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November 2016

An Evening with Ian Rankin

imageAs a fan of the Ian Rankin ‘Rebus’ novels for a very long time, I was incredibly excited to get the chance to be in the audience of ‘An Evening with Ian Rankin’ at Oh Me Oh My in Liverpool. The venue, the ornate former Bank of British West Africa, built in 1920, was the perfect place for an evening filled with insights, stories and laughter.

Rankin’s latest book, Rather be the Devil, sees the retired detective John Rebus, taking on the cold case of Maria Turquand, a socialite murdered in her hotel room in 1978. Meanwhile, the struggle for power in Edinburgh is alive and well with newcomer Darryl Christie taking on the old-school might of ‘Big’ Ger Cafferty. As a lot of the places that are used in Rankin’s books actually exist, it was interesting to hear how he contacted the hotel for permission to place the murder there – their response was ‘yes’ as it was a historical murder. Four weeks ago would have got an entirely different response however!

Always one for realism, Rankin felt that it was time that John’s penchant for cigarettes, alcohol and bad food came back to haunt him. Seeking advice from a doctor, a family friend, as to the sort of ailments Rebus could be suffering from, I was glad that several of the more grim conditions were discarded in favour of something more manageable! It will be interesting to see how he copes in subsequent books with his diagnosis although Ian admitted that he sometimes forgets about previous events saying that he almost forgot that Rebus had a dog when starting to write this book!

Throughout the evening, Ian was in conversation with Luca Veste, himself the author of superb books such as Then She was Gone  and Bloodstream. Both authors shared their similarities, discussing the settings of their books being in places not usually associated with the crime genre, with Veste talking about how he was turned down by numerous publishers due to the Liverpool setting. Rankin discussed how he, originally, used fictional places but how he now uses actual streets and buildings – a bonus for anyone participating in Rebus tours. He talked about the drawbacks, though, with the owner of the Oxford pub having to fit a foot rail by the bar as fans  were not happy to realise there wasn’t one, and also how a well-known coffee shop that he used in his current book has now become a restaurant!

Perhaps the funniest tale of the evening was his story about Peacock Johnson. Auctioning off the chance to appear as a character in the book A Question of Blood, the successful bidder was Johnson. On viewing his website, the author found a rather flamboyant, Hawaiian-shirted character – something seemed a bit suspicious! After a bit of detective work, Ian discovered that Peacock Johnson was none other than the alter-ego of the former bass player from Belle and Sebastian, Stuart David! Despite the subterfuge, Peacock Johnson did appear in A Question of Blood, along with his trusty sidekick, Evil Bob! Stuart David has since written a novel of his own featuring Peacock Johnson alongside another character with the familiar name of Ian Rankin!

In addition to his numerous anecdotes, we also discovered what had inspired him to become a crime writer. Revealing that he didn’t really start to read the crime genre until his early twenties, he discussed how television programmes such as Z Cars, Softly Softly and Shaft were amongst his favourites and talked about how the first name of Inspector Rebus is a nod to the private investigator  John Shaft!

It was a thoroughly enjoyable evening and if you ever get the chance to hear Ian Rankin speak, do go – you won’t be disappointed!

 

 

 

The Domino Killer by Neil White

imageThe murder of a man, found beaten to death at a Manchester park, looks like it will be solved quickly by Detective Constable Sam Parker and the rest of the investigating team. Of course, nothing is what it seems, and when the victim’s fingerprints are found on a knife from another crime scene, it looks as though there is something even more sinister afoot. Across the city, Sam’s brother, Joe, a criminal defence lawyer has come face to face with a man he has waited years to see again. A man who threatens to tear apart everything he has worked for…

It was only when I began reading that I realised that this was the third book in a series featuring the brothers. This always fills me with slight trepidation – what if I don’t understand what is happening due to not having read the previous two novels? Thankfully, I am happy to say that being a newcomer to the series was not a hindrance as, even though previous events are referred to, it did not spoil my understanding of the story. I particularly liked the fact that there is not too much given away in the blurb as this made much of the plot an unexpected surprise.

I found that I really liked the two lead characters as they seemed very real as they battled with their consciences about doing the right thing. As a stark contrast, the man they are trying to convict, Mark Proctor, is a thoroughly nasty piece of work who you desperately hope justice finally catches up with.

The plot is, at times, quite intricate, and it was because of this that I started to question the killings – I think all of the crime books I have read over the years have given me the skills I need to be a detective! I did, therefore, suspect something quite early on in the book and was happy to be right! I won’t divulge what it was, as it would spoil the ending!

This is an excellent, exciting, fast-paced book and one that really makes you think about the plot as it is unfolding. I am now looking forward to reading the first two books in the series!

With thanks to Net Galley and Little Brown Book Group UK for the arc.

 

Silent Scream by Angela Marsons

imageFive people stand around a grave, each one having taken their turn to dig. They are all complicit in the murder of an innocent child – a secret they know they must take with them to their own graves. Now, some years later, a headmistress is found dead, strangled in her own home. Are the crimes connected, and how do they link to the human remains that have been found at a former children’s home? Detective Inspector Kim Stone must try to answer these questions before any more people lose their lives.

As is often the case, I discovered the D. I. Kim Stone books late into the series, reading  Lost Girls first, before enjoying the next two books in the series, Play Dead and Blood Lines. With Silent Scream, sitting on my bookshelf for quite a while, I decided that it was finally time to see how the Kim Stone journey began!

The case is a particularly poignant one for the main character, as we discover that she was a product of the care system, having spent her formative years between foster parents and children’s homes. Her experience, therefore, provides a very useful insight into the lives of the children and also helps to explain Kim’s ‘never give up’ attitude.

As in her later books, Angela Marsons manages to create a story full of suspense with realistic characters who you can totally relate to. I was particularly pleased with the twists and turns throughout, as just when you think you have the plot worked out, she hits you with a major curveball, making you rethink your entire theory!

Silent Scream was a very strong debut and it is easy to see how a series has ensued. Just Evil Games to go now!

The Outcast Dead by Elly Griffiths

imageEver since I started reading the Ruth Galloway series, this is the book I have been longing to read as I have a huge interest in Victorian crime. The references to baby farming and the resurrectionists gave the story of Jemima Green an authentic feel and, although this was only a small part of the plot, I did develop a great deal of sympathy for the child killer and hoped that Ruth would be able to prove her innocence.

The main storyline – the child abduction – was a very emotive one, and, at times, it was hard to put down the book as I was desperate to find out the outcome. We also get to see a different side to many of the characters as the case unfolds. It was fascinating to see how the abduction affected Clough and how he was willing to accept advice from unconventional sources. I was also pleased to see the return of Cathbad after his sojourn in Pendle!

Although I have enjoyed all of Elly Griffiths’ books immensely, it is safe to say that this is my favourite one of the series so far!

Outbreak by C. Alexander London

imageWhen Sinead Starling, a family member and former friend, is seen stealing a deadly virus, the rest of the Cahill family know that they must act quickly in order to get to the truth. Is she about to unleash it on the world or is the traitor trying to stop the virus from getting out? The fate of the world lies with the Cahills, led by 14-year-old Dan, and takes our heroes across the planet on another dangerous mission.

Ever since the release of The Maze of Bones in 2008, the 39 Clues series has been a guilty pleasure of mine. Ok, the books may be aimed at children aged 8-12, but their emphasis on adventure and world history grabbed my attention from the start! Since the first book, our intrepid heroes have travelled the world, foiling disasters and now, in Outbreak, it seems as though their time is coming to an end as this is reportedly the last in the series.

Outbreak sees the return of Sinead Starling, a character we have not seen for some time. After previously betraying the family, the Cahills must decide if it is time to allow her back into the fold. A theme of forgiveness runs throughout the book as we are reminded of not just what Sinead did, but also of what actions some of the other characters have carried out throughout the series. Set mainly in Cuba and the Bermuda Triangle, the book is, as always, fast-paced and exciting as we wait to see if the virus that is threatening to take over the world can be eliminated.

There does seem to be an air of finality about the last chapter and, unlike other books, it does not appear to lead into a new story. This would be an ideal way to end the franchise. I have always thought that the 39 Clues would transfer well to the cinema or TV screen so, hopefully, this will happen one day.

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