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Reviews

December 2016

Craig Russell - The Quiet Death of Thomas Quaid

"‘The Quiet Death of Thomas Quaid’ is fantastically brilliant on every level."

Synopsis:
Lennox liked Quiet Tommy Quaid. Perhaps it's odd for a private detective to like - even admire - a career thief, but Quiet Tommy Quaid was the sort of man everyone liked. Amiable, easy-going, well-dressed, with no vices to speak of - well, aside from his excessive drinking and womanising, but then in 1950s Glasgow those are practically virtues. Besides, throughout his many exploits outside the law, Quiet Tommy never once used violence. It was rumoured to be the police who gave him his nickname - because whenever they caught him, which was not often, he always came quietly. Probably even the police liked him, deep down.

Above all, the reason people liked Tommy was that you knew exactly what you were dealing with. Here, everybody realized, was someone who was simply and totally who and what he seemed to be.

But when Tommy turns up dead, Lennox and the rest of Glasgow will find out just how wrong they were.

Review:
The outstanding Lennox series by Craig Russell is one which has had a profound effect and influence on my own writing career. If you think this means he's in for an easy ride, then you're very much mistaken as I read his books with deliberate care. I'm looking for more things I can learn from, more ways in which to delight a reader and those wonderfully subtle turns of phrase which say so much in so few words. Because of the high standards I expect from him, I'd say it's fair to say I give his writing the kind of examination a proctologist would consider overly intimate.

Now I've dealt with the disclaimer, I'm going to turn my attention to the book. It's quite simply exquisite on every level. From the sense of place and time, to the plotting, the marvellously sardonic sleuth called Lennox, the other characters who inhabit the novel and the underlying theme which echoes crimes of both recent and historical discovery.

Lennox is a conundrum of a character who inhabits the shady world between criminals and police. He's a detective who is moral yet morally corruptible, a man of his time trying to shake off his past, a force for good and justice but not necessarily the law.

The fantastic plotting sees the reader ever unsure of the ground they're on as Russell pulls the story back and forth through a series of twists and mis-directions before arriving at the final conclusion. Pour yourself a cuppa and find a comfy chair because 'The Quiet Death of Thomas Quaid' is fantastically brilliant on every level.

Reviewed by: G.S.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Elly Griffiths - The Blood Card

"I hope Stephens and Mephisto are around for a long time to come."

Synopsis:
Elizabeth II's coronation is looming, but the murder of their wartime commander, Colonel Cartwright, spoils the happy mood for DI Edgar Stephens and magician, Max Mephisto. A playbill featuring another deceased comrade is found in Colonel Cartwright's possession along with a playing card, the ace of hearts: the blood card. The wartime connection and the suggestion of magic are enough for Stephens and Mephisto to be summoned to the case.

Edgar's ongoing investigation into the death of Brighton fortune-teller Madame Zabini is on hold. Max is busy rehearsing for a spectacular Coronation Day variety show - and his television debut - so it is Edgar who is sent to New York, a land of plenty, worlds away from still-rationed England. He is on the trail of a small-town mesmerist who may provide the key, but someone silences him first. It is Edgar's colleague, DS Emma Holmes, who finds the clue, buried in the files of the Zabini case that leads them to an anarchist group intent on providing an explosive finale to Coronation Day.

Now, it is up to Edgar, Max, and Emma to foil the plot, and find out who has been dealing the cards...

Review:
There are hints of the golden age of crime fiction in Elly Griffiths' Stephens and Mephisto series, which shows the great attention to detail Griffiths brings to her novels, making the period detail of the 1950s burst out of the pages.

Elly Griffiths is the author of the wonderful Ruth Galloway series, but I think the Stephens and Mephisto series could be my favourite. I love magic, I love crime, I love the period detail - there is nothing bad I can say about this series.

Edgar and Max make an excellent team - the inspector and the magician solving disturbing and seemingly impossible crimes. This third instalment sees the two protagonists parting and facing their own personal demons - Max is about to enter the world of television and doubting the future of variety and his place in it. Edgar is currently engaged to Max's daughter - but are they are true match? It is these questions (and more) that keep the reader hooked. Elly Griffiths knows what keeps us turning the pages, and she continues to tease us. It is important to be involved in the personal lives of the main characters and (as usual) Griffiths has given us two leads we care about.

In this third novel, we are shown more about the life of one of Edgar's sidekicks in the police, the unfortunately named DS Emma Holmes. She steps up to the plate when needed and proves to be anything other than a background character.

What I particularly enjoy about this series is the period detail, and, when Edgar visits New York, we see the startling differences between post-war Britain and America. Griffiths obviously knows her history and it is evident she is enjoying every minute of writing this novel. I hope Stephens and Mephisto are around for a long time to come.

Reviewed by: M.W.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Adam Hamdy - Pendulum

"Hamdy certainly knows how to write a gripping book."

Synopsis:
You wake. Confused. Disorientated. A noose is round your neck. You are bound, standing on a chair. All you can focus on is the man in the mask tightening the rope. You are about to die.

John Wallace has no idea why he has been targeted. No idea who his attacker is. No idea how he will prevent the inevitable. Then the pendulum of fate swings in his favour.

He has one chance to escape, find the truth and halt his destruction. The momentum is in his favour for now… but with a killer on his tail everything can change with one swing of the deadly pendulum.

Review:
John Wallace has a second chance after escaping the clutches of a killer, but the killer isn't willing to give up just yet. 'Pendulum' results in a high octane cat and mouse game with Wallace being hunted by an unknown killer and for an unknown reason.

'Pendulum', at nearly 500 pages, is a longer than average book and when starting I wondered how the story could fill these pages. However, after the first page I realised there was no padding, just a rollercoaster ride that had me hooked from the beginning.

Something, I'm not sure what, held me back from fully supporting Wallace. There was just a small niggle about his character that didn't sit well with me, and it is this reason that stopped me giving 'Pendulum' full marks.

Hamdy certainly knows how to write a gripping book. There is just enough description for your imagination without getting boring. At times, certain parts of 'Pendulum' were slightly far-fetched (cable car is all I am saying) and Wallace seemed either indestructible or exceedingly lucky with his Houdini-like ability to get out of a situation. Despite this, it didn't slow down my reading or my enjoyment of the book. 'Pendulum' is a great introduction to a new author. I will be looking forward to Hamdy's next instalment.

Reviewed by: H.A.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Craig Robertson - Murderabilia

"Robertson is a talented, frightening, and brilliant writer..."

Synopsis:
The first commuter train of the morning slowly rumbles away from platform seven of Queen Street station. Everyone on board is sleepy, avoiding eye contact, reluctant to admit the day has begun. And then, as the train emerges from a tunnel, the screaming starts. Hanging from the bridge ahead of them is a body. Placed neatly on the ground below him are the victim's clothes. Why?

Detective Inspector Narey is assigned the investigation and then just as quickly taken off it again. Tony Winter, now a journalist, must pursue the case for her. The line of questioning centres around the victim's clothes - why leave them in full view? And what did the killer take with them, and where might it appear again?

Murderabilia - the practice of collecting items from crime scenes. Items only available on the dark web. The collector must be prepared to pay a high price - as Narey is about to find out.

Review:
I have been a fan of Craig Robertson's novels since his debut, 'Random'. 'Murderabilia' is the latest in the Winter and Narey series and is the best one yet. This is a frightening and original psychological thriller that will stay with you long after the final page.

Knowing Robertson's work, he will have researched his storyline incredibly well which adds to the chill of this plot. People collecting memorabilia of murderers and their victims from the dark web - this is real. This exists and it is frightening.

There is a nod to Hitchcock as Rachel Narey is bedridden and uses the Internet to investigate the crime of a missing boy from forty years precious. This is 'Rear Window' for the twenty-first century and it is written with passion, confidence and relish.

The writing is stellar, the characterisation spot on and the story is ingenious. As much as I love this book I am incredibly jealous that I didn't think of it first. Be warned, once you start reading, it may be difficult for you to stop, so don't have a hot meal ready like I did.

Robertson is a talented, frightening, and brilliant writer - a dangerous and delightful combination.

Reviewed by: M.W.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Cathy Ace - The Corpse With The Ruby Lips

"I find Ace’s novels very comforting."

Synopsis:
Professor Cait Morgan is spending a month lecturing in the University of Budapest. Originally, her husband, Bud was due to join her but circumstances at home mean she is spending most of the month on her own. When one of her students, Zsofia, appeals to her for help in solving a murder that took place forty years previously on the campus of Cait's own university, she is sufficiently intrigued to enlist Bud's help back home as well as following up the story with Zsofia's relations in Hungary. Zsofia's uncle turns out to be a world famous author with an impressive back catalogue. There is more to be published but he appears to have some connection to the events in Canada back in the 70's. Someone is very determined that she does not find out what really happened and Cait is dragged into some extremely dangerous situations.

Review:
This another very satisfying story from Cathy Ace. Cait Morgan is a very human character who uses her impressive talents to solve the crime with empathy and understanding, and with enough human faults to endear her to the reader.

This time the scene is set in yet another exotic location. Budapest is an historical city with enough romance and excitement for all. The wonderful cafes and music are beautifully described through Cait's eyes. It all adds a touch of spice to this book.

I find Ace's novels very comforting. The scene is set, the puzzle posed and Cait uses her wit and ingenuity to survive threats and danger to arrive at a satisfactory solution. A very strong addition to this very appealing series.

Reviewed by: S.D.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Ben Cheetham - The Lost Ones

"...a dark and claustrophobic story... "

Synopsis:
When a nine-year-old girl goes missing in Harwood Forest, the search for her brings back memories of an unsolved double murder forty years earlier. Could the key to Erin Jackson's disappearance lie in the bloody fate of Elijah and Joanna Ingham, bludgeoned to death while their young daughters slept? Were the Inghams really the victims of opportunistic burglars - or a more sinister fate?

The woods are combed for signs of the child, but Erin's brother, Jake, mounts his own investigation, uncovering evidence that puts the Inghams' daughters - vanished Rachel and 'crazy' Mary - in the frame. Meanwhile, Erin's father suspects that the ragtag army of Eco-warriors besieging this quarry development may have something to hide.

As devastating secrets and betrayals are revealed, the Jackson family is brought to a breaking point - but time is running out. Erin is still missing and Jake's unorthodox enquires have left him dangerously exposed. They must find Erin and lay the past to rest - before they become its latest victims.

Review:
'The Lost Ones' is Ben Cheetham's first standalone novel following the success of four Steel City thrillers set in Sheffield. A change of location and a change of pace as he moves away from police procedure into psychological territory. It doesn't always work – but for Ben Cheetham, it most certainly does.

'The Lost Ones' is a dark and claustrophobic story told over two agonising days during the frantic search for a missing nine-year-old girl. As the hours tick by painfully slowly, the tension mounts, as a seemingly idyllic family begins to fall apart.

Cheetham has tapped into the nightmare world from the parents' point of view as they're at the mercy of a police investigation, and the blind panic of what has happened to their daughter. We see the story unfold from the eyes of a teenage boy, the grandparents, and searchers - all told to dramatic effect.

The myth of a long-forgotten case comes back to haunt the residents of a small, close-knit community, and the two plots weave together like a tightly knitted sweater. The tension builds, chapter by chapter, to a dark and unexpected finale.

This is a chilling and thrilling novel that grabs you by the throat and refuses to let go. For the long dark winter nights ahead, this is the ideal book to be tucked up in bed with. Cheetham has rapidly established himself as a strong writer of crime and psychological fiction.

Reviewed by: M.W.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Luca Veste - Then She Was Gone

"...a dark and disturbing story... "

Synopsis:
Tim Johnson took his baby daughter out for a walk and she never made it home. Johnson claims he was assaulted and the girl snatched. The police see a different crime, with Johnson their only suspect.

A year later, Sam Bryne is on course to be elected as one of the youngest MPs in Westminster. He's tipped for the very top - until he vanishes.

Detectives Murphy and Rossi are tasked with discovering what has happened to the popular politician - and in doing so, they unearth a trail that stretches into the past, and crimes that someone is hell-bent on avenging.

Review:
What I love about Luca Veste's writing more than anything is the realism of his central characters. DI David Murphy and DS Laura Rossi are a perfect double act. Their relationship has been lovingly sculptured by a writer who knows how important it is for the reader to care about the protagonist before the story even begins. Picking up the latest Luca Veste novel is like visiting old friends. You instantly know you're going to be caught up in the lives of two wonderful people.

'Then She Was Gone' is the fourth in the Murphy and Rossi series and I've been a fan from the first. This series goes from strength to strength. Following book three, 'Blood Stream', which saw Murphy and his personal life central to the outcome of the murder investigation, this one centres more on Rossi'

The story is based on one of the oldest motives in committing murder - revenge. However, Veste is not a writer to rest of his laurels and phone in a basic plot. The opening is chilling and later plays on the readers' perception of who the good and bad guys are. The story unfolds slowly and you'll notice the speed you turn the pages quickens as the investigation reaches a grisly and satisfying end. This is a dark and disturbing story and Veste treats it with the respect it deserves. An impressive addition to the series.

Reviewed by: M.W.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Antonia Hodgson - A Death at Fountains Abbey

"...adept at sending you back in to the past..."

Synopsis:
1728 and Tom Hawkins is recovering from his brush with death on the scaffold.

He sails along in the grey sea that exists between the good guys and the rogues. He is one who aims to do good, but is fairly unscrupulous about how he does it.

Hawkins is sent up to Yorkshire from his London home with an assignment from the Queen, no less. Definitely an offer that cannot be refused, however much he would like to. With him he takes his ward, Sam Fleet - even more out of his comfort zone and more inclined to ignore the mores of polite society. Tasked with finding out who is threatening John Aislabie with murder and under pressure to find out quickly, Tom has a wealth of people to choose from, as Ainslabie has caused the financial ruin of many whilst holding on to his own sizeable fortune.

The story reaches out into the past as Ainslabie has found someone he believes to be his own daughter, thought to have died in a fire many years ago. His personal servant from those days' remains devoted despite his terrible scarring from the burns he suffered. When Tom arrives, he finds various threatening incidents and letters have been received. As he investigates he also comes under threat. Kitty has come to join him and together with Sam the three fall into great danger.

Review:
This book has everything that I look for in a historical crime book: the research into the early 18th century and the financial shenanigans that went on is superb. The characters of Tom, Sam and Kitty are original and most entertaining; the fast pace of the action and the original plotting are spellbinding.

The tension between Tom, who is basically out to discover the truth and is on the side of the underdog; whilst conforming outwardly to societal norms, and the blunt direct approach of Sam makes for interesting reading. Kitty is a delight, a consummate actress who can play any part at will.

Fountains Abbey is one of my favourite places and the atmosphere and beauty of the place are vividly described. This is another well-crafted and enjoyable book from Antonia Hodgson who is adept at sending you back in to the past with each novel.

Reviewed by: S.D.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Christopher Fowler - London's Glory

"You can never go wrong with a festive drop of Bryant and May."

Synopsis:
Here are eleven cases from the Bryant and May vault spanning from the sixties to present day. Included are is the case of the sinister circus master and the missing spy, to the femme fatale who claims she will kill a man to May, a dead woman in a snow-covered field and no footprints in sight, a story narrated by Janice Longbright, and the case where both detectives failed to pin two murders on a Estonian-Polish model. Our two detectives also take a London tour bus to catch a killer and solve a case on a yacht in Turkey.

Review:
'London's Glory' is the perfect climbing on point for any who have not read this series – or a box of delights for those of us who have been there since the beginning! Here, Fowler gives a short, precise biography of each recurring character along with a wonderful imagining of the Peculiar Crimes Unit. At the back of the book, Fowler goes through the books of the series thus far. Reading this part made me want to read all Fowler's books again!
In between are eleven cases for our wonderful duo – Arthur Bryant with his usual brusque (a polite way of saying rude) whilst his ever patient partner in crime, John May tries to smooth over Bryant's lack of social etiquette whilst being in awe of Bryant's ability to hone in on the truth to a complex puzzle. All the PCU crew are present and Fowler also delivers his usual menagerie of mystics and mediums to add a pizzazz of the bizarre.

You can tell Fowler is a great lover of the Golden Age of Crime as many of the stories here are reminiscent of that era. You even have the locked room murder included here. What makes Fowler's writing stand out is his comedic timing. There are some wonderful quips that made me laugh out loud! Many of these tales are around Christmas, so this makes the perfect Xmas present for the crime fan in your family, which is why this collection is also featured on the Crimesquad Christmas Top Ten 2016. You can never go wrong with a festive drop of Bryant and May.

Reviewed by: C.S.

CrimeSquad Rating:

M J Arlidge - Hide and Seek

"...more twists than a cork screw. "

Synopsis:
Detective Inspector Helen Grace has spent her whole life running: from the past and from herself. Also from everyone who has ever tried to get close to her. She's spent her whole life hiding: behind the badge and behind her reputation as one of the country's best detectives. That is until - framed for murder - she becomes one of its most high-profile prisoners.

Now there is nowhere to run and nowhere to hide, because HMP Holloway is a place of dark days and long nights with dangers at every turn. Despised by the inmates and reviled by the guards, Helen must face her nightmare alone.

When a carefully mutilated body is found in a locked cell, Helen must find a ruthless serial killer… before the killer finds her.

Review:
I am a huge fan of Arlidge's DI Helen Grace series. He has created a wonderful protagonist who the reader can't help loving, despite her self-induced troubles. I often shout at the pages when I know she is making the wrong decision and hope she will come to her senses. This is testament to Arlidge's writing. He has lovingly given us a character we can care about, we worry about and who we want to see succeed. To me, Helen Grace is very much alive and I can physically picture her more than any other fictional character.

'Hide and Seek' is the sixth novel in the series, and, in my opinion, is the best so far. The pace is electric, the action non-stop and the plot has more twists than a cork screw.

The scene is set straight away as Helen Grace finds herself locked up in Holloway for three murders she did not commit. Arlidge paints a disturbing picture of prison life. It is a dark and dangerous place and Arlidge uses the buildings reputation and past to throw everything at Grace and put her in mortal danger.

By the end of 'Hide and Seek', life, for Helen and her colleagues, has changed considerably and things will never be the same again. It will be interesting to see the direction the series will now go in. We won't have long to wait as book seven, 'Follow The Leader', is published early 2017.

Reviewed by: M.W.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Ian Rankin - Rather Be The Devil

"(Rebus) is... the same dogged and determined cop with a wealth of experience and scant regard for the politically correct."

Synopsis:
Rebus has retired. Honestly. But he can't resist dabbling, and an evening at the Caledonian Hotel brings back memories of a murder there long ago that was never solved. A beautiful young woman, wife to a banker, was staying at 'the Caley' at the same time as a famous rock star and his entourage. Various people were in the frame for the murder, including more than one of her lovers.

Detective Inspector Siobhan Clark has kept in touch and contacts Rebus when his old sparring partner, Big Ger Cafferty is implicated in an assault on the new pretender to the post of Mr Big in the Edinburgh crime scene, Darryl Christie.

Detective Inspector Malcolm Fox has been transferred to the major Crimes Division of Police Scotland at Gartcosh, much to the chagrin of Siobhan, who would have liked the chance to move to a more influential role. When Fox is assigned to work with Edinburgh on Christie's case, the tension between Clark and Fox comes to the surface.

So three old colleagues are working together again, each with a different agenda: with Rebus working very much outside the loop. Darryl Christie's money laundering schemes are under observation, Big Ger is always a force to be reckoned with and all along Rebus is beavering away trying to solve the old murder.

Rebus is also struggling to adopt a healthier lifestyle, supported by his girlfriend, who also happens to be the forensic pathologist. He is succeeding, up to a point, but has been scared by some worrying symptoms and is waiting for the results of tests.

Review:
Rankin has solved the problem of how to continue with Rebus once he had reached compulsory retirement age. Siobhan has taken over but Rebus is his usual unconventional self and manages to inveigle himself into current operations. He is getting older and his behaviour has been modified accordingly. We are not used to a Rebus who drinks moderately, takes exercise with his dog and has more or less stopped smoking. He is, however the same dogged and determined cop with a wealth of experience and scant regard for the politically correct. I love the way that Rankin has taken everything in real time. It gives him the chance to explore how real life is modified by age and circumstances.

The relationship between the new divisions of Police Scotland, between Glasgow and Edinburgh, are also explored. Rankin is, as always, bang up to date.

Looking back over the career of Rebus will give you an overview of life in Edinburgh across the years. I am encouraged to start again from the beginning in order to do just that. If you are new to Rebus, this book will stand on its own, and if there is anyone out there who does not know him, this book will encourage you to investigate this great storyteller's back catalogue.

Reviewed by: S.D.

CrimeSquad Rating:

John Grisham - The Whistler

"...vintage Grisham is back!"

Synopsis:
Lacy Stoltz never expected to be in the firing line. Investigating judicial misconduct by Florida's one thousand judges, her cases so far have been relatively unexciting. That's until she meets Greg Myers, an indicted lawyer with an assumed name who has an extraordinary tale to tell.

Myers is representing a whistle blower who knows of a judge involved in organised crime. Along with her gangster associates, this judge has facilitated the building of a casino on an Indian reservation. At least two people who opposed the scheme are dead. Since the casino was built, the judge has made several fortunes off undeclared winnings. She owns property around the world, hires private jets to take her where she wishes, and her secret vaults are overflowing with rare books, art and jewels. No one has a clue what she's been doing - until now.

Under Florida law, those who help the state recover illegally acquired assets stand to gain a large percentage of them. Myers and his whistle blower friend could make millions, but first they need Lacy to start an investigation. Is she ready to pit herself against the most corrupt judge in American history, a judge whose associates think nothing of murder?

Review:
I have to confess I haven't been bowled over by recent Grisham thrillers. Then I read 'The Whistler' - vintage Grisham is back!

The opening chapters are scene setters, getting to know the main characters, introducing the story, then BAM, a shock twist so early in the novel, right between the eyes. From then onwards I couldn't turn the pages fast enough as the intelligent plot untangled and unfolded at a breakneck pace.

We live in a selfish world of greed, and at a time when we can't trust those in a position of power. Grisham has used that as his basis for 'The Whistler' and tapped into the long fight for justice. The people in power, those with money and influence, will stop at nothing to fund their lavish lifestyles. Against this dark world of corruption, Grisham has created a believable protagonist in Lacy Stoltz - an every woman we can root for. This is what gives the story pace, the championing of a hard-working woman in a world of greed.

I love a legal thriller and Grisham fills his books with facts and legal jargon you don't get from other novels. You're entertained and you learn something about the justice system in America. My love of Grisham's books has once again been restored. He's still got it!

Reviewed by: M.W.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Belinda Bauer - The Beautiful Dead

"Bauer is a true artist of British crime fiction."

Synopsis:
Eve Singer needs death. With her career as a TV crime reporter flagging and increasing pressures at home, she will do anything to satisfy her ghoulish audience. Her career is built in the bones of the dead; her one aim to secure that perfect shot of the body bag. Luckily for Eve, there is a serial killer at work in London.

The killer needs death too. He sees beauty in death and revels in watching his victims take their final breath. For the killer, the line between artist and executioner is irrevocably blurred. He even advertises his macabre public performances, inviting the public to see his 'show'.

When he contacts Eve and offers her unprecedented access to his plans, she welcomes the chance to be first with the news from every gory scene. Until she realises that the killer has two obsessions. One is public murder, and the other is her.

Review:
Belinda Bauer is a superior psychological thriller writer. One of her many talents is her deftness for detail in every character, even the minor ones who only appear for a page or two. You feel like you know them, almost on a personal level. These aren't just characters in a book, these could be people you know, and that's what makes Bauer's novels a treat to read.

Our protagonist in 'The Beautiful Dead' is Eve Singer, a crime reporter who is targeted by a highly disturbing killer. Such is the price of fame in the 21st century that a reporter on television is at the mercy of a stalker who takes their fascination to the next level.

The crime scenes are gruesomely detailed but in contrast with the bittersweet scenes between Eve and her rapidly ailing father and both elements stand out for what they are - the ugly end of life. Duncan Singer is in the final stages of dementia and Eve is sacrificing a great deal to take care of him. She loves him but is heartbroken by the thought of watching him fade away.

I would have liked to have known more about the killer. The murders are made out to be art and impressive. I think this angle could have been covered more. It would have made for a more chilling killer had we seen their design created.

'The Beautiful Dead' is a gripping story with great pace and characterisation. Bauer is a true artist of British crime fiction.

Reviewed by: M.W.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Jonathan Aycliffe - Shadow on the Wall

"...perfect for those who love to be chilled on a cold winter’s night! "

Synopsis:
On a cold December afternoon, Matthew Atherton visits his Cambridge colleague, Richard Asquith. The man appears distressed, out of sorts. The tale he tells is of his brother, Edward Atherton, Rector of Thornham St Stephen in the Lincolnshire Fens. During restoration work at the church, the tomb of William de Lindesey was damaged. Soon after one of the workmen died and Edward observes his brother become more and more ill and fretful. He seeks Asquith's help, but Richard is not sure what is required of him. Atherton requires no physician or alienist for his brother's malady, but this matter is no simple matter of the body or the mind. The Rector believes something was disturbed when the tomb was damaged and now evil lurks in the church and the village.

Review:
Aycliffe is wonderful at bringing the past to life in his ghost stories. Although no exact year is given here, with descriptions of villages without gas and people using lanterns, I surmise that this is within the Victorian era. I also feel it is Aycliffe's homage to the great ghost writer, M.R. James, such are the similarities here and James' own chilling stories. Aycliffe's precise descriptions of the flat and dismal Lincolnshire Fens (believe me as someone who has lived in the Fens!), that you cannot resist imaging the fog swirling around you as one turns the pages of this dark and disturbing book. Aycliffe is adept at building a creeping suspense of dread as Asquith recounts this dark tale. This is your classic ghost story involving evil, madness and horror; fighting a malevolence that is untouchable, dead. Asquith's powerlessness is evident here, but he is determined to protect his family, even if that means self-sacrifice. This is chilling stuff with Aycliffe leaving a final twist for the last page to send a shiver down the spine. I wish Aycliffe was more prolific, but the few he has written are superb and he is one of the few writers I am happy to re-read. 'Shadow on the Wall' is perfect for those who love to be chilled on a cold winter's night! Wrap up warm for this one – even if you are sitting indoors!

Reviewed by: C.S.

CrimeSquad Rating: