The Poisoned Rock, by Robert Daws
This is one of possibly several books which I have read and, for whatever reason at the time, thought: “Nah, I won’t review this”—not because I didn’t enjoy it—so, clearly, this is not the first reading, but my memory is not sufficiently eidetic to spoil a further reading. The Rock in question is Gibraltar, and the author is a successful actor near whom I have had the pleasure of working some years ago, on an ITV production called The Royal, a spinoff from the very successful & well loved Heartbeat, on which I also worked, many times, mostly in a background capacity. As is often the case [for no other obvious reason than sheer happenstance], this is the second book in what is currently a trilogy, featuring the characters of Detective Chief Inspector Gus Broderick, of the Royal Gibraltar Police, and Detective Sergeant Tamara Sullivan, who is currently midway through a three-month secondment there, mainly because of a problem in her work with the Metropolitan Police in London. The story concerns a film which is being made on the rock [a subject with which the author would be easily familiar] about a female spy during World War II; somebody disagrees with the premise & the reputation of the protagonist, and sets out to stop the production by murdering people associated with it. The narrative is very effectively structured & paced, so I am happy to recommend this story, and I hope that the other two books in the series are as good. The paperback I read was published in 2017 by Urbane Publications Ltd., Chatham, ISBN 978-1-9113-3121-6.
Explosive, by Cliff Todd
This is a fascinating summary of the career of one of Britain’s foremost former forensic explosives scientists, although it could also be worrying, if one were of the mindset that one could be vulnerable to the threats described in this book. A series of abhorrent [as they should be to any reasonable-minded person whose worldview has not been disgustingly prejudiced by religious dogma and/or psychopathy] bombing outrages or attempts is described, as well as the author’s background, and what led him to this essential work. The first chapter begins the story of identifying the perpetrators of the Lockerbie bombing, which will surely remain long in the minds of British people who were alive at the time, and many Americans, who are relatives or friends of the victims. It is a sad fact that the forensic experts will mostly be one step behind the murderous criminals, and the author had to call on all of his expertise & ingenuity to at least endeavour to keep pace with new developments in explosive device design. It will probably come as no surprise that the reputation of his department ensured that their help was called upon many times by foreign governments, to identify the perpetrators of bombing incidents in their countries. We were lucky to have had such a capable expert working to keep us safe, and his legacy will, thankfully, continue in that capacity. The paperback I read was published in 2022 by Headline Publishing Group, London, ISBN 978-1-4722-7899-9.
Trouble in Paradise, by Robert B. Parker
This author, who died in 2010, wrote an almost bewildering multiplicity of books in four different series, plus a few with other authors [including Raymond Chandler], although it is possible that many could perhaps be described as novellas, like this one, which weighs in at only 190 pages. That said, however, despite his writing style being described by polar opposite reviewers in the Sunday Telegraph and the Guardian as “hard-boiled”, the action is written in a refreshingly crisp manner, with minimal extraneous detail, and relatable dialogue for contemporary American characters, with the action set in & around Boston, Massachusetts. The eponymous Paradise is a small coastal town, and the action concerns a planned heist on a small, not easily accessible adjacent island. The perpetrators are led by a cold-blooded career criminal, who assembles a small team of associates with the appropriate skills, along with his devoted girlfriend, and the forces of law & order are led by the town police chief, Jesse Stone, an ex-LA cop, who has a somewhat convoluted love-life, including his ex-wife, who has moved ‘back east’ to be close to him. I’ve never been greatly attracted by this genre of crime fiction hitherto, but this story was very easy to read, and the resolution was satisfying. The paperback I read was published in 2013 , by No Exit Press, Harpenden [GB Putnam, USA], ISBN 978-1-8424-3443-7.
Bleeding Heart Yard, by Elly Griffiths
Elly Griffiths is now one of my favourite authors: I know before reading the first page that I will enjoy reading the story, and this one didn’t disappoint. I have possibly done my readers [thank you, by the way!] a disservice by not reviewing the previous story featuring this protagonist, Detective Inspector Harbinder Kaur, who now works for the Metropolitan Police, but who previously worked for the force near her home with her parents in Shoreham, so this move is both a promotion, and an expression of independence. The story is narrated by one of Harbinder’s colleagues, DS Cassie Fitzherbert, and we know from the start that she has a guilty secret: all the more guilty, as she is a police officer, because when she was eighteen, she murdered one of her fellow sixthformers. The book’s title does seem a bit obscure, but its relevance is gradually revealed as the story progresses. Cassie was on the periphery of a group of friends at school called, somewhat ironically, The Group. Two of them have gone on to become MPs [on opposite sides], one is a pop star, and one is a successful actress; the others are trying to avoid resentment at the ‘famous’ ones’ success. At a school reunion, one of the MPs is found dead, and Cassie finds herself a suspect; although, not the only one. I won’t reveal more, but the story plays out nicely to a slightly unexpected outcome. The hardback I read was published in 2022 by Quercus Editions Ltd., London, ISBN 978-1-5294-0995-6.