March 2020 new fiction - a brand new Emmerdale novel this month!
  Books Monthly new fiction titles 


My book of the month for March is Kerry Bell's HOPE COMES TO EMMERDALE, the fourth in the stunning series of family sagas that tells the fantastic back story to the nation's favourite soap.

Book of the Month - Kerry Bell: Hope Comes To Emmerdale

Published by Trapeze 20th January 2020

World War II wages on. Rationing, blackouts, evacuees and military training camps have become the norm in the village of Beckindale, but happiness has been found during these hard times. Lily Dingle is getting married, Annie Pearson has returned after volunteering with the Wrens, and there are new neighbours to get to know... including a female vet of all things.

The new inhabitants are about to learn things are never dull for the families of Emmerdale.

Exploring the lives of Emmerdale's much-loved families during World War II, including favourites such as the Sugdens and the Dingles, Hope Comes to Emmerdale is a hopeful and nostalgic novel about community, friendship and love.

I have been a fan of Emmerdale since it began on ITV as Emmerdale Farm on 16th October 1972. In the first round of awards this year, Emmerdale was deservedly voted best soap (or best serial drama). I used to watch Coronation Street in the "good old days", when there were characters like Albert Tatlock, Elsie Tanner, Len Fairclough, Minnie Caldwell etc., but as time progressed I fell out of love with Corrie and watched Emmerdale instead. I have to admit there was a time when Eastenders was my favourite, but that was a long, long time ago - when they got rid of my favourite character, Bradley, that was it for me. My wife and I spend more time complaining about the ridiculous plots and storylines in Enders than we do watching it. It is high time they got rid of the Mitchells, the Beales, and most of the Slaters, along with Tina Carter, Shirley Carter, Linda Carter, Whitney, etc. Why oh why did they bring Sonia back? But I have digressed, this is supposed to be about Emmerdale, and in particular the spectacularly good new series of books. HOPE COMES TO EMMERDALE is book four in the series, and the first to be written by Kerry Bell (the first three were written by Pamela Bell (apparently no relation)). I remember comparing this new book series to the very best family sagas (the Whiteoaks, by Mazo de la Roche, and Poldark, by Winston Graham), and as the series has progressed, I stand by that comparison. Both Pamela and now Kerry have brought the backstory of Emmerdale to life in a way that makes the series instantly collectable and essential reading for anyone who loves Emmerdale.

In book four, we find Nancy Tate, the stand-in vet whilst Beckindale's regular vet has enlisted; we find Betty Prendagast, who will later become Betty Eggleton, and then Seth Armstrong's long-time live-in partner; and we see Jacob Sugden's hopes raised that Annie will one day forgive him for sending her sweetheart Edward off to war. There are now very obvious links to some of the inhabitants of the village in the current episodes, and the stories are very similar to what goes on nowadays. Kerry has captured the essence of Emmerdale to absolute perfection, especially a Dales village caught up in the machinations of the second world war; Kerry's characters are real people with real feelings, fears and joys. Although I was born the year after the war ended, I have enough knowledge of the war years gleaned from quizzing family members to know that Kerry paints a perfect picture of village life in the war years. I particularly enjoyed the episode with Bella the sheepdog looking after Susan when she becomes terrified by the storm and taking shelter, then subsequently giving birth to puppies and those same puppies being promised to various characters in the book, including Susan. I enjoyed reading HOPE COMES TO EMMERDALE immensely and am already looking forward to reading and reviewing book 5! All I can say is that when an Emmerdale book arrives in the post, everything stops whilst I read it! Well done Kerry, you've done Emmerdale proud!

JAlex Gray: When Shadows Fall

Published by Sphere 19th February 2020

When his old friend and former colleague is shot dead at his home, Detective Superintendent William Lorimer is devastated. And his problems are only just beginning. It's not long before two further deaths are reported: both victims ex-policemen.

It's clear this is a targeted campaign against their own, yet with no other link between the victims to identify the killer, Lorimer's police team are starting to panic. Who will be next?

Lorimer knows he must keep his cool if he is to solve the case. But with time running out before the next attack, he's struggling to ignore the sickening question at the back of his mind:

Will he get to the killer, before the killer gets to him?

Whether you've read them all, or whether you're coming to Alex Gray's highly acclaimed Lorimer series for the very first time, this is the perfect, page-turning winter read if you love Ann Cleeves, Val McDermid or Ian Rankin.

This is the seventeenth outing for Detective Superintendent William Lorimer, and for me, it's Alex's best to date. Pollice Scotland is well served by Jimmy Perez, Logan MacRae, William Lorimer and others (including Rebus, of course), each have their unique merits, each have different stories to tell. Alex ramps up the tension as Lorimer fights to uncover a killer who may have him in his sights, and you will be caught up in it for sure. Faultless writing from one of the top murder mystery writers in the UK. (This book just arrived, and I am half way through it, but I can tell you that Alex never disappoints, and is on absolutely top form in When Shadows Fall. I wonder if Alex is an ELO fan, as the title is a phrase that occurs in one of Jeff Lynne's greatest ever songs: Don't Walk Away... Just wondering... Despite having just read three top mysteries by the great Jim Kelly, I'm still in the mood for murder, and Alex's book arrived at just the right time. If I finish it by 1st March I may update this review, but I'm hard pressed, with lots of things going on in my life right now that are taking priority, so don't hold me to it!

Jim Kelly: The Night Raids

Published by Allison & Busby 20th February 2020

A lone German bomber crosses the East coast of Britain on a moonless night in the long hot summer of 1940. The pilot picks up the silver thread of a river and following it to his target, drops his bomb over Cambridge's rail yards. The shell falls short of its mark, and lands in a maze-like neighbourhood of terraced streets on the edge of the city's medieval centre. D I Eden Brooke is first on the scene and discovers the body of an elderly woman, Nora Wylde, beside her shattered bed in a terrace house on Elm Street, two fingers on her left hand severed, in what looks like a brutal attempt by looters to steal her rings. When the next day Nora's teenage granddaughter, Peggy, a munitions worker at Marshall's Airfield, is reported missing, Brooke realises there is more to the situation that meets the eye.

This is a brilliant Inspector Foyle type of mystery, set in wartime Cambridge and the surrounding area. Inspector Brooke is a quiet, unassuming kind of policeman, just like Foyle, who quietly gets things done with the aid of his sergeant, Edison, who is very much like the Sergeant Lewis from the Morse books (not like in the TV series). Jim Kelly (this is the first of his books I've ever read, sadly) conjures up the perfect wartime atmosphere and characters, and you are literally transported back to wartime Cambridge as Brooke and Edison attempt to unravel the strange nature of the thefts that have occurred when the Luftwaffe bombs fell on Brooke's patch. Hugely enjoyable, terrific plot, terrific atmosphere...

Jim Kelly: The Water Clock

Published by Allison & Busby 20th February 2020

In the bleak snowbound landscape of the Cambridgeshire Fens, a car is winched from a frozen river. Inside, locked in a block of ice, is a man's mutilated body. Later, high on Ely Cathedral, a second body is found, grotesquely riding a stone gargoyle. The decaying corpse has been there more than thirty years. When forensic evidence links both victims to one awful event in 1966, local reporter Philip Dryden knows he's on to a great story. But as his investigations uncover some disturbing truths, they also point towards one terrifying foggy night in the Fens two years ago. A night that changed Dryden's life forever.

I don't think you can describe this as a "police procedural" because the central character, in his very first outing, is a reporter, Philip Dryden. Again the action takes place in Cambridge, firstly 1966, then nearly thirty years later. There's forensic evidence, so some police activity, but it's really Philip that gets to grips with what's going on, and the end result is extremely satisfying. Why I've never discovered Jim Kelly before I simply do not know! His ability to switch between eras is uncannily good. Absolutely superb crime writing of the highest calibre. Now for The Fire Baby.

Jim Kelly: The Fire Baby

Published by Allison & Busby 20th February 2020

Summer, 1976. A plane crashes on a farm in the Cambridgeshire Fens. Out of the flames walks young Maggie Beck, clutching a baby in her arms…

Twenty-seven years later, investigative journalist Philip Dryden – visiting his wife, Laura in hospital – is witness to Maggie’s deathbed confession. But some secrets are best kept secret, and what started out for Dryden as a small and curious story about the only survivor of an almost-forgotten plane crash soon escalates into a full-blown murder investigation.

And while Dryden is wondering what other secrets Maggie carried, his semi-conscious wife is trying to tell him something that might just save his life…

Philip Dryden's second outing involves a plane crash in the fens near to Cambridge, with a young mother emerging from the wreckage carrying a baby. Philip is present when Maggie, dying, makes a shocking and disturbing confession, and things spiral out of control shortly afterwards, bringing Philip's own family into the investigation, and even his own life is at risk. This is the equivalent of the famous locked room mysteries that prevailed in the 1920s, and is expertly handled by Jim Kelly. I'm hooked on Jim's novels now, and can't wait to read more! I really, really loved it!

Rebecca Tope: The Patterdale Plot

Published by Allison & Busby 20th February 2020

Simmy Brown had hoped that her autumn would be less frantic than usual to give her a chance to enjoy her pregnancy, her upcoming nuptials, and some time looking for a new house in the Patterdale area of the Lake District. But it is not to be . When one of the lodgers at her parents' Bed & Breakfast dies in her arms after seemingly being poisoned, she becomes embroiled in a complex investigation, headed up by her friend D I Moxon. It is clear the victim had some connection to a controversial new building project near Patterdale and Simmy's ideas of a quiet run up to Christmas are cruelly dashed.

I have read and reviewed most of Rebecca Tope's wonderful Miss Marple-like mysteries set in the Lake District and festuring the brilliant character of Simmy Brown, but this one has to be Rebecca's finest! Simmy is pregnant but inevitably becomes embroiled in a murder mystery when a fellow lodger at her B&B dies from poisoning. Rebecca's stories are soothing, gentle mysteries that unfold before your very eyes as she delves deep into her characters' lives and problems, and the whole thing is like watching a TV dramatisation rather than reading a book, so vivid are her descriptions and prose. Superb.

Peter Laws: Possessed

Published by Allison & Busby 20th February 2020

‘A crime story wound up in supernatural, nerve-jangling creepiness’ Peterborough Telegraph

When a blood-soaked man is discovered with the word Baal-Berith scored into his flesh, the bewildered police call on expert Professor Matt Hunter to assist. Before long, a gruesome discovery is made and Hunter is drawn into a frenzied murder investigation.

With a fury of media interest in the case, and the emerging link to a documentary on demonic possession, Hunter is unable to escape a dark world of exorcism and violence … even when events spiral frighteningly out of control.

I used to hunt high and low for stories similar to Dennis Wheatley's black magic tales, fascinated as I was at the time by anything to do with the occult and witchcraft and magic. Peter Laws' superb crime thriller Possessed goes a long way to filling such a gap, and is written so well you have to take it seriously. Having just watched the BBC's pathetic, tragically-bad adaptation of Agatha Christie's The Pale Horse, which was so bad it was farcical, I thought I might find it difficult to read a thriller involving even the hint of magic, but thankfully Peter Laws manages to rescue the situation brilliantly, and Possessed ends up a thoroughly creditable and readable occult mystery!

Anne Coates: Perdition's Child

Published by Urbane 6th February 2020

Dulwich library is the scene of a baffling murder, followed swiftly by another in Manchester, the victims linked by nothing other than their Australian nationality. Police dismiss the idea of a serial killer, but journalist Hannah Weybridge isn't convinced.

She is drawn into an investigation in which more Australian men are killed as they try to trace their British families. Her research reveals past horrors and present sadness, and loss linked to children who went missing after the Second World War. Have those children returned now?

Once again Hannah finds herself embroiled in a deadly mystery, a mystery complicated by the murder of Harry Peters; the brother of Lucy, one of the residents of Cardboard City she had become friendly with. It soon becomes clear Lucy is protecting secrets of her own.

What is Lucy's link to the murders and can Hannah discover the truth before the killer strikes again?

Anne Coates gripping thriller is the perfect read for fans of Emma Tallon, K.L.Slater and Laura Marshall.

I believe I may have reviewed previous episodes in the career of Hannah Weybridge, as my friends at Urbane have been sending me books for a few years now. Hannah is the best possible person to get to the bottom of these baffling murders, as she's an investigative journalist. It's nice to have a strong female lead, we know they work because of Vera, and Hannah is a brilliant character. The story is as unputdownable as mundane tasks such as sleeping and eating will allow. Hugely entertaining and highly recommended by Books Monthly!

Steve Berry: The Warsaw Protocol

Published by Hodder & Stoughton 25th February 2020

In the latest thrilling Cotton Malone adventure from international bestseller Steve Berry, one by one the seven precious relics of the Arma Christi, the weapons of Christ, are disappearing from sanctuaries across the world.

After former Justice Department agent Cotton Malone witnesses the theft of one of them, he learns from his old boss, Stephanie Nelle, that a private auction is about to be held where incriminating information on the president of Poland will be offered to the highest bidder - blackmail that both the United States and Russia want, but for vastly different reasons.

The price of admission to that auction is one of the relics, so Malone is first sent to a castle in Poland to steal the Holy Lance, a thousand-year-old spear sacred not only to Christians but to the Polish people, and then on to the auction itself. But nothing goes as planned and Malone is thrust into a bloody battle between three nations over information that, if exposed, could change the balance of power in Europe.

From the tranquil canals of Bruges, to the elegant rooms of Wawel Castle, to deep beneath the earth in an ancient Polish salt mine, Malone is caught in the middle of a deadly war - the outcome of which turns on a secret known as the Warsaw Protocol.

Steve Berry outdoes Dan Brown by a country mile in this thrilling and totally believable ancient relic tale. A nod to Indiana Jones here and there but this story is utterly compelling and brilliantly written.

Greg Isles: Cemetery Road

 Published by Harper Collins 5th March 2020

The No.1 New York Times bestselling author of the Natchez Burning trilogy returns with an electrifying standalone. A tale of friendship, betrayal, and shattering secrets that threaten to destroy a small Mississippi town.

Some things should never be uncovered…

When successful journalist Marshall McEwan discovers that his father is terminally ill, he returns to his childhood home in Bienville, Mississippi – a place he vowed to leave behind forever.
His family’s newspaper is failing; and Jet Turner, the love of his youth, has married into the family of Max Matheson, one of the powerful patriarchs who rule the town through the exclusive Poker Club.
Bienville is on the brink of economic salvation, in the form of a billion-dollar Chinese paper mill. But as the deal nears completion, two murders rock the town to its core, threatening far more than the city’s economic future.
Marshall and Jet soon discover a minefield of explosive secrets beneath the soil of Mississippi. And by the time Marshall grasps the long-buried truth about his own history – and the woman he loves – he would give almost anything not to face it.

Small town America at its finest and murkiest! Greg Isles is one of my all-time favourite US writers, and he pulls out all the stops with Cemetery Road.

Jeffery Deaver: The Never Game

 Published by Harper Collins 19th March 2020

Escape or die trying…

No.1 international bestseller Jeffery Deaver returns with a stunning new thriller – the first in an exciting series featuring enigmatic investigator Colter Shaw.

‘Masterful storytelling ― The Never Game is Deaver’s most riveting, most twisty, most unputdownable novel yet’ Karin Slaughter

A student kidnapped from the park.
Nineteen-year-old Sophie disappears one summer afternoon. She wakes up to find herself locked inside a derelict warehouse, surrounded by five objects. If she uses them wisely, she will escape her prison. Otherwise she will die.

An investigator running out of time.
Sophie’s distraught father calls in the one man who can help find his daughter: unique investigator Colter Shaw. Raised in the wilderness by survivalist parents, he is an expert tracker with a forensic mind trained to solve the most challenging cases. But this will be a test even for him.

A killer playing a dangerous game.
Soon a blogger called Henry is abducted – left to die in the dark heart of a remote forest – and the whole case gets turned on its head. Because this killer isn’t following the rules; he’s changing them. One murder at a time…

Jeffery Deaver is one of the world's best-selling authors, and his pedigree is second to nonw. The Never Game is a conventional thriller but with a villain who seems to have a failsafe method of getting away with murder, and is playing a cat and mouse game with the pollice. It's up to Colter Shaw to raise his game and stop the killer before it's too late. Tense, fast-paced and action-packed, brilliant stuff.

Liz Cowley & Donough O'Brien: Locked In Fear

 Published by Urbane Publications 10th January 2020

In a sleepy country village, Detective Inspector Robin Marshal - now in retirement - is nearly killed by a stranger. His friend Alice, a police psychiatrist, discovers that the murder attempt was almost certainly ordered by a terrifying criminal, `Big Mack', currently incarcerated in a notoriously violent prison. There his criminal kingdom controls not only the inmates, but many of the guards, through the power of money and the threat of extreme violence.

When Alice goes to work in the prison to find out more, she, too, becomes a target, her car machine-gunned on a country road; and Robin is attacked again while recovering in Spain.

Under pressure from an outraged public and with political concern rising, the authorities try to put a stop to Big Mack's activities. But everyone is under threat when he is suddenly at large following a murderous escape. How can this evil kingpin be stopped?

Locked in Fear is a gripping thriller perfect for fans of JD Kirk, Rob Ashman and Joy Ellis.

I have to admit to never having read anything by JD Kirk, Rob Ashman or Joy Ellis, so I didn't know what to expect from Locked In Fear. Sometimes it's better that way. Anyway, this is a cross between the cosy countryside murder such as you'd find in Midsomer Murders, and the gangland terrors of Lynda La Plante, for example (other gangland terror novels are available, of course). Big Mack is an horrendous character, and you really do feel for Marshal - after all, he's retired, and should be enjoying his retirement! Some great writing in this thriller, some terrific characters, and a whole heap of tension. An excellent escape from the horrors of modern day living!

The small print: Books Monthly, now well into its 22nd year on the web, is published on or slightly before the first day of each month by Paul Norman. You can contact me here. If you wish to submit something for publication in the magazine, let me remind you there is no payment as I don't make any money from this publication. If you want to send me something to review, contact me via email at and I'll let you know where to send it.

  Home Page

  Fantasy & Science Fiction Books

  Children's Books

  Alma Classics

  Nonfiction Books


  Acker Bilk Sleeve Notes

  The Stephen King page

  Pen and Sword Books

  Email me

Arch Hades: High Tide

5th July 2018 Independently published

I don't often get to review books of poetry in Books Monthly, and this was a most welcome diversion from the many, many books of fiction I get to read during the course of the year. What I like best about Arch's poetry, other than the fact that it is head and shoulders better than anything Simon Armitage has ever written, both before and after becoming Poet Laureate (!), is the fact that Arch's poetry is recognisable as poetry - that's the first thing, the essential thing about poetry for me. I love the rhyming which is missing from most modern day poetry, and I can feel the emotion pouring out of the author (poet) in this gentle, moving collection of poems and postcards about love and loss, two things that affect each and every one of us. Very moving.