Monday, June 09, 2008

Lennon on the Loose

Today, The Rap Sheet offers up a new guest blogger. He’s Patrick Lennon, British author of the Corn Dolls (2006) and Steel Witches (2008), both of which star a determined but troubled Cambridge sleuth named Tom Fletcher, described rather simply in the latter work as the “holder of a police bravery medal. Thirty-three years of age. Height, six foot two. Brown hair, cut straight across the forehead. Always stubble on his chin.” Regardless of his hirsute inelegance, Fletcher may have a fine future ahead of him. In remarking on Steel Witches, the London Times’ Peter Miller wrote, “this ... richly imaginative follow-up to Lennon’s debut novel ... could just possibly turn Tom Fletcher into another Morse.”

If only Lennon can be so lucky.

Born in 1964, the author grew up in Cambridge, England, but has lived at various times in Thailand, Italy, France, and Mexico. Prior to embarking on the potentially less lucrative enterprise of composing fiction, Lennon is said to have labored in the employ of multinational corporations “in international roles” (which might explain why his passport is so well worn). He still runs his own business, separate from writing, which he characterizes as “a language services agency in the London area which provides training, translation, and interpreting in European languages.”

Lennon’s Corn Dolls was a tough little nut of a tale that involved a body found in a shredding machine, long-ago shipments of Soviet tractors, and secrets from the past visiting harm upon the present. And it was all set against the backdrop of England’s distinctive Fenland (familiar territory to those of us who’ve also enjoyed the work of Jim Kelly, author of The Water Clock and The Skeleton Man). “If you like books set out in the back of beyond with more than an echo of The Wicker Man, you’ll snap up Corn Dolls in an instant,” Sharon Wheeler wrote at Reviewing the Evidence. Corn Dolls features on the longlist of nominees for the 2008 Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Award.

Following on that debut, Steel Witches finds former Detective Inspector Tom Fletcher having left the police and now working as a private detective in Cambridge. He’s endeavoring to rack up some well-paying corporate assignments, but is instead drawn into the murder of an American armaments company executive--a case that also involves an alleged female escort who may be a bit too smart for her own good, a killer on a mission, hauntingly strange women painted on the noses of World War II bombers, and more than a few questions surrounding Fletcher’s parents. Oh, and I mustn’t fail to mention the subplot involving old English witch trials.

The story is set in the winter,” explains Amanda C.M. Gilles at Euro Crime, “and the weather is awful most of the time. At the start of the book it is bitterly cold and there are ice crystals everywhere. Then, as the tension increases, so does the amount of precipitation and the thrilling climax of the story is set amidst a terrifyingly violent storm. This ‘Hardy-esque’ link between atmospheric conditions and the progression of the story brilliantly enhances the tension in the book as it races towards its end.”

In an online interview, Lennon says that Corn Dolls and Steel Witches are the first two installments of a four-book series, “taking Fletcher through 10 years in his life. In the next book, number three, he seems to have found the peaceful home he’s always wanted. The problem is, there’s an army barracks just up the road, and they start taking an interest in him. The wrong kind of interest.”

Naturally. This is crime fiction, after all.

A fan of Elmore Leonard, Dennis Lehane, Walter Mosley, and J.G. Ballard, Patrick Lennon today begins a weeklong stint here at The Rap Sheet. Over the next few days, he will be writing about his own work and influences, as well as the genre as a whole. Please join us in welcoming him to this page.

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