Marion Lane and the Midnight Murder

Marion Lane and the Midnight Murder by TA Willberg is entertaining although highly derivative – think of a 1950’s Harry Potter inspired detective.

Marion Lane is an apprentice in a very secretive private detective agency, Miss Brickett’s, that aims to right the wrongs that the police cannot solve. The agency hidden beneath the streets of 1950’s London is full of technology and tricks that feel like they were inspired by HG Wells or Jules Verne.

Marion gets called upon by her mentor to solve a murder within the agency of which he is accused. In the process she uncovers a terrorist plot and the dark origins of Miss Brickett’s.

This is complete tosh, moderately enjoyable but I got to the end and breathed a sigh of relief. I won’t be reading the next in the series.


Black Buck

Black Buck by Mateo Askaripour is dark, funny and twisty.

Darren is working in Starbucks as a supervisor, his life is going nowhere and he is happy with that. Then he gets spotted and recruited into a fast growth tech business to go through their sales intern scheme. As he learns how to sell, he also has to learn how to survive in a high pressure competitive environment. Just as he thinks he has made it, things start to fall apart both corporately and personally.

Black Buck is a hilarious send up of the driven sales culture of modern tech businesses, layered with race and a broader lack of social responsibility. Not every tech company will be like this but most who have worked in the tech sector will recognise something in this novel.

This is a page turner, you will want to finish it in one or two sittings and it closes with a powerful ending. Whilst you are laughing your way through Black Buck you might learn a few sales tips as well.


The Manningtree Witches

The Manningtree Witches by AK Blakemore is one of those rare historical fictions where you cannot spot the lines between fiction and fact.

It’s 1643, the English Civil War is raging and the puritans are in the ascendancy. Rebecca West hates the menial drudgery that fills her days and chasm that separates her from the comfortable middle classes of Manningtree. When Matthew Hopkins arrives in Manningtree things take a dark turn for the marginalised working class women of the village. This is a tale of alleged witchcraft, mass hysteria, lies and vengeance and Rebecca is at the centre of the madness that follows.

The Manningtree Witches weaves historical fact, Matthew Hopkins was the Witchfinder General who instigated the Essex witch trials of this time, Rebecca West is described in the records of the trials, with an imagined narrative of the period. It is a compelling read.


The Whole Truth

The Whole Truth by Cara Hunter is full of surprises.

DI Fawley and his team are called in to an Oxford college when a male student accuses a female professor of sexual assault. In the Whole Truth little is what it initially seems, you keep being thrown of track and the twists and turns run right to the very last page.

Thought provoking, a little edgy and well well worth a read.



Alexandria by Edmund Richardson is one of those rare histories that turns out to be a page turning mystery.

Alexandria is the story of Charles Masson; a chancer, an adventurer, a self taught archaeologist, a spy and ultimately a victim of class prejudice. It’s also a history of 19th century India and Afghanistan and the power and influence of the East India Company.

I expected this book to be about Alexandria in Egypt but it turns out that throughout his conquests of Asia and the Middle East, Alexander founded cities which were named after him including one at Bagram in Afghanistan. Masson’s search for the relics of this Alexandria in a hostile Afghan landscape is threaded into the history of the kingdom and the machinations of the British.

History or mystery, this is a great tale well told.


Slough House

Mick Herron is an absolute delight, he combines complex twisting spy plots with dark humour and a razor sharp view of current events. As I wrote that I realised that excluding the humour that could have been a summary of the late John Le Carré although you could not imagine two more different lead characters than Jackson Lamb and George Smiley!

Slough House is the 7th in Herron’s series and they just keep getting better and better. There is a populist movement taking to the streets of London, think Jaquets Jaune, dark money trying to influence the activities and policy of MI6 and someone is ordering hits on ex members of Slough House. Slough House is brilliant, on point and full of surprise, read it now because if you wait some of the most contemporary references may slip from your memory.


Before She Disappeared

Before She Disappeared by Lisa Gardener introduces an off beat almost hobo detective.

Frankie Elkin has no possessions, no home, no ties or connections just a passion for finding missing people. She travels from town to town tracking down missing people, up to now she has only found the hidden bodies of victims, is this case going to be any different? Frankie arrives in a rough neighbourhood of Boston on a mission to find a missing Haitian teenager only to discover that neither the family or the police are comfortable with her uncovering what might have happened and the local drug gangs have a few things to say as well.

This is good, it’s twisty and well paced. I enjoyed it and am looking forward to Frankie making a return.

This One Sky Day

I am not sure how to describe This One Sky Day by Leone Ross except to say that it is magical in every sense.

Set on an island (possibly in the Caribbean) populated with characters that each have a magical characteristic or ability, This One Sky Day is based on the events of a single day with the hero preparing a wedding feast for the president’s daughter while trying to find the spirit of his dead wife and connect with his one true love, meanwhile strange things happen to the women of the island and revolution is brewing.

Confused? Well don’t be, just sit back and marvel at the story telling, the magic, the beautiful characters and wonder how it will turn out. If you crossed the magical realism of Marquez or Allende with a touch of Shakespeare you might get to This One Sky Day.

Brilliant! 5/5

Where Ravens Roost

Where Ravens Roost by Karin Nordin is a great scandi-crime debut.

Kjeld Nygaard is facing suspension from the police and going through a separation from his partner and child when his estranged father leaves a message for him saying that he has witnessed a murder. The problem is that Kjeld’s father is suffering from insetting dementia and his memory is unreliable. Kjeld travels back to his childhood home in a remote mining village and as he investigates he starts to believe that his father may have seen something but when a body is found it is Kjeld’s father that comes under suspicion. As Kjeld investigates he uncovers his own puzzling family history as he gets closer to identifying the murder.

Where Ravens Roost is fast paced, dark and full of twists. Kjeld is a character that I want to read again and I expect to see in a BBC 4 crime series in a year or two.


Win is a departure for Harlan Coben, Windsor Lockwood the third was the psychopathic aristocratic friend and protector of Coben’s original detective Myron Bolitar, now he gets his own novel as the lead character.

20 years ago Win’s cousin was abducted and held captive during a robbery of the family home. The two stolen artworks were never recovered until one appears in the home of a murder victim. As Win tries to solve the crime and find the other painting he discovers some disturbing family secrets and interest from the FBI related to domestic terrorism in the 60’s.

I liked Win as a sidekick but he lacks the nuance and charm of Bolitar and overall this is rather meh!