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Table of Contents

Crime, Horror and Thriller Reviews



Crime, Thrillers & Horror

Fantasy & Science Fiction

Popular Fiction

History & Historical Fiction

Comics & Graphic Novels

Non-fiction Books

Children's Literature


Feature Articles

August ALLISON & BUSBY titles

Harper Collins Scene of the Crime

Transformers Feature Article

Thomas the Tank Engine Feature Article

Enid Blyton's Barney Mysteries

The History of Inspector Ian Rutledge by Charles Todd

A Gloucestershire Lad

Elizabeth Chayne's Reading Corner

Heroes comes to BBC2


Stories and Serials

Practice Makes Perfect by Steven Beeho

Phyllis Owen: A Soft White Cloud Chapter Two

Paul Norman: Daylights

Paul Norman: Heraklion ~ Outcast

Star Wars: Dark Emperor


Owen Owen's Gallery


Comics Previews:

Top Cow City of Heroes

Top Cow Darkness Level 5

Top Cow Witchblade

Top Cow First Born

Devil's Due Hack & Slash

Devil's Due Xombie

Dark Horse BPRD Garden of Souls

Dark Horse Blade of the Immortal

Dark Horse Star Wars Legacy

Dark Horse Star Wars Rebellion

Dynamite Comics



One to watch! Published later this month and almost certainly next month's Fantasy Book of the Month

100 days to publication day! Watch out for a second thrilling LIFE ON MARS book, volume 2, published November 5th by Simon and Schuster

CRIME BOOK OF THE MONTH ~ VAL McDERMID: BENEATH THE BLEEDING (Harper Collins HB) Tony Hill, criminal profiler and hero of TV's Wire in the Blood, is back in a terrifying psychological thriller from bestselling author Val McDermid. A city is mourning. Bradfield Victoria's star midfielder has been murdered, bizarrely poisoned in an apparently motiveless killing. Then a bomb blast rips through the football stadium. Dozens lie dead, many more injured. Is it a terrorist attack or a vendetta against the Vics? Or something even more sinister? As he lies in a hospital bed, psychologist and profiler Dr Tony Hill struggles to make sense of the fragments of information he manages to gather. But his customary ally, DCI Carol Jordan, is being pushed to the margins of the investigation by intelligence services determined to prove themselves indispensable. It wouldn't be so bad if Tony and Carol could agree about who they're looking for. But even their relationship has its dislocations and dark places. Beneath the Bleeding sets Tony and Carol at odds as they have never been before, forcing them to ask questions of themselves they would never have imagined possible. Val McDermid's latest offering is right on the money - taut, tight, tense, full of action, stunning characters in topical situations, fantastic throughout - Jordan and Hill are brilliant, and so is Val!

THRILLER BOOK OF THE MONTH ~ RUPERT HOLMES: SWING (Allison and Busby HB) In the year 1940, in San Francisco, Ray Sherwood has arrived in town on tour with the Jack Donovan Orchestra and plenty of bad memories. But in meeting two women on the same day, Ray is shaken out of his stupor. One of the women, Gail, wants his help in orchestrating her avant-garde composition Swing Around the Sun, the other will plunge to her death just moments after speaking to him. As there is more to Gail's motivations than meets the eye, Ray is pulled along a trail of music, murder and espionage against the backdrop of America preparing for war. Brilliantly enjoyable romp set at the beginning of the Big Band Swing era, with a superb plot. Beautiful presentation has many of the chapters headed with B&W photos from the era, which help to set the atmosphere. The plot devolves around a musical score which carries a hidden message which may affect the outcome of US involvement in the second world war. Terrific characters. Holmes is a master of his craft.

HORROR BOOK OF THE MONTH ~ SHAUN HUTSON: DYING WORDS (Orbit PB) Can it be true that God demands a terrible price of those He has gifted with great creativity? Giacomo Cassano, little known mentor of Dante, thought so. He held other beliefs too - beliefs that the Church found so abhorrent they had Cassano blinded and his tongue cut out to silence him forever. Bestselling biographer Megan Hunter's new book about Cassano looks set to be as successful as her previous biographies of Caravaggio and Dante. As she embarks on a publicity tour, Megan finds her book attracting attention for the wrong reasons when her editor is found horrifically murdered. It is a classic locked-room mystery. The only pieces of evidence are the destroyed remains of Megan Hunter's Cassano biography and the latest blockbuster by horror writer John Paxton. But there is nothing to link the two authors. Nothing but another murder. And another. And a secret beyond the belief of even Cassano himself. Blimey! You wait ages for a Shaun Hutson and three come along at once! (See below). You could be forgiven for thinking this is a "simple" locked room mystery, but Hutson's solution is, to say the least, unconventional. The publisher's blurb above doesn't mention the main character, Detective Inspector Birch, but let me tell you that Hutson provides gore by the bucketload, and DYING WORDS has its fair share - only Hutson has matured considerably from his early titles, and this is first class entertainment. The ending will leave you reeling, and you'll either go with it or hate it. Knowing Shaun Hutson, I guessed something like that was coming, and I'm a big fan, so I went with it. There are things we can't comprehend or explain, I'm happy to say. Loved it. Loved it.

ELIZABETH CORLEY: REQUIEM MASS (Allison and Busby PB) When Debbie Fearnside, a young wife and mother goes missing, police interest is minimal. She would hardly be the first woman to abandon a tired marriage. Four weeks later, it is DCI Andrew Fenwick, back from compassionate leave, who notices the set of coincidences that should have transformed a routine missing person's case into a suspected abduction. And by then, it's too late for Debbie. With Kate Johnstone, the situation is quite different. The popular school teacher has been murdered by someone who's an expert with a knife. When a WPC on Fenwick's team establishes an old connection between Kate and Debbie, the picture starts to change. It's more vital than anyone realises that they discover why the two cases are linked, for the killer has only just begun to take revenge for a long-forgotten death. And he is planning a cunning and spectacular finale that will put many lives at risk. Fenwick is caught up in a desperate race against time to find the murderer before he completes his bloody vendetta. As the death toll mounts, Fenwick stares failure in the face - unless he can draw the killer out of the shadows and into an unconventional and highly dangerous trap with the ultimate bait. Lots of things going on this excellent police mystery by the great Elizabeth Corley, whose GRAVE DOUBTS was a big hit last year. Fenwick, recovering from the loss of his wife, tries to balance work and family life - inevitably, work wins, as it always does with CID. His brief encounter with the luscious opera singer Octavia provides a respite from the grim serial killings, but all in all, this is a winner, and should reach a wide audience in its paperback format - incidentally, A&B's paperbacks are easy to read without splitting open the spine - some unique binding process, I guess, but it's most welcome.

KELLEY ARMSTRONG: EXIT STRATEGY (Sphere PB) A brand new series - non-supernatural - involving a female assassin. Nadia Stafford is an ex-cop - fired after she shot a child killer. She now works for one small mafia family: the way she sees it, no one innocent is getting hurt. But then a serial killer starts murdering innocent people in the style of a hitman. The police investigation threatens to unmask several professional hitmen, including Nadia. So she bands together with five other hitmen, including her mentor, the mysterious Jack. Together they decide to hunt down the killer - but perhaps that's just what he wants. Are they walking into a devious and brilliantly planned trap? Armstrong foresakes her supernatural side in the first of a new series, but the need to shock is still there. She has a huge following, but I'm not altogether sure I know why that is - outstanding it isn't. Airport lounge or in-flight entertainment only, in my opinion, not something that will stick in your memory for too long. Go back to the supernatural, Kelley, you're pretty good at that!

ANNE HOLT: THE FINAL MURDER (Sphere HB) A talk-show star is found killed in her home, her tongue removed and left on her desk, cleaved in two. And when a second body, that of a right-wing party leader, is found crucified to the bedroom wall with a copy of the Koran inserted into her body, Superintendent Adam Stubo is pulled from leave to lead the investigation. Is there a celebrity-slaying serial killer on the loose? His partner, Johanne Vik, agrees to help with the case but begins to see a pattern, one that traces back to her FBI days. If she's right, the pattern will end in the murder of the investigating officer: Adam. From the internationally bestselling Anne Holt, this is the latest thrilling instalment in a gripping and compulsive series. Why do murder stories have to be so gruesome? Are they following real-life, or are today's authors simply trying to outdo each other in the gruesome stakes? It's the same with television - give me Midsomer Murders any day. Good, old-fashioned police detective dramas without the need for stomach-turning violence of the hack/slash variety wins hands down every time in my book. We're surrounded by fanaticism in real-life, and I much prefer down to earth English police dramas to this kind of thing. Well written it may be, but it doesn't appeal to me that much.

CHARLES TODD: A FALSE MIRROR (Harper Collins US HB) Hampton Regis, a small harbor town on the southern coast of England, is a most unlikely place for violence. Yet, one spring morning, a man is found on the strand so severely beaten that he slips in and out of consciousness. The prime suspect? His wife's jilted lover, who served with Rutledge in the recently ended Great War—but who left the Front under a cloud. Badly wounded, yes, but did someone also cover up cowardice? Rutledge is called on to prove the innocence of a man he dislikes and distrusts. But the deadly triangle also stirs up memories of the woman Rutledge himself loved and lost when he went to France to fight. His doubts about the accused and himself only deepen when the victim of the beating mysteriously disappears, with no body to be found. As the brilliant yet tormented detective discovers that he's not the only person seeing a reflection of tumultuous emotions in this case, he must confront the demons that threaten to overwhelm him and search out the truth. For in Hampton Regis hides a vicious killer who intends to let nothing—and no one—stand in the way. Read Charles Todd's essay on the history of Inspector Ian Rutledge in this issue. Difficult to comprehend that this excellent British mystery was written by an American mother-and-son - faultless dialogue and scenery. Rutledge is a great character. This isn't exactly new this month but it's new to me and the books are available in the UK. Builds on the strengths of Christie and Sayers. Great stuff.

W J BURLEY: WYCLIFFE AND THE REDHEAD (Orion PB) Simon Meagor was a lonely middle-aged man. With a broken marriage behind him, his life was centred on his antiquarian bookshop. In his past was the memory of a murder trial where his evidence had resulted in the conviction of a man who had subsequently killed himself. Now, to his horror, the daughter of that man was applying for a job in his shop and, almost mesmerised by her, Simon found he was agreeing to her employment. Cleverly, over a period of time, Morwenna manipulated herself into his work, his life, and finally into his flat above the shop. And then she disappeared. When her body was discovered in a flooded quarry, at first suicide was considered. Morwenna was suffering from a fatal disease. But everything pointed to murder and, inevitably, suspicion fell on Simon Meagor. Wycliffe became increasingly disturbed by a case which grew more and more complicated as he explored many dark and murky secrets from the past. Wycliffe is one of the less popular TV 'tecs, but that has nothing to do with the books, which are excellent. Wycliffe and the Redhead is no exception.

JIM KELLY: THE SKELETON MAN (Michael Joseph HB) For seventeen years, the Cambridgeshire hamlet of Jude's Ferry has lain abandoned, requisitioned by the Ministry of Defence for military training in 1990. The isolated, 1000-year-old community was famous for one thing - never having recorded a single crime. But when local reporter Philip Dryden joins the Territorial Army on exercise in the empty village, its spotless history is literally blown apart. For the TA's shells reveal a hidden cellar beneath the old pub. And inside the cellar hangs a skeleton, a noose around its neck ...Two days later, a man is pulled from the reeds in the river near Ely - he has no idea who he is or how he got there. But he knows the words 'Jude's Ferry' are important, and he knows he is afraid ...As the police launch an investigation into the skeleton in the cellar, Dryden is convinced the key to the mystery rests in the last days of the village when passions, prejudices, guilt and hatred all came to a head. Everything leads him back to Jude's Ferry. But who is waiting for him there? Billed as a "Philip Dryden" novel, this has tension, mystery and thrills a-plenty, with loads of accurate local atmosphere in and around the Fens and North West Norfolk. Excellent.

RICHELLE MEAD: SUCCUBUS BLUES (Bantam PB) When it comes to jobs in hell, being a succubus seems pretty glamorous. A girl can be anything she wants, the wardrobe is killer, and mortal men will do anything just for a touch. Granted, they can often pay with their souls, but why get technical? But Seattle succubus Georgina Kincaid's life is far less exotic. Her boss is a middle-management demon with a thing for John Cusack movies. Her immortal best friends haven't stopped teasing her about the time she shape-shifted into the Demon Goddess getup complete with whip and wings. And she can't have a decent date without the sucking away part of the guy's life. At least there's her day job at a local bookstore - free books; all the white chocolate mochas she can drink; and easy access to bestselling, sexy writer, Seth Mortensen, aka He Whom She Would Give Anything to Touch but Can't. But dreaming about Seth will have to wait. Something wicked is at work in Seattle's demon underground. And for once, all of her hot charms and drop-dead one-liners won't help because Georgina's about to discover there are some creatures out there that both heaven and hell want to deny... Billed as "Buffy meets Sex in the City", this is surprisingly devoid of sex, though it's hinted at plenty of times. For me, Buffy will always have the edge because it burst onto the media scene and then the books and the magazines followed. Vampire Hunters and Succubi will inevitably play catch-up to Buffy, and not all will succeed. It's as though these copycat novels are all written by the same person under various different pseudonyms - only a few of them work. This one may get a cult following. The cover is attractive, but the build-up just doesn't fulfill its promise for me.

MARK BILLINGHAM: DEATH MESSAGE (Little, Brown HB) The first message sent to Tom Thorne's mobile phone was just a picture - the blurred image of a man's face, but Thorne had seen enough dead bodies in his time to know that the man was no longer alive. But who was he? Who sent the photograph? And why? While the technical experts attempt to trace the sender, Thorne searches the daily police bulletins for a reported death that matches the photograph. Then another picture arrives. Another dead man It is the identities of the murdered men which give Thorne his first clue, a link to a dangerous killer he'd put away years before and who is still in prison. With a chilling talent for manipulation, this man has led another inmate to plot revenge on everyone he blames for his current incarceration, and for the murder of his family while he was inside. Newly released, this convict has no fear of the police, no feelings for those he is compelled to murder. Now Tom Thorne must face one of the toughest challenges of his career, knowing that there is no killer more dangerous than one who has nothing left to lose. Published in October - review next month

CHRISTOPHER BROOKMYRE: ATTACK OF THE UNSINKABLE RUBBER DUCKS (Little, Brown HB) Jack Parlabane is dead. Or is he? In an unlikely twist of the democratic process, he had been elected Rector of Glasgow's Kelvin University, taking over the post from the celebrity psychic Gabrielle Lafayette. Lafayette's tenure had one unexpected outcome - the establishment of a chair to investigate, using rigorous scientific controls, the causes of paranormal activity: mind-reading, levitating objects, speaking to the dead, all that sort of woo-woo. Due to his highly honed skills as a sceptic, Jack is invited to be an official observer to the whole exercise. Delighted to have the opportunity to puncture the unquestioning faith of the true believers - the unsinkable rubber ducks - Jack accepts with alacrity. But the outcome of the experiment is wholly other to his expectations and threatens to scupper his own beliefs, and also his own survival. Takes a little too long to get going for my liking

JOHN REID: PUNISHMENT AND SACRIFICE ( PB) The children we abuse today could become the monsters of tomorrow. This is the story of child abuse and the nightmare it can create both in the present and the future. It parallels and distorts what is madness and what is sanity until the line becomes blurred beyond recognition. Dr. Jack Barker: Respected Psychologist, loving father, responsible neighbor, serial killer?? Under his mask of sanity he is driven to commit his monstrous acts in a game of cat and mouse and justifies it all by the wrongs that are done to him in the present and were perpetrated on him in his childhood. MIke Swanson: Broken recovering alcoholic police detective who has seen too many atrocities human beings can do to each other.Will he be able to stop the monster in this case or be consumed by his own demons from his past. When these two worlds collide in a cataclysmic explosion, the battle will not only be over who will survive but how to live with the nightmarish truth that ties each together in the bondage of the past. Oh dear! I have to say I didn't enjoy this one little bit - it reminded me of something strangely pornographic. I applaud the sentiments of the author to focus on the dreadful crimes committed against children and teenagers, but I found the whole thing naive and a bit of a let-down. An obsession with sensational and badly written sex scenes lets it down. Terribly disappointing.

MURDER AT THE SAVOY: THE MARTIN BECK SERIES. The sixth thrilling installment in the Martin Beck detective series fromthe 1960s -- the novels that have inspired all crime fiction written ever since. Widely recognised as the greatest masterpieces of crime fiction ever written, these are the original detective stories that pioneered the detective genre. When Viktor Palmgren, a powerful industrialist, is casually shot during an after-dinner speech, the repurcussions -- both on the international money markets and on the residents of the small coastal town of Malmo -- are widespread. Chief Inspector Martin Beck is called in to help catch a killer nobody, not even the victim, was able to identify. He begins a systemic search for the friends, enemies, business associates and call girls who may have wanted Palmgren dead -- but in the process he finds to his dismay that he has nothing but contempt for the victim and sympathy for the murderer! Written in the 1960s, they are the work of Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo -- a husband and wife team from Sweden. The ten novels follow the fortunes of the detective Martin Beck, whose enigmatic, taciturn character has inspired countless other policemen in crime fiction. The novels can be read separately, but do follow a chronological order, so the reader can become familiar with the characters and develop a loyalty to the series. Each book has a new introduction in order to help bring these books to a new audience. You have to be dedicated to this series to want to read them all - there are far too many far better UK authors writing books that are much more enjoyable right now

THE FIRE ENGINE THAT DISAPPEARED: THE MARTIN BECK SERIES. The excellent fifth classic installment in the Martin Beck detectiveseries from the 1960s -- the novels that have inspired all crime fiction written ever since. Widely recognised as the greatest masterpieces of crime fiction ever written, these are the original detective stories that pioneered the detective genre. Gunvald Larsson sits carefully observing the dingy Stockholm apartment of a man under police surveillance. He looks at his watch: nine minutes past eleven in the evening. He yawns, slapping his arms to keep warm. At the same moment the house explodes, killing at least three people. Chief Inspector Martin Beck and his men don't suspect arson or murder until they discover a peculiar circumstance and a link is established between the explosion and a suicide committed that same day, in which the dead man left a note consisting of just two words: Martin Beck. Written in the 1960s, they are the work of Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo -- a husband and wife team from Sweden. The ten novels follow the fortunes of the detective Martin Beck, whose enigmatic, taciturn character has inspired countless other policemen in crime fiction. The novels can be read separately, but do follow a chronological order, so the reader can become familiar with the characters and develop a loyalty to the series. Each book has a new introduction in order to help bring these books to a new audience.

C J EMERSON: OBJECTS OF DESIRE (Allison and Busby PB) A new life in Wales has not turned out to be the rural fantasy that social worker Jess imagined when she left London. Having put the memories of her previous harrowing cases behind her, she had hoped to embark on a simpler, more fulfilling future, but it seems there's no escape from evil, even in such a beautiful landscape. Just as Jess takes on a new case, she learns that the body of a young boy has been found in the woods close to her home. Her worst nightmare becomes reality as she realises he was a child she was supposed to protect. As her professional life gets harder to deal with, Jess is forced to come to terms with her own past when someone unexpectedly reappears. She finds herself crossing the line from investigator to victim, forced to question the very basis of her identity, and she can only wonder: who's there to protect the protector? Jess is a great heroine, and Emerson builds the tension quietly but effectively. Terrific read.

ZOE SHARP: SECOND SHOT (Allison and Busby PB) Charlie Fox, ex-Special Forces soldier turned bodyguard, has a new client: a lottery millionairess mother who is looking for protection from a nuisance ex. When Simone decides to escape his unwanted attentions and the scrutiny of the press by going to America, it should make Charlie's job easier, what with the main character she is protecting her from out of the picture. But Charlie has some very bad memories from her last time in the US and from the moment they arrive Simone seems to undermine all of Charlie's measures for her security. As the action culminates in a shoot-out in the snow, Charlie struggles to get to the bottom of what is jeopardising her assignment. I'm not sure I'm entirely comfortable with a female as an all-action hero, despite her training - it just doesn't feel right

SCOTT SMITH: THE RUINS (Corgi PB) Craving an adventure to wake them from their lethargic Mexican holiday before they return home, four friends set off in search of one of their own who has travelled to the interior to investigate an archaeological dig in the Mayan ruins. After a long journey into the jungle, the group come across a partly camouflaged trail and a captivating hillside covered with red flowers. Lured by these, the group move closer until they happen across a gun-toting Mayan horseman who orders them away. In the midst of the confrontation, one of the group steps inadvertently backwards into the flowering vine. And at that moment their world changes for ever... Paperback reissue

JOHN SAUL: IN THE DARK OF THE NIGHT (Pan Books PB) The rambling lakeside house called Pinecrest has lain empty since its last owner went missing seven years ago. But for the Brewster family it will be this year's holiday retreat, and for the kids Eric and Marci, it's the perfect place to spend a lazy summer exploring. Which is how Eric and his teenage friends discover a curious collection of discarded objects stowed in a hidden room in the carriage house. The bladeless hacksaws, shade-less lamps, tables with missing legs, a headless axe handle - these unremarkable items add up to a pile of junk. Yet someone once took the trouble to list each worthless relic in a cryptic ledger, thus provoking a great mystery that is now whispering, coaxing, demanding to be solved. The more the boys devote themselves to piecing together the puzzle, the more their fascination deepens into obsession. Soon their days are consumed with this weird collection, while their nights become plagued by ever more ghastly nightmares. And finally when a horrifying discovery surfaces, so does the chilling truth about a twisted legacy with a malevolent life of its own. Saul has been in the business long enough to know how to send shivers up the spines of readers of any age - Publishers Weekly . Great beach reading, especially for those days when a chill would be oh so welcome - Booklist. Yes, a good read for the beach, but it's not a patch on Stephen King, who is the master of this type of suspense. Worth a look, and Saul followers will relish it

SHAUN HUTSON: OMNIBUS 1 (Orbit PB) SHADOWS In Oxford and Paris psychic investigators are attempting to probe forbidden areas of the mind. In New York, writer David Blake is studying the methods of miracle healer Jonathon Mathias. Driven by their own desperate motives, these researchers are about to unlock Pandora's Box ? and unleash the horrifying forces of destruction hidden deep within us all NEMESIS Sue and John Hackett are contemplating the ruins of their marriage after the brutal murder of their daughter. To try to salvage their lives, they retreat to the small town of Hinkston, but the town is being torn apart by a series of horrific murders. And it holds an appalling, fifty-year-old secret that was supposed to have died during the war. It didn't. One for collectors, really - lashings of gore in a new reissue

SHAUN HUTSON: UNMARKED GRAVES (Orbit PB) When investigative telejournalist Nick Pearson is sent to Darworth in Hertfordshire, he finds a community divided. A steady influx of foreign immigrants has led to racial tension and open hostility and violence. The African newcomers are particularly targeted, regular victims of vandalism and even fire-bombing. The Africans seem unwilling to fight back, until the arrival of a mysterious, powerful man who many of them know ? and fear. Nick begins to wonder if there might be some kind of connection between this newcomer and the desecration of a local cemetery ? an event followed by the disappearance of a number of corpses and a series of bizarre, ritualistic murders. In each case, the victims bear the same marks on their bodies. Scars that Nick has seen before, five years earlier in Africa. Ancient religion and modern prejudice are about to collide, and when they do, there may be no survivors. At least not human ones ... Not as enjoyable as DYING WORDS (see my Horror Book of the month above) - I didn't like the way it jumped from place to place, though the writing itself is, as always, impeccable.

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