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The Times and Sunday Times
Thursday January 26 2017 | Issue 20
Crime Club
Karen Robinson
By Karen Robinson
Want to know the secret of successful crime writing? Join our Masterclass on March 20 to find out. We have assembled five stars from the crime-writing and publishing world to pass on the tricks of the trade in what promises to be a fascinating event. It's probably worth coming even if you don't have authorial aspirations, just to enjoy an evening of top-class literary insights and gossip. See full details below and find out how to book your place. Of course, if you simply want to carry on reading the best of crime and thriller fiction, look no further than this month's recommendations, from a European classic to a giggle-tastic Los Angeles adventure.

I hope you are continuing to enjoy Crime Club. Email me at the address below and let me know what you think.

■ Find previous issues of Crime Club here
Karen Robinson
The Sunday Times
Crime and thriller masterclass
Do you want to be a crime writer? A really successful crime writer? We have recruited a panel of the top names in crime and thriller publishing to share their expertise at our Crime Club Masterclass on Monday, March 20. For just £45 you can join us to learn the secrets of creating great crime and thriller fiction.

On the panel (from left):

Henry Sutton runs the University of East Anglia’s MA in Crime Fiction, and has written nine novels: ask him about structure, craft and technique.

Charles Cumming is the author of eight spy thrillers, partly based on his own experiences with MI6. Charles will share his ideas about turning fact into fiction, and how to write from both experience and imagination.

Literary agent Jane Gregory has masterminded the careers of Val McDermid and Minette Walters, among others, and knows exactly what she’s looking for in the next great crime writer.

Julia Wisdom edits and publishes Stuart MacBride, SJ Parris and Simon Toyne. She can tell you what publishers want and don’t want.

Sophie Hannah, an international bestseller, writes intricate psychological thrillers and with the blessing of the Agatha Christie estate she has also written two brand-new Hercule Poirot novels. Who better to discuss what the modern writer can learn from Agatha Christie, and what works — and what doesn’t work — to create a successful psychological thriller?

The masterclass will give all guests access to each of the panel in small groups, so there will be plenty of opportunity to have your specific questions answered.

To find out more, and to book, click here.
MC Beaton
MC Beaton
Ashley Jensen playing Agatha Raisin and, inset, MC Beaton
Don’t mess with MC Beaton, she’s not as cosy as she looks
You wrote nearly 100 Regency romances before turning to crime. Were you ever tempted to introduce the odd murder to liven them up?
I actually did put a good few murders in my Regencies. Impoverished young bucks were always spying for Napoleon, the heroine finds out and her life is in danger, his lordship rides to her rescue and happily ever after. The historical research was enormous. I still have an A-Z of London 1811.
What makes crime “cosy”? Is it the setting, the characters or the tone of the writing?
Calling some detective books cosy is a patronising remark and the next person who makes it about my work will get the Glasgow kiss. Oh, I’m joking, you Thought Police out there. Because no one gets their testicles nailed to the wall, and the villain is depraved because he’s deprived, my books are considered not gritty enough. The village mystery is therefore damned as being unreal.
What kind of crimes are unacceptable in a “cosy” adventure?
I can only speak for myself. I don’t like to read about torture and I certainly don’t like books where children come to harm.
Where do you get your plots?
I get my plots from studying people in villages and murders in the newspapers.
Was Robert Carlyle the right choice of actor to portray Hamish Macbeth in the TV shows?
I don’t think so. He is a very fine actor but he did carry on like a wee scunner when he insisted Hamish should smoke pot.
Which crime authors do you enjoy?
I like detective stories with a bit of humour in them like Simon Brett’s Charles Paris mysteries or Stuart MacBride’s lesbian inspector who is always munching sweeties. Colin Watson’s Flaxborough novels are the best.
Are there plans for another Agatha Raisin series with Ashley Jensen?
I think there is going to be an Agatha two-hour special — but that’s a guess.
Death of a Ghost by MC Beaton (a Hamish Macbeth story) is published by Constable on February 21. Buy it here / Read first chapter
Looking ahead: our February picks
The Pledge by Friedrich Dürrenmatt, translated by Joel Agee
Pushkin Vertigo
Reissue of a 1958 classic novella by the acclaimed Swiss writer. A retired police chief, Dr H, tells the crime-writer narrator about one of his cases, in which a detective becomes obsessed with finding the killer of a young girl, laying an extraordinary trap to snare him. Powerful and compelling, even as Dr H uses the story to undermine all the basic principles of crime fiction. Read first chapter
Buy this book >
My Sister’s Bones by Nuala Ellwood
Kate returns from reporting the horrors of Syria to the banality of Herne Bay. She suffers searing flashbacks to the war zone, grief for her dead mother and worries about her sister’s alcoholism — but are these things masking a greater evil on her doorstep? The tension racks up in this sensitive portrayal of the war reporter’s burden, dedicated to Sunday Times journalist Marie Colvin. Read first chapter
Buy this book >
★ Star pick
Rupture by Ragnar Jonasson, translated by Quentin Bates
Orenda Books
Family relationships, whether of victims, suspects or the police, are never entirely relaxed or straightforward in Jonasson’s Iceland, a place of claustrophobic communities tenaciously guarding their secrets. In an isolated town, local policeman Ari Thor is delving into a 50-year-old death that might not have been suicide — then a child goes missing. Chill and fear rise from the page in this dark and tangled mystery.
Read first chapter
Buy this book >
Her Perfect Life by Sam Hepburn
Have-it-all celebrity cook Gracie comes into contact with the envious Juliet, a have-sod-all struggling single mother, in this better than average lifestyle-in-jeopardy gripper. Read first chapter
Buy this book >
Written in Bones by James Oswald
Michael Joseph
An imaginatively located corpse sets DI Tony McLean on a murder investigation that takes him to Edinburgh’s dark side, where his esoteric inclinations put him into conflict with the powers that be. The strength of his storytelling establishes Oswald’s ranking as a titan of Tartan noir. Read first chapter
Buy this book >
★ Star pick
Smoke over Malibu by Tim Walker
William Heinemann
Impoverished posh Brit Lucky Kluge is scraping along in Los Angeles as an antiques dealer (think mid-century credenzas, not Chippendale), when his former screenwriting partner goes missing and things start getting risky. Amusing, well observed and highly enjoyable take on the zeitgeist of contemporary Angelenos. Read first chapter
Buy this book >
Stasi Wolf by David Young
Willkommen back to Oberleutnant Karin Müller, who debuted last year in the acclaimed Stasi Child. She’s landed another complicated case, made even more tricky by the fact that we’re in East Germany in 1975, and second-guessing the dreaded Stasi is a matter of life and death, even for the police. Against the grim background of a socialist-paradise new town — which makes Milton Keynes look like St Mary Mead — Müller is on the trail of a child-kidnapper. Read first chapter
Buy this book >
The Killing Bay by Chris Ould
Titan Books
Whale hunts would appear to be a popular feature of life on the Faroe Islands — this is the second thriller I’ve read in which the bloody traditional pastime and the activists who oppose it are key to the plot. Still, the unique character of this bleak and isolated outpost of Scandi noir is well evoked in Ould’s second Faroe novel featuring outsider detective Jan Reyna. Read first chapter
Buy this book >
Blood & Gold by Leo Kanaris
The everyday deprivations of the Greek financial crisis provide the background to Kanaris’s second George Zakiris adventure. The private eye travels between Athens and the islands, becoming perilously enmeshed in a web of mysteries involving the disappearance of a body, the death of a musician and the disappearance of her husband. Anglo-Greek Kanaris keeps it light and characterful amid the dishonesty and corruption. Read first chapter
Buy this book >
Dead Girls Dancing by Graham Masterton
Head of Zeus
Masterton does not hold back with visceral descriptions of the damage bad people can inflict on each other, on innocent victims and even on animals. But the violence is never gratuitous, even as it piles pressure on Cork detective Katie Maguire to work out who torched a studio, killing an entire Irish dance troupe, and how it might be connected to a resurgence of crazed political extremism. Read first chapter
Buy this book >
The Asset by Shane Kuhn
Air-travel security expert Kennedy is drafted into an elite squad to stop a shadowy terrorist unleashing havoc worse than 9/11 on the US, in a cunning plot involving the country's airlines and airports. It’s one hell of a bumpy ride, but Kuhn keeps the pages turning with more than a few audacious plot twists. Though it's probably not the ideal in-flight reading. Read first chapter
Buy this book >
Emergency Admissions by Kit Wharton
Fourth Estate
Ok, it’s not a crime book, but Kit Wharton’s sometimes shocking, sometimes distressing and sometimes hilarious account of his experiences as a Brighton ambulance driver could furnish a novelist short on inspiration with any number of attention-grabbing scenarios — though the most intense drama comes from snippets of memoir about growing up with his volatile journalist parents. Read first chapter
Buy this book >
Dine with Daniel
Daniel Cole’s career trajectory has been astonishing: from Bournemouth ambulance paramedic to a serial-killer-thriller writer with publishing deals in 34 countries for his debut, Ragdoll, which Orion is bringing out next month (Buy it here / Read first chapter).

Daniel is inviting one Crime Club reader plus a friend to have lunch with him in London, where they’ll receive a signed first edition of the book. If you fancy tucking in with the author who can dream up a plot where the dismembered parts of six bodies are stitched together to form one “corpse”, you can enter the draw here. Closing date: February 10.
Eastern promise
The Japanese love their crime authors, and so does Nicolás Obregón

Cans of beer with braille on them. A sign informing you that Japan is the world’s biggest importer of reggae. Octopus ice cream. Petrol station attendants bowing as cars pull away. I, for one, left Japan with more questions than answers. And, along with them, a newfound obsession with the chilling case of the Miyazawa family — an unsolved murder of four in the year 2000 that was the starting point for Blue Light Yokohama, my novel about a quietly grieving Tokyo homicide detective.

Called suiri shosetsu (“deductive reasoning fiction”), the crime genre is wildly popular — and there are some excellent translations available. Keigo Higashino’s The Devotion of Suspect X sold over 2m copies in Japan, while Hideo Yokoyama’s Six Four sold an incredible 1m in a week. At least ten major awards are given annually, one of the most prestigious being the Edogawa Ranpo Award (Ranpo is considered the doyen of Japanese crime — his name a phonetic translation in homage to Edgar Allan Poe).

But crime isn’t just a popular pulp genre. Literary heavyweights such as Ryu Murakami and Haruki Murakami have both dabbled in crime fiction while Miyuki Miyabe’s award-winning 1992 novel, All She Was Worth, managed to bridge the gap between critical and commercial appeal. For an insight into this fascinating country, the genre Nippon noir — with its inventive plots and unconventional demises driven by strict gun laws — is an excellent place to start. (Image: Alamy)

Nicolás Obregón’s top Japanese crime titles

Out by Natsuo Kirino, translated by Stephen Snyder
A work of economical and lyrical genius by one of the new wave of female Japanese crime writers about four women working nights at a factory and the murder of an abusive husband. Buy it here

Points and Lines by Seicho Matsumoto, translated by Makiko Yamamoto & Paul C Blum
Kodansha America
Following an apparent love-suicide pact on a lonely beach, two detectives embark on a dizzyingly millimetric investigation that hinges on train timetables and ultimately delves into corporate malfeasance. Published in 1958 by one of Japan’s most enduring mystery writers, Points and Lines is a fascinating glimpse into postwar Japan, its crimes and politics. Buy it here

In the Miso Soup by Ryu Murakami, translated by Ralph McCarthy
A terrifying and beautifully written book about a sex-tourist guide contracted by a strange American to show him a good time in Tokyo’s underground scene: funny, disturbing, even philosophical. Buy it here

Blue Light Yokohama by Nicolás Obregón is published by Michael Joseph on February 2. Buy it here / Read first chapter
Crime wave: the latest books news
Screen gem: why should only movies and TV shows get trailers? Well, now books can have them too — when the publisher is being flash with the marketing cash — and Find Me, an intricate thriller by JS Monroe (formerly journalist Jon Stock) gets the Hollywood treatment in this moody bit of video ahead of its February 9 publication by Head of Zeus (Buy it here / Read first chapter). Sadly, although a crucial moment in the book takes place on Cromer Pier in Norfolk, the creative team steered clear of the location, perhaps not wishing to evoke associations with the climactic finale of 2013’s Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa, which was also filmed there.

What next, a theme park? Ian Rankin has announced that he will be holding a three-day festival in the summer to celebrate 30 years of his moody Scottish detective. RebusFest will include live music, walking tours, interactive events, screenings and talks, with experts, artists and performers on hand to burnish the Rebus image. The event will take place in Edinburgh from June 30 to July 2 — the full programme will be announced later this year.

Harrogate hots up: Weekend passes are already on sale for the annual Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival at the Old Swan Hotel in Harrogate from July 20-23. But before tickets to the Special Guest events go on sale on February 13, the organisers are offering one lucky Crime Club reader the chance to win a pair of tickets for one of these sessions with the superstars of crime. Star attractions include Lee Child, Ian Rankin, Dennis Lehane and Kathy Reichs, plus a Grantchester TV event featuring writer James Runcie and one of the show’s stars, Robson Green. For a chance to win, check out the full programme here, then email, stating which event you’d like to attend and the subject line: Special Guest Competition. The closing date is February 10.

Top of the class: Galaxy Quick Reads is a series of short, easy-to-read books priced at just £1 each. It’s a terrific annual campaign from The Reading Agency to get more people reading more often, and two new crime and thriller titles will join the series on February 2. Dead Simple, published by Orion, is a collection of short stories from eight bestselling authors, including Clare Mackintosh, James Oswald, Harry Bingham and Antonia Hodgson, and there is also One False Move, a standalone title from Dreda Say Mitchell, with more to come. Orion is offering 20 Crime Club readers the chance to win a copy of Dead Simple. Just email your name and address to, by February 10 and make the subject line: Dead Simple.
Crime in the papers
Marcel Berlins's crime roundup, including Little Deaths by Emma Flint, based on the trial of Alice Crimmins (pictured) for the murder of her children
Read the full story >
The actor whose imagination took a murderous turn, inspired by East London's gentrification
Read the full story >
Joan Smith's crime roundup
Read the full story >
The Fall Guy by James Lasdun , reviewed by Peter Kemp
Read the full story >
John Dugdale's thriller roundup
Read the full story >
Hail to the thief
Jake Arnott tells of the savvy criminals and corrupt thief-takers whose tales kept Georgian London gossiping

Crime journalism really took off in the early 18th century when chaplains at Newgate Gaol would take a confession from a condemned prisoner, then sell it on Grub Street. The story would be worked up into a pamphlet to be sold at the hanging of the offender as his “last dying words”. A cautionary tale for the public, which, if lurid enough, might earn the holy man a pretty penny. Compilations were made that became bestsellers such as “The Newgate Calendar”. A wise villain facing execution would make a deal directly with the publisher.

By the time housebreaker Jack Sheppard did such a thing, he already had some experience in negotiating his memoirs as his story had been told many times. Having escaped prison three times — and re-arrested after spectacular chase — Jack had become the most famous thief in London. He parlayed a book contract stipulating his retainer be paid to his mother at any time he might be “indisposed”, which indeed he was when he escaped, miraculously, for a fourth time. It was from this narrative that I first learnt of his mistress, the notorious Edgworth Bess, who led the young Jack astray. “A more wicked, deceitful, and lascivious wretch there is not living in England”, he said of her, thus inspiring me to make her the central character of my novel.

And the cops were as media-savvy as the villains back then. There was no coherent police force, only a corrupt system of self-appointed “thief-takers”. Two rivals in this racket, Charles Hitchen and Jonathan Wild, used pamphlets to post scandalous things about each other in print. This “paper-war” culminated in Wild outing Hitchen as gay and a frequenter of “molly-houses” with devastating effect as news travelled quickly through an internet of coffee-houses. Known as “penny-universities”, here one could get access to all the journals of the day for the price of a cup of coffee. And so the whole of London could keep up with the latest gossip and the wicked Jonathan Wild could assume the title of “Thief-Taker General”.

The Fatal Tree by Jake Arnott is published by Sceptre on February 23. Buy it here / Read first chapter
Mick Herron giveaway
Mick Herron's Slough House, his oppressive MI5 office block, is to 21st-century spy fiction what John le Carré’s The Circus was to the 20th century. His ingeniously plotted, darkly comic books have attracted praise and awards in lavish measure: Mark Billingham says “you NEED to read him”. To help you do just that, publisher John Murray is offering ten Crime Club readers the chance to win a set of Herron’s first three espionage grippers: Slow Horses, Dead Lions and Real Tigers. Just email your name and address to with “Herron” in the subject line by February 10.

Spook Street by Mick Herron is published by John Murray on February 9. Buy it here / Read first chapter
Crime bestsellers
Night School by Lee Child
Rather be the Devil by Ian Rankin
Betrayal by Martina Cole
The Whistler by John Grisham
The Bone Field by Simon Kernick
Cast Iron by Peter May
Private Delhi by James Patterson & Ashwin Sanghi
The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena
Run by Mandasue Heller
The Wrong Side of Goodbye by Michael Connelly

I'm Travelling Alone by Samuel Bjork
Nomad by James Swallow
The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
Baby Doll by Hollie Overton
Lie with Me by Sabine Durrant
Lying in Wait by Liz Nugent
Hide and Seek by MJ Arlidge
Crisis by Frank Gardner
Woman of God by James Patterson
Predator by Wilbur Smith & Tom Cain

Lists prepared and supplied by and copyright to Nielsen BookScan, taken from the TCM for the four weeks ending 24/01/17
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