Author's Showcase: Crimes Across the Sea
Crime is universal. Yet the techniques, the gut instincts of investigating detectives, and the literary styles differ from country to country. That’s why it is such a pleasure to read books written Wendy Cartmell from Great Britain and Claude Nougat,who calls Italy home. They may see crimes different from you and me, but we all see justice through the same eyes.
The Book: Fear of the Past
The Author: Claude Nougat
The Story: When Tony, a gifted child and brilliant video game creator, turns 17, he suffers burnout and feels like an old man. He goes to Sicily, the homeland of his deceased father, to search for his roots.
An abandoned palazzo with a strange name inscribed above the door, the Circolo di Conversazione, attracts his attention. He walks in and meets the ghosts of all his ancestors going back 900 years, milling about, waiting for Judgment Day. Soon he discovers he has more in common with an English adventurer who settled in Sicily during the Napoleonic Wars than with his own father.
The Englishman with whom Tony bears an uncanny resemblance was the secret lover of the Duchess of Floridia, a famous beauty (she married the King of Naples in 1814 when she was 43). The Duchess mistakes Tony for her secret lover come back to her.
But is love possible with a woman who died 200 years ago? Can he take her back in his own time?
According to one review: “Fear of the Past is more than a paranormal romance: it has a historical dimension that takes you into the spirit of the Sicilian soul! It follows main events in the history of an ancient Sicilian family from the times of the Norman conquest of Sicily (which kicked out the Arab occupiers) until the time of Napoleon III and Italian unity.
It is the best novel I read on Sicily since Tommasi di Lampedusa’s The Leopard.”
And another reviewer wrote: “This book is truly an Indie delight. It defies categorization. It is a romance, a play, a historical fiction, and a paranormal story. Tony, a 17-year-old gamer and game creator, is already burned out. He decides to research his roots and embarks upon a trip to Sicily.
“While wandering about aimlessly, he stumbles into the “Circolo di Conversazione,” an abandoned palazzo. The door closes behind him and he finds himself in the middle of all his long-dead ancestors. They draw upon Tony’s life energy to conduct plays and unending conversations, hoping to uncover truths about themselves, while Tony struggles to understand how he fits into this microcosm of kings and duchesses, nuns, jesters, foreigners, schemers, adventurers, and lovers. This is an offbeat and delightfully entertaining book, well worth reading.”
The Book: Steps to Heaven
The Author: Wendy Cartmell
The Story: Steps to Heaven is the first book in the Sgt Major Crane series. Crane is a Special Investigations Branch Detective in the British Army, based at Aldershot Garrison.
He is disturbed by the horrific case of a soldier called Solomon who, after recently returning from Afghanistan, murdered his wife and six-year-old son and then committed suicide.
It seems Solomon was attending a local Church, which encourages people to join by offering salvation to its members.
But as Crane investigates and the body count rises, events take a darker turn and he wonders what the Church is offering – salvation, or slaughter?
If you like gripping crime thrillers with a difference, then Steps to Heaven is your cup of tea, the British variety.
A revised edition was published February 2012
One reviewer wrote: “I liked Crane instantly, his no-nonsense approach is just fantastic – bordering on comical at times. I liked the way that I also got an insight into his personal life as well, it really helped to build him as a character.
“His team – Billy and Kim seem to have differences between them but both strive to do a good job for Crane – doing whatever it takes!
“The incident that they are called out to is so horrific that Crane just can’t let it go, it is deemed as case closed and he is sent to investigate another incident. Only to find himself called back to that first case after another incident occurs miles away.
“He enlists the help of Padre Symonds and ‘civvy’ police Detective Anderson determined to get to the bottom of these incidents. I liked both of these characters and loved the way that the Padre was loving playing `detective’!! Anderson on the other hand had his hands full – trying to stop Crane who sometimes was a little harsh with people!
“The story was great, as I started piecing bits together something else would appear or not quite add up – to be honest at one point I thought that we were never going to catch up with `Zachariah’. It was a bit slow starting but once I got into the storyline I was hooked.
Another reviewer called Steps to Heaven “a crisp engrossing page-turner that handles its sensitive subject matter with dignity and precision. There is never a moment where the book becomes predictable or stagnant.”
“And a third review said that the novel was “Unputdownable! This is an excellent detective novel well written and presented. Altogether a gripping read.”