Smokey the Cat
Olga Wojtas

Sixty seconds with Olga Wojtas...

Olga Wojtas, who lives in Edinburgh, Scotland, has had more than 30 short stories published in literary magazines and anthologies, including The Mayo Review and New Writing Scotland. Her debut comic crime novel, “Miss Blaine’s Prefect and the Golden Samovar,” was published in 2018. She also writes the Bunburry series of cosy crime e-novellas under the name Helena Marchmont.

RTE: Describe yourself in a sentence?

Wojtas: I was once investigated by a Glasgow University researcher who concluded that in one respect, I did not behave abnormally compared to the general population.

RTE: What's the one record you'd take to a desert island?

Wojtas: Sandy Denny’s album “The North Star Grassman and the Ravens”

RTE: What did you want to be when you were growing up?

Wojtas: Illya Kuryakin.

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February 16, 2019

We start off today with several authors you may not be familiar with but which we think you might enjoy. Oyinkan Braithwaite is a Nigerian writer and MY SISTER, THE SERIAL KILLER is her debut, and a spectacular one it is too, or so I thought. THE SILENT PATIENT by Alex Michaelides is also a first. A psychological thriller involving a psychologist and Katie Voss could not put it down. THE WINTER SISTER, by Megan Collins is another debut. A novel about family secrets, Phyllis Onstad says that while it does not break new ground, it is so well written that it will hold the reader till the very end.

Jane Harper has several novels to her credit, but as an Australian writer specializing in the less populated areas of the country, she may not as yet have made her mark on the North American scene. Barbara Fister says that THE LOST MAN, set in the Queensland outback, is perhaps Harper's strongest to date, and "that's saying something." Canadian Indigenous writer Thomas King has a lengthy list of published work, but A MATTER OF MALICE is just his third mystery novel. Susan Hoover loved it, though she has to admit that, unfolding as it does at its own leisurely pace, it may not suit everyone.

Another successful suspense novel is Heidi Perks' HER ONE MISTAKE, says Meg Westley, who calls it an insightful thriller and recommends it if you want to be throughly absorbed. Lucy Foley's THE HUNTING PARTY is not her first book, but it is her first crime novel. Meredith Frazier reports that this Christie-influenced suspense thriller will be on familiar grounds to readers of Ruth Ware but has its own strengths as well.

One book you probably have heard about, and for all the wrong reasons, is THE WOMAN IN THE WINDOW, by A.J. Finn (aka Dan Mallory). Sharon Mensing wrote her review of the best-seller before the New Yorker article exposing the writer's various adventures with the truth.

Two books that are more noir than psychological each take place in the grittier areas of major US cities. Melissa Scrivner Love brings back her south-central LA drug cartel boss Lola for a second appearance and Susan Hoover is very glad to welcome her back, criminal though she may be. The book features a number of strong female characters who may be operating beyond the law but who have deeply human concerns and troubles says Susan with approval. Stephen Mack Jones' social action hero is August Snow, back in LIVES LAID AWAY. Barbara Fister finds much to like in this Detroit-based adventure, but regrets the degree to which Snow is fuelled by a toxic charge of testosterone and a reliance on guns.

We can cross the Atlantic for a bit to get away from the guns. And when we do, we are in the land of sturdy series. Alan Banks, who is now a Detective Superintendent, certainly doesn't need a gun. CARELESS LOVE, his most recent adventure, is far from a debut - it is the 25th in this excellent series. Still, I thought, Banks is showing signs of feeling his age, though he is still thoroughly ready to solve a murder or two when they happen in Eastvale. Ian Rutledge has been at it almost as long - THE BLACK ASCOT represents his 21st appearance and PJ Coldren reports he is holding up very well indeed. It's number 21 for Bill Slider as well in Cynthia Harrod-Eagles' HEADLONG. Jim Napier calls it a "welcome addition to a literary world that too often focuses on explicit violence and forensic detail, rather than careful plot structuring."

The oldest book reviewed this week was also a debut. THE MURDER OF MY AUNT, by Richard Hull, was first published in 1937 and now reappears as part of the British Library's Crime Classics series. Rik Shepherd thinks it makes an excellent addition to that valuable project that revives long out-of-print but worthwhile crime fiction of the thirties and forties.

And for something rather different - THE ALCHEMIST'S ILLUSION, by Gigi Pandian features an amateur detective, Zoe Faust, who is also several hundred years old and an alchemist into the bargain. PJ Coldren likes the turn the series has taken toward a deeper interest in the relationships among the distinctly unusual cast of characters.

Our guest in the Sixty Seconds with... seat this week is Olga Wojtas, born and raised in Edinburgh, who attended the school that inspired THE PRIME OF MISS JEAN BRODIE, by Muriel Spark. You can read her answers to our questions over to the left.

Our friends at CRIMEREVIEW had a new issue out last week. You should take a look, if you want to know more about British crime.

We've been doing a lot of reading while we wait for Spring. To find out what we thought (about the books, not the weather) please come back and join us in early March. Until then, if you have anything you'd like us to know, please drop us a line.



P.S. If you wish to submit a book for review, please check here before contacting us. Please note that we do not review self-published books.

Our mascot and masthead is Smokey the Cat. Smokey the cat went to the great playground in the sky on April 29, 2008, at 3:30 p.m. He was about 13 years old, had diabetes and only 11 teeth left. He is much happier now. He will remain as our masthead and mascot.

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