Val McDermid: The Vanishing Point Sunday, Nov 11 2012 

Prolific Scots writer Val McDermid is back with a stand alone that will grab you from page one and keep you flipping until its surprising and eventful resolution. If you aren’t a McDermid fan by now, despite Auntie M expounding this gifts through reviews of her several series and excellent stand alones, now is the time to meet her acquaintance.

The Vanishing Point opens with UK ghost writer Stephanie Harker and her adoptive son trying to enter the US for a much-needed vacation.

The metal in Stephanie’s leg always sets off the security alarm, and she’s prepped young Jimmy to mind their luggage whilst she’s escorted to the clear cubicle to await her pat-down.

Then a kidnapper, disguised as a TSA agent, leads Jimmy away, and Stephanie’s attempts to rescue him are seen by the real TSA agents as an attempt to breach security. She’s detained over her protests and ultimately tasered, helpless to prevent Jimmy being kidnapped as they disappear into the crowded airport.

Once the situation is finally explained, valuable time has been lost, but FBI agent Vivian McKuras soon realizes this is a highly unusual situation, one heightened by the confusing first moments which have allowed a kidnapper to spirit Jimmy away. The boy’s birth mother was the reality star Scarlett, who gave Stephanie custody of her only child when she was dying of cancer, believing the writer would be the best person to provide Jimmy a stable life after her death.

Scotland Yard detective Nick Nikolaides, who knows Stephanie and her complicated background, investigates in England. Both Stephanie and Scarlett have had negative relationships with men in their pasts, and Nick and Stephanie are all too aware of the various ways Jimmy’s abduction could turn out very badly.

This compelling thriller touches every parent on a visceral level, while the possible causes for the kidnapping multiply as McDermid has Stephanie explain the back story to the FBI agent.

The reader follows the timeline of Stephanie’s relationship with Scarlett and their blossoming friendship that led to Stephanie being named as Jimmy’s legal guardian. There are enough players and possibilities for suspects to chose from as their story unfolds: the boy’s pampered, drug-addicted father’s family; a stranger after ransom from the wealthy Scarlett’s estate; or even a demented fan who might have wanted a piece of Scarlett.

When the truth of the situation is made evident, this well-plotted thriller will have you in awe of McDermid’s talents to keep readers on the edge of their seats. Her powerful and unexpected climax is nothing short of a writer’s dream, which is why McDermid recently received the Crime Writers’ Association Cartier Diamond Dagger Award for outstanding achievement in the field of crime writing.

Mark Billingham: Good as Dead Sunday, Aug 12 2012 

A word first on television made from novels:

Mark Billingham’s novels include a stand-alone, In the Dark, and the DI Tom Thorne series, a character Lee Child has compared to Morse and Rebus. Thorne is now a television series in the UK and Auntie M has seen each of the three-parters that illustrate Billingham’s first two in the series, Sleepyhead and Scaredy Cat. Actor David Morrissey, also executive producer, read a Thorne novel and enjoyed it; then was pleasantly surprised to read he was exactly the actor whom the author pictured playing his detective inspector one, who plays close to, and sometimes, over the line.

The teleplays follow the the original story-lines closely, with the exception of a few casting changes, as in making Thorne’s superior, Brigstocke, a woman. His best friend, pathologist Phil Hendricks is described in the books as a tall, bald, heavily pierced and tattooed Mancunian. In the series, he’s aptly played by shorter Irishman, Aidan Gillen, whose head full of bushy dark hair nonetheless conveys the spirit of the original character as drawn by Billingham. But these are small changes.

What’s in full force is the power of the stories Billingham originally told, and Morrissey’s ability to get Tom Thorne’s ambivalent character just right. Here’s Gillen on the left and Morrissey on the right.

More of the novels are planned for future filming by Sky1; check the local satellite listings in your area.

Now on to the newest Thorne novel, Good as Dead (The Demands in the US).

Change is on Tom Thorne’s mind after upheaval in his personal life. He’s sold his beloved but not fixable old BMW for an updated model he’s still getting used to; he’s put his flat on the market; and he’s even considering a job transfer.

Then he finds himself called for by name, requested by a shopkeeper who has barricaded himself and two hostages into his news shop.

Thorne remembers the man’s name from a prior case involving manslaughter and the man’s son, who received an unusually long sentence in prison for what seemed to be manslaughter in self-defense.

The hostages are a cowardly banker and a DI from the Child Protection Unit whom Thorne remembers from a former case.

Helen Weeks’ partner was killed when she was pregnant with her son, now eight months old. Both hostages are in Amin Akhtar’s shop when harassment by local thugs causes him to snap, a classic case of being in the wrong place at just the wrong time.

Yet Amin has a specific point to holding these two by gunpoint. They are the leverage he needs for Thorne to investigate the apparent suicide of the his son in prison.

Convinced the youth wouldn’t have taken his own life, Amin tasks Thorne with unraveling the secrets behind his son’s death.

The threads Thorne pulls will have unexpected and surprising twists, in the way that Billingham does so well, as Thorne puts his career on the line to find the truth. Time is against him as hours and then days pass as he tries to find the truth about what happened at the youth institution housing Amin’s son.

And in the end, not everyone will walk out of that shop alive.

Billingham’s novels are complex and compelling, filled with with the right amount of psychological insight into his very human character’s mental state. The tension is taut and Billingham manages to keep getting better with each novel. The can’t come fast enough.

Lee Lofland

The Graveyard Shift

S L Hollister, author

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The Graveyard Shift

S L Hollister, author

Welcome to Leeward

Liz Loves Books

The Wonderful World of Reading

The Life of Guppy

the care and feeding of our little fish

dru's book musings

Reading is a wonderful adventure!

JoHanna Massey

"I tramp the perpetual journey." Walt Whitman

MiddleSisterReviews.com

(mid'-l sis'-tǝr) n. the reader's favorite sister

My train of thoughts on...

Smile! Don't look back in anger.

K.R. Morrison, Author

My author site--news and other stuff about books and things

The Wickeds

Wicked Good Mysteries

John Bainbridge Writer

Indie Writer and Publisher

Some Days You Do ...

Writers & Writing, my own & other people's; movies, art, music & the search for a perfect flat white - the bits & pieces of a writing life.

Gaslight Crime

Authors and reviewers of historical crime fiction

Crimezine

#1 for Crime

Mellotone70Up

John Harvey on Books & Writing - his own & other people 's - Art, Music, Movies, & the elusive search for the perfect Flat White.

A thrilling Murder-Mystery...

...now being made into a radio drama

Past Offences: Classic crime, thrillers and mystery book reviews

The best mystery and crime fiction (up to 1987): Book and movie reviews