Excerpt: MARION LANE AND THE MIDNIGHT MURDER by T.A. Willberg (Trapeze)

WillbergTA-MarionLaneAndTheMidnightMurderUKHCToday, we have an excerpt from T.A. Willberg‘s Marion Lane and the Midnight Murder. The first in a new mystery series, it’s been enjoying quite a bit of buzz and growing interest. It’s been described as perfect for fans of Stuart Turton’s The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle and Natasha Pulley’s The Watchmaker of Filigree Street. Looking forward to reading the full novel, soon. Here’s the synopsis:

They were a band of mysterious private detectives who lived beneath the streets of London in a labyrinth of twisted tunnels and ancient hallways, the entrance to which no one had ever found…

London, 1958:

Elaborately disguised and hidden deep beneath the city’s streets lies the world of Miss Brickett’s, a secret detective agency. From traversing deceptive escape rooms full of baited traps and hidden dangers, to engineering almost magical mechanical gadgets, apprentice detectives at Miss Brickett’s undergo rigorous training to equip them with the skills and knowledge they will need to solve the mysteries that confound London’s police force.

But nothing can prepare 23-year-old apprentice Marion Lane for what happens after the arrest of her friend and mentor, Frank, on suspicion of murder: he tasks Marion with clearing his name and saving his life. Her investigation will place Marion and her friends in great peril as they venture into the forbidden maze of uncharted tunnels that surround Miss Brickett’s. Being discovered out of bounds means immediate dismissal, but that is the least of Marion’s problems when she discovered that the tunnels contain more than just secrets…

And now, on with the excerpt!

Continue reading

Interview with JOHN APPEL

AppelJ-AuthorPicLet’s start with an introduction: Who is John Appel?

I’m an SFF writer from Maryland, recently retired after a career in information security and technology risk. I’m married to a university administrator and have two disabled adult children. I was a US Army paratrooper and cavalry scout back in the 1980s, and a life-long tabletop gamer. These days, aside from writing (and reading), my main hobbies are woodworking and historical fencing.

Your latest novel, Assassin’s Orbit, is due to be published by Solaris in the summer. How would you introduce it to a potential reader? Is it part of a series?

Assassin’s Orbit starts with the investigation of an assassination/mass murder, but quickly spirals into a major planetary conflict. The protagonists have to work together to both solve the murder and deal with the events that spill from it, which include discovering that a threat from the past might just still be with them. Continue reading

Quick Review: WHILE JUSTICE SLEEPS by Stacey Abrams (Harper/Doubleday)

AbramsS-WhileJusticeSleepsUKA twisty political thriller, set in the halls of the Supreme Court and corridors of power in DC

An explosive secret

When legendary Washington judge Justice Wynn falls into a coma and puts his law clerk, Avery, in control, Avery’s world is turned upside down. Because Justice Wynn had a secret. One that nobody wants to come out…

A life in the balance

As Wynn lies in hospital, Avery begins to unravel a sequence of clues, and realizes the puzzle will lead her directly into danger.

A showdown that will change everything

But how high a price can you put on the truth? And is Avery brave enough to expose the White House itself?

I’ve been looking forward to reading this ever since it was announced. I was lucky enough to get an advance review copy, and dove in as soon as I could. I’m very glad to report that it is great: an excellent example of the genre, well-written and gripping. Continue reading

Interview with T.A. WILLBERG

WillbergTA-AuthorPicLet’s start with an introduction: Who is T.A. Willberg?

I suppose I should call myself an author now but until four years ago, I was a full-time Chiropractor specialising in spinal deformities. Writing, other than for scientific papers and essays, just wasn’t a part of my life until I moved from my home country (South Africa) to live and work in Malta.

What else? I’m an outdoorsy, animal-loving introvert. I enjoy reading as much as writing, travelling as much as staying at home and chocolate as much as exercise.

Your new novel, Marion Lane and the Midnight Murder, will be published by Trapeze in May. It looks really intriguing: How would you introduce it to a potential reader. Is it part of a series?

Thanks! There’s a lot of genre-mixing going on in my novel so it’s always hard to describe, but I’ll give it a go: Marion Lane and the Midnight Murder is a quirky locked-room murder mystery set in an alternative 1950’s London with elements of grounded fantasy and loads of steampunk gadgetry. Continue reading

Quick Review: RED WIDOW by Alma Katsu (G.P. Putnam’s Sons)

When you work in a building of smoke & mirrors, everyone and everything should be questioned…

The story of two women CIA agents whose paths become intertwined around a threat to the Russia Division – one that’s coming from inside the agency.

Lyndsey Duncan worries her career with the CIA might be over. After lines are crossed with another intelligence agent during an assignment, she is sent home to Washington on administrative leave. So when a former colleague — now Chief of the Russia Division — recruits her for an internal investigation, she jumps at the chance to prove herself. Lyndsey was once a top handler in the Moscow Field Station, where she was known as the “human lie detector” and praised for recruiting some of the most senior Russian officials. But now, three Russian assets have been exposed — including one of her own — and the CIA is convinced there’s a mole in the department. With years of work in question and lives on the line, Lyndsey is thrown back into life at the agency, this time tracing the steps of those closest to her.

Meanwhile, fellow agent Theresa Warner can’t avoid the spotlight. She is the infamous “Red Widow,” the wife of a former director killed in the field under mysterious circumstances. With her husband’s legacy shadowing her every move, Theresa is a fixture of the Russia Division, and as she and Lyndsey strike up an unusual friendship, her knowledge proves invaluable. But as Lyndsey uncovers a surprising connection to Theresa that could answer all of her questions, she unearths a terrifying web of secrets within the department, if only she is willing to unravel it…

I haven’t read all of Katsu’s previous works, but as a long-time lover for espionage fiction, I knew I had to read this as soon as I could. I’m very glad to report that it is an engaging, twisty espionage novel set in the halls of Langley and D.C. I enjoyed this a lot. Continue reading

Guest Post: “Genre Mashups” by Tim Major

Perhaps all novels are genre mashups, in some sense. Or at least, any novel has several key influences circulating within it, informing its tone, the tendencies of its characters and the directions of its plot. Few romantic novels are exclusively about the mechanisms of two people becoming a couple. Few SF novels concern solely scientific concepts.

But the pitch for my novella Universal Language is more overt than most. It’s an SF murder mystery. I’ll be honest: it’s refreshing to be able to pitch one of my books in such simple terms. You like SF? You like murder mysteries? Come over and take a look! Continue reading

Upcoming: THIEF OF SOULS/CITY OF ICE by Brian Klingborg (Minotaur/Headline)

KlingborgB-LF1-ThiefOfSoulsUSI spotted Brian Klingborg‘s upcoming novel in a catalogue a little while ago, and have been looking forward to reading it ever since. Earlier this week, I found the UK cover, so I decided to share the details here. Published in North America as Thief of Souls, and in the UK as City of Ice, it looks like an intriguing start to a new Chinese crime/mystery series. Here’s the synopsis:

The brutal murder of a young woman in a rural village in Northern China sends shockwaves all the way to Beijing — but seemingly only Inspector Lu Fei, living in exile in the small town, is interested in justice for the victim.

KlingborgB-LF1-CityOfIceUKLu Fei is a graduate of China’s top police college but he’s been assigned to a sleepy backwater town in northern China, where almost nothing happens and the theft of a few chickens represents a major crime wave. That is until a young woman is found dead, her organs removed, and joss paper stuffed in her mouth. The CID in Beijing — headed by a rising political star — is on the case but in an increasingly authoritarian China, prosperity and political stability are far more important than solving the murder of an insignificant village girl. As such, the CID head is interested in pinning the crime on the first available suspect rather than wading into uncomfortable truths, leaving Lu Fei on his own.

As Lu digs deeper into the gruesome murder, he finds himself facing old enemies and creating new ones in the form of local Communist Party bosses and corrupt business interests. Despite these rising obstacles, Lu remains determined to find the real killer, especially after he links the murder to other unsolved homicides. But the closer he gets to the heart of the mystery, the more he puts himself and his loved ones in danger.

Brian Klingborg’s first Inspector Lu Fei novel is due to be published on May 4th, 2021, in North America by Minotaur Books, as Thief of Souls; and in the UK by Headline as City of Ice.

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Quick Review: WINDHALL by Ava Barry (Pegasus Books)

BarryA-WindhallUSAn intriguing, well-written mystery about the long tail of a Golden Age Hollywood murder

An investigative journalist in modern Los Angeles attempts to solve the Golden Age murder of a Hollywood starlet.

1940s Hollywood was an era of decadence and director Theodore Langley was its king. Paired with Eleanor Hayes as his lead actress, Theo ruled the Golden Age of Hollywood. That ended when Eleanor’s mangled body was discovered in Theo’s rose garden and he was charged with her murder. The case was thrown out before it went to trial and Theo fled L.A., leaving his crawling estate, Windhall, to fall into ruin. He hasn’t been seen since.

Decades later, investigative journalist Max Hailey, raised by his gran on stories of old Hollywood, is sure that if he could meet Theo, he could prove once and for all that the famed director killed his leading lady. When a copycat murder takes place near Windhall, the long reclusive Theo returns to L.A., and it seems Hailey finally has his chance.

When Hailey gets his hands on Theo’s long-missing journals, he reads about Eleanor’s stalkers and her role in Theo’s final film, The Last Train to Avalon, a film so controversial it was never released to the public. In the months leading up to her death, something had left her so terrified she stopped coming to work. The more Hailey learns about Avalon, the more convinced he becomes that the film could tell him who killed Eleanor and why she had to die. But the implications of Avalon reach far beyond Eleanor’s murder, and Hailey must race to piece together the murders of the past and present before it’s too late.

What really happened to Eleanor Hayes, all those years ago at Theodore Langley’s party? Was she murdered? And by whom? Has Langley got away with murder for all these years? When the case is thrust back into the spotlight, journalist Max Hailey dig deeper than anyone else ever has to get to the truth. Windhall is an interesting, engaging, and enjoyable mystery novel set in old and contemporary Los Angeles. I really enjoyed this. Continue reading

Upcoming: A MAN LIES DREAMING by Lavie Tidhar (Head of Zeus)

Tidhar-AManLiesDreamingUK2021smOk, this is actually a re-issue, but look at that stunning new cover! Next month, Head of Zeus are due to re-issue Lavie Tidhar‘s provocative award-winning novel A Man Lies Dreaming. This is a great opportunity for people to give this a read if they missed it the first time. Here’s the synopsis:

1939: Adolf Hitler, fallen from power, seeks refuge in a London engulfed in the throes of a very British Fascism. Now eking a miserable living as a down-at-heels private eye and calling himself Wolf, he has no choice but to take on the case of a glamorous Jewish heiress whose sister went missing.

It’s a decision Wolf will very shortly regret.

For in another time and place a man lies dreaming: Shomer, once a Yiddish pulp writer, who dreams lurid tales of revenge in the hell that is Auschwitz.

Prescient, darkly funny and wholly original, the award-winning A Man Lies Dreaming is a modern fable for our time.

Lavie Tidhar’s A Man Lies Dreaming is due to be published by Head of Zeus in the UK, on April 15th, 2021. A Man Lies Dreaming is published in North America by Melville House and JABberwocky.) Head of Zeus also publishes Lavie’s superb re-imagining of the King Arthur mythology, By Force Alone (check out my review, here.)

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Upcoming: THE DISAPPEARING ACT by Catherine Steadman (Ballantine/Simon & Schuster)

SteadmanC-DisappearingActUSA little while ago, I spotted The Disappearing Act in a catalogue: the latest novel by best-selling author and actress Catherine Steadman, it’s about a British actress who heads to Los Angeles to try to find her big break. But, of course, things go quite wrong after a chance encounter. Given my fondness for novels (especially crime/mystery) set in Los Angeles, this one caught my attention. Here’s the synopsis:

A British actress discovers the dark side of Hollywood when she is the only witness to the sudden disappearance of a woman she meets at an audition…

Once a year, actors from across the globe descend on the smog and sunshine of Los Angeles for pilot season. Every cable network and studio looking to fill the rosters of their new shows enticing a fresh batch of young hopefuls, anxious, desperate and willing to do whatever it takes to make it. Careers will be made, dreams will be realized, stars will be born. And some will be snuffed out.

SteadmanC-DisappearingActUKBritish star Mia Eliot has landed leading roles in costume dramas in her native country, but now it’s time for Hollywood to take her to the next level. Mia flies across the Atlantic to join the hoard of talent scrambling for their big breaks. She’s a fish out of water in the ruthlessly competitive and faceless world of back-to-back auditioning. Then one day she meets Emily, another actress from out of town and a kindred spirit. Emily is friendly and genuine and reassuringly doesn’t seem to be taking any of it too seriously. She stands out in a conveyor-belt world of fellow auditionees. But a simple favor turns dark when Emily disappears and Mia realizes she was the last person to see her, and the woman who knocks on Mia’s door the following day claiming to be her new friend isn’t the woman Mia remembers at all.

All Mia has to go on is the memory of a girl she met only once… and the suffocating feeling that something terrible has happened. Worse still, the police don’t believe her when she claims the real Emily has gone missing. So Mia is forced to risk the role of a lifetime to try to uncover the truth about Emily, a gamble that will force her to question her own sanity as the truth goes beyond anything she could ever have imagined.

The Disappearing Act is due to be published by Ballantine in North America (June 8th) and Simon & Schuster in the UK (June 24th). Really looking forward to reading this.

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