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Wednesday, 22 November 2017

‘The Prime of Ms Dolly Greene’ by E.V. Harte

Published by Constable,
7 September 2017.
ISBN: 978-1-47212-424-1

When Dolly Greene and her husband divorced she needed a new way to make a living and turned to her main skill and solace, her ability to read tarot cards.

Dolly lives down a bike track in the aptly named Tinderbox Lane in South West London. She has a tiny, one-bedroomed cottage that she shares with her twenty-two-year-old daughter, Pippa, a student who has recently broken up with her boyfriend.

When Dolly conducts tarot card readings at home she uses the broom cupboard in order to have privacy and focus on her readings, although she also does some readings for groups. In this way Dolly manages to scrape a living. Despite her hand-to-mouth existence, Dolly is warm and optimistic and enjoys her life.

The book opens with Dolly and a new client, Nikki, seated in the broom cupboard. Dolly’s usual patter is disrupted by a vision of Nikki’s face, battered and bloodstained. A few days later a woman’s body is washed up near Chiswick Bridge and Dolly is convinced that the victim is Nikki.

Dolly is well aware that the police are unlikely to take seriously information gained by reading tarot cards and she tries to discover the truth herself. As she does so, she is drawn into the lives of her neighbours, a group of idiosyncratic people, many of whom have secrets of their own. Dolly is particularly drawn to her next-door-neighbour, the Caribbean born, womanising, larger-than-life Maurice.

Dolly’s personal prospects for prosperity and happiness start to improve, but then death strikes in Tinderbox Lane and Dolly’s determination to discover the truth places her own life in danger.

The Prime of Ms Dolly Greene is the first book in a new series featuring the ‘tarot detective.’ It is a lively and amusing book, based on an unusual premise and filled with eccentric, larger-than-life characters. Dolly is an engaging and delightful protagonist and it is a very enjoyable read.
Reviewer: Carol Westron

EV Harte is an author and Tarot reader. The Prime of Ms Dolly Greene is the first in EV Harte's Tarot Detective series. The second will be out May 2018.

Author Pic by Panda La Terriere

Carol Westron is a successful short story writer and a Creative Writing teacher.  She is the moderator for the cosy/historical crime panel, The Deadly Dames.  Her crime novels are set both in contemporary and Victorian times.  The Terminal Velocity of Cats is the first in her Scene of Crimes novels, was published July 2013. Her latest book The Fragility of Poppies was published 10 June 2016.

Read a review of Carol’s latest book
The Fragility of Poppies

‘Faithless’ by Kjell Ola Dahl

Translated by Don Bartlett
Published by Orenda Books,
15 May 2017.
ISBN: 978-1-910633-27-4 (PBO)

When the body of a woman turns up in a dumpster, scalded and wrapped in plastic, Inspector Frank Frolich is shocked to discover he knows her – she’s engaged to his former best friend ...

This classic PP is narrated alternately in the third person following the heads of Frolich and his boss, Gunnerstranda, who is on leave as events start, but who becomes involved once the body is found. There’s also a third person whose thoughts we see, the young policewoman Lena, who’s having a dangerous affair with another officer, and who uses herself as a honey-trap later in the story. The plot is clever, with several strands to the investigation: Frolich is following the dead woman, Veronika, and his friend Karl Anders, but he’s also trying to figure out Veronika’s links with the local mobster, and trace a missing overseas student, while Gunnerstranda finds Veronika’s death reminiscent of a cold case he worked on years ago; there’s no DNA on Veronika’s body, but DNA was found on the first dead girl – if only they can find a match.

The detectives contrasted well with each other, with Gunnerstranda’s home life and loving wife, Tove, set against Frolich’s dark past, and Lena’s difficult present, and there was a good feel of life in an Oslo police station. The pace speeds up as the novel progresses, with a cliff-hanger for one character jumping straight to the investigations of the other – at one point, I thought a chapter had gone missing, as the cliff-hanger was left, well, hanging, until a casual mention told us how it had ended.

A fast-moving Norwegian PP with good characters and setting.
Reviewer: Marsali Taylor

Kjell Ola Dahl was born in 1958 in Gjøvik. He made his debut in 1993, and has since published eleven novels, the most prominent of which is a series of police procedurals cum psychological thrillers featuring investigators Gunnarstranda and Frølich. In 2000 he won the Riverton Prize for The Last Fix and he won both the prestigious Brage and Riverton Prizes for The Courier in 2015. His work has been published in 14 countries, and he lives in Oslo.

Marsali Taylor grew up near Edinburgh, and came to Shetland as a newly-qualified teacher. She is currently a part-time teacher on Shetland's scenic west side, living with her husband and two Shetland ponies. Marsali is a qualified STGA tourist-guide who is fascinated by history, and has published plays in Shetland's distinctive dialect, as well as a history of women's suffrage in Shetland. She's also a keen sailor who enjoys exploring in her own 8m yacht, and an active member of her local drama group.  Marsali also does a regular monthly column for the Mystery People e-zine.

A review of her recent book Ghosts of the Vikings can be read here.

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

‘Can You Keep a Secret?’ by Karen Perry

Published by Penguin Michael Joseph,
30 November 2017.
ISBN: 978-1-405-92033-9 (TPB)

Secrets and lies: two factors which lie at the heart of the best psychological thrillers. Add to that a generous helping of dark doings in the past, and the result has to be a winner.

Twenty years ago Lindsey was welcomed into the home of her schoolmate and best friend Rachel, and relished a taste of a different way of life from her own rather mundane background. She revelled in the freedom of a light-handed approach to parenting, sampled some of the privileges that money could buy, and basked in the warmth of Rachel's friendship and the camaraderie of the circle of chums who gathered around the family. Until a darker side began to emerge and everything began to go wrong...

Now, twenty years older and a forensic analyst with the Dublin police, Lindsey finds herself drawn to Patrick, Rachel's brother, who still lives in the wonderful old house. But Patrick can no longer afford to run the place, and plans a weekend party to say goodbye to it before the developers move in. It's at the party that the past begins to unravel. Old secrets bubble to the surface; old lies are exposed. And that's only the beginning...

Karen Perry sets herself a real challenge with this book. The narrative alternates between the two time frames, each peopled mainly by the same set of characters. The easy part was creating a world similar enough to the modern one, but without mobile phones and the trappings of technology. Much harder must have been the characters: on the verge of adulthood in one time frame, grown-up and launched in life in the other.

The author has met that challenge head on and made it work, in part by planting personality traits in the teenage versions which carry forward into adult life in a way which left me believing wholeheartedly in both. Rachel's brittleness; Marcus's sensitivity; Niall's bumptiousness; even Hilary's decision to take control of her own destiny instead of going with the tide. Lindsey herself has been shaped by the past, and will probably continue in similar vein.

Thornbury, the house, has an almost Manderley-like quality: in the past it feels like a place in a dream, but in the present harsh reality has invaded. And throughout the book there is a sense of underlying chaos, which will only be resolved when the truth is out.

It all ends badly, of course, much as a reader of psychological thrillers would expect. The justice, such as it is, is of the cosmic variety, also to be expected, and not always even-handed, which makes it feel even more real.

Karen Perry is gaining a solid reputation; this book can only help that along.
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick
Photograph  © Edmund Ross
Karen Perry is the pseudonym for Paul Perry and Karen Gillece. Paul Perry is the author of a number of critically acclaimed books including The Drowning of the Saints, Goldsmith's Ghost, 108 Moons, The Orchid Keeper, and most recently The Last Falcon and Small Ordinance. A winner of The Hennessy New Irish Writer of The Year Award, he is a Lecturer in Creative Writing for Kingston University, London, Writer Fellow for University College Dublin and Course Director in Poetry for the Faber Academy in Dublin.

Lynne Patrick has been a writer ever since she could pick up a pen, and has enjoyed success with short stories, reviews and feature journalism, but never, alas, with a novel. She crossed to the dark side to become a publisher for a few years, and is proud to have launched several careers which are now burgeoning. She lives on the edge of rural Derbyshire in a house groaning with books, about half of them crime fiction.