Meg Elizabeth Atkins (1932-2013) was raised in Manchester in the U.K. and had a variety of careers from stable hand to secretary, before her first novel, The Gemini, was published in 1964. Her two primary series were one featuring Inspector Sheldon Hunter and another with Manchester C.I. Henry Beaumont. Most of Atkins's books are set in the stereotypical English village, filled with psychological studies spurred by what Tangled Web UK called "the almost demonic undercurrents beneath the polite and genteel surface of English middle-class life."
At the start of her novel Tangle, Arnold Peabody visits local medium Madame Lily after his mother dies to see if he can contact her from beyond the grave. Not long afterward, he takes up with a mysterious lady friend and things are looking up — until he drowns himself. Six months later, wealthy widow and "nerve-racking snob," Mildred Hewitt, falls to her death on a snowy night. Hewitt's son Gilbert also decides to visit Madame Lily and soon he, too, has a mysterious lady friend...and slowly begins a descent into insanity.
C.I. Henry Beaumont has often visited Avenridge, the town where the deaths take place, ever since he was sent there as a child, a wartime evacuee who stayed with the wealthy Dash family. His knowledge of the area and its people leads him to suspect the deaths weren't accidental. With the assistance of the quirky young Emmeline Dash, Henry starts to piece together the threads of hate that tie the crime together, but not in time to save a lost soul who comes to him for help. With three deaths now to solve, Henry knows he's running out of time before his cunning, malevolent quarry strikes again.
Although a little slow getting started, the prose tends to liven up when we're seeing the world through Henry's eyes instead of the third-person omniscient POV. The characterizations are sound for the most part, with some nice touches regarding setting, such as the following two excerpts:
Here long-vanished men, philoprogenitive, prosperous, had built their houses amongst tree-shaded roads and curving lanes...And the people who could afford to live in the houses could afford to maintain them with discretion: a renovation here, an improvement there, did so little to interrupt he continuity that a century and a half of domestic architecture stood preserved in all its minutely recorded evolutions, in an atmosphere of tender melancholy.
After a late breakfast they took the dogs and went out, walking through the rain to the old hotel where Emmeline had her workshop. Henry wore his hooded anorak, Emmeline something that looked like a groundsheet, her hair pushed under a W.A.A.F. officer's cap. Scarcely anyone was about, rivulets rushed along the gutters of the up and down streets and the greyness of Avenridge, its changing textures, came back with love and wonder to Henry. The sky phosphorescent before snow; the chiffon veils of mist; the autumn grey of woodsmoke, and in this downpour, the stone buildings shining like old pewter.
This is the fourth and last of the C.I. Harry Beaumont novels, which is a shame because the character has a lot of room for growth and development. Some of Atkins' other novels start to dip a bit into the horror/supernatural realm, perhaps inspired by the author's nonfiction work, Haunted Warwickshire: A Gazetteer of Ghosts and Legends. Her books are mostly out of print, although Black Dagger released Tangle in 2005 both as a print and audiobook.
The Bloody Scotland festival announced finalists for this year's Crime Book of the Year: Paths of the Dead by Lin Anderson; DM For Murder by Matt Bendoris; Dead Girl Walking by Brookmyre; Thin Air by Ann Cleeves; The Ghosts of Altona by Craig Russell; and Death Is A Welcome Guest by Louise Welsh.
The Romance Writers of America chose the winners of this year's RITA Awards, including Best Romantic Suspense title, Concealed in Death by J.D. Robb, and 2015 Golden Heart Award (for an unpublished novel): Romantic Suspense, A Shot Worth Taking by Tracy Poole.
In September, the Theatre Royal in Waterford, Ireland will present "125 Years of Agatha Christie." Agatha Christie expert and lifelong fan Dr. John Curran will survey the output over half a century of the world’s favorite detective novelist, and there will be a screening of the 1945 film adaptation of Christie's novel And Then There Were None. (HT to Crime Fiction Ireland.)
Over in Turkey, one of the world’s oldest luxury hotels will host the “Black Week Turkey” event in October in honor of Agatha Christie’s 125th birthday. Christie wrote one of her most beloved books, Murder on the Orient Express, in the Pera Palace Hotel Jumeirah in Istanbul in 1934, and the resort will host Christie's grandson and several crime fiction authors during the event.
The latest issue of Pulp Modern, edited by Alec Cizak, is available via Kindle and Createspace and features stories on the theme of "Dangerous Women." As the 'zine notes, "from little girls luring old perverts to their deaths to shape-shifting women in the wild west, your appetite for new, engaging fiction will be thoroughly satisfied." Authors included in the issue are Math Bird, Monica Clark, Jen Conley, Janna Darkovich, Christopher Davis, Coy Hall, Michael McNichols, David Rachels, Melody Reams, Mike Sheedy, Max Sheridan, Deborah Sheldon, Parnell Stultz, Liam Sweeny, and John Teel.
True Detective fans on Reddit have been comparing notes to answer the question "Is True Detective season 2 a James Ellroy rip-off?" drawing attention to similarities in storylines by James Ellroy and True Detective’s Nic Pizzolatto. (Note that the Telegraph article contains some spoilers for the season.)
Author Kris Calvin picked her list of "Top 10 Political Crime Fiction Thrillers" for The Strand Magazine.
A.S. Byatt penned an essay for The Guardian about Margery Allingham's Traitor’s Purse, which the author wrote in fragments in 1940 in-between air raids and "created a wartime masterpiece."
Author Laura Lippman talks about the "Books That Changed Me" with the Sydney Morning Herald.
Think you know your Agatha Christie trivia? Here's a quiz to see just how big a fan you are.
This week's featured crime poem at the 5-2 is "Predator and Prey" by Joseph D'Agnese.
In the Q&A roundup, bestselling UK crime writer, Peter May, tackles the Crime Files quiz; author Joanne Phillips stopped by Omnimystery News today to discuss her cozy series featuring amateur sleuth Flora Lively; the Mystery People grilled debut author Alexandra Burt about her domestic thriller Remember Mia and also talked with Linwood Barclay about his latest thriller, Broken Promise; former private eye-turned author Michael Koryta talked about how his work with the Innocence Project inspired his new novel, Last Words; and Sara Paretsky spoke with the Huffington Post about her latest V.I. Warshawski novel, Brushback.
Director Ridley Scott is taking on Don Winslow's novel Cartel as a film adaptation for Fox. The drug-trafficking plot has prescient parallels to the real-life escape of Mexican drug lord El Chapo earlier this month and follows a DEA agent and a cartel operative as they try to take each other down. Deadline also reported that the producers are courting Leonardo DiCaprio to play the lead role of DEA agent Art Keller.
Gone Girl's Rosamund Pike is set to star in Tony Gilroy’s political thriller High Wire Act set in 1980’s Beirut. The story follows Mason Skiles (Jon Hamm), a former U.S. diplomat called back into service to save a former colleague from the group possibly responsible for his own family’s death. Pike will play a CIA field agent working undercover at the American embassy tasked with keeping Mason alive and ensuring the mission's success.
Sam Mendes, who directed the recent James Bond film Skyfall, indicated in an interview with the BBC that he will not be returning to the franchise after the upcoming Spectre. Meanwhile, Daniel Craig's future playing 007 is also up in the air, but if there's one lesson to learn about Hollywood is "you never say never."
The Johnny Depp-starring biopic of notorious gangster James "Whitey" Bulger, Black Mass, will get its world premiere out of competition at this year’s festival on September 4. The film is directed by Scott Cooper (Crazy Heart) and also stars Joel Edgerton, Benedict Cumberbatch, Rory Cochrane, Jesse Plemons, Dakota Johnson, Peter Sarsgaard and Kevin Bacon.
The first full trailer was released for the upcoming Bond film Spectre, with the first extended look at Dave Bautista as evil henchman Mr. Hinx and the first real look at Christoph Waltz as Franz Oberhauser, the head of SPECTRE.
Netflix is not renewing Lilyhammer for a fourth season. The series starred The Sopranos actor and E Street band member Steven Van Zandt as a man continuing a life of mafia crime and leisure while in witness protection in Lillehammer, Norway.
Rizzoli & Isles fans can relax, since TNT announced the network is renewing the show for a seventh season with a 13-episode order to air next summer. This is down from its series-high number of 18 episodes in season six, although there is currently no talk about season seven being its last.
The Shield's Michael Chiklis is joing Fox’s GOTHAM as a series regular, playing Captain Nathaniel Barnes, described as a cop who “lands on the Gotham City Police Department like a tornado, ripping out the dead wood of the city’s police force.”
The Flash star Rick Cosnett will have a recurring role on ABC’s new drama series Quantico, playing an "openly gay, incredibly funny former defense attorney who used his rhetoric and savvy against FBI cases."
Joey Pollari and Hope Davis are heading to ABC’s American Crime for the drama’s second season. Pollari will play Eric Lupton, a basketball player from a working class family who attends college on a basketball scholarship, while Davis' character has not been defined just yet.
Kendrick Sampson (The Vampire Diaries, Gracepoint) will take on a "substantive recurring role" in the upcoming season of ABC’s How To Get Away With Murder.
British actor Colin Salmon has landed a major recurring role in CBS’ upcoming sci-fi drama Limitless, based on the 2011 feature film starring Bradley Cooper (who will reprise his role as a recurring guest star). The series centers on Brian Finch (Jake McDorman), who discovers the brain-boosting power of the mysterious drug NZT and is coerced by the FBI into using his extraordinary cognitive abilities to solve complex cases for them. Salmon will play a former intelligence officer who keeps tabs on Finch.
Six Feet Under alum Lauren Ambrose and The Flash's Robbie Amell are heading to Fox's reboot of The X-Files, appearing in appear in one episode of the six-episode miniseries playing new FBI agents. Somehow, the show is also bringing back the "late" sleuthing trio of The Lone Gunmen who were killed off in the original series.
Kumail Nanjiani, X-files superfan and host of The X-Files podcast, will also appear in an upcoming episode written and directed by Darin Morgan.
The X-Files keeps drawing out its teaser trailers, this time with the first one that includes dialogue between Mulder and Scully.
A trailer was released for the new season of Fargo that follows Deputy Lou Solverson (Patrick Wilson) and Sheriff Hank Larsson (Ted Danson) who are investigating a double murder at a diner in Luverne, Minnesota, circa 1979.
There's a new podcast in town: Debbi Mack's The Crime Cafe will be available via iTunes and will showcase interviews with leading crime and thriller authors. The inaugural episode features an interview with author Jenny Milchman.
Vinci, a podcast about True Detective in iTunes and Stitcher, uses its inaugural show to wonder if The Long Goodbye inspired Rick Springfield's character in the True Detective series.
Benjamin Walker will take the lead in the musical adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis' novel American Psycho on Broadway, with an official open date of March 21, 2016, in a Shubert theater TBA. The show had its world premiere at the Almeida Theater in London in 2013 with Dr. Who star Matt Smith taking on the role of the role of Manhattan businessman and serial killer Patrick Bateman.
Elizabeth Ferrars (1907-1995), born Morna Doris MacTaggart, was a British crime writer and founding member of the Crime Writers Association who received a special Silver Dagger for lifetime achievement in 1980. Her Golden Age books totaled over 70 in all, written over a period of six decades, from 1932-1995. Her first crime fiction novel, Give a Corpse a Bad Name, led to a successful career as a mystery author in both the U.K. and in the U.S., where her publishers issued her books under the name "E.X. Ferrars."
It's been argued that her popularity hasn't survived well into the late 20th and early 21st centuries due to the lack of a solid series character. Her first attempt was with freelance journalist Toby Dyke (a Lord Peter Wimsey type) and his companion, George, a former criminal whose surname is never revealed. She wrote five Toby Dyke novels over a two-year period, which may be why she suddenly ended the series, adding that she did so because she "got to hate him so much." In the 1970s and 1980s she created a series featuring a semi-estranged married couple, Virginia and Felix Freer, and another with retired botanist, Andrew Basnett. She also penned short stories centering on an elderly detective called Jonas P. Jonas.
Her writing was in the "cozy mystery" vein, and as the Mysterious Bookshop noted, Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine described her as the "writer who may be the closest of all to Agatha Christie in style, plotting and general milieu," while the Washington Post described her as "a consummate professional in clever plotting, characterization and atmosphere."
Murder Among Friends, from 1946 (published in the U.S. as Cheat the Hangman), is one of her 50 standalone novels, and was included by H.R.F. Keating on his 100 best crime fiction books list. The story begins with a party thrown by Cecily Lightwood for her literary and artistic friends, including guest of honor, playwright Aubrey Ritter, who lives in the flat above Cecily's. The group is determined to have a fun evening despite the ever-present danger of air raid wardens looking for blackout infringements in war-time London.
But where is the guest of honor? After he's found murdered upstairs and one of the party-goers arrested and later sentenced to murder, another guest, mousy Alice Church, finds herself so obsessed with the crime and doubting the verdict, that she sets about playing detective. With the help of Alice's scientist-husband Oliver, she puzzles her way through to discover the real murderer, thanks to her quiet, persistent insight and her husband's eye for detail.
By today's crime fiction (and even cozy) standards, Murder Among Friends seems to be a fairly genteel psychological study of complicated, intertwined relationships, which might be considered quaint in its depiction of sexual attractions. Yet, as Keating tells it, in 1946, Ferrars's regular publishers refused to publish the book because "detective stories couldn't be this steamy."
Although she's said to have based many characters and situations on people she knew and things she'd experienced in real life, it's not known to what degree that plays a role here. But with the long character portraits Alice extracts from her questioning of the key players, it wouldn't take much of a leap to guess that Ferrars emphasis on the emotional makeup of her characters was drawn from a keen eye of observation; or, as a character in her book The Small World of Murder puts it, "Murder's generally an intimate sort of thing. It happens in a small world, a little shut-in world of violent feelings."
This week's look at crime fiction news includes awards in the UK, New Zealand, and Spain, a profile of Maj Sjöwal, the cast of cast of HBO's The Wire reunited in Baltimore, and more.
Debut author Sarah Hilary has won the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Award for Someone Else’s Skin. She was selected from a shortlist of six, whittled down from a longlist of 18 titles published by British and Irish authors over the last year.
The shortlist has been announced for the Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel, recognizing the best crime, mystery or thriller novel written by a New Zealand citizen or resident:
Paula Hawkins, Ann Cleeves, Mark Billingham, Val McDermid, Peter James, and Marnie Riches were the winners of the inaugural Dead Good Reader Awards presented at Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival in Harrogate. The winners were decided by a public vote, with more than 4,000 votes had been received from online readers and festival attendees.
Spain's Semana Negra 2015 conference presented the Premio Dashiell Hammett, an award for best crime fiction in Spanish, to Yo fui Johnny Thunders by Carlos Zanón.
The summer issue of Pulp Literature is out, with a profile of author Robert J Sawyer; Mel Anastasiou rounds out the first Stella Ryman novella Omnibus with "The Case of the Vanishing Resident"; plus more great fiction and some poetry from Wally Swist and Valentina Cano.
Jake Kerridge profiled Maj Sjöwal, who along with her partner Per Wahlöö, is often credited with inventing "Nordic Noir." The couple's series of 10 detective stories featuring policeman called Martin Beck, have had a huge influence on not just Scandinavian authors but crime writers around the world. A TV crew is also development a documentary on her life, that will hopefully be completed in time for her 80th birthday in September.
The cast of HBO's The Wire reunited in Baltimore to celebrate the city's real-life residents by reading their monologues that highlight the city's resiliency. Dominic West (Det. Jimmy McNulty), Michael K. Williams (Omar), Wendell Pierce (Det. Bunk Moreland) and Felicia Pearson (Felicia) were among the cast members in attendance at Wired Up!
Journalist Stephen Grey, author of The New Spymasters: Inside the Modern World of Espionage, chose his list of the "Top 10 books about spies" for The Guardian.
The Telegraph noted in an article titled "Crime writers are the victims as Sherlock's too slow for forensics" that contemporary authors struggle to keep up with new technological developments.
This year's Semana Negra (Noir Week) runs from July 10th to the 19th in Gijón, on the northern Spanish coast, and The Local Online has a preview.
If you were a fan of The Hardy Boys books during your youth (as I was), you'll enjoy Mengal Floss' list of "15 Mysterious Facts About ‘The Hardy Boys."
American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis (made into a film starring Christian Bale), has been pulled from bookshelves by police in Australia. The problem? A woman complained that the book wasn't shrink-wrapped. Under that country's national censorship legislation, the psychological thriller is only allowed to be sold in plastic wrapping and sold exclusively to those aged over 18.
This week's crime poem at the 5-2 is "Off the Grid" by Peter M. Gordon.
In the Q&A roundup this week, Joe Cosentino drops by Omnimystery News to talk about the debut novel in his new gay cozy mystery series, Drama Queen; Sue Grafton zips by for a short Q&A with the New York Times; thriller author Gayle Lynds joined the Maine Crime Writers to chat about her new book, The Assassins; and Sons of Spade welcomed Trace Conger to discuss his hardboiled Finn Harding series.
It's Monday again, which means summer is flying by, but even better, it's time for the latest wrap-up of crime drama news:
James Franco and Ahna O’Reilly are developing a movie version of Alex Marwood’s murder mystery The Killer Next Door, with Franco producing and O'Reilly to potentially star. The story centers on six neighbors forced into an unlikely alliance without realizing that one of them is a killer who will do anything to protect his secret.
Red Planet Entertainment and Pathbender have optioned the nonfiction book Gray Water: Confessions of an American Paramilitary Spy by Jamie Smith, a self-described CIA operative and co-founder of the private military company Blackwater. Although the accuracy of his memoir has been called into question, the producers believe the controversy will only add to the mystique surrounding the project.
The Guardian reported that the film adaptation of the bestselling mystery novel The Girl on the Train will be set in the U.S. instead of its original English setting. In a recent interview with the Sunday Times, the book's author Paula Hawkins said it was likely to take place in upstate New York, adding, "I’m not really concerned about the repositioning as I think it is the type of story that could take place in any commuter town."
Right after GG Walker's thriller novel All Is Not Forgotten sold to St. Martin’s Press following a bidding battle (with plans to publish in early 2017), Warner Brothers closed a significant preemptive acquisition of film rights. Reese Witherspoon is set to produce and may play the role of the mother of a teenage girl who is brutally raped and decides to give their daughter a pill to erase her short term memory so she won’t relive the trauma of the attack.
20th Century Fox snapped up film rights to Epic Magazine's true story "Pipino: Gentleman Thief" by Joshua Davis and David Wolman. The project concerns the exploits of master thief Vincenzo Pipino, who scaled multiple stories and clay rooftops to steal art, clothing, and jewelry in 1990’s Italy.
The 2015 Emmy Award nominations were announced last week, with several crime dramas coming away with multiple nods, incuding Better Call Saul, Homeland, and Orange is the New Black for Outstanding Drama; Kyle Chandler (Bloodline), Bob Odenkirk (Better Call Saul), and Liev Schreiber (Ray Donovan) for Best Actor in a Drama Series; Claire Danes (Homeland), Viola Davis (How to Get Away With Murder), and Tatiana Maslany (Orphan Black) for Best actress in a Drama Series. Agatha Christie’s Poirot: Curtain, Poirot’s Last Case also picked up a nomination for Outstanding Television Movie. For all the nominee lists, check out the official Emmy website.
BBC One is partnering with Lifetime for a miniseries based on Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None. The UK will premiere the program as a three-episode series later this year to coincide with Agatha Christie’s 125th anniversary, with the U.S. premiere on Lifetime as a two-part miniseries in 2016. The iconic novel follows ten strangers with dubious pasts lured to an isolated island where they're accused of crimes and start to die myteriously, one by one.
AMC's Revolutionary War spy drama Turn has been renewed for a third season. The series center around the Culper spy ring during the war, focusing on Abe Woodhull (Jamie Bell), a man recruited into spying despite the fact other members of his family are loyalists.
Downton Abbey actress Michelle Dockery has been cast in Good Behavior, a drama pilot ordered by TNT that's based on novels by Blake Crouch. Dockery will play Letty Dobesh, a thief and con artist fresh out of prison. When she overhears a hitman being hired to kill a man's wife, she sets out to derail the job, "setting her on a collision course with the killer and entangling them in a dangerous and seductive relationship."
Peter Krause has landed the male lead in ABC's midseason drama The Catch from Shondaland (the production company behind How to Get Away With Murder). Krause replaces Damon Dayoub who appeared in the pilot. The plot focuses on Alice Vaughan (The Killing's Mireille Enos), a fraud investigator who is pitted against a successful con man who lives the good life with other people’s money.
Deadline reported that Sunkrish Bala (The Walking Dead) has booked a season-long arc on ABC's Castle, playing Vikram Singh, "a high-strung, tech analyst with a complicated past."
The same Deadline article also noted that Anabelle Acosta (Ballers) is set for a multi-episode arc on ABC’s new FBI series Quantico, and a separate report adds that Josh Hopkins is also joining Quantico to play Special Agent Liam O’Connor, taking over the role played by Dougray Scott in the pilot.
Although the CSI series-ending finale has lined up many former cast members from previous seasons, two names will be absent: Eizabeth Shue and George Eads have declined to participate, even though Eads' character, forensic investigator Nick Stokes, was already written into the script.
Alana de la Garza and Annie Funke will star opposite Gary Sinise in CBS’ Criminal Minds spin-off Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders, which "follows FBI agents helping American citizens who find themselves in trouble abroad."
Fargo's Allison Tolman will guest star on Amazon's drama Mad Dogs, joining Coby Bell in a recurring role. The drama follows four former frat brothers who travel to Belize for a reunion and luxury vacation that's interrupted by a series of wild events exposing dark secrets, deception and murder.
The Fox programs Bones and Sleepy Hollow are having a crossover episode. I'm not exactly how they intend on pulling that off, but it will be across two episodes, one on each show sometime late in the 2015-16 season.
Last Week Tonight’s John Oliver and Lena Headey (Game Of Thrones) have boarded the BBC’s reboot of the classic children’s animated series Danger Mouse. Oliver will voice the role of mad scientist wolf Dr. Augustus P. Crumhorn III, while Headey will be the voice of U.S. Secret Agent Jeopardy Mouse.
NPR's Fresh Air welcomed Don Winslow, author of The Cartel, who spent 10 years immersed in the Mexican drug wars before writing the novel.
Chuck Palahniuk, the author behind Fight Club, announced that he’s working on a rock opera based on his hit novel, with David Fincher (the filmmaker who helmed the movie version), and Julie Taymor, a renowned theatrical director, both on board the project.
Jessica Mann (b. 1937) originally earned degrees in archaeology, Anglo-Saxon and law and worked in various fields in the UK, including as a Planning Inspector. She later turned her hand to writing crime fiction, and her novel, A Charitable End, was published in 1971, with some 21 novels published since. She's also been a well-known and respected radio and television broadcast, particularly her radio program, "Women of Mystery", and authored a treatise on women crime writers entitled Deadlier than the Male.
She wrote reviews for The Literary Review, and may be more familiar to some audiences from her comments in Standpoint Magazine that she would no longer be reviewing certain types of crime fiction due to the misogyny and violence against women. It's unfortunate that she be known more for those comments (taken way out of context by news agencies) than her writing, but the fact remains that very few of her novels are still available in print in the U.S.
A Private Inquiry was shortlisted for the Gold Dagger award in 1996, and is set mainly in St. Ives, in Cornwall, near where Mann herself has lived for several years. At its heart, the novel is a tale of psychological suspense involving four women whose disparate lives intersect in a twisted scheme of blackmail, missing persons, double identity, a perverse game of victim and oppressor, a child's death, and ultimately, murder.
Mann deftly weaves complex psychological characterizations into the mix, such as the following comment from one of the main characters, a child psychologist:
Men showed themselves as they really were in bed. No doubt women did too, but Fidelis had been strictly heterosexual. Children, however, she could understand while keeping a proper and professional distance from them, observing and interacting across a desk, on the playing mat, at the zoo. But to know an adult, she had always needed intimacy. Fidelis's sexual life was over now and she was afraid she might have become a bad judge of character as a result.
The adroitly twisted plot provides plenty of social commentary and an intriguing look into how the losses and sins of youth shape the dysfunctional adults we become.