books monthly january 2020 new fiction - five superb new crime fiction tales headline this month's fiction page!
  books monthly new fiction 


The fiction page is dominated this month by four fantastic crime fiction thrillers from four different authors at the top of their game. All four have been published previously, two of them I'm familiar with, the other two I wish I'd discovered earlier! Spoilt for choice for a book of the month, each one could easily have been top, so in the end I had to put them in the order in which they arrived... I'll rotate them in the February issue!

Book of the Month - Sophie Hannah: Haven't They Grown

 Published by Hodder & Stoughton 23rd January 2020

All Beth has to do is drive her son to his Under-14s away match, watch him play, and bring him home.

Just because she knows that her former best friend lives near the football ground, that doesn't mean she has to drive past her house and try to catch a glimpse of her. Why would Beth do that, and risk dredging up painful memories? She hasn't seen Flora Braid for twelve years.

But she can't resist. She parks outside Flora's house and watches from across the road as Flora and her children, Thomas and Emily, step out of the car. Except...

There's something terribly wrong.

Flora looks the same, only older - just as Beth would have expected. It's the children that are the problem. Twelve years ago, Thomas and Emily Braid were five and three years old. Today, they look precisely as they did then. They are still five and three. They are Thomas and Emily without a doubt - Beth hears Flora call them by their names - but they haven't changed at all.

They are no taller, no older.

Sophie Hannah has been wowing readers for a long time now. This is the first Sophie Hannah book I've read for quite some time, and I had quite forgotten just how good she is! It's tempting to be able to tell you there's a simple, rational explanation for why Thomas and Emily Braid are exactly as remembers them from twelve years ago, but the simple truth is that there isn't. Sophie has a brilliant way of drawing you in with something that seems quite impossible, and then weaving the plot in an unnerving, sometimes terrifying way that makes you start to think about things in a slightly different way. Sophie has been dubbed the "Queen of psychological suspense", and it's true, there are plenty of imitators but only one Sophie Hannah. There's a point in this book where there's a phrase "Something Very Strange" occurs, and that sums up this fantastic tale very well. Try as I might, I could not think of a rational explanation for what was going on, what Beth describes as "something very strange", and as Sophie doesn't do supernatural explanations, there had to be some other explanation. You have to hand it to her, she has the ability to describe something more or less impossible and eventually come up with a plausible reason why it's possible for the events Beth  has been witnessing to be right after all. It's a gift with Sophie, and that's why I love her books so much. There are secrets and lies by the bucketload in Haven't They Grown, and it's not till the very end of the book that the truth comes tumbling out, when Beth's life is in mortal danger. SHe's uncovered something quite extraordinary... Psychological crime is one of the sub-genres of crime fiction that has come into its own this century, and Sophie is, quite simply, the best story teller in this sub-genre. Haven't They Grown promises to be something out of the ordinary, something quite special, and it doesn't disappoint. Quite brilliant, a riveting, unputdownable read!

Chris Hammer: Silver

 Published by Wildfire 9th January 2020


Journalist Martin Scarsden returns to Port Silver to make a fresh start with his partner Mandy. But he arrives to find his childhood friend murdered - and Mandy is the prime suspect. Desperate to clear her name, Martin goes searching for the truth.

The media descends on Port Silver, compelled by a story that has it all: sex, drugs, celebrity, and religion. Martin is chasing the biggest scoop of his career, and the most personal.

As Martin draws closer to a killer, the secrets of his traumatic childhood come to the surface, and he must decide what is more important - the story or his family...

The last story I read set in Australia was Nevile Shute's On The Beach - it was a tatty paperback from when it was first published, and I picked it up for 10p from Tesco's charity table because I had never read it. It turned out to be the most depressing book I have ever read, more depressing even than any of the Cormac McCarthy books I've read, and that's saying something. There has to be more to Australian fiction than this, I remember thinking, but they don't ever come my way - until now. I started reading SILVER the moment I had unpacked it, and I was hooked from the first page. The fact is that Chris Hammer has a way with words in describing small town Australia and its inhabitants that is as fascinating, as riveting as anything Stephen King has written about small town America. Only the accents are different, and as they're all in your imagination, that doesn't really matter, does it? SILVER is a mix of contemporary and memories of Martin's childhood, and in that respect this book is extremely reminiscent of King's brilliant BAG OF BONES. The characters in SILVER are crystal clear, the descriptions of Port Silver are so good you can picture them in your mind as you devour the words. This book is brilliant, off the scale brilliant, and I can't wait to get my hands on its predecessor, SCRUBLANDS, which was a Sunday Times Crime Fiction Book of the Month. This one may well get promoted to Fiction Book of the Month in the February issue of Books Monthly - I haven't yet finished it, but it's up there with the great fiction I am so fond of reading. I shall look forward equally to the next Chris Hammer in 2021. Amazingly good!

James Oswald: Bury Them Deep

 Published by Wildfire 20th February 2020

The tenth book in the Sunday Times-bestselling Inspector McLean series, from one of Scotland's most celebrated crime writers

When a member of the Police Scotland team fails to clock-in for work, concern for her whereabouts is immediate... and the discovery of her burnt-out car in remote woodland to the south of Edinburgh sets off a desperate search for the missing woman.

Meanwhile, DCI Tony McLean and the team are preparing for a major anti-corruption operation - one which may raise the ire of more than a few powerful people in the city. Is Anya Renfrew's disappearance a co-incidence or related to the case?

McLean's investigations suggest that perhaps that Anya isn't the first woman to have mysteriously vanished in these ancient hills. Once again, McLean can't shake the feeling that there is a far greater evil at work here...

It is hard for me to get my head round the fact that this is the tenth Inspector McLean novel...I'm almost ashamed to say that I had never even heard of James Oswald until I stumbled across this title on the Amazon next 90 days books list. It stood out, I asked for it, and Wildfire, a publisher I had also never heard of, were kind enough to send it along. You'll have to wait until nearly the end of February to read it, but it will be worth the wait, believe me, and I don't say that lightly. Until now, I thought that Logan MacRae and Hamish MacBeth were the only fictional Scottish detectives (only joking!) - OK, Logan MacRae is a uniformed police officer, but he does always seem to do most of the detecting, watching the actual detectives fall by the wayside for one reason or another. Here we have Inspector Tony McLean investigating the disappearance of a colleague prior to a major anti-corruption exercise. It's good solid police work with Police Scotland at the forefront of the story, and it's another fantastic read. Now I have to find a way of getting all of the previous nine Inspector McLean novels, so that's another author I have to check out in the charity shops and car boot sales (why are there no carc boot sales in the autumn and winter months? I know the reason, it's just that I really, really miss them). In the meantime, I am so glad to have discovered James Oswald, and I surely won't miss another of his books in the future. Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant!

Cara Hunter: All The Rage

 Published by Penguin Paperback Original 23rd January 2020

History doesn't repeat itself. Does it?

A distressed teenage girl is found on the outskirts of Oxford. The story she tells is terrifying: grabbed off the street, a plastic bag forced over her head, then driven somewhere remote and subjected to an assault.

DI Adam Fawley is doing the best he can to investigate, but the teenager refuses to press charges. All he can do is try to ignore the sickening feeling he's seen something like this before...

But when another girl goes missing, Fawley knows his time is running out.

Because if he ignores the past any longer, this girl may not be coming back.

It is high time we had a modern generation, brilliant detective patrolling the streets of Oxford, given the reputations of Young Morse, Older Morse and Lewis, and no sign of Hathaway getting his own series of adventures. Detective Inspector Adam Fawley, in his fourth outing in the series penned by the brilliant Cara Hunter, becomes involved in a case where a young woman is found wandering the streets and has clearly been assaulted, yet refuses to press charges. Great characters and a plot to die for - literally! I don't believe I have read the previous three Fawley novels, so this is another great new author I need to look out for in the charity shops and the boot sales! Pure enjoyment. Watch out next month for a great new Turner and Callanach story by the equally great Helen Fields - PERFECT KILL, coming 6th February 2020 (see below) and it's absolutely superb. British Crime Fiction is at its perfect best... read the three new titles above and you'll get a flavour of what I'm talking about. How long before these four have their detectives starring in TV shows?

Helen Fields: Perfect Kill

 Published by Avon 6th February 2020

Alone, trapped in the darkness and with no way out, Bart Campbell knows that his chances of being found alive are slim.

Drugged and kidnapped, the realisation soon dawns that he’s been locked inside a shipping container far from his Edinburgh home. But what Bart doesn’t yet know is that he’s now heading for France where his unspeakable fate is already sealed…

DCI Ava Turner and DI Luc Callanach are working on separate cases that soon collide as it becomes clear that the men and women being shipped to France are being traded for women trafficked into Scotland.

With so many lives at stake, they face an impossible task – but there’s no option of failure when Bart and so many others will soon be dead…

Get ready for a rollercoaster ride like no other, with the next gripping thriller from the number one bestselling crime author, Helen Fields. The perfect read for fans of M. J. Arlidge and Karin Slaughter.

DCI Ava Turner and DI Luc Callanach are back! And this time they're thrown head first into a case involving people trafficking... Helen pulls out all the stops in this rip-roaring crime thriller with her top detectives up against the clock and against villains who will stop at nothing. With the freezer container deaths in Essex still fresh in our minds, this is a non-stop frenetic race against time involving some of the nastiest and evil criminals around, and only Turner and Callanach can solve the case by pooling their collective minds and resources. This is high octane crime fiction at its absolute best! This title may well graduate to my book of the month in the February issue of Books Monthly - it's that good, and the only reason it isn't my book of the month right now is because it's not available to read just yet... that, and the fact that the great Sophie Hannah's new book arrived on my doormat first!

You might still like to check out these great fiction titles...

Pamela Bell: Christmas at Emmerdale

 Published by Trapeze 1st November 2018

A wonderful Christmas gift for fans of ITV's Emmerdale and readers who love heartwarming and heartbreaking stories set in wartime.

August 1914, and a terrible war begins, one that will affect the lives of everyone in the village of Beckindale. For Maggie Sugden, left to run Emmerdale Farm on her own while her husband, Joe, is at the front, it will brining grief and loss but also independence and the chance to find a place to belong - and perhaps even to love again.

Christmas At Emmerdale is the first in a sweeping new saga series, exploring the lives of Emmerdale's much-loved families during the run up to the Great War.

The first of these magnificent Emmerdale stories was published this time last year, but for some reason I didn't know about it and consequently missed it. I remember the first episode of Emmerdale Farm, with Annie, Jack and Joe Sugden laying Annie's husband Jacob to rest. You won't find any of those characters in this novel, which is set in 1914, but you will find the Sugdens, you will find the Skilbecks, and a trio of Dingles over from their home, their origin, in Ireland, and hell bent on causing trouble in the Dales. Pamela Bell has laid the foundations for the characters that will come, characters that we know and love in our current seven visits per week to Emmerdale. There are many things wrong with Emmerdale on TV at the moment - the writers have lost their way and are making all sorts of textbook and childish errors. Only Diane and Victoria remain of the Sugdens, but there are plenty of Dingles, of course. No such problems with this first of three volumes (soon to be four!), which are in extremely capable hands, and lay the foundations for a brilliant new family saga in the tradition of the Whiteoaks by Mazo de la Roche, and the Poldark series by Winston Graham. All other family sagas in print fade into insignificance with this trio. I'm proud to have been given the opportunity to review Christmas at Emmerdale and the two subsequent titles on this page (see below). The dustjacket designs are brilliant and evocative. These magnificent books have filled a huge need in me, to know about the origins of the inhabitants of Emmerdale, and they are quite superb. I can't wait to get my hands on Hope Comes To Emmerdale in February 2020!

Pamela Bell: Spring Comes to Emmerdale

 Published by Trapeze 21st March 2019

  World War I wages on, and the families of Emmerdale are trying their best to move on from tragedy, while the effects of war still resonate throughout the village of Beckindale. Though grief and loss permeate, Maggie Sugden, Rose Haywood and the other inhabitants of the village are finding independence, the chance to make their own happiness - and even opening themselves up to find love.

Featuring firm fan favourites like the Dingles, The Woolpack Pub and Emmerdale Farm itself, this will be a delight for any Emmerdale fan.

'Totally brilliant and gripping - didn't want it to end' - Amazon reviewer on Christmas at Emmerdale

Like the first in the series, Christmas At Emmerdale, the second novel explores the lives of Emmerdale's much-loved families during the Great War and beyond, and how the nation's favourite village copes with the loves and lives lost.

In Spring Comes to Emmerdale, the fighting on the Western Front is at last coming to an end. This second volume in the series is dominated by the Dingles, with Mick back from the war, his poisonous brother Levi is at the heart of everything that's bad, and then there's cousin Jonah investing his "lump of gold" fortune in re-opening the Woolpack with Dot, and helping Mick to start his garage and car sales business. Rose is still in love with Mick but her father won't have anything to do with him until he reveals a terrible secret from his time on the Western Front that somehow serves to break the ice and bring the families closer together. The illicit romances and affairs, the burgeoning love between Mick and Rose, Dot and Jonah and the tensions that still exist as the men return to the village after their terrifying experiences in the trenches remind me more and more of the brilliant Whiteoaks saga, and we're still only on book two! There are babies being born, businesses rising from the ashes of war and murder (as Levi comes to make his mark on the village), gossips and family feuds, and the foundations are being laid for the coalescence of families that we will come to recognise in subsequent volumes. The terrifying scenes towards the end of this second volume are absolutely thrilling and brilliantly written.

Pamela Bell: Emmerdale at War

Published by Trapeze 3rd October 2019

The perfect Christmas gift, full of warmth and nostalgia, for fans of ITV's Emmerdale, and readers who love heartwarming and heartbreaking stories set during wartime.

Britain is at war once again and the families of Emmerdale are trying their best to cope with a new way of life.

Rationing has been introduced across the country, two million more men have been called up for service, and blackouts, evacuees and military training camps have become the norm. In Beckindale, three young women are about to find their lives changed forever...

Annie Pearson is working on Emmerdale Farm, while her love, Edward Sugden is at the front line. Lily Dingle has found purpose in joining the ATS, though she may get more than she bargained for. And Meg Warcup, now teaching at the local school, has taken in two children evacuated from Hull. They've adjusted to their new way of life until one day a German plane comes crashing down in the village... and changes everything in the village of Beckindale.

The third novel in the Emmerdale series transports us to the Yorkshire Dales in the midst of World War II, exploring the lives of Emmerdale's much-loved families. Will the nation's favourite village overcome adversity to deal with the loves and lives lost?

In Emmerdale at War we've moved from the Great War to the Second World War, and the lady who will become Annie Sugden is at Emmerdale Farm and falling in love with Edward Sugden who, after drawing the shorter straw, goes off to war while his brother Jacob stays behind to work on the farm. Annie is convinced that Edward will come back and marry her, but Fate doesn't always pan out the way we think it will or want it to. Once again the Dingles are at the centre of just about everything - Mick's lovely young wife Rose has died suddenly from an aneurism, her daughter Lily is in the ATS and driving decidedly dodgy senior officers around from the local training camp, whilst making very poor choices when it comes to her love life. There's a new village bobby, invalided out to the country, who takes a secret shine to Lily, who doesn't reciprocate at all. There are the familiar village gossips, there are tensions, abuse, and evacuated children. The rebuilt Woolpack is still very much the centre of village life, although Jonah and Dot have taken their children to Australasia to give them a view of the world, and they don't return in this book. Mick has taken up with a rather colourful, bohemian female artist who is the talk of the village and not very well liked, although that could all change! No spoilers, but it's a well known fact that Annie is burying Jacob, her husband, in the very first episode of Emmerdale Farm, so... This third Emmerdale novel by Pamela Bell is equally as enthralling as the first two, and paves the way for familiar names from the TV series to enter the saga. This is family saga literature at its very finest - I await and anticipate in the same way I was waiting for and anticipating back in the 1950s, when Mazo de la Roche was still writing her brilliant Whiteoaks series. With the Whiteoaks, it was always Renny Whiteoak who dominated the series. With this brand new Emmerdale series, it's Annie Sugden, just as it was all those years ago with ITV's Emmerdale Farm. Emmerdale remains the best soap for me, and this series of books confirms it. The best romantic fiction I've read so far this century!

As I mentioned briefly above, Hope Comes To Emmerdale will be published by Trapeze in February 2020. It's written by Kerry Bell, who some of you will know from the now defunct Soapbox magazine, and the soapbox website. Kerry has been working hard on Hope Comes to Emmerdale, and when it's finished, will be back at work on the website. Looking forward to "Hope Comes" very much indeed, Kerry!

Rachel Sargeant: The Room Mates

Published by Harper Collins 28th November 2019

University is supposed to be the best time of your life. But Imo’s first week is quickly going from bad to worse.

A stalker is watching her flat, following her every move, and Imo suspects that her new roommates are hiding dark secrets…

When one of them suddenly disappears, the trauma of Imo’s recent past comes hurtling back to haunt her. And she begins to realise just how little she knows about the people she lives with…

‘Gripping, original and unpredictable’ Alex Lake

“Twisty and unnerving, Rachel is back with a thriller that will keep you up all night. Her best novel yet!’ Phoebe Morgan

‘From the very first page, the intrigue of this page-turning mystery builds until the gripping climax’ Caroline England

It's a fact that relationships sometimes go horribly wrong when people share with others they don't know or know very little about. Rachel Sargeant plays on the tensions and the anxieties to great effect in this absorbing and emotive thriller, which will keep you awake at night if you're in a similar situation. Brilliant!

Val McDermid: Insidious Intent

Published by Sphere 22nd February 2018

A quiet night on a country road. The stillness shattered by a car engulfed in flames, and a burned body discovered in the driver's seat. As the investigation unfolds, DCI Carol Jordan and psychological profiler Tony Hill quickly realise that this is more than just a tragic accident. And so begins the hunt for a truly terrifying killer, someone who believes he is invisible, untraceable and untouchable.

As other victims are found to have met the same terrible fate, and with more women at risk, Tony and Carol are drawn into a dark and twisted web of fear and revenge that will force them to question their own ideas of justice . . .

Discover the pulse-pounding new novel from the inimitable queen of crime and number one bestseller, Val McDermid, featuring two of the most iconic and unforgettable characters in crime fiction: Tony Hill and Carol Jordan

It's a real pleasure to have Tony Hill and Carol Jordan back, and Carol, in particular, has some ghosts to lay while she takes control od Re-Mit, the new unit designed to get results on high profile cases where local CID investigations have drawn a blank. Except that they hit the ground running with the first case, where a young woman has died a horrible death before being set on fire in her car by the man who picked her up at a wedding. The TV series was brilliant because it was based on Val's books. This new tale by Val is some of her best work, and I absolutely loved it. (There's a new Hill and Jordan on the way in 2020)

Peter Sissons: The Rosario

Published November 2019

Imagine being flown to a new job at a luxury estate belonging to a fabulously rich but obnoxious Englishman, in the Catalonian mountains. This man's bizarre character is hard to handle, but he is paying you handsomely and you tolerate his rudeness and demands. Then imagine discovering that he is downright dangerous and now you are trapped. What would you do next? This is the crisis facing Max, an architect, and Katie, an expert on 16th-century history, in this hard-to-put-down story of intrigue and adventure. Packed with murder, robbery, romance and life-changing discoveries, Max and Katie are plunged into a race against time across Europe as a long-held secret that spans the centuries is revealed. Knowledge is a dangerous thing, but when the ability to rewrite history falls into the wrong hands, the total domination of a criminal mastermind becomes a frightening reality in this fast-paced mystery thriller. Building to a shocking and unforeseen conclusion, The Rosario will grip you until the very end.

Shades of Dan Brown but as always, it's far better than Dan Brown. and the premise is extremely intriguing. Peter Sissons (not the late newsreader) draws you into a web of mystery with consummate ease, like a spider drawing its prey into the centre of its web. Expertly written and absolutely mesmerising stuff. You probably won't find it in high street bookshoips, but it's readily available on the internet, so order it!

Charles Dickens: David Copperfield

Published by Alma Classics Evergreens 19th October 2019

One of the most famous and celebrated Victorian coming-of-age novels, David Copperfield charts the adventures and vicissitudes of its eponymous hero's life, from the misery of his childhood after his mother's marriage to the tyrannical Mr Murdstone, through to his first steps as a writer and his search for love and happiness. Along the way he encounters a vast array of gloriously vivid characters many of whom number among the most memorable in literature such as the eccentric aunt Betsey Trotwood, the eloquent debtor Wilkins Micawber and the obsequious villain Uriah Heep.

Replete with comedy and tragedy in equal measure, and cited by Dickens as his favourite child, this partially autobiographical work provides tantalizing glimpses into Dickens s own childhood and remains one of the most enduringly popular novels in the English language.

ABOUT THE SERIES: Alma Evergreens is a series of popular classics. All the titles in the series are provided with an extensive critical apparatus, extra reading material including a section of photographs and notes. The texts are based on the most authoritative edition (or collated from the most authoritative editions or manuscripts) and edited using a fresh, intelligent editorial approach. With an emphasis on the production, editorial and typographical values of a book, Alma Classics aspires to revitalize the whole experience of reading the classics.

I had a copy of David Copperfield for Christmas in 1957 in a handsome blue leather edition that was intended to be kept forever, a gift from a loving Aunt and Uncle who wanted to foster my growing love of classic literature. Most of my classics were Regency Classics, and I had Robin Hood, King Arthur and Lorna Doone, together with a couple of Dickens: Great Expectations and Oliver Twist, and also Treasure Island. Regrettably, I didn't keep this handsome leather-bound volume, and I'm overjoyed to have it back on my shelf courtesy of Alma Evergreens. I love the stylised design of Alma's paperbacks, and I love the fact that I have nearly nine hundred pages of Dickens to read over Christmas! Update: I've just finished David Copperfield whilst waiting for Spring Comes to Emmerdale to arrive - this has to be my new favourite Dickens! The characters are sublime - Betsey Trotwood, Little Amy, Agnes, Uriah Heap, Barkis (who is willing) and Peggotty etc. It's a genuine page turner, and a great, great story. There is humour of the Victorian kind, and tragedy as you would expect, set in Victorian Britain as it is. There is the bullying by Mr Murdstone and his poisonous sister, both of whom Aunt Betsey treats with disdain and contempt in the most satisfying way, and she certainly tells them their fortune in a scene that marks the main turning point in David's life. It's a family saga of gigantic proportions. And the good news is that there's a new film out in January, The Personal History of David Copperfield starring Dev Patel (?!), Hugh Laurie, Tilda Swinton and Ben Whishaw - something to look forward to after reading this extraordinary book. There will doubtless be a movie tie-in book, but for me, Alma Classics' edition is all you need. This is Charles Dickens at his very finest, and it's treated in the finest possible way by Alma. Read it and enjoy the King of British literature at his very best and most engaging. More Alma Classics on the Alma Classics page.

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.


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