Wednesday, December 7, 2022

New Release News - And My "Twice-Checked List" by Cathy Ace

This week I get the chance to write about “Books (or book-adjacent "things") I'm happy to recommend this gift-giving season” – which is excellent…and a bit daunting, so here goes.

Well, the first thing I want to say is: whatever the reason for the gift-giving, the answer to the question “What should I give?” is always “A book”!

The second thing I want to say is: all the MINDS have books out there – check them out first 😉

So now we’re up to my third caveat which is this: I don’t read anything but crime, unless I’m doing a specific bit of research so, as long as that’s a given, we’ll be good.

And, finally, my fourth point: I’m Welsh, (and now Canadian too), and find most of the books I read are written by British authors; I think it’s the language, tempo, and rhythm I’m used to and comfortable with, so I’ve decided to give you a quick trip around the UK.

QUICK PROMO HERE: The 6th book in my WISE Enquiries Agency Mysteries series is being published on December 29th 2022 - YES, that soon! 

If you sign up for my newsletter at the home page on my website you'll be the first to see the cover, and get the pre-order link (newsletter will be sent on December 11th). 

Just click through here to subscribe:

Here's wishing you and yours whatever you wish for yourselves (dare I hope it's one of my books?) as we end one year and begin another, Cathy 😊


Alis Hawkins: The Black and the White

England, 1349: The Black Death is tearing through the country and those not yet afflicted are living in fear.

Martin Collyer wakes up in his family's charcoaling hut in the Forest of Dean to find his father dead on the bed beside him, half-sewn into his shroud. As Martin’s most recent memory is of being given the last rites, he cannot account for why he is alive and why his father – whose body bears not a trace of the plague – is dead.

With no home to go to and set free from the life of virtual servitude that his father had planned for him, Martin sets off on a journey across England to seek salvation for his father’s unconfessed soul.

He befriends another traveller on the way. But the man – Hob Cleve – seems to be harbouring dark secrets of his own.

As more suspicious deaths occur, Martin is left wondering whether Hob can be trusted.

Alis also writes the Teifi Coroner series, which I very much enjoy, and yet I am recommending this older release because it’s an excellent standalone...a quick hit!


Mark Ellis: Dead in the Water

Summer, 1942: The Second World War rages on but Britain now faces the Nazi threat with America at its side.

In a bombed-out London swarming with gangsters and spies, DCI Frank Merlin continues his battle against rampant wartime crime. A mangled body is found in the Thames just as some items of priceless art go mysteriously missing. What sinister connection links the two?

Merlin and his team follow a twisting trail of secrets and lies as they investigate a baffling and deadly puzzle.

Excellent installment in this excellent series – and he's from Swansea, like me, how could I not recommend it!?

Louise Mumford: The Safe House

She told you the house would keep you safe. She lied.

Esther is safe in the house. For sixteen years, she and her mother have lived off the grid, protected from the dangers of the outside world. For sixteen years, Esther has never seen another single soul.

Until today.

Today there’s a man outside the house. A man who knows Esther’s name, and who proves that her mother’s claims about the outside world are false. A man who is telling Esther that she’s been living a ie.

Is her mother keeping Esther safe – or keeping her prisoner?

Chilling and thrilling – and really, really good!

Philip Gwynne Jones: Angels of Venice

It's the night of 12 November 2019. The worst flooding in 50 years hits the city of Venice. 85% of La Serenissima is underwater. Gale force winds roar across the lagoon and along the narrow streets. And the body of Dr Jennifer Whiteread- a young British art historian, specialising in the depiction of angels in Venetian painting - is found floating in a flooded antique bookshop on the Street of the Assassins.

As the local police struggle to restore order to a city on its knees, Nathan Sutherland - under pressure from the British Ambassador and distraught relatives - sets out into the dark and rain-swept streets in an attempt to discover the truth behind Whiteread's death.

The trail leads to the "Markham Foundation", a recent and welcome addition to the list of charities working to preserve the ancient city. Charming, handsome and very, very rich, Giles Markham is a well-known and popular figure in the highest Venetian social circles, and has the ear of both the Mayor and the Patriarch.

But a man with powerful friends may also have powerful enemies. And Nathan is about to learn that, in Venice at least, angels come in many forms - merciful, fallen and vengeful...

More than happy to go to Venice with Philip, you should try it!

To find more Welsh crime writers, and to find out about 2023’s Gwyl Crime Cymru Festival in Aberystwyth, check out the Crime Cymru website:



Mick Herron: Bad Actors

In London’s MI5 headquarters a scandal is brewing that could disgrace the entire intelligence community. The Downing Street superforecaster—a specialist who advises the Prime Minister’s office on how policy is likely to be received by the electorate—has disappeared without a trace. Claude Whelan, who was once head of MI5, has been tasked with tracking her down.

 But the trail leads him straight back to Regent’s Park itself, with First Desk Diana Taverner as chief suspect. Has Taverner overplayed her hand at last? Meanwhile, her Russian counterpart, Moscow intelligence’s First Desk, has cheekily showed up in London and shaken off his escort. Are the two unfortunate events connected?

Over at Slough House, where Jackson Lamb presides over some of MI5’s most embittered demoted agents, the slow horses are doing what they do best, and adding a little bit of chaos to an already unstable situation . . .

There are bad actors everywhere, and they usually get their comeuppance before the credits roll. But politics is a dirty business, and in a world where lying, cheating and backstabbing are the norm, sometimes the good guys can find themselves outgunned.

I am a lover of le Carre, Deighton, and Fleming…and Herron is my go-to read for all things spy-related. Love, love, love these books – characters, dialogue, and plots are fantastic, but – for me – it’s his descriptive writing that really grabs me.

Elly Griffiths: The Locked Room

Three years after her mother’s death, Ruth is finally sorting through her things when she finds a curious relic: a decades-old photograph of her own Norfolk cottage—before she lived there—with a peculiar inscription on the back. Ruth returns to the cot­tage to uncover its meaning as Norfolk’s first cases of Covid-19 make headlines, leaving her and Kate to shelter in place there. They struggle to stave off isolation by clapping for frontline workers each evening and befriending a kind neighbor, Zoe, from a distance.

Meanwhile, Nelson is investigating a series of deaths of women that may or may not be suicide. When he links a case to an archaeological dis­covery, he breaks curfew to visit Ruth and enlist her help. But the further Nelson investigates the deaths, the closer he gets to Ruth’s isolated cot­tage—until Ruth, Zoe, and Kate all go missing, and Nelson is left scrambling to find them before it’s too late.

I have reached the point where I believe that Ruth Galloway is a real person, and someone I’d very much like to have dinner with…so being on this part of her life journey was as much of a delight as ever. Everything Elly Griffiths writes is a joy to read.


Lee and Andrew Child: No Plan B

In Gerrardsville, Colorado, a woman dies under the wheels of a moving bus. The death is ruled a suicide. But Jack Reacher saw what really happened: A man in a gray hoodie and jeans, moving stealthily, pushed the victim to her demise—before swiftly grabbing the dead woman’s purse and strolling away.

When another homicide is ruled an accident, Reacher knows this is no coincidence. With a killer on the loose, Reacher has no time to waste to track down those responsible.

But Reacher is unaware that these crimes are part of something much larger and more far-reaching: an arsonist out for revenge, a foster kid on the run, a cabal of powerful people involved in a secret conspiracy with many moving parts. There is no room for error, but they make a grave one. They don’t consider Reacher a threat. “There’s too much at stake to start running from shadows.” But Reacher isn’t a shadow. He is flesh and blood. And relentless when it comes to making things right.

For when the threat is Reacher, there is No Plan B.

It’s Reacher, and this is a strong Reacher book…I am very much enjoying the books written by the brothers together.


Lesley Thomson: The Companion

In a grand old mansion in the middle of the Sussex countryside, seven people have seen more than they should...

The new chilling thriller from Lesley Thomson. James Ritchie was looking forward to a boys' day out with his son, Wilbur – even if he was a little late picking him up from the home of his ex-wife, Anna. Annoyed by his late arrival, and competing for their son's attention, Anna leaves the two of them to their day with the promise of a roast dinner when Wilbur returns. But Anna will never see her family again. That afternoon, James and Wilbur are found dead, the victims of a double stabbing on the beach. DI Toni Kemp, of Sussex police, must unravel a case which has shocked the county to its core. What she discovers will lead her to Blacklock House, a grand country mansion, long ago converted into flats.

Here in the middle of nowhere, where a peacock struts the lawn, and a fountain plays intermittently, seven long-term residents have seen more than they should. But this is a community who are good at keeping secrets.

Thoroughly enjoyable, thoroughly British standalone.

(NB: website under construction as I type)



CS Robertson (new pen name for Craig Robertson): The Undiscovered Deaths of Grace McGill

Death is not the end. For Grace McGill, it's only the beginning.

When people die alone and undiscovered, it's her job to clean up what's left behind - whether it's clutter, bodily remains or dark secrets.

When an old man lies undetected in his flat for months, it seems an unremarkable life and an unnoticed death. But Grace knows that everyone has a story and that all deaths mean something more.

When he was writing as Craig Robertson, I read every book, and loved them all. Now in his new incarnation as CS Roberston, the voice and talent is there, and I enjoyed this new direction very much.


Val McDermid: 1989

It’s 1989 and Allie Burns is back. Older and maybe wiser, she’s running the northern news operation of the Sunday Globe, chafing at losing her role in investigative journalism and at the descent into the gutter of the UK tabloid media. But there’s plenty to keep her occupied. The year begins with the memorial service for the victims of the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, but Allie has barely filed her copy when she stumbles over a story about HIV/AIDS that will shock her into a major change of direction. The world of newspapers is undergoing a revolution, there’s skullduggery in the medical research labs and there are seismic rumblings behind the Iron Curtain. When murder is added to this potent mix, Allie is forced to question all her old certainties.

Readers are having a great time time-traveling with Val, and 1989 is a seamless, riveting novel that brings us once again face to face with how very much past is prologue, and how history’s sins stay with us.

You don’t need to have read the previous book, 1979, for this one to work – but I would recommend you do…because they are both brilliant.

Stuart MacBride: No Less The Devil

It's been seventeen months since the Bloodsmith butchered his first victim and Operation Maypole is still no nearer to catching him. The media is whipping up a storm, the top brass are demanding results, but the investigation is sinking fast.

Now isn't the time to get distracted with other cases, but Detective Sergeant Lucy McVeigh doesn't have much choice. When Benedict Strachan was just eleven, he hunted down and killed a homeless man. No one's ever figured out why Benedict did it, but now, after sixteen years, he's back on the streets again - battered, frightened, convinced a shadowy 'They' are out to get him, and begging Lucy for help.

It sounds like paranoia, but what if he's right? What if he really is caught up in something bigger and darker than Lucy's ever dealt with before? What if the Bloodsmith isn't the only monster out there? And what's going to happen when Lucy goes after them?

An author who writes dark…very dark…yet I still laugh out loud (don’t judge me) and adore the humanity within the inhumanity.


Ian Rankin: A Heart Full Of Headstones

John Rebus stands accused: on trial for a crime that could put him behind bars for the rest of his life.

But what drove a good man to cross the line?

Detective Inspector Siobhan Clarke may well find out. Clarke is tasked with the city’s most explosive case in years, an infamous cop, at the center of decades of misconduct, has gone missing. Finding him will expose not only her superiors, but her mentor John Rebus. And Rebus himself may not have her own interests at heart, as the repayment of a past debt places him in the crosshairs of both crime lords and his police brethren.

One way or another, a reckoning is coming – and John Rebus may be hearing the call for last orders…

It’s Rankin, and Rebus…I enjoy the voice of one, and reading about the life of the other (yes, Rebus is real to me). Fantastic, satisfying read.


Dervla McTiernan: The Murder Rule

First Rule: Make them like you.

Second Rule: Make them need you.

Third Rule: Make them pay.

They think I’m a young, idealistic law student, that I’m passionate about reforming a corrupt and brutal system.

They think I’m working hard to impress them.

They think I’m here to save an innocent man on death row.

 They're wrong. I’m going to bury him.

Another strong standalone from this author whose voice I enjoy reading very much, even when she’s writing about challenging topics.


Adrian McKinty: The Island

After moving from a small country town to Seattle, Heather Baxter marries Tom, a widowed doctor with a young son and teenage daughter. A working vacation overseas seems like the perfect way to bring the new family together, but once they’re deep in the Australian outback, the jet-lagged and exhausted kids are so over their new mom.

When they discover remote Dutch Island, off-limits to outside visitors, the family talks their way onto the ferry, taking a chance on an adventure far from the reach of iPhones and Instagram.

But as soon as they set foot on the island, which is run by a tightly knit clan of locals, everything feels wrong. Then a shocking accident propels the Baxters from an unsettling situation into an absolute nightmare.

When Heather and the kids are separated from Tom, they are forced to escape alone, seconds ahead of their pursuers.

Now it’s up to Heather to save herself and the kids, even though they don’t trust her, the harsh bushland is filled with danger, and the locals want her dead.

Heather has been underestimated her entire life, but she knows that only she can bring her family home again and become the mother the children desperately need, even if it means doing the unthinkable to keep them all alive.

Hard to contemplate where he’d go after The Chain, this is truly dark, scary, and wonderful!



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By the way - if you'd like to find out more about my work - you can do so at my website:


Catriona McPherson said...

Oh my Good Lord - I need to retire from writing to have a chance of reading all this treasure!

Kathy Reel said...

Cathy, I'm so happy to see The Locked Room and The Companion on your list. Elly/Dom and Lesley are two of my favorite authors and people. I also read The Island by Adrian McKinty, and it was so suspenseful. There are several others on your list I intend to still get to, including Craig Robertson's The Undiscovered Deaths of Grace McGill.

And, I need to hear more about this WISE Inquiries Agency book coming out right away.

Cathy Ace said...

Nooooo....DO NOT retire, Catriona!!!

Cathy Ace said...

Hi Kathy - I think we have some similar tastes!!! And I will DM you about the new WISE book ;-)