impending catastrophe, a cloud of retribution, a murmured lament for the dead and dying becoming louder by the minute? Robicheaux describes one of the characters;

“I was old enough to know that insanity comes in many forms, some benign, some viral and capable of spreading across continents, but I believed I had just looked into the eyes of someone who was genuinely mad and probably not diagnosable, the kind of idealist who sets sail on the Pequod and declares war against the universe.”

All very gothic and, perhaps, melodramatic, but fans of the series will know not to expect half measures. The overpowering Louisiana climate does not do pastel shades: it never drizzles – the rain comes down like magnum bullets clanging into tin roofs; the wet heat saps the spirit, and makes men mad, and women madder.

Cover“That weekend, southern Louisiana was sweltering, thunder cracking as loud as cannons in the night sky; at sunrise, the storm drains clogged with dead beetles that had shells as hard as pecans. It was the kind of weather we associated with hurricanes and tidal surges and winds that ripped tin roofs off houses and bounced them across sugarcane fields like crushed beer cans; it was the kind of weather that gave the lie to the sleepy Southern culture whose normalcy we so fiercely nursed and protected from generation to generation.”

The plot? Obviously there is one, and it is excellent, but such is the power and poetry of James Lee Burke’s writing that the action is often completely subsumed by the language. A grim ostinato to the story is Robicheaux’s bitter resentment towards the man whose reckless driving killed Molly. Said driver is found dead, and Robicheaux become prime suspect in a murder case..

“How do you handle it when your anger brims over the edge of the pot?You use the shortened version of the Serenity Prayer, which is “Fuck it”. Like Voltaire’s Candide tending his own garden, or the British infantry going up the Khyber Pass one bloody foot at a time, you do your job, and you grin and walk through the cannon smoke, and you just keep saying, “Fuck it”…..”Fuck it” is not profanity. “Fuck it” is a sonnet.”

As his problems mount, Robicheaux succumbs once more to his personal demon. It is , however, a demon shared by a great many other of his fellow citizens:

“If anyone tells you he he’s from New Orleans and doesn’t drink, he’s probably not from New Orleans. Louisiana is not a state;it’s an outdoor mental asylum in which millions of people stay bombed most of their lives. That’s not an exaggeration. Cirrhosis is a family heirloom.”

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Bent fellow cop Spade Labiche is involved in all manner of dirty deals and deeds, while former top federal informant – and thoroughly vile human being – Kevin Penny is found dead in his trailer, slowly murdered by an electric drill. Meanwhile, as Clete Purcell plays foster parent to Penny’s young son, dying mobster Tony Nemo attempts to bankroll a Civil War movie written by an angry novelist whose wife may (or may not) have been raped by the charismatic Trump-like politician, Jimmy Nightingale. Robicheaux attends one of Nightingale’s campaign rallies.

“He gave voice to those who had none – and to those who had lost their jobs because of bankers and Wall Street stockbrokers and NAFTA politicians who had made a sieve of our borders and allowed millions of illegals into our towns and cities…..Was he race-baiting or appealing to the xenophopia and nativism that goes back to the Irish immigration of the 1840s? Not in the mind of his audience. Jimmy was telling it like it is.”

James Lee Burke is nothing if not passionate about how powerful people abuse the weak, the poor, the defenceless and the gullible. His bad men are satanic and implacable – until they meet the destructive force-field created when Robicheaux and Purcell – The Bobsy Twins – go into action. This is a bleak book emotionally, riven with anger, yet full of the poetry of loss and mortality.

“…the dead are still with us, like the boys in butternut marching through the flooded cypress at Spanish Lake, and the slaves who beckon us to remove the chains that bind them to the auction block, and all the wandering souls who want to scratch their names on a plaster wall so someone will remember their sacrifice, the struggle that began with the midwife’s slap of life, and their long day’s journey into the grave.”

Robicheaux: You Know My Name is out today, 2 January 2018, in Kindle and will be published as a hardback by Orion on 11th January.

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THE POSTMAN DELIVERS . . . Alex Gray

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The darkest hours of winter have now gone here in Britain and, imperceptibly, the days are getting longer, although at a maddeningly slow crawl. Nothing lightens the gloom better than packages from publishers which contain books which will not see the light of day until the green of the Spring.

Alex Gray017_1By 22nd March 2018, there should be catkins on the willow and hazel, daffodils should be getting into their stride and, even if it’s a little early to be looking for summer migrants like swallows and warblers, nothing will be more welcome to lovers of good crime fiction than the return of William Lorimer in another – the fifteenth, unbelievably – police procedural set in Scotland. Since Alex Gray (left) saw Never Somewhere Else published in 2002, she has made Lorimer and his world one of the go-to destinations for anyone who loves a well-crafted crime novel, with a sympathetically portrayed central character.

Lorimer’s latest case involves a woman stabbed to death, and wise heads from Police Scotland are certain that Dorothy Guildford’s husband Peter did the deed. After all, most murder victims knew their killer, didn’t they? What with the squeeze on budgets, and overtime eating the flesh from the force’s financial bones, who needs a protracted and complex murder enquiry? But. But. When Peter is savagely attacked and is clinging n to life in an ICU, Detective Superintendent Lorimer and Detective Constable Kirsty Wilson smell a very large and malodorous rat, and become convinced that the wrong man is in the frame for the killing.

Only The Dead Can Tell is written by Alex Gray, is published by Sphere/Little Brown, and will be available on 22 March 2018 in hardback and Kindle, with a paperback edition becoming available in November 2018.

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