Cut to Black …. DI Joe #5 Graham Hurley

In my last blog I was in catch-up on Graham Hurley’s Portsmouth Police Procedurals featuring DI Joe Faraday and also dipping into the continuation of these in the Jimmy Suttle series set in the West Country. I have now read no. 5 called “Cut to Black”I raved in my blog about the procedural narrative,  the lives of the coppers and their personal battles, and the use of the back-drop of Portsmouth as an added bonus for me living in the area where most of the crimes are perpetrated, the police and perpetrators live.

The nastiness of the crimes in some of these cases has me now looking over my shoulder for Bazza’s mates, wondering if the lad with the hoodie loitering by the bike-rack at the station is up to no-good! The site of an unmarked Ford Fiesta parked at the side of the road with two dodgy looking blokes sitting there could be a couple of Kingston Crescent DCs watching an address or someone in particular. The sound of a siren, usually a head-turner anyway, now has my imagination fired-up even more.

The book of the blog

Cut to Black follows the continuing exploits of Faraday and Winter.

Faraday is still in Major Crimes and gets appointed to take over a covert operation to bring down the aforementioned crime-boss in Pompey  “Bazza”  who has almost completely separated himself from being  ‘a mush from Copnor’ ; from his away football fan roots in the notorious and violent ‘6:57;’ his evolution into drug-dealing, the foundation of his fortune, and then his move to appear legitimate by setting-up businesses and buying property to help him wash his dirty money. Joe’s appointment is a result of one his colleagues being seriously injured in a hit and run accident. J.J., Joe’s son is now making serious documentary video’s with Joe’s now girlfriend Eadie Sykes and this leads to some trouble for both father and son and a conflict of interest!

Meanwhile Winter is now part of a crime-squad aimed at proactive policing – their task is to try run out of town some drug dealing ‘scousers’ who are treading on Bazza’s toes. Paul is partnered with Jimmy Suttle in this story and he learns some valuable lessons from Winter with hindsight.

This novel also has a lot of political ooomph as it’s set in March 2003 during the invasion by the US and UK of Iraq and the toppling of Sadam Hussein. I found this weird timing – I started reading this book just after the Chilcott report was published. The novel for me wasn’t so much about crime but about the people involved in it and how far their web can be spun. It’s about drug culture and the potential the money coming from that has for changing the economic fortune of an area.

Another highly recommended novel from Hurley’s library! ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

PS Blood and Honey, no 6 is already dispatched from Amazon 

‘Faraday’s Law’ books by Graham Hurley

At the launch of a book in Belgravia in April, I was in conversation with a friend of a writer and the writer (whose book was being launched) and we got into a conversation about where I live – Portsmouth. The friend of the writer said “you’ll know Graham Hurley’s police procedurals set in and  around ‘Pompey'” and I replied simply “No, tell me more!”.

I am also inspired to write about Graham’s excellent procedurals because the entry in Brit Noir by Barry Forshaw is very small considering Graham’s extensive catalogue of books.

On my return from London, I was on Amazon and had ordered “Turnstone” the first in the Faraday and Winter series.

To date, I have read four of them in rapid succession – Turnstone, The Take, Angels Passing, and Deadlight this among reading preview copies of newly or to be published books for my blog and of course for writers and publishers who are kind enough to ask.

I hasten to add I am now reading Cut to Black.

All four of these I read with great affection as the police stations, locations, pubs, local marinas, shopping malls, and landmarks are all very familiar to me. This doesn’t detract from how excellent these books are as police procedurals. I suppose I should remind my readers that I was a special constable in Hampshire for 5 years, based at Fareham, Cosham, and Kingston Crescent so the buildings and the force I also hold in great affection.

The initial main attraction for me was the well-constructed police procedural; the use of actual police terminology. Hurley uses jargon and abbreviations, but he does explain so you’re not left wondering. He even refers to Tango-One the old name for the police control centre.

Most of all I am now following the two main protagonists in these books; Joe Faraday and Paul Winter. I’ve called this “Faraday’s Law” because it sums up for me that Joe (follows the letter of it) keeping the investigation ‘policy book’ up to date on decisions made.

Joe’s personal battles also loom large in these books – his relationship with his son JJ; his love-life and his times out walking, watching birds. Joe’s love of bird watching is also a treat and the title of the first one is, in fact, one of the birds he sees on Farlington Marshes and Langstone Harbour – the Turnstone.

Graham describes Joe’s conflicts with Winter and the political battles he fights with the upper echelons of the police management both local and regional.

However, in contrast, Paul is a law unto himself.

Paul is an old-fashioned copper; he hates procedure and process unless he has to jump through a hoop to ensure something is admissible in court. He is also a bit of a geezer in truth with some if not all of one foot in the camp of the bad guys but in the interest of getting a collar. He has his sources and he has a way to get information about crimes and outcomes that others on the team in the stories don’t. I like him in a contradictory way.

So to the books, just teasers no spoilers I hope.

Turnstone

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A girl goes to the police station to report her father missing on her birthday.

“How do you know he is missing?”

“He would never miss my birthday”.

The plot develops into a search for  a missing person for Joe. The local crime network is heavily involved in this story and it also involves a nautical theme and what happens when the weather takes a turn for the worst during the Fastnet yacht race with fatal consequences.  The story is complicated when one of the local criminals is shot by a police officer during one of the raids which has long-term consequences for the officer and his wife who is one of Joe’s colleagues.

The Take

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This deals with a gynaecology consultant who seems to be using his position to abuse the patients to satisfy his own proclivities but it backfires and he is now not practising. He then disappears from a hotel in Portsmouth and is seen leaving with an unknown figure. Who is  this man? Winter unofficially gets to the bottom of this but the main investigation they are struggling. The setting and timeline of this, for those who know Portsmouth is when Gunwharf Quays was only just being built.

Angels Passing

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I felt quite unnerved by this one, principally because a body is found on Hilsea Lines which is very close to where I live. It also deals with the death, by falling, of a teenage girl from a tower block in Somerstown. The search for a young kid who has the possible clue to what happened to the girl and the links to the other death of the local ‘geezer.’

There is a lot of reference in this one about the lack of future for kids in the area and how they turn to crime as a way of life, without recognising the consequences.

Deadlight

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This was a great book; I read it literally in 4 days.  It starts with a warship being hit by Exocet missiles during the Falklands war and then jumps to present day – 20 years after – where a prisoner office is found dead in his flat.

The unraveling of this apparent murder alongside the death of a drug dealer, the circumstances around Ellis, Winter’s colleague, who is getting phone calls in the middle of the night, Joe’s promotion to major crimes where he is acting as DSIO in the absence of Willard, his boss, all keeps Cathy Lamb, Paul Winter and Joe very stretched.

The ‘Jimmy Suttle’ series

We start to hear about Jimmy in book 5 of the Joe stories Cut to Black although I think he was mentioned once in the previous.

So time has moved on ….

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In between Joe 2 and Joe 3, I made the fatal reading mistake and broke one of my own rules by reading the first of a follow-on series called Western Approaches by Graham Hurley.

It deals with the exploits of a protégé of Faraday and Winter, Jimmy Suttle, and his move from Hampshire to the west coast of England in and around Exeter with his wife Lizzie a former journalist and their young child, Grace.  The flaw in my judgement came when in the first few pages I learned about the fate of Joe Faraday and Paul Winter – in fact – Winter features greatly in the plot of this first in the Suttle series of which I now have read number 2. It contains some spoilers and back story that as I serial reader didn’t want to know.

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So before I read number 4 in the Faraday series I again read about Jimmy and Lizzie in Touching Distance. Another great book dealing with the deaths of a number of people who have been ‘offed’ by what look like snipers. It hooks back to squaddies involved in Afghanistan and Helmand province and once again Lizzie get’s hooked by one of the characters in the interests, this time, of a good feature for her paper.

I now have Sins of the Father on the to-be-read pile.

I will continue to read these excellent books until they or I am exhausted.

I will keep you all posted on my progress through these excellent novels.

Willow Walk by SJI Holliday

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The Book of the Blog

Following on from ‘Black Wood’ – ‘Willow Walk’ sees us back in the fictional Banktoun following Davie Gray investigating drug-related deaths amongst teenagers in the region for his colleague in CID – Malkie. Does Davie want to join CID at his age?

His private life overlaps this story in a big way when a woman is found badly wounded and Malkie thinks it’s someone Davie knows! When he goes to the hospital it turns out not to be the girl – Marie – that he’s been dating on and off, but they have a lot of similarities but one key identifier isn’t on the injured victim.

In parallel with this Marie is receiving letters from someone called Graeme. As the story unfolds we find out who the mystery letter writer is and when he turns up in Banktoun things get messy for Marie and for the rest of community especially in the location of the book’s title.

Davie is hot on the trail and has discovered a link between Marie and a missing mental hospital patient as well as being hot on the trail of the ‘drug’ pushers.

Overlapping all this is Laura from the first story – one of Davie’s karate students and her escapades with a boy – a rite of passage for her, leading to her playing a part in the conclusion of the mystery letter-writer – when it all goes to mayhem.

I wont say anymore about the plot as I will spoil it.

My Thoughts

I was, I must admit, initially, a little dissapointed that not all of the main characters from Black Wood were featured but as Davie is the copper in the mix he is central to Willow Walk even more than he was in Black Wood. This makes Willow Walk a standalone if you haven’t read Black Wood, but my followers will know I like to read in order.

This is another excellently written page-turner from Susi. A true nail-biter.

I’d read the first in a matter of days despite having a day job and read this one in a similar time frame, consuming hundreds of pages sometimes in one sitting. That speaks volumes for me about the fluid way in which the narrative flows, alternating between Davie and Marie and ‘the letters’ she receives. The letters that keep appearing in the novel add to the ultimate creepiness of this story.

I highly recommend this chilling novel – it has suspense, thrills and it gave me the creeps. A thoroughly good read. 5 Stars for Willow Walk

Credits

SJI Holliday 

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Laura at B&W for my review copy of Willow Walk which started me on the Banktoun trail and introduced me to Susie’s work

 

Willow Walk – as I said in a recent post on social media “if it’s half as good as Black Wood we’re in for a treat”.

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watch out for the Blog Tour in June for the paperback release. In the meantime this is now out on ebook at the following page (if you’re not already there of course.)

Willow Walk eBook 

Black Wood is also on eBook, Print and Audio Download too!

Gunnhildur’s Travails – Thin Ice

I am continually honoured in the presence of genius in the group of Nordic noir lovers of which I am part.  This genius sources in Sweden, Finland, Iceland, Norway even Derbyshire, and, in this case, Hampshire.

The latest tale from this stable is the excellent Thin Ice from Quentin Bates. A local, homegrown talent who continues to excel with his police procedurals about Gunnhildur an officer in the Reykjavik CID.

However, this isn’t a traditional Whodunit as we start with the bad guys and follow their escape when they car-jack a mother and daughter when their getaway driver fails to be at the rendezvous. In parallel with this Gunnhildur battles with the trials of her private life. Her son has now settled with one of his girlfriends and rekindles his relationship with his now-dying father much to her dismay. Along with this, she is troubled by her two grandchildren sired by her son. The getaway driver is then found dead in a fire. Is this accidental?

The pace switches between the criminals, as a long-standing, habitual, criminal and a monster of a man and his side-kick, who doesn’t have a sheet, whilst the main bad-guy has a sheet as long as his and his sidekick’s arm. The former continually waves a gun at his captives and is unafraid to use it. The alternate thread is following Gunnhildur and her colleagues trying to track down the missing women.

The atmosphere and emotion are diverted by one of the captives, as the daughter of the pair becomes involved with the not so bad sidekick  – in this context you could call it ‘Rekjavik Syndrome.’ This adds to the suspense in the story as it leads to an unexpected outcome as a surprise as she – the daughter turns out to be as conniving and deceitful as the criminals themselves.

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I’d made a concerted effort to read all the prior novels before starting Thin Ice, as I love reading in sequence, having read Frozen Out when this blog tour was announced and was invited to contribute. As a result, of this, I had missed out on some story line and even questioned the writer about continuity who pointed me to the two novella, WinderLude and Summerchill which I read in parallel – these filled in some blanks on Gunnhildur’s family story.

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I really enjoyed reading all of these novels and I do wonder with excitement what is next for Gunnhildur. Will she get that promotion? Will her family life settle down?

Watch out for the next in the saga, but in the meantime Thin Ice stands alone as a great crime story, filled with the atmosphere and coldness that is Iceland-Noir.

I highly recommend it and please follow the rest of the blog tour both backward and forwards.

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Credits and references  – Quentin Bates – Author Page

Thin Ice Thin Ice (Gunnhildur Mystery)

Cold Comfort Cold Comfort (Gunnhildur Mystery Book 2)

Chilled to the Bone Chilled to the Bone (Gunnhildur Mystery Book 3)

Cold Steal Cold Steal (Gunnhildur Mystery Book 4)

Winterlude Winterlude (Gunnhildur Mystery)

Summerchill Summerchill (Gunnhildur Mystery)

 

Missing in Malmo by Torquil MacLeod

Another great novel in the Anita Sundstrom series. I love this book – couldn’t stop reading it other than when my eyes gave up. I can’t wait for the next one which is due through my letter box just after Easter. 

Following on from her successes in the previous two novels set in Malmo, Anita investigates the disappearance of an heir-hunter from the UK.

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The man she loves (but won’t admit to him) is still in prison for the murder in the first book but she still visits him on the pretext of getting to the bottom of the murder he committed in England but she is reluctant to do anything about it as he would be sent back to the UK; her ex-husband turns up looking for his young student girlfriend who he unofficially reports to Anita as missing so she has two missing people – one official and one unofficial and as we know Anita can be maverick sometimes. Her son is back with her in Malmo but he’s not in the best of spirits.

Hakim is having trouble at home too – his sister is having arguments with their parents – this leads to some additional domestic intrigue when Hakim stays over at Anita’s whilst she is away working with a UK detective to try to track down the reasons why the heir hunter has been murdered – his body, missing a part of a limb, is washed-up in the Sound.

To add insult to injury the body of the ex-husband’s missing girlfriend also gets washed-up in the Sound – she has been raped and her apartment is pristine almost professionally cleaned and only the ex-husband’s prints are found in some places where others there is nothing for forensics to discover. Nordlund and Westermark are working on the murdered girl whilst, as I said Anita is over in England, working with local CID and meeting the heir hunter’s widow and trying to piece things together from what was left over – strangely, however, she is the victim of a burglary around the time of the discovery of his body.

This is a complex plot, the local detective has some baggage with a deputy chief constable whom they interview about the past crime – there was a diamond robbery some time ago which tracks back to the past and action in Australia where one of the culprits was killed by the main detective – the DCC, in fact, the closure of the case made his career. Whilst only one of the diamond heist gang is still alive in England, the other two have died but there is another twist – the hit-and-run of a local English guy.

Anita’s ex-husband is then arrested and charged with the girl’s murder but Nordland is not happy with something and starts digging again but it leads to an unhappy conclusion.

There is some personal and professional tragedy for Anita in this gripping novel but it does bring closure on both local and English fronts and an excellent climax. The culprits are found and in a gripping ending with Hakim finding the heir hunter’s murderers and Anita puts together what Nordland had found out and confront’s the real murderer.

You’ll need to read it – I highly recommend this book to any fan of good police procedurals and or course nordic crime.

Credits and references

Missing in Malmö: The third Inspector Anita Sundström mystery (Inspector Anita Sundström Mysteries Book 3)

Torquil MacLeod

 

An Event in Autumn by Henning Mankell RIP

I write this blog post with an overwhelming sense of loss! I have read every word written about Kurt Wallander and there is nothing more of him nor Henning Mankell although for those of you who follow the Nordic Noir genre they will live long in our collective psyches.

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A classic Wallander story; conflict in himself; with Linda and the world. He wants to desperately live out his days in a more relaxed environment with his love of classical music away from the stress of policing and the city. He takes the opportunity presented by Martinsson, to check out an idyllic place and in doing so he stumbles across a crime scene, in his attempt to find the place to live away from the city. This opens up the under-resourced cold-case investigation that his boss can’t support.

He is lonely and has lost his father, he needs some love. I know how that feels – how the agonising relationship between a father and son can be until one day they are no longer there. His relationship with his ex-wife – there is no longer any contact although he has now rekindled the relationship with his daughter, now a budding police officer herself, after a period of separation. She is a good thing for him if he only realises it in time.

I have felt a kindred spirit with Kurt for some time; I read ‘A Troubled Man’ recognising the signs of type II diabetes in the narrative! Time caught up with him too! One day I will find my children, again or them me, hopefully before it’s too late.

This novella – a simple plot – wasn’t a difficult read, not that any of Henning’s Kurt books are; in fact for me returning to the pages of a Wallander thriller only at the weekend it felt like I was meeting a schoolboy friend with whom I’d not spent any time for years and yet it didn’t feel like we’d been apart for days at all.

It’s Monday night in late November as I write this and ‘An Event in Autumn’ is set in the coldness of late autumn leading into winter in Ystad; snow one minute; then rain and slush! I hate this time of year – going to work in the dark and coming home in the dark!

Kurt unravels things as he usually does, as most great detectives do, by noticing things in people and in places that aren’t quite right! He does the unspeakable and walks into the jaws of a trap without calling for back-up! It all works out in the end.

You know I don’t do spoilers, but I expect most of you will have read this anyway but something in me needed to write this as most bloggers know! The melancholy of a Wallander and most critically for me is the afterword by HK himself a beautiful essay on the life he and Kurt shared! I admit to shedding a tear or maybe two.

On a lighter note I have seen Lassgard; Branagh and Krister Henriksson play Kurt and was fortunate to meet Krister in 2014 at Nordicana. He will always be my Wallander! A wonderfully humble and gracious man overwhelmed by the excitement I showed in meeting him!

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May you rest in peace Henning! Thank you for the gift and legacy you gave us.

Icelandic Intrigue… Frozen Out (Quentin Bates) and Last Rituals (Yrsa Sigurdardottir)

I am back in Iceland after a break in Finland! 

After a break of a few weeks, I have picked up the blog to bring you updates on two books I’ve read both set in Iceland and both featuring female investigators.

Last Rituals by Yrsa Sigurdardottir

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The international best-seller, quoted on the cover as ‘Dark, deep and icy as an Icelandic fjord… a rich and rewarding debut.‘ Mark Billingham.

I have had some time to myself recently as my readership will know, so decided to buy the first three of Yrsa’s ‘Thora’ stories. She is a lawyer by trade, divorced and dealing with kids and work. She has a much-reduced lifestyle as a result.

She gets pulled into this investigation when a German research student, Harald, is found horrifically murdered on the university campus.

Another boy has been arrested and faces an aggravated murder charge and as far as the police are concerned he did it; he can’t prove he wasn’t there, no alibi and as he has no recollection of events due to his drug and alcohol abuse neither, however, can the police prove he is complicit and are relying on his confession which he won’t give them. Harald’s family also believe the boy isn’t guilty and despatch their business ‘security’ adviser Matthew to engage Thora’s help in navigating the legal system, translating and flirting!

Thora and Matthew stumble around unearthing missing relics, documents, and rituals. It appears that Harald had a fascination with witchcraft and black magic and his research diverted him from his main thesis much to the disappointment of one of his tutors, who unfortunately had Harald’s dead body literally fall on him.

Harald’s student colleagues are wrapped up in this somewhere, but it isn’t completely clear; how can you rely on what they say when they were drunk, drugged and loved-up around the time of the death in a very busy bar.

It’s a great novel, well plotted which I have read most recently and enjoyed the interactions between Matthew and Thora as an almost amusing sideline to the novel – a little like in my opinion to the humorous dialogue between Martin and Saga in ‘The Bridge’. It’s a great ‘whodunit’ in my opinion with the traditional amateur sleuth.

I have two of the follow-on books ready to read, but there are more….

My Soul to Take

Ashes to Dust

I shall be diverting back to England for one of my next reads, but before that, I will recollect my other Icelandic adventure.

Frozen Out by Quentin Blake

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I hasten to add I bought his one at Nordicana 2015 in June when I met first Quentin – aka Greybeard (@graskeggur) on the ‘Iceland’ stand when I was buying my copy of ‘Snowblind’ by Ragnar Jonasson which he translated.

I had never read anything Icelandic until then. I felt obliged to buy ‘Frozen Out’ as the author was there and I could get it signed! I do love a signed book! I didn’t regret it, apart from making a friend, I also have a new female fictional heroine to add to my increasing list and a new author to follow.

This is the first of the Gunnhildur (Gunnar) mysteries and an enjoyable and intriguing read from my acquaintance from the Nordic genre with whom I’ve had the pleasure of breaking bread, (it was a naan actually.) 

Gunnar, as we get to know her as is the local police sergeant in fictional Hvalvik, a fishing port of Quentin’s imagination. It’s not too far to drive from Reykjavik. The book is set to the backdrop of the financial meltdown in the Nordics.

She is woken one morning by a telephone call about a body found in the harbour water. The corpse belongs to an employee of a PR firm and apparently drowned miles from where he was last seen. Gunnar is suspicious of this and sets about digging.

There are a number of other layers to this – an anonymous blogger that writes scandalous and possibly libelous reports that contain clues and references to the crimes, there is a shady unidentified man taking taxi rides from Gunnar’s cousin. This man has links to the PR company as a ‘Mr. Fixit’ and in tandem with this there is corruption in government which also has familial links to the PR company in and around the development of industry in the area.

The waters are muddied because we find out that a recent contact of the drowned man was the victim of a fatal hit-and-run accident! No one was caught. But he was very involved in a campaign group against the industrial project.

I won’t spoil the story plot too much, but we do find a lot about our central character which sets us up for the follow-on novels about Gunnar both inside and outside of her work. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel as Gunnar is a really interesting character facing a number of professional and personal challenges. Please find time in your schedule to read her (his) stories – I hope I’ve teased you enough. Here are two of the follow-on books linked below:-

Cold Comfort

Chilled to the Bone

Quentin, also know for his translation work, is English and lives not too far away from me on the south coast. His Icelandic language skills come from his time working there I believe many years ago, so he is familiar with the culture and no doubt the climate.

I’m also keen to state that he has also translated Nightblind by Ragnar Jonasson which is due out in December on Orenda Books another one from Iceland I am very much looking forward to.

I’ve been somewhat remiss since the summer so I should now endeavour to pick up and read a relatively local crime novel.

In Bitter Chill by Sarah Ward 

I am eager to boast about this as I also have a personally signed hard-copy of this one from when I met Sarah at Nordicana 2015 and it’s been creeping up the list. It’s also just been published in paperback.

I will eventually put some words together on this one too!

Happy reading – there is no excuse now that it’s cold and wet and miserable in England!