A Death In Mayfair by Mark Ellis #GuestPost

December 1941. Japanese planes swoop down and attack Pearl Harbour. America enters the war and Britain no longer stands alone against Hitler. But conditions on the home front remain bleak, and for Scotland Yard detective Frank Merlin, life is as arduous as ever.  He is diverted from his tenacious campaign against London’s organised criminal gangs by the violent deaths of two young women in the centre of the city. Merlin investigates and encounters fraudulent film moguls, dissipated movie stars, mad Satanists, and brutal gangsters amongst others as he and his team battle to uncover the connections and search out the truth.

I'm delighted to be welcoming Mark Ellis to Hair Past A Freckle today.  He has very kindly written a special guest post about some of his favourite crime thrillers. With thanks to Mark and to Amber Choudhary from Midas PR for the invitation to feature this post.

My name is Mark Ellis and I am the author of a crime thriller series set in wartime London. My hero and protagonist is Scotland Yard detective Frank Merlin. There are four books in the series so far, and a fifth on the way next year. My most recent book, A Death In Mayfair, in which Merlin investigates the violent deaths of a glamorous movie star and a destitute girl in 1942, was published by Headline Accent at the end of 2019.

I have been given the almost impossible task of listing my Top Ten crime thrillers. I could probably sit down and pick a different list for every day of the week. After considerable thought, this is the one I came up with for today:

My Friend Maigret by Georges Simenon

I love everything Simenon wrote and Maigret is my favourite detective. I thus feel bound to place one of his books at the top of my list. I picked this gem. In it, Maigret  investigates a murder on the sun-drenched island of Porquerolles off the South of France. Intuition and human understanding, as always, play a large part in his solving of the case. Simenon had a beautifully simple but compelling style. 

The Woman In White by Willkie Collins

One of the first detective novels, this fine thriller has a wonderfully complex plot and one of the greatest literary villains ever in the dastardly Count Fosco. I’ve read it several times and it’s always a joy. The Moonstone and No Name are great too. 

The Talented Mr Ripley by Patricia Highsmith 

The malevolent character of Tom Ripley is one of the most brilliant inventions in crime fiction. The villain or murderer as hero has been done by others but never so well as by Highsmith. The gorgeous Italian setting of this, the first Ripley book, is a bonus. 

The Power Of The Dog by Don Winslow

Book one in an amazingly powerful trilogy about the drug wars in Mexico. Propulsively gripping, I found it impossible to put down. You need a strong stomach to read it but it’s well worth the effort.

Greenmantle by John Buchan

The Thirty Nine Steps introduced British First World War spy Richard Hannay and this is its sequel.  I loved the first book but Greenmantle is equally as good and there’s more of it so it takes precedence for me. I used the book as the basis for a cipher used by a character in my third book Merlin At War.

The Poet by Michael Connelly

My first introduction to this wonderful American writer. I have gone on to read nearly every book he’s written and love the Harry Bosch stories. The hero of this one is a journalist, Jack McEvoy, who goes in search of a serial killer in Denver. Delighted to see that McEvoy is making a reappearance in Connelly’s next book, Fair Warning.

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

Got to have a Christie in here and this is a brilliant one. No Poirot, no Marple, just ten people on an island gradually being bumped off. Apparently over one hundred million copies of this book have been sold. A case of quality and quantity.

American Tabloid by James Ellroy

A wonderful blending of fact and fiction in this, the first of a superb trilogy revolving around the Kennedy assassination. Bit of a toss up whether to choose this Ellroy book or The Big Nowhere, his atmospheric detective story set in 1940s Los Angeles.

Berlin Noir by Philip Kerr

A little bit of a cheat here, as this is a collection of Kerr’s first three Bernie Gunther novels in one. The idea of writing about a policeman living and working in Nazi Germany is a brilliant one, and the books are immensely entertaining. There are fourteen in the series and Kerr takes Gunther on to many thrilling and enjoyable post-war adventures, but these early stories are my favourites.

A Small Death In Lisbon by Robert Wilson

A CWA Gold Dagger winner in 1999, this has long been a favourite of mine. A girl is murdered in modern-day Lisbon. Behind the murder is a complex story going back to the war, when when neutral Portugal was a hotbed of Nazi intrigue. A marvellous thriller. Wilson’s Seville based detective stories featuring Javier Falcon are well worth a read too.

So that’s it. Somehow or other I’ve managed to miss out Chandler, Rendell, James, Greene, Mankell, Nesbo, Conan Doyle and many more. There are just too many great crime books out there…for which let us all be truly grateful!

We certainly should be! There are some brilliant books listed there (although I must admit to ranking Mr Standfast slightly ahead of Greenmantle). Thank you again, Mark for taking the time to write this post, I can imagine how difficult it was to narrow your choices down to just ten books!

A Death In Mayfair is published by Headline Accent, purchasing links can be found here but if possible please consider buying from an independent bookstore.

About the Author

Mark Ellis is a thriller writer from Swansea and a former barrister. He is the creator of DCI Frank Merlin, an Anglo-Spanish police detective operating in World War 2 London. His books treat the reader to a vivid portrait of London during the war.
Mark grew up under the shadow of his parents’ experience of the Second World War. He has always been fascinated by the fact that while the nation was engaged in a heroic endeavour, crime flourished. His father served in the wartime navy and died a young man. His mother told him stories of watching the heavy bombardment of Swansea from the safe vantage point of a hill in Llanelli, and of attending tea dances in wartime London under the bombs and doodlebugs.
In consequence Mark has always been fascinated by WW2 and in particular the Home Front and the fact that while the nation was engaged in a heroic endeavour, crime flourished. Murder, robbery, theft and rape were rife and the Blitz provided scope for widespread looting.This was an intriguing, harsh and cruel world. This is the world of DCI Frank Merlin.
Mark Ellis’ books regularly appear in the Kindle bestseller charts. He is a member of the Crime Writers Association (CWA). His most recent book, Merlin at War, was on the CWA Historical Dagger Longlist in 2018.