#BookExtract – Headhunter by Nick Oldham

Headhunter by Nick Oldham book jacket“A rousing series launch” Publishers Weekly on Onslaught

“Packed with high-octane action and gut-churning violence; a flawed hero who’s tough and brave but all too human; and a genuine shocker of an ending … the perfect book for anyone who thinks there’s nothing to read between Michael Connelly novels” Booklist Starred Review of Onslaught

“This tense thriller is a rollercoaster ride of gut-churning violence and pulse-pounding action … A mesmerizing read for anyone who likes the hard-boiled style” Booklist on Ambush

 

Accused of murder, former marine and disgraced ex-cop Steve Flynn is on the run – and on the hunt…

The man had to die and Steve Flynn had to be his killer.

Flynn broke the man’s neck with ease, and although he knew he had instantly killed him, just for good measure and to avoid any error, he kept his forearm jammed tight across the man’s neck to crush the windpipe and shut off all blood flow to the brain.

Almost intimately, nose-to-nose with the man, Flynn watched his eyes first glaze over and turn milky in death and then, as Flynn continued to squeeze and keep up the pressure, he saw them almost bulge out of their sockets and then haemorrhage red as what blood remained in his head was forced into the orbs.

Only when he was completely certain the man was dead did Flynn release his neck-hold and allow his head to flop. Then he let the lifeless body slither out of his grip and thump down hard on to the metal floor pan of the police van. Flynn did not gently lower him down and the back of his head smacked against the metal edge of the bench seat while his body twisted unnaturally on to the floor.

To have eased him down, to have given him that final piece of dignity, would have been too much like an act of kindness or contrition on Flynn’s part. It was much more than this man, whose name was Brian Tasker, deserved and certainly more than he had afforded any of his victims.

Flynn’s usually craggily handsome face was twisted, sweaty and ugly with pain and effort. The sinews in his neck were taut like strands of plaited steel cable.

He dragged the back of his hand across his mouth, wiping away the spittle, then glanced down at his outer right thigh and his bloodstained jeans. A wave of nausea rolled up from his lower gut and almost engulfed him, but he fought it to remain focused and concentrating.

The leg had been very basically dressed by a paramedic earlier, and Flynn knew that, in an ideal world, what he now needed was hospital treatment for the gunshot wound.

But Flynn was operating in a far-from-ideal world and a hospital admission would have to wait its turn.

Bracing himself to ignore the agony from his leg and also the throbbing of a burst eardrum, he slid along the bench seat to the back door of the van and pushed it open.

He knew his time was limited.

HEADHUNTER by Nick Oldham is out now in the UK and will be published in eBook, and in hardback in the USA, on 1 November 2017.  Please visit our website here for further information about Nick Oldham and his work.

 

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#BookExtract – World Enough by Clea Simon

World Enough by Clea Simon book jacket

The Boston club scene may be home to a cast of outsiders and misfits, but it’s where Tara Winton belongs; the world she’s been part of for the past twenty years.  Now, one of the old gang is dead, having fallen down the basement stairs at his home.  With her journalist’s instincts, Tara senses there’s something not quite right about Frank’s supposedly accidental death. When she asks questions, she begins to uncover some disturbing truths about the club scene in its heyday.  Beneath the heady, sexually charged atmosphere lurked something darker. Twenty years ago, there was another death. Could there be a connection? Is there a killer still at large … and could Tara herself be at risk?

 

Ten o’clock, and the opener will be on soon. Opener! She laughs at herself. It’s only the Craters and the Whirled Shakers tonight, and the bill was probably decided by a coin toss between them backstage. It’s the Shakers she came to see, their psychedelic pop still gets her going, with its tambourines and the beat. But maybe she’ll stay for the Craters. Depends on how tired she is. Depends on the crowd.

There are only about thirty people in the room. Twenty-something if you don’t count the bartender, but after a long day at work, Tara is glad enough for the company and for the empty chair by the table up front. Beer in hand, she settles in, waiting for the music. Twenty-seven, she counts. Twenty-four if you subtract the two wives and a girlfriend. A good house, really, for two bands that have been around the club scene for twenty years. Then again, most everyone here has been, too. She knows most of them by sight, if not by name, and when she closes her eyes she can place them in the Rat, the Channel, Oakie’s, Jumpin’ Jack Flash. All the great old places, closed now, torn down to make way for condos and parking garages. Those cavernous rooms and black-painted basements are what she thinks of when she thinks of the ’80s, back when she, the bands, and everyone here were in their heyday.

She opens her eyes to a bit of a shock. The women are all thirty pounds heavier than in her mind’s eye. Or they’ve gone thin, like she has, a little drawn, a little leathery. The men have fared better. Gray, if they have hair, and some of them have gone from biker tough to resembling the butchers, delivery men, and press operators they are during the day. But mostly they’re in good shape, if a little rough. Besides, it’s her crowd and nothing new sounds as good.

Twenty years ago, the Shakers wouldn’t have been playing a pub like this, as much a burger joint as a music room. But twenty years ago, they’d been the hot new rising stars. The best of Boston, they’d pull in quite a crowd, a Friday like this, and there’d have been half again as many label scouts among the fans.

‘Hey.’ Tom from the Exiles pulls up the chair next to hers, settling his shot glass on the scarred wood table.

‘Hey.’ Tara has never known Tom well. She’s seen his band a thousand times, can picture him in his Motorhead T-shirt banging out the bass riffs. But she only ever talked to him when he’d been behind the bar upstairs at Oakie’s, those thick hands grabbing Buds four at a time from the reach-in. The upstairs – that had started for the overflow but it had become their hangout. The bar for the music crowd. Tom wasn’t much of a bartender. Couldn’t mix more than a screwdriver, but he knew everyone. His band wasn’t much either, the kind of group you’d go see just because of who would be there – an extension of the bar. Social. Fun. Still, they’d kept at it. She knew he was still playing out, and he felt like family after all this time.

‘Good crowd, huh?’ They smile and nod, both happy enough to be there. Tara’s about to ask him about the Exiles, just to be friendly, but right then the Shakers take the stage. Two guitars and a bass bash out the first chord. It’s loud and lively, and the drummer jumps in with a fill, kicking everyone up to speed. More guitar and Phil, the singer, has grabbed the mike. He’s smiling. Happy to be on stage. But that wide-eyed grin soon gives way to a rock-star grimace, eyes squeezed shut. Then he’s prancing, the guitar taking over the song and Phil’s body with it, as he swings the mike stand high, twirls around. Stadium moves. The guitars crash again over the driving beat of the bass. Joey, the drummer, solos, fast and neat, and the guitars are back. Phil is singing his heart out, and just like that, the song is done.

‘Awesome.’ Tom could be speaking for both of them. Twenty years ago, ten even, Tara knows she’d be up on her feet, dancing, in front of the stage. Maybe up on the table. Maybe next song. Joey counts off the next tune. ‘One, two, three, four!’ and the guitar-bass unison cranks up the pace before Phil joins in. Tara drains her beer. Maybe she will get up, dance right in front of the band like she used to.

She looks around for Min, knowing that she’s not likely to have shown up in the five minutes since she last surveyed the crowd. Min would’ve liked this. The band sounds good; everyone seems mellow. Not that Min’s been out much recently. Unlike some of their old friends, the ones who’ve moved on to have families and buy houses out in Watertown or Medford, Min hasn’t really replaced the rock scene in her life. But she’s grown tired of it. When they meet for lunch – Min works at the hospital a couple of blocks from her office – she goes on about how sad it all is.

‘How’s it sad? Nobody’s pretending we’re twenty.’ Tara is used to the usual complaints. ‘We’re having fun, and we still like the music.’

‘It’s just kind of pitiful. The dwindling crowd and all.’ Min always shakes her head at this point, which makes Tara a little angry.

‘It’s the same as any other pastime. We’re a group of old friends.’ Even as she says it, Tara knows it’s not entirely true. She and Min are friends. They’ve spent time together outside the clubs. Gotten to know each other. Helped each other through breakups and miscarriages (Min’s) and divorce (Tara). But for the rest, it’s clubland only. And Min has never had quite the feeling about the music world that Tara has, that it’s her family. Her only real home. Looking around the room tonight, Tara pities her friend. This is something real. Maybe they are all outcasts, but they found each other, didn’t they?

‘Hey, kiddo!’ As if on cue, Gina is there, collapsing into the one chair left. ‘Don’t they sound great tonight?’

‘Killer.’ Tara knows Gina drinks too much, knows that she’s never gotten over Phil, even though the singer has moved on to a wife and two babies. She sees Gina glaring at Katie, Phil’s long-ago ex, still a fan. Still a knockout, too, in her wan blonde fashion, her hair still silky smooth down past the shoulders of her black leather jacket. She looks like a star, even after a sunless work week, and Gina will never forgive her for that.

‘What’s the news?’ It cheers Tara to see how Gina’s doughy face brightens at the question, her one claim to fame being her connection with the band.

‘They’re talking about going into the studio again. You’ll hear, they’re going to do some of the new songs. They’re really great.’ Gina leans in, and Tara smells alcohol and sweat. ‘I think this may be it!’

OK, so maybe Min has a point. They’re all a little lost. But isn’t it something that they found each other? That they have the scene?

‘I’ll listen for them.’ The next tune has started and Gina is up again, shaking it in front of the tiny stage, standing between Katie and the band. Looking at her, her too-tight stretch miniskirt making indents in her waist and thighs, Tara thinks twice about getting up to dance. But just as she’s reconsidering another song kicks in, a repeated guitar riff she knows in her sleep. It’s ‘World Enough’, their hit. The song that almost got them onto a major label, out of Boston, out of all this. The bass joins in, four fast bars of building beat. Then the drums. Screw the years, it’s time to dance.

If we had world enough, world enough and time . . .

Time’s played them all for fools, but they’re still here, and Tara loves it. In a minute, it’s 1986 again. She’s bouncing around, shaking it with Gina. For a moment, the years, the dinky pub, don’t matter. She remembers descending into a steaming basement, working her way through a packed house, and hearing this riff, this command to dance.

I love you baby, and you know that ain’t no crime.

The lyrics are inane. Tara knows that, and sings along anyway, shouting into the PA’s roar.

World enough and time!

With a crash, the song ends, and the present-day world returns. Tara heads for the bar.

‘You hear about Frank?’ Gina is leaning over toward her. Gina always knows what’s going on. Tara holds up her empty bottle – and two fingers – for the bartender, a tall, grizzled man whose name she can’t recall. Gina’s got an empty in front of her, and Tara’s feeling generous.

‘No, what?’ The beers arrive, and she slides one over to Gina.

‘He’s dead.’ Gina takes a swig, downing half the bottle. ‘Some kind of accident.’ Band and beer forgotten for a moment, Tara stares. Dead? ‘I heard he fell down a flight of stairs. They’re saying it could be some fucked-up form of suicide.’

‘Shit.’

‘Yeah, really. But this way, they get the insurance. You know about the baby, right?’ Tara nods. She’d heard that Frank’s only child, Mika, had been having problems. That her son – Frank’s grandson – hadn’t been right since he was born.

She takes a pull from her beer, tries to think of something to say. But Gina is gone, back on the floor for the next number. One of the new tunes, it sounds good enough but Tara has lost the urge to dance. Frank. Shit. Maybe Min is right. Tara used to think of this crowd as the lucky ones. The runts who’d survived. They were rejects and outcasts, and she included herself in that crowd, but they’d bucked the curse. They’d all been lucky enough to find each other, to find their own place, here in the clubs.

From World Enough, all rights reserved.

WORLD ENOUGH is available to order now in the UK and will be published in the USA by Severn House on 1 November.  Please visit our website here for further information.

#BookExtract – Spring Break by Gerald Elias

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“Readers will enjoy spending time in the company of the
curmudgeonly Jacobus, and many will welcome the absence
of fisticuffs, car chases, and Glocks”
Publishers Weekly on Spring Break

“In Jacobus we have an imaginative, ornery, reclusive, witty protagonist”
Booklist on Spring Break

Chapter 7
Saturday, March 28

It had been more than two months since Jacobus moved in with Nathaniel, and over a week since the disastrous masterclass. The adrenaline from the intensity of the moment had long since worn off, and the withdrawal left him listless and at loose ends. Jacobus was bored. And when he was bored he was intolerable, which might have been why Nathaniel was spending increasing amounts of time away from the apartment, consulting on cases.
‘There’s nothing to do around here,’ Jacobus grumbled.
‘Listen to some music,’ Nathaniel said and turned his attention back to the Times.
‘I’ve got Mendelssohn coming out my ass. I don’t need any more music.’
‘Listen to the news, then. Go for a walk. Make some coffee. Eat a sandwich.’
‘Some friend.’
‘My lord!’ Nathaniel said. ‘Shall I arrange a playdate for you? Or a babysitter?’
‘Smug son of a—’
‘All right! All right!’ Nathaniel said. Jacobus heard him slap down the newspaper. ‘I do declare! Would a game of checkers make you happy?’
‘Happy? No. Modestly lessened sense of ennui? Yes.’
Nathaniel set up the board on a folding table between the two of them.
As Nathaniel was about to make his first move, Jacobus asked, ‘What about some music?’
‘Jake, I’ve never said this to you, but—’
‘OK. Never mind. Just go.’
Nathaniel moved his checker with Jacobus’s finger on it. Jacobus could have done it himself, since Nathaniel started out every game the same way. He released Jacobus’s hand after making his move.
‘It’s strange,’ Jacobus said.
‘What do you mean? It’s the same move as always.’
‘No. Not that. Just that business about the mushrooms and that kid both happening at the same time.’
‘Jake, let it go. You’ve been obsessing for a week. There’s no connection. Some people got sick from bad mushrooms. And a hyper young lady got sick from you. You do have that effect, you know.’
‘But Schlossberg was an expert. His wife said he went to great lengths to make sure the mushrooms were good. And the way he talked to the girl. There was something not right. Some innuendo I wasn’t catching.’
‘So what are you saying?’
‘I don’t know. Just that there was a connection.’
‘You know what I think?’ Nathaniel asked.
‘You think I’m a doddering old fool who can’t admit he was a prick to an eager student in front of her peers and who is just making excuses for his prickiositude.’
‘Uh-huh. I couldn’t’ve said it better. Your move. I’m getting the guacamole from the fridge.’
Jacobus grunted, a combination of acknowledgement and disapproval.
As the game proceeded, Jacobus gradually gained the upper hand. His ability to remember the location of all the pieces on the board was in part a fringe benefit of his training as a violinist memorizing dozens of concertos, sonatas, and concert pieces. At first he accomplished this in standard fashion, as most students do; then, after becoming blind, he was by necessity forced to memorize everything simply by the laborious process of listening over and over again.
‘How do you remember where all my checkers are?’ Nathaniel asked.
‘Not hard when you only have three of them.’
There was a buzz on Nathaniel’s intercom. Yumi was downstairs. Nathaniel buzzed her up. She hadn’t spoken to Jacobus since unceremoniously dumping him off at the curb the week before. He prepared himself to be harangued and started planning parrying retorts.
Nathaniel went to the door when the bell rang. Jacobus remained seated at the table, considering his next move. He heard his two friends enter the living room.
‘Schlossberg is dead,’ Yumi said. Terse and tense.
If there was a pause in Jacobus’s response, no one noticed it.
‘King me!’ he said, advancing his square checker to Nathaniel’s end of the board.
‘Is that all you have to say? This is terrible news!’ Yumi said.
‘No more terrible than anyone else who I hardly knew.’
‘Jake, what’s happened to you? Just because Aaron Schlossberg didn’t have the honor of your profound friendship didn’t mean he wasn’t one of the most important people in the music world. You’re heartless!’
‘Am I?’ Jacobus slammed down his doubled checker. ‘Am I?’ he repeated. ‘Did you by any chance notice the beggar sitting on the curb outside Nathaniel’s building? I can smell him a mile away. I’ve heard the rattle of his tin cup for years, rain or shine, winter or summer, and whatever I put in it he probably spends on booze. When he dies, which mercifully will be very soon, will that also be terrible news? Or is the death of someone who’s not “one of the most important people in the music world” of less consequence? Tell me, are you going to mourn for him?’
‘That’s not the point,’ Yumi said, but the wind in her sails had been reduced from gale force to a zephyr. ‘I didn’t know Schlossberg that well, either,’ she conceded. ‘And maybe he was on the pompous side. But he was a colleague on the faculty and he brought a lot of recognition to the conservatory. They said he would have been the next Philip Glass.’
‘That’s a motive for murder if I ever heard one.’
‘It wasn’t murder. He died of natural causes.’
‘Burst swollen ego?’
‘Not funny. Complications due to his diabetes.’
‘Pass me some of that whack-a-moley,’ Jacobus said to Nathaniel. He wasn’t hungry but he was going to show them his opinion of dying of diabetes. ‘Heavy on the chips.’
‘You might be disappointed to know that guacamole is healthy,’ Yumi said. ‘Avocados have good cholesterol.’
‘All cholesterol is good cholesterol. When did he die?’
‘A janitor found him yesterday, but they think he died Thursday. In one of the prefab practice modules at the conservatory.’
‘Didn’t he have a studio in his house? What was he doing in a module?’ Jacobus asked. ‘I thought those were for students.’
‘They think he must have been working on his latest opera. He was slumped over the piano. He had been working hard on it.’
‘Didn’t his good wife wonder where he was for all that time?’
‘She said she assumed he was off in the woods on one of his foraging excursions. That he did it all the time, and since it was spring break—’
‘Ah, his Beethoven reenactment. What opera was he working on, The Life and Death of Me?’
‘Anwar and Yitzhak. It’s about how Sadat and Rabin forged peace between Egypt and Israel only to be assassinated by their own people. The Met was going to premiere it next year.’
‘Who’s singing the role of Jimmy Carter? Pavarotti?’
‘Can’t you take anything seriously?’ Nathaniel asked.
‘Certainly. Have the police interrogated the fat lady to find out when she stopped singing?’
‘You’re ridiculous,’ Yumi said, a little too indignantly. Jacobus perceived laughter about to bubble to the surface.
‘Well, since no one’s taken anything I’ve said about the mushrooms and the girl seriously, why should I bother to be otherwise?’
‘This has nothing to do with any of that! Audrey is Audrey and Aaron is Aaron. And Sybil apologized to me about the mistake with the mushrooms just like she apologized to you and everyone else.’
‘People got sick.’
‘Yes, people got sick. They had bowel problems, just like you. But no one is worse for wear. Jake, didn’t you hear me say Aaron died of natural causes? He had a serious diabetes problem and didn’t take care of himself. It was just a matter of time.’
‘All right. Whatever you say. I’m just a deluded old asshole who happens to see connections between—’
‘I wouldn’t say deluded,’ Nathaniel chuckled.
Jacobus felt Yumi’s arms around his shoulders.
‘You’re not that old, either,’ she said.
‘What would I do without friends like you two?’
‘So I’m going to Kinderhoek to sit shivah with Sybil,’ Yumi said.
Jacobus turned his head.
‘Didn’t realize sitting shivah was a Buddhist tradition,’ he said.
‘We Japanese are equal-opportunity mourners.’
‘I was under the impression Schlossberg was a nonbeliever. And I’d place a large wager his wife ain’t Chassidic’.
‘There’s still a Jewish community at Kinderhoek from the old days, and they’re helping out. He’s already been buried – his parents are Orthodox. They still live in Brooklyn and insisted on doing everything according to tradition.’
‘Doesn’t a wife usually have greater say over such things?’
‘Tallulah told me that Sybil went along with it to get them out of her hair, even though she said he wanted to be cremated.’
‘To have his ashes scattered throughout his beloved woods?’
‘How did you know?’
‘My sense of poetic injustice.’
‘So, do you want to go with me or not?’ Yumi asked.
That caught Jacobus by surprise.
‘Didn’t think you’d want to be seen with me. Especially up there.’
‘Well, I don’t really.’
‘Then why do you want me to go?’
‘You’ve got me thinking. Just in case.’
‘In case of what?’
‘In case you’re right.’

Visit our website for more information on Gerald Elias and the Daniel Jacobus series.

Did You Know – the origin of the phrase ‘to eat humble pie’?

This week’s interesting fact appears in the Glossary of THE NOBLE OUTLAW by Bernard Knight; Book 11 in the medieval mystery series featuring Crowner (Coroner) John.

The umbles were the less desirable parts of venison, such as the offal. Especially at Christmas they were given by a lord to the poorer people to make ‘umble pie’ from which the expression ‘to eat humble pie’ arose as an indicator of subservient status.

Books 1-12 in the Crowner John series are available in eBook from Severn House. More information here.

 

Behind the Book – Murder Take Three by Eric Brown

1956. Langham’s client is movie star Suzie Reynard and her lover has been receiving threats. Langham finds the film set awash with resentment and a body is found in the director’s trailer. Someone confesses to the murder – but Langham is not convinced. He delves into the past and another murder that took place more than twenty years before. Here author Eric Brown talks about the inspiration and research behind his series…

Murder TMurder Take Three book jacketake Three, and the other books in the Langham and Dupré mystery series, came from my fascination with the 1950s. It was an interesting period socially, culturally, and politically, with Britain regaining its feet after the privations of the Second Word War, and slowly gaining some measure of prosperity: change was on the way on every front, and the radicalism of the Sixties was just around the corner. I wanted to write a series of books that would be murder mysteries but also, as it were, documents of the time. Many things were changing: the certainties and values of the thirties and forties were crumbling; many people feared another war, with the Cold War between Russia and the West ramping up and the threat of nuclear annihilation being a constant concern.

One of my recurrent characters in the series is the literary agent, Charles Elder, a homosexual when that practice was outlawed and ridiculed. The books examine social attitudes towards homosexuality – with Charles Elder being threatened by a blackmailer in the first book of the series, Murder by the Book.

When writing the series, I found that the best way to research the period – as well as reading non-fiction books on various aspects of the time – was to read novels set in the fifties. In fact I found these a better source of the ‘feel’ of the time than many factual books. Novels from the likes of Graham Greene, C.P. Snow, Robin Maugham, Rupert Croft-Cooke and many others gave me a sense of the prevalent social mores, were a great insight into cultural and personal attitudes, and showed intimately how people thought at the time. People spoke very differently then, and the novels of the fifties are a treasure trove of fascinating modes of dialogue.

Above all, however, with the series I want to provide the reader with thrilling mysteries, interesting characters, and intriguing puzzles.

MURDER TAKE THREE was published in hardback by Severn House on 28 April (UK) and 1 August (US).  For further information, please visit our website here.

Praise for Eric Brown’s previous book, MURDER AT THE LOCH

“This promises to be a fine series, if future installments are as good as the first three have been”  Booklist 

“Suspenseful outing” Publishers Weekly

“This charming book, which follows Murder at the Chase, brings to the page well-defined characters and a classic locked-room structure. Recommend for anyone who loves English country house murders”  Library Journal 

#AuthorTrivia – Hilary Bonner

I am thBonner Hilary - Coloure reigning  British Media Backgammon Champion!

Unfortunately, I must admit that there has only ever been just the one media championship competition – and that was 30 years ago. It was staged by Victor Lownes, the man behind those hedonistic Playboy clubs, in his rather different Chelsea club, Stocks.

I was then Showbusiness Editor of the Mail on Sunday. I beat a number of doyens of the British press, including the famous columnist and equally famous backgammon player Nigel Dempster, on my way to victory. My prize was entry to the Backgammon Championship of Great Britain – which I did not win!

I do, however, still play backgammon regularly.

As does my series detective DI David Vogel. He also compiles crosswords. And is very, very clever. I am quite confident that if I were able play Vogel at backgammon, I would lose horribly.

DI David Vogel features in Hilary’s forthcoming psychological thriller DEADLY DANCE, available 31 August in the UK and 1 December in the USA. Visit our website for more information.

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Behind the book – Spring Break by Gerald Elias

9780727887122The titles of the first four novels in the Daniel Jacobus mystery series were the names of classical music compositions dealing with death: “Devil’s Trill,” “Danse Macabre,” “Death and the Maiden,” and “Death and Transfiguration.” Books five and six are the first two instalment of a second “quartet.” The inspiration for these books, however, have come from a different source: The Four Seasons by Antonio Vivaldi, highly evocative concertos for violin and string orchestra that he composed from sonnets of his own authorship. The Four Seasons are perhaps the most beloved collection of concertos in the entire Baroque literature.

9780727886149My stories are based upon these concertos in several ways. First of all, they take place in the season depicted in the concertos: “Playing with Fire” in Winter, and “Spring Break” in Spring. They also draw upon the text of the sonnets, sometimes reverently, other times ironically. Finally, the music itself becomes part and parcel of the plot. In “Spring Break,” for example, a student’s error-filled performance at a master class is what leads Daniel Jacobus — the blind, curmudgeonly, violin pedagogue and super sleuth — to believe that something is more amiss than the student’s skill.

Each book in this second “quartet” of stories centres around a venue very specific to the music profession and real life issues encountered in them. In “Playing with Fire” it was a violin shop and the forgery of violins and their authentication. In “Spring Break” the setting is a music conservatory with an ingrained culture of sexual harassment. Vivaldi may write, “Stirred by the festive tones of rustic pipes, nymphs and shepherds lightly dance beneath the verdant canopy of spring,” but those feelings aren’t necessarily unanimous.  

Visit our website for more information on  Gerald Elias.

Praise for Spring Break:

“Readers will enjoy spending time in the company of the curmudgeonly Jacobus, and many will welcome the absence of fisticuffs, car chases, and Glocks. Jacobus’s blindness adds an interesting angle, with suspects and witnesses classified and identified by the cadence and timbre of their voices.”

Publishers Weekly 

Editor’s Pick – Deadly Dance by Hilary Bonner

9780727887344_FC.jpgWe are delighted to welcome the long-established, highly-regarded crime writer Hilary Bonner to Severn House with DEADLY DANCE, a tense and twisting psychological thriller featuring crossword-solving Bristol detective, David Vogel.
The discovery of the partially-clothed body of a teenage girl in the heart of Bristol’s red light district marks the start of a baffling murder investigation where nothing is as it first appears.  14-year-old Melanie Cooke had told her mother she was going to meet a school friend. Who was she really going to meet – and why?  Vogel is drawn towards three very different suspects, each of whom grows increasingly chilling.  But are they what they seem – and is any one of them capable of murder?

A cunningly crafted, sexually charged and wholly original read, DEADLY DANCE kept me intrigued throughout, as I was drawn into each of the three suspects’ stories and kept guessing right to the end as to which of them – if any – is the killer.  Bonner skilfully keeps the questions coming and the tension going strong, ensuring that the murderer’s true identity, when finally revealed, comes as a genuine shock.  The clues of course were there all the time, but so cunningly planted that even the most eagle-eyed reader will be hard-pressed to spot them.

The geeky, vegetarian, teetotal, mild-mannered, happily married Vogel makes a refreshing change from all those embittered, divorced, hard-drinking detectives out there: his decidedly uncool crossword-compiling hobby eventually proving key to cracking the case.  I hope we’ll be seeing a lot more of this particular detective inspector in mysteries to come.

Visit our website for more information on this title.

 

#BookExtract – A Study in Gold by Annie Dalton

A Study in Gold book jacketA Second World War-themed murder mystery weekend ends in murder for real in A STUDY IN GOLD, the third title in Annie Dalton’s Oxford Dogwalker series, set in Oxford.  

At a World War II-themed murder mystery party which they’d attended to make up the numbers, reluctant party goers Anna Hopkins and her fellow dogwalkers find they are enjoying themselves more than they’d expected.  That is, until a real body is discovered floating in the ornamental pond. Who was the mysterious woman who attended the event without a ticket?

As Anna and her friends delve further, they find themselves caught up in an intrigue that leads to a lost painting and a wartime secret that involves Anna’s own family. Was her late father really guilty of a monstrous crime…?  Here’s a taster from the book…

Back in their room they packed their bags at lightning speed. Not wanting to wait for the lift, or worse, risk getting into the lift with someone who might drag them off to an Austrian jail, they stole down the back stairs.

Even before they reached reception they could hear the woman berating her teenage grandson for his permanent state of gloom. ‘Dein missmutiges Gesicht erschrickt die Gaeste,’ she scolded. (‘Your miserable face is enough to frighten the guests.’)

Under cover of this family quarrel, Tansy and Anna slipped out into the street, and began to power-walk in the direction of the train station.

 ‘Damn,’ Anna said abruptly. ‘I’ve still got our key.’

‘We can post it back later.’

‘It won’t take a moment.’ Anna made to turn back.

‘Are you crazy?’ Tansy protested. ‘They’ll have spares.’

A police car pulled up with a squeal of brakes. Two police officers, Anna wasn’t sure if they were the same two, and the man in the leather jacket, jumped out and disappeared inside the hotel.

She dropped the key in the street and they ran.

‘People do run for trains,’ Tansy panted. ‘It’s not suspicious in the least.’ Anna was past caring. She just wanted to get the hell out of Innsbruck, before their unknown pursuer caught up with them.

They ran, occasionally shifting down to speed-walking, all the way to the station. ‘Do you mind getting the tickets?’ Anna was gasping for breath now. ‘I’ll call Jake. If something does go horribly wrong, we might need someone to be our advocate.’

‘You swear they’ll speak English.’ Tansy looked anxious.

‘Yes, I swear.’ Anna had already pulled up Jake’s number.

Tansy hovered. ‘So, um, I’m getting us tickets for the next train to Vienna?’

‘No! the next train out of Austria!’

‘Jesus, this is scary,’ Tansy said, and sprinted towards the ticket office.

 A STUDY OF GOLD is available in the UK now, and will be published in eBook, and in hardback in the USA, on 1 September.  Visit our website for more information on this series. 

Previous titles in the series

 

Did You Know . . . this about Vivaldi?

9780727887122This week’s interesting fact was supplied by Gerald Elias, author of the Daniel Jacobus mystery series. The latest title is this series, Spring Break, is due for release in hardcover and ebook on 1 August in the US. 

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Did you know that Antonio Vivaldi, the great Italian Baroque composer of the 17th and 18th centuries, was employed by a convent in Venice for almost forty years?

The Ospedale della Pietà was a convent, orphanage, and music school in Venice, almost exclusively for figlie, girls. Not all the students were orphans, nor even poor for that matter. Initially, and through the seventeenth century, the ospedali—there were four—provided training in sacred music. As the excellence of the Pietà’s training grew, so did its reputation. It attracted the attention of the nobility, who sometimes enrolled their infants, legitimate or otherwise. Many of the concerts were arranged especially for important, wealthy visitors.

 But unlike concerts these days, the young ladies, because of mores of modesty, were constrained to perform behind an iron grille lattice, like a wall. Even though they comprised the finest orchestra in Venice, they were never seen!

La Pietà hired the best faculty in the city and promoted its high quality concerts. None other than the great Antonio Vivaldi was appointed a violin teacher in 1703 and served in various roles on and off until 1740. Much of his greatest music was written for performance at the Pietà.

One would not imagine that life in an orphanage had much to offer, so it might seem surprising that for the young ladies the status that came with being successful figlie was much coveted, and created incentive for excellence. Though most remained at the ospedale their entire lives, some were lavished with gifts from admirers, a few were permitted to marry and were even provided dowries, and many were offered vacations in villas on the Italian mainland.

 The ospedali’s activities provided countless commissions for local violin and other instrument makers, liuter del loco, not only for the manufacture of good instruments but also for the constant maintenance and repair of such instruments, adding significantly to Venice’s economy as well as its culture.

Visit our website for more information on the Daniel Jacobus series.