Upcoming: LETHAL WHITE by Robert Galbraith (Mulholland/Sphere)

GalbraithR-CS4-LethalWhiteI was one of the readers who was drawn to Robert Galbraith‘s Cormoran Strike series after it was revealed that “Robert Galbraith” is actually J.K. Rowling. Before that, I don’t think I’d seen anything about The Cuckoo’s Calling anywhere. As a fan of Rowling’s Harry Potter series, I decided to give Galbraith’s novels a try. Luckily, I really liked the first one, and very quickly read the follow-up The Silkworm and then the third, Career of Evil. The novels are slow-burn mysteries, and the main characters are great. I have been eagerly anticipating the release of the fourth book, Lethal White, ever since it was announced that it was on the way. Here’s the synopsis:

“I seen a kid killed… He strangled it, up by the horse.”

When Billy, a troubled young man, comes to private eye Cormoran Strike’s office to ask for his help investigating a crime he thinks he witnessed as a child, Strike is left deeply unsettled. While Billy is obviously mentally distressed, and cannot remember many concrete details, there is something sincere about him and his story. But before Strike can question him further, Billy bolts from his office in a panic.

Trying to get to the bottom of Billy’s story, Strike and Robin Ellacott — once his assistant, now a partner in the agency — set off on a twisting trail that leads them through the backstreets of London, into a secretive inner sanctum within Parliament, and to a beautiful but sinister manor house deep in the countryside.

And during this labyrinthine investigation, Strike’s own life is far from straightforward: his newfound fame as a private eye means he can no longer operate behind the scenes as he once did. Plus, his relationship with his former assistant is more fraught than it ever has been — Robin is now invaluable to Strike in the business, but their personal relationship is much, much trickier than that.

The most epic Robert Galbraith novel yet, Lethal Whiteis both a gripping mystery and a page-turning next instalment in the ongoing story of Cormoran Strike and Robin Ellacott.

Lethal White is due to be published on September 18th, 2018, by Mulholland Books in North America and Sphere in the UK. The series has also been adapted into a BBC TV series, but I haven’t had the chance to watch it yet (it’s unclear where/how it’s available in Canada…).

Also on CR: Review of The Cuckoo’s CallingThe Silkworm and Career of Evil

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Quick Review: CITY OF DEVILS by Paul French (Riverrun/Picador)

FrenchP-CityOfDevilsUKAn intriguing glimpse into Shanghai’s pre-war underworld

A spellbinding and dramatic account of Shanghai’s lawless 1930s and two of its most notorious criminals…

1930s Shanghai could give Chicago a run for its money. In the years before the Japanese invaded, the city was a haven for outlaws from all over the world: a place where pasts could be forgotten, fascism and communism outrun, names invented, fortunes made – and lost.

‘Lucky’ Jack Riley was the most notorious of those outlaws. An ex-Navy boxing champion, he escaped from prison in the States, spotted a craze for gambling and rose to become the Slot King of Shanghai. Ruler of the clubs in that day was ‘Dapper’ Joe Farren — a Jewish boy who fled Vienna’s ghetto with a dream of dance halls. His chorus lines rivalled Ziegfeld’s and his name was in lights above the city’s biggest casino.

In 1940 they bestrode the Shanghai Badlands like kings, while all around the Solitary Island was poverty, starvation and genocide. They thought they ruled Shanghai; but the city had other ideas. This is the story of their rise to power, their downfall, and the trail of destruction they left in their wake. Shanghai was their playground for a flickering few years, a city where for a fleeting moment even the wildest dreams seemed possible.

In the vein of true crime books whose real brilliance is the recreation of a time and place, this is an impeccably researched narrative non-fiction told with superb energy and brio, as if James Ellroy had stumbled into a Shanghai cathouse.

Until City of Devils, I had only read Paul French’s shorter books on Asia — mainly on early 20th Century China, but also an excellent short book about Kim Jong-un. In City of Devils, French turns his attention to the criminal underworld of Shanghai in the 1930s, and two foreigners who managed to turn certain sectors of the city into their own private kingdoms. It’s a fascinating look at extraterritoriality, Westerners’ fascination with China, and their willingness to take advantage of their hosts. Continue reading

Books on Film: THE GIRL IN THE SPIDER’S WEB by

It’s been quite some time since the excellent The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo movie, starring Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara. This November, the long-awaited next instalment in the movie series, The Girl in the Spider’s Web will arrive in theatres. This time, though, there’s a new cast (perhaps Craig and Mara were too expensive by this point, or at least maybe their schedules just couldn’t work). This time, Claire Foy (The Crown) picks up the leathers and knives of Lisbeth Salander, and Sverrir Gudnason plays Mikael Blomkvist. The movie also stars Stephen Merchant, Sylvia Hoeks, and Lakeith Stanfield.

LarssonLagercrantz-M4-GirlInTheSpidersWebUKBased on the fourth novel in Stieg Larsson’s Millennium series, written by David Lagercrantz, here’s the synopsis:

Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist have not been in touch for some time.

Then Blomkvist is contacted by renowned Swedish scientist Professor Balder. Warned that his life is in danger, but more concerned for his son’s well-being, Balder wants Millennium to publish his story — and it is a terrifying one.

More interesting to Blomkvist than Balder’s world-leading advances in Artificial Intelligence, is his connection with a certain female superhacker.

It seems that Salander, like Balder, is a target of ruthless cyber gangsters – and a violent criminal conspiracy that will very soon bring terror to the snowbound streets of Stockholm, to the Millennium team, and to Blomkvist and Salander themselves.

The Girl in the Spider’s Web is published in the UK by Quercus, and in North America by Vintage Crime/Black Lizard.

Upcoming: LAST NIGHT by Karen Ellis (Mulholland)

EllisK-S2-LastNightUS
In January 2019, Mulholland Books are due to published Last Night, the second novel in Karen Ellis‘s Searchers crime series. I enjoyed the first novel in the series, A Map of the Dark, and I’m looking forward to seeing how the character(s) develop in this second outing. Here’s the synopsis:

NYPD detective Lex Cole tracks a missing Brooklyn teen whose bright future is endangered by the ghosts of his unknown father’s past…

One of the few black kids on his Brighton Beach block, Titus “Crisp” Crespo was raised by his white mother and his Russian grandparents. He has two legacies from his absent father, Mo: his weird name and his brown skin. Crisp has always been the odd kid out, but a fundamentally good kid, with a bright future.

But one impulsive decision triggers a horrible domino effect — an arrest, no reason not to accompany his richer, whiter friend Glynnie on a visit to her weed dealer, and a trip onto his father’s old home turf where he’ll face certain choices he’s always strived to avoid.

As Detective Lex Cole tries to unravel the clues from Crisp’s night out, they both find that what you don’t know about your past can still come back to haunt you.

Last Night is due to be published by Mulholland Books in North America and in the UK, in January 2019.

Also on CR: Review of A Map of the Dark

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Guest Post: “Plotting the Perfect Murder” by Steve Cavanagh

CavanaghS-ThirteenUKI get a lot of compliments about the plotting in my books. I’ve been lucky, in that way. And yet every single piece of praise about the plot of Thirteen, or any of the other Eddie Flynn books makes me feel like a fraud.

Now, let’s be serious here. I’m also a writer, and that means I love it when people enjoy the books and when they say nice things. Keep those compliments coming. And the nice Amazon reviews. I like those too. I may feel like a fraud, but I’m willing to forego my feelings for event the faintest praise.

What I really mean is I don’t know how to plot a novel. I have no clue. In my mind plotting means colour-coded flash cards, whiteboards with all the names of the characters written large with arrows flowing between them, an outline, a beat sheet, a corkboard covered in Post-It notes, pages in a journal with notes for every character, a line graph showing the five-act structure, a detailed plan of the book with every scene sketched out from beginning to end.

I don’t do any of that. I can’t. See, told you I was a fraud. Continue reading

Upcoming: BY THE PRICKING OF HER THUMB by Adam Roberts (Gollancz)

RobertsA-ByThePrickingOfHerThumbUKLater this year, Adam Roberts is returning to the setting of his recent novel The Real-Town Murders! I must admit that it was the cover that first caught my eye, but the synopsis certainly did a lot to increase my interest in the novel. By the Pricking of Her Thumb is due to be published by Gollancz on August 23rd, 2018. Here’s what it’s about:

One of the four richest people in the world may be dead. But which one? A Kubrickian thriller from one of the world’s leading authors of SF.

Private Investigator Alma is caught up in another impossible murder. One of the world’s four richest people may be dead — but nobody is sure which one. Hired to discover the truth behind the increasingly bizarre behaviour of the ultra-rich, Alma must juggle treating her terminally ill lover with a case which may not have a victim.

Inspired by the films of Kubrick, this stand-alone novel returns to the near-future of THE REAL-TOWN MURDERS, and puts Alma on a path to a world she can barely understand. Witty, moving and with a mystery deep at its heart, this novel again shows Adam Roberts’ mastery of the form.

Luckily, I have The Real-Town Murders already, so I should be able to get that read before I get my hands on By the Pricking of Her Thumb. Needless to say, I’m looking forward to reading them both!

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Upcoming: THIN AIR and THIRTEEN by Richard Morgan (Gollancz/Del Rey)

MorganR-ThinAirUKRichard Morgan’s Altered Carbon was the first ‘proper’ sci-fi novel I read and loved. Its mix of science fiction, action and detective story was perfect for me, and I became a faithful (if uneven) follower of Morgan’s work. I bought and read the second Takeshi Kovacs novel, Broken Angels, as soon as it came out. Morgan’s grimdark fantasy series, A Land Fit for Heroes unfortunately didn’t work for me as well as his sci-fi, and I kind of wandered away from his work for a while. This past year, however, Netflix’s adaptation of Altered Carbon has re-ignited my interest in his work, so I was very happy to learn that Gollancz (UK) and Del Rey (North America) are due to release Thin Air in October. The author’s first sci-fi novel in eight years, here’s the brief synopsis:

An atmospheric tale of corruption and abduction set on Mars.

An ex-corporate enforcer, Hakan Veil, is forced to bodyguard Madison Madekwe, part of a colonial audit team investigating a disappeared lottery winner on Mars. But when Madekwe is abducted, and Hakan nearly killed, the investigation takes him farther and deeper than he had ever expected. And soon Hakan discovers the heavy price he may have to pay to learn the truth.

MorganR-ThirteenUKGollancz is also due to re-release Morgan’s fourth novel, Thirteen, with a new cover and title (it was original called Black Man) in September, in the UK. Here’s the synopsis:

One hundred years from now, and against all the odds, Earth has found a new stability; the political order has reached some sort of balance, and the new colony on Mars is growing. But the fraught years of the 21st century have left an uneasy legacy…

Genetically engineered alpha males, designed to fight the century’s wars have no wars to fight and are surplus to requirements. And a man bred and designed to fight is a dangerous man to have around in peacetime. Many of them have left for Mars but now one has come back and killed everyone else on the shuttle he returned in.

Only one man, a genengineered ex-soldier himself, can hunt him down and so begins a frenetic man-hunt and a battle survival. And a search for the truth about what was really done with the world’s last soldiers.

BLACK MAN is an unstoppable SF thriller but it is also a novel about predjudice, about the ramifications of playing with our genetic blue-print. It is about our capacity for violence but more worrying, our capacity for deceit and corruption.

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