Madly jealous at being unable to attend the hugely-successful Crimefest in Bristol I have revisited my recent reads and thought I’d share a few that have pool, beach and departure lounge potential.


WILLOW WALK by SJI Holliday: The funfair’s come to Bankstoun but the most thrilling ride is Holliday’s emotional rollercoaster through the claustrophobic moral maze of small town secrets, jealousies and dangerous desires.
Frustrated local copper Sgt Davie Gray has ambitions to move into CID but he has his hands full. He’s investigating a viciously attack on a young woman by an escaped psychiatric patient and a string of deaths caused by a potent new legal high. Davie is also increasingly troubled by the disturbing behaviour of girlfriend Marie but hesitates to act.
Holliday certainly does not hesitate to probe the minds and bodies of her desperate and damaged characters. Unflinching attention to detail lifts her inventive and compelling second Banktoun novel to another level.

It’s out now as an ebook and in paperback on June 10.


HARM by Hugh Fraser: Consider Poirot’s bemused Captain Hastings and the stern but fair Duke of Wellington in TV’s Sharpe. These portrayals give absolutely no clue to the hard-hitting style and content of actor Hugh Fraser’s first crime novel.
Rina Walker is a contract killer. When a planned hit in Mexico goes badly wrong Rina is seized by a drug gang who want to use her lethal skills.
The action – and the sex – is fast and brutal. The book certainly lives up to its title of Harm – and Rina’s story runs in tandem with the no-holds-barred account of her childhood in a London slum and how she became a killer.
Both storylines are full, fast and compelling, almost books in themselves. Each tends to slow the pace of the other but Rina and her two stories are strong enough to drive the narrative forward. I look forward to Fraser’s second Rina Walker novel, Threat, which is due out in June.


ART IN THE BLOOD, A Sherlock Holmes Adventure by Bonnie MacBird: You need to be confident or crazy to tinker with a national treasure such as Sherlock Holmes. So I approached Hollywood screenwriter Bonnie MacBird’s first “new” case in a series with caution, revolver in hand, keen to spot the slightest hint of wrongdoing. MacBird’s task is far from elementary and the book has echoes of Brett, Cumberbatch and Downey Jr but her extensive knowledge and enthusiasm for the world’s only consulting detective made me forget I wasn’t reading a Sir Arthur original. All the classic ingredients are there, a beautiful woman, a shady English aristocrat, assassins and a scheming Mycroft. Holmes and Watson travel to Paris and Lancashire to reveal sinister goings on at mill. In a pacy and twisting story, looming evil threatens their friendship and even their lives. MacBird certainly knows Holmes’s methods and applies them.


VIRAL by Helen FitzGerald: This book grabbed attention with its eye-popping opening line that painted a graphic picture of seedy Majorca nightlife in just six words. A reluctant Su is talked into a post-exams sunshine holiday by sister Leah and her mean-girl friends. When a video of Su’s public humiliation goes viral it triggers a soul-searching quest for retribution but the parents and daughters each have a different view of what that might mean. Viral is not just a fast-moving and compelling story. It’s also a brutal examination of how the tectonic plates of human frailty bump and grind within a family under extreme pressure.


BLOWBACK by Peter May: Forensic investigator Enzo MacLeod picks his way through a varied menu of suspects as he probes the death of celebrity 3* Michelin chef Marc Fraysse near his isolated restaurant in France’s Puy-de-Dome. A tight and twisting plot is flavoured with the amuse-bouche of Enzo’s complicated family and love life. May’s plot has all the subtlety and flavour of a Fraysse signature dish. Blowback is a feast of foodie noir washed down with the finest wines.


Well, that’s enough displacement activity for today. Back to the plotting board.