Great Thrillers Club Monthly Newsletter


man reading a thriller
Read reviews and recommendations for some of the best thrillers from a wide variety of thriller writers, get free prize draws, see titbits from the world of books and technology, and news from thriller writer Ian Coates.

We'll only send something about once a month; we certainly won't spam you with loads of junk!

Of-course, you can unsubscribe at any time if you find they're not to your taste.

Great Thrillers Club Newsletter Archive



August 2023: Espionage in Norway and an Assassin in Mexico

Summer holidays have been something of a washout in Britain, but being stuck in a self-catering cottage is surely a good excuse for a bit of reading. We had a short break in Cornwall and got rather soaked, horizontal rain forcing us to give up a walk near Tintagel at one point, but dry clothes, a mug of tea, and a good novel soon made things feel better.

This month we travel to two very different destinations in the thrillers we’re reviewing. A modern day spy thriller takes us to the northern tip of Norway, while Mexico is the setting for a novel staring the assassin ‘The Grey Man’. There’s also a look at how Hyundai have invented a car that can move sideways – think easy parallel parking – and Ian talks about the hunt for a title for his current work-in-progress thriller and his latest blog.

First of This Month’s Thrillers: Black Ice by Brad Thor

Black Ice is an exciting mix of a modern spy novel and a quest that carries us from Oslo to the Norwegian Arctic Circle. CIA operative Scot Harvath is on holiday in Norway to visit his girlfriend, Sølvi, when he is convinced he sees a Chinese operative whom he killed a few years back. Sølvi works for Norwegian Intelligence and she investigates CCTV footage for him, concluding the man is called Han and is the dead agent’s cousin. She also discovers that a Russian agent was nearby at the same time. On the assumption the two had a clandestine meeting, Harvath is instructed to uncover why they were meeting in Norway.

Having found where Han is staying, Harvath follows him from the hotel but walks into an ambush from which he only just escapes alive. His attackers were Russian, confirming that something serious is happening in the country between agents of the two foreign powers. But what?

Harvath brings in the rest of his team for assistance, and they find that Han is about to leave Oslo by private jet. Using contacts in the Civil Aviation Authority, they find that the flight plan will take Han north to a town called Kirkenes, close to the Russian border.

An ex-CIA agent, Hayes, lives in that area and is called in to help. He tails Han when he arrives, and Harvath meets up with Hayes in time to watch Han and three Chinese heavies check in at a hotel. When Han is driven away later in a campervan with the three heavies convoying in another vehicle, Harvath’s team follows. They travel north towards the Barents Sea, where a key American radar station is based. When Han sets up equipment in sight of the installation, Harvath and his team are instructed to take action. Having captured Han and his kit, Harvath interrogates him.

What Harvath learns sends him to the Arctic Circle with the aim of stealing a related piece of equipment from a Sino-Russian team operating there. It’s a race against time to capture the equipment before it’s collected, and time is running out. Harvath has to overcome, not just the Chinese and Russian spies, but also polar bears and ferocious weather.

Blue Ice is an exciting read. It does suffer from quite a few deviations from the storyline, including showing us some of Norway’s tourist attractions and providing the extensive background to how Harvath’s ex-boss got his nickname, which isn’t relevant to the plot. However, those sections are neither excessively long nor uninteresting, so they don’t mar the book too much. It’s a thrilling novel with plenty of excitement, interesting locations, and a clever Cold War style backdrop.



This Month’s Second Thriller: Ballistic by Mark Greaney

Mexico. Eddie Gamboa heads up a special police team with the remit of doing whatever’s necessary to crush the drug cartels. A mission to assassinate the drug lord Daniel de la Rocha goes badly wrong, and Gamboa and most of his team die.

Court Gentry (the ‘grey man’) considered Gamboa a good friend, owing him his life after Gamboa rescued him from certain death several years before. When Gentry learns of his friend’s death from a TV bulletin, he decides to pay his last respects.

At the graveside, he’s confronted by Gamboa’s widow, who has come to remove graffiti from the cross that marks the grave. She explains that many Mexicans support de la Rocha and consider Eddie Gamboa to be scum for having led an attack on him.

Gentry is persuaded to return to the widow’s house, where he meets the family. A public celebration of Gamboa’s life has been arranged for the next day, and the widow insists on making a speech, despite being sure Gamboa’s opponents will be there to make trouble.

A close family friend is worried that serious violence will break out, and persuades Gentry to stay long enough to help him keep Gamboa’s wife safe. The two men attend the ceremony, and it’s soon clear to Gentry that violence is about to erupt. Many armed police are present and, as Gentry has already learned, they are almost certainly in de la Rocha’s pay. Sure enough, when the widow starts to speak, car horns start to drown her out. De la Rocha himself arrives and uses loudhailers to denounce her dead husband as a corrupt official who had tried to kill a law-abiding citizen. Shots are fired, and the violence starts.

Gentry steps into action, killing a handful of corrupt policemen and helping the widow and most of the family escape. De la Rocha launches a vendetta against Gamboa’s family and, in particular, his widow, who is pregnant with Gamboa’s child. De la Rocha becomes obsessed with wanting to kill Gamboa’s unborn heir in retaliation for the previous attempt on his own life. The chase begins, and Gentry finds himself caught up with the family, helping them reach somewhere they think will be safe.

De la Rocha soon tracks down their hiding place – a large hacienda in the mountains – and immediately sends local men in his pay to attack the building and kill them all. Gentry and two of Gamboa’s original team who survived the earlier mission and have now joined Gentry, successfully defend themselves against the first onslaught. Before long, though, more experience fighters arrive, and a second attack commences. This is more successful, but they are still finally repelled. Shortly after, the elite troops arrive and prepare a full military assault. Gentry knows they cannot survive what is about to happen and manages a daring and dramatic escape.

When de la Rocha later manages to kidnap Gambo’s sister, Gentry turns it into all out war and remorselessly attacks and destroys much of de la Rocha’s drug producing infrastructure until he finally achieves his objective of rescuing the sister and helping Gamboa’s wife escape to America.

All the way through, Ballistic is certainly full of action and fighting. The fights are well written, and the descriptions are not gory or overdone, but it does frequently feel more like an SAS adventure, even bordering at times on a war novel. There’s no cerebral challenge here, no mystery to solve, or any twists and turns – just an escalating series of fights. It’s an exciting read, but perhaps not one for all thriller lovers.



From a Writer’s Desk

I’ve been thinking about titles for my current work-in-progress thriller. The idea for the plot started when I was reading about the problems with counterfeit goods, and I initially gave it a working title of “Counterfeit.” Deciding that wasn’t great, I changed it to “Fake”, but I’m still not happy. Digging deeper into what the story’s really about at its heart, I came up with “Tipping Point” as an alternative. Better, perhaps? But perhaps still not ten out of ten. My plan is to find another possible title and then go a poll on Facebook to get readers’ opinions, so please look out for it so I can get your help, too. If you have an immediate thought on which of those ones stands out, please reply and let me know; I’d love to have your opinion.



Techie Snips: Sideways Moving Cars

Have you ever tried to parallel-park in a space that’s barely big enough for your car? Done that little shuffle back and forth to get close enough to the kerb without scraping the cars either side? Wouldn’t it be great if you could just rotate all your wheels ninety degrees so that the car could travel sideways into the gap? That would be so much easier.

That’s what Hyundai thought. And they did something about it. By moving the motors that drive the wheels of an electric car out of the engine bay and into the hubs of the wheels themselves, they were able to free the wheels from the constraints that normally mean they can only turn a small amount. They’ve produced a video of the demonstrator car they developed, in which they show it pulling up beside a gap, rotating its wheels ninety degrees and then driving sideway into the slot. They also show it turning on the spot by putting the wheels into their ninety degree positions and then powering the front ones in one direction and the rear wheels in the other. It has a few other nifty tricks as well. To find the video, search YouTube for “e-corner system”.



Peak at a Blog: Favourite Thriller Writers

Who are your favourite thriller writers? I wonder if they’re mentioned in this month’s blog, in which Ian talks about his favourite dozen authors. He groups them into sub-genre, from high-action adrenaline pumpers to mysteries that drag you through the pages by posing puzzles that demand an answer. He’d love to know who you would include in your own list.

Read the blog at https://iancoatesthrillers.wordpress.com/2023/08/13/the-12-best-modern-thriller-writers/



Freebies & Competitions

If you live in the US, there’s a great giveaway being run by NovelSuspects. They’re offering the chance to get a set of paperbacks by Lisa Jewell; it’s open until early September.

For those of us in the UK, if you’re keen to get Richard Osman’s latest, getting it from Waterstones will give you the chance of also getting a pair of tickets on a Bluebell Railway murder mystery evening.



June 2023: Anthrax poisoning, Cat-and-Mouse chase, and Making a Paperback in June’s Great Thrillers Newsletter

We have two exciting thrillers for you this month – one that's a classic whodunit crime puzzle wrapped in the high-action of a thriller, and another where an assassin is involved in a deadly game of cat and mouse. Ian shares the news of his thriller that’s currently with the publishers, and tells how his current work-in-progress is coming on. The newsletter rounds off with a pointer to a book-related draw, some news from the world of books, details of a new blog article that describes how paperbacks are printed, and some techie news about a new laser weapon.

First of This Month’s Thrillers: Anthrax Island by DL Marshall

This is probably the most exciting and tense thriller I can remember reading. It’s a fact that Gruinard Island in the North-West of Scotland was used by Porton Down scientists towards the end of World War II to experiment with the weaponisation of a virulent strain of Anthrax. Fortunately, the war ended before the bacteria was ever used, and the island had to be decontaminated afterwards. The story that follows is fiction.

Today, more than eighty years on, deadly spores have again been found there, and scientists are back to make a second attempt at cleaning up the island. When one of the technicians dies in suspicious circumstances, operative John Tyler is sent in as an undercover replacement to find out what happened.

It’s a small team of scientists working on the island, including one Russian, one French, and one American. Tyler must find which of them killed the technician and why.

He narrowly escapes an attempt on his life when he starts to snoop round, and the soldier in charge of the base makes the first of several attempts to force Tyler to leave. Soon after, though, the weather closes in, and no-one can escape the island. Worst, someone has destroyed the radio equipment. A team member is found shot, and the terror escalates. The shooting becomes a locked-room mystery, which adds an intriguing twist to the story.

At one point, it looks like the murderer and their motives are obvious, but Tyler has his suspicions and sets a trap that eventually uncovers the true perpetrator; not before others have died, though. The story then turns into a chase when the murderer gets off Gruinard, and Tyler heads after him, the story developing into an exciting car chase on the nearby island as the thriller races to its dramatic conclusion.

An addition layer of tension is added all the way through the book by the way the team need to suit-up when they go outside because of the Anthrax risk. That adds additional mystery to the plot because it’s hard to tell who someone is when they’re outside as a result, and it also means there is only one official way in and out of the buildings – through the airlock and decontamination unit, which is monitored by CCTV.

Although some of the events may sound clichéd (like the locked-room mystery and the way the small group is stuck on the island without radio communication), those parts are so well woven into the story that they appear totally natural. Anthrax Island could be described as a well-crafted meld of classic crime setups and all the elements of a tense and very exciting thriller. It’s set to get the heart racing and the brain puzzling.



This Month’s Second Thriller: Run and Hide by Alan McDermott

Run and Hide is an exciting ‘cat and mouse’ thriller. It features Eva Discrol, a CIA assassin in a secret wet-works team. When her brother is killed shortly after the death of one of his ex-colleagues from their now-disbanded three-man special forces team, she is suspicious it’s not the suicide it appears. Driscoll tracks down the final member of the team, Rees Collback, to try to discover what is happening. When she witnesses an attempt to kidnap him, she intervenes and helps him escape.

The result is that she rapidly makes herself a target for the team of killers that’s after Collback. Driscll and Collback team up to try to work out why the members of his old team are being eliminated. Driscol calls in help from an ex-CIA IT specialist, Farooq Naser. What he finally uncovers suggests it’s her own masters who are leading the hunt.

We then reach the part of the story that, for me at least, somewhat spoiled the realism – Driscoll reveals there’s a shadowy organisation called the ESO that’s led by a multi-billionaire. It controls governments, authorities, and banks around the globe, manipulating them to bring about world events that would allow the ESO to increase its wealth further. This key point of the plot felt too comic-book with an archetypal 007 baddie. However, if you can ignore that side of it, Run and Hide is a great read.

Driscol, Colback, and Naser go into hiding but are remorselessly hunted down and have to fight their way out and use all their cunning to send their hunters in the wrong direction.

Driscol hires a pair of ex-SAS soldiers to help them, whose skills at weaponry and fast-car exfiltration quickly prove very helpful. Naser eventually uncovers why Driscol’s brother, Collback, and their ex-colleagues were targeted, and how it’s linked to the ESO’s activities.

Going on the offensive, they discover the identity of one of the CIA men leading the chase after them and manage to capture and interrogate him, obtaining the phone number of the ESO member who gave him his instructions.

Naser traces the location of the phone, which leads them to the ESO’s meeting place. By watching the comings and goings, Driscol identifies the key players in the organisation and starts her own action to bring them down.

Overall, Run and Hide has plenty of tension and exciting action sequences to keep the reader totally absorbed. The hard-to-believe ESO organisation on which the plot relies spoils the overall enjoyment slightly, but if you can put that aside, this is a great read.



From a Writer’s Desk

Surprisingly, Ian is still waiting for the edits to be returned from the publisher’s team. The latest update had promised them early May, but they still haven’t arrived in the inbox. However, that does mean work has pushed forward on the thriller-in-progress, which now has a brand new fast-paced (and hopefully intriguing) opening.

There’s always a question over where exactly in a story to start the opening. It needs to be well paced and exciting to pull readers into the book, but if background is missing, the story is at risk of being confusing. The balance between the two is often interesting to navigate. I recently heard Lee Child say that a thriller should start with a big question, which shouldn’t be totally answered until the end, and I’m following that advice by opening with a short pivotal scene that raises some (hopefully) intriguing questions. I also felt it was going to be important to share the story’s catalyst – the event that triggers the events in the story – so I’ve now written some fast-paced chapters to explain the catalyst. I found they’ve helped to put the reader into the mind of the thriller’s protagonist, see his angst, and feel the painful dilemma he finds himself in. Unfortunately, it has necessitated a jump back in time between the first two chapters, which I normally prefer to avoid, but I think the overall impact on the story has worked well.



News from the Book World: Crime reading & Bookshop Loss

Did you know June is National Crime Reading Month? Events run across the whole of the UK and Ireland, aiming to celebrate the genre through various events, both physical and on-line. To find out if there are events near you, just pop over to crimereading.com.

There was some sad news recently with the announcement that the Book Depository is closing. The successful online book retailer was bought by Amazon in 2011, but they are now winding it down. How do you feel about loosing another bookshop? We’d love to hear your views.



Techie Snips: Laser Weapons

The idea of powerful laser guns started in science fiction, took its place in films (think of Goldfinger breaking into Fort Knox in the James Bond story, for example), but it's now definitely a reality. Their development has been driven more recently by the use of swarms of drones in warfare, where laser weapons are more efficient if they can be made powerful enough. The defence company Lockheed Martin announced earlier this year that their latest 50 kW design is now working. That’s thought to be powerful enough to take out a larger plane, not just a drone. Final tests will take place in 2024 when a prototype is integrated into a US Army’s Stryker combat vehicle.



Peak at a Blog: How Paperbacks are Made

Have you ever wondered how a paperback gets made? This month’s blog gets behind the scenes and looks at the printing process and how it works.

Head to iancoatesthrillers.wordpress



Freebies & Competitions

If you’re a fan of Claire Douglas’ books, you might like to know that Penguin are offering the chance to get a bundle of stationary if you pre-order her latest book. Type her name into Penguin’s search bar to find the details.



March 2023: an undercover cop going dark & unrest in the Caribbean in your Great Thrillers Club newsletter

We have reviews of two great thrillers for you this month – Neil Lancaster’s hero is forced off-grid to stay ahead of Bosnian-Serb people tracking gang, and a previously lost Desmond Bagley manuscript takes an investigator to the Caribbean to look into a millionaire’s death. We consider favourite fonts, Ian looks back at what turned him into a thriller addict, and we direct you to another competition.

First of This Month’s Thrillers: Going Dark by Neil Lancaster

The job: to infiltrate a Bosnian-Serb people trafficking gang. The perfect man for the operation: DI Tom Novak, originally a Bosnian-Serb refugee himself.

His way into the gang is via two brothers – Aleks and Luka – who operate in London. Luka is an amateur wrestler, a sport Novak is good at, and Novak manages to engineer a meeting at the local gym. Soon, they’re doing regular practice bouts together, and Novak slowly gains the Serbian’s trust. Novak drops subtle hints that he is available for employment, and the two brothers start getting him involved in their work, mainly as a driver and bodyguard for the women who are being trafficked and then used as prostitutes.

A key person in the people-trafficking is corrupt solicitor Michael Adebayo. He helps immigrants gain British citizenship by arranging sham marriages with girls smuggled from Sarajevo. Novak manages to film a meeting in Adebayo’s office that will be sufficient for a conviction, but things quickly go wrong. Novak finds himself forced to help one of the girls escape the racket, an action that causes the gang to look more closely at Novak. They have a hold over several police officers, and use their influence to find out more about Novak, soon learning he’s an undercover cop and that he made a recording that can put Adebayo behind bars.

The SD card with the recording is securely deposited in the police evidence store but is subsequently found to be blank, and it’s assumed the recorder hadn’t been activated properly. It’s clear to Novak, though, that the gang has an insider with sufficient access to have erased it because Novak had (against the rules) first taken a copy himself. Fearing a repeat of last time, Novak refuses to hand the file over to the police.

The gang soon hears of the copy and attempts to abduct Novak in order to get it. The plan fails, and the circumstances prove there must be at least one other corrupt official involved. Novak realises the Serbians are being given access to his geo-tracking data, including his phone location, CCTV footage, and credit card use. No longer knowing whom he can trust, he goes off-grid in order to keep out of the trafficker’s hands while simultaneously attempting to unearth the extent of the corruption.

The gang is using all its resources to locate Novak and recover the recording, but Novak calls in a favour from a well-placed US operative and soon becomes the hunter rather than the hunted. When Novak’s foster parents get dragged into the action, the reader’s tension and emotion are ratcheted off the scale, making many chapters impossible to put down.

Going Dark is an exciting story and, because Neil Lancaster was a servicing police officer, the book carries a feeling of authenticity. In places, his writing style feels a little clunky, but that’s totally forgiven because of the storyline’s pace and excitement. It’s a believable thriller with good action sequences, an intriguing plot, and plenty of tension.



This Month’s Second Thriller: Domino Island by Desmond Bagley

‘Desmond Bagley?’ you might ask. ‘Surely he’s out of print. Didn’t he die years ago?’ There’s an interesting story behind the recent publication of this new Bagley thriller. No, it’s not written by a third party – it was a genuine Bagley manuscript. He completed the book back in the early seventies and sent it to his publishers. They put it through editing, scheduled it for production, and returned the manuscript to him for final revisions. However, one of his other thrillers was being made into a film at the time, and it seems it was decided to hold-off publication of the new book to avoid it competing with the one related to the film. Bagley therefore held on to the manuscript and got on with other things. It seems the manuscript was forgotten and, after the author’s death, it got caught up with his other papers in a university archive. It was only on 2017 that it was found there, and the publishers brought the manuscript to print.

Its protagonist is Bill Kemp, an insurance investigator who is sent to an ex-colonial island in the Caribbean to check out the death of millionaire David Salton. Should the company pay out on the million dollar life insurance? The fact the cover was doubled shortly before his death has raised suspicions.

The body had been found in a drifting boat, and the inquest’s verdict was death by natural causes, based largely on the autopsy report that showed Salton had suffered a heart attack. But the doctor who performed the autopsy was elderly, and questions are raised over his abilities. Could it have been murder? Kemp travels to the island to meet Salton’s widow and others who knew him, and tries to unravel what really took place.

Tensions are running high on the island. Salton had been standing as a candidate for Prime Minister in upcoming elections and was tipped to win. Many of his supporters think Salton was murdered by the existing Primer Minister, who is now likely to keep his post with Salton out of the running. When Kemp arrives, and news spreads that the death is being investigated, rumours quickly circulate and riots break out, fuelled by suspicions of murder.

Kemp is soon being threatened, told to drop the investigation and return home. His colleague, a loss adjustor who had travelled out with him on the same case, is severely beaten up, and an attempt is made on Kemp’s life. Kemp stubbornly digs deeper and uncovers corrupt policemen, government officials more interested in their personal fortunes than true justice, and politicians with selfish personal agendas. The island also hosts wealthy bankers who were set to lose much of their profits if Salton became Prime minister because his manifesto promised changes to the island’s financial system.

Amidst the corruption, Kemp finds two men who appear different. DS Hanna is hardworking and motivated by a desire for justice. He’s an official who’s apparently untainted by corruption, and Kemp and Hanna quickly develop a good working relationship. Kemp also gets help from casino owner Gerry Nagrini, a friend of the deceased, who’s keen to know the truth of what happened to Salton.

Kemp discovers that Salton had a mistress, and things appear to fall into place, but he then discovers there’s a lot more happening on the island than just political unrest.

Domino Island is a refreshingly different thriller with plenty of excitement as readers navigate several plot twists, and the tale races to its thrilling conclusion.



From a Writer’s Desk

Other projects have seriously affected the amount of thriller writing time I’ve had over the last six weeks, so the current work-in-progress hasn’t advanced much. I have managed to transfer the story outline to a spreadsheet, which is how I normally keep track of scenes, time-lines, and who’s where. This month, I expect to be back writing, although the manuscript that’s still with my publishers is due back any moment, and working through their suggested edits will obviously take priority.



News from the Book World: A Banned Font

Do you a favourite font for your email or wordprocessor? I’ve always loved Times New Roman. I use it for my writing and, in fact, most publishers and agents say it’s one of the fonts they prefer authors to use in their submissions. So I was surprised and shocked a couple of weeks ago to hear that the UK government has banned its use in official documents, following a similar ruling in the US. Was this some sort of silly bureaucratic snipe against nice looking paperwork? Apparently not. It seems the reason behind the decision was the result of a study that showed some people have difficulty in reading serif fonts. From now on, I’ll think more carefully about the recipient of my Times New Roman crafted text. Perhaps they need something plainer rather than prettier. What are your thoughts about the possible demise of such attractive fonts?



Techie Snips: Artifical Intelligence Authors

We’ve all heard of artificial intelligence (AI) these days – computers that can think for themselves have achieved reality. AI is now capable of creating stories and pictures, and its appearance is causing trouble in the arts world.

A key moment came recently when a publisher of short science fiction stories had to close its doors to unsolicited submissions. The reason? They normally get 10 submissions each month. Suddenly, they were getting 500 a month, most of which were only suitable for rejection, and the publisher couldn’t cope. They’ve attributed the flurry of bad manuscripts to the launch of ChatGPT, which put AI language models into common public use. So-called “influencers” promoted its use as a fast way to riches, and suddenly non-writers were using it to generate short stories and articles to try to sell. That publisher has now banned over 500 “authors” from submitting to them again as a result.

The problem of this for authors is that many writers rely on the way smaller publishers regularly have “open-windows” in which manuscripts can be submitted. If those get closed due to this influx of bad AI-generated work, genuine authors are going to lose access to publishers. That’s not good for anyone.



Peak at a Blog: How I Became a Reading Addict

A somewhat different style of blog this month. Rather than my normal fact-based articles, this time I’m looking back at what made me become a reading addict. If you love reading, it would be great to hear from you about the influences that turned you into such an avid reader (just reply to this email). I wonder if they’re similar to mine. My story is here: https://iancoatesthrillers.wordpress.com/2023/02/24/how-i-became-a-reading-addict/



Freebies & Competitions

We’ve heard of a very unusual author pairing this month. Dolly Parton, the country singer, has teamed up with James Patterson to produce a thriller about a singer on the run. To celebrate the launch of a special Tesco paperback edition (wow – this is an odd three-way grouping!), Penguin are offering a draw for a juicy Tesco voucher. Go to the Penguin website and you’ll find it buried on their Articles page.



January 2023: An Imprisoned Single Mum & a Mass Grave in This Month's Thriller Newsletter

I hope you had a great Christmas. Fairly quiet here for us; we didn’t get the kids and their spouses until the New Year. In the first of 2023’s newsletters, we’ve got reviews of another couple of great thrillers for you – in Tom Bale’s tale, an honest single-mum finds herself caught in a nightmare when she’s arrested. We’ve also got one of Peter May’s China series for you, where an investigation into what appears to be a mass grave leads the detectives into a political minefield. Getting ready for the next six months, we’ve collected thrillers from a wide range of lesser known authors, and we’ll be reviewing those in future newsletters.

In this edition, we’ve thrown in a lost laptop and a literary conman in the news from the book world, and topped it off with a look at codes and ciphers in the blog spot. We hope you enjoy this month’s read.

First of This Month’s Thrillers: One Little Lie by Tom Bale

Jen is a helpful and honest single mum currently working through her divorce. On her daily walk to work, she makes a nodding acquaintance with a man who is often leaving his house at the time she is passing. One day, he drops his keys as he’s carrying some boxes to a colleague’s car. Jen sees it happen, picks them up, and runs after the disappearing vehicle, but they don’t notice her.

What to do? She doesn’t want to leave them on the doorstep in case a thief finds them. Nor can she take them with her in case he come back when he realises he’s dropped them. And she can’t put them through the letterbox in case they’re his only set of door keys. Jen settles on taking them with her for safety and leaving a note with her contact details. But she has no pen or paper and is already late for work so can’t afford the time to go back home for them. The only option left is to use the keys to go into his house to find pen, paper, and tape.

Feeling nervous, she lets herself in and hunts for something to use. One room she tries appears to be used as a studio, with a large collection of beautiful hand-crafted glass figurines, presumably being made ready for sale. She eventually finds what she needs, relocks the house, and fixes her note to the door.

That evening, a policeman calls, and her nightmare begins.

Jen finds herself in a prison cell overnight, but is released pending further enquiries. Determined to get herself out of the mess her helpful action has dropped her into, she starts to investigate the mysterious man who dropped his keys. What she discovers slowly gets her into more trouble until she is met by someone who says he has information that can help.

It’s a unique and interesting plot, and what’s happening to Jen is masterfully revealed bit-by-bit as the story progresses. Be aware that the book includes some references to rather unsavoury sexual acts, but they’re not explicit, and they are essential to part of the plot.

There’s no adrenaline-filled action here, so don’t pick this one up if you’re looking for a fast-action thriller. However, the emotional power is enormous. It’s a slow burn story, but as it heads to its conclusion, it becomes impossible to put down. I would certainly recommend it unless you are desperate for continuous action scenes.



This Month’s Second Thriller: The Killing Room by Peter May

American forensic pathologist Margaret Campbell is seconded to China to help police investigate a mass grave of dismembered young women discovered in Shanghai. It’s a joint investigation with the police in Beijing because of a similarity to a recent murder there.

Margaret has previously had an on/off romance with the Beijing detective Li Yan, whom she has assisted in the past, and working together now becomes problematic when it’s obvious that the female detective who has been heading the operation in Shanghai, Mu Ling, is making advances to Li Yan. How can Margaret hope to compete with an attractive woman from the same cultural background as Li Yan? The antagonism between the two women and the way they try to get the better of each other makes a fun subplot that does a good job of counteracting the horrors of what’s being investigated.

To the consternation of the Shanghai officers, Li Yan is put in charge of the whole operation because of his reputation as a brilliant investigator. But those high-up in the police force therefore expect fast results, something Li Yan is struggling to deliver.

Margaret discovers that the victims have all been subject to the removal of their organs but, strangely, it appears they have been kept alive throughout the operation, something that puzzles her and her Chinese counterpart – why bother to keep the women breathing during the procedure? If the objective is to sell their organs, there is no need to go to all the time and difficulty of keeping them alive throughout. That question continually puzzles all involved until it is finally answered in the concluding chapters.

The night watchman at the building site where the bodies were found is an immediate suspect. He is a medical student working the nightshift to fund his course, and he has a clear, almost morbid, interest in autopsies. By the detectives cannot find sufficient evidence to convince them that he is responsible for the deaths. Is his presence at the site just coincidence or is he really involved in some way?

Politics soon get dragged into the case when there appears to be a link to an abortion clinic owned by a very influential party member. Suddenly, Li Yan finds himself up against political niceties and reputations. His life gets even more fraught when his daughter disappears, apparently kidnapped. He finds himself stretched to breaking point trying to find her at the same time as keeping on top of the main investigation.

Slowly, clues that Margaret uncovers during her autopsies help identify some of the victims. Investigations into their backgrounds unfold vital links between the women them that finally lead Li Yan to the perpetrator.

It should be noted there are a couple of descriptive autopsy scenes. I’m extremely squeamish, but I only had to skip a couple of paragraphs, so this shouldn’t be a problem – it’s carefully written to avoid putting off the reader.

As always in May’s series of China books, we get an interesting insight into the culture and what it’s like to live and work there (or at least, what it was like a few years ago when the author was there).



From a Writer’s Desk

I’m still waiting for the edits for my next thriller to come back from the publishers. They must have had the manuscript for a year now. This is my first time with this new publisher, and they seem a lot slower than my previous one. It has given me the opportunity to push ahead with the next thriller, though. I took the decision to go back to the planning and to really concentrate on getting that perfect before continuing. It’s been an interesting exercise, and I’ve made some great changes that I’m really excited about. I think you’ll love the new finale; the last half-dozen chapters should be dynamite. I’m hoping to be back to writing it by next month.



News from the Book World: A Fraudster and a Lost Laptop

Ann Cleeves (the author most famous for her Shetland crime series) had a nasty shock last month when she was out in a blizzard. She was carrying her laptop on which half of her latest novel was written, but it slipped out of her bag and she only found it was missing when she arrived at her destination. Snow was falling fast, and she couldn’t find the laptop. Fortunately for her, a little while later, a schoolgirl was helping her mum dig their car out of the snow when she dug up the laptop. Thinking it had probably been dropped by one of her friends getting off the school bus, she put a post on their bus’ Facebook group, and the bus driver, who had heard that Cleeves had lost one, helped put author and laptop back together. A lesson in the importance of regular backups.

An unusual story has been circulating in the writing press for some time, but it looks like a recent arrest has now brought it to a conclusion. Many authors and literary agents had been victims of a conman over a couple of years but no-one could work out why he was doing it. He sent out emails from addresses almost identical to those used by publishers and agents, and requested copies of latest works in progress. The emails looked so authentic that people were generally tricked by them and sent across the requested documents. It was only later discussions like, “Did you get the document I sent you okay” that uncovered the fraud. However, the conman never seemed to be using what he received – the drafts were never uploaded on-line or put into print. Finally, the culprit was caught. He had worked at one of the major publishing houses and therefore knew well how the industry works and had access to author and agent names and contact details. The reason he was doing this? Just for fun! Nevertheless, he has been charged with “wire fraud”.

On a positive note, congratulations to the brilliant charity Book Aid International, who aim to get books to people around the world who otherwise wouldn’t have access to books. In 2022, they hit a milestone of shipping over 1 million books.



Techie Snips: How to Walk Again

There was a great advance announced this month for patients suffering from limited mobility – it’s being referred to as a “bionic leg wrap”. Some people’s ability to walk is hampered by their body’s inability to properly co-ordinate their leg muscles to allow them to walk. This “leg wrap” picks up signals from the nerves that are being passed to the legs and also monitors the walking gait. It then stimulates the muscles further itself to correct the muscle movement to what’s required for a normal walk. The “leg wrap” is like a sleeve of lightweight fabric containing a series of electrodes that is pulled tightly on to the legs, and is controlled by a small electronics module in a pocket. Brilliant!



Peak at a Blog: A Brief History of Codes and Ciphers

Codes and Ciphers are the focus for January’s blog. It’s a brief look at their history, including modern private and public key methods, and ancient Roman methods. Do you know the difference between a code and a cipher? Have you ever played with a Fairfield Cipher? How did the Enigma machine work? What does the “s” mean in an https website address? All this and more this month.

Read the short blog at iancoatesthrillers.wordpress.com



Freebies & Competitions

This month’s suggestion is to nip over to lovereading.co.uk/competitions. If you’re there before Feb 5th, you can be in with a chance to get David Gilman’s latest international thriller, Resurrection.



November 2022: An Assassin and a Spy in This Month's Thriller Newsletter

This month, we have an assassin and a spy: Carl Bowan, who’s sent to kill an 8-year old girl, and Harry Gibson, who finds himself at the other end of a killer’s weapon. Both are brilliantly exciting thrillers.

Read about them below, along with some thoughts on the X-37B spy plane, the role location plays in thrillers, and details of two bookish competitions. The one from Penguin Audio Books closes soon, so don’t hang around if that’s one for you.

First of This Month’s Thrillers: The Ice House by John Connor

His mission is to kill a ten-year old girl in Spain, and assassin Carl Bowman is confident he will have no qualms about the job. When he has her in his rifle sight, though, he can’t force himself to pull the trigger.

He’s aware of being part of a team on this assignment but doesn’t know the other operatives’ roles or who they are. Moments after he was meant to shoot the girl, an explosion rips through her house, just meters farther up the road. Realising others in the team will rapidly be instructed to take over the task of killing the girl, Bowman feels he must protect her. He kills the man in a police uniform who approaches her with a pistol immediately after the explosion, and helps her escape.

The girl – Rebecca – wants two things: to stay alive and to get back to her mum. But when Bowman checks the ruins of the house, he finds a man and a woman dead in the wreckage. Bowman calls on his brother, a Russian gangster, to help, who quickly arranges transport to get them out of the country to safety.

But things are not that easy. Several twists and problems later, Bowman also becomes a target. When he and Rebecca then get separated, Bowman needs, not only to rescue Rebecca again, but to stay alive to do so.

The Ice House has a cleverly constructed plot and is very well written. It has a lot of action and tension that forces readers to turn the next page. It also has a strong emotional pull, generated by passages written from the child’s own viewport.

It’s not until the final chapters that we discover the alarming truth behind who originally hired Bowman, and the whole storyline suddenly becomes clear. The reader now sees the preceding events from a completely different perspective. The concluding sequence and resolution are then pulled off brilliantly with lots of action and twists that make the reader desperate to turn the final pages.

This was my first introduction to the work of John Connor and I shall definitely be putting more of his thrillers on this year’s Christmas list.



This Month’s Second Thriller: Run For Home by Dan Latus

Run For Home is a modern standalone spy story based mainly in Prague. Harry Gibson is late for a clandestine rendezvous with his three colleagues from Unit 89, a spy ring based in the city. But something isn’t right. As he does his normal surveillance to check he isn’t being followed, he catches sight of a flash of light in the apartment they’re using, despite other signs suggesting the others, unusually, haven’t yet arrived. He cautiously approaches the block and sees two unknown men leaving.

What he finds when he finally enters the apartment makes it plain someone wants to remove all traces of his team’s existence. To stay alive, he must go on the run while trying to discover what’s happening and who wants to wipe his team from history.

Unsure if he can trust his own government, Gibson seeks help from a Hungarian spy he used to cooperate with and a contact in the Russian intelligence services whom he spied on during the Cold War. With their support, he escapes attempts on his life and slowly unravels the mystery of what’s happening.

Run For Home is full of tension and excitement, and I was kept up late by the need to discover what’s going to happen next. It’s only a slim book, but that does nothing to diminish the excitement. I assume its size is due to the fact it was originally published by Robert Hale, who used to impose a strict word count of, from memory, 70,000 words.

Latus doesn’t paint detailed descriptions of the locations so, a couple of times, I felt a little disorientated and unsure where the action was based, but such problems never lasted long. All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed the read, and my desperation to find out what was going to happen to Gibson kept me turning the pages into the small hours. I’ve not read Dan Latus before, but I now feel eager to read more of his thrillers.



From a Writer’s Desk

The head of my publishers has been in hospital a while. That’s added more delays to me receiving the edits back for my next book because the editorial suggestions need to be signed off before I get them. Following on from COVID, things have really dragged. The initial expectation of it being out for Christmas has clearly been dumped in the waste bin.

On a brighter note, though, I love the new artwork that’s been done for Backlash, and the thriller has now been re-launched with its new cover. I’ve been surprised how many websites and social media sites have had to be updated with the new image. Take a look at the new cover and please let me know what you think – just reply to this newsletter. So far, the feedback has been great.



News from the Book World: Library Fines & Paperback Prices

Have you ever been fined for not returning a library book? Libraries in Peterborough, England, have recently announced an amnesty on fines in the hope of recovering 22,000 unreturned books. They're hoping it will encourage people to come back to libraries after the pandemic forced them to stay away and not return books.

Did you have any books out that you couldn’t return? Do you have any library book fine stories you could share?

Turning to the price of the books themselves, a lot of concern has been voiced in the publishing industry recently about rapidly rising cover prices, with publishers scared of the increasing cost of paper and energy. Sarah Shaffi quoted Valerie Brandes (founder and publisher of Jacaranda Books) in The Guardian last month, who said it was highly likely that book prices for consumers would have to increase “across all formats” by 10 to 20%.



Techie Snips: The X-37B Spy Plane

An uncrewed US spyplane loving christened X-37B is back on earth after nearly 3 years in orbit around the globe. Speculation has grown as to what it’s been doing, with both China and Russia accusing the US of using it to spy on their satellites. One Chinese military expert even suggested that its robotic arm and payload bay could be used to “steal” a satellite from space. I’m sure that was the premise for one of the James Bond films, but I can’t remember which one. I seem to remember a rather unrealistic image of a rocket opening a mouth and swallowing a satellite.

X-37B, though, is the real thing. The US say it has been doing experiments on what happens to materials in space, and also performed tests on the practicality of collecting solar power and beaming it back to earth as microwaves that could then be converted into electricity back home. Those are probably true, but what other tests or missions have been carried out during its 908 day orbit are up for speculation.



Peak at a Blog: The Role of Location in Thrillers

Thinking of the James Bond films, they would be very different if 007 performed his missions on the Isle of Wight rather than at all the glamorous locations he’s sent to. This month’s blog scratches its head and asks what role location plays in thrillers (thinking mainly about books, although similar principles apply to films). Why do authors select particular locations, and how do they affect the feeling of the story?

It also recounts the story of how Brighton’s local authority reacted to the film of Graham Greene’s book Brighton Rock. It made me smile.

To read this month’s blog, just go to iancoatesthrillers.wordpress.com



Freebies & Competitions

There are a couple of bookish competitions to draw your attention to this month. The first comes from the publishing giant Penguin. It’s only get a few days left to run, so hop over their quickly if you want to take part. They’re celebrating the pleasure of audio books, a format I certainly love. I was thrilled when Audible offered a contract for my thriller. The audio books in this competition are Penguin’s own productions. You get a chance to grab one of their audio books every month for a year. You won’t find the entry form on their website very easily, so Google “Penguin year's supply of audio books” and you should spot it easily enough.

And the second excitement comes from our old friend Caboodle, which we’ve mentioned in the past in these newsletters. To celebrate the 90th birthday of National Book Tokens, they’re running a draw for a book token and a monthly piece of cake. That doesn’t have to be birthday cake, but you get where their idea comes from.



October 2022: Revenge & Missing Persons in This Month's Thriller Reviews

As the last of the summer heat drains away, holidays fade to mere memories, and we sink into autumn, things become busy here with thrillers. Ian has been discussing new cover art for a re-launch of Eavesdrop to coincide with the release of his next thriller, Backlash, while also working on the first of a new series. On the personal front, Ian’s daughter has just been married, so it’s been a hectic month. In September, we travelled to Switzerland and visited the Piz Gloria restaurant on the top of the Schilthorn Mountain, site for the climax of the James Bond film On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. They’ve put together an exhibition at the top, which includes the helicopter that was used in the film and details of the history of the shoot.

This month’s newsletter includes a couple of thriller reviews as normal. One is from the pen of Scott Mariani and can best be described as a revenge thriller, and the other is from a new author to me, Mason Cross.

First of This Month’s Thrillers: The Crusader's Cross by Scott Mariani

Ben Hope runs a training facility in France for Special Forces operatives, military specialists, and bodyguards. At Christmas, with his colleagues away, Hope is looking forward to a quiet holiday period. However, a suspiciously well-informed gang of armed robbers storm the site in an attempt to steal the extensive cache of weaponry that is used during training. Hope holds the key to the strong room where the hardware is kept, but he’s not the pushover the gang expected, despite the fact he currently has one leg in plaster, and he foils their attack.

Some weeks earlier, Hope had started work restoring an old church in the grounds of the site. Archaeological specialists survey it and discover hidden tunnels, which Hope explores, finding an ancient gold cross encrusted with precious stones. He entrusts it to a friend, who takes it to a Paris museum where he used to work, and it’s examined by an expert on religious artefacts.

It’s concluded that the cross has unequalled historic value as well as monetary. Hope’s friend is in such excitement that he immediately rushes back with it to see him, not waiting until morning. He arrives after dark in the middle of the raid and, thinking a figure he sees approaching is Hope, he starts to call out about the cross’ value. Too late, he realises it isn’t Hope – the man is one of the attackers. He kills Hope’s friend and disappears with the cross, leaving his colleagues behind, seeing the cross as a quick way to wealth.

Hope finds his friend dead and seeks vengeance. Before the police arrive, Hope interrogates the attackers that he captured and discovers the name of the man who murdered his friend and stole the cross. Hope sets out after him.

The Crusader’s Cross is an exciting and interesting thriller. In a few places, the writing appears slightly old fashioned in the way it sometimes explains something, almost jumping to the author’s viewpoint. Although that briefly breaks the novel’s spell, it only happens a few times and doesn’t really affect the drive of the overall story. There is plenty of action, tension, and what’s-going-to-happen-next moments, which all drive you through the thriller at pace. A highly recommended read.



This Month’s Second Thriller: Don't Look for Me by Mason Cross

Sarah Blackwell is surprised when the neighbour she befriended moves out of the rented house overnight without a word. A typed note is left in Sarah’s letter box – ‘I’ll call you,’ but she never does, and Sarah starts to worry. When she sees a man breaking into the empty house, she calls the police, but they’re dismissive of her assertion that something has happened to her friend.

After repeated calls to her neighbour’s mobile phone reveal only that it’s permanently switched off, Blackwell uses a spare key to look around the house. It’s empty of all personal belongings; they have definitely moved out, and managed it silently in one night. As she searches in the hope of finding a clue as to what has happened, she finds a small diary fallen down behind the bed.

In it are sketches and doodles, but on the last page is an email address written inside a picture of an emergency button with the label, ‘Break glass in case of emergency.’ Sarah emails the address, and Carter Blake is introduced to the story.

He had known Sarah’s neighbour many years before but they had separated, with Blake being told, ‘Don’t find me!’ Blake is a professional person-finder but had always followed her wishes. Now, though, he is being told his old flame seems to be in trouble, and Sarah persuades him to help find her friend.

The story has several twists and turns as the pair try to track her down. What part has her neighbour’s reclusive husband played in the disappearance? Does Sarah actually know her friend’s real name? And what prompted their sudden move-out? As they start out on her trail, they discover they’re not the only ones looking for me. And the other person isn’t worried about using violence to find her. Suddenly, Sarah and Blake’s lives are also at risk as they get closer to their quarry and the body count starts to rise around them.

Don’t Look For Me is an exciting and well-executed story with plenty of action to keep the adrenaline going as well as an intriguing puzzle that slowly unfolds and a few surprises along the way.

A highly recommended thriller. It’s the fourth in Cross’ Carter Blake series, but is totally capable of standing alone.



From a Writer’s Desk

One thing I’ve learnt about writing is that if you get a gut feeling that something isn’t quite right, you should listen to that inner voice and make a change, however difficult it might be. You won’t get away with leaving it because a reader somewhere will react in the same way as you, if your agent or editor doesn’t pick it up first. Of-course, it’s better to make that change before you’ve written too much.

I had that feeling with the final chapters of my current work-in-progress. Thankfully, I’ve not written them yet, only planned them, but the more I look at the story outline, the more I know it doesn’t feel quite right. It will work and the story will hang together okay, but there’s something about it that doesn’t feel totally satisfying. It will be four stars instead of five, so I spent a lot of time in September brainstorming ideas for alternative endings. I’m glad to say I now feel much happier that the new scenes sit far more harmoniously with the rest of the book. I’ve still got some loose ends to tie up – the new ending makes it more difficult for the assassin to achieve all his aims in one big finale but I know it will be much more satisfying; I know it’s a change I’ve got to make. So, a bit more planning to do to tie up the last few ends that the change has caused, and I can get back to the writing. Wish me luck!



News from the Book World: A Queen of Crime

There was a furore in the literary world last month when the estate of Agatha Christie threatened Val McDermid’s publishers with legal action. Posters for McDermid’s latest book declared her to be “the new queen of crime”, to which Christie’s descendants took severe umbrage. ‘We have trademarked the expression “Queen of Crime”,’ they declared and threatened ‘our lawyers will be in touch’ if the publishers persisted in using the phrase. The irony is that McDermid works with the Christie estate to write new Miss Marple stories for them!

What do you think about this tussle? Is it right that Christie’s estate can trademark a phrase such as “Queen of Crime” and stop it being used to describe other similarly prolific crime authors.

On a more joyous note, this weekend (Saturday 8th) sees the arrival of National Bookshop Week. It’s a campaign intended to encourage us to visit our local bookshop, with limited edition book bags for sale and various local celebrations, author signings, offers, and more. Perhaps you could go and buy a book from the Queen of Crime! For more details go to the BooksAreMyBag website and click on their Bookshop Day tab.



Peak at a Blog: Thriller Sub-genres

Do you know your crime thrillers from your mystery thrillers? This month’s blog delves into the murky area of thriller sub-genres and tries to shed light on the differences between the 13 most popular sub-genres. Can you list all thirteen?

Take a peak of this month’s blog. You can find it at iancoatesthrillers.wordpress.com



Freebies & Competitions

Are you an Ian Rankin fan? Waterstones (UK) is offering a Rebus-themed sightseeing itinerary, including a drink in the Oxford bar with Ian himself. They’re also throwing in a one-night stay in Edinburgh at a 4* hotel, a train travel to get you there, and a gift card for use at local restaurants. To have a chance, you need to pre-order a signed copy of Rankin’s latest book from them before its launch on Oct 13th. Details on the Waterstones webpage.



August 2022: An assassin & and an Irish bomb attack in this month's newsletter

As we hit the holiday season in the UK, here are reviews of two thrillers you might like to take with you for some beach reading. There’s Killer Intent by Tony Kent and Henry Porter’s Remembrance Day. There are also a few words about a new type of print book that adopts some of the advantages of e-books, a peak at a blog that examines the seven weirdest assassinations in history, a look at spectacles that help the deaf to hear, a crime paperback competition, and more.

First of This Month’s Thrillers: Killer Intent by Tony Kent

An assassin on a roof top with a sniper rifle prepares for his shot. As the action commences, he succeeds in only part of his mission, the final element thwarted by Joe Dempsey, part of a team assigned to the day’s security. Not completing the mission has many consequences.

Dempsey, who had been one of the best SAS operatives, now works for a government group called DDS. The book opens with him and his team assigned to assist with security during a visit from the American President, who is giving a speech in London’s Trafalgar Square. One of Dempsey’s team gets shot and killed during the assassin’s attack, and Dempsey is desperate to hunt down the man responsible, but the assassin has disappeared.

The novel has three threads that are followed to its thrilling conclusion – the assassin, as he obeys instructions to eliminate anyone who might have information that could uncover who hired him; Michael Devlin (a solicitor) and Sarah Truman (a reporter), who find themselves on the assassin’s “clean-up” list; and Dempsey, as he tries to track down the assassin.

Dempsey is not allowed to investigate the case officially because it’s one of his team who died, but when it’s discovered who the assassin is, Dempsey’s boss encourages him to hunt the assassin anyway: it’s a man Dempsey knows from his SAS days, and it’s possible that Dempsey is the only one good enough to take him down.

It’s a cleverly constructed story that’s well written, and the underlying conspiracy is slowly revealed as Devlin calls on family friends to help him, pushing the story to its adrenaline-fuelled conclusion. Killer Intent is full of excitement and action all the way through; a great read.



This Month’s Second Thriller: Remembrance Day by Henry Porter

Awesome beginning, fantastic end, and an entertaining, if slightly confusing, middle.

The explosive action-packed opening drags readers straight into the story as they experience the shock of a London bombing along with Con Lindow, who is caught in the blast. But as we follow him through its aftermath, we discover he used to have a connection with the IRA. When he refuses to discuss it, he instantly becomes the focus of the police investigation, although Commander Foyle, the officer in charge of the case, soon concludes that neither Lindow nor Lindow’s brother, who was killed by the bomb, was responsible. However, Foyle’s attempt to find the true perpetrator is hindered by the other government departments involved. They have something to hide about their own involvement with the bomber, and are determined to lay the blame on the two brothers.

When Foyle is forced off the case because of his continual insistence that Lindow is innocent, he forms an alliance with Lindow to uncover the truth. Lindow soon discovers that his brother worked for the IRA, and finds documents that suggest he had been tasked with finding a pair of bombers intent on derailing the Irish peace talks. The IRA forces Lindow to continue his brother’s mission to track down the two-man splinter group before their final atrocity can take place.

The well constructed plot does suffer from a large cast of characters, and there are times in the middle of the book when this is confusing. This is exacerbated by Porter having given two of the policemen very similar names (Forbes and Foyle).

One point that jarred for me was a coincidence related to breaking the encryption on a set of computer disks. The codes were based on the lettering used to represent the different genetic enzymes in DNA. This just happens to be Lindow’s specialist area (he is a research scientist), and he is therefore miraculously able to help with their decryption. That felt very contrived.

But those problems aside, this is a beautifully written thriller that’s hard to put down, even though the action is a little lacking in the first half once the opening scene has passed. Remembrance Day is a very enjoyable read and forms a good introduction to Lindow, who is the main character in Porter’s subsequent two books, A Spy’s Life and Empire State.



From a Writer’s Desk

I’ve thinking hard about my current thriller-in-progress this month. Although I was happy with the plot and the action, I felt it needed something extra to elevate it to the next level. After much head-scratching, I decided I needed to get more into the head of the protagonist so I went back into brainstorming mode. He’s an ex-assassin who left his old way of life behind after accidently causing the death of his best friend’s son. I looked deep into his heart and realised that what he was afraid of most was the new life he had built for himself collapsing. When something happens that persuades him to temporarily call on his old skills, he’s going to struggle to reconcile what he needs to do with his fear of his past being discovered and losing his new way life as a result.

I’m now going back to the early pages and to the overall plan to work out how introducing that new element is going to drive the story forward.

Any day now, I should get back the first round of edits from my publisher for Backlash, the thriller due out at the end of the year. Hopefully, I’ll squeeze in this re-planning before they arrive. I’ll let you know next time how I got on.



Peak at a Blog: The 7 Weirdest Assassinations in History

What are the 7 most unusual assassinations in history? Assassination plots have had their place since the earliest days of history, but some have been more unusual and imaginative than others. We’re not talking here anything as normal as an assassin’s knife or bullet, but far more weirder methods of dispatching victims. From conning people into thinking they’re doing a prank for a Japanese YouTube channel to a boat designed to sink and a spear up the bottom, as well as getting jabbed by an umbrella at a bus stop.

These and more are described in this month’s blog. Go to iancoatesthrillers.wordpress



News from the Book World: a New Type of Book

Have you heard of a-books? Since the invention of the e-book, pundits have heralded the death of print books but it hasn’t happened and the two formats currently seem to co-exist. Now welcome the a-book, which could start to blur the distinction between the two by bringing some of the e-book’s advantages to physical books.

One thing an e-book can do is to provide easy access to related information. For example, in a text book, you can touch a word to open an information box with a definition or associated facts. In a travel guide, it could provide a weather forecast or flight times. In a thriller, tapping a character’s name could bring up their back-story. A method to do this with print books could be on the way thanks to a six-year project at the University of Surrey, England. It’s not ready yet, but it’s getting closer. This magical book could allow a reader to sweep a finger across a word on the paper, and for a mobile phone linked to the book via Bluetooth to display the linked information.

How’s the book powered you might ask? It wouldn’t be much use if the book needed a power lead or was weighed down by a battery. Instead, the team at Surrey are currently embedding ultra-thin solar panels into its pages. A key driver, and possibly the most important factor in their work, is to keep the reading experience the same as with current print books. The next step is therefore to develop these solar-powered pages further so that they feel the same as a sheet of good quality paper.

And in case you wondered, the “a” in a-books stands for “augmented reality”.



Techie Snips: Spectacles to Help the Deaf

Making it easier for the deaf to hold a conversation... by wearing a pair of glasses! Details of a great invention hit the news recently that should be able to help those suffering from loss of hearing... and it comes in the form of spectacles. A mobile phone’s mic picks up the other person’s speech and converts it to text, like automated subtitles. A Bluetooth link from the phone then passes the words to the glasses, where they are displayed on the inside of the lenses in such a way that the wearer can see them easily while looking at the other person in the conversation. There’s a great video clip out there recording the reaction of the first deaf person to try it out. Just Google “XRAI glasses”.



Freebies & Competitions

Lovereading is running a nice competition for lovers of crime fiction this month. For a chance to get a copy of Clare Mackintosh’s latest book, The Last Party, just pop along to their website before September 4th. They’re throwing in a bottle of champagne to go with it.



July 2022: Tim Weaver, Adrian McKinty, & more...

We bring you reviews of two “woman in jeopardy” thrillers this month. Both have strong-minded heroines who have to fight against the odds. One’s from Tim Weaver, the other from Adrian McKinty. While it’s swelteringly hot here, I visit China in my head as I write my next thriller, and look back at Independent Book Week. This month’s peak at a blog asks why the size of genre fiction paperbacks has changed so dramatically over the last decade, and we look at the possible future for supersonic passenger flights as NASA works to minimise sonic booms.

First of This Month’s Thrillers: Missing Pieces by Tim Weaver

When Bek Murphy accompanies her brother on a trip to a remote island off the American coast where he is to interview an archaeologist, she could never have guessed how her life was about to be turned upside-down.

The novel is very suspenseful almost all the way through – the tension is visceral on virtually every page. It opens with Bek on her own on the island, and we soon realise the place is only inhabited during the summer and she has missed the last ferry of the season. Worse, someone is trying to murder her and she has been separated from her brother. One question that hangs over the whole story is what has happened to him and why.

Totally isolated and knowing the killer is getting ready to come for her, she must prepare while she can. She knows the saying that “attack is the best form of defence”, and Bek is a determined and resourceful woman, but even that doesn’t seem enough to keep her alive when the killers arrive.

It’s a cleverly structured thriller, cutting repeatedly between events happening now on the island and what happened when they first arrived, slowly revealing the dire situation she is in and raising more questions about who is involved and why she has been targeted.

Although the end is possibly a little flat in comparison to the rest of the story, it does satisfactorily answer all the questions and nicely ties up all the loose ends. Overall, this story is very tense and page-turning, and definitely recommended. A great standalone thriller.



This Month’s Second Thriller: The Chain by Adrian McKinty

A clever and intriguing plot about unwilling kidnappers. Unfortunately, there were quite a few places where I thought, “That wouldn’t happen,” which did spoil it somewhat. However, the story was tense, and I found myself keen to know what happened next, which was more than enough to keep me reading despite my disbelief.

The tale is told in two halves. The first part starts when Rachel O’Neill’s daughter is kidnapped. The release demand is not solely money – the hostage will only be released once she has also kidnapped another child and passed on the same demand to their parents. It’s called “The Chain”, and the female kidnapper tells Rachel that her own child was taken and will only be released once Rachel has done what’s needed.

Frantic, Rachel complies and, with the help of her brother-in-law, targets another family. Having prepared the basement of a nearby unoccupied holiday home, she kidnaps a young girl and keeps her locked up. True to their word, the woman who had been forced to kidnap Rachel’s daughter now releases her.

But the story is far from over. Having been released, Rachel’s daughter is clearly suffering PTSD. Rachel, too, has been affected psychologically and is continually watching over her shoulder. Eventually, she decides she can live like that no longer and realises the only way to get her life back is to find out who is behind The Chain and to prevent them from continuing.

She starts by using the Tor anonymous browser and creates a blog asking for anyone with info about The Chain to contact her. The one answer she gets sets her on a dangerous trail that eventually brings her face-to-face to those behind the crimes.

It’s definitely exciting and well worth the read provided you’re happy to set aside the occasional “that wouldn’t happen!” I discussed it briefly with someone else who had also read the book, and they made exactly the same comment; like me, though, they were also happy to recommend it as a good book to read.



Peak at a Blog: Crazy Paperback Book Size Changes

Have you noticed how mass market paperbacks have become larger over the last 10 years? I’m talking genre fiction here rather than “literary” stuff. Have you ever wondered why? Certainly, if I look at my bookshelves, my collection of thrillers from the seventies and eighties are all exactly the same small size, whereas more recent ones have a variety of larger sizes.

This month’s blog digs into why the change has come about and what standards exist for paperback book sizes.

Take a peak of this month’s blog. You can find it at iancoatesthrillers.wordpress



From a Writer’s Desk

While I’m sweltering as my office hits 28oC indoors, my work has moved to China. No, I’ve not headed to The Orient in person, but the protagonist in my work-in-progress thriller has just flown there via Hong Kong on the trail of criminals making counterfeit medicines. I was in China myself on business for a short period a few years ago while I worked in electronic product design, and I took copious notes in a tiny notebook. I’m mining those as I create the scenes, but I now wish I had made even more observations – as I write, I’m finding bits I didn’t record. More photos would have been useful, too. I think I’m going to have to supplement my notes with some good travel guides.

If you can recommend any books that give a real feel for the smells, sights, and sounds of China, please drop me an email (just hit reply).

In the meantime, I’m wondering how to get the temperature down a bit in here. I’ve got the router, my PC and monitor, a RAID system (hard drives that give some protection against disk failures), desk light, and other IT stuff all generating heat around me. Moving everything on to a laptop and sitting outside in the shade is tempting, but it’s even hotter out there. I’ll just have to keep up the ice cubes down by shirt back.



News from the Book World: Indie Bookshop Week

Last month contained Independent Bookshop Week. Its aim is to facilitate a series of nationwide events that celebrate the role indies play in the community. Did you get to any? A lot of author talks and signings took place around the country, some of which tried to be different by including demonstrations or activities. Two that stood out for me were one in Bristol where the author ran a demonstration of fermentation, and another in Cardiff that included a workshop on how to sew recycled bouncy-castle fabric into a book bag.



Techie Snips: Supersonic Flights

I was fascinated to read this month how NASA is working on producing supersonic aircraft designs that reduce the loudness of the sonic booms as they cross the sound barrier. Do anyone of you remember Concord? I used to live in Reading and it would regularly fly overhead as it left Heathrow. I never got to hear its sonic boom because it only ever went supersonic over sea, but it was noisy enough as it was. Beautiful to see if flying, though.

What NASA is doing is working on the wing shapes. They believe they can reduce the boom to no louder than a slamming door by getting the shape right. If successful, do you think this might reintroduce supersonic passenger flights?



Freebies & Competitions

Dead Good Books is holding a draw this month for a paperback of Cameron Ward’s A Stranger on Board, a novel they describe as “a twisty thriller”. It’s open until July 23rd, so you’ll need to get over to their website sharpish to be in with a chance for that.



June 2022: Simon Kernick, Peter May, & more...

Murder, kidnap, and extortion fill the thrillers in this month’s reviews. We’ve got an exciting standalone novel from Simon Kernick and a great mystery thriller from Peter May in his Enzo McLeod series.

As the annual Dagger Awards approach at the end of the month, crime reading gets celebrated this June in Crime Reading Month. Learn more about it below, as well as seeing a colour-changing car, learning how publishers are turning green, and entering this month’s competition.

As always, we’d love to hear your recommendations for authors and thrillers to add to our review list, and any comments or suggestions for topics to cover in the newsletter. Just hit reply to send us an email. We read every one we receive.

Happy summer reading!

First of This Month’s Thrillers: We Can See You by Simon Kernick

Kernick makes life for his protagonist Brook Connor more painful with virtually every chapter. Her problems start when her daughter, Paige, is kidnapped – terrifying enough in itself, but her life continues to unravel further as she battles to stay firm and recover her child. Eventually, she’s arrested for multiple murders.

The book cleverly cuts between her interview at the police station and the earlier events surrounding her hunt for her daughter. When Paige was snatched, Brook and her husband got a phone call from the kidnappers, but they won’t talk to Brook, only to her husband. He is acting strangely, and she begins to suspect he is somehow involved. Her mind is in turmoil as they drive to the handover, but things don’t go as planned and life for Brook starts to worsen.

Soon, she wonders if there’s anyone she can trust. All she knows is she has to stay alive and out of a prison cell long enough to find Paige.

I found it strange at first that Kernick had set this book in America. I thought this might have been his publisher’s doing, wanting to make the novel more attractive to that market, but then I decided it was probably because handguns play a key part in the story and it would have been difficult to keep the plot realistic in the UK, where firearms are not readily available. In the end, I concluded it was probably both reasons – the somewhat annoying use of American-English (for a Brit) did suggest that Arrow was aiming this thriller at the US market.

We can See You is a great thriller – palpable tension, situations getting worse when you didn’t think it was possible, plenty of action and emotion... One of the best books I’ve read for a long time with a brilliantly tense and unexpected ending.



This Month’s Second Thriller: The Night Gate by Peter May

What links a recently unearthed World War II corpse and a modern day stabbing? Enzo McLeod, a forensic investigator, is looking into the ancient death but, while visiting the site, he notices the police at a nearby house where a man has just been stabbed to death. The detective in charge recognises McLeod and persuades him to consult on the murder.

The fact the stabbing occurred only a few days after the World War II corpse was discovered is no coincidence, and McLeod slowly unearths the connection, eventually discovering both killers’ identities. We are rapidly taken into the art world and the German theft of masterpieces from France during the occupation.

I found the way the novel constantly switches between three different time periods a little confusing at several places in the novel. One storyline follows McLeod’s current day investigation, the second comes in the form of an elderly woman recounting events in France during the war that her mother had told her about, and the third jumps back to a few days before the current-day murder, following the main suspect in the time leading up to the crime.

As the three stories unfold in parallel, we see an intriguing story from the Nazi’s occupation of France and how it led to the modern day crime.

It’s a clever story, and the desire to solve the mystery is what keeps the reader glued to the pages. However, because I found the jumps in time somewhat confusing, I hesitate to give it the full five stars. Nonetheless, I certainly found it an excellent read with a believable and ingenious storyline. If you’re happy with books that chop between multiple timelines, then this is a great mystery for you. If not, approach with a little caution, but once you get used to the jumps, you’ll probably love it.



From a Writer’s Desk

I heard from my publisher recently that COVID has delayed their publishing schedule, but the edits on my latest thriller should be back with me by the end of July. That gives me about eight weeks before I need to knuckle down with intensive work on the manuscript. I’ve made the most of the unpressured period waiting for the edits by doing some techie updates to my website. They seem to have come out well and have made it more mobile-friendly as well as much easier to maintain, although they took me a lot longer than expected. It does mean work on the first of a thriller series has slowed embarrassingly, and I really need to get back to completing the first draft. Alas, it won’t be finished by the time edits arrive on my desk, which is a disappointment.

But as the sun starts to shine here in England’s Worcestershire, I’ll be getting straight back to writing the new book just as soon as I’ve signed off here.



News from the Book World: Crime Reading Month

Did you know June is National Crime Reading Month, organised by the Crime Writers’ Association? The festival celebrates crime reading through events and activities in bookshops, libraries, museums, and theatres across the UK and Ireland, as well as online events, culminating in the CWA Daggers ceremony at the end of the month.

To discover the crime reading events near you, go to their website at crimereading.com and select your region from a pull-down menu.



Techie Snips

Has BMW taken the next big step towards James Bond’s invisible car (from Die Another Day)? The heavy-hitting car manufacturer recent demonstrated a concept car that it called the iX Flow. One of its coolest features has to be that it’s wrapped in an e-ink display – that’s similar to the display used in many e-readers, which looks like paper in sunlight and only takes power when it’s changing colour. The designers say it’s designed so that drivers can better reflect their personality but, in a nod to the environmentalists, they also point out that it allows the body to be changed to white when it’s sunny, which reduces how much the car’s interior heats up and leads to less air conditioning use.

So far, it seems to be one colour at a time for the whole body, but it’s built from a series of precisely laser cut panels to fit the car’s contours, so one can imagine the next step being the ability to set each segment to a different colour. If that can ever get to the stage of displaying an image that’s captured real-time by a camera, the car could camouflage itself against the background.

Who knows if concepts from the iX Flow will ever see it into car production, but the opportunities are certainly exciting.



Peak at a Blog

Nowadays, there’s a lot of focus on the environment and, not surprisingly, publishers have started to look at the impact of publishing books. This month’s blog considers what can be done to reduce CO2 emissions in publishing. Is it better to use recycled paper than fresh? Is an e-reader going to be better than buying a paperback? (The answer to that is not as obvious as you might think!) What role does FSC certification play on the choice of paper? What parts of a book’s complete beginning-to-end lifecycle cause the most emissions?

Take a peak of this month’s blog. You can find it at iancoatesthrillers.wordpress

It’s the time of year when we need to plan blog topics for the rest of the year. We’ve got a growing list of possible titles, but would love to get a load more so we can pick the best ones for July – December. If you’ve got any suggestions, please reply to this email and let us have them; if you have a social media profile, we’ll be happy to include that in a credit when we publish a blog on a topic you suggest.



Freebies & Competitions

This month, you have an opportunity to win a signed first-edition paperback of Eavesdrop, Ian’s fast-paced thriller. Unfortunately, we can only open this one to those of you with a UK postal address because of shipping charges – sorry! Just reply to this email with “Competition” in the subject title to enter the draw, which will take place at the end of July.