Tag Archives: 2018

2018 crime fiction and thrillers – looking ahead (January to May)

In the last of my three 2018 preview posts, it’s time for crime fiction and thrillers! Many of these are published each month and so this is a particularly selective post. I’m also not a big reader of psychological thrillers so this post very much reflects my personal taste. The books below are published between January and the end of May. I suspect I shall be adding plenty more to this list over the coming weeks… Historical crime can be found in the historical fiction preview post. You can read my selection of historical fiction books here and science fiction here.

Crime fiction and thrillers

The Gathering Dark by James Oswald (January; Michael Joseph)
How I love the Inspector McLean books and I jumped on this the moment it arrived. It’s a corker and I loved it but blimey is it darker than dark…. ‘A truck driver loses control in central Edinburgh, ploughing into a crowded bus stop and spilling his vehicle’s toxic load. The consequences are devastating. DI Tony McLean witnesses the carnage. Taking control of the investigation, he soon realises there is much that is deeply amiss – and everyone involved seems to have something to hide. But as McLean struggles to uncover who caused the tragedy, a greater crisis develops: the new Chief Superintendent’s son is missing, last seen in the area of the crash…’

The Chalk Man by CJ Tudor (January; Michael Joseph)
I finished this very late one night this week – an extraordinary debut. Clever, compelling and surprising, and as much horror as crime. ‘The Chalk Man is coming… None of us ever agreed on the exact beginning. Was it when we started drawing the chalk figures, or when they started to appear on their own? Was it the terrible accident? Or when they found the first body?’

If I Die Before I Wake by Emily KochIf I Die Before I Wake by Emily Koch (January; Harvill Secker)
I’ve recently finished this and so the review is on the way shortly. ‘How do you solve your own murder? Everyone believes Alex is in a coma, unlikely to ever wake up. As his family debate withdrawing life support, and his friends talk about how his girlfriend Bea needs to move on, he can only listen. But Alex soon begins to suspect that the accident that put him here wasn’t really an accident. Even worse, the perpetrator is still out there and Alex is not the only one in danger. As he goes over a series of clues from his past, Alex must use his remaining senses to solve the mystery of who tried to kill him, and try to protect those he loves, before they decide to let him go.’

This is How it Ends by Eva Dolan (January; Raven Books)
‘This is how it begins. With a near-empty building, the inhabitants forced out of their homes by property developers. With two women: idealistic, impassioned blogger Ella and seasoned campaigner, Molly. With a body hidden in a lift shaft. But how will it end?’

Need to Know by Karen ClevelandNeed to Know by Karen Cleveland (January; Bantam Press)
This is an outstanding psychological thriller with a great spy twist! ‘Vivian Miller is a CIA analyst assigned to uncover Russian sleeper cells in the USA. After accessing the computer of a potential Russian spy, she stumbles on a secret dossier of deep-cover agents living in her own country. Five seemingly normal people living in plain sight. A few clicks later, everything that matters to Vivian is threatened – her job, her husband, even her four children… Vivian has vowed to defend her country against all enemies, foreign and domestic. But now she’s facing impossible choices. Torn between loyalty and betrayal, allegiance and treason, love and suspicion, who can she trust? Will her next move be the right one?’

Hell Bay by Kate Rhodes (January; Simon & Schuster)
‘DI Ben Kitto needs a second chance. After ten years working for the murder squad in London, a traumatic event has left him grief-stricken. He’s tried to resign from his job, but his boss has persuaded him to take three months to reconsider. Ben plans to work in his uncle Ray’s boatyard, on the tiny Scilly island of Bryher where he was born, hoping to mend his shattered nerves. His plans go awry when the body of sixteen year old Laura Trescothick is found on the beach at Hell Bay. Her attacker must still be on the island because no ferries have sailed during a two-day storm. Everyone on the island is under suspicion. Dark secrets are about to resurface. And the murderer could strike again at any time.’

The Confession by Jo Spain (January; Quercus)
‘Late one night a man walks into the luxurious home of disgraced banker Harry McNamara and his wife Julie. The man launches an unspeakably brutal attack on Harry as a horror-struck Julie watches, frozen by fear. Just an hour later the attacker, JP Carney, has handed himself in to the police. He confesses to beating Harry to death, but JP claims that the assault was not premeditated and that he didn’t know the identity of his victim. With a man as notorious as Harry McNamara, the detectives cannot help wondering, was this really a random act of violence or is it linked to one of Harry’s many sins: corruption, greed, betrayal? This gripping psychological thriller will have you questioning, who – of Harry, Julie and JP – is really the guilty one? And is Carney’s surrender driven by a guilty conscience or is his confession a calculated move in a deadly game?’

Anatomy of a Scandal by Sarah Vaughan (January; Simon & Schuster)
‘A high-profile marriage thrust into the spotlight. A wife, determined to keep her family safe, must face a prosecutor who believes justice has been a long time coming. A scandal that will rock Westminster. And the women caught at the heart of it. Anatomy of a Scandal centres on a high-profile marriage that begins to unravel when the husband is accused of a terrible crime. Sophie is sure her husband, James, is innocent and desperately hopes to protect her precious family from the lies which might ruin them. Kate is the barrister who will prosecute the case – she is equally certain that James is guilty and determined he will pay for his crimes.’

A Darker State by David Young (February; Zaffre)
‘For the Stasi, it’s not just the truth that gets buried… The body of a teenage boy is found weighted down in a lake. Karin Müller, newly appointed Major of the People’s Police, is called to investigate. But her power will only stretch so far, when every move she makes is under the watchful eye of the Stasi. Then, when the son of Müller’s team member goes missing, it quickly becomes clear that there is a terrifying conspiracy at the heart of this case, one that could fast lead Müller and her young family into real danger. Can she navigate this complex political web and find the missing boy, before it’s too late?’

The Dark Angel by Elly Griffiths (February; Quercus)
A new novel by Elly Griffiths…. perfect. ‘Dr Ruth Galloway is flattered when she receives a letter from Italian archaeologist Dr Angelo Morelli, asking for her help. He’s discovered a group of bones in a tiny hilltop village near Rome but doesn’t know what to make of them. It’s years since Ruth has had a holiday, and even a working holiday to Italy is very welcome! So Ruth travels to Castello degli Angeli, accompanied by her daughter Kate and friend Shona. In the town she finds a baffling Roman mystery and a dark secret involving the war years and the Resistance. To her amazement she also soon finds Harry Nelson, with Cathbad in tow. But there is no time to overcome their mutual shock – the ancient bones spark a modern murder, and Ruth must discover what secrets there are in Castello degli Angeli that someone would kill to protect.’

Gallery of the Dead by Chris Carter (February; Simon & Schuster)
‘‘Thirty-seven years in the force, and if I was allowed to choose just one thing to erase from my mind, what’s inside that room would be it.’ That’s what a LAPD Lieutenant tells Detectives Hunter and Garcia of the Ultra Violent Crimes Unit as they arrive at one of the most shocking crime scenes they have ever attended. In a completely unexpected turn of events, the detectives find themselves joining forces with the FBI to track down a serial killer whose hunting ground sees no borders; a psychopath who loves what he does because to him murder is much more than just killing – it’s an art form. Welcome to The Gallery of the Dead.’

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart TurtonThe Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton (February; Raven Books)
I have had the pleasure of reading this already and it is absolutely fantastic! Hugely original, clever and mindblowing. A candidate for book of the year already. ”Somebody’s going to be murdered at the ball tonight. It won’t appear to be a murder and so the murderer won’t be caught. Rectify that injustice and I’ll show you the way out.’ It is meant to be a celebration but it ends in tragedy. As fireworks explode overhead, Evelyn Hardcastle, the young and beautiful daughter of the house, is killed. But Evelyn will not die just once. Until Aiden – one of the guests summoned to Blackheath for the party – can solve her murder, the day will repeat itself, over and over again. Every time ending with the fateful pistol shot. The only way to break this cycle is to identify the killer. But each time the day begins again, Aiden wakes in the body of a different guest. And someone is determined to prevent him ever escaping Blackheath…’

The Collector by Fiona Cummins (February; Macmillan)
‘Jakey escaped with his life and moved to a new town. His rescue was a miracle but his parents know that the Collector is still out there, watching, waiting… Clara, the girl he left behind, dreams of being found. Her mother is falling apart but she will not give up hope. The Collector has found an apprentice to take over his family’s legacy. But he can’t forget the one who got away and the detective who destroyed his dreams. DS Etta Fitzroy must hunt him down before his obsession destroys them all.’

Force of Nature by Jane Harper (February; Little Brown)
‘FIVE WENT OUT. FOUR CAME BACK… Is Alice here? Did she make it? Is she safe? In the chaos, in the night, it was impossible to say which of the four had asked after Alice’s welfare. Later, when everything got worse, each would insist it had been them. Five women reluctantly pick up their backpacks and start walking along the muddy track. Only four come out the other side. The hike through the rugged landscape is meant to take the office colleagues out of their air-conditioned comfort zone and teach resilience and team building. At least that is what the corporate retreat website advertises. Federal Police Agent Aaron Falk has a particularly keen interest in the whereabouts of the missing bushwalker. Alice Russell is the whistleblower in his latest case – and Alice knew secrets. About the company she worked for and the people she worked with. Far from the hike encouraging teamwork, the women tell Falk a tale of suspicion, violence and disintegrating trust. And as he delves into the disappearance, it seems some dangers may run far deeper than anyone knew.’

Look for Me by Lisa Gardner (February; Century)
‘Detective DD Warren and Flora Dane are in a race against time to save a young girl’s life – or bring her to justice. A family home has become a crime scene. Five people are involved: four of them have been savagely murdered; one – a sixteen-year-old girl – is missing. Was she lucky to have escaped? Or is her absence evidence of something sinister? Detective D. D. Warren is on the case, as is survivor-turned-avenger Flora Dane. Seeking different types of justice, they must make sense of the clues left behind by a young woman who, as victim or suspect, is silently pleading, Look for me.’

The Liar’s Girl by Catherine Ryan Howard (March; Corvus)
‘Her first love confessed to five murders. But the truth was so much worse. Dublin’s notorious Canal Killer, Will Hurley, is ten years into his life sentence when the body of a young woman is fished out of the Grand Canal. Though detectives suspect they are dealing with a copycat, they turn to Will for help. He claims he has the information the police need, but will only give it to one person – the girl he was dating when he committed his horrific crimes. Alison Smith has spent the last decade abroad, putting her shattered life in Ireland far behind her. But when she gets a request from Dublin imploring her to help prevent another senseless murder, she is pulled back to face the past – and the man – she’s worked so hard to forget.’

Panic Room by Robert Goddard (March; Bantam Press)
‘High on a Cornish cliff sits a vast uninhabited mansion. Uninhabited except for Blake, a young woman of dubious background, secretive and alone, currently acting as housesitter. The house has a panic room. Cunningly concealed, steel lined, impregnable – and apparently closed from within. Even Blake doesn’t know it’s there. She’s too busy being on the run from life, from a story she thinks she’s escaped. But her remote existence is going to be invaded when people come looking the house’s owner, missing rogue pharma entrepreneur, Jack Harkness. Suddenly the whole world wants to know where his money has gone. Soon people are going to come knocking on the door, people with motives and secrets of their own, who will be asking Blake the sort of questions she can’t – or won’t – want to answer. And will the panic room ever give up its secrets?’

Let Me Lie by Clare Mackintosh (March; Sphere)
‘The police say it was suicide. Anna says it was murder. They’re both wrong. One year ago, Caroline Johnson chose to end her life brutally: a shocking suicide planned to match that of her husband just months before. Their daughter, Anna, has struggled to come to terms with their loss ever since. Now with a young baby of her own, Anna misses her mother more than ever and starts to ask questions about her parents’ deaths. But by digging up the past, is she putting her future in danger? Sometimes it’s safer to let things lie…’.

Come and Find Me by Sarah Hilary (March; Headline)
I always look forward to the new Marnie Rome novel! ‘On the surface, Lara Chorley and Ruth Hull have nothing in common, other than their infatuation with Michael Vokey. Each is writing to a sadistic inmate, sharing her secrets, whispering her worst fears, craving his attention. DI Marnie Rome understands obsession. She’s finding it hard to give up her own addiction to a dangerous man: her foster brother, Stephen Keele. She wasn’t able to save her parents from Stephen. She lives with that guilt every day. As the hunt for Vokey gathers pace, Marnie fears one of the women may have found him – and is about to pay the ultimate price.’

The Darkness by Ragnar Jónasson (March; Michael Joseph)
‘Before Detective Inspector Hulda Hermannsdóttir of the Reykjavik Police is forced into early retirement she is told to investigate a cold case of her choice, and she knows just the one. A young woman found dead on remote seaweed-covered rocks. A woman who was looking for asylum and found only a watery grave. Her death ruled a suicide after a cursory investigation. But Hulda soon realizes that there was something far darker to this case. This was not the only young woman to disappear around that time. And no one is telling the whole story. When her own force tries to put the brakes on the investigation Hulda has just days to discover the truth. Even if it means risking her own life…’.

The Smiling Man by Joseph Knox (March; Doubleday)
This was my Christmas read and it is absolutely superb! Even better than the fantastic Sirens so don’t miss it. ‘‘I usually experienced the presence of a dead body as an absence, but in this case, it felt like a black hole opening up in front of me’. Disconnected from his history and careless of his future, Detective Aidan Waits has resigned himself to the night shift. An endless cycle of meaningless emergency calls and lonely dead ends. Until he and his partner, Detective Inspector Peter ‘Sutty’ Sutcliffe, are summoned to The Palace, a vast disused hotel in the centre of a restless, simmering city. There they find the body of a man. He is dead. And he is smiling. The tags have been removed from the man’s clothes. His teeth filed down and replaced. Even his fingertips are not his own. Only a patch sewn into the inside of his trousers gives any indication as to who he was, and to the desperate last act of his life… But even as Waits puts together the pieces of this stranger’s life, someone is sifting through the shards of his own. When the mysterious fires, anonymous phone calls and outright threats escalate, he realises that a ghost from his own past haunts his every move. And to discover the smiling man’s identity, he must finally confront his own.’

The Lost by Mari Hannah (March; Orion)
A new series begins by one of my favourite authors! ”He was her child. The only one she’d ever have. It would kill her to learn that he was missing.’ Alex arrives home from holiday to find that her ten-year-old son Daniel has disappeared. It’s the first case together for Northumbria CID officers David Stone and Frankie Oliver. Stone has returned to his roots with fifteen years’ experience in the Met, whereas Oliver is local, a third generation copper with a lot to prove, and a secret that’s holding her back. But as the investigation unfolds, they realise the family’s betrayal goes deeper than anyone suspected. This isn’t just a missing persons case. Stone and Oliver are hunting a killer.’

The Perfect Girlfriend by Karen Hamilton (March; Wildfire)
‘Juliette loves Nate. She will follow him anywhere. She’s even become a flight attendant for his airline, so she can keep a closer eye on him. They are meant to be. The fact that Nate broke up with her six months ago means nothing. Because Juliette has a plan to win him back. She is the perfect girlfriend. And she’ll make sure no one stops her from getting exactly what she wants. True love hurts, but Juliette knows it’s worth all the pain…’

The Bone Keeper by Luca Veste (ebook release March; Simon & Schuster)
‘What if the figure that haunted your nightmares as child, the myth of the man in the woods, was real? He’ll slice your flesh. Your bones he’ll keep. Twenty years ago, four teenagers went exploring in the local woods, trying to find to the supposed home of The Bone Keeper. Only three returned. Now, a woman is found wandering the streets of Liverpool, horrifically injured, claiming to have fled the Bone Keeper. Investigating officer DC Louise Henderson must convince sceptical colleagues that this urban myth might be flesh and blood. But when a body is unearthed in the woodland the woman has fled from, the case takes on a much darker tone. The disappeared have been found. And their killer is watching every move the police make.’

Turn a Blind Eye by Vicky Newham (April; HQ)
‘A dead girl. A wall of silence. DI Maya Rahman is running out of time. A headmistress is found strangled in her East London school, her death the result of a brutal and ritualistic act of violence. Found at the scene is a single piece of card, written upon which is an ancient Buddhist precept: I shall abstain from taking the ungiven. At first, DI Maya Rahman can’t help but hope this is a tragic but isolated murder. Then, the second body is found. Faced with a community steeped in secrets and prejudice, Maya must untangle the cryptic messages left at the crime scenes to solve the deadly riddle behind the murders – before the killer takes another victim.’

The Craftsman by Sharon Bolton (April; Trapeze)
‘Devoted father or merciless killer? His secrets are buried with him. Florence Lovelady’s career was made when she convicted coffin-maker Larry Glassbrook of a series of child murders 30 years ago. Like something from our worst nightmares the victims were buried…ALIVE. Larry confessed to the crimes; it was an open and shut case. But now he’s dead, and events from the past start to repeat themselves. Did she get it wrong all those years ago? Or is there something much darker at play?’

The Killing House by Claire McGowan (April; Headline)
The sixth and final Paula Maguire mystery… ‘When a puzzling missing persons’ case opens up in her hometown, forensic psychologist Paula Maguire can’t help but return once more. Renovations at an abandoned farm have uncovered two bodies: a man known to be an IRA member missing since the nineties, and a young girl whose identity remains a mystery. As Paula attempts to discover who the girl is and why no one is looking for her, an anonymous tip-off claims that her own long-lost mother is also buried on the farm. When another girl is kidnapped, Paula must find the person responsible before more lives are destroyed. But there are explosive secrets still to surface. And even Paula can’t predict that the investigation will strike at the heart of all she holds dear.’

Cross Her Heart by Sarah Pinborough (May; HarperCollins)
‘‘Cross my heart and hope to die…’ Promises only last if you trust each other, but what if one of you is hiding something? A secret no one could ever guess. Someone is living a lie. Is it Lisa? Maybe it’s her daughter, Ava. Or could it be her best friend, Marilyn?’

The House Swap by Rebecca Fleet (May; Doubleday)
‘No one lives this way unless they want to hide something.’ When Caroline and Francis receive an offer to house swap, they jump at the chance for a week away from home. After the difficulties of the past few years, they’ve worked hard to rebuild their marriage for their son’s sake; now they want to reconnect as a couple. On arrival, they find a house that is stark and sinister in its emptiness – it’s hard to imagine what kind of person lives here. Then, gradually, Caroline begins to uncover some signs of life – signs of her life. The flowers in the bathroom or the music in the CD player might seem innocent to her husband but to her they are anything but. It seems the person they have swapped with is someone she used to know; someone she’s desperate to leave in her past. But that person is now in her home – and they want to make sure she’ll never forget…’.

The Outsider by Stephen King (May; Hodder & Stoughton)
‘When an eleven-year-old boy is found murdered, forensic evidence and reliable eyewitnesses undeniably point to the town’s popular Little League coach. But the jailed suspect, arrested in a public spectacle, has an alibi, and further research convinces Detective Ralph Anderson that the coach was indeed out of town. So how can he have been in two places at the same time?’

Snap by Belinda Baur (May; Bantam Press)
‘Suddenly it wasn’t just a game… Jack’s eleven and he’s in charge. Jack’s in charge, said his mother as she disappeared up the road to get help. I won’t be long. Now Jack and his two sisters wait on the hard shoulder in their stifling, broken-down car, bickering and whining. But their mother doesn’t come back. She never comes back. And after that long, hot summer’s day, nothing will ever be the same again. Three years later, a young woman called Catherine wakes to find a knife beside her bed, and a note that says: I could have killed you. Jack’s fifteen now and still in charge. Of his sisters, of supporting them all, of making sure nobody knows they’re alone in the house… And – quite suddenly – of finding out who murdered his mother.’

The Killing Habit by Mark Billingham (May; Little, Brown)
‘How do you catch a killer who is yet to kill? We all know the signs. Cruelty, lack of empathy, the killing of animals. Now, pets on suburban London streets are being stalked by a shadow, and it could just be the start. DI Tom Thorne knows the psychological profile of such offenders all too well, so when he is tasked with catching a notorious killer of domestic cats, he sees the chance to stop a series of homicides before they happen. Others are less convinced, so once more, Thorne relies on DI Nicola Tanner to help him solve the case, before the culprit starts hunting people. It’s a journey that brings them face to face with a killer who will tear their lives apart.’

The Moscow Cipher by Scott Mariani (May; Avon)
My favourite thriller hero Ben Hope returns! ‘BEN HOPE is one of the most celebrated action adventure heroes in British fiction and Scott Mariani is the author of numerous bestsellers. Join the ever-growing legion of readers who get breathless with anticipation when the countdown to the new Ben Hope thriller begins…’.

Don’t Make a Sound by David Jackson (May; Zaffre)
‘Meet the Bensons. A pleasant enough couple. They keep themselves to themselves. They wash their car, mow their lawn and pass the time of day with their neighbours. And they have a beautiful little girl called Daisy. There’s just one problem. Daisy doesn’t belong to the Bensons. They stole her. And now they’ve decided that Daisy needs a little brother or sister. D.S. Nathan Cody is about to face his darkest and most terrifying case yet…’.

Our Kind of Cruelty by Araminta Hall (May; Century)
‘This is a love story. This is a tragedy. This is a book about a break up so bad that when you put the pieces of the love story back together, what you get is MURDER… Mike knows that most of us travel through the world as one half of a whole, desperately searching for that missing person to make us complete. But he and Verity are different. They have found each other and nothing and no one will tear them apart. It doesn’t matter that Verity is marrying another man. You see, Verity and Mike play a game together, a secret game they call ‘the crave’, the aim being to demonstrate what they both know: that Verity needs Mike, and only Mike. Verity’s upcoming marriage is the biggest game she and Mike have ever played. And it’s for the highest stakes. Except this time in order for Mike and Verity to be together someone has to die…’.

The Cliff House by Amanda Jennings (May; HQ)
‘Some friendships are made to be broken. Cornwall, summer of 1986. If only… thinks Tamsyn, fifteen-years-old, with her binoculars trained on the perfect family in their perfect house… If only she lived at the Cliff House, towering above the sea, with its beautiful Art Deco swimming pool. If only Tamsyn’s life was as perfect as the owners’, the Davenports, with their effortless glamour and privilege. If only Tamsyn’s father hadn’t died and left her mother working as a cleaner, tidying up after the Davenport’s outrageous parties. If only Edie Davenport wanted to be her friend… If only Edie hadn’t met her brother, Jago, and liked him more… Amanda Jennings deftly weaves a deadly tale of loss and longing in this gripping and powerful psychological thriller which will haunt readers long after the final page is turned.’

We’re in for quite a year… Can someone send me an extra pair of eyeballs?

Happy New Year!

2018 science fiction – looking ahead (January to May)

Following on from yesterday’s post that pulled together some of the historical fiction goodies of the next five months, it’s now the turn of science fiction. As with the historical fiction, this isn’t a definitive list but these are the ones that have especially caught my eye – so far! They’re published between January and the end of May. I hope you find something here to tempt you. Crime and thrillers to follow!

Science fiction

Elysium Fire by Alastair Reynolds (January; Gollancz)
A new novel by Alastair Reynolds! This cannot come soon enough. ‘Featuring Inspector Dreyfus – one of Alastair Reynolds most popular characters – this is a fast paced SF crime story, combining a futuristic setting with a gripping tale of technology, revolution and revenge. One citizen died a fortnight ago. Two a week ago. Four died yesterday . . . and unless the cause can be found – and stopped – within the next four months, everyone will be dead. For the Prefects, the hunt for a silent, hidden killer is on… Alastair Reynolds has returned to the world of The Prefect for this stand-alone SF mystery in which no one is safe. The technological implants which connect every citizen to each other have become murder weapons, and no one knows who or what the killer is – or who the next targets will be. But their reach is spreading, and time is not on the Prefects’ side.’

The Feed by Nick Clark Windo (January; Headline)
‘Tom and Kate’s daughter turns six tomorrow, and they have to tell her about sleep. If you sleep unwatched, you could be Taken. If you are Taken, then watching won’t save you. Nothing saves you. Your knowledge. Your memories. Your dreams. If all you are is on the Feed, what will you become when the Feed goes down? For Tom and Kate, in the six years since the world collapsed, every day has been a fight for survival. And when their daughter, Bea, goes missing, they will question whether they can even trust each other anymore. The threat is closer than they realise…’

Iron Gold by Pierce Brown (January; Hodder & Stoughton)
‘Darrow was born a slave. He became a weapon. He ended centuries of Gold rule, broke the chains of an empire, and now he’s the hero of a brave new republic. But at terrible cost. At the edge of the solar system, the grandson of the emperor he murdered dreams of revenge. In his hidden fortress in the oceans of Venus, the Ash Lord lies in wait, plotting to crush the newborn democracy. And, at home, a young Red girl who’s lost everything to the Rising questions whether freedom was just another Gold lie. In a fearsome new world where Obsidian pirates roam the Belt, famine and genocide ravage Mars, and crime lords terrorise Luna, it’s time for Darrow and a cast of new characters from across the solar system to face down the chaos that revolution has unleashed.’

Spring Tide by Chris Beckett (January; Corvus)
‘Chris Beckett’s thought-provoking and wide-ranging collection of contemporary short stories is a joy to read, rich in detail and texture. From stories about first love, to a man who discovers a labyrinth beneath his house, to an angel left alone at the end of the universe, Beckett displays both incredible range and extraordinary subtlety as a writer. Every story is a world unto itself – each one beautifully realized and brilliantly imagined.’

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart TurtonThe Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton (February; Raven Books)
I have had the pleasure of reading this already and it is absolutely fantastic! Hugely original, clever and mindblowing. A candidate for book of the year already. ”Somebody’s going to be murdered at the ball tonight. It won’t appear to be a murder and so the murderer won’t be caught. Rectify that injustice and I’ll show you the way out.’ It is meant to be a celebration but it ends in tragedy. As fireworks explode overhead, Evelyn Hardcastle, the young and beautiful daughter of the house, is killed. But Evelyn will not die just once. Until Aiden – one of the guests summoned to Blackheath for the party – can solve her murder, the day will repeat itself, over and over again. Every time ending with the fateful pistol shot. The only way to break this cycle is to identify the killer. But each time the day begins again, Aiden wakes in the body of a different guest. And someone is determined to prevent him ever escaping Blackheath…’

The Memory Chamber by Holly Cave (February; Quercus)
‘True death is a thing of the past. Now you can spend the rest of eternity re-living your happiest memories: that first kiss, falling in love, the birth of your children, enjoyed on loop for ever and ever. Isobel is a Heaven Architect, and she helps dying people create afterlives from these memories. So when she falls for Jarek, one of her terminal – and married – clients, she knows that while she cannot save him, she can create the most beautiful of heavens, just for him. But when Jarek’s wife is found dead, Isobel uncovers a darker side of the world she works within, and she can trust no one with what she finds…’

The Gone World by Tom Sweterlitsch (February; Headline)
I really enjoyed technothriller Tomorrow and Tomorrow and so this is one I’ll be looking out for. ‘1997 – When ex Navy Seal Patrick Mursult’s family are found murdered, he is the number one suspect. But NCIS Special Agent Shannon Moss isn’t convinced, particularly after Patrick apparently commits suicide. 2014 – Years after the brutal killings, while working undercover, Moss stumbles across a witness from the Mursult case who unwittingly tells her far more than she had at the time. Inspired by this retrospective progress, Moss determines to travel through time to a host of potential futures to track down the killer and close this cold case once and for all.’

Embers of War by Gareth L. Powell
‘The warship Trouble Dog was built and bred for calculating violence, yet following a brutal war, she finds herself disgusted by conflict and her role in a possible war crime. Seeking to atone, she joins the House of Reclamation, an organisation dedicated to rescuing ships in distress. But, stripped of her weaponry and emptied of her officers, she struggles in the new role she’s chosen for herself. When a ship goes missing in a disputed system, Trouble Dog and her new crew of misfits and loners, captained by Sal Konstanz, an ex-captain of a medical frigate who once fought against Trouble Dog, are assigned to investigate and save whoever they can. Meanwhile, light years away, intelligence officer Ashton Childe is tasked with locating and saving the poet, Ona Sudak, who was aboard the missing ship, whatever the cost. In order to do this, he must reach out to the only person he considers a friend, even if he s not sure she can be trusted. What Childe doesn’t know is that Sudak is not the person she appears to be. Quickly, what appears to be a straightforward rescue mission turns into something far more dangerous, as Trouble Dog, Konstanz and Childe, find themselves at the centre of a potential new conflict that could engulf not just mankind but the entire galaxy. If she is to survive and save her crew, Trouble Dog is going to have to remember how to fight.’

Only Human by Sylvain Neuvel (March; Michael Joseph)
I cannot wait for this – the third part of the Themis Files trilogy! ‘We always thought the biggest threat to humanity would come from the outside. We were wrong. As the human race picks up the pieces of destruction left behind, a new world order emerges. New alliances are formed. Old divisions are strengthened. And, with a power struggle fuelled by the threat of mutually assured destruction, nothing is certain. At a time when the world’s nations should have been coming together, they have never been more divided. With the human race teetering on the brink of total war, Rose, Vincent and Eva must choose sides. But doing the right thing might mean making the ultimate sacrifice.’

Zero Day by Ezekiel Boone (March; Gollancz)
I have thoroughly enjoyed this skin-crawling series so far and I can’t wait to see how it ends. ‘The world is on the brink of apocalypse. Zero Day has come. The only thing more terrifying than millions of spiders is the realization that those spiders work as one. But among the government, there is dissent: do we try to kill all of the spiders, or do we gamble on Professor Guyer’s theory that we need to kill only the queens? For President Stephanie Pilgrim, it’s an easy answer. She’s gone as far as she can-more than two dozen American cities hit with tactical nukes, the country torn asunder-and the only answer is to believe in Professor Guyer. Unfortunately, Ben Broussard and the military men who follow him don’t agree, and Pilgrim, Guyer, and the loyal members of the government have to flee, leaving the question: what’s more dangerous, the spiders or ourselves?’

Blackfish City by Sam J. Miller (April; Orbit)
‘After the climate wars, a floating city was constructed in the Arctic Circle. Once a remarkable feat of mechanical and social engineering, it has started to crumble under the weight of its own decay – crime and corruption have set in, a terrible new disease is coursing untreated through the population, and the contradictions of incredible wealth alongside deepest poverty are spawning unrest. Into this turmoil comes a strange new visitor – a woman accompanied by an orca and a chained polar bear. She disappears into the crowds looking for someone she lost thirty years ago, followed by whispers of a vanished people who could bond with animals. Her arrival draws together four people and sparks a chain of events that will lead to unprecedented acts of resistance.’

Before Mars by Emma Newman (April; Gollancz)
‘Hugo Award winner Emma Newman returns to the captivating Planetfall universe with a dark tale of a woman stationed on Mars who starts to have doubts about everything around her. After months of travel, Anna Kubrin finally arrives on Mars for her new job as a geologist and de facto artist in residence–and already she feels she is losing the connection with her husband and baby at home on Earth. In her room on the base, Anna finds a mysterious note, painted in her own hand, warning her not to trust the colony psychiatrist. A note she can’t remember painting. When she finds a footprint in a place that the colony AI claims has never been visited by humans, Anna begins to suspect that she is caught up in an elaborate corporate conspiracy. Or is she losing her grip on reality? Anna must find the truth, regardless of what horrors she might discover or what they might do to her mind.’

I Still Dream by James Smythe (April; Borough Press)
‘1997. 17-year-old Laura Bow has invented a rudimentary artificial intelligence, and named it Organon. At first it’s intended to be a sounding-board for her teenage frustrations, a surrogate best friend; but as she grows older, Organon grows with her. As the world becomes a very different place, technology changes the way we live, love and die; massive corporations develop rival intelligences to Laura’s, ones without safety barriers or morals; and Laura is forced to decide whether to share her creation with the world. If it falls into the wrong hands, she knows, its power could be abused. But what if Organon is the only thing that can stop humanity from hurting itself irreparably? I Still Dream is a powerful tale of love, loss and hope; a frightening, heartbreakingly human look at who we are now – and who we can be, if we only allow ourselves.’

Time Was by Ian McDonald (April; Tor Books)
‘Ian McDonald weaves a love story across an endless expanse with his science fiction novella Time Was. A love story stitched across time and war, shaped by the power of books, and ultimately destroyed by it. In the heart of World War II, Tom and Ben became lovers. Brought together by a secret project designed to hide British targets from German radar, the two founded a love that could not be revealed. When the project went wrong, Tom and Ben vanished into nothingness, presumed dead. Their bodies were never found. Now the two are lost in time, hunting each other across decades, leaving clues in books of poetry and trying to make their desperate timelines overlap.’

One Way by S.J. Morden (ebook in April; Gollancz)
The paperback is out in August but you might not want to wait… ‘A murder mystery set on the frozen red wastes of Mars. Eight astronauts. One killer. No way home. WE STAND AT THE DAWN OF A NEW ERA – Frank Kitteridge is serving life for murdering his son’s drug dealer. So when he’s offered a deal by Xenosystems Operations – the company that runs the prison – he takes it, even though it means swapping one life sentence for another. THERE HAS NEVER BEEN A BETTER TIME TO BE ALIVE – He’s been selected to help build the first permanent base on Mars. Unfortunately, his crewmates are just as guilty of their crimes as he is – and he’ll have to learn to trust them if they’re to succeed. THE FUTURE OF SPACE TRAVEL IS IN SAFE HANDS – As the convicts set to work on the frozen wastes of Mars, the accidents multiply. Until Frank begins to suspect they might not be accidents at all… XENOSYTEMS OPERATIONS: MAKING DREAMS A REALITY – There’s a murderer amongst them, and everyone’s a suspect.’

Xeelee: Redemption by Stephen Baxter (May; Gollancz)
Hooray! One of my very favourite authors. ‘Michael Poole finds himself in a very strange landscape… This is the centre of the Galaxy. And in a history without war with the humans, the Xeelee have had time to built an immense structure here. The Xeelee Belt has a radius ten thousand times Earth’s orbital distance. It is a light year in circumference. If it was set in the solar system it would be out in the Oort Cloud, among the comets – but circling the sun. If it was at rest it would have a surface area equivalent to about thirty billion Earths. But it is not at rest: it rotates at near lightspeed. And because of relativistic effects, distances are compressed for inhabitants of the Belt, and time drastically slowed. The purpose of the Belt is to preserve a community of Xeelee into the very far future, when they will be able to tap dark energy, a universe-spanning antigravity field, for their own purposes. But with time the Belt has attracted populations of lesser species, here for the immense surface area, the unending energy flows. Poole, Miriam and their party, having followed the Ghosts, must explore the artefact and survive encounters with its strange inhabitants – before Poole, at last, finds the Xeelee who led the destruction of Earth…’

The Soldier by Neal Asher (May; Macmillan)
‘A hidden corner of space is swarming with lethal alien technology, a danger to all sentient life. It’s guarded by Orlandine, who must keep it contained at any cost – as it has the power to destroy entire civilizations. She schemes from her state-of-the-art weapons station, with only an alien intelligence to share her vigil. But she doesn’t share everything with Dragon… Orlandine is hatching a plan to obliterate this technology, removing its threat forever. For some will do anything to exploit this ancient weaponry, created by a long-dead race called the Jain. This includes activating a Jain super-soldier, which may breach even Orlandine’s defences. Meanwhile, humanity and the alien prador empire keep a careful watch over this sector of space, as neither can allow the other to claim its power. However, things are about to change. The Jain might not be as dead as they seemed – and interstellar war is just a heartbeat away. The Soldier is the first novel in the Rise of the Jain series, by bestselling science fiction author Neal Asher.’

Hunted by G.X. Todd (May; Headline)
‘The birds are flying. The birds are flocking. The birds sense the red skies are coming. One man is driven by an inner voice that isn’t his – this Other is chewing at his sanity like a jackal with a bone and has one purpose. To find the voice hiding in the girl. She has no one to defend her now. But in an inn by the sea, a boy with no tongue and no voice gathers his warriors. Albus must find the girl, Lacey… before the Other does. And finish the work his sister Ruby began. Hunted is the second book in the acclaimed Voices series, where the battle between Good and Evil holds you in its vice-like grip.’

84K by Claire North (May; Orbit)
‘Theo Miller knows the value of human life – to the very last penny. Working in the Criminal Audit Office, he assesses each crime that crosses his desk and makes sure the correct debt to society is paid in full. But when his ex-lover is killed, it’s different. This is one death he can’t let become merely an entry on a balance sheet. Because when the richest in the world are getting away with murder, sometimes the numbers just don’t add up.’

Next up is crime fiction and thrillers! You can then have a rest….

2018 historical fiction – looking ahead (January to May)

One of the best things about seeing out an old year is embracing all the book goodies of the new. While I have yet to conquer completely my 2017 book mountain and fully intend to return to it (as well as to older books), it’s fun to see what’s in store. My 2018 book mountain is already high enough to gather snow and I’ve got a few of its titles under my belt. But, before I post my first review of a 2018 book, here is the first of two posts to feature just some of the books that I’m personally looking forward to over the next few months. This post focuses on the historical fiction (published between January and the end of May 2018) that has caught my eye. It is a very strong list indeed.

Historical Fiction

Nucleus by Rory ClementsNucleus by Rory Clements (January; Zaffre)
I have read this and I can confirm that it is every bit as clever and brilliant as Corpus! ‘June 1939. England is partying like there is no tomorrow, gas masks at the ready. In Cambridge the May Balls are played out with a frantic intensity – but the good times won’t last… In Europe, the Nazis have invaded Czechoslovakia, and in Germany he persecution of the Jews is now so widespread that desperate Jewish parents send their children to safety in Britain aboard the Kindertransport. Closer to home, the IRA’s S-Plan bombing campaign has resulted in more than 100 terrorist outrages around England. But perhaps the most far-reaching event of all goes largely unreported: in Germany, Otto Hahn has produced the first man-made fission and an atomic device is now a very real possibility. The Nazis set up the Uranverein group of physicists: its task is to build a superbomb. The German High Command is aware that British and US scientists are working on similar line. Cambridge’s Cavendish Laboratory is where the atom was split in 1932. Might the Cambridge men now win the race for a nuclear bomb? Hitler’s generals need to be sure they know all the Cavendish’s secrets. Only then will it be safe for Germany to wage war. When one of the Cavendish’s finest brains is murdered, Professor Tom Wilde is once more drawn into an intrigue from which there seems no escape. In a conspiracy that stretches from Cambridge to Berlin and from Washington DC to the west coast of Ireland, he faces deadly forces that threaten the fate of the world.’

Imperial Vengeance by Ian Ross (January; Head of Zeus)
I have also read this and it’s arguably the best of the series. ‘Aurelius Castus is one of the leading military commanders of an empire riven by civil war. As the emperor Constantine grows ever more ruthless in his pursuit of power, Castus fears that the world he knows is slipping away. On the eve of the war’s final campaign, Castus discovers that the emperor’s son Crispus aims to depose his father and restore the old ways of Rome. Castus must choose between honour and survival, and face a final confrontation with the most powerful man in the Roman world, the ruler he has sworn loyally to serve: the emperor Constantine himself.’

The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar (January; Harvill Secker)
‘One September evening in 1785, the merchant Jonah Hancock hears urgent knocking on his front door. One of his captains is waiting eagerly on the step. He has sold Jonah’s ship for what appears to be a mermaid. As gossip spreads through the docks, coffee shops, parlours and brothels, everyone wants to see Mr Hancock’s marvel. Its arrival spins him out of his ordinary existence and through the doors of high society. At an opulent party, he makes the acquaintance of Angelica Neal, the most desirable woman he has ever laid eyes on… and a courtesan of great accomplishment. This meeting will steer both their lives onto a dangerous new course, on which they will learn that priceless things come at the greatest cost. Where will their ambitions lead? And will they be able to escape the destructive power mermaids are said to possess? In this spellbinding story of curiosity and obsession, Imogen Hermes Gowar has created an unforgettable jewel of a novel, filled to the brim with intelligence, heart and wit.’

Traitor by David Hingley (January; Allison & Busby)
Another title that I’ve read and enjoyed with a review to follow shortly. ‘February 1665. With winter passing, Mercia Blakewood is at last headed back to England from America, hoping to leave behind the shadow that death and heartache have cast. She expects a welcome from the King considering her earlier, mostly successful, mission at his behalf, but the reception is not exactly warm. Mercia faces more manipulation and must accept a clandestine and uncomfortable role at the heart of the royal court posing as a mistress to find a spy and traitor.’

Beautiful Star and Other Stories by Andrew Swanston (January, Dome Press)
My current read! I particularly enjoyed the story of an 11th-century flying monk. ‘History is brought alive by the people it affects, rather than those who created it. In Beautiful Star we meet Eilmer, a monk in 1010 with Icarus-like dreams; Charles I, hiding in 1651, and befriended by a small boy; the trial of Jane Wenham, witch of Walkern, seen through the eyes of her grand-daughter. This is a moving and affecting journey through time, bringing a new perspective to the defence of Corfe Castle, the battle of Waterloo, the siege of Toulon and, in the title story, the devastating dangers of the life of the sea in 1875.’

Rome's Sacred Flame by Robert FabbriRome’s Sacred Flame by Robert Fabbri (January; Corvus)
I loved this. A fine addition to one of my favourite series. ‘Rome, AD 63. Vespasian has been made Governor of Africa. Nero, Rome’s increasingly unpredictable Emperor, orders him to journey with his most trusted men to a far-flung empire in Africa to free 200 Roman citizens who have been enslaved by a desert kingdom. Vespasian arrives at the city to negotiate their emancipation, hoping to return to Rome a hero and find himself back in favour with Nero. But when Vespasian reaches the city, he discovers a slave population on the edge of revolt. With no army to keep the population in check, it isn’t long before tensions spill over into bloody chaos. Vespasian must escape the city with all 200 Roman citizens and make their way across a barren desert, battling thirst and exhaustion, with a hoard of rebels at their backs. It’s a desperate race for survival, with twists and turns aplenty. Meanwhile, back in Rome, Nero’s extravagance goes unchecked. All of Rome’s elite fear for their lives as Nero’s closest allies run amok. Can anyone stop the Emperor before Rome devours itself? And if Nero is to be toppled, who will be the one to put his head in the lion’s mouth?’

Scourge of Wolves by David Gilman (February; Head of Zeus)
‘Winter, 1361. After two decades of conflict, Edward III has finally agreed a treaty with the captive French King, John II. In return for his freedom, John has ceded vast tracts of territory to the English. But for five long years mercenary bands and belligerent lords have fought over the carcass of his kingdom. They will not give up their hard-won spoils to honour a defeated king’s promises. If the English want their prize, they’ll have to fight for it… Thomas Blackstone will have to fight for it. As he battles to enforce Edward’s claim, Thomas Blackstone will see his name blackened, his men slaughtered, his family hunted. He will be betrayed and, once again, he’ll face the might of the French army on the field. But this time there will be no English army at his back. He’ll face the French alone.’

The Coffin Path by Katherine ClementsThe Coffin Path by Katherine Clements (February; Headline Review)
I read this thoroughly creepy tale just before Christmas – a review’s on the way. ‘Maybe you’ve heard tales about Scarcross Hall, the house on the old coffin path that winds from village to moor top. They say there’s something up here, something evil. Mercy Booth isn’t afraid. The moors and Scarcross are her home and lifeblood. But, beneath her certainty, small things are beginning to trouble her. Three ancient coins missing from her father’s study, the shadowy figure out by the gatepost, an unshakeable sense that someone is watching. When a stranger appears seeking work, Mercy reluctantly takes him in. As their stories entwine, this man will change everything. She just can’t see it yet.’

Pilgrim’s War by Michael Jecks (February; Simon & Schuster)
‘France 1096. Crowds gather in a square in Sens to hear the man known as the Hermit speak. He talks of a pilgrimage to the city of Jerusalem, a pilgrimage filled with promises for Christian soldiers who march with him. In Jerusalem all sinners will be forgiven and the pious rewarded with great riches. Sybille’s husband is a reckless man and easily swayed by the Hermit’s words. Even knowing the jeopardy and risk of the road ahead Sybille has no choice but to follow her husband and join the march. Fulk, a young blacksmith, is hungry for adventure. The pilgrimage is exactly the excitement he’s craving. For his brother Odo the march is far more serious and sparks a dangerous fanaticism even Fulk doesn’t see coming. Jeanne and Guillemette have been treated badly by the men in their life but this is their chance for redemption and a bright future. But life on the road for two unattached women is perilous. On the path to Jerusalem right and wrong, love and hate, sins and virtues become blurred. Who will make it there alive? And will the sacrifice it takes to get there be worth the price they will pay?’

The Wicked Cometh by Laura Carlin (February; Hodder & Stoughton)
The Wicked Cometh will take readers on a heart-racing journey through backstreets swathed with fog to richly curtained, brightly lit country houses; from the libraries and colleges of gentlemen, to sawdust-strewn gin palaces where ne’er-do-wells drink and scheme, all told through the eyes of a heroine with nothing to lose. The year is 1831. Down the murky alleyways of London, acts of unspeakable wickedness are taking place and no one is willing to speak out on behalf of the city’s vulnerable poor as they disappear from the streets.Out of these shadows comes Hester White, a bright young woman who is desperate to escape the slums by any means possible.When Hester is thrust into the world of the aristocratic Brock family, she leaps at the chance to improve her station in life under the tutelage of the fiercely intelligent and mysterious Rebekah Brock. But whispers from her past slowly begin to poison her new life and both she and Rebekah are lured into the most sinister of investigations.Hester and Rebekah find themselves crossing every boundary they’ve ever known in pursuit of truth, redemption and passion. But their trust in each other will be tested as a web of deceit begins to unspool, dragging them into the blackest heart of a city where something more depraved than either of them could ever imagine is lurking.’

The Prince and the Whitechapel Murders by Saul David (February; Hodder & Stoughton)
‘London 1888: George ‘Zulu’ Hart is the mixed-race illegitimate son of a Dublin actress and (he suspects) the Duke of Cambridge, commander-in-chief of the army. George has fought his way through wars in Africa and Afghanistan, won the VC and married his sweetheart, but he’s also a gambler, short of money and in no position to turn down the job of ‘minder’ to Prince Albert Victor, second in line to the throne. George is to befriend the charming young cavalry officer and keep him out of trouble – no easy task, given that the Prince is a known target for Irish nationalist assassins, while his secret sexual orientation leaves him open to blackmail and scandal. To make matters worse, the Prince is also in the habit of heading out late at night to sample the dubious pleasures of the East End. Both outsiders in their different ways, perhaps the two men have more in common than they know, but when a series of horrible murders begins in Whitechapel, on just the nights the Prince has been there, George is drawn into an investigation which forces him to confront the unthinkable… A brilliant standalone adventure based on detailed research, this is a thrilling novel of suspense and a fascinating new twist on the Jack the Ripper story.’

Templar Silks by Elizabeth Chadwick (March; Sphere)
A new Elizabeth Chadwick novel is something to celebrate and here she returns to the Greatest Knight. ‘England, 1219: Lying on his deathbed, William Marshal, England’s greatest knight, sends a trusted servant to bring to him the silk Templar burial shrouds that returned with him from the Holy Land thirty years ago. It is time to fulfil his vow to the Templars and become a monk of their order for eternity. As he waits for the shrouds’ return, he looks back upon his long-ago pilgrimage with his brother Ancel, and the sacred mission entrusted to them – to bear the cloak of their dead young lord to Jerusalem and lay it on Christ’s tomb in the church of the Holy Sepulchre. Jerusalem, 1183: In the holiest of all cities, the brothers become embroiled in the deadly politics, devious scheming and lusts of the powerful men and women who rule the kingdom. Entangled with the dangerous, mercurial Paschia de Riveri, concubine of the highest churchman in the land, William sets on a path so perilous that there seems no way back for him, or for his brother. Both will pay a terrible price and their only chance to see home again will be dependent on the Templar shrouds.’

Caligula by Simon Turney (March; Orion)
I read this over Christmas and it is a triumph! Its portrait of Caligula, which is wholly original and unusual, gave me nightmares… ‘Rome 37AD. The emperor is dying. No-one knows how long he has left. The power struggle has begun. When the ailing Tiberius thrusts Caligula’s family into the imperial succession in a bid to restore order, he will change the fate of the empire and create one of history’s most infamous tyrants, Caligula. But was Caligula really a monster? Forget everything you think you know. Let Livilla, Caligula’s youngest sister and confidante, tell you what really happened. How her quiet, caring brother became the most powerful man on earth. And how, with lies, murder and betrayal, Rome was changed for ever…’

Kin by Snorri Kristjansson (March; Jo Fletcher Books)
‘He can deny it all he likes, but everyone knows Viking warlord Unnthor Reginsson brought home a great chest of gold when he retired from the longboats and settled down with Hildigunnur in a remote valley. Now, in the summer of 970, adopted daughter Helga is awaiting the arrival of her unknown siblings: dark, dangerous Karl, lithe, clever Jorunn, gentle Aslak, henpecked by his shrewish wife, and the giant Bjorn, made bitter by Volund, his idiot son. And they’re coming with darkness in their hearts. The siblings gather, bad blood simmers and old feuds resurface as Unnthor’s heirs make their moves on the old man’s treasure – until one morning Helga is awakened by screams. Blood has been shed: kin has been slain. No one confesses, but all the clues point to one person – who cannot possibly be the murderer, at least in Helga’s eyes. But if she’s going to save the innocent from the axe and prevent more bloodshed, she’s got to solve the mystery – fast…’

The Throne of Caesar by Steven Saylor (March; Constable)
I believe that this novel closes the investigations of Gordianus the Finder, something that makes me very sad indeed. I’ve been reading and enjoying this fine series for years. ‘Julius Caesar has been appointed dictator for life by the Roman Senate. Having pardoned his remaining enemies and rewarded his friends, Caesar is now preparing to leave Rome with his army to fight the Parthian Empire. Gordianus the Finder, after decades of investigating crimes and murders involving the powerful, has set aside enough that he’s been raised to the Equestrian rank and has firmly and finally retired. On the morning of March 10th, though, he’s first summoned to meet with Cicero and then with Caesar himself. Both have the same request of Gordianus – keep your ear to the ground, ask around, and find out if there are any conspiracies against Caesar’s life. Caesar, however, has one other important matter to discuss. Gordianus’s adopted son Meto has long been one of Caesar’s closest confidants. To honor Meto, Caesar is going to make his father Gordianus a Senator when he attends the next session on the 15th of March. With only four days left before he’s made a Senator, Gordianus must dust off his old skills and see what conspiracy against Julius Caesar, if any, he can uncover. Because the Ides of March are approaching…’

The Last Hour by Harry Sidebottom (March; Zaffre)
One of my favourite authors has here created that very rare thing – a Roman thriller. Everything takes place within one 24-hour period. It is brilliant! ‘A lone figure stands silhouetted atop the Mausoleum of Hadrian. Behind him, the sun is setting over the centre of the known world. Far below, the river is in full flood. The City of Rome lies spread out before him on the far bank. Footsteps pound up the stairs. He’s been set up. An enemy is closing in; he is cornered. He jumps. Bruised and battered, he crawls out of the raging river. He is alone and unarmed, without money or friends, trapped in a deadly conspiracy at the heart of the Empire. The City Watch has orders to take him alive; other, more sinister, forces want him dead. As the day dies, he realises he has only 24 hours to expose the conspirators, and save the leader of the world. If the Emperor dies, chaos and violence will ensue. If the Emperor dies, every single person he loves will die. He must run, bluff, hide and fight his way across the Seven Hills. He must reach the Colosseum, and the Emperor. He must make it to The Last Hour.’

The Fire Court by Andrew Taylor (April; HarperCollins)
‘The Great Fire has ravaged London, wreaking destruction and devastation wherever its flames spread. Now, guided by the incorruptible Fire Court, the city is slowly rebuilding, but times are volatile and danger is only ever a heartbeat away. James Marwood, son of a traitor, is thrust into this treacherous environment when his ailing father claims to have stumbled upon a murdered woman – in the very place where the Fire Court sits. Then his father is run down and killed. Accident? Or another murder…? Determined to uncover the truth, Marwood turns to the one person he can trust – Cat Lovett, the daughter of a despised regicide. Marwood has helped her in the past. Now it’s her turn to help him. But then comes a third death… and Marwood and Cat are forced to confront a vicious and increasingly desperate killer whose actions threaten the future of the city itself.’

The Blood by ES Thomson (April; Constable)
I knew the smell of death well enough. But here the sweetness of decay was tainted with something else, something new and different. It was a curious, moist smell; a smell that spoke of the ooze and slap of water, of gurgling wet spaces and the sticky, yielding mud of low-tide… Summoned to the riverside by the desperate, scribbled note of an old friend, Jem Flockhart and Will Quartermain find themselves on board the seamen’s floating hospital, an old hulk known only as The Blood, where prejudice, ambition and murder seethe beneath a veneer of medical respectability. On shore, a young woman, a known prostitute, is found drowned in a derelict boatyard. A man leaps to his death into the Thames, driven mad by poison and fear. The events are linked – but how? Courting danger in the opium dens and brothels of the waterfront, certain that the Blood lies at the heart of the puzzle, Jem and Will embark on a quest to uncover the truth. In a hunt that takes them from the dissecting tables of a private anatomy school to the squalor of the dock-side mortuary, they find themselves involved in a dark and terrible mystery.’

Pandora’s Boy by Lindsey Davis (April; Hodder & Stoughton)
‘Private investigator Flavia Albia is always drawn to an intriguing puzzle – even if it is put to her by her new husband’s hostile ex-wife. On the Quirinal Hill, a young girl named Clodia has died, apparently poisoned with a love potion. Only one person could have supplied such a thing: a local witch who goes by the name of Pandora, whose trade in herbal beauty products is hiding something far more sinister. The supposedly sweet air of the Quirinal is masking the stench of loose morality, casual betrayal and even gangland conflict and, when a friend of her own is murdered, Albia determines to expose as much of this local sickness as she can – beginning with the truth about Clodia’s death.’

Retribution by Anthony Riches (April; Hodder & Stoughton)
‘The author of the bestselling Empire series reaches the action-filled climax of his epic story of the uprising of the Batavi in AD 69. Victory is in sight for Kivilaz and his Batavi army. The Roman army clings desperately to its remaining fortresses along the Rhine, its legions riven by dissent and mutiny, and once-loyal allies of Rome are beginning to imagine the unimaginable: freedom from the rulers who have dominated them since the time of Caesar. The four centurions – two Batavi and two Roman, men who were once comrades in arms – must find their destiny in a maze of loyalties and threats, as the blood tide of war ebbs and flows across Germania and Gaul. For Rome does not give up its territory lightly. And a new emperor knows that he cannot tolerate any threat to his undisputed power. It can only be a matter of time before Vespasian sends his legions north to exact the empire’s retribution.’

Mad Blood Stirring by Simon Mayo (April; Doubleday)
‘On the eve of the year 1815, the American sailors of the Eagle finally arrive at Dartmoor prison; bedraggled, exhausted but burning with hope. They’ve only had one thing to sustain them – a snatched whisper overheard along the way. The war is over. Joe Hill thought he’d left the war outside these walls but it’s quickly clear that there’s a different type of fight to be had within. The seven prison blocks surrounding him have been segregated; six white and one black. As his voice rings out across the courtyard, announcing the peace, the redcoat guards bristle and the inmates stir. The powder keg was already fixed to blow and Joe has just lit the fuse. Elizabeth Shortland, wife of the Governor looks down at the swirling crowd from the window of her own personal prison. The peace means the end is near, that she needn’t be here for ever. But suddenly, she cannot bear the thought of leaving. Inspired by a true story, Mad Blood tells of a few frantic months in the suffocating atmosphere of a prison awaiting liberation. It is a story of hope and freedom, of loss and suffering. It is a story about how sometimes, in our darkest hour, it can be the most unlikely of things that see us through.’

Jane Seymour: The Haunted Queen by Alison WeirSix Tudor Queens III: Jane Seymour, The Haunted Queen by Alison Weir (May; Headline Review)
As soon as this arrived I read it and it is marvellous. This is the novel of the series I’ve been most looking forward to and it did not disappoint. ‘Eleven days after the death of Anne Boleyn, Jane is dressing for her wedding to the King. She has witnessed at first hand how courtly play can quickly turn to danger and knows she must bear a son… or face ruin. This new Queen must therefore step out from the shadows cast by Katherine and Anne – in doing so, can she expose a gentler side to the brutal King? Jane Seymour, the third of Henry’s queens. Acclaimed, bestselling historian Alison Weir draws on new research for her captivating novel, which paints a compelling portrait of Jane and casts fresh light on both traditional and modern perceptions of her. Jane was driven by the strength of her faith and a belief that she might do some good in a wicked world. History tells us how she died. This spellbinding novel explores the life she lived.’

Clash of Empires by Ben Kane (May; Orion)
‘It is the turn of the 3rd century BC. Hannibal has just been defeated, and Rome now turns its eyes on Greece. The Roman legion was pitted against the Greek phalanx in the ultimate ancient military showdown as Rome stretched its military muscles into the birthplace of civilisation. In Kane’s trademark style, the novel will follow both soldiers on the ground, as well as the great political figures of the day. In three tumultuous years, Greece, birthplace of Aristotle, Plato, Socrates and Alexander of Macedon, whose soldiers saw off the invading Persians hordes at Thermopylae, whose phalanxes made the world tremble, fell beneath the inexorable Roman legions’ march. This victory cemented the birth of the mightiest empire that has ever existed.’

The Burning Chambers by Kate Mosse (May; Mantle)
‘Bringing sixteenth-century Languedoc vividly to life, Kate Mosse’s The Burning Chambers is a gripping story of love and betrayal, mysteries and secrets; of war and adventure, conspiracies and divided loyalties… Carcassonne 1562: Nineteen-year-old Minou Joubert receives an anonymous letter at her father’s bookshop. Sealed with a distinctive family crest, it contains just five words: SHE KNOWS THAT YOU LIVE. But before Minou can decipher the mysterious message, a chance encounter with a young Huguenot convert, Piet Reydon, changes her destiny forever. For Piet has a dangerous mission of his own, and he will need Minou’s help if he is to get out of La Cité alive. Toulouse: As the religious divide deepens in the Midi, and old friends become enemies, Minou and Piet both find themselves trapped in Toulouse, facing new dangers as sectarian tensions ignite across the city, the battle-lines are drawn in blood and the conspiracy darkens further. Meanwhile, as a long-hidden document threatens to resurface, the mistress of Puivert is obsessed with uncovering its secret and strengthening her power…’

The Encircling Sea by Adrian Goldsworthy (May; Head of Zeus)
‘AD 100: Flavius Ferox, Briton and Roman centurion, is finding it hard to keep the peace. Based at Vindolanda – an army fort on the northern frontier of Britannia and the entire Roman world – he feels the eyes of his enemies on him at all hours. Ambitious leaders sense a chance to carve out empires of their own. While men nearer at hand speak in whispers of war and the destruction of Rome. And out at sea, ships of pirates and deserters restlessly wait for the time to launch their attack on the empire’s land.’

The Falcon of Sparta by Conn Iggulden (May; Michael Joseph)
‘In the Ancient World, one army was feared above all others. This is their story. When Cyrus, brother to the Great King of Persia, attempts to overthrow his reckless sibling, he employs a Greek mercenary army of 10,000 soldiers. When this army becomes stranded as a result of the unexpected death of Cyrus, and then witnesses the treacherous murder of its entire officer corps, despair overtakes them. One man, Xenophon, rallies the Greeks. As he attempts to lead them to freedom across 1,500 miles of hostile territory seething with adversaries, 10,000 men set off on the long way home.’

This list is by no means exhaustive and I’m looking forward to some surprises but it’s certainly more than enough to keep me very happily reading indeed! I hope you find something here to tempt you.

Next up will be science fiction and crime thrillers…