Dead Lions by Mick Herron
Jackson Lamb and his far-from- merry band of secret service cast-offs return for a second outing in Dead Lions. When a former spook is found dead on a bus, Jackson Lamb investigates. Dead Lions, like its predecessor Slow Horses, is a splendidly wry labyrinthine thriller stuffed-full of dark comedy, sharp observations and a brilliantly drawn cast of characters. Marvellous stuff.
The Chain by Adrian McKinty
A teenage girl is kidnapped and her mother is forced to abduct another child in order to set her free. The Chain is a high-octane, high-concept sharp-as-a- whipcrack thriller that puts likeable, relatable people in a terrible situation. Massively enjoyable.
Shamus Dust by Janet Rodger
An American private eye in post-war London investigates a murder and soon digs his way into high society’s grubby underbelly. Shamus Dust is a beautifully written homage to the classic PI novel and is full of rich imagery and strong on atmosphere.
First Shot by John Ryder
Former Royal Marine Grant Fletcher heads into America’s heartland to track down his friend’s missing daughter but the isolated small-town of Daversville has dark secrets. First Shot is lean and hard-hitting. It grips as tight as a corkscrew and is a terrific read.
Snog, Marry, Murder by Zac Colbert
The hit reality TV show Snog, Marry, Swerve is preparing for its new series when one of the contestants is murdered. Production coordinator Charlotte Chaplin turns amateur sleuth in in this short, sharp and satirical black comedy. Cracking fun.
The mind of Chris Sievey was clearly a treasure trove – indeed, a veritable Aladdin’s Cave – of bright and shiny ideas, many of which, thankfully, came to fruition. Most notably in the effervescent forms of The Freshies and Frank Sidebottom.
The Freshies were a brilliantly eccentric power pop/ new wave band who cheekily surfed the Manchester pre-punk, punk, and post-punk scenes, and came painfully close to success with a bouquet of great singles such as ‘I’m In Love With The Girl On The Manchester Virgin Megastore Checkout Desk’ and ‘I Can’t Get ‘Bouncing Babies’ By The Teardrop Explodes.’
Sievey’s later creation, Frank Sidebottom, was a surreal half-man/ half-puppet version of George Formby whose anarchic performances enlivened kids television shows and late night TV alike in the ‘90s, and whose live shows seemed to have garnered an strangely obsessive fan base. When Chris Sievey died in 2010, however, he left behind a hell of a musical legacy that showed the he was more than just a novelty act.
Out Of His Head was written by Sievey’s friend the journalist Mick Middles and is as intoxicating and sobering as Sievey’s life seems to have been. The book’s timeline spans more than a quarter of a century and includes cameos from Sievey’s family and friends as well as the likes of Mark E Smith, Steve Coogan, Jon Ronson, Caroline Aherne, Chris Evans, Mark Radcliffe, and, er, Bros.
Frank Sidebottom – Out Of His Head is a fascinating and bittersweet read, and is very highly recommended.