Publishing Today: Zodiac Station, by Tom Harper

Zodiac Station by Tom Harper

By Oliver Johnson

Posted on June 19, 2014 in Books with tags Tom Harper, Zodiac Station

It might surprise readers of this blog but publishers do, indeed, organise booze ups in breweries. For decades the Crime Writer’s Association annual prize giving lunch was held at the Whitbread Brewery Buildings in the City of London. Many years ago, or perhaps in fact 2002, scenting new author blood, I took myself to the presentations.

It might surprise readers of this blog but publishers do, indeed, organise booze ups in breweries. For decades the Crime Writer’s Association annual prize giving lunch was held at the Whitbread Brewery Buildings in the City of London. Many years ago, or perhaps in fact 2002, scenting new author blood, I took myself to the presentations.

Tom Harper launching Zodiac Station at the York Waterstones last night.

Tom Harper launching Zodiac Station at the York Waterstones last night.

As every year, editors and agents circled one particularly vulnerable looking group of writers: the shortlisted  authors on the CWA’s Debut Award. In fact, now I wonder if I wasn’t in fact one of the judges that year, and was thus already alerted to the extraordinary amount of authorial talent cast into the vinous seas of that bibulous lunch… These unhappy souls  in the main looked back at the encircling, snapping throng with a certain dismay but one stood out from the rest, exhibiting a strange equanimity and calm. A tall, handsome, bespectacled, red-headed fellow. This turned out to be Edwin Thomas, current nom de plume, Tom Harper.  After the awards, intrigued by his sangfroid, I pursued him to the nearest pub only to find that he had already signed up with his current, excellent agent and was also nearly in the clutches of a rival publisher. I shed hot, bitter tears into my Campari and Soda …

Years passed. Despite my watered-down Campari, Edwin and I became firm friends and he ended up living but a hundred yards away from me in London. I remember his garden decorated with old wine barrels and fishing nets for the launch of his seafaring crime series set in the Georgian period, The Blighted Cliffs. At the same time as Edwin was embarking on his seafaring odyssey his agent, Jane, came to me to suggest a new series of books. The theme was historical crime again, but now the setting was the First Crusade: murder investigations into that epoch of widespread slaughter? A  bit like investigating murders in the middle of the battle of the Somme —  but I was game.  Edwin became Tom, the other books (alas, for they were very funny) vanished and we have been together almost ever since.

For a while, inspired by The Da Vinci Code,  Knights Templars were all the rage. Tom flourished. But already he was champing to explore other areas of history (he is an expert in many eras). His writing turned to complex literary, conspiracy thrillers and he has been hailed as ‘the thinking man’s Dan Brown’.

812fXGXGh6L._SL1500_The five books that followed have taken the reader on dual time lines, rides through ancient, medieval and modern times and to a dazzling array of esoteric and exotic locations. Lost artefacts, lost books, lost codes, weird visions… A breath taking and hallucinatory experience in every one all penned with perfect description, pace and characterisation. Once as I sat, my unused red editorial pen dripping like blood upon his immortal pages, I found characters from one of my own books suddenly appear in a virtual reality scene. The walls closed in… once I had escaped the asylum (again) and ended up at my new workplace, I was delighted to renew our relationship with  The Orpheus Descent (Plato! Orphic Myth! Pythagoras! Disappearance! Murders!) followed.

And now Zodiac Station. If there is a literary meme I love above all else it’s the ice-bound thriller. Mary Shelley had it banged to rights. Alistair Maclean added submarines in Ice Station Zebra, I recently wrote about the terror in The Terror. Who would want to be stuck with Jack in the icebound Overlook Hotel? And as for The Thing… What more could a reader want on a warmish English summer evening?

So tip the rainwater out of your deckchair and dive into Tom Harper’s newest, Zodiac Station, a novel of the Frozen North. The desolation of the setting, the pressure cooker environment of an isolated research station, the presence of a killer, or killers,  the lies and deceptions in the multiple narrator threads… Zodiac is a delicious, pulse-pounding thriller that will puzzle and enthrall.

Zodiac Station publishes today – and the short story ‘Polar Vortex’, set at Zodiac Station six months before the action of the novel, is still available as a free ebook wherever fine ebooks are sold… but not for much longer!

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