Crime Fiction Alphabet – C is for Christopher Brookmyre

At first glance I wouldn’t have thought that Christopher Brookmyre would be my sort of author. He writes gritty,down to earth crime fiction, with no punches withheld. And when my son first lent me Quite Ugly One Morning I wasn’t at all sure that I would like it. I was wrong, I loved it – see here.

Brookmyre, a Scottish author, tackles corruption and social injustice in his books; they are satirical and full of bite, full of tension and pace. Before he became a full-time writer he was a journalist. After writing Quite Ugly One Morning he went on to write:

(Links go to Wikipedia)

For a critical perspective of Christopher Brookmyre’s work see this article at Contemporary Writers and for summaries of his books go to his page at Little, Brown Book Group.

Crime Fiction Alphabet is hosted by Kerrie at Mysteries in Paradise.

Payment Deferred by Joyce Holms: Book Review

I like puzzles and that is one of the things I like about crime fiction – solving the puzzle. The problem for crime fiction authors must be judging it correctly – how to drop the clues into the narrative in a subtle way so that the reader doesn’t get the solution too easily. I like being able to work it out for myself – but not too soon. In Payment Deferred, Joyce Holms has managed it well.

Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Bywater Books (30 Aug 2007)
Language English
ISBN-10: 1932859314
ISBN-13: 978-1932859317
Source: Gift from the author

This is the first of Joyce Holms’s series of books featuring Tam Buchanan and Fizz Fitzpatrick. Tam is a lawyer who spends Monday mornings giving legal advice at a community centre in Edinburgh. Fizz is soon to be a mature student of Law and much against Tam’s better judgement talks her way into becoming his assistant. She looks like a teenager, but is actually 26, with a talent for getting people to talk to her.

Murray Kingston, an old friend of Tam’s, is released from prison having served three years convicted of molesting his daughter after his wife’s death. When he turns up at the community centre wanting Tam to clear his name and help him get his daughter back it is Fizz who persuades Tam to review the evidence. Murray believes he was set up.

I thought this was a well plotted book,which moves at a good pace, with a good sense of location (Edinburgh and Berwick) and convincing characters, particularly Fizz and Tam – the relationship between the two of them developed from lukewarm to exasperation. Having solved the case they part:

“See you around Buchanan,” she said coldly, as the doors slid shut between them.

Buchanan sagged back against the wall and closed his eyes. He felt utterly depleted.

“See you around, Fizz”, he whispered to the empty landing, and the words blew away like dry leaves into the silence.

But even as he said it, he knew with absolute certainty that he wouldn’t be shot of her so easily.

After a minute or two he started to laugh, and couldn’t stop.

Their partnership was not at an end, as there are eight more books in the series. I’ve already read the most recent – Missing Link.

Details of all Joyce’s books are on her website.

Missing Link by Joyce Holms: Book Review

A few weeks ago I quoted a short extract from Missing Link by Joyce Holms in a Tuesday Teaser post. This book is the 9th in the Fizz and Buchanan series, but it does stand well on its own and I had no difficulty in sorting out the relationship between the two main characters – Fizz Fitzpatrick and Tam Buchanan.

Fizz and Buchanan are an interesting pair. Fizz  is a lawyer, working for Buchanan and Stewart and Tam has recently left the law firm to work as an advocate.  Mrs Sullivan asks Fizz for help to prove that she is the person who killed Amanda Montrose, despite the fact that Terence Lamb has been convicted of the murder. Fizz immediately thinks that Tam is the person to investigate, even though she doubts Mrs Sullivan’s story:

Daft as the whole story line appeared on the surface, there was something about the old lady’s matter-of-fact delivery that precluded too confident a rebuttal. She was delusional of course, there could not be the slightest doubt about that. Sane, mature and reasonably intelligent people, such as Mrs Sullivan obviously was, simply did not bash someone with a hammer. Not hard enough to kill them. … So Mrs Sullivan was probably fantasising about that at least, if not the whole damn incident. All the same she had Fizz well hooked and willing to hear the rest of her crazy story, if only for the pleasure of relating it to Buchanan at a later date. (page 23)

It had me well hooked too.

I liked the relationship between Fizz and Tam, colleagues, like brother and sister, but may be more than that? And Fizz certainly lives up to her name, a real live wire. The characters are well-drawn, even the lesser ones like Justin, the decorator who can cook delicious meals. Just how reliable is Mrs Sullivan? She seems physically incapable of  killing anyone with a hammer and then dragging  the body and pushing it over a sheer drop into a ravine below. But why when she appears to be gentle, motherly and sincere would she want to confess to a murder she hadn’t committed?

This is a well- paced novel, full of twists and turns and plenty of tension. The plot is well thought out and had me guessing nearly all the way to the end, in fact the whole answer took me by surprise. This is a book I thoroughly enjoyed from beginning to end.

Teaser Tuesday – Missing Link by Joyce Holms

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be ReadingShare a couple or more sentences from the book you’re currently reading.

On Sunday I was wondering which book to read next and eventually decided upon Missing Link by Joyce Holms. She is a new writer to me. I liked the description of her at the front of the book:

Joyce Holms was born and educated in Glasgow. The victim of a low boredom threshold, she has held a variety of jobs, from teaching window dressing and managing a hotel on the Isle of Arran to working for an Edinburgh detective agency and running a B & B in the Highlands. Married with two grown up children she lives in Edinburgh and her interests include hill-walking and garden design.

Val McDermid’s blurb on the front cover reads, ‘Holms is a magician – the reader is so busy laughing, the clues just slip by unnoticed.’ More words by other authors are on Joyce Holms’s website , like this from Ian Rankin: Joyce’s humour is sharp without being nasty, her characters well drawn, and her Edinburgh a place you’ll want to spend time in….. read her books.

I began reading and was immediately drawn into the mystery. Mrs Sullivan wants to be proved guilty of murder and asks Fizz Fitzpatrick, a lawyer to help her. This extract is from the Prologue describing the murder of Amanda Montrose. Amanda is  driving home when the narrow country road ahead is partially blocked by old Volkswagen and someone has the bonnet up and is leaning under it. Amanda goes to see what’s the problem:

The driver straightens and turns, smiling, and fear surges through Amanda’s body like an electric charge. She sees the hammer. She sees the gloating, resolute eyes. And she knows she is looking at her own death. (page 14)

The question is did Mrs Sullivan kill Amanda or was it Terence Lamb, a known criminal, or one of the other people who also claimed to have killed her?