Crime Thriller Book Log: Winspear, Hancock, Ridpath, Magson

I sense a loose theme emerging among this week’s crime thriller book releases… historical fiction.

UnknownJacqueline Winspear has been writing her Maisie Dobbs novels since 2003, and Leaving Everything Most Loved – out today in hardcover and kindle, Bank Holiday shopping fans! – is the tenth. Maisie is a psychologist and investigator post World War I, and protege of celebrated detective Dr. Maurice Blanche.

The Dobbs books are always as much about the healing of the client as much as the solving of the investigation, and each case has its roots in The Great War. Winspear is fascinated by the period, perhaps because her own grandfather was wounded in The Battle of the Somme in 1916.

Here’s the blurb to end all blurb:

London, 1933. Some two months after an Indian woman, Usha Pramal, is found murdered in a South London canal, her brother turns to Maisie Dobbs to find the truth about her death.

Not only has Scotland Yard made no arrests, but evidence indicates thfailed to conduct a full and thorough investigation. Before her death, Usha was staying at an ayah’s hostel, a refuge for Indian women whose British employers had turned them out. As Maisie learns, Usha was different from the hostel’s other lodgers.

But with this discovery comes new danger – soon another Indian woman who was close to Usha is found murdered before she can speak out. As Maisie is pulled deeper into an unfamiliar yet alluring subculture, her investigation becomes clouded by the unfinished business of a previous case.

And at the same time her lover, James Compton, gives her an ultimatum she cannot ignore …

Unknown-3Graham Hancock’s War God: Nights Of The Witch takes us back several centuries, to the Spanish Invasion of the Americas.

The blurb is splendidly racy. Check this out:

A young girl called Tozi stands at the bottom of a pyramid, waiting to be led to the top where her heart will be cut out… Pepillo, a Spanish orphan who serves a sadistic Dominican friar, is aboard the Spanish fleet as it sails towards Mexico…

This is the epic story of the clash of two empires, two armies and two gods of war. Five hundred desperate adventurers are about to pit themselves against the most brutal armies of the ancient Americas, armies hundreds of thousands strong.

This is a war of gods and men. Dark powers that work behind the scenes of history show their hand as the prophecy of the return of Quetzalcoatl is fulfilled with the arrival of Cortes. The Aztec ruler Moctezuma fights to maintain the demands of the war god Huitzilopochtli for human sacrifice. The Spanish Inquisition is planning an even greater blood-letting.

Caught up in the headlong collision between two gods of war are Tozi, Pepillo and the beautiful sex slave Malinal whose hatred of Moctezuma runs so deep she will sell out her own land and people to destroy him.

Hancock apparently experienced the psychedelic plants – a shamanic visionary brew, Ayahuasca – that were used by the ancient Aztec emperors for entranced communion with their gods to inform this novel. Personally, when I’m writing, I never get further than a cup of Tetley.

If War God’s heady cocktail sets your pulse racing, you’ll want to know it’s published in hardcover and on kindle on Thursday. The subtitle is a clue – it’s the first in a planned fantasy trilogy.

Unknown-1And we’re back to the 20th Century for Traitor’s Gate.

Michael Ridpath started out writing financial thrillers, and then went on to write the Fire And Ice series featuring his Icelandic detective Magnus. The eagle-eyed among you, however, may have detected that Traitor’s Gate  – available in hardback and on kindle on Saturday – is set in the run up to World War II.

Achtung! Blurb!

Conrad de Lancey has seen enough of evil: the shadow of fear on the faces of innocents; the roar of tanks through empty streets; the sudden lull before the slaughter begins. Franco’s bloody insurrection taught this Englishman all about hell.

Arriving in his mother’s country, the now Nazi Germany, Conrad is sick at heart. Even Berlin – infamous haven of decadence and vice – salutes fascism. Himmler’s black-shirted troops rule the city, and every German arm bears a Swastika. But does every German heart belong to Hitler?

When Conrad is arrested by the Gestapo on suspicion of spying, he is rescued by Theo, an old friend from university, now a lieutenant of the Wehrmacht. Together they are drawn into a world of danger and deceit, of plots, paranoia and intrigue where the brave few are united by a single ambition: to free the fatherland from the Führer.

Ridpath began writing Traitor’s Gate in 2005, but it languished unfinished at the bottom of a drawer for many years. Then he dug it out again and rewrote it — seven times, in fact, which just to show that some ideas take time to evolve.

Actually, there’s a fascinating analysis of how and why Ridpath wrote Traitor’s Gate, tracing its genesis across countless years and seven drafts, at his own site here. It’s well worth reading if you have an unfinished novel that continues to transmit a feeble signal to you day and night. Actually, his site is refreshingly honest and personable about the way that writers sometimes have to change genres in order to nail a market, and well worth a look.

Unknown-2Execution isn’t a period piece, but a Spy thriller featuring Adrian Magson’s MI5 agent Harry Tate, and it’s out on Friday in hardcover.

This blurb will self-destruct in five seconds:

When a Russian hit team catches up with Roman Tobinskiy, political opponent of Moscow and former FSB colleague of Alexander Litvinenko (murdered by polonium poisoning in 2006), it’s an easy kill; he’s lying helpless in a hospital bed.

They realise too late that in an adjacent room is Clare Jardine, ex-MI6 officer, recovering from wounds while saving Harry Tate’s life. When Clare goes on the run, Harry is ordered to track her down before the Russians reach her. It’s one of his toughest challenges yet. For not only is Clare as adept at covering her tracks as Harry is himself, but the Russians are not the only ones chasing her.

Harry is about to come up against an old enemy from his past. And if he is to save Clare’s life – as she saved his – he must seek help from a most unlikely source.

Magson has a couple of series under his belt – the Inspector Lucas Rocco series about a French detective in the 60s (historical crime – hooray!) and the Riley Gavin and Frank Palmer series. He also gives advice to new writers in Writing Magazine — so we definitely like him for that.

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