THE SECRET by KATERINA DIAMOND (2016, Avon, 404pp) ***
Blurb: When Bridget Reid wakes up in a locked room, terrifying memories come flooding back of blood, pain, and desperate fear. Her captor knows things she’s never told anyone. How can she escape someone who knows all of her secrets? As DS Imogen Grey and DS Adrian Miles search for Bridget, they uncover a horrifying web of abuse, betrayal and murder right under their noses in Exeter. And as the past comes back to haunt her, Grey must confront her own demons. Because she knows that it can be those closest to us who hurt us the most.
Diamond’s follow-up to The Teacher treads much of the same ground with its penchant for graphic body horror and sexual violence. Here we delve deeper into DS Imogen Grey’s past and the case that haunts her from two years earlier becomes entwined with her current investigation. Diamond’s plot calls on the reader to accept a lot of coincidental twists, which stretch the credibility of the narrative. If you can accept these, then the book will give you an absorbing read. Others may find these contrivances distracting from an otherwise well-written crime thriller from a talented writer. The book leaves enough room for Diamond to further explore her characters and a third book in the series, The Angel, was published last year.
Hell is a City (1960; UK; B&W; 98m) ***½ d. Val Guest; w. Val Guest; ph. Arthur Grant; m. Stanley Black. Cast: Stanley Baker, John Crawford, Donald Pleasence, Maxine Audley, Billie Whitelaw, Joseph Tomelty, George A. Cooper, Geoffrey Frederick, Vanda Godsell, Charles Houston. A police inspector pursues a dangerous jewel thief. Fast-paced and atmospheric crime thriller shot on location in and around Manchester. Baker is excellent as the driven detective on the hunt for Crawford. Director Guest works efficiently with a strong supporting cast (notably Pleasence as a tight-fisted bookmaker and Whitelaw as his promiscuous wife) and witty dialogue. Exciting rooftop climax adds to the suspense. Based on the novel by Maurice Procter. [PG]
Serpico (1973; USA; Technicolor; 130m) ****½ d. Sidney Lumet; w. Waldo Salt, Norman Wexler; ph. Arthur J. Ornitz; m. Mikis Theodorakis. Cast: Al Pacino, John Randolph, Jack Kehoe, Biff McGuire, Tony Roberts, M. Emmet Walsh, F. Murray Abraham, Cornelia Sharpe, John Medici, Allan Rich, Barbara Eda-Young, Norman Ornellas, Edward Grover, Albert Henderson, Damien Leake. The true story about an honest New York cop who blew the whistle on rampant corruption in the force only to have his comrades turn against him. Pacino delivers an excellent portrayal of Frank Serpico, expertly capturing the frustrations of a cop isolated within the system. Lumet delivers an engrossing and realistic account spread over five years. Extensive New York City location work and a cast of relatively unknown actors add to the authenticity. Based on the book by Peter Maas. Followed by a TV pilot, SERPICO: THE DEADLY GAME, and series in 1976. 
Maltese Falcon, The (1941; USA; B&W; 100m) ***** d. John Huston; w. John Huston; ph. Arthur Edeson; m. Adolph Deutsch. Cast: Humphrey Bogart, Sydney Greenstreet, Mary Astor, Peter Lorre, Walter Huston, Elisha Cook Jr., Barton MacLane, Lee Patrick, Gladys George, Ward Bond, Jerome Cowan, James Burke, Murray Alper, John Hamilton, Emory Parnell. A private detective takes on a case that involves him with three eccentric criminals, a gorgeous liar, and their quest for a priceless statuette. Classic hard-boiled private-eye movie is a wonderful vehicle for Bogart as the cynical Sam Spade. The complex and twisting plot is expertly handled by Huston and brilliantly edited by Richards. It crams so much plot progression into its first ten minutes and never lets up its pace. The supporting cast – notably Lorre and Greenstreet – is wonderful. This would become the template for many film-noir movies to follow. Based on the novel by Dashiell Hammett previously filmed in 1931 and 1936 (as SATAN MET A LADY). Also available in a computer colourised version. [PG]
Life (2017; USA; Colour; 104m) *** d. Daniel Espinosa; w. Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick; ph. Seamus McGarvey; m. Jon Ekstrand. Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson, Ryan Reynolds, Hiroyuki Sanada, Ariyon Bakare, Olga Dihovichnaya, Alexandre Nguyen. A team of scientists aboard the International Space Station discover a rapidly evolving life form, that caused extinction on Mars, and now threatens the crew and all life on Earth. Derivative sci-fi horror adds nothing new to the genre but is a professional and competent chiller. The visual effects are excellent and the cast is strong, but there is little in the material for them to work with outside of the admittedly tense conventional thrills. If you’ve seen ALIEN, you’ll recognise the by-the-numbers plot mapping. 
Hollywood Reporter says musician and actor Cliff Smith (better known as Method Man) is the latest addition to the cast of Son of Shaft. He has been lined up to play an old friend of Samuel L Jackson’s John Shaft. he has recently been seen in HBO series The Deuce as well as hosting Drop the Mic.
Reports today in many of the trade websites that actor Avan Jogia, who starred in the recent fantasy TV series Ghost Wars, has been added to the cast of Son of Shaft, currently shooting in Atlanta. No details yet on the character he will play in the film, which is to star Samuel L Jackson and Jessie T Usher.
Doctor Who: Twice Upon a Time (TV) (2017: UK: Colour: 60m) *** pr. Peter Bennett; d. Rachel Talalay; w. Steven Moffat; ph. Richard Stoddard; m. Murray Gold. Cast: Peter Capaldi, David Bradley, Mark Gatiss, Pearl Mackie, Lily Travers, Jared Garfield, Jodie Whittaker, Jenna Coleman, Matt Lucas. Two Doctors stranded in a forbidding snowscape, refusing to face regeneration. And a British army captain seemingly destined to die in the First World War, but taken from the trenches to play his part in the Doctor’s story. This is the magical last chapter in the Twelfth Doctor’s epic adventure. He must face his past to decide his future. And the Doctor will realise the resilience of humanity, discovering hope in his darkest frozen moment. It’s the end of an era. But the Doctor’s journey is only just beginning. Self-indulgent bow-out for Capaldi’s Doctor with a confusing plot device designed to wring-out every emotion from fans of the series. It will likely have left non-fans cold with its frozen-in-time plot line as both 1st and 12th Doctors hold back their re-generations. There were nice touches in this episode – notably the resolution of the WWI army captain’s story and the meeting up with an old friend/foe. Bradley doesn’t always get the 1st Doctor right, but this is not helped by him being given some weak lines, knowingly poking fun at the changes in cultural environment since the days of those early serials. Capaldi is excellent, as ever, and it is sad to see his Doctor finally go. Whittaker’s brief appearance looked promising and left us on another cliffhanger. The production values were good and the photography excellent, but hopefully new producer Chibnall will move away from Moffat’s penchant for complex concepts and get back to good old-fashioned story-telling to win back a broader audience base. 
Muppet Christmas Carol, The (1992; USA/UK; Technicolor; 86m) **** d. Brian Henson; w. Jerry Juhl; ph. John Fenner; m. Miles Goodman. Cast: The Muppets, Michael Caine, Steven Mackintosh, Meredith Braun, Robin Weaver, Donald Austen. The Muppet characters tell their version of the classic tale of an old and bitter miser’s redemption on Christmas Eve. Delightful adaptation with Caine excelling in role which requires him to act largely with puppet characters. Lovely script with gentle humour makes this a warm and heart-lifting seasonal movie. Based on the novel “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens. [U]
THE TEACHER by KATERINA DIAMOND (2016, Avon, 396pp) ***
Blurb: You think you know who to trust? You think you know the difference between good and evil? You’re wrong … The body of the head teacher of an exclusive Devon school is found hanging from the rafters in the assembly hall. Hours earlier he’d received a package, and only he could understand the silent message it conveyed. It meant the end. As Exeter suffers a rising count of gruesome deaths, troubled DS Imogen Grey and DS Adrian Miles must solve the case and make their city safe again. But as they’re drawn into a network of corruption, lies and exploitation, every step brings them closer to grim secrets hidden at the heart of their community. And once they learn what’s motivating this killer, will they truly want to stop him?
Enjoyment of this book depends on how much you buy into Diamond’s dark and macabre world, where every character is tarnished by their past. The plot is highly implausible and at times stretches the reader’s commitment. The themes of abused childhood, torture, rape and the grisly deaths that result are designed to heighten the reader’s emotional commitment to these characters. On this level, it largely succeeds. I found myself continuing to turn the pages in fascination at the horrific nature of the story.
There are no real surprises… this book is not targeted as a mystery, instead it is described as a psychological crime thriller. It’s main theme of revenge applies to more than one of the characters. The heroes are a new detective duo – Adrian Miles and Imogen Grey – both of whom have their own hidden traumas to deal with and have to tangle with secrets within their own force.
It all sounds very bleak and by and large it is. But there are moments where the strong characters cut through and there is promise the duo of Grey and Miles could become an interesting combination for future books. The second in Diamond’s series is The Secret and I will be interested to see how she progresses these characters.