March 21

Parallel Lines – Steven Savile

Parallel Lines_high resHow far would you go to provide for your child? Adam Shaw is dying, and knows he’ll leave his disabled son with nothing. His solution? Rob a bank. It’s no surprise that things go wrong. What is surprising is that when another customer is accidentally shot, no one in the bank is in a hurry to hand Adam over to the police. There’s the manager who’s desperate to avoid an audit, the security guard with a serious grudge, and the woman who knows exactly how bad the victim really was… Eight people, twelve hours, one chance to cover up a murder. But it’s not just the police they have to fool. When many lives intersect, the results can be explosive.

 

My thanks to Lydia at Titan Books for my review copy and the chance to join the Parallel Lines blog tour

 

Parallel Lines has 8 key characters. At the foot of my review I have a fantastic guest post from Steven Savile which focuses on Richard Rhodes (the Manager of the bank at the centre of events in Parallel Lines).

 

Although I read loads of crime fiction I cannot think of too many stories about a bank robbery. There are books where a bank gets robbed but it is usually only a chapter or two of action then the story moves on. Parallel Lines is all about a robbery, over 80% of the story has the reader in the bank as the crime is taking place and it is a brilliant, brilliant read.

The story opens with a focus on Adam, the robber, and his motivations for holding up a bank.  When things start to go wrong for him (no spoiler, it’s in the cover info) we get to see the other people that were in the bank at the point Adam pulls a gun on the cashier.  From here on Steven Savile will focus on different characters who are also in the bank, we get their backgrounds, their motivations to help or hinder Adam in his predicament and we see how their lives have overlapped prior to the fateful day in the bank.

I cannot get too detailed over how the robbery and subsequent events unfold but I can assure you that Parallel Lives really had me hooked. The author brilliantly set up the different characters – each will act to preserve their own self interest, however, their futures will be linked in a way which they could never have foreseen.

What makes Parallel Lines such a compelling read is that virtually all the characters are required to become a liar at some point in the tale.  For some this comes naturally, but for others they find they are required to play a role which is unfamiliar to them and their discomfort makes for fun and tense moments. But the problem with telling lies is that you cannot keep the lie going forever and, keeping me turning the pages, was the drive to find out which lies would come unstuck and the consequences which may befall the liars.

I am intentionally not giving away much about Parallel Lines – stories told this well deserve to be told in full and I would urge you to seek out this book and discover the fate of Adam and his hostages for yourself. Did I mention that this was a brilliant book?  It is – scroll down and order a copy today via the handy link at the foot of the page.

 

Now as promised, for the blog tour Mr Savile has a few words on one of the key characters in Parallel Lines:

Richard Rhodes

Secrets and lies make the world go around. I’d originally intended to do a short piece now on a few of my favourite liars in crime fiction, the idea of unreliable narrators and purposely misleading the audience as you go along, but as the first name (Frank Abernathy) came to me, I realised that actually this was an opportunity for a little truth. You see there’s a core of lies in Parallel Lines, and people pretending to be someone they aren’t. There’s the Dane, who also calls himself Kage Salisbury, who’s pretending to be a cop, there’s the security guard, Monk, who at one point is pretending to be a dead man, and there’s Richard Rhodes, the bank manager who fancies himself as a bit of a Robin Hood. There’s also a lot of truth in how I see the world wrapped up on their lies.

You see, I come from a line of great liars.

My father was a golden tongued salesman who could charm the birds out of the trees. He ended up featuring in a double page spread in The Sun back in the ‘90s, but that was the end of his story, not the beginning. Back in the day he was one of the leading guys in his field—which was focussed on male vanity, he provided wigs and weaves and hair transplants to the stars. He had all the celebrity clients, members of The Bee Gees and Slade, Crocodile Rockers and footballers. And I remember him telling me once he invented the costs of treatment on the spot, depending upon the wealth of the client across the table. He made a lot of money from sheiks and other men who couldn’t stand the idea of being bald. I used to joke that I was the best advert in the world walking into the clinic and the worst every time I walked out.

But dad was nothing compared with his dad, and you’ll get the Frank Abernathy reference now, if you’ve seen Catch Me if You Can. See, granddad (who I never met) was special.  For years I’ve toyed with writing the novel of his life, I’ve even got a title (The Last of the Great Liars), but the problem is I don’t think anyone would believe it. Here’s my understanding of how it went down. This may or may not be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but, but then, we’re talking about secrets and lies here.

Age 18 he signed up with the Canadian mounted police, and actually seemed to have it all there, beautiful fiancé who became wife, great job and eventually three kids, but wanderlust kicked in and he just picked up and walked off, joined the merchant navy and sailed into my grandmother’s life. He was sunk twice on the way, which always makes me think of him as a bit of an Uncle Albert. Anyway, he pitched up in Somerset, met my gran, married and had three kids, including my dad, and again everything was hunky and dory, you know apart from the one telling detail, the wife and three kids back in Canada… but this was pre-internet, hell, to a large extent it was pre-pretty much everything we think of as common place today.  Now, maybe it was a pathology, maybe he couldn’t stand being happy, but even as he’s got Nan and the kids on one side of the country he’s setting up another family on the other coast, another marriage, more kids. My dad told me recently how his father had taken him out to dinner, given him a five bob note and told him he was the man of the family now and how he had to look after his mum, and then just walked out to join the other family he’d set up. Not that they were enough to keep him. He’d reinvented himself several more times during his life, abandoning his family each time, at one point working on the Trans Siberian Railway, on oil pipelines in Eastern Europe and working his way down eventually to Australia where he ended up working as a cook for gold miners and getting himself adopted as a friendly grandfather for a new family. And, in keeping with his larger than life life, his death was the stuff of legend. He told them he had cancer, got in a car and drove into the outback, lay down at the side of the road and waited to die. Of course, there was no cancer. Pretty much nothing in his life was true. Remarkably, he ended up on children’s tv in Adelaide, where he made elaborate model ships, and something like 2,000 people turned up at his funeral. How do we know all this? He kept a travelling chest and in it was all of the documentation, the birth certificates, marriage certificates, pay slips, everything to track him across continents and through reinvention after reinvention all the way back to the beginning. But here’s the interesting thing, all of it was redacted. The names of the people blacked out to protect them. All of it except for my grandmother and their three children. Meaning that at Nan’s funeral, the priest delivered the eulogy, describing her as the loving mother of David, Wrey, Anthony and John… and everyone’s looking around thinking John? Who the hell is John? Only to discover it was one of the bastard children come following the path of breadcrumbs laid down by the travelling chest.

Now, and this bit kills me, he did all of this under his own name. He’d completely reinvent everything about himself apart from his name. It couldn’t happen today, not in the era of the big brother that is the internet where nothing ever gets forgotten. But it happened back then, and looking at my lineage it doesn’t surprise me that I ended up doing what I do, telling stories, inventing and reinventing things. Telling elaborate lies for a living.

Like I said, Parallel Lines has a core of liars at its heart. But the one I sympathise most with is Richard Rhodes. You see he’s a good man, or at least wants to be a good man. But he wants the glamour, too. He just can’t help himself. He may not be up there on the scale with my grandfather, but he’s certainly caught by the glamour of not being his average ordinary self for a few hours when he walks into Archer’s casino. He can’t help himself. He wants to feel the way those other guys do, the cool ones who have the perfect stubble and the gravelly voice and those melt-the-knickers eyes. So he reinvents himself, just like granddad did, and for just a couple of hours he might even get to be all that he pretends to be. The thing is, once the lie is spoken it is only ever going to end badly for him. Which is good for us, because secrets and lies make the world go around.  And stories would be really dull without them.

 

Parallel Lines is published by Titan Books and is available to order here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Parallel-Lines-Steven-Savile/dp/1783297913/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1490130680&sr=1-1&keywords=parallel+lines

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March 20

Written in Bones – James Oswald

Written in BonesWhen a body is found in a tree in The Meadows, Edinburgh’s scenic parkland, the forensics suggest the corpse has fallen from a great height.

Detective Inspector Tony McLean wonders whether it was an accident, or a murder designed to send a chilling message?

The dead man had led quite a life: a disgraced ex-cop turned criminal kingpin who reinvented himself as a celebrated philanthropist.

As McLean traces the victim’s journey, it takes him back to Edinburgh’s past, and through its underworld – crossing paths with some of its most dangerous and most vulnerable people.

And waiting at the end of it all, is the truth behind a crime that cuts to the very heart of the city…

 

My thanks to Laura at Penguin for my review copy

A new Tony McLean novel from James Oswald is always met with great anticipation here at Grab This Book. I am a big fan of this series and love the balance that the author finds between cracking police procedural but with a dark, and sometimes supernatural, edge to the stories.

Written in Bones is the 7th title to feature Tony McLean, knowing the back story helps but is not essential – new readers can easily pick up the series without worry of too many spoilers and will not be overwhelmed with confusing links to past events. One of the things I enjoy most about James Oswald’s books is how accessible they are, the stories all flow really well and are nicely paced.

From the very first pages of Written in Bones I was hooked. A body is discovered in The Meadows, a pleasant park in Edinburgh city centre. However, the body is stuck high in a tree and it appears to have fallen out of the sky.  The only possible witness to the crime is a young boy who was walking his dog around The Meadows early in the morning. Unfortunately for McLean and his colleagues he does not appear to be the most reliable source for information as he maintains that he saw a dragon flying over the park at the time the body would have fallen into the tree.

Further investigation will reveal the young witness is the son of one of Edinburgh’s more notorious characters  – someone very well known to the police. Could this simply be a coincidence or does the child’s presence link to crimes committed by his father?  This element of an investigation could prove potentially tricky to some of McLean’s colleagues and Tony will be required to play politics around the station.

Although McLean can be a bit of a loose cannon at times, in Written in Bones there are new colleagues in the station and McLean will have to spend some of his time managing a team. The interaction between McLean and the younger, less experienced officers added a fun new angle to the story and I hope that we get to see a bit more of Tony in “mentor” mode.

Away from the mysterious body in a tree, Tony is also finding himself at a number of properties which have been subject to a break-in. He is pulled around the city and his investigations will leave someone unhappy – powerful people will not want the police sniffing around their operations. Back to that political pressure – Tony’s bosses will try to clip his wings and restrict his resources…can he find a way to make his already stretched team focus on more than one investigation?

I had great fun reading Written in Bones, it’s nice to be able to pick up a book which I know will entertain me and it did not fail to deliver the thrills and excitement that I look forward to in James Oswald’s writing. This has been a richly rewarding series thus far and Written in Bones only enhances the Tony McLean collection.

 

Written  in Bones is published by Michael Joseph and you can order a copy here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Written-Bones-Inspector-McLean-7/dp/0718183673/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1489962099&sr=8-1&keywords=james+oswald

 

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March 18

Revenge of the Malakim – Paul Harrison

Revenge of the MakalimIt’s high summer and the streets of Bridlington East Yorkshire are awash with tourists. A serial killer is on the loose. DCI Will Scott and his team embark upon a fast paced investigation to catch a killer with a unique agenda. As the body count rises the killer randomly moves location and the police are unwittingly drawn into a dark and sinister world where cover-ups and corruption reigns. A place where no one can truly be trusted and nothing is ever what it seems.

 

My thanks to the publisher for my review copy

Revenge of the Malakim is not going to pull any punches. It is Book One of the Grooming Parlour Trilogy, a pretty clear indication that the subject matter is going to be controversial.

Very early in the story we visit our first murder scene in the company of DCI Will Scott. The victim had been brutally tortured prior to his death and Paul Harrison is pulling no punches as he describes the horrors to the readers. The police are shaken by the brutality on display but the necessity to track down a killer will push them on.

It becomes clear that their victim had been responsible for sickening acts of child abuse and this will create an added political element to the investigation and how it must be handled. However, Will Scott will need to be sure who he can turn to for help, corruption is rife and when important people feel their secrets may be under threat you can be sure they will not be passive.

There is a dark undertone to Revenge of the Malakim and it is assuredly not a book for those that prefer their crime to be “cosy”. I did take a little time to get used to the writing style, it is quite descriptive throughout the book which slowed the narrative a little but the story kept me reading

 

Revenge of the Malakim is available here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Revenge-Malakim-Grooming-Parlour-Trilogy-ebook/dp/B06XMQQ5Z4/ref=asap_bc?i e=UTF8

 

 

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March 9

Born Bad – Marnie Riches

Born BadThe battle is on…

When gang leader Paddy O’Brien is stabbed in his brother’s famous nightclub, Manchester’s criminal underworld is shaken to the core. Tensions are running high, and as the body count begins to grow, the O’Brien family must face a tough decision – sell their side of the city to the infamous Boddlington gang or stick it out and risk losing their king.

But war comes easy to the bad boys, and they won’t go down without a fight. So begins a fierce battle for the South Side, with the leading Manchester gangsters taking the law into their own hands – but only the strongest will survive…

 

My thanks to Helena at Avon for my review copy and the chance to join the Born Bad blog tour.

 

One of the reviews where I will cut to the chase…reading Born Bad was a joyous experience, I bloody loved it.

Manchester’s criminal underworld are a volatile crowd and Marnie Riches is going to light the blue touch-paper under these powerful gangs and pit them against each other in a battle for supremacy. It is going to be bloody, the players will be treacherous and, in a world where reputation is everything, nobody can afford to show any weakness.

The story will track multiple characters and their lives will intertwine. At the heart of Born Bad is Paddy O’Brien – he is head of the family and controls one of the gangs.  Paddy gets what he wants and expects obedience, particularly from his wife Sheila. Although a powerful woman in her own right, Sheila cannot stand up to the volatile and aggressive behaviour of her husband and their relationship is somewhat strained. But when the opportunity comes for Paddy to get out and leave his enterprise behind both he and Sheila are eyeing up a new start, a clean break.

Needless to say walking away from the lifestyle which has defined him will not be easy and events will appear to conspire against him. A matter of family honour will lead to bloodshed – a hired killer engaged to avenge a perceived wrongdoing. But a death will demand a retaliation and a peaceful exit for Paddy and Sheila looks a bleak prospect.

The multiple focal points in Born Bad keeps the story flowing at a cracking pace. These are not nice people that we are reading about so you can be sure that something unpleasant will soon befall someone (I had such fun trying to predict who may not make it to the end of the chapter).

In a book of bad guys there are clear distinctions between those we are to root for and the really “evil” people we want to see fail. The character interaction is brilliantly handled, humour and empathy meets anger and irrationality and the reactions and responses are exactly how you would expect. The characters drive the story and they are wonderfully realised, without the depth and development that Marnie Riches bestows upon them the emotional engagement would not have been there for me. I believed in the characters and that gave Born Bad the life and vibrancy that a good book needs.

Yeah – I loved it.

 

Born Bad is published by Avon and is available now in paperback and digital format and you can order a copy here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Born-Bad-Marnie-Riches-ebook/dp/B01KTKEX2Q/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1489098471&sr=1-1

 

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March 9

Guest Post: Marnie Riches – Born Bad

Manchester’s musical inspiration by Marnie Riches

Born BadManchester has a world-class music scene, and I’m lucky to have been a teen before and during the Madchester heyday, when the cool kids went to the Haçienda. I used to go there almost every Wednesday and Saturday to dance my little cotton socks off, praying that I might clap eyes on New Order, who co-owned the place. I was also an aspiring rockstar in my early twenties, when I returned home for a year after university and an abortive first stab at London life, trying to get a band together. In 1996, you could say I was a contemporary of the upcoming (as they were then), Elbow, and if you’re an Elbow fan, you’d be interested to know that I tried and failed to bag off with the legendary Seldom Seen Kid at a party, shortly before he sadly passed away. I remember him painting the railings of The Temple bar just outside where I worked at Manchester’s Training & Enterprise Council. We’d chat about being in bands and the struggle to get signed and “make it”. I migrated back down to London a couple of months later to immerse myself in proper trainee rockstardom. Three years of close-but-no-cigar followed, playing the Britpop wannabe circuit in Camden and Islington, but alas, my excellent band had missed that groovy gravy train… We were always in the right place at the wrong time.

But sod that! I’m now a best-selling crime writer, so all’s well that ends well.

It will come as no surprise to you, then, given my musical past, that I have a soundtrack to all the novels I write. For Born Bad, it comprises quintessentially Mancunian classics. Here are my top four tunes with thoughts on why I’ve chosen them to describe musically a story about Manchester’s gangland and gritty underbelly:

 

Isolation by Joy Division

IsolationI was always more of a New Order fan than a Joy Division fan, but Isolation’s industrial sound and effortless lo-fi cool makes me think of Manchester. When it plays in my car – the only opportunity I really have to deafen myself with my favourite music, nowadays, since I work in silence – I envisage bleak, grey streets on council estates. I feel the urban anti-chic of the city pulsate through me with every beat, putting me in mind of Born Bad’s Leviticus Bell, living in his crappy high-rise council flat on the Sweeney Hall estate. He is isolated by his poverty, lack of opportunity and desperate situation at home. But he’s street-smart and authentically urban-cool. He’ll do for me!

 

Bizarre Love Triangle by New Order

Bizarre Love TriangFrank O’Brien in Born Bad owns the world-class super-club, M1 House. Though I’m not stretchy enough to go clubbing more than once or twice per year now, M1 House is an amalgam of all the great clubs in Manchester, past and present. The DJs play the best music. The kids have the best time, obviously blighted by lethal gang violence – not that Manchester clubs are immune to being occasionally caught in the crossfire. Bizarre Love Triangle played in the Haçienda during its finest hour. I can remember standing in the lofty foyer, by the full-height, industrial plastic flaps, ringing wet with sweat from dancing on the packed dancefloor, listening to the track booming from the sound system. I revelled in how marvellous it was to be a Mancunian, listening to one of Manchester’s biggest bands in one of the coolest clubs in the world at that best of times. The clean electronic sound, with Hooky’s distinctive bassline over the top, embodies Mancunian artistic endeavour and the need to dance the blues away. Listen to it and understand Manchester.

 

Fools’ Gold by Stone Roses

Fools GoldThough I was never a mega-fan of the Stone Roses, I always loved Fools’ Gold as a song that epitomised Mancunian cool. Its shuffling backbeat and Mani’s iconic, super-funky bassline represent everything that’s effortlessly, timelessly stylish about Manchester’s music scene. Since it was used in the soundtrack to Guy Ritchie’s gangster flick, Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels – a film I must have watched at least twenty times for its slick dialogue, complex story-telling and sharp humour – Fools’ Gold has also acquired gangland connotations for me. In fact, the Manchester series with Born Bad as its first installation, is all about the pursuit of a villain’s fools’ gold – dirty cash you can barely get away with or enjoy spending because those ill-gotten gains might bring the law and the tax man down on you. The track brings to mind Manchester’s mean streets, its glittering new buildings and the clean crispness of freshly laundered money. Scratch the surface and you can see how really filthy it still is beneath!

 

How Soon is Now? by The Smiths

the-smiths-how-soon-is-now-rhinoThe Smiths are a long-standing love of mine, musically – the early Smiths, that is. Morrissey and Marr are undoubtedly one of the best songwriting duos ever and the pair encapsulated a working class desperation and loneliness like no other band has managed to do. Their sonically brilliant songs represent true Mancunian misery, black humour and poetry at its best. When I wrote about the hopeless life of Leviticus Bell in Born Bad, How Soon is Now? might have been his personal soundtrack. There’s nobody who truly loves him – even his own mother, Gloria. The chugging Bo Diddly-style guitar of Johnny Marr creates an impression of the grind of urban life with a searing, whining guitar-sound layered above it that puts me in mind of emergency service sirens, whizzing by in the night. But in among the canon of work by the Smiths, there are tracks that bristle with humour and hope, just as this book boasts the darkest and the lightest of moments, introduced by Gloria and the eccentric henchman, Conky McFadden. So, The Smiths had to be on my list!

 

If Marnie’s choices have made you want to revisit these classics then she has very kindly pulled together a Spotify playlist which you can access here: https://open.spotify.com/user/1142057371/playlist/0DgbSgJtWpOF14WgYiJC0e

 

Born Bad is published by Avon and is available now in paperback and digital format and you can order a copy here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Born-Bad-Marnie-Riches-ebook/dp/B01KTKEX2Q/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1489098471&sr=1-1

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March 8

The Witchfinder’s Sister – Beth Underdown

The Witchfinder's Sister jacket‘The number of women my brother Matthew killed, so far as I can reckon it, is one hundred and six…’

1645. When Alice Hopkins’ husband dies in a tragic accident, she returns to the small Essex town of Manningtree, where her brother Matthew still lives.

But home is no longer a place of safety. Matthew has changed, and there are rumours spreading through the town: whispers of witchcraft, and of a great book, in which he is gathering women’s names.

To what lengths will Matthew’s obsession drive him?
And what choice will Alice make, when she finds herself at the very heart of his plan?

 

My thanks to Josie at Penguin Randomhouse for my review copy

 

Matthew Hopkins – the Witchfinder. One of the most notorious figures from a dark period in the history of the UK. He was responsible for many deaths, all in the name of purging witchcraft from England. In The Witchfinder’s Sister Beth Underdown is taking a very different approach to telling his story and it is wonderfully done.

As the title suggests the story is about Hopkins’ sister (Alice). We first meet Alice as she is travelling to her family home, she is pregnant but has recently lost her husband. On returning home she will reside with her brother, Matthew. Their mother has also passed away since Alice was last home so she is returning to an unfamiliar domesticity.

Alice gets settled into her new quarters before we are first introduced to Matthew. He has been travelling so the author can firmly establish the household before she introduces the reader to The Witchfinder.  I adored how Beth Underdown allowed us to learn about Matthew, the man, before we start to learn about Matthew, The Witchfinder.  We learn of his disfigurement, how he and his sister looked out for each other as children and we see how he runs his house.

Yet as the story evolves – and it is a wonderfully written work of historical fiction – the tension between Alice and Matthew will grow. We see Matthew fade and The Witchfinder come to the fore.  He has plans and he has a mission and it will keep everyone enthralled.

Beth Underdown has delivered a magnificent tale, creepy, accessible and enthralling. Highly recommended.

 

The Witchfinder’s Sister is published by Penguin and is available here

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March 7

Aye Write – Know the Authors: Vaseem Khan

For one last time before Aye Write 2017 gets underway I am delighted to welcome Liz Barnsley (from Liz Loves Books) back to Grab This Book.   Liz has been chatting with some of the authors who are appearing at this year’s Aye Write festival and today she is joined by Vaseem Khan.

Vaseem is the author of the Baby Ganesh Detective Agency series, a crime series based in Mumbai, India and featuring a baby elephant. The first book in the series, The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra was a Times bestseller, a Waterstones’ paperback of the year and an Amazon Best Debut.

With my heartfelt thanks to Liz for allowing me to share these chats, I give you Liz and Vaseem:

Tell us a little about your current novel, what readers can expect from it …

The Perplexing Theft of the Jewel in the CrownIn the second Baby Ganesh Agency novel “THE PERPLEXING THEFT OF THE JEWEL IN THE CROWN” (out in paperback in March) Inspector Chopra is on the trail of the world’s most famous diamond, the Kohinoor, first mined in India during the Raj, “appropriated” by the British, and then installed in the Crown Jewels. This blurb says it all really: “For centuries the Koh-i-Noor diamond has set man against man and king against king. Now part of the Crown Jewels, the priceless gem is a prize that many have killed to possess. So when the Crown Jewels go on display in Mumbai, security is everyone’s principal concern. And yet, on the very day Inspector Chopra visits the exhibition, the diamond is stolen from under his nose. The heist was daring and seemingly impossible. The hunt is on for the culprits. But it soon becomes clear that only one man – and his elephant – can possibly crack this case …”

Where did you grow up and what was family life like?

East London. We were five brothers and sisters – yep, your typical Asian 70s/80s family – I was the oldest. Hence, plenty of fist fights (sisters), stabbing in the back (sisters), snitching (again…) – and that was only at the age of five. In truth, I had a happy, hectic childhood – if you’ve seen any Bollywood movies you’ll know the drill: weddings, curry, more weddings, over-the-top parental angst, and more weddings. My favourite memory? Playing cricket in the backyard with my brother. By playing with my brother I mean I batted for hours, smashing the ball everywhere, while he went and fetched it. He can take a lot of credit for the fact that now at 43 I still play cricket all summer. (I don’t know who takes the blame for the fact that after almost 40 years I’m still shite at it.)

Academic or creative at school?

In art class I was asked to paint a portrait of the art teacher. After finishing I sat back, waiting for the plaudits. He took a long look, then gave me detention. He thought I’d been taking the p*ss. I hadn’t. I just had no talent. On the other hand I did get perfect grades at all the ‘regular’ subjects, got great A-levels, and then studied Finance at the London School of Economics. But I still can’t paint a picture of a human being without it looking like a zombie mangled by a bulldozer.

First job you *really* wanted to do?

In 1997, as a bright-eyed 23 year-old I joined a small management consultancy (to avoid becoming an accountant). A few months in the boss asked me if I’d like to go to India for a new project. (Actually what he said was ‘you’re brown, you speak Indian, you’ll work for next to nothing; you’re going.’ ) I still remember my first day vividly. Lepers, beggars, eunuchs, heatstroke … and that was just getting out of the airport. My taxi stopped at a set of lights, a river of chaos on the road, honking rickshaws, hooting trucks, cows, goats, dogs and then, lumbering through this chaos, the utterly surreal sight of an enormous grey Indian elephant. Needless to say this was the greatest job anyone could wish for.

Do you remember the moment you first wanted to write?

I was in a cave and an unearthly voice spoke to me, commanding me to write … OK, that’s not exactly true. I’ve wanted to write since I was nine-ish. I wrote long stories, in long hand, and I’d give them to my English teacher who’d make polite noises, then heave me out the door. For all I knew he threw them all in the bin, poured his afternoon whisky over them, and burned them to ash. But I persisted. And lo and behold a mere 32 years later I was given a four book deal by Hodder. Shows what he knew.

Who are your real life heroes?

Are you saying Scooby Doo isn’t real? … OK, If it’s real life, then one of my heroes has been an Indian cricketer named Sachin Tendulkar. I am a cricket nut and lived in India when Sachin was at his peak. What inspired me about him was that he came from humble beginnings, became the most feted Indian on the planet, yet remained humble – and that throughout a 24 year career. These days you see some D-list celebrity toerag get one half-positive comment on Twitter and suddenly they act as if they’re God’s gift to humankind.

Inspector ChopraFunniest or most embarrassing situation you’ve found yourself in?

A coconut fell on my head while giving a speech. Yes, laugh, why don’t you? It wasn’t funny at the time, I can tell you. I was giving an impromptu staff motivational talk under a coconut palm in India (as one does) when the coconut decided it had heard enough. Cue hilarious laughter from crowd – it has always amazed me how funny people find it to see someone being smacked on the head. I have had a vendetta against coconuts ever since.  

DIY expert or phone a friend?

I am a legendary figure in the world of DIY; at least in my head. I hate paying professionals for work that I can perfectly well botch-up myself. I mean who needs a qualified gas engineer when you can Google-fix the boiler yourself? (NOTE: that was a joke. DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME. At least not your own home.)

Sun worshipper or night owl?

I am a lifelong insomniac. Sleep is for wimps. If I could eradicate sleep from the human condition I would do so. On the plus side, I do my best work in the dead of night. (I mean the writing, not the string of burglaries, of course.) There’s something about creeping around in the dark thinking about murder and mayhem . . .

A book that had you in tears.

There are books that have me in tears for the wrong reasons. But a book that really tugged on my usually cold, dead heartstrings was Schindler’s Ark. Thomas Keneally writes the book with humour, and beautiful prose, but the sheer fact that real people committed such evil is something that took my breath away.

A book that made you laugh out loud.

A book about cancer. No, this is true. My mother passed from cancer so this is a subject close to my heart and I wouldn’t joke about it. Unlike John Green who wrote The Fault in our Stars about two cancer stricken teenagers falling in love. The book is so fill of wit, and laugh-out-loud jokes on every page, that I couldn’t help but fall in love with this ultimately tragic but always funny story.

One piece of life advice you give everyone

“You are insignificant. You are nothing. You are less than a speck of dirt on the bottom of my shoe” … I mean all this in a nice way, of course. As soon as you accept that you are insignificant you will understand how absurd life is, and you will be a much nicer person, less stressed, and better able to see what it is you really want from your miniscule life span. A recipe for happiness. Don’t all rush to thank me at once.

  

Vaseem will be at Aye Write on Friday 10th March where he will be joined by Abir Mukerjee for The Jewel in the Crime.

You can purchase tickets here

For more information about the world of the series (plus pictures of baby elephants!) please visit vaseemkhan.com where you can also keep abreast of Vaseem’s latest goings-on, competitions, events, and extracts from upcoming books via The Reading Elephant Book Club.

https://twitter.com/VaseemKhanUK

https://www.facebook.com/VaseemKhanOfficial/

 

Category: From The Bookshelf | Comments Off on Aye Write – Know the Authors: Vaseem Khan
March 5

Aye Write – Know The Authors: Antti Tuomainen

Aye Write is upon us.  Events are already underway as the last couple of weekends have hosted the Wee Write festival – that’s the family events aimed at younger readers. This week sees the main festival kicking into gear and the guests start appearing thick and fast.

Tuomainen
Picture copyright Toni Härkönen

Once again I am delighted to team up with the lovely Liz from Liz Loves Books to introduce another of the authors who will be appearing at Aye Write in 2017.

Liz sets the questions to Antti Tuomainen, author of The Mine. Antti joins us fresh from a series of appearances across the UK as part of the Orenda Books Roadshow. On Saturday 11th March he will make the long journey back up North for an appearance in Glasgow’s Mitchell Library.

Over to Liz and Antti:

Tell us a little about your current novel, what readers can expect from it..

AT: THE MINE is a crime story and a story of a father and a son. I hope it is a suspenseful and an entertaining read that also gives you something to think about.

Where did you grow up and what was family life like?

AT: I grew up in Helsinki. I’ve lived here all my life. Wonderful family. My Mom and Dad were very important in my becoming a writer. They read a lot and there were always books in the house.

the-mineAcademic or creative at school?

AT: I think extracurricular is the word. I wasn’t very enthusiastic about school.

First job you *really* wanted to do?

AT: I was 18 or 19 when I just knew – instinctively and deep down – I would be a writer. I never wanted to be anything else since then.

Do you remember the moment you first wanted to write?

AT: See above. Also: I liked Finnish at school. We got to write essays and stories. I made up everything. I realized there is magic to this.

Who are your real life heroes?

AT: My mother, my father and my incredibly wonderful wife Anu.

DIY expert or phone a friend?

AT: First DIY, then phone a friend.

Sun worshipper or night owl?

AT: I like mornings. I like to go to bed early, get up early. When I was young, it was the other way around.

A book that had you in tears.

AT: Not tears, exactly, but I immensely liked John Williams’ Stoner. A beautiful novel.

A book that made you laugh out loud.

AT: Any book by Elmore Leonard.

One piece of life advice you give everyone

AT: I try my best to not give anyone any advice. But, if anyone asks, I am always willing to share my experience on a given topic if I have any.

 

Antti will be appearing at Aye Write on Saturday 11th March at 6:30pm.  He will be accompanied by Orenda stablemate Kati Hiekkapelto and Swedish crime-writing due Roslund & Hellstrom.  Tickets can be purchased here

 

Antti is all over social media – you can find him on Facebook: www.facebook.com/AnttiTuomainenOfficial

On Twitter: www.twitter.com/antti_tuomainen

And Instagram: www.instagram.com/antti_tuomainen

Category: Guests | Comments Off on Aye Write – Know The Authors: Antti Tuomainen
March 4

Anglesey Blue – Dylan H Jones

Anglesey BlueA Gripping New Serial Killer Thriller

MURDER. BETRAYAL. REVENGE.

It’s not the homecoming Detective Inspector Tudor Manx was expecting, but solving the case is just the start of his problems.

Recently transferred from the London Met to the North Wales Constabulary, Detective Inspector Tudor Manx has come to Island of Anglesey hoping for a quiet life.

But his hopes are dashed when a brutally mutilated body is found crucified to the bow of a fishing boat sending shockwaves through the peaceful community.

Manx’s faces pressure to solve the case quickly equipped with an inexperienced team.

Is the body a message or a premonition of more murders to come?

Adding to his mounting problems, Manx’s troubled past returns to haunt him. Manx left the island after the disappearance of his younger sister, Miriam; a cold case that still remains unsolved.

Can Manx solve the case before the body count rises?

How will he cope when he is forced to choose between his family and his duty as a police officer?

 

My thanks to the team at Bloodhound Books for my review copy and the opportunity to join my very first Bloodhound tour.

 

Picking up a book by an author I have never read before is always a bit of a thrill for me. You can read the book blurb or you can have a story recommended by a friend, but it is not until you start to read a book for yourself that you can know if you are going to enjoy the next few hundred pages. I knew from pretty early on in Anglesey Blue that I was going to enjoy it.

First there is DI Tudor Manx, adjusting to life in Anglesey after a transfer from London (and under a bit of a cloud within the force), he gives the reader an outsiders-eye view on life in the town. His team are a relatively inexperienced bunch of coppers – life in small town Wales doesn’t seem to compare to that of London’s Met police so Manx will have to drive, encourage and motivate his colleagues if they are to make any progress with a murder enquiry.

Yup Murder. There is a decidedly dark tone to Anglesey Blue which I delighted in. Bodies cropped up, a particularly nasty drug dealer (with his hired muscle) is looking to establish new distribution channels on the island for their new drug of choice. Manx and his team will have their work cut out but for a reader it is a highly entertaining challenge.

One of the best ways to hook me in a story is to have great dialogue between the characters, not just the conversations which will drive a police investigation but the chat amongst colleagues and friends. Dylan H Jones absolutely nails this for me – the station chatter, the flirtatious barmaid, the meeting of parents concerned about drugs on the island…it was so well written that I wanted to keep reading as I was enjoying not just the crimes and investigations but the camaraderie amongst the characters.

There are many crime novels out there to choose from but miss Anglesey Blue at your peril, it’s a gem.

 

Anglesey Blue is published by Bloodhound Books and is available now in paperback and digital format.

You can order a copy here.

Anglesey Blue Tour

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March 3

False Prophet/Never Forget (Saul Marshall) – Richard Davis

So what do you do when you read the *wrong* title for a blog tour?  Well you spend half an hour coming up with imaginative names to call yourself. Then 5 minutes checking you definitely have mixed up which book was the focus of the tour (I had). And then you stay up reading until 3am to post a blog tour “double-header” of the Saul Marshall books by Richard Davis.

There was quite a lot of coffee involved in bringing you these reviews, but good books and lots of coffee is how I like it!

FALSE PROPHET

FalseProphet_CropA psychotic terrorist has his son. He will do anything to save him

When a rogue cult turns deadly, the FBI call on former conman Agent Saul Marshall. FALSE PROPHET introduces a gripping new series from thriller writer Richard Davis

Marshall is soon drawn into a cat and mouse chase with the leader of the cult, Ivan Drexler. As the scale of Drexler’s terrorist ambition becomes ever clearer, news arrives that he has taken Marshall’s son hostage. Removed from the line of duty, he must work alone, off-grid.

As the attacks intensify, Saul will stop at nothing to defeat Drexler.

But the FBI are questioning Saul’s own part in the carnage. He must work fast to save both his country and his life. Can Saul stop the carnage before it’s too late? And can he save his son?

As wave after wave of attacks break, the clock is ticking for Saul.

 

First up in this double-header is False Prophet. We are introduced to Saul Marshall – he is a guy with a fascinating past, an FBI agent who was once one of the best conmen in the game. He is resourceful, connected and a bit of a loose cannon (basically he is a hugely entertaining lead character).

Marshall is on a visit to England. A prisoner with a history of mental health issues has a warning for Saul – he knows of a former prisoner by name of Ivan Drexler who has crossed paths with Saul in the past and he blames Saul for his incarceration. The warning is that Drexler (who is without conscience or compassion) may be planning to unleash a string of attacks on American citizens.

Saul cannot ignore the warning but there seems to be no real substance to the suspicions. However, events are soon flipped on their head.  Draxler is heading up a cult and has kidnapped Saul’s son to ensure Saul places himself into the path of Draxler and his minions. Can Saul keep up with Draxler and stop him unleashing his terror attacks?

False Prophet is a fast paced action thriller. Draxler as the “big bad” is a particularly evil character who inflicts some quite gruesome (and imaginative) harm onto several characters throughout the story. It makes for quite compelling reading and the speed at which the story unfolds is the perfect way to reflect the urgency/race against time which faces Marshall.

As a fan of action thrillers I have to say that False Prophet ticked all the right boxes for this reader.  The chapters are short and punchy which kept the feeling of a high tempo going. Draxler’s cult were suitably disturbing and the author did a good job of positioning their foundation and their threat risk. Marshall, as I have indicated, is a fun character to follow and I loved having Never Forget to dive straight into on finishing False Prophet – I was happy to keep Marshall’s story going a bit longer.

 

False Prophet is published by Canelo and you can order a copy here.

 

NEVER FORGET

Canelo_NeverForget_Ebook4Saul Marshall is on the run.

As a wave of seemingly random assassinations engulfs California, Marshall finds himself drawn into a situation spiralling out of control.

He soon discovers some of the webs’ most secure protocols have been compromised by a rogue team of former Chinese agents. When Marshall realises what they plan, the stakes are raised…

And that’s before the Secretary of State gets involved. Can Marshall unravel the deceit and tricks before it’s too late? Can he stop the carnage, or will he become part of it? One thing is for certain: either way his enemies will never forget.

 

Never Forget – Saul Marshall returns (though thanks to my scheduling faux pas he has been my constant companion for a few days).  Happy days though as I have been enjoying the frenetic adventures.

The Saul Marshall books are most definitely recommended for fans of the action thriller. If you have read your way through the Scott Mariani (Ben Hope) books or enjoyed Matthew Reilly then I urge you to seek out Never Forget and False Prophet, these are guaranteed thrill-fests.

In Never Forget I felt there was much greater emphasis placed upon Saul’s “unconventional” background. Before becoming an FBI agent he had been a successful conman and these skills are exploited here to great effect. The break from a more traditional FBI approach and mixing up the investigative element with the alternative skills that Saul brings to the party make him an unpredictable and engaging lead.

As was the case with False Prophet the central themes are extremely well positioned. Never Forget is tech focussed – reading about cybercrime/hacking and technology manipulation gave me a distinctly uneasy feeling as I start to question how much of the fiction in the novel could actually be possible (or even happening in some form). There is political intrigue too and it all meshes well to keep the reader hooked.

Never Forget will stand well without the need to have read the first book. Everything you need to know is nicely explained but once the story gets started you just get drawn in and go along with what’s unfolding on the pages in front of you.

A very welcome change in pace for this reader, there is always a place in my book collection for an exhilarating thriller and Never Forget fits the bill very nicely.

 

Never Forget is published by Canelo and can be ordered here.

 

My thanks to Faye Rogers for my review copies and the opportunity to join the tour.

Never Forget blog tour 4

 

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