Fast growing e-publisher Canelo is venturing into print with a new a crime imprint, Canelo Crime, launching on 24th September. There are eight new titles to kick things off, ranging from thrillers and police procedurals to historical mysteries. I chose three novels, including the headline title Lies to Tell by Marion Todd, to see what’s in store for readers.

Small Mercies by Alex Walters

Experienced crime novelist Walters kicks off his Canelo Crime tenancy with a new police procedural series set in the Peak District and featuring DI Annie Delamere. No slow build or long winded introduction here, it’s straight into the action. Readers will pick up on the characters and their relationships as things move along.

Small Mercies kicks off with Annie and her colleague, DS Zoe Everett plus husband Gary on a relaxing day walking on the Moors. Annie is missing her partner, labour MP Sheena Pearson, who’s busy on constituency business. Zoe and Gary seem a little tense and Annie is regretting coming, it seems ominous to her that the place is named Hell Bank. Then things take the inevitable turn for the worse when they come across two bikers who’ve discovered the body of a naked man with his throat slit. Bang goes the day off.

Annie has a new boss DCI Jennings, they’re still at that point where they’re feeling each other out, toe in the water, he’s been supportive so far, but this case will be the real test. The body on the moor has been mutilated, perhaps as part of some ritual, this is going to be a nasty case. No sooner has Annie begun the investigation than another body turns up outside Buxton, same MO. Have they got a serial killer on their hands, or could it be something even more sinister? A cult.

Clive Bamford, author, (mostly self published), and his friend Greg are launching The Conspiracy Theory Discussion Group in a local pub. Latecomers to the meeting Charlie and Rowan Wiseman take over proceedings, steering things away from aliens and JFK to the Illuminati and religious conspiracies. Later Rowan admits they really just came to see Clive. She wants Clive to meet some friends, spiritual people, nothing sinister, just new ideas – there could be a book in it. That and Rowan’s charm is something Clive can’t resist.

Meanwhile, Sheena is attacked outside her constituency office after standing up to an extreme right wing leader. A shot is fired from the crowd, fortunately, the bullet only grazed her head but as Sheena is convalescing another shot is fired outside the hospital. The danger is very real, Sheena and Annie are thrown into a media storm.

Small Mercies is a solid police procedural that will keep readers guessing right to the end. DI Annie Delamere could be a stayer, a second novel in the series, Last Hours, will be published in November.

Paperback, ISBN 9781800320130, (all books are available as paperback and eBook)

Lies to Tell by Marion Todd

Friday, 15th May. DI Clare Mackay gets an enigmatic postcard showing a photo of Provincetown, Cape Cod:

‘Wish you were here’- signed G xxxx

Her ex Geoffrey Dark, does he want to rekindle their relationship? Before she gets time to think about it work interrupts. A text from her boss DCI Alistair Gibson; he’ll pick her up at St. Andrews station at 8.30am, he won’t explain but it must be serious for him to come from Edinburgh. Al has cancelled her morning meeting to clear her schedule. In the car on route to who knows where, the DCI still won’t tell her anything. They fill the time by discussing personal things, Al admits he’s getting a divorce and moving to Fyfe. Then he asks Clare if she’s familiar with the Phil Quinn trial. Clare is well aware of the Quinn firearms haul; guns, knives and bomb making equipment. Al tells her there’s very little physical evidence of Quinn’s involvement and he’s likely to blame his lieutenant, Paddy Grant, still at large, to wriggle out of things. However, the police do have an ace in the hole, Quinn’s wife Tamsin is in a safe house under twenty-four hour guard, she’s willing to testify against her husband.

After a long drive they arrives at a secure facility in the middle of a forest – an imposing building with a high perimeter wall and maximum security. Clare had no idea this place existed, even Al didn’t know the location until this morning. They are introduced to Gayle Crichton, an ethical hacker working for the government. She tells them she’s been hired to deal with a security breach at Police Scotland, she won’t specify the details. She wants Clare to arrange a room at St. Andrews station. The cover story will be that Gayle is installing a new communications system. No one at the station is to know what Gayle is really up to, it’s pretty clear that someone on the inside of the force is responsible for the leaks. Clare is under strict instruction not to mention anything to her good friend Diane Wallace who is a tech officer at Glenrothes.

The pair are on their way back to St. Andrews when Al gets a call. Tamsin Quinn’s location has been compromised so they need to go and get her. Clare arranges a new safe house with DI Steve Robins of serious organised crime but it isn’t long before that appears to be compromised too.

Meanwhile, a Swiss student reports his friend, Johannes Muller, has been missing for three days before they can follow up he goes missing too. It isn’t long before a body turns up. The hares are running.

Also a police procedural Lies to Tell combine murder mystery with conspiracy, heaping on a tonne of duplicity and twists – very little is as it first appears. Clare’s relationship with Al adds a frisson and Todd has an eye for telling details. This is a decent slice of tartan noir.

Todd’s debut See Them Run was published to acclaim last year and short listed for the Bloody Scotland Debut Prize.

ISBN 9781788638203

A Front Page Affair by Radha Vatsal

  1. Nineteen year old Capability ‘Kitty’ Weeks works for the ladies page of the New York Sentinel, she’d rather be working news stories, like the shooting of archduke Franz Ferdinand or the sinking of the Lusitania, but that isn’t a job for a young lady. Miss Busby, her strict boss, has tasked Kitty to cover Mrs Basshor’s Independence Day gala. The great, (wealthy), lady spares a few minutes for the young reporter before passing her on to her assistant Mr Hotchkiss who varnishes her with the guest list and itinerary for the afternoon festivities. Some of the guests have withdrawn after the shooting of JP Morgan, the financer, a few days earlier during a robbery, the rich are a skittish lot. Kitty has a pretty privileged background herself though; Swiss school, businessman father, so she’s not overawed by these people and yet she doesn’t quite fit in. While wandering around she comes across Aimee Cole, fretting over a stain on her dress much to the annoyance of her husband, Hunter. Kitty takes Aimee away from the row to get her dress cleaned up, Hunter storms off. When they return to the party Hunter is nowhere in sight and the Japanese firework display is about to begin. Shortly afterwards Kitty is talking to Hotchkiss when one of the servants approaches, there’s been an incident in the stables, one of the guests has been shot. Following Hotchkiss she recognises the body as Hunter Cole. The police are called, Kitty can’t investigate but before she leaves Kitty rings the city news desk to give them the story. The next day Miss Busby is put out when the news desk want to second Kitty to the inquiry into Cole’s death, news is not compatible with the women’s page dignity. Kitty wouldn’t miss it though, even though they only want her to do the donkey work. No one seems to mourn Hunter Cole and it turns out the murder weapon was his own gun, why did he take it to the party, what was he afraid of? Kitty has her own take on what happened when she doesn’t believe the pat answer the police are peddling; the Treasury and the Secret Service become involved. A conspiracy to undermine the British and French war effort comes into focus. This novel is loosely based on real events and is a clever blend of fact and fiction.

A Front Page Affair is a satisfying mystery underpinned by observations on the sexism and misogyny of the times, (which kitty is good at dealing with). Vatsal doesn’t try to reach too far with her cub reporter, Kitty is spirited and has the basic skills for the job, a natural intuition and a way of getting people to open up but she is also inchoate, fumbling a little at times.

This is the opener for what could be a really decent cosy crime series. Lightly pointing up the real history and social attitudes of the period. Miss Busby thinks her social pages are more important than the news, many people think journalism is no profession for a young lady and Kitty’s father would still like her to run the home. Kitty wants to be a reporter.

Complete with extensive notes, suggested reading, a readers group guide and interview with the author.

I assume the second Kitty Weeks mystery Murder Between the Lines, will follow soon.

ISBN: 9781788635363

A new crime imprint is to be applauded, this one is aimed at popular, mainstream crime fiction, the kind of novels you might find in the supermarkets. Other titles published on 24th September are Lost Cause Rachel Lynch, When the Dead Speak Shiela Bugler, The Body Under the Bridge Nick Louth, Home Fires Burn Lisa Hartley, When the Past Kills MJ Lee.

Welcome Canelo Crime.