Monday, August 22, 2016

Teenage poetry and picking locks: an interview with Chris Ewan

Welcome to the latest issue of 9mm, the long-running author interview series here on Crime Watch. At the end of May we hit the 150 interviews mark, and I took a moment to reflect on all the authors who have been interviewed thusfar (full list here), and where I could take 9mm in future.

Thanks to a number of great crime authors giving their time during last month's Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival, and on other occasions, I have a lot of new interviews 'in the can' which I'll be publishing over the coming weeks. Lots to look forward to! If you have a favorite author you'd love to see interviewed here, please let me know.

Today, I'm very pleased to welcome #1 bestselling British thriller writer Chris Ewan, who has been described as a leading light among a new generation of thriller writers. Ewan began his crime writing career with his 'Good Thief's Guide' series starring a globetrotting thief. His debut, THE GOOD THIEF'S GUIDE TO AMSTERDAM (2007) won the Long Barn Books First Novel Award and went on to be published in more than a dozen countries. Further instalments have been based in Paris, Las Vegas, Venice, and Berlin, and American production companies expressed interest in a TV show.

Ewan's big breakthrough was SAFE HOUSE (2011), a standalone thriller which sold half a million copies and was shortlisted for the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Award. That year Ewan was also voted as one of America's favorite British authors.

His latest thriller, LONG TIME LOST (Faber, 2016), was published in May, and has been said by critics to cement Ewan's reputation as one the most exciting and original crime writers around. But for now, Chris Ewan become the latest author to stare down the barrel of 9mm.


9MM: AN INTERVIEW WITH CHRIS EWAN

1. Who is your favourite recurring crime fiction hero/detective?
If we’re talking an all-time favourite, I’d have to go with Philip Marlowe but I always catch up with Jack Reacher each time a new Lee Child novel hits the shelves.

2. What was the very first book you remember reading and really loving, and why?
The Silver Sword by Ian Serraillier, which I must have read when I was ten(ish). It’s a wartime adventure story that I got completely wrapped up in – I can still vividly picture a scene where the three children at the heart of the story make their escape from Nazi stormtroopers by climbing over a series of rooftops.

3. Before your debut crime novel, what else had you written (if anything) unpublished manuscripts, short stories, articles?
A lot of bad teenage poetry. A lot of short stories and novel openings. The first thing I ever got published was a short story in a book magazine called INK that, funnily enough, went out of business shortly afterwards. I also wrote three novels (one literary, two mainstream) that landed me my first literary agent but didn’t find a publisher. It was painful at the time but I’m glad of it now – I think it’s best for everyone that those three novels are hiding somewhere on some old floppy disks.

4. Outside of writing, and touring and promotional commitments, what do you really like to do, leisure and activity-wise?
All the normal stuff. Spending time with family and friends. Taking our dog for a walk. I like to travel, but really that’s just a fancy way of saying that I like to go on holiday and laze around reading books.

5. What is one thing that visitors to your hometown should do, that isn't in the tourist brochures, or perhaps they wouldn’t initially consider?
Although I moved away recently, I’m going to claim the Isle of Man as my home for this one and tell any visitor to sample the local delicacy – chips, cheese and gravy.

6. If your life was a movie, which actor could you see playing you?
Ryan Reynolds (though he’d have to hit the gym pretty hard).

7. Of your books, which is your favourite, and why?
It’s hard to overlook how SAFE HOUSE changed things for me – it gave me the opportunity to write full-time and I’m hugely grateful to everyone who bought a copy. Of the Good Thief novels, my favourite is probably THE GOOD THIEF’S GUIDE TO VENICE. LONG TIME LOST, though, was easily my most challenging book to write and I’m happy with how it turned out.

8. What was your initial reaction, and how did you celebrate, when you were first accepted for publication? Or when you first saw your debut story in book form on a bookseller’s shelf?
Back in 2006, I was working as a film lawyer when my phone rang at work and I answered it to hear Susan Hill tell me I’d won the Long Barn Books First Novel Award and that I was going to be a published writer. The call came a week before my 30th birthday and it’s the best phone call I’ve ever received. I went to the pub with a bunch of my colleagues. My boss bought us all champagne. It was a pretty special moment.

9. What is the strangest or most unusual experience you have had at a book signing, author event, or literary festival?
After THE GOOD THIEF’S GUIDE TO AMSTERDAM was published I received an email from a reader whose “hobby” was picking locks. They wanted to meet me and show me some tricks of the trade. It wasn’t an opportunity I was going to pass up so we arranged to meet in a coffee shop (somewhere public seemed like a good idea at the time …) and within a couple of minutes I could shim a padlock and use a raking tool. I was feeling pretty smug about it until I took my new lock picks home and tried to crack the lock on my front door. Turns out, it’s a lot harder than it looks …


Thank you Chris. We appreciate you chatting to Crime Watch. 

You can read more about Chris Ewan and his thrillers at his website, or follow him on Twitter

Saturday, August 20, 2016

New Kiwi Noir: SKIN OF TATTOOS

A New Zealand-born, Los Angeles-based writer has this month released her first crime novel, SKIN OF TATTOOS, which centres on a Salvadoran gangbanger looking to make a fresh start after being paroled from prison. 

A journalist, poet, and short story writer, Christina Hoag is a former staff writer for the Miami Herald and the Associated Press. She has quite the pedigree as a former Latin American correspondent. Hoag's website bio states "she reported from 14 countries on issues such as the rise of Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, Colombian guerrillas, Guatemalan human rights, Salvadoran gangs, Nicaraguan landmine victims, and Mexican protests, for Time, Business Week, Financial Times, Houston Chronicle, the New York Times, and other publications".

She has published non-fiction and young adult books, but SKIN OF TATTOOS is Hoag's first crack at a literary crime thriller. 

Here's the blurb: 

Los Angeles homeboy Magdaleno is paroled from prison after serving time on a gun possession frameup by a rival, Rico, who takes over as gang shotcaller in Mags’s absence. Mags promises himself and his Salvadoran immigrant family a fresh start, but he can’t find either the decent job or the respect he craves from his parents and his firefighter brother, who look at him as a disappointment. Moreover, Rico, under pressure to earn money to free the Cyco Lokos’ jailed top leader and eager to exert his authority over his rival-turned-underling, isn’t about to let Mags get out of his reach. Ultimately, Mags’s desire for revenge and respect pushes him to make a decision that ensnares him in a world seeded with deceit and betrayal, where the only escape from rules that carry a heavy price for transgression is sacrifice

The often-tough Kirkus Reviews have said "Hoag is a talented writer, summoning Mags’ world on the page with remarkable empathy and detail" and that "the overall experience is surprisingly nuanced and wholly enjoyable." SKIN OF TATTOOS is "A well-crafted, engaging novel."

Another Kiwi Noir talent to watch, and perhaps a contender for next year's Ngaios. 

Monday, August 15, 2016

Shipwrecked sailors and Buenos Aires theatre: a 9mm interview with Claudia Piñeiro

Welcome to the latest issue of 9mm, the long-running author interview series here on Crime Watch. At the end of May we hit the 150 interviews mark, and I took a moment to reflect on all the authors who have been interviewed thusfar (full list here), and where I could take 9mm in future.

As some of you may have seen on Twitter or Facebook, I conducted several 9mm interviews at the recent Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival in Harrogate, so there'll be plenty more instalments being published in the coming weeks. I've really enjoyed interviewing so many fascinating crime writers from all over the world, and hearing their stories about books, writing, and broader life. I hope you have too.

Today I'm very pleased to share an interview with Argentina's bestselling crime writer, Claudia Piñeiro. I briefly met Claudia at Crimefest in Bristol in May (her first trip to the United Kingdom), where she was a star on panels addressing obsession in crime and setting stories in the recent past.

Claudia Piñeiro is an award-winning writer who delves into Argentine society across a number of forms: journalism, plays, television, and her outstanding literary crime novels. The latter have been translated into several languages, and thanks to Bitter Lemon Press (who helped set up this interview after Crimefest - kia ora guys), four of her crime tales are available for English-speakers to enjoy.

As well as being engaging thrillers, Piñeiro's novels are thought-provoking examinations of society and human nature. In Betibú (Betty Boo), a crime journalist partners with a famous writer to uncover the background behind a murder in a gated community, and Piñeiro puts the media under the microscope. In Las grietas de Jara (A Crack in the Wall), a jaded architect has his stagnant life upturned by the arrival of a young woman who has ties to a past crime the architect was involved in. That novel was longlisted for the International Impac Dublin Literary Award 2015.

Piñeiro has won several awards for her writing, at home in Argentina and for the various translations abroad. But for now, she becomes the latest crime writer to stare down the barrel of 9mm.


Claudia Piñeiro at the Crimefest bookstore
9MM: AN INTERVIEW WITH CLAUDIA PINIERO

1. Who is your favourite recurring crime fiction hero, and what do you love about them?
I really like Wallander, the creation of Henning Mankell. I like the imperfections in his character. Things don’t always go well in his world, for example in his love life or with his daughter. And that makes him more human, more credible. I could be friends with Wallander. I also very much like the characters created by Muriel Spark, especially the elderly cast of her novel Memento Mori.

2. What was the very first book you remember reading and really loving, and why?
Leaving aside childhood reading, I think Gabriel García Márquez’s The Story of a Shipwrecked Sailor is the book that made me a reader. A teacher in secondary school recommended it to me and at the time I thought ‘how could I be less interested in the account of a man who gets lost at sea?’ But soon after I began it I was hooked and that taught me that it’s not the subject matter that counts but the writing itself and the writer’s skill in telling things, whatever they may be.

3. Before your debut crime novel, what else had you written (if anything): unpublished manuscripts, short stories, articles?
I had written television scripts, plays for theatre, articles and children’s books.

4. Outside of writing, and touring and promotional commitments, what do you really like to do, leisure and activity-wise?
The pastime that really makes me happiest is going to the theatre. I’m lucky to live in a city, Buenos Aires, where the daily offering of theatre is tremendous, there is always something good to see. I also like singing and dancing - but I seem to be getting worse at that.

5. What is one thing that visitors to your hometown should do, that isn't in the tourist brochures, or perhaps they wouldn’t initially consider?
Go to the theatre, definitely. And not only to the commercial shows, but to fringe theatre, too. For example in Buenos Aires at the moment there is an excellent show that takes place in a working garage - in the mornings they’re fixing cars there.

6. If your life was a movie, which actor could you see playing you?
Well!! If the budget’s no object, I’d love it to be Julianne Moore.

7. Of your writings, which is your favourite, and why?
I always choose the most recent. Just as, with children, one tries to protect the youngest. In this case it would be Una Suerte Pequeña (A Little Luck)

8. What was your initial reaction, and how did you celebrate, when you were first accepted for publication? Or when you first saw your debut story in book form?
The first thought that came into my mind was: ‘At last’. Because one doesn’t publish at the first attempt. And sometimes the journey is hard and rather dispiriting. So that ‘at last’ meant, this has been worth all the effort, worth the work, worth waiting.

9. What is the strangest or most unusual experience you have had at a book signing, author event, or literary festival?
After presenting one of my novels (A Crack in the Wall) at a festival, a member of the audience came up to tell me that he had bought a copy. I quipped ‘Well, I hope now you’ve bought it you’ll read it’. He answered: ‘Yes, if I buy, I read. This will be the second novel I’ve read in my life’. I thought, what a shame that this man has read so little, but I didn’t say anything. Then immediately he added: ‘I’d like to ask for your advice: I’ve written ten novels, do you know which publisher I could send them to, to get them published?’ That was the strangest thing that has happened to me at a literary event - to meet someone who had only read one book in his life and might read a second, and yet who had written ten novels that he thought good enough to be published. I don’t think I’m wrong to assume that they couldn’t have been: nobody who hasn’t read much can write well.


Thank you Claudia. We appreciate you chatting to Crime Watch

Read more about Claudia Piñeiro and her books at Bitter Lemon's website, and you can follow her on Twitter.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Murder They Wrote: The Rise and Rise of #YeahNoir

Murder They Wrote: The Rise and Rise of #YeahNoir

By Sarah Forster, Booksellers NZ


Founder Craig Sisterson, judge Yrsa Sigurdardottir
and 2011 and 2015 winner Paul Cleave in Harrogate
The recent rise of independent publishers in New Zealand has seen genre fiction explode. New Zealand crime fiction especially, as the judges of the Ngaio Marsh Crime Fiction Award can attest. Founded in 2010, with  fewer than ten books in the running, the range of entries has grown yearly, and in 2016, twenty-nine books were entered into the  awards, and a new ‘first novel’ category launched. And, of course, the excellent hashtag #YeahNoir was coined on Twitter, by Steph Soper from the NZ Book Council.

The Christchurch Writers & Readers Festival (now WORD) have partnered with the Ngaio Marsh Awards since they were founded by Craig Sisterson. We talked to Sisterson who is now London-based, WORD Festival bookseller Pene Whitty from University Bookshop Canterbury, and Peter Riggs from Page & Blackmore in Nelson, about the strength of Kiwi crime and how it sells.

READ FULL FEATURE HERE

Thursday, August 11, 2016

I can see it started years ago*…


I can see it started years ago*…
Ngaio Marsh Awards founder Craig Sisterson takes a look at some modern New Zealand crime novels released in the years before the Awards began

Phar Lap. Crowded House. Pavlova. Given our Aussie cousins’ penchant for touting Kiwi talent as their own (fingers crossed for future news of ‘Australasian’ candidate Helen Clark becoming UN Secretary-General), it’s hardly a shocker that our own Paul Thomas was co-winner of the inaugural Ned Kelly Award for Australian crime writing in 1996.

Not that we can fault their taste: Inside Dope (Moa Beckett, 1995) is a cracker of a crime novel, the picaresque tale of ex-con Duane Ricketts, who searches for the Mr Asia drug syndicate’s lost loot after being released from a Thai prison. Violent, funny, full of grit and wit, it was the second book in Thomas’s electrifying series featuring maverick Maori detective Tito Ihaka.

It would be another fourteen years before New Zealand would have our own literary prize for crime and thriller writing ... READ FULL FEATURE HERE

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Double homicide: 2016 Ngaio Marsh Awards finalists revealed



Double homicide: 2016 Ngaio Marsh Award finalists revealed

A FADING All Black, a teen runaway, a cop in witness protection, and a robotic private eye are among the memorable characters at the heart of novels named today as finalists for the 2016 Ngaio Marsh Awards. 

“We had a record number of entrants this year, which gave several headaches to our international judging panel,” says awards founder and Judging Convenor Craig Sisterson. “Not only are our local authors producing novels of exceptional international quality, they are breaking the shackles of convention and stretching the boundaries of genre to explore crime storytelling in unique and exciting ways. We were comparing apples with feijoas.”

An extended judging process has led to two very strong shortlists, says Sisterson. This year, not only will the Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel, established in 2010, be presented at the Great New Zealand Crime Debate at WORD Christchurch Writers & Readers Festival on 27 August, but also a new Best First Novel prize for debuts.

The finalists for the Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel are:
INSIDE THE BLACK HORSE by Ray Berard (Mary Egan Publishing);
MADE TO KILL by Adam Christopher (Titan Books);
TRUST NO ONE by Paul Cleave (Upstart Press);
THE LEGEND OF WINSTONE BLACKHAT by Tanya Moir (RHNZ Vintage); and
AMERICAN BLOOD by Ben Sanders (Allen & Unwin).

The finalists for the Ngaio Marsh Award for Best First Novel are:
INSIDE THE BLACK HORSE by Ray Berard (Mary Egan Publishing);
THE FIXER by John Daniell (Upstart Press);
THE GENTLEMEN’S CLUB by Jen Shieff (Mary Egan Publishing); and
TWISTER by Jane Woodham (RosaMira Books/Makaro Press).

“I’d like to thank all our entrants for making our job so tough,” says Sisterson, “along with all our judges and WORD Christchurch for their ongoing support of the Ngaio Marsh Awards. Local crime writing is in fine fettle.”

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For more information on the Ngaio Marsh Awards, go to www.facebook.com/NgaioMarshAward, email ngaiomarshaward@gmail.com, or contact the Judging Convenor directly at: craigsisterson@hotmail.com  




Friday, July 22, 2016

Feeling Old & Peculier in Harrogate

Greetings from the lovely town of Harrogate in the north of England, a terrific place historically famous for its mineral spas (people travelled here from all around since the 16th century to 'take the waters').

Harrogate is a town full of history: 100 years ago it was a popular destination for the British elite and European nobility; during the Second World War its large hotels were used by  government officials evacuated from London during the Blitz (laying the groundwork for its modern-day success as a conference/events hub); and most famously - for mystery fans - it is the place where Agatha Christie was found in 1926 after the world's most popular author went missing 11 days beforehand from her estate in Sunningdale near London, more than 200 miles to the south.

Why am I here? Well, to attend the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival, of course.

Just like in days gone by, the little town of Harrogate attracts visitors from all over the world - only now one of the main drawcards is a sparkling festival established soon after the turn of the millennium. What began as a small gathering of crime fiction lovers has grown over 14 editions into arguably the biggest and best crime writing festival in the world, renowned for its relaxed atmosphere where authors, readers, publishers, agents, media, and others all mix and mingle together.

For years, authors I met and interviewed raved to me about the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival in Harrogate, and how I "absolutely must" attend sometime. I did so for the first time in 2012, and was not disappointed - and I'm very glad to finally be back here again.

This year's festival line-up includes special guests Jeffrey Deaver, Linwood Barclay, Tess Gerritsen, Martina Cole, Val McDermid, Gerald Seymour, and Peter Robinson (replacing Neil Cross), along with dozens of other terrific crime writers ranging from debutants to long-established stalwarts.

One of the things I love most about 'Harrogate' is that in addition to the authors onstage, many other crime writers come to town for the festival too. It's like an unofficial annual retreat for the crime writing community. Hanging out in the grounds of the Old Swan Hotel (where Dame Agatha reappeared, all those years ago), glancing across the crowds mixing and mingling is like the crime bookshelves from your favourite bookstore come to life. Everyone having a great time catching up with old friends and making new ones. Collegiality abounds. New stories made.

Laura Lippman in book form and real life on the train
This year, I had another 'crazy Harrogate story' even before I got off the train from London. Choosing to read rather than write during my journey up, I was powering through WILDE LAKE by Laura Lippman, fully engrossed.

As I got up to switch trains in Leeds, I glanced behind me at the line of other passengers, wondering how many were also going to Harrogate. A blonde lady right behind me looked familiar. She smiled, "Hi, I'm Laura Lippman". I don't know who was more surprised and chuffed - Laura to spot someone reading her book in public or me, who'd been so caught up in the terrific tale I hadn't noticed the author was sitting a few seats behind me!

Only at Harrogate.

Simon Theakston with Clare MacKintosh,
winner of the Best Crime Novel award
The opening night kicked off unofficially with a packed instalment of the famed Noir at the Bar, down the street a little at Hale's pub. Hosted by Luca Veste it included readings from a variety of cool crime writers established and new: Helen Fitzgerald, Brook Magnanti, AA Dhand, Graham Smith, Col Bury, Craig Robertson, Russell D. McLean, Lucy Cameron, Vic Watson and Jay Stringer.

The Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival officially opened later on with the presentation of the Crime Novel of the Year Award. It was a stellar shortlist of six books, highlighted to a full-house audience of several hundred by Mark Lawson, who invited each of the finalists in attendance onstage for a brief Q&A: Mark Billingham (TIME OF DEATH); Eva Dolan (TELL NO TALES); Renee Knight (DISCLAIMER); Clare MacKintosh (I LET YOU GO), and Adrian McKinty (RAIN DOGS).

Lots of fun stories were shared, but a particular stand-out for me was when McKinty recounted meeting Muhammad Ali in a bookstore years before, and how he'd been too nervous to do a 'gloves up' picture with the champ, but his buddy - our own Liam McIlvanney - did. I'll have to try to source that photo!

After plenty of pauses for suspense, former policewoman Clare MacKintosh was announced as the winner, a popular choice if the reaction of the audience was anything to go by! "I can't speak now, I'm just going to stand here and cry for a bit," said MacKintosh as she took the stage. She went on to thank the other writers in the crime community, noting how collegial it is, and how it was with their support and encouragement that she broke through over the past 18 months - everything from cover quotes to giving her aspirin after a big night at Harrogate!

Living legend: Val McDermid with her award
At the same ceremony, Val McDermid was honored with a 'lifetime achievement' style prize, for her Outstanding Contribution to Crime Writing. I'm a big fan of Val's, both as a writer and a person, so it was pretty special getting to see her feted in this way in front of several hundred people.

Mark Billingham gave a terrific speech, touching and humorous, celebrating Val's verve for life and what she has meant to the crime writing community. From her early days as the first person from a Scottish state school to get into St Hilda's College at Oxford (at 16 years old) to her time as a reporter where she had the nickname 'Killer' because of her doggedness, to the way she's been so forthright in every aspect of her life, how she was a driving force behind the establishment of this crime writing festival all those years ago, and her ongoing support of Raith Rovers FC.

In her acceptance speech, Val had a lot of heartfelt things to say, including advice for young writers to write what you care about, not what you think will be popular. "I've always written the books I wanted to write," she said. "The books that sang in my heart". She went on to stress the special relationship between authors and readers. "Without an audience a writer is nothing, and you are the people who've made me the writer I am today. So thank you for everything."

It was a terrific moment, getting to pause and celebrate one of the all-time greats. Another Harrogate memory created. Following the official opening the crowds drank and told tales outside the Old Swan into the wee small hours. I caught up with New Zealand author Paul Cleave, met his very enthusiastic Danish publishers, German thriller writer Wulf Dorn, and many others.

A great start to what will be a great weekend. More reports to follow.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Review: THE AGENCY

THE AGENCY by Ian Austin (June 2016)

Reviewed by Stephanie Jones

Dan Calder is an ex Brit and ex policeman looking for a fresh start in a new country but still carrying the baggage of failed relationships and a depressed, repressed past. He chose New Zealand because it was as far as he could get from his old life. The Agency provides a service like no other and New Zealand is the ideal location to find a new client. When Calder first encounters it by sheer chance, his life instantly changes and before long others are depending on him too. 

Engaged in a deadly game with an unknown foe; this was not the new life Dan Calder planned for himself but now at stake is the ultimate reward; his own salvation. 

For all the advances made by women in recent decades, the profession of serial killing remains dominated by men. The few outliers who spring to mind were, in most instances, co-conspirators to men, the Ian Bradys and Fred Wests and Charles Mansons who are assumed to have called the shots. But in Ian Austin’s cat-and-mouse thriller THE AGENCY, the villain is a globe-trotting femme fatale who kills for money, answers to no one, and changes her appearance and identity with the ease and speed of a spy.

The would-be conqueror of Veronica Stenning is former detective Dan Calder, who left the UK police force in hazy circumstances in 2008 and now, a little more than three years later, is living in Auckland, training for a marathon and awaiting some unforeseeable opportunity. Calder’s childhood experience of family violence was compounded by his colleagues’ veneration of his abusive father, also a senior officer, and resulted in symptoms of PTSD and a unquenchable instinct to put the world to rights.

Stenning is the owner-operator of The Agency, a shadowy outfit that promises to grant the end-of-life wishes of anyone with a spare quarter-million pounds or so. In one highly effective scene, the misleading nature of The Agency’s marketing dawns on a terminally ill pensioner moments too late, and Stenning’s artful, scrupulously planned chicanery is exposed.

When Stenning chances to follow Calder’s path to New Zealand, and fishes for new victims by hacking into a mental health website and emailing those who have used it, she snags Calder. His inner sleuth is roused and is quick to obsess over the trail of breadcrumbs left for him – but which morsels are lures and which mistakes?

Calder’s only distractions are his long runs and friendly next-door neighbours who set him up with a love interest, Tara, who assumes a Girl Friday role as Dan goes after his prey (not the only way in which THE AGENCY recalls Robert Galbraith’s Cormoran Strike novels; both men work off the books and are motivated by a steely morality that nonetheless admits some rule-bending in support of loftier aims).

THE AGENCY reverberates with police voices, and as in so many detective novels, much of the fun is in the easy banter and camaraderie of cops – their secret language, their unabashed faith in and affection for one another. Calder even loves the grunt work, enjoying an observations post – a stake-out – more and more as the long, listless hours go by, and emerging red-eyed, reeking and triumphant. The frustrations, too, might be Austin’s own, as when Calder revisits unfinished business and contacts a British paedophile whose conviction he was unable to secure, and who he now uses for intel, to his own great distaste.

Though the plot is hearty there is some boggy ground in the pacing. A few scenes persist too long, and it’s not uncommon for one character to recount to another events the reader has already seen. Dialogue doesn’t always sound conversational, and minor language mishaps – “palate” rather than “palette”, a reference to the designer “Donna Karen” – distract the pedantic reader.

The suspense of THE AGENCY lies in how Calder will net his prey and in the tantalizing loose ends left by Austin, who with this novel begins a trilogy that promises to answer the intriguing question of what prompted the end of Calder’s police career in the UK. Auckland crime fiction is home to a few good men; add Dan Calder to their ranks.

Stephanie Jones is the book reviewer for Coast FM radio in New Zealand, and a member of the judging panel for the 2016 Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel. You can read many of her Coast FM reviews here